Climate Breakdown

What is it?

Global Warming and Climate Change are now inadequate terms to describe this climate crisis; Climate Breakdown illustrates how the impact of humans on this planet has now affected the climate so much that a lot of the damage caused is irreversible.

There are certain climatic processes called feedback loops which are pathways formed by an effect leading to its cause. One example of a climatic feedback loop is the Albido Effect: white ice of the arctic reflects some of the sun’s rays, meaning less heat inside the earth’s atmosphere, but as the temperature increases, the ice melts, exposing more dark sea water below, meaning that more of the sun’s rays are absorbed which leads to more increase in temperature.

Scientists have analysed around 65 feedback loops. The scary bit is that once enough of these feedback loops take effect, it triggers the tipping point which is essentially the stage at which any damage done is irreversible, and which also leads to the rest of the feedback loops coming into effect.
It is not just climate breakdown, however. Humans have had so much impact on the planet that we’ve destroyed ecosystems around the world, leading to mass biodiversity loss. Species extinction is happening 1,000 times faster due to human impact. On this planet, 60% of mammals are livestock (cows, pigs, sheep, etc), 36% is humans, and only 4% are wild.

The science is clear, but we are still continuing to wreck this planet that we call home.

Why does it matter?

In 1990, the UN stated that Climate Change was real, and that if we didn’t keep global average temperatures to below a 1 degree increase then we would face societal collapse across the world. 30 years on, and we are at an increase of 1.2 degrees.
The increase in average global temperature has already had a noticeable effect on the environment including: shrinking glaciers, ice on rivers and lakes breaking up earlier, trees flowering sooner, loss of sea ice, rising sea levels and longer more intense heat. What once were predictions by scientists are now a reality.

Governments across the world are doing nowhere near enough to stop the worst of climate breakdown and halt biodiversity loss, and those who contribute less to the problem are feeling the consequences the worst (predominantly the Global South), which is leading to millions of deaths per year due to rising sea levels, drought, and food shortages.

Global change

195 countries have signed up to tackling climate change by signing up to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), also known as the Paris Agreement, which has four key areas:

  • Adapting to climate change
  • Finance to enable action on mitigation and adaptation
  • Mitigation of Green-House Gas (GHG) emissions
  • Technology development and transfer to allow green development

The Kyoto Protocol in 1997 set a 5% reduction in GHG emissions between 2008 and 2012, to which 37 industrialised countries committed. However, it was not enough to offset the rapidly increasing emissions from countries who didn't take up this commitment. The second phase of the Kyoto Protocol from 2013 to 2020 is now in place, however with one year left of this phase, it has failed in everything other than being an important step in global climate diplomacy.

UK Change

The UK has a legally binding commitment to the reduction of GHG through the Climate Change Act 2008 which sets out the framework to develop a targeted and economically-credible plan to reduce current and future emissions.

  • The Climate Change Act commits the government to reducing GHG emissions by at least 80% of 1990 levels by 2050.
  • The Climate Change Act requires the UK government to set legally-binding Carbon Budgets on the amount of Greenhouse Gases they emit each year over a five year period.
  • The first five budgets are in place and will run until 2032.
  • More information about Climate Change and what the UK government is doing is available here.
  • Once again, however, the UK is falling behind in its responses to the climate crisis, with the target for net zero carbon being set at 2050, with is 20 years more than the IPCC has given us to sort ourselves out.
  • Manchester Change
  • Manchester has created its own action plan called Manchester: A Certain Future which sets out the following aims:
  • To reduce the city's carbon emissions by 41% by 2020
  • To engage all individuals, neighbourhoods and organisations in a process of cultural change that embeds low carbon thinking into the lifestyle and operations of the city
  • Prepare for and actively adapt to a rapidly changing climate
  • Make a rapid transition to a low carbon economy

More information about the action plan can be found on the website here and more information on the Council's policy on climate change can be found here.
Manchester’s carbon target included a reduction of 15% of emissions year-on-year, and since the declaration of this target in March 2018 we have missed our 15% reduction by a long way. The net-zero carbon target of 2038 is also far too late in terms of the IPCC report.

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