Book Insight: There is No Planet B
Although the Coronavirus outbreak and, to a lesser degree, The Black Lives Matter protests, have dominated the news this year, the main story has gone ignored. The health of our planet is spiralling out of control. Temperatures are rising, ice caps are melting, methane stores are starting to be released, oceans are becoming acidified and forests are being chopped down at an alarming rate. If these actions continue unchecked, the consequences could be catastrophic for both our, and future, generations.
Since I was a young boy, I’ve always had a horrified fascination with man’s impact on the planet. I remember being deeply concerned as a 9-year-old, watching Newsround, and learning about the deforestation of the Amazon rainforest. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that I’d feel drawn to a book like Mike Berners Lee’s There is No Planet B.
Having recently finished it, I now want to draw out some of the main themes and statistics. Hopefully these will inform you of the major issues facing the planet and encourage you to read the book in its entirety.
- We are living in the Anthropocene. Humans are no longer subject to the whims of their environment. Instead, they are the creators. The planet now bends to our wishes. While on the surface, this may appear to have its advantages (longer life expectancy, less starvation etc), there are consequences to this dominance.
- Since the Industrial Revolution, the average planetary temperature has risen by just over 1C. This may seem insignificant but we are already starting to experience the detrimental impact of this rise. At the 2015 Paris Climate Conference, the world’s leaders agreed to limit man made climate change to no more than a 1.5C increase. Hitting 2C could, potentially, trigger a worldwide catastrophe.
- To stay in line with the Paris Agreement, the world’s remaining fossil fuels must stay in the ground. Coal generates the greatest CO2 emissions, but we must also find alternative energy sources to oil and gas.
- Our best bet is to harness the power of the sun. If we covered 0.1% of the earth’s surface with solar panels, they would meet all of our current energy needs. Wind and hydro energy are a useful supplement. However, there should be no mistaking that solar is, by far, the most efficient and practical renewable energy source.
- Added to this, we must capture some of the existing carbon in the atmosphere (at present, we emit 35 billion tonnes a year). There are two methods to achieving this aim. First, is carbon capture at the point of extraction. Present technology enables us to do this but it’s not an efficient process.
- Therefore, we must figure out how to capture carbon from the ambient air. Sadly, our technology is no way near being able to accomplish this complex feat. We need greater investment in research and development.
- A potential source for these funds could be a worldwide carbon tax. To be meaningful, it would have to be both prohibitively high and enforceable. A figure of $300 per tonne is suggested, which would raise a much needed $10 Trillion per year.
- None of these solutions can work, though, without some form of global governance. This is not suggested as a replacement to national or local government, merely an addition. Nations across the world must act for the greater good of humanity, and the planet, even when climate change appears to be of benefit (e.g. Russia’s northern ports being accessible for many more months of the year due to melting ice).
- The free market is not equipped to deal with this challenge. Regulation is needed and system’s must be put in place to enforce any global deal. The profit motive, as a driving force for business, must be re-evaluated and the idea that GDP reflects a nations success, rejected.
- If you’re looking to make changes on a personal level, reduce your beef and dairy consumption. Food and land related emissions account for 23% of the worldwide total. Much of these are caused by the growing of crops, and removal of forests, to feed cattle. A small dietary chance can have a positive impact.
Liked this Post? Sign up to the blog below to get more.
We promise not to share your information with anyone.