This year will be the first full year since records began in which the amount of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere has exceeded 400 parts-per-million (ppm). That fact scarcely does justice to the unprecedented nature of the situation, however — the last time concentrations of CO2 were so consistently high was three to five million years ago.
400ppm is not in itself an important figure — it is a milestone rather than a tipping point. It is an important milestone, nevertheless — before 1800 and the beginning of industrialisation, atmospheric carbon dioxide levels were just 280ppm.
It is also important because we have learned that we have reached it just before the annual global meeting which seeks to control the warming of our planet — COP 22.
COP 22 is especially important because it follows COP 21 last year, in which the Paris Agreement was reached. The Paris Agreement binds countries to take action to ensure that global temperature does not rise more than 2°C. It comes into force on 4 November this year.
Earlier this month, the UK’s Climate Change Committee found that the government is not on course to hit its targets under the Paris Agreement for reducing the UK’s impact on global temperature. The government has committed to an 80 per cent reduction in emissions by 2050 but the committee’s report concludes that “current decarbonisation policies, at best, will deliver about half the required reduction in emissions.”
In particular, anticipated technological solutions, such as electric vehicles and home heating pumps, are less effective or being developed more slowly than had been expected.
Earlier this month, Population Matters CEO Simon Ross met with Nick Hurd MP, the UK minister responsible for climate change strategy, and pressed the case for population to be a central element of national and international climate change mitigation strategies.
In Population Matters’ briefing note to Mr Hurd, we note that the average UK citizen produces 7.1 tonnes of CO2 per year — above the global average — and that our population is expected to increase by more than 20 million before the end of the century.
Limiting population growth remains almost completely unaddressed as a strategy to reduce climate change.
Our friends in French population concern organisation Demographie Responsible have produced a petition directed at the leaders attending the COP 22 meeting, calling on them to add population to the agenda.
You can read the petition in English here: http://www.cyberacteurs.org/cyberactions/pres_lang.php?id=1207&lang=Ang — and we urge you to sign it.