Who needs to know about sustainability?.... All of Us
This may sound extreme, but these statements reflect genuine concerns about the impacts of man made climate change and the economic affects of a finite supply of oil in a world and growing demand. We are facing some grim truths:
The current economic crisis has a strong relationship with the price of fuel. Over the last 60 years every time the price of oil cost more that the modern day equivalent of 80 dollars a barrel there has been recession. It’s unlikely prices will ever drop below this level again.
The planet can’t cope with the pollution created by burning billions of tons of fossil fuel . Carbon pollution is threatening climate, eco systems, the world’s oceans and food security. Resource depletion is seen by the Pentagon as threat to US security – with drought and famine likely to cause mass migration of refugees and mass extinction of wildlife and plants.
We have to change, decarbonise our world, and that means all of us putting the transformation from a carbon intensive economy to a low carbon economy top of our priorities. A sustainable world won’t happen overnight, it’s a transition that will take 50 years – and it won't happen if we are not all a part of it. We need a Big Green Bang – a widespread explosive change of thinking and understanding about sustainability.
Running out of gas...
Today, 90% of the energy we use today comes from fossil fuels. The success of the developed world is built· on cheap abundant energy, and era that's drawing to a close. Today's oil prices, three times their historic average, are just one sign of the times. As well as hitting us directly, high fuel prices affect the cost of everything that depends heavily on energy, including food, clothing, and things like raw materials for construction.
We simply can't afford to carry on investing our future in fossil fuels. The IEA's latest "World Energy Outlook" spells out the danger of business as usual:
"Delaying action is a false economy: for every $1 of investment in cleaner technology that is avoided in the power sector before 2020, an additional $4.30 would need to be spent after 2020 to compensate for the increased emissions.”
The reality of our fossil fuel addiction is that it is totally unsustainable:
- they were 2 billion years in the making - in less than 200 years we've used over half of a "once in a planet time" supply.
- oil production is more or less at it's maximum - demand is growing - prices will continue to climb.
- using fossil fuels is destabilising the world's climate
... and a habitable planet
Hand in hand with the spiralling costs of a fossil fuel dependent economy are concerns about the impacts of pollution. Don't be mislead by misleading reports in some sections of the press -
- climate change is real,
- we are already living with its effects
- if we don't start cutting carbon emissions, already dangerous warming could become catastrophic
Opening our eyes to truth and lies...
Cutting greenhouse gasses and keeping our infrastructure working in a world of scarce, expensive, hydrocarbons are two sides sides of the same coin. Changing the way we source and use energy will solve solve the "prolong" element of both economic and environmental sustainability. The government target for 2050 is to reduce the UK's overall carbon emissions by 80%. Meeting those targets involve big changes to a lot of big things, like electricity generation and transport but 30% of green house emissions in the UK come from the the way we eat, use heat and light our homes. It possible to cut that by three quarters and it doesn't need a magic wand to do it - but we have to accept we have to change the way we think about energy and becoming carbon literate.
The technology for a low carbon economy works and is economically viable. Perhaps the biggest hurdle is the political battle still to be fought. With such vast sums of money at stake, just as coaching houses, ostlers and canal companies fought against the railway age, the fossil fuels industry is fighting tooth and nail to discredit climate science and muddy political waters.
It hardly seems credible, but the process in the USA is so advanced that the Republican Party has more or less adopted climate change denial as party policy, and not one single Republican Presidential hopeful acknowledges climate change. This "anti-science" position has been ably assisted by the media who have repeatedly published misleading and false claims about climate science.
In the UK successive governments have responded with progressive policies, setting tough carbon reduction targets, but there is no room for complacency. There has been increasing UK media hostility towards renewable energy and disproportionate exposure to discredited and unscientific positions taken by sceptic groups, leading to fears that there may be a similar attempts to influence public opinion and strengthen the position of climate sceptic politicians.