Questioning the temperature

Phil Kingston, a retired Lecturer in Social Work at Bristol University, says, “…since having grand-children, I have been concerned about how the changing context of the Earth is likely to affect them. For about 5 years I have been learning about the relationship between economic growth and consumption on the one hand; and the overuse of Earth’s resources and ecosystem destruction on the other. The more I learn, the more I am disturbed about the effects of the former upon God’s creation, the poorest peoples of the world and future generations. My biggest concern these days is how the media, politicians and business generally not only do not engage with these relationships: they don’t even refer to them. Indeed my experience is that they avoid referring to them.”

Recently he found the media and governments lack of engagement with the information in the 2011 World Energy Outlook was an example of this, and here he shares why he is concerned with this recent report:

‘Potential breaking of the 2 degrees C. internationally agreed limit to average world temperature’

The International Energy Agency (IEA) published its 2011 World Energy Outlook last November ( www.iea.org/weo/ ). This well-respected publication has particular credibility because the IEA was set up by the 28 richest Western countries which form the Organisation for Economic Development and Cooperation. It is, so to speak, from the horse’s mouth.

The Executive Summary contains two statements which are likely to be of deep concern to most adults.

  • The first refers to the current policies in place by world governments with regard to limiting average global temperatures to 2 degrees Centigrade – i.e. the average temperature increase which governments agreed at Kyoto to stay below. The report states that with these current policies ‘we are … on …. track for a temperature increase of 6 degrees Centigrade or more.’ And that with policies already agreed but still to be implemented by governments, ‘the world is on a trajectory that results in a level of emissions consistent with a long-term average temperature increase of more than 3.5 degrees Centigrade.’
  • The second is the reference that ‘Four-fifths of the total energy-related CO2 emissions permissible by 2035’ (i.e. the emissions which may keep the temperature increase to 2 degrees Centigrade), ‘are already ‘locked-in’ by our existing capital stock (power plants, buildings, factories etc. ‘. (The term ‘locked-in’ means that the plant, once built, continues to emit CO2 throughout its lifetime). The report goes on to state that if stringent action is not taken before 2017, the new plant then in place will be such that its ‘locked-in’ CO2 emissions will have the world on a trajectory to surpass the 2 degrees C. increase.

If you would like to write to your local paper and to the relevant Government Ministries, below are draft letters you could use:

Phil Kingston

Paul Kingston is a retired Lecturer in Social Work at Bristol University, and writes here in a personal capacity.

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