As Bill McKibben continues on his US #dothemath roadtrip, he joins Nnimmo Bassey & Pablo Solon to pen an Open Letter to leaders and climate negotiators at COP18 in Doha, Qatar, a letter which discusses the UN Report on the terrifying impact of the release of methane from melting permafrost on climate change. The authors made the case that leaving fossil fuels under the soil is integral to adequately address runaway climate change.
Here is the letter in its entirety, released by 350 Mobile.
2012 saw the shocking melt of the Arctic, leading our greatest climatologist to declare a ‘planetary emergency,’ and it saw weather patterns wreck harvests around the world, raising food prices by 40% and causing family emergencies in poor households throughout the world.
That’s what happens with 0.8ºC of global warming. If we are going to stop this situation from getting worse, an array of institutions have explained this year precisely what we need to do: leave most of the carbon we know about in the ground and stop looking for more.
If we want a 50-50 chance of staying below two degrees, we have to leave 2/3 of the known reserves of coal and oil and gas underground; if we want an 80% chance, we have to leave 80% of those reserves untouched. That’s not “environmentalist math” or some radical interpretation–that’s from the report of the International Energy Agency last month.
It means that–without dramatic global action to change our path–the end of the climate story is already written. There is no room for doubt–absent remarkable action, these fossil fuels will burn, and the temperature will climb creating a chain reaction of climate related natural disasters.
Negotiators should cease their face-saving, their endless bracketing and last minute cooking of texts and concentrate entirely on figuring out how to live within the carbon budget scientists set. We can’t emit more than 565 more gigatons of carbon before 2050, but at the current pace we’ll blow past that level in 15 years. If we want to have a chance to stick to this budget by 2020 we can’t send to the atmosphere more than 200 gigatons.
Rich countries who have poured most of the carbon into the atmosphere (especially the planet’s sole superpower) need to take the lead in emission reductions and the emerging economies have also to make commitments to reduce the exploitation of oil, coal and gas. The right to development should be understood as the obligation of the states to guarantee the basic needs of the population to enjoy a fulfilled and happy life, and not as a free ticket for a consumer and extractivist society that doesn’t take into account the limits of the planet and the wellbeing of all humans.
There’s no longer time for diplomatic delays. Most of the negotiators in the Eighteenth Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) know that these are the facts. Now is the time to act for the future of humanity and Nature.
(Bill McKibben founder of 350.org, Nnimmo Bassey Environmental Rights Action & Coordinator of Oilwatch International, Pablo Solon Executive Director of Focus on the Global South, former Bolivian Ambassador to the UN and former chief negotiator for climate change).
UN Report referenced in letter:
Doha conference is warned that climate models do not yet take account of methane in thawing permafrost
Permafrost covers nearly a quarter of the northern hemisphere at present and is estimated to contain 1,700 gigatonnes of carbon – twice the amount currently in the atmosphere. As it thaws, it could push global warming past one of the key "tipping points" that scientists believe could lead to runaway climate change.
The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) called for the effect to be studied in detail by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the body of top climate scientists convened by the UN to provide governments with the most up-to-date and comprehensive knowledge on climate change. The next IPCC report will be published in several parts from next year.
Achim Steiner, executive director of UNEP, said: "Permafrost is one of the keys to the planet's future because it contains large stores of frozen organic matter that, if thawed and released into the atmosphere, would amplify current global warming and propel us to a warmer world. Its potential impact on the climate, ecosystems and infrastructure has been neglected for too long."
"Turn Down the Heat: Why a 4°C Warmer World Must be Avoided," (pdf) (eBook version) warns we’re on track for a 4°C warmer world marked by extreme heat-waves, declining global food stocks, loss of ecosystems and biodiversity, and life-threatening sea level rise.
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