Agenda 2019 – A New Year’s resolution

After year 2018 is coming to its end, I would like to reflect the current ecological crisis and what action is need to make progress  in year 2019 [to be continued]:

  • The inertia in the political and economic transformation has to be reduced by pressure on political leaders and the society to reduce the distance between what politicians are willing to do without risking losing power, what environmentalists want, and what voters are willing to do.
    • Political leaders: Contact local, national, and international politicians, public protests, mass mobilization
    • Voters: Public protests, organize protests convenient for working middle class (evenings, week ends, holidays), use personal social networks to influence peer group
      Note: We should not assume that we are living in a pure democratic system, where public opinion will have a direct effect on policies, since powerful lobbies from politics and business will have a strong influence on policies. Therefore, other parties of interest (companies, media) need to be influenced, too.
  • The momentum of public protests has to be maintained and increased. However, the global and vague demands (“Protect the planet!”) make it hard to implement actions and measure success. Therefore, I recommend to add specific goals to the protest agenda, which are measurable and give the protests a feeling of progress and success, otherwise the vague protest may not have measurable success  and lead to frustration and an end of protests.
  • Non-catastrophic climate  change (<< 2 degrees Celsius of temperature increase) can only be achieved by a massive (90%) reduction of consumerism, since renewable energy is developing to slowly and may also put pressure on the environment. The central controller of consumerism are commercials, which therefore need to be reduced or complemented with environmental risk warnings, similar to tobacco products.
  • Communication of environmental risk has to change from a “political correct”, non-confrontational, non-committing style (Example: “We may have to reduce consumption, to avoid harm to the climate.”) to clear, quantifiable messages on actions and consequences (Example :”We have to reduce consumption-based emissions, especially from air travel, by 10% per year over the next 10 years. Our current consumption will lead to a temperature increase of 3-4 degrees Celsius, which will have catastrophic effects, which are expected to cost the lives of 100 million people over the next decades. “)
  • Communication of carbon dioxide emissions and threats have to be communicated in a easily understandable way and linked to a common reference system. I assume, that very few people understand the consequences of emitting 1 ton of carbon dioxide  as an individual decision on global climate. My suggestion is to express greenhouse gas emissions as the corresponding area of  rain forest.
    Example: According to Watson et al., (2018, Table 1) one hectar of African Tropical Rain Forest can store Carbon corresponding to 739.5  tons of carbon dioxide per hectare (above ground). According to the Carbon Footprint Calculator [2]  a return flight from Stockholm (STO) to New York (NYC) emits 1.77 metric tons of CO2e (including radiative forcing), which therefore releases as much carbon dioxide as burning 23.9 m2 of African Tropical forest. For a Boeing 747-400 with a typical two-class layout with 524 passengers , this return trip corresponds to burning of  1.25 hectares of African Tropical Forest.
  • Protest should not only be direcated against the eco crisis in general, but focus on specific, achievable goals. This may be more useful for the environment, and motivating for protesters, especially if the protests lead to visible changes. Some examples:
    • Require commercials to communicate carbon dioxide emissions in understandable terms, similar to health risk warnings for tobacco products.
    • Reduce the amount of commercials by a substantial amount (e.g. 50%) on various media, e.g. websites, TV, newspapers, …
    • Describe the expected life time of a product (esp. fashion).
  • Financing of climate actions has to be managed to ensure continued and effective protests, including costs for posters and banners, rents for audio systems, travel costs, office equipment, honorary fees for speakers, printing material, legal advice for activists, general support including costs of living for dedicated activists needing help, …
  • Protests have to be professionalized in terms of posters, banners, flyers, speeches to address the public and convey our message, ie less internal, more external communication.
  • Activists should quantify their individual carbon footprint and any decrease because of lifestyle changes to gain better understanding and credibility.

References:

[1] Watson, James & Evans, Tom & Venter, Oscar & Williams, Brooke & Tulloch, Ayesha & Stewart, Claire & Thompson, Ian & Ray, Justina & Murray, Kris & Salazar, Alvaro & Mcalpine, Clive & Potapov, Peter & Walston, Joe & Robinson, John & Painter, Michael & Wilkie, David & Filardi, Christopher & Laurance, William & Houghton, Richard & Lindenmayer, David. (2018). The exceptional value of intact forest ecosystems. Nature Ecology & Evolution. 2. 10.1038/s41559-018-0490-x. URL: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/323399911_The_exceptional_value_of_intact_forest_ecosystems
Note:
Heading of Table 1 is formatted wrong and” 106 ha” should actually  be “10E6 ha”, so African tropical forest on average Total Tree Carbon (TTC) storage  contains 112.3 Petagram (Pg) Carbon per 376.2E6 hectare , ie 298.5 metric tons/hectar of carbon (C). This again corresponds to (12+16+16)/12 * 298.5=1094.542  metric tons/hectar of carbon dioxide (C02).
Above-ground tree carbon storage, including coarse necromass (ATC) contains on average 75.8 Petagram (Pg) Carbon per 376.2E6 hectare , ie 201.4886 metric tons/hectar of carbon (C). This again corresponds to (12+16+16)/12 * 201.5=739.4631 metric tons/hectar of carbon dioxide (C02).

[2] https://calculator.carbonfootprint.com/calculator.aspx?tab=3

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boeing_747