We Don't Have 11 Years to Save the Planet, We Have to Start Today.

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fossil fuel era is over

Put down that burger and get out your bike. Things are getting serious.

After the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report came out last year, everybody was running stories that said, "We have 12 years to save the planet." TreeHugger Sami explained that this was a misreading of the document:

It does not mean that we have 12 years before we have to act... What the 12 year figure in the IPCC report does refer to is that, if we are going to have a reasonable chance of keeping warming to 1.5 degrees, we have just over a decade to cut global emissions some 45% based on 2010 levels.

Recently, Dr. Helena Wright explained it in greater detail:

Where does the ‘12 years’ headline come from? This is based on the number of years we have left until the carbon budget is used up for 1.5°C of warming... Global emissions need to peak immediately and then fall dramatically each year to achieve the 1.5°C goal. We do not have the luxury of 12 years left: we must immediately halt further fossil fuel use.

Dr. Wright explains that global emissions are now about 42 gigatonnes of CO2 per year, and that the carbon budget will be blown in 12 years, making it impossible to stay below 1.5°C.

mitigation graph

Global Carbon Project 2018/CC BY 4.0

That’s not the same thing as saying we have 12 years. Global emissions need to peak right now, without delay, and fall dramatically to meet the 1.5°C goal... Reaching 1.5°C requires a monumental global effort for a 66% chance — almost a wartime effort — with extremely steep reductions each year including shutdown of fossil fuel assets.

To those in the USA promoting fracking, in Canada promoting pipelines, in the UK promoting new North Sea fields, Dr. Wright says, "There’s no space in the global carbon budget for any expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure. Research has shown to reach 1.5°C, we cannot build any new fossil fuel power plants or pipelines." And it isn't just fossil fuels.

In the face of such an emergency, rapid and urgent measures are needed by people at every level — by governments, local communities, and individuals — including a moratorium on new fossil fuel expansion.


Rationing in UK/Public Domain

Last fall I wrote that "IPCC says we have 12 years to cut carbon by 45%. What does that look like?" It included a manifesto from British activist Rosalind Readhead that listed everything from carbon rationing to turning parking spaces into allotment gardens. Readers thought it extreme, but then readers find Melissa's proposal to cut back on the number of hamburgers we eat to be extreme and a commie plot against America. It seems that half the world is in denial about climate change, but it's time to stop laughing at the looney TreeHuggers and take this seriously. As Dr. Wright concludes:

The situation we are facing can be overwhelming to comprehend— but we need to face the truth. Humanity is at an absolutely critical time to stop catastrophe from unfolding.