Pressure mounts to speed up action on climate

Crisis point: Extinction Rebellion protestors in London, warning that the planet is burning up. © Getty

Could we go carbon-free in just six years? The protest group Extinction Rebellion says that this must happen in order to save the planet. Politicians say it is impossible. Who is right?

What’s happening

This week, the UK Government said it wanted the country to produce zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, to help tackle climate change and save the planet. However, the protest group Extinction Rebellion is demanding that the UK reaches this target by 2025 — just six years away. Is this possible?

Find out more

Last year, a UN report warned that the world had just 12 years to make the kind of changes needed to prevent the worst effects of global warming.

Going emission-free will be extremely difficult. It will involve getting rid of all petrol and diesel cars, trains and buses, and then replacing them with electric vehicles.

That electricity will need to come from renewable sources, including at least 10 times as many wind turbines. You can also say goodbye to gas cookers or heating. (Currently nine in 10 homes have a gas boiler.)

Then, there is meat. Farm animals are responsible for up to 18% of the world’s emissions. To be truly emission-free, the UK will need to embrace a more vegetarian diet.

Can it be done in time?

Some say…

It is simply not possible to do all of this in just six years. It will involve dramatic and expensive changes to every person’s life. Many people will lose their jobs. There is no way that can happen without provoking massive protests, as has happened in France. People will only accept changes if they happen gradually; 2050 is a better target.

Others think…

This is too complacent; it will be too late by 2050. Climate change is an emergency, and we must respond to it the way we would any other emergency: quickly and urgently. In order to do this, every person must get involved. As teenage activist Greta Thunberg says, “I want you to act as if our house is on fire. Because it is.”

You Decide

  1. What is the biggest thing you can do to fight climate change?

Activities

  1. Next week, keep a diary of all the things you do which create emissions. This may include some of the things mentioned in this article, and will probably include others too. When you are finished, compare your experiences to others in the class and discuss: could you live an emission-free life?

Some People Say...

“What’s the use of a fine house if you haven’t got a tolerable planet to put it on.”

Henry David Thoreau

What do you think?

Word Watch

Greenhouse gas
A gas which traps heat in the Earth’s atmosphere, such as carbon dioxide.
Emissions
Heat or gas which is sent out by something (such as a car).
Climate change
Long-term changes to the Earth’s weather and temperature. The Earth is currently going through a period of man-made climate change.
Global warming
The Earth’s rising average temperature.
Renewable
Something which does not run out (such as wind).
Complacent
Not trying hard enough.
Tolerable
Acceptable.

Subjects

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