Climate change, Paris, and you!


On Monday Week 9, the climate carnival will be taking place in Alexandra Square in conjunction with a day of climate change-focused events at universities around the UK.

The Climate Carnival will be picking up on the momentum built by the decentralised mass protests that are to take place on Sunday Week 8 in cities around the world, all of which are calling for a legally binding agreement to limit emissions and global warming to the two degree threshold.

These mass mobilisations will be happening because from the 28th November – 11th December, the   21st United Nations Conference of Parties (or COP21) will be taking place in Paris. This conference brings together every country from around the world in an attempt to thrash out a legally binding agreement to cut emissions. The two degree target has been deemed by a consensus of scientists as the maximum amount of warming we can allow before the effects of climate change become uncontrollable.

If you were in any doubt over the urgency of the need to find a solution we, ‘the world’, have to leave 4/5 of all known fossil fuels in the ground to stand a chance of achieving this critical target. All the while, the mean global surface temperature of Earth is rising and as indicated by the first 9 months of 2015, it looks set to rise again – breaking through the halfway threshold and increasing Earth’s average surface temperature to +1 degrees.

With the UN Conference being held in Paris, it’s difficult not to mention the recent tragic attacks that occurred in the capital city just weeks before leaders from around the world are to converge there. What is noteworthy is that one of the primary ways ISIS funds its terrorism is through the selling of oil that it harvests from the oil fields it has captured across Iraq and Syria. This makes an average of $1.5 million a day.

Does this mean the attacks could have, in part, had the intentions to disrupt a strong climate agreement which would certainly be something that ISIS would not complain about? Your guess is as good as mine, but what is clear is that the effort to shrink the demand and use of oil in the world might just have had another dimension added to it.

With such broad issues such as climate change, it can be easy to feel that it is something that is out of our hands and has to be dealt with by our governments and the big transnational corporations. But when you delve into the processes and see how governments have been trying to come to a global agreement over the last three and a half decades; or look at how the companies that are the biggest emitters and drivers of climate change have locked vested interest into making vast profits and producing the pollution that comes from their sustained and ever increasing use of fossil fuels, It’s clear. They can’t find a solution on their own.

This couldn’t be better demonstrated by the recent investigation revealing Exxon Mobiles massive cover up of damning climate science that would have hastened the conclusion of the global warming debate by years. This includes evidence they had recorded decades ago but then went on to, somewhat counterintuitively, fund the denial of climate change science and in the process obstruct global progress to a solution.

So if the reality of the situation means that the solution isn’t solely going to come from them. Who is it down to?

Believe it or not, you have more power than you might realise. You, combined with the strength of others, are going to need to be the ones that make sure they do what is required to achieve what is needed. You as students are in a unique position to be the people in society that can make a real impact. You are armed with knowledge and unconstrained by as many responsibilities that other people can often find themselves with, and your contribution has huge potential. Be it getting involved in the fossil free university campaign which involves getting the University to divest from fossil fuels investment, or joining environmentally focused initiatives like Green Lancaster or becoming part of Lancaster Climate Action and the Anti-Fracking movement. There’s plenty to be done, and all of these initiatives need more people to help and increase their effectiveness.

So if you’re looking to get involved – be active and make a difference. I’ll see you on Monday the 30th November in Alexandra Square to be part of the continued struggle to get us to where we and our governments need to be – under 2 degrees!

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