Complacency could be the decisive factor that leaves humanity “meandering into a failed future” in its response to climate change, making it 95% likely that efforts to keep average global warming below 1.5 to 2.0°C will fail, UK climate scientist Kevin Anderson warns in an interview this week with Climate News Network.
Anderson singles out fossil companies for promoting a complacency agenda, but also “blames academics, journalists, and even some green groups for encouraging a belief that renewable power or other simple solutions can counter global warming,” CN Network reports. “Anderson believes that politicians will not take strong enough measures to address climate change partly because the threat of global warming is often underplayed by many experts.”
Shale gas drilling in the UK and construction of a third runway at Heathrow Airport “are completely incompatible with [the] Paris [agreement],” he said. “And yet no doubt some academics say they will fit because they have a rose-tinted view of some mythical future that things can be put in place.”
Anderson said the route to effective climate action means a more honest, open assessment of the depth of the problem. “It won’t be quite sleepwalking, because we know we are doing it.” But “if we are not prepared to face the challenges we have ahead then the answers we come up with will not be appropriate.”
Much of the effort to understate the climate challenge has come from fossil companies, Anderson told CN Network. ““They have been fairly vilified. They have tried to undermine this agenda for years,” he said. “But they are not the only culprit there. Another large swath of society—the academic community, the scientific community, the journalists, and the NGOs—are all in that,” with the result that the shift off fossil fuels is not moving quickly enough.
This week, Carbon Brief warned that 2016 data show global greenhouse gas emissions on track to blow through the carbon budget that would keep average warming at 1.5°C in just over four years. A graph accompanying the article shows emissions just starting to diverge from a scenario that would deliver 4.0 to 6.1°C of average global warming by 2100.
Last week, in a review of two progress reports issued by the International Energy Agency and the International Renewable Energy Agency, Carbon Brief summarized the seven (very familiar) steps to be taken to keep average warming below 2.0°C: a more stringent carbon budget, a faster transition, a dramatic increase in investment, a sharper focus on renewables and energy efficiency, a serious response to stranded assets, use of subsidies and carbon pricing to make sure the energy sector takes climate considerations into account, and attention to both the benefits and the co-benefits of the post-carbon transition.