Over the Christmas period, we’re republishing some of our lighter reading while the East Anglia Bylines editorial team take a much-deserved break. This article was first published in May 2022.
Most of us are aware of climate change and while we agree we need to do something about it, it feels like it is out of our control. Thirty for 30 will give you a greater understanding of the issues that face humanity and what actions you can personally take to help.
The climate crisis is with us. It has already had significant impact, warming the world by +1.2oC since pre-industrial times. The Glasgow conference of the parties (COP 26) in November 2021 and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 6th Report in April 2022 have, however, shown we just have enough time to act. We are going to need individual and collective action to try to “keep +1.5o alive”. Increases above 2oC would be serious for economies and societies across the world.
Here is the challenge: we need to cut world emissions by 50 percent this decade, followed by two successive further 50 percent cuts by 2040 and 2050. This would recreate a safe space for humanity. But it will be very hard, especially as one or two degrees does not sound much.
Understanding the figures
So think this way: we call a +1oC rise in body temperature a fever. It is a sign of illness. There is a problem, and we have to respond. At +2oC, the fever has become serious; at +3oC, there is organ and structural damage, and hospital calls. At +4oC, death will shortly follow.
Some commentators and politicians are still talking calmly of Earth increases of +2oC to +4oC during this century being survivable. This is not the case. In some ways, this analogy of the body underplays the danger. Under pressure, natural systems can display sudden changes, cascade effects, thresholds passed and broken. One set of changes can build on others, making things turn worse very quickly.
It looks bad, but there is still time. Just enough. If we could each find a way to limit carbon emissions to One Tonne of carbon dioxide and equivalent other greenhouse gases, then this would do.
Let’s look at the numbers. The world emitted 53 Gt (billion tonnes) of CO2eq emissions last year, an average of 6.8 tonnes per person worldwide. The UK carbon footprint is 7.7 tonnes each.
If the total emissions were to fall to 10 Gt, this would be a safe place for humanity. This is roughly equal to One Tonne per person worldwide. This is where Thirty for 30 comes in. The figures shows 30 low-carbon options in five domains of food, home, mobility, stuff and leisure.
What we can each do
Try this: Choose one new behaviour per year. Start where you feel comfortable. After one year, select another. The tell someone else. And at the same time, try doing things that make you happy and live long: healthy food, being in nature, physical activity, togetherness with others, creative pursuits for personal growth, a spiritual or ethical framework and, of course, sustainable consumption.
The “good life” happens to be low carbon. It does not cost the earth. So: can we find ways to work together in our communities, parishes, villages and towns to advance the cuts in emissions?
Our target is one tonne each. Our path is to choose one low-carbon action a year, and tell others too.
The American poet, Mary Oliver, wrote this lovely seven-word poem, called Instructions for Living a Life:
Pay attention, Be astonished, Tell about it.