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Thu Nov 21 11:41:20 CST 2013
Make the rich change their ways to avoid a 2C rise, says top scientist
Nations should give up growth obsession and focus on making the few who
emit the most change their consumption patterns
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- John Vidal <http://www.theguardian.com/profile/johnvidal> in Warsaw
- theguardian.com <http://www.theguardian.com/>, Thursday 21 November
2013 16.45 GMT
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[image: Planet Oz Blog at COP19 in Warsaw : Extreme weather, flood damage
Receding floodwaters in Loveland, Colorado, reveal the extent of damage to
the old highway 34. Photograph: Chris Schneider/AP
One of the world's leading climate scientists has outlined a radical plan
to hold temperatures to a 2C rise, the threshold that governments have
agreed to limit rises to – but he accepts it may cause consternation among
the very rich.
Kevin Anderson, professor of energy and climate
the University of Manchester and deputy head of the Tyndall Centre, has
industrialised countries may need to go into recession to reduce emissions
enough to ensure temperatures do not rise over 2C.
But as a 4C rise, which is looking increasingly realistic, would be
"catastrophic" and must be avoided at all costs, he now says that political
and personal efforts should be concentrated on changing the consumption
patterns of the very few who emit the most – and that includes most of the
people at the climate talks currently underway in
"We think it is still possible to avoid 2C rise. It's feasible, but only
just. We think that there are economic but not financial benefits," he told
a side meeting at the UN talks.
"Annex 1 [industrialised] countries need a 70% reduction in emissions
consumption in 10 years to give us an outside chance of holding
temperatures to a 2C rise. They need to cut emissions by 10% annually. We
need to be fully de-carbonised in the 2020-30s, and that means planes,
fridges, everything [must emit far less] to give a bit of an opportunity
for poorer parts of the world to develop.
"If we had started in the 1992 it might have been different. But now it
needs a complete shift in mindsets," he said.
Anderson argues that governments have become obsessed by growth but should
abandon this and concentrate on the things that matter to people like
health and food and shelter. "We have to think differently, look at the
things that matter and make them better.
"The financial world has failed completely to cut emissions. The
self-regulated market hasn't regulated. We're awash with capital [but]
finance has failed in its own backyard. It cannot deliver the cuts needed.
Carbon pricing will not work because it cannot drive prices fast enough."
The problem is consumption, not supply, he says. "Only a very small
percentage of people is responsible for most of the emissions. It's about
the few not the many. Mitigation to 2C is a consumption issue. There are
things you can do on the demand side, [yet] we spend all our efforts on the
"It's not about 2030, 2040 or later. It's about what we can do now. How
many people really need to reduce emissions? The Pareto's 80:20 rule [a
principle named after the economist Vilfredo Pareto] implies that 80% of
emissions come from 20% of the global population. That means that 50% of
emissions come from 1% per cent of the population." This 1%, says Anderson,
includes climate scientists and nearly everyone at the UN talks and just
about all the rich.
The same 80:20 rule applies to technology, too, he suggests. "An A-rated
fridge uses over 80% more than a an AAA-rated machine. The best available
[of everything] is usually far, far better than what we usually buy.
"On average cars emit around 150gm of CO2 per kilometre. But the best,
already available, are 85-110. If you put in a standard of 85g/km by 2015
and tightened it by 10% a year you would get a 40-50% reduction [in
transport emissions] in just 10 years.
"We cannot rely on technologies like nuclear or wind power to reduce
emissions in years to come. We start now. We must escape the shackles of
the 20th-century mindset."
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