Groups of Woking and Guildford residents have recently organised screenings of a documentary film called ‘Chasing Ice’, which illustrates graphically the degree to which glaciers and ice sheets are melting. The clear message is that climate change is happening and much more rapidly than most people think.
A friend of mine has written to his MP, Anne Milton, asking if she would be interested in borrowing the DVD to show parliamentary colleagues.
My reaction after watching the film is exactly what was said by the main protagonist, James Balog – “we don’t have time to continue debating whether climate change is real and whether it’s man-made”.
I hold the following to be true:
- Global temperatures have already risen 0.8°C on pre-industrial levels, with another 0.6°C unavoidable
- The world’s most respected scientific institutions have all stated that there is strong evidence that human activity is driving the rise in temperature
- Even relatively small levels of carbon dioxide have been shown to have a range of impacts around the world
- On our current trajectory of emissions, scientists estimate rises of between 2.4°C and 6.4°C by 2100
- Of the 2,795 gigatons of carbon we have identified in the form of fossil fuels, the science tells us we can only burn 565 gigatons of it if we want to keep the world’s temperature below 2°C
- We are already seeing weather extremes and climate impacts, such as the melting of the Arctic ice, which is accelerating alarmingly
Those of us who ‘believe’ in climate change don’t all have the same detailed views as to the solution. But I think we are all pretty much agreed that the necessary level of response cannot possibly happen if political and business leaders continue to downplay the seriousness of what we and our children face. A key problem is that the media continue to portray the science as uncertain.
George Marshall (a well respected climate commentator) has said “Accepting anthropogenic climate change requires a high degree of self-criticism and even self-doubt. It requires a preparedness to accept personal responsibility for collective errors and for entire societies to accept the need for major collective change. And, inevitably, this process of acceptance would generate intense debate and conflict”.
I think Mr Marshall may be right, but I don’t see anything significant being done to prepare our society for major collective change. We cannot rely on the heroic efforts of a few altruistic souls to cut their own emissions and reduce consumption. We need a much stronger steer from political and business leaders to convince, convert, or coerce people who are continuing to live as though we don’t need to care or to change.
I heard George Osborne today commenting on UK’s 0.3% GDP growth. He talked about the need for cuts and sticking to a plan. His approach to fix the economy is based on acknowledging that we have a problem (with debt and over-spending), deciding what’s needed to deal with the problem, and then sticking to his plan almost at all costs. That is the exactly the approach we should apply to climate change. Policy should work out the plan, and drive it through, and not be dissuaded by vested interests who prefer to see business-as-usual. Mr Osborne has not backed down on welfare cuts, why not take the same tough stance on emission cuts?
I hope you will be interested enough in the Chasing Ice film to consider getting together with other MPs to watch it.
With best wishes.