The U.K. should effectively eliminate greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 by rapidly adopting policies that will change everything from the way people heat their homes to what they eat, an independent committee that advises the British government on climate change recommended Thursday.
A report from the Committee on Climate Change said the government must adopt ambitious goals if it wants to be a leader in the fight against global warming and limit the impact of climate change.
While Britain has laid the groundwork to achieve net-zero emissions of greenhouse gases, existing plans “must be urgently strengthened” because “current policy is not enough even for existing targets,” the committee said.
The panel says the government should reduce the demand for energy overall, increase the electrification of the British economy, develop hydrogen fuel technology and set ambitious targets for carbon capture and storage.
It also calls for reduced consumption of meat and dairy products, changes in how farmers operate and a requirement for electric vehicles to be the only option by 2035.
“We can all see that the climate is changing and it needs a serious response,” committee chairman John Gummer said. “The government should accept the recommendations and set about making the changes needed to deliver them without delay.”
Environmental groups welcomed the findings, but the proposals could be seen as daunting to some businesses and the government.
British Prime Minister Theresa May is under pressure to act more boldly on climate change after a visit by teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg and 10 days of protests that shut down traffic in central London and put the issue squarely on Britain’s political agenda.
The main opposition Labour Party said it is introducing a motion this week asking Parliament to declare an “environmental emergency.” Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon went a step further, declaring a “climate emergency” Sunday during a speech to the Scottish National Party’s annual conference in Edinburgh.
While some activists have called for Britain to set a 2025 target for net-zero emissions, May’s Conservative-led government has said it was waiting to see the committee’s report.
The committee said it considered earlier net-zero target dates, but 2050 was the most credible goal.
“An earlier date has been proposed by some groups and might send a stronger signal internationally to those considering increasing their own ambition, but only if it’s viewed as credible,” the panel said.
Environmentalists at the National Trust, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, the WWF and the Women’s Institute and Woodland Trust said the panel’s work shows that reaching net-zero emissions is both necessary and feasible.
While the alliance of environmental groups applauded the committee’s decision to target all greenhouse gases — not just carbon — and to include shipping and aviation emissions in its calculations, it said it believes Britain should move faster and strive to achieve the goal by 2045.
“The problem is, we’ve been acting as if we have time,” said Gareth Redmond-King, head of climate change at WWF, formerly known as the World Wildlife Fund. “But if we want a world with coral reefs, safe coastal cities and enough food for everyone, we must act now.” (VOA)
Alaska will soon close a year that is shaping up as its hottest on record, with glaciers in the “Frontier State” melting at record or near-record levels, pouring waters into rising global seas, scientists said after taking fall measurements.
Lemon Creek Glacier in Juneau, where records go back to the 1940s, had its second consecutive year of record mass loss, with 3 meters erased from the surface, U.S. Geological Survey glaciologist Louis Sass told Reuters.
Melt went all the way up to the summit, said Sass, one of the experts who travel to benchmark glaciers to take measurements in the fall.
“That’s a really bad sign for a glacier,” he said, noting that high-altitude melt means there is no accumulation of snow to compact into ice and help offset lower-elevation losses.
At Wolverine Glacier on the Kenai Peninsula south of Anchorage, loss was the second highest in a record that goes back to the 1960s. Sass said it failed to match the record set in 2004 only because so much of the glacier had already melted.
“The lower part’s completely gone now,” he said.
Drastic melting was also reported at Kenai Fjords National Park, which former President Barack Obama once visited to call attention to climate change. There, Bear Glacier, a popular tourist spot, retreated by nearly a kilometer in just 11 months, according to August measurements by the National Park Service.
“It’s almost like you popped it and it started to deflate,” said Nate Lewis, a Seward-based wilderness guide who takes travelers into the new lake that has formed at the foot of the shrinking glacier.
Even one of the few Alaska glaciers that had been advancing, Taku just southeast of the city of Juneau, is now losing ice at a fast clip.
Particularly ominous is the high altitude at which Taku is melting, said Mauri Pelto, who heads the North Cascades Glacier Climate Project. This year, the summer melt reached as high as 1,450 meters, 25 meters above the previous high-altitude record set just last year, he said.
Casting off chunks
Now that it is retreating, Taku is expected to start casting off big ice chunks, increasing Alaska’s already significant contribution to rising sea levels, according to a study co-authored by Sass and Shad O’Neel, a glaciologist with the U.S. Geological Survey. The study is scheduled to be presented at the annual conference of the American Geologic Union next week in San Francisco.
Alaska recorded its warmest month ever in July and the trend has continued.
“Alaska is on pace to break their record for warmest year unless December is dramatically cooler than forecasted,” Brian Brettschneider, a climatologist with the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ International Arctic Research Center, said in a Dec. 1 tweet.
Alaska’s glaciers account for far less than 1 percent of the world’s land ice. But their melt contributes roughly 7 percent of the water that is raising the world’s sea levels, according a 2018 study published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters and co-authored by O’Neel.
There are also local impacts. Scientists say glacial melt affects salmon-spawning streams and harms marine fish and animal habitats. It is creating new lakes in the voids where ice used to be, and outburst floods from those lakes are happening more frequently, scientists say.