Where we are and what we have

Pie chart showing green house gas emissions by sectorIn his closing statement at COP26 in Glasgow earlier this month, António Guterres, the Secretary-General of the UN stated that ‘Science tells us that the absolute priority must be rapid, deep and sustained emissions reductions in this decade. Specifically – a 45% cut by 2030 compared to 2010 levels.’   About three-quarters of global green house gas emissions are carbon dioxide (30.4 billions tons in 2010 according to the IEA). A reduction in carbon emissions of 45% by 2030 would reduce this to 16.7 billion tons or an average of about 2 tons per person per year (tCO2/person/yr) allowing for the predicted 9% growth in the global population to 8.5 billion people by 2030. This requires the average resident of Asia, Europe and North America to reduce their carbon emissions to about a half, a quarter and a tenth respectively of their current levels (3.8, 7.6 & 17.6 tCO2/person/yr respectively, see the graphic below and ‘Two Earths‘ on August 13th, 2012).  These are massive reductions to achieve in a very short timescale, less than a decade.  Lots of people are talking about global and national targets; however, very few people have any idea at all about how to achieve the massive reductions in emissions being talked about at COP26 and elsewhere.  The graphic above shows global greenhouse gas emissions by sector with almost three-quarters arising from our use of energy to make stuff (energy use in industry: 24%), to move stuff and us (transport: 16%), and to use stuff and keep us comfortable (energy use in building: 17.5%).  Hence, to achieve the target reductions in emissions and prevent the temperature of the planet rising more than 1.5 degrees compared to pre-industrial levels, we need to stop making, buying, moving and consuming stuff.  We need to learn to live with our local climate because cooling and heating buildings consumes energy and heats the planet.  And, we need to use public transport, a bicycle or walk.  By the way, for stuff read all matter, materials, articles, i.e., everything!  We will need to be satisfied with where we are and what we have, to learn to love old but serviceable belongings [see ‘Loving the daily current of existence‘ on August 11th, 2021 and ‘Old is beautiful‘ on May 1st, 2013].

Infographic showing CO2 emission by region and wealth

5 thoughts on “Where we are and what we have

  1. Tony Patey

    As usual, Eann, you are spot on – unfortunately, it’s a question of tackling the basic problem which has been around in some form since the late 60s/early 70s.
    I.e. we KNOW what the dilemma is – we’re blindly harming the global environment with our activities – but WHAT are we going to do about it, HOW and WHEN? It’s the DOING not the KNOWING.
    Some of us have been banging our heads against that particular brick wall since those early days.
    People such as David Attenborough have made it more “acceptable” and fashionable to talk about the issue over the dinner tables, but it’s still seen as a little “eccentric”, a little “not quite us”, and these attitudes are reflected in the media.
    Around the early 70s there blossomed a big “self-sufficiency” movement, with popular books, and some publicity (which tended to be rather patronising), but it did actually capture the public imagination for a while; it petered out in the political upheavals of the time and then Thatcherism.
    Maybe if we could communicate the fundamental philosophy behind that concept today perhaps we might spark some imaginative reaction from the public – at least it would get people actively protecting the environment against potentially fatal effects, rather than being passive.
    “Time to stop talking about it, and start doing something about it” is often said today, but we were saying that 50 years ago, and nothing, effectively, happened. We need leaders to walk out from the crowd and take us forward. (I’m not holding my breath, I’m afraid.)

  2. Raymond Horstman

    To get where we want to we need a drastic increase in energy efficiency . Most of all in countries which haven extreme low energy and CO2 efficiency. If the world would try to be as good as the best countries then CO2-emissions could drop easy.

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