Citizen Action Monitor

Time is not on our side – Two eminent UK scientists discuss the facts about climate change

Bottom line – We must rapidly reduce our energy demand, but politicians are “running very scared” of the implications.”

No 1958 Posted by fw, May 16, 2017

Kevin Anderson

“I think there’s a very wide acknowledgement now that the science is right and the skeptics are a relatively quiet voice compared with the level of agreement now amongst a very wide constituency engaged in climate change. The science has got it broadly right. We know what we need to do – at least we understand the scale of the challenge. But what we’re not yet prepared to think about are what that means. We have to put that in terms of policy, in terms of our day-to-day lives. There’s still a huge disconnect between what the science is telling us and what that means for us in our lives, and for the policymakers. We’re very positive and upbeat about understanding the science, the importance of 2°C, but we’re still running very scared of recognizing the implications for what that means for contemporary society.”Kevin Anderson

Dr. Hugh Hunt

“I think there is this view that with solar power and wind turbines, and perhaps nuclear, we might be able to wean ourselves off fossil fuels. But we have to remember that electricity generation only represents 20 or 30 percent of global fossil fuel generation. If we are going to get on to electric cars or heating and cooling our homes electrically, that is a massive infrastructural change that means that your home has to be rebuilt, your streets have to have new electric cables put in. The infrastructural change is enormous.”Dr. Hugh Hunt

The two passages above are excerpted from the beginning of a spontaneous conversation between two of Britain’s most vocal scientists on climate change and engineering: Kevin Anderson, the Deputy Director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, who holds a joint chair in Energy and Climate Change at the School of Mechanical, Aerospace and Civil Engineering at the University of Manchester; and Dr. Hugh Hunt, a professor in Engineering Dynamics & Vibration at Cambridge University.

The 32:40-minute video-recorded conversation between Anderson and Hunt took place in December 2015, at COP  21 in Paris, and was likely moderated by journalist and filmmaker, Nick Breeze.

In this, Part 1 of a multi-part series of posts, we see a frank analysis of the details that belie inconvenient truths for the public in general and politicians and policymakers in particular. The recent introduction of carbon budgets as a measure of emission reduction progress has been a game-changer in terms of “really big policy implications.” The political repercussions are clear – “the big problem we have is time.” Even with a Marshall style plan to rapidly and hugely reduce global CO2 emissions, the maths predict that we will breach our carbon budgets.

The initial repost below includes the complete embedded video and my transcript and subheadings from the beginning up to the 4:09-minute mark. Other parts will follow.

To watch the Video on You Tube, without the transcript, click on the following linked title.

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Dr. Hugh Hunt & Professor Kevin Anderson discussing Climate Change realities uploaded to You Tube by Nick Breeze, December 20, 2015

TRANSCRIPT

Hugh Hunt – I’m known as Hugh Hunt. I’m from the University of Cambridge in England.

The climate science is broadly right, the skeptics are relatively quiet, and we know what we must do

Kevin Anderson – My name is Kevin Anderson and I’m from the University of Manchester. Unlike the previous COPs, and unlike until very recently, I think there’s a very wide acknowledgement now that the science is right and the skeptics are a relatively quiet voice compared with the level of agreement now amongst a very wide constituency engaged in climate change. The science has got it broadly right. We know what we need to do – at least we understand the scale of the challenge.

Policymakers are running scared of recognizing the implications — the disconnect is huge

But what we’re not yet prepared to think about are what that means. We have to put that in terms of policy, in terms of our day-to-day lives. There’s still a huge disconnect between what the science is telling us and what that means for us in our lives, and for the policymakers. We’re very positive and upbeat about understanding the science, the importance of 2°C, but we’re still running very scared of recognizing the implications for what that means for contemporary society.

We acknowledge the science, but we don’t like the repercussions of what it means – that’s the disconnect

The climate scientists, the engineers, the social scientists, the politicians – the real cognitive dissonance – that is a duality within us. This is not about differences between different groups of people; it’s within the same people. We acknowledge the science on one side, but we don’t like repercussions of what that means on the other. That to me is the disconnect.

Solar power, wind turbines, maybe nuclear are good for electricity generation, but that’s not going to enable us to wean ourselves off fossil fuels

Hunt – Can I just add to that, I think there is this view that with solar power and wind turbines, and perhaps nuclear, we might be able to wean ourselves off fossil fuels. But we have to remember that electricity generation only represents 20 or 30 percent of global fossil fuel generation.

The infrastructural change needed for a transition to electricity generation is enormous

If we are going to get on to electric cars or heating and cooling our homes electrically, that is a massive infrastructural change that means that your home has to be rebuilt, your streets have to have new electric cables put in. The infrastructural change is enormous.

Renewable electricity technologies only solve about one-fifth of our energy generation requirements

Whereas, if we’re just thinking about creating renewable electricity, I think politicians can sell that as a victory. And in that sense, maybe we are optimistic, if that one-fifth of the problem is all that we care about. But there are many parts of the problem still left.

We hardly ever look at the whole problem; we’re only seeing a small part of the problem

I like the idea that we’re looking at this problem through a keyhole. And what we see through the keyhole is only a small part of the problem. What we really need to do is open the door and have a look at the whole problem, which we hardly ever do.

Damming some rivers is not a solution; we’ve got to examine all our options from all sides

Then we have the problem that we can replace fossil fuel in power generation by — let’s dam some rivers. Well, has the Hoover dam been a fantastic success? Yes and no. We’ve got to look at every option we’ve got objectively and from all sides.

The IPCC’s carbon budgets are a game-changer in terms of policy implications

Anderson –  In terms of the science, the science is very clear now. We have these carbon budgets. The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is really helpful here. The first set of reports that have ever explicitly put in place these carbon budgets. The problem with carbon budgets, they have really big policy implications. In the old framing, which has a 2050 timeframe, we could rely on engineers solving the problem in 2035, 2040 and 2050.

Time is the biggest problem we have, now that we have these carbon budgets

The carbon budget approach brings it down to what do we do today and what do we do tomorrow. The political repercussions come out of the science. And when we look at that, the big problem we have is time.

We can come up with wonderful solutions, but that will take a Marshall style plan

We can come up with wonderful solutions – we can electrify cars, we can electrify heating to a degree, and cooling, we can electrify some of industry. But that will take two, three decades to do that, even if we have a Marshall style plan, which is what I would suggest we need to try and make those sort of transitions.

But even with a Marshall plan we will breach our carbon budgets; in the interim, we must hugely reduce our energy demand

But that will mean we breach our carbon dioxide budgets. And that’s where it comes down to the very difficult political part of this, which is, we need in the interim to reduce our energy demand. And I would argue, hugely reduce demand in the short term to stay within the carbon budgets. It’s just an outcome of the maths.

This On-screen Message Appears

There are already many people who doubt that there is any carbon budget left – they would argue we’re already way above the level of CO2 in the atmosphere…   

END OF PART 1

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