It’s May Day but for the planet it’s more of a Mayday (from m’aider, French for ‘help me’). In the almost 30 years since this famous photo was taken we haven’t made enough progress to avert a climate crisis.
This Pale Blue Dot is hard to spot, so in the following photo it’s highlighted. It’s the only home we have, where everyone lives and dies.
To give a sense of scale here is a picture with the sun in shot. We’re the one on the left, right is Venus (uninhabitable due to a runaway greenhouse effect).
It’s hard to make out the dots so here is the iconic Earthrise photo from the Moon, taken over 50 years ago. On the scale of space, the Earth is small and fragile.
This isn’t to say we’ve done nothing in the past few decades, we just haven’t done enough. We need to radically accelerate action to have the impact needed to avoid a climate catastrophe.
The evidence suggests that policies need to begin implementation within five years to have a useful effect over the decade. This means we only have a few years left to build the necessary public demand and political will in the world’s biggest polluting countries.
These countries include the US, China and India but we can all play our part. For those who like to shift the blame onto Asia, just grab the nearest thing to hand, look at the label and see where it’s made. We outsource our emissions and waste along with our manufacturing and services.
Look around you, examine the data and reach your own conclusions on action. For example, you can model the impact of emission reduction time-scales from the comfort of your smartphone or tablet using the CO2 Modeller app.
Some low hanging fruits are incentives for the electrification of heating, cooking and transport. Along with economics for altering the means of electricity generation to 100% renewables. This will require smart solutions including lots of storage and grid balancing for intermittent sources.
You can use the GridCarbon app (or this API or this map) to see the current carbon intensity in GB. We have made good progress in the last few years but more needs to be done.
This first image is from 2015. Gas and coal top the chart.
By 2018 coal has been replaced by biomass and solar makes a strong showing. We still need to replace the gas peaks with renewable storage.
Time to React
How should we react to inadequate action? How can we amplify and accelerate our current progress?
If you’re technical then get involved with CAT and anybody can take part in the earth strike later this year. If you have a project that needs money then there are funds available from the MacArthur Foundation (climate strategy). Applications are open from now until August.
If you work for or have influence over big tech (e.g. own stock) then get them to help and stop them from hindering. For example, while Microsoft has many positive environmental practices, it’s disappointing that they are supporting a group trying to give immunity to fossil fuel firms.
We all live on the same Pale Blue Dot and it’s on all of us to clean up the mess we’ve made. We’re all in this together, so in the words of something else from around 30 years ago, be excellent to each other.