Running out of time to save our planet

Although the latest IPCC report has a few encouraging data points, you can’t get away from the overwhelming likelihood that, barring a miracle or an extremely unlikely immediate change in human behaviour, the 1.5 degree warming target will not be met. Even 2 degrees looks a big ask.

There is encouraging data around the massive reduction in cost of renewable energy supply over the last 10 years: 85% for solar power and lithium-ion batteries, 55% for wind power. Unfortunately, a significant proportion of this benefit is offset by increased usage.

Given the weakness of political leadership worldwide we need a miracle. What could that be? Some scientists believe that the sun might enter a cooling phase as it did in the late 17th century. This is unpredictable and might even lead to an Ice Age! We certainly can’t count on it happening.

There could be a technological breakthrough that makes carbon capture affordable. There are already a few small plants operating but at c. $1,000 per ton of CO2 even when using cheap renewable energy it’s not viable yet. Organisations like the US charity Carbon180 are helping to drive R&D in this area and hopefully they will win their fight against time.

One miracle actually lies within our control. If every human stopped eating meat it would reduce greenhouse gas generation by at least 15% (much of it in the form of far longer lasting methane). If that’s a step too far then just avoiding beef would make a massive difference.

For a highly readable and informative insight we recommend: There is No Planet B, the latest book by Mike Berners-Lee.

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