Threat, or opportunity?

I woke at five this morning very upset.

I found myself thinking about something Paula said yesterday.

She has just started an MSc in Sustainability and one of the things they told everyone in her first week (just to set the scene for the rest of the course) was that climate change is almost certain to reach six degrees*. Even if we stop emitting CO2 today we will still pass** the EC’s “safe limit” of two degrees (which will see Europeans in large numbers dying of heatstroke). And given the trajectory we are on, six degrees is pretty much what the best estimates are telling us we will get to.

They then offered counselling to anyone who wanted it. At five o’clock this morning I felt like I did.

It makes switching to energy-saving light bulbs seem pretty inconsequential. I lay awake for a long time wondering whether we are doing the right thing — indeed whether there is anything we can do. What kind of world have I brought my children into?

But I also got two other pieces of information yesterday which stuck with me. The first was a piece in the Telegraph which said that “catastrophic climate is set to happen change twice as quickly as predicted” — Met Office. Not good news. It just makes me think the six degree estimate is even more likely to be true.

But the second is this short video featuring the ever-lovely Rob Hopkins.

He closes with a quote from Buckminster Fuller: “You can never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”

As Gandalf says in the Lord of the Rings, we cannot choose when or where we are born. “All we can choose is what to do with the time that is given to us.”

———— // ————

* For an updated summary of what happens as the earth heats up see this page by Mark Lynas.

** When I was a kid you could turn on the television set (if you had one) and it would take a while to warm up. Nowadays you can turn on a kettle and it still takes a while to boil. If you put CO2 into the atmosphere it takes about 30 years for it to have an effect on climate. So we are now living through the effects of the CO2 we created in the eighties, and the effects of the CO2 now being emitted by us (and China, India, Russia, Brazil, …) will not be felt in full until around 2040.

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