Climate Change - Climate Emergency

Climate Change - Climate Emergency

One of the clearest “megatrends” facing the world must surely be climate change – or “climate emergency” as many commentators are now calling it. Clearly there are a range of outcomes possible, from the ambition of a “less than 1.5°C” level of global warming from pre-industrial levels, to frightening suggestions of an increase of 6°C or more. But whatever the outcome we can be certain there will be major ramifications for the world, its people and its flora and fauna.  And for organisations of all kinds.

We’ve decided to focus on this major issue in a new series of blogposts.  We will cover the likely impacts of climate change on various parts of the global ecosystem, and address both “mitigation” (reducing emissions) and “adaptation” (coping with climate change already happening).

The International Panel on Climate Change, set up in 1968, is the main international body attempting to get global agreement on ways of reducing climate change. It achieved a notable success in 2015 with the Paris agreement, signed up to by nearly 200 countries, including the USA and China, with most ratifying the agreement in April the following year. The agreement aims to respond to the global climate change threat by keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2°Cabove pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to1.5°C.

Unfortunately, the incoming Trump administration in the US announced on 1 June 2017, that the United States would withdraw from the agreement, with an effective withdrawal date of 4 November 2020.

An independent group, Climate Action Tracker,  has analysed the pledges and policies put in place following the Paris Agreement, and it is clear that they are nowhere near the level necessary to hit the 1.5°C target, with 3°C being more likely  – twice the target level.

Climat change graphic

So what would such a rise or worse actually mean? We shall look to answer that question in a number of areas:

  • Climate change and the sea: sea-levels, acidification, coral bleaching, changing fish migration patterns
  • Climate change and agriculture: pluses as well as minuses
  • Impact of warming world on natural defences – methane sinks in Siberia, ice packs reflecting sunlight etc
  • Extreme weather events
  • Migration

What technologies could be effective in mitigating climate change?  What upsides could there be?

  • Renewables: solar/wind/tidal/bio/, progress, economics, battery storage
  • Carbon capture and storage
  • Transport: electric vehicles (including planes and ships), air taxis, Heathrow; commercialisation of space
  • Other more innovative technology responses – cloud seeding

And what might the political and economic impacts be?

  • Stern report 2006
  • Future of fossil fuel industry: disinvestment, “keep it in the ground”, stranded assets, fracking
  • Impact on finance sector – Bank of England warnings, insurance industry
  • Political responses: new Green Deal, insulation, next COP event, street-level response; political impacts of climate change and climate change mitigation (including geo-political impacts on oil-producing countries)

Debate has focussed on achieving zero emissions by at least 2050, preferably earlier.  But even achieving that is likely to be hugely disruptive, and we saw in a previous blog that BP’s energy forecasts show this to be unlikely. Recently the climate emergency had a moment at the centre of public debate (at least in the UK) with the visit of Greta Thunberg, David Attenborough’s powerful programme and the Extinction Rebellion disruption. And the Government has now committed to net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

If you have views on any of the issues in this field, please do contact us and we can give you the opportunity to express them.

Written by Huw Williams, SAMI Principal

The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily of SAMI Consulting.

SAMI Consulting was founded in 1989 by Shell and St Andrews University. They have undertaken scenario planning projects for a wide range of UK and international organisations. Their core skill is providing the link between futures research and strategy.

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