We Are the Last Generation That Will Be Able to Act on Climate Change

Sarah Lunnon from the Political Circle of Extinction Rebellion calls for immediate action to stop climate change.

Join the Young Fabians on Sunday Jan 19th at 11am where members of the Extinction Rebellion Citizens Assembly Circle will be doing a session at Fabian HQ in Petty France and learn more about climate activism.

We face a global emergency, humans have created a new geological period defined by a sixth mass extinction event and global heating heading for 4C with the risk of a cascade to hot-house earth, where life as we know it effectively dies. The breakdown of our climate is beginning, our power, finance, manufacturing and food supplies will not be able to withstand the extreme weather shocks of our common future. At a single degree of heating our transport systems grind to a halt from flooding or heat, farmers struggle to plant or harvest crops, our hospitals buckle with the vulnerable suffering extreme temperatures and homes are abandoned to rising seas.

There will be no hiding place from the impacts, in our country or anywhere. We will not go from here straight to catastrophe. On the journey we will lose everything we cherish. Our NHS, our schools, our farming, our towns, our cities, our wildlife, and even in time our friends and family. 

Extinction Rebellion has been rubbished as a doomsday cult by those in denial about what is scientifically proven beyond reasonable doubt to be coming. Whilst it’s understandable to not think about it, denial does not provide a way of dealing with the oncoming crisis and is effectively waving a white flag to an enemy that will not stop.

The wartime analogy is not misplaced. To have a chance of staying below 1.5C we need to do two things, first totally change the way our economy operates so we cease harming our world and start to repair the planet, second we need to develop ways of reducing the amount of carbon in the atmosphere. It will take an effort not seen unless we’re in a time of war, except this time the opposition is our bad habits and harmful system.

Assuming the 2014 United Nations report is correct there then an amount of CO2 has been calculated that if emitted gives us a 66% chance of staying at or below 1.5C of heating, this is then divided up on a per capita basis - giving the UK a carbon budget. The UK government must plan on how it will stay within this budget. To put it into perspective though at current emission levels we spend the budget by 2023.

The current 2050 plan excludes aviation, shipping, the carbon cost of imported manufactured goods and is based on expanding the budget using unproven, non-existent carbon capture and storage for a 50% chance of staying below 1.5C if everyone country did the same.

There are a number of issues here, by expanding the carbon budget, based on unknown technology to carry on emitting today we pass the burden of solving the crisis onto future generations, or more likely onto those who are children today. They will face the consequences of our actions without the time or the carbon budget to solve it.

The 50/50 chance of staying below 1.5C is effectively playing Russian Roulette with 3 bullets in the chamber, and we know who will suffer the greatest, at least in the beginning - those in countries that have done the least to cause the crisis. A government’s first duty is to protect its citizens, a 50/50 chance of a stable climate is failure to protect and defend our future, we bequeath a dying planet to future generations.

Finally, and here you need to do some simple mental maths, if you have a fixed budget and want to use it over 30 years you have less each year to ‘spend’ than if you want use it over 5 years. So to stretch the carbon budget out to 2050 deeper faster cuts are required than if it is only required to make 2025. (CUSP paper)

What we need to do now is to change everything, we need to re-order the global operating system for planetary repair rather than planetary harm, to have a chance of doing this we need to take everyone with us. Extinction Rebellion can not be a movement of the left or the right,  we have to be a movement beyond traditional politics, but we have to be resolutely political. We all have a dog in this fight. 

Extinction Rebellions first demand is to tell the truth, for a government to implement the radical and swift systemic changes required it requires the support of a majority of the population, and the changes required will only be accepted if the bleak terrifying truth of the future we face is outlined.   

Zero Carbon by 2025 is un-achievable without a massive impact on every area of lives, our society, economy, power systems, farming, health services, everything. There is no way that the impact can be described and the only reason for attempting it is to reduce the likelihood, the horror of cascading tipping points. (CUSP report, Johan Rockstrom,)

Our democratic system has proved unable to respond to the climate and biodiversity crisis, representative democracies are not well placed to deal with emergencies - it is why at times of national crisis unity governments are often formed. Given the extent of the transformation now required, there is a requirement to up-grade our democracy, a citizen’s assembly provides a route to do this. Outside of party politics, representative of the population and given the ability to access experts, deliberate and learn, a Citizen’s Assembly provides a route to action and unity. 

We are the last generation with the ability to act living in the cooler years of the 22nd Century - if we don't, we send our children to live in an unknown world of catastrophe.

Tim Jackson - Zero Carbon Sooner July 2019



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