Culture

Extinction Rebellion briefing on the Climate and Ecological Emergency

A briefing note for MPs asking them to unite for humanity and the love of life today

This is a pivotal moment for human civilization

Not many briefing notes open with a message of compassion. But that is where we find ourselves in the urgency of this moment and, in asking you to communicate with all MPs in the chamber with a sincere desire to unite in our humanity and love for life.

We are facing a national crisis and major security risk and this is even reflected within the Government’s own National Risk Register of Civil Emergencies in 2017. We need to respond accordingly.

This is what we are asking of you: sign up to and lobby for cutting net greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2025, take carbon out of the atmosphere, and halt biodiversity loss. These actions speak to what science tells us needs to be done and to our moral duty to our children who may not survive the mounting shocks to our way of life.

So we ask that you tell your colleagues - on both sides of the House - this truth on Wednesday. And that you transmit this truth to the listening and watching public, who you would otherwise reassure with nebulous emission reduction targets timed to complete in 2050.

We ask that, in humility, you recognise the need for unity in the face of climate disruption. It is this impulse that led to thousands of us camping on London’s streets, led to over 1,100 being arrested in their grief and rage and determination. If serious, sufficient action is not taken then the need for an escalation strategy will be overwhelming.

We ask you to join us in this space for truth and honesty, as parents, grandparents and siblings, but above all as representatives of millions of families across the country. Who are now listening in and wondering how Parliament will respond. You have a choice, you have the power to make that choice. We ask that you choose truth and honesty. And help start the most urgent national conversation of all.

THE EMERGENCY: LIFE OR DEATH

Some of our young children may not see an adulthood. This is why a mother from Glasgow travelled on the night bus with a baby in arms and a toddler to sleep on the concrete floor of Marble Arch to plead for the life of her children.

Our Health - The Lancet, one of the world's leading medical journals, carried out a major review concluding that dangerous anthropogenic climate change poses “the biggest global health threat of the 21st century” because of the direct impacts of extreme weather events and the indirect disruption to the social and ecological systems that sustain us.

Our Food - “We have already observed impacts of climate change on agriculture. We have assessed the amount of climate change we can adapt to. There’s a lot we can’t adapt to even at 2ºC. At 4ºC the impacts are very high and we cannot adapt to them” - Dr. Rachel Warren, University of East Anglia . Many scientists think that the Paris process may well lead us to 4º, even if it is followed. That is why Extinction Rebellion posits as necessary a much higher level of ambition.

Our Future - At the end of 2018, the UN Secretary General warned us that humanity and life on Earth now face a ‘direct existential threat’ and the world must act swiftly and robustly to keep global warming to 1.5°C and try to avoid utterly catastrophic impacts to life on Earth within our lifetimes. He said that, far from us having 12 years (now 11) in which to act, we have 2 years (now little more than 18 months) in which to act; that, unless we make a real start at societal transformation now, then there is no way we can make the 2030 target that the IPCC put forward for system change (to prevent climate breakdown leading to societal collapse).

We are out of time

It is now understood that we are facing an unprecedented global emergency that has been caused by human activity on Earth. The United Nations InterGovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warns that we have to have act within 11 years to limit warming to 1.5C, beyond which climate changes are considered dangerously significant... But...The rate of change in these factors is found to continually out pace scientific predictions. It is always worse than scientists previously thought. That, once more, is why Extinction Rebellion’s proposed target (of carbon net zero by 2025) is more stringent than the IPCC’s.

Getting worse, not better

Over 50% of the entire human addition of carbon to the atmosphere through the burning of fossil fuels has occurred in just the last 25 years – since the IPCC was founded. This is a terrifying testament to how we are accelerating toward our self-destruction, and need a radical course-correction. Under current policies, warming of 3.3C (2.5 - 4.4) is most likely. Beyond 1.5C, climate and ecological effects are considered to be catastrophic. Sea level rise will inundate low lying land, islands and coastal cities, cause water shortages and desertification, extreme weather will make some regions uninhabitable, there will be heat, floods and wildfires. Together these effects are resulting in crop failure, food shortage, famine and forced displacement of populations. In short, people will starve, die and move in unprecedented numbers.

These findings represent an existential threat to humanity and life on Earth.

Further information about the emergency we face can be found at https://rebellion.earth/the-truth/the-emergency/

Questions

1) The UK was among many European countries in experiencing a reduction in harvest yields of between 20 - 25% last year from one of the hottest and driest summers on record - these temperature rises are expected to continue and become worse. What assessments has the Government made of emergency preparations to water supplies and food production and imports in reaction to future climate shocks and runaway climate breakdown?

2) The IPCC calls for cutting global carbon emissions by 45% on 2010 levels within 11 years. This is sadly unlikely to be met and we are going in the other direction with an increase of 2.7% last year - reaching an all time high. Therefore we are likely to see changes in our weather that disrupt national food and water security as well as food imports. What is the Government doing now to reduce the risk to the future food supply of the British people? Or what is it going to do in the future?

3) Change is coming even if the most dramatic emergency plan is enacted to ensure energy, water and food security in this highly likely near-term crisis situation. Will the Government comment on the role of ‘unicorn’ or so called “negative emission technologies" in the targets suggested in the IPCC 1.5 report? Most of the ‘negative emissions technologies’ (aka geoengineering) are at best unproven to work, and at worst downright dangerous. Does the Government not feel that a reliance on them to meet our commitments is reckless, extremely irresponsible?

4) The Antarctic is currently melting at rates beyond predictions of climate science. We may experience an ice free Arctic this decade, maybe an ice free summer within three years, leading to increased warming as the dark ice free waters retain more heat from the sun. To protect our country and the lives of children to come, will the Government support the motion before this house which seeks to limit climate catastrophe?

5) Will the Government ensure the scientific facts behind the climate and ecological emergency be investigated outlined by all Government authorities and departments? That every budget be assessed for its climate contribution? With recognition on how states have previously responded to emergency situations (e.g. WWII & financial crisis)?

6) We are in a crisis where we need as much information as possible. Will the Government release the information that the Royal Navy has on the extent of melting Arctic ice? As well as any findings of the Navy’s research on potential impacts on our national security?

7) Will the Government - and the Opposition, and all parties - commit to action matching a commitment to recognise the climate and ecological emergency? Words here will not earn public respect unless they are immediately and consistently coupled with deeds. Will Government and Opposition commit to some immediate symbolic and real policy-change to show that they are committed now to telling the truth and to saving our common future? Possible examples would include: putting Heathrow expansion on ice unless and until genuinely green (not biofuels-based) airplane fuel is created; cancelling HS2; banning coal-mining; removing all subsidies for fossil fuels. (Extinction Rebellion can advise on further examples.)

[All photography by Magnus Dennis]

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A briefing note for MPs asking them to unite for humanity and the love of life today