Why is the G7 still ignoring what scientists and economists say?

Image credit: Yale Climate Connections

Image credit: Yale Climate Connections

Despite the scientific and economic consensus – that 80% of known fossil fuels must be left in the ground if humanity is to avoid allowing climate change to become unstoppable and irreversible (IEA, IMF, IPCC, OECD, etc.) – the best the G7 can do is propose that we stop burning fossil fuels by the end of the century… If the BBC report of the second day of this week’s G7 Summit in Germany is to be believed, this may be due to more tangible fears of a Greek exit from the Euro-zone and/or emerging threats like Islamic State. However, I suspect that our global politicians are simply unwilling or unable to face the reality that such a proposal – that humanity can take 85 years to wean itself off its hydrocarbon addiction – is not a strategy that a significant proportion of species on Earth are likely to survive… But please don’t take my word for it, just Google “80% of species face extinction by climate change” and take a look at the results you get, like this one: One in six species faces extinction as a result of climate change (i.e. even 17% would be significant). The above article, on The Conservation website, cites research recently published by the author, Mark Urban, in the Science journal; the abstract of which reads as follows:

Current predictions of extinction risks from climate change vary widely depending on the specific assumptions and geographic and taxonomic focus of each study. I synthesized published studies in order to estimate a global mean extinction rate and determine which factors contribute the greatest uncertainty to climate change–induced extinction risks. Results suggest that extinction risks will accelerate with future global temperatures, threatening up to one in six species under current policies. Extinction risks were highest in South America, Australia, and New Zealand, and risks did not vary by taxonomic group. Realistic assumptions about extinction debt and dispersal capacity substantially increased extinction risks. We urgently need to adopt strategies that limit further climate change if we are to avoid an acceleration of global extinctions. Urban, M.C. (2015), ‘Accelerating extinction risk from climate change’, Science 348 (6234) pp.571-573

17% may be a lot less than 80% but, as this most recent synthesis of available research states, previous estimates of the risk “vary widely” and – given the complexity of ecological systems upon which we rely for food production (etc) – I think most biologists would agree that 17% is still very significant. The scientific and economic consensus is that global CO2 emissions must peak within a decade in order to avoid a runaway greenhouse effect taking hold. Is failing to do this really a risk that humanity should be taking? As the BBC has pointed out, the G7’s stance may well signal (to investors) that the end of fossil fuel era is approaching. However, whereas the G7’s mid-century target is for emissions to be cut 40-70% globally compared with 2010, the scientific and economic consensus makes the G7 appear reckless and/or complacent in suggesting that we can afford to burn fossil fuels at all past 2050. Ultimately, I think the reason for humanity’s collective failure to address the urgency of the need for action on climate change comes down to psychology. After all, being in denial is cheaper than being in therapy. See: http://www.yaleclimateconnections.org/2015/06/the-why-arent-we-acting-on-climate-change-bookshelf/ Addendum Also worthy of note is this attempt by The Carbon Brief to be positive about the G7’s communique: http://www.carbonbrief.org/blog/2015/06/g7-leaders-target-zero-carbon-economy/


About Rick Altman

Possibly just another 'Climate Cassandra' crying 'Wolf' in cyberspace. However, the moral of the old children's story is that the Wolf eventually turned up!
This entry was posted in Climate Science, Cognitive Dissonance, Denial, Economics, Environment, Fossil Fuels, Insanity, IPCC, Politics, Psychology and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Why is the G7 still ignoring what scientists and economists say?

  1. catweazle666 says:

    I note that climate change didn’t appear at all on the list of concerns at the Bilderberger get-together. Do you think it is just possible that the advice the World leaders are getting from their advisers has changed over the past year or eighteen months, Rick?


  2. Pingback: Fracking off in Lancashire (and elsewhere?) | Anthropocene Reality

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