A look into why the environmental activists took to extremes to raise awareness
Last Thursday saw the formal end of Extinction Rebellion’s 11 day 'Shut Down London' protests. And they certainly shut down London, given the occupation of Oxford Street, Marble Arch,Waterloo Bridge and Parliament Square, along with over 1,000 arrests and copious amounts of press coverage.
As a passionate environmentalist, I have nothing but the utmost admiration and respect for what Extinction Rebellion have achieved over the last 2 weeks. But how did we get to the point where an extreme change to the way Western society functions is a necessity to prevent total ecological breakdown and an irreversible climatic apocalypse?
Well, let me take you on a brief overview of the events and terrible political decisions that got us to this tipping point.
Over the last 25 years, numerous countries have signed three international treaties designed to tackle climate change: the 1992 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, the 1997 Kyoto Protocol and the now seemingly defunct (thanks to The Donald) 2015 Paris Agreement.
The most recent of these treaties aimed to commit countries to keep the increase in global average temperature to below 2 degrees Celsius and to aim for the comparatively ‘safe’ limit of 1.5 degrees Celsius (that’s only comparatively better when next to global destruction).
There were celebrations around the world when the Paris agreement was signed; less than four years later London is shut down and schoolchildren are on strike in the name of protecting the climate.
How did we get to this?
Part of the blame lies with politicians failing to prioritise climate as a national emergency. You see, despite climate scientists concluding that global must peak by 2020 and be net zero by 2050, only 50 of 185 countries signed to the Paris Agreement have announced legislation and public financing to prevent the average global temperature by increasing by 2 degrees Celcius.
In fact, G20 countries, which account for 75% of global greenhouse gas emissions, still have roughly 82% of their energy supply sourced from fossil fuels. To put the amount of change needed into perspective – CO2 emissions and fossil fuel usage needs to zero by 2050.
It’s increasingly clear that the level of warming we are heading for will involve massive destruction of human well-being and the natural world. New studies suggest a high risk that an increase of 3-4 degrees Celsius (which we are heading for) over pre-industrial levels will instigate irreversible runaway warming and throw the climate system into a ‘hothouse’ state.
Essentially, it’ll look a bit like this…. except it won’t be fine.
Defined as a state in which human efforts to reduce emissions will be futile, a ‘hothouse’ state and its ever-increasing global temperature will result in vast swathes of Earth becoming completely uninhabitable, the destruction of all the world’s coral reefs and oceans engulfing cities within this century.
So, what can you do to prevent this?
Hold onto your loved ones? Hide under a sturdy table or wardrobe? Or go down to The
Winchester, get a pint, and wait for it to all blow over? Not quite, but you can make a difference. Here are links for some top tips on cutting down your carbon footprint and being more environmentally friendly: