Sunday, April 11, 2021

Carbon Zero Pissants Eat Bugs And Own Nothing

cam.ac.uk |  We  have  to  cut  our  greenhouse  gas  emissions  to  zero  by  2050:  that’s  what  climate  scientists  tell  us,  it’s  what  social  protesters are asking for and it’s now the law in the UK. But we  aren’t  on  track.  For  twenty  years  we’ve  been  trying  to  solve the problem with new or breakthrough technologies that supply energy and allow industry to keep growing, so we don’t have to change our lifestyles. But although some exciting  new  technology  options  are  being  developed,  it  will  take  a  long  time  to  deploy  them,  and  they  won’t  be  operating at scale within thirty years.

Meanwhile, our cars are getting heavier, we’re flying more each year and we heat our homes to higher temperatures. We  all  know  that  this  makes  no  sense,  but  it’s  difficult  to  start  discussing  how  we  really  want  to  address  climate  change while we keep hoping that new technologies will take the problem away.

In response, this report starts from today’s technologies: if we really want to reach zero emissions in thirty years time, what  does  that  involve?  Most  of  what  we  most  enjoy  -  spending time together as families or communities, leisure, sport,  creativity  -  can  continue  and  grow  unhindered.  We  need  to  switch  to  using  electricity  as  our  only  form  of  energy  and  if  we  continue  today’s  impressive  rates  of  growth  in  non-emitting  generation,  we’ll  only  have  to  cut  our  use  of  energy  to  60%  of  today’s  levels.  We  can  achieve  this  with  incremental  changes  to  the  way  we  use  energy: we can drive smaller cars and take the train when possible,  use  efficient  electric  heat-pumps  to  keep  warm  and buy buildings, vehicles and equipment that are better designed and last much longer.

The two big challenges we face with an all electric future are flying  and  shipping.  Although  there  are  lots  of  new  ideas  about  electric  planes,  they  won’t  be  operating  at  commercial   scales   within   30   years,   so   zero   emissions   means that for some period, we’ll all stop using aeroplanes. Shipping  is  more  challenging:  although  there  are  a  few  military  ships  run  by  nuclear  reactors,  we  currently  don’t  have  any  large  electric  merchant  ships,  but  we  depend  strongly on shipping for imported food and goods.

In  addition,  obeying  the  law  of  our  Climate  Change  Act  requires that we stop doing anything that causes emissions regardless of its energy source. This requires that we stop eating beef  and  lamb  -  ruminants  who  release  methane  as  they  digest  grass  -  and  already  many  people  have  started  to  switch  to  more  vegetarian  diets.    However  the  most difficult problem is cement:  making cement releases emissions   regardless   of   how   it’s   powered,   there   are   currently no alternative options available at scale, and we don’t  know  how  to  install  new  renewables  or    make  new  energy efficient buildings without it.

We need to discuss these challenges as a society. Making progress  on  climate  change  requires  that  the  three  key  groups of players - government, businesses and individuals -  work  together,  rather  than  waiting  for  the  other  two  to  act first. But until we face up to the fact that breakthrough technologies won’t arrive fast enough, we can’t even begin having the right discussion.

Committing    to    zero    emissions    creates    tremendous    opportunities:  there  will  be  huge  growth  in  the  use  and  conversion of electricity for travel, warmth and in industry; growth  in  new  zero  emissions  diets;  growth  in  materials  production,  manufacturing  and  construction  compatible  with zero emissions; growth in leisure and domestic travel; growth in businesses that help us to use energy efficiently and to conserve the value in materials.

Bringing     about     this     change,     and     exploring     the     opportunities  it  creates  requires  three  things  to  happen  together: as individuals we need to be part of the process, exploring  the  changes  in  lifestyle  we  prefer  in  order  to  make zero emission a reality. Protest is no longer enough  -  we must together discuss the way we want the solution to develop; the government needs to treat this as a delivery challenge - just like we did with the London Olympics, on-time  and  on-budget;  the  emitting  businesses  that  must  close  cannot  be  allowed  to  delay  action,  but  meanwhile  the authors of this report are funded by the government to work    across  industry  to  support  the  transition  to  growth  compatible with zero emissions.

Breakthrough technologies will be important in the future but we cannot depend on them to reach our zero emissions target  in  2050.  Instead  this  report  sets  an  agenda  for  a  long-overdue public conversation across the whole of UK society about how we really want to achieve Absolute Zero within thirty years