Dr Rayner Mayer (from Sciotech Projects and University of Reading) hosted a lively discussion on the ethics related to climate change. He introduced the following 3 topics, after which the audience debated the issues.
In the first section, Rayner introduced the concept of Climate Justice. He reminded the audience of the increase in extreme weather events, such as floods and droughts, associated with increasing climate change. These threaten lives and livelihoods across the world. He concluded that some regions are more affected than others; and that developing countries are disproportionately responsible for the greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change, whereas poorer peoples are more vulnerable to the consequences.
In the next section, Rayner discussed Sustainable Development. In simple terms: it is an obligation for the present generation to leave the world (biosphere) in a fit state for future generations. He noted that we have had successes so far, with millions of lives being saved as a result of the 8 ‘Millennium Development Goals’ (2000-2015). In the next 15 years we have the international ‘Sustainable Development Goals’ including: to end poverty, to end hunger, to reduce inequality and to ensure sustainable use of eco-systems. These include tackling climate change – if we don’t tackle the UN estimates that there could be up to 100 million climate refugees by the end of the next decade.
COP21 – the Paris Accord:
Finally Rayner talked about December 2015’s Paris Accord. In this, 195 individual nations have submitted ‘Declared National Contributions’, which are emissions reduction promises. These will be reviewed every 5 years. All countries signed-up to trying to prevent global temperatures from rising by more than 2 degrees Centigrade, however the current declared contributions could result in a 2.7 degrees temperature rise which is higher than that agreed in Paris. Religious leaders, including the Pope, are making strong calls for us to act on this global threat to life on earth. It is important that there are ‘top-down’ agreements like the Paris Accord, however it is equally important that we look at our own lifestyles and what are we going to do about it.
On Wednesday 30th March the second in a series of ‘Reading climate forums’ discussed ‘carbon pricing’ – under which the cost of damage expected from global warming would be reflected in the price of fossil fuels.
Speaker Clive Elsworth from the UK branch of the Citizens Climate Lobby www.facebook.com/CitizensClimateLobbyUK explained the ‘Carbon Fee and Dividend’ approach under which a fee would be paid when fossil fuels were imported or extracted by mining or drilling … and the money raised would be shared equally between all households.
Clive argued that fossil fuels must be priced out of the market – subsidies to renewables or energy efficient travel only reduce cost of activities so lead to more consumption. He said he had been inspired by climate scientist James Hansen’s book “Storms of My Grandchildren: The Truth About the Coming Climate Catastrophe and Our Last Chance to Save Humanity”.
Campaigner Justin Bowles then presented the views of three economists and a sociologist – saying that 90% of economists favour some form of carbon tax or carbon pricing to address climate change. He discussed the difficulties of setting a price today to reflect the risk of damage in the future.
Clive finished by hosting a role play exercise, where the audience were invited to try out some useful influencing techniques to try and sell the ‘Carbon Fee and Dividend’ concept to their local MP.
A series of ‘climate forums’ kicked off on Wednesday 16 March when Chris Beales, a local hydrologist and climate change specialist, discussed the links between ‘Extreme Events’ – weather events that can dramatically affect our lives, our homes and our communities – and climate change – which is often described by quite modest-sounding increases in global average temperature.
The presentation showed that global and UK average temperatures are rising and are now at their warmest since records began, and the number of Extreme Events is increasing and records for temperature and rainfall are being broken.
Chris said that average temperatures are projected to rise significantly and we can expect to see even more Extreme Events – bigger and more frequent droughts and floods and heatwaves – which we need to prepare for.
Chris commented: “The world has important choices to make: if we significantly cut our use of coal, oil and gas … and meet the targets agreed in the Paris conference in December … we could limit the average rise in temperature to two degrees. Otherwise the climate could change very dramatically and the accompanying Extreme Events are going to be very difficult to deal with!”