We need national unity to act on the climate emergency

Feb 28, 2022

The basic science underlying the climate emergency indicates that green house emissions must stop this decade. This now seems unlikely and we need a national unity government to make us more secure from its consequences.

Unfortunately much of humanity and those in leadership have yet to accept that unless we take urgent steps to tackle the causes of climate change there is no future for humankind on this planet.

Indeed it is vital that every writer for Pearls and Irritations ask themselves whether they grasp the consequences of climate change science and how they can involve their own field of expertise in its alleviation.

The Problem;- understanding the Science and Urgency

This is complex but a recent review helps to explain it.

The Keeling Curve shows rising atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide at Mauna Loa laboratory

We  acknowledge the Scripps Institution of Oceanography for this figure  

The build up of CO2 in the air has accelerated from 1ppm per year in 1960 to 2.5 ppm in 2020.

If temperature increase is to be halted, the curve must rise more slowly commencing in the next few years, then stop rising by the middle of the century and decline thereafter. This was the basis of the recommendations of the Paris Agreement (2015) to limit global warming to 1.5C.

However seven years later, discussion is focussing on holding the rise to 2 C or more because atmospheric concentrations of CO2 continue to increase, indeed accelerate further, because of human-caused emissions from fossil-fuel burning and deforestation. Emissions of CO2 are being added to the atmosphere much more rapidly than natural processes can remove them.

Today the stark position is that if the rise in temperature is to be halted, then CO2 emissions need to stop now https://johnmenadue.com/the-climate-apocalypse-can-a-collapse-of-global-civilisation-be-avoided/ . If emissions are not stopped completely, there needs to be an enhanced removal of CO2 from the atmosphere as explained by Glikson. Instead of the madness of persisting with ineffective carbon capture and storage to allow coal and gas to be burned, pilot plants such as Orca are being built to pull CO2 from the atmosphere and store it underground. To be effective, such techniques will require the expenditure of $trillions.

Emissions of CO2 also need to be stopped immediately because of the current danger of temperature rise becoming self perpetuating through tipping points; for example more forest fires release CO2 which increases world temperature favouring more fires.

There are at least eight potential tipping points identified including loss of the Amazon and other rainforests through clearing and burning, and thawing of Arctic permafrost releasing methane and CO2.

The Current Confounding Factors

If all pledges and agreements at COP26 were delivered, humanity could contain temperature rise to 2-2.7C. Already the foundations of these commitments from key nations are foundering. John Kerry warns that the world is in trouble from lack of action on coal and he cites concern over tipping points.

In the USA President Biden’s Build Back Better program is in deep trouble from a few members of his own ranks. Action to reduce fossil fuels is largely absent apart from the cessation of funding for coal fired power in other countries. Commentators in the US blame their democratic system for failing to cope with the complex crisis of climate change.

In the UK, action on climate change is currently based on the survival of Boris Johnson who saw this as an issue that would give him and the UK world leadership. His situation is now precarious and if and when he resigns, his parliamentary right wing may neuter the program.

Australia continues to be a world leader in fossil fuel exports which it plans to increase. Hopes of pressure to reform its pariah status have diminished with the weakening of US climate intent.

Commitments from EC countries are under stress partly because of difficulties between some members of the community and reliance upon gas from Russia

China, a huge polluter with record coal production in 2021, is likely to honour its modest commitments and is taking important steps to reduce manufacture of hydro-fluorocarbon emissions for which it is responsible for 70 percent of world production.

The common factor in many of these situations is the failure of democratic systems to act on complex issues, so clearly apparent from the widespread incompetence coping with the Covid pandemic, a minor problem compared to the climate cataclysm to come.

Governments must recognise two imperatives;-

Firstly Parliament and nation must be unified to have effective action, for huge sacrifice will be needed to fund drastic measures. A current modest estimate is that that world needs to increase funding to $5 trillion a year by 2030 to fight the emissions causing the climate crisis.

Secondly, although the climate crisis is the worst we face, there are many other confluent crises and governments in Australia https://johnmenadue.com/let-it-rip-mentality-underlies-australias-cruelest-policy-failures/ and throughout the world are unable to face their complexity.

Because we are failing to finance reductions in emissions adequately, the huge additional cost of developing resilience and remediation will become even more eye watering. God–forbid, personal and corporate taxes will have to increase massively. The costs of reparation will increase with every budget. Such sacrifices require national unity.

Democratic Reform

National Unity Government can be defined as a government of all major parties formed during a time of war or other national emergency.

A most successful example was in 1940-45 when in the UK the Labour Party agreed to join a national government under Churchill’s leadership. A small war cabinet was formed which prosecuted all governance and particularly defence of the UK in concert with defence chiefs and other expert groups. The war with Germany was to become World War 2 but one may reflect on its minor significance compared to the world war/emergency to come to over the coming climate catastrophe.

The case for a national government is already before us from a decade of partisanship and bickering over the need for mitigation measures and even over the veracity of climate change. Suggestions for reform have been made by many articles in Pearls and Irritations https://johnmenadue.com/democratic-reform-is-vital-to-address-the-climate-and-environmental-crises/  We now have an option of new leadership after the May election at a time when both major Parties have a minimalistic climate program in comparison to the huge task in hand. Hopefully a handful of the 227 elected representatives in the Australian Parliament have the communication skills and intellectual ability to take on this task?

Such a unified approach is vital to educate the nation and have the community accept the sacrifices to come. The basis for this must be a revolution in communication away from self and party serving, to a focus on explaining preparedness and survival for communities and cities. A Cabinet working closely with a Sustainability Commission of the nation’s leading scientists and experts would deliver advice and policy based on facts and give us a chance of survival by coping with the many economic risks defined in the World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report 2022, many of which such as growing inequality, are climate related.

In contrast to Churchill’s war cabinet, our National Unity Cabinet should have gender equality including a young elected or co-opted member from the climate movement, and an independent member of parliament who has demonstrated a clear understanding of the climate problems we face.

Pie in the sky?  if you read much of the daily media dirge on offer from party political mindsets, then you will read my article once more and perhaps send it to all currently elected members.

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