We Face a Climate Emergency

A substantial gap exists between the Paris Climate Agreement's rhetoric and the reality of what must actually be done to achieve its climate stabilization targets. Besides celebrating that the world’s nations could reach an agreement, the next step is to understand that we are in the midst of a genuine Climate Emergency. Therefore, the world cannot gradually begin to change current fossil fuels’ pathways, nor can it wait to reduce demand and consumption of fossil fuels sometime in the next decade. We need to devote our full attention to phasing out fossil fuels now. 

The Paris Climate Agreement triumphed with the right rhetoric; the world agreed it surely would keep warming “to well below 2°C,”[1] even aspiring to 1.5°C. The reality of what it will take to get anywhere close to the 1.5°C target however, reveals the revolution required to match reality with rhetoric.

A Declaration of a Climate Emergency is necessary because:

  • Natural gas is a bridge to ruin. The current major justifications for emphasizing methane “natural gas” as a usable fossil fuel relies on dramatically understating and underestimating: (1) methane's immediate impact on the accelerating rate of climate change,[2] and (2) methane's substantial leakage in the processes of fracking and delivery for use. Methane use brings us more rapidly toward a climate tipping point.
  • Nations’ pledges are too weak and unenforceable. The nations’ INDCs (Intended Nationally Determined Contributions) from COP21 illustrate the reality/rhetoric gap, precipitating the need for a declared Climate Emergency.[3] Current INDC pathways mean temperature increases far beyond the rhetoric of the Paris Agreement.[4]
  • Techno-miracles won’t save us. To meet Paris’s targets, unproven and undemonstrated technological breakthroughs are posited that would “suck carbon” from the atmosphere. However, there is no assurance that they can ever be demonstrated to work—economically, at massive scale, and in time. Hope is a required virtue, but insufficient action based on implausible technologies entails an unacceptable risk level. So the world's INDC pledges do not plausibly achieve climate stabilization within the temperature targets.[5]

We the undersigned call for a Declaration of Climate Emergency, immediately pointing the way toward rapid reduction in the use of fossil fuels—reductions far exceeding those conceived and intended in the Paris Climate Agreement. We have the technology. And, we are capable of doing better...for ourselves, our children, and our future.


[1] See  the text of the Paris Agreement here: https://unfccc.int/resource/docs/2015/cop21/eng/l09r01.pdf.

[2] Methane’s greenhouse gas impact is far stronger than previously realized: 100 times more than CO2 when first released, and 86 times within a 20-year timeframe.  Justification of methane relies on the 100-year timeframe, in which methane’s impact is 24-fold over CO2. See: Robert Howarth, “Methane emissions and climatic warming risk from hydraulic fracturing and shale gas development: implications for policy,” Energy and Emission Control Technologies, October 8 2015, Volume 2015:3 Pages 45—54, https://www.dovepress.com/methane-emissions-and-climatic-warming-risk-from-hydraulic-fracturing--peer-reviewed-fulltext-article-EECT.

[3] Kevin Anderson, “The hidden agenda: how veiled techno-utopias shore up the Paris Agreement,” blog, January 2016, http://kevinanderson.info/blog/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/Paris-Summary-2015.pdf.

[4] Joe Romm, “Misleading U.N. Report Confuses Media On Paris Climate Talks,” Climate Progress, November 3, 2015, http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2015/11/03/3718146/misleading-un-report-confuses-media-paris-climate-talks/.

[5] Kevin Anderson, "The hidden agenda: how veiled techno-utopias shore up the Paris Agreement."

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