2018 set carbon records

Submitted by AWL on 23 January, 2019 - 8:58 Author: Mike Zubrowski and Michael Elms

The US government shutdown has meant that many leading agencies such as NASA and NOAA have yet to publish their climate analyses across the key global datasets for 2018.

Despite that, Carbon Brief’s latest report shows that 2018 set a number of records.

Record levels of greenhouse gas concentrations were reached for CO2, methane, and nitrous oxide. There are still serious net global emissions of all these gases, and they decline slowly: it takes several decades for CO2 concentrations to decline to 50% of an initial level, around seven years for methane, and the best part of a century for nitrous oxide.

CO2 emissions themselves were the highest on record.

The consequences, too, set records. Last year was the warmest on record for ocean heat content, a significant rise since 2017.

Ocean heat content is a better measure of warming or climate change than surface temperatures, either locally or globally. The ocean acts as a heat sink and fluctuates much less year­ to ­year.

The land surface temperature was the fourth highest on record, despite being dragged down a bit by a modest La Niña event [a cooler phase of a global climatic cycle] earlier in the year.

Already this year we’re seeing damaging weather effects from climate change. Australia has just faced at least five of its ten warmest days on record, causing wildlife deaths, bushfires, and a rise in hospital admissions due to overheating.

There have mass deaths of native bat colonies, spoiling of fruit orchards. Up to a million fish having died along riverbanks.

Australia has relatively developed infrastructure, making it better able to deal with such extreme weather than the many poorer countries with warm climates which are facing it at one speed or another.

When climate scientists want to make predictions of future climates, they use “representative concentration pathways”, or RCPs, a set of four standard scenarios. Each is assigned a number predicting the climate in 2100: higher is worse. The best ­case scenario is RCP 2.6, the worst RCP 8.5. Rob Jackson, an
Earth scientist and chair of the Global Climate Project, has warned that we’re “a lot closer than we should be” to RCP 8.5.

We are already in a climate emergency. It is still possible to avoid and mitigate the worst outcomes, and adapt to those that we face. Yet we have seen the monumental failures of the ruling class to take any serious action against climate change.

It is down to the working class, organised and armed with socialist and environmentalist ideas and strategies, to bring about that change.

Action in Sheffield

On Saturday 19 January, Extinction Rebellion (XR) held an open organising meeting of its Sheffield group.

The mostly­ young crowd of 30 people was a diverse mix of leftwingers from across Rotherham and Sheffield: students, trade unionists, members of the Labour Party or the Greens...

The discussion was more concerned with “politics” in the sense of policy, motions and advocacy than you might expect, given XR’s national profile has centred on just “trying to get lots of people arrested” in order to drive climate change up the agenda.

The meeting discussed possibilities for direct action but more attention was paid to council policy. Bristol and Manchester have voted to declare a “climate emergencies” and bring forward deadlines for decarbonisation targets (to 2030 and 2038 respectively), and the meeting talked about how to get similar policy through in Sheffield City Council.

I argued that there should be a drive to involve the labour movement in this effort, which would include inviting trade unions to make proposals for decarbonisation via a “worker­led just transition”.

Plans were discussed for joint activity with local fracking campaigns and for school walk­outs as part of a Europe ­wide wave of young people’s climate direct action.

The next day of action in schools is set for 15 February.

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