26. 04. 2017

Take Courage! - O Ye of Little Faith! - from Earth Day

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I can’t say I’ve been the biggest supporter of Earth Day over the years. Not really into formulaic anniversaries, especially when every day should be a bloody Earth Day as far as I’m concerned! But the most recent Earth Day (on Saturday) offered up a rich feast of hopeful signals!

1. DRAWDOWN

Subtitle: “The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming”. Yea!!

Project Drawdown is the brainchild of the evergreen Paul Hawken, supported by some of the most inspiring global campaigners and authors on climate change and sustainability more generally. It offers up 80 hard-edged, costed ‘solutions’ to the climate crisis, plus 20 ‘coming attractions’ – stuff so ‘out there’ as to excite even the more jaundiced technophobe!

Forum for the Future has been working with the Project Drawdown team here in the UK, and we’re so pleased that Paul is going to be able to beam in to our workshop on 20th June. The focus of the day will be looking at radical strategies for companies to align with the overarching goal of ensuring an average temperature increase of no more than 1.5 degrees Centigrade before the end of the century.

The book is a great resource, covering every relevant area of technology and land use solutions. And be prepared for some compelling and surprising wake-up calls in there: amongst the top ten most significant solutions are numbered family planning (just so brilliant to see that in a book about climate change!) and educating girls.

2. MARCH(ES) FOR SCIENCE

Hundreds of thousands of scientists (and those who care passionately about the role of science in building a more sustainable world) joined more than 500 marches all around the world as their way of celebrating Earth Day.

Though this was designed to be ‘non-political’, it was tricky not to connect it directly (especially in Washington!) to the science-trashing iconoclasm of Donald Trump. Especially given one of the favourite slogans of the day: “What do Trump and atoms have in common? They make up everything.”

Intriguingly, Donald Trump seemed to be much more emollient in his response to this:

“Rigorous science is critical to my administration’s efforts to achieve the twin goals of economic growth and environmental protection. My administration is committed to advancing scientific research that leads to a better understanding of the environment and of environmental risks. As we do so, we should remember that rigorous science depends not on ideology, but on a spirit of honest enquiry and robust debate.”

Yes, well, if you didn’t laugh out loud reading that, there must be something wrong with your sense of humour. If Trump is really all that keen on “rigorous science”, why is he hammering the budgets of the EPA, NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration? And why has he not appointed his own Scientific Advisor? And why has he appointed climate-denying dickheads like Scott Pruitt (EPA) and Mick Mulvaney (Budget Director), who has described climate research as “a waste of your money”.

It was also good to see a handful of big corporates coming out in support of the marches – and of the importance of science in general. Pfizer, for example, was particularly outspoken: “We’re proud to stand behind our scientists”.

3. WALMART

Which leads me on (somewhat improbably, I have to admit, given my reservation about this particular company!), to Walmart.

In the week leading up to Earth Day, Walmart announced its so-called “Project Gigaton” – seeking to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases by a billion tons over the next ten years through collaboration with its supply chain.

Walmart earned the right to aim high in that way on the basis of its own success in reducing its direct impacts (by 28 million tons) since 2010. But CEO Doug McMillon decided some time ago that this simply wasn’t enough, and that the only way to have a bigger impact was to start partnering with key players in its supply chain.

Given the prevailing political climate in the USA, with a whole army of pig-ignorant denialists in positions of influence, this is pretty brave. Even for a company the size of Walmart. Especially as Doug McMillon sits on President Trump’s business advisory board (the “Strategic and Policy Forum”)!

Not bad for the 2017 Earth Day. But in case you think I’ve gone soft in the head, let’s just inject some sobering reality at this point. This is what popped into my Inbox on Earth Day from Grist: 410 parts per bloody million!

“We just hit 410 ppm of CO2. Welcome to a whole new world.

This is not normal: We’re on track to witness a climate unseen in 50 million years by mid-century.

In pre-industrial times, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere stood at 280 parts per million. And that number has been rising ever since, warming the planet by 1.8 degrees F (1 degree C) along the way.

CO2 levels fluctuate with the seasons, climbing a bit higher each spring. We first hit 400 parts per million back in 2013, and that became the new norm just four years later. And on April 18 this year, as predicted, we crossed the 410 ppm threshold for the first time at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii.

While El Niño and other natural factors have sped up CO2 concentration increases in the past two years, fossil fuel emissions are the major driver, according to Climate Central.

As fictional carb-thief Aladdin once said: “Unbelievable sights/Indescribable feeling/Soaring, tumbling, freewheeling/Through an endless diamond sky.”

He was talking about the feeling you get when thinking about carbon concentration levels, right? Because that’s how WE feel! Just kidding, we feel terrified.”

http://grist.org/briefly/we-just-hit-410-ppm-of-co2-welcome-to-a-whole-new-world/
 

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