If you were told you had 50 months to save the planet from catastrophe, what steps would you take?
Recognizing that the world's most pressing problem—rapid systemic climate change induced by human-caused global warming—has taken a back seat to more narrowly conceived political and economic concerns, scientists, experts, activists and concerned citizens across the globe are doing everything they can to elevate the message that a rise in global temperatures above 2C in the coming decades will be, as NASA's James Hansen has said, "Game over for the planet."
An open letter from environmental campaigners that appeared in Sunday's Observer states the case clearly:
This year has seen a record loss of sea ice, and greenhouse gas concentrations above the Arctic at their highest point for possibly 800,000 years. Crop-wrecking droughts and record temperatures have scorched the US midwest. But, to our dismay, climate change and the weather volatility it fuels have fallen far down the political agenda when they need to be at the top. It remains, however, one of the greatest threats to human progress, and tackling it could be a huge economic opportunity.
There is so much to gain from investing with speed and scale in a modern low-carbon economy that the failure to do so appears both reckless and short-sighted. Some recent policies seem even to take us backwards. More of the same old economics will not work. To create jobs, more secure energy systems and less pollution, investing in a massive energy-efficiency drive and a programme to expand renewables are just two of the more obvious steps that could benefit the economy and the environment.
And on Monday, in continuation of their 100 month countdown to climate disaster coverage that began in 2008, the Guardian presents an interactive page where 50 individuals from various fields of expertise offer their assessments and prescriptions on how to confront the challenges of and build a mass movement around the issues of carbon reduction, climate change, and new economic thinking over the next 50 months.
The following is a sampling of those messages. Visit the complete interactive Guardian page here.
Jayati Ghosh, Professor of Economics, Jawaharlal Nehru University, India:
In developing countries, the most important goals are to help people adapt to climate changes that we already see and to find ways of mitigation without burdening the poor or preventing their access to essential goods and services
Bill McKibben, Author of The End of Nature, & founder of 350.org:
We're going to have to work harder - in the next 50 months we're going to go straight at the fossil fuel companies, whose business model means the destruction of the planet's climate system. It's us or them, and I'd rather it be us
Barbara Stocking, Chief Executive, Oxfam:
The hard truth is that our lifestyles in rich countries are not compatible with our efforts to confront climate change. Our over-consumption of resources comes at the cost of the life chances of those who are denied their fair share of access to water, energy and food.
Gus Speth, Former administrator of the United Nations Development Programme:
I have come to the view that what’s needed now is a massive, in-the-streets citizens protest—a global Tahrir Square
David Woodward, Development Economist:
Controlling climate change means slower global growth; and leaving the space for development and poverty reduction means that this slowdown must be concentrated in the North
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Saci Lloyd, Author of The Carbon Diaries:
Don’t be timid. When did trying to pull humanity back from the brink of ecocide become confused with Buddhism?
Vivienne Westwood, Designer:
The most important task is to engage public opinion. We have to inflame the public will to stop climate change...We have to stop being nice and tell the truth, put the blame where it belongs
John Sauven, Executive Director, Greenpeace UK:
What man-made, man can undo. First stop exploring for unconventional fossil fuels in Canada’s tar sands or underneath the Arctic. When in a hole, stop digging. Second, copy Germany
Rob Hopkins, Co-founder of the Transition Town Network:
The question here is “what should we do differently?” The answer is “pretty much just about everything”
Joe Rake, Co-founder, Transition Heathrow:
The answer to solving our climate crisis will have to come from the grassroots. Resilient communities capable of collectively coping with the injustice and threats of the ecological crisis is what we need
Harriet Lamb, Director, Fair Trade International:
Fairtrade shows the kind of sea changes we can all bring about if we put our mind to it. We need just such a wave of action to get change on the climate
Juliet Davenport, Chief Executive, Good Energy:
Companies need to be encouraged to behave in a way that is in everyone’s long-term interest, rather just their own short-term self-interest
Kumi Naidoo, Executive Director, Greenpeace International:
We urge people to take to the streets in increasing numbers in peaceful acts of civil disobedience. The adage is true that actions speak louder than words and sadly, it seems to be the only way to get our leaders to listen
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