Climate Code Red • Part Two

Climate policy is characterised by the habituation of low expectations and a culture of failure. There is an urgent need to understand global warming and the tipping points for dangerous impacts that we have already crossed as a sustainability emergency


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The Case for a Sustainability Emergency, Part II
06 Mar 2008 | Global Public Media

This is the second of two interviews with Philip Sutton, coauthor with David Spratt of a recent report titled “Climate Cod Red: The Case for a Sustainability Emergency.” The first interview reviewed the latest scientific understanding of climate change and established an appropriate target for temperature change and atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations.

To summarize our previous interview: the impacts from current levels of warming are already very dangerous and likely to spin out of control quickly unless corrective actions are taken. For example, the Arctic Ocean may be ice free within several years, which would lead to the loss of major ice sheets, rapid sea level rise, and further warming from permafrost melt and global ecosystem damage.

However, most climate change policies aim to limit the average global temperature rise to 2-3 degrees C, or about 3 times higher than what has occurred so far. Given that the Earth is already overheated, these goals are practically useless.

By contrast, Climate Code Red advocates:

apply a risk management regime based on a ‘less than one-in-a-million’ chance of major breakdown in the earth system, which would damage or threaten the welfare of all people, all species, and all generations;
reduce the current warming and keep it to less than 0.5ºC above the pre-industrial level;
reduce the current level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, and keep them to less than 320 ppm CO2e (total);
make the massive structural adjustments necessary in as little time as humanly possible, with an unprecedented application of human creativity as well as all available economic and other resources; and
restrict the rate of climate change to less than 0.1 ºC per decade.

Today’s interview will discuss how, with a shared sense of purpose and heroic leadership, humans have the technical and social capacity to go into “emergency” mode and design an economic and environmental turn-around in 10-20 years.