Hot on the heels of the State of the Union debate and just in time for COP24, the Oxford Climate Society’s last event of term was a great discussion on some of the current issues and solutions in tackling climate change. A well-rounded panel consisting of Myles Allen, Professor of Geosystem Science; Thomas Hale, Associate Professor at Blavatnik School of Government; and Radhika Kholsa, Research Director of the Oxford India Centre for Sustainable Development.
The panel began with the speakers introducing their own stances on the current state of climate change solutions. Myles stressed that the 1.5°C target is not impossible, in addition to emphasizing how it is as achievable and has more of a net gain – environmentally and socio-economically – compared to the 2°C. Instead of unrealistic solutions such as a 60% reduction in global energy demand, Myles suggests the importance of carbon capture and storage (CCS) and other forms of sequestration technology to actively reduce atmospheric CO2. Focusing more on sustainable development, Radhika sees the Paris Agreement as providing crucial ideas bridging climate science and politics. The idea of a carbon budget for the 1.5°C target – estimated at 420 gigatons (Gt) of CO2 – gives a more tangible, scientifically justified target. The Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) – mitigation plans developed by the Parties (nations) – to fit within the budget are in turn contextually sensitive to Parties’ levels of socio-economic development and build trust among the Parties because they need to contribute and ‘ratchet up’ (strengthen) their NDCs every 5 years. Thomas suggests that in addition to being bottom-up, the Paris Agreement creates an opportunity for catalytic cooperation. This combats the inertia of Parties in taking action against climate change by allowing Parties to contribute in whatever way they can, encouraging Parties to cooperate to achieve the ratcheting up effect required by the Agreement.
Following these introductions was an engaging question-and-answer session between the speakers and the audience. The major discussion points revolved around how to communicate and promote climate change solutions to both key government officials and the general public; what areas related to climate change need more or less attention; the feasibility of meeting the 1.5°C target and desired outcomes from COP24.
From Myles, his main takeaways were that we need more focus on communicating the importance of CCS, especially to fossil-fuel extractors, as well as hearing out other valid perspectives from political parties that lean towards the Right. In terms of everyday action, he encourages people to either not support polluting fossil-fuel extractors entirely or influence change from within in positions of leadership. While the carbon cycle is difficult to quantify, it working in conjunction with CCS and other mitigation efforts will ensure that the 1.5°C target can be met, wanting more emphasis on the former during COP24.
Radhika’s perspective on communicating and enacting climate change solutions focuses more on encouraging people to change their everyday actions according to current socio-cultural trends, for example discouraging meat consumption based on health reasons instead of purely environmental reasons to target an increasingly health conscious audience. Among institutions, she hopes that COP24 will see a greater focus on renewable energy approaches in booming developing countries such as India and China, with a greater focus on strategic thinking and influencing people’s everyday behavior via changing the urban form, such as by providing increased public transport infrastructure.
Thomas’ key ideas focused on more political approaches to climate change. For broader, longer term changes involving institutions, he recommends that they take a more interdisciplinary approach to adopt energy and non-energy related climate change solutions. For the general public, he places emphasis on encouraging everyone to make small-scale contributions – similar to what is being done with the Paris Agreement – to prompt a cascade effect. This also involves giving more attention to campaigns such as universities and other institutions divesting from fossil fuel companies and initiatives, something he and Radhika both placed emphasis on. As for key takeaways from COP24, he desired a greater focus on accountability and transparency that would be key to establishing a catalytic, cascading approach towards global cooperation to tackling climate change.
Overall, this panel not only illustrated how climate change solutions work at different scales, stages of production and across different audiences, but that people of all disciplines and levels of expertise can contribute to climate change solutions: whether in their development or in their communication to the general public.
OCS Media Team
The latest in climate science, policy, perspectives and more from the OCS team.