In late 2018 the IPCC reported that we had until 2030 to change course and avert the worst outcomes of global warming. They stated that in order to do this we had to achieve a 7.5% cut in emissions per year for 10 consecutive years.
To give you an idea of the rate of change this would require, see this graph below. The black line shows how much emissions have risen historically, while the green and blue lines represent how much emissions would need to fall to stay under the 1.5% target.
What would this actually look like in our daily lived experience?
Well we had a taste of this in Australia back in 2020-21. The kind of emissions cut required would be the equivalent disruption created by the strictest lockdowns during the pandemic. Basically we would all need to stay in lockdown, with only the barest of essential services remaining, every year for the next ten years.
Is any government anywhere in the world even coming close to suggesting this as an option?
Will you hear this topic discussed on The Drum or The 7.30 Report or on Four Corners here in Australia on our public broadcaster - the ABC?
No one wants to touch this conversation.
The reality is that the only way to save life on Earth and avoid a Hot House Earth scenario by 2030 is to totally trash the world economy and put billions of people out of work, destroying lives and livelihoods.
In order to make any difference everything has to stop: flying, driving, manufacturing, construction, roadworks, mining, logging, fossil fuel dependent agriculture and transport, in short all industrial and household activity that emits carbon and other greenhouse gasses. Simultaneously millions would need to be involved in massive rewilding and restoration projects of the Earth’s damaged ecosystems while still more would need to be engaged in agroecology farming methods to feed people.
In Australia our new federal Labour Government's goal is to cut emissions 43 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030. This is so woefully inadequate - it does not come close, even as a target let alone a reality, to achieving what is required.
Given that we are unable to achieve this radical reduction in emissions, what will happen instead is nature will take matters into her own hands.
The global economy will continue to crumble as climate chaos destroys people’s way of life all around the world, as is currently happening in Pakistan, with one third of the country under water and millions of people suffering.
While in Australia we look on via the evening news and feel pity for such events, we still do not comprehend that our way of life is just as threatened. We continue to live in denial as people don’t know what else to do and no one is talking openly and honestly about it.
If we do not achieve this yearly reduction of emissions as per the IPCC requirements, coupled together with negative emissions technologies they suggest (which do not even exist or operate at scale as yet) to further strip additional gigatonnes of carbon from the atmosphere, then we WILL tip into a Hot House Earth
This means we will lose the Arctic sea ice one coming Spring in the northern hemisphere (known to climate scientists as a Blue Ocean Event BOE) and the consequent massive loss of the Albedo effect will mean a catastrophic increase in global average temperatures around the world.
As the Finnish President said in 2017:
“If we lose the Artic, we lose the globe. That is reality.”
Only if we truly start to face the reality of our times and bring these conversations out into the open, into the public domain, into parliament, schools, universities, anywhere our society gathers and debates, do we have any chance of building up our emotional (and practical) resilience to live through the coming chaos and face into own fears.
Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.
There are so many tools and resources available once you go looking, but the first step is to come out of denial as individuals and then as a society, to do the work to familiarise our selves with the science and grapple deeply with the existential crisis.
Then are we in a place to begin to assess how to respond.