Six things we can do to avert climate change problems
27 JAN 2020
Our planet is in a tight spot. We’re not hitting the targets we know we need to hit, and we’re breaking all the wrong kinds of records. What’s it going to take for us to get out of this mess?
Researchers have long known the answers, at least on a purely scientific front: we need to phase out our reliance on fossil fuels to eliminate the excessive production of heat-trapping chemicals building up in our atmosphere.
But how do we do that? What would it look like? This part of the puzzle is not so well explored: the social dynamics and shifts that would need to take place for society to shake off its dangerous inertia and actually realise our goals of a safe, stable climate.
We now have some new leads on this. In a new study, an international team of scientists and climate change experts investigated what these ‘tipping mechanisms’ could be, identifying six elements they say could spark societal change towards climate stabilisation and planetary sustainability.
“From the energy sector to financial markets to our cities – we were able to pin down social tipping elements and identify concrete interventions that might activate contagious processes of rapidly spreading technologies, behavioural patterns, and social norms,” says sociologist and economist Ilona M. Otto from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) in Germany.
In a multi-faceted study that drew upon workshopping, surveying, and an assessment of scientific and academic literature, the researchers examined the elements most likely to help society limit global warming by transitioning to a carbon-neutral state by 2050.
While the researchers acknowledge the tipping mechanisms they’ve identified are not any kind of complete list, they nonetheless could serve as a roadmap to achieve “rapid socio-economic transformation pathways and explore narratives for a decarbonised future in 2050,” Otto says.
According to the research, the social tipping interventions that could help us do this would be:
removing fossil-fuel subsidies and incentivising decentralised energy generation;
building carbon-neutral cities;
divesting from assets linked to fossil fuels;
revealing the moral implications of fossil fuels;
strengthening climate education and engagement; and
disclosing information on greenhouse gas emissions.
by Peter Dockrill
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