21st August 2019

Climate change and land: Understanding the IPCC's latest report

Eugene Costello, Journalist-in-Residence

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The ability of the planet to sustain human life is now seriously endangered. Climate change caused by fossil fuels and food production as the planet warms inexorably means we must take action and change our behaviour. The warmest ten years since records began in 1884 have all occurred since 2002

Last month, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a new report. Here's what they found.

Global warming is leading to droughts, soil erosion, wildfires and diminishing crop yields in the tropics wedded to melting ice caps in the poles, the report warns. This in turn is likely to lead to mass migration, conflict, hunger and devastation of the great northern forests.

An acceleration in planetary heating will mean that humanity will face a stark choice between a vicious or virtuous circle, the scientists warn: “Continued destruction of forests and huge emissions from cattle and other intensive farming practices will intensify the climate crisis, making the impacts on land still worse.”

If this sounds like an apocalyptic nightmare scenario in a far-fetched futuristic sci-fi film, you need to realise this is likely and imminent. And that should terrify you. What world are we leaving for the next generation to inherit? We should be custodians, not destroyers.

A more gloomy assessment of the task facing humanity comes from Melbourne, Australia-based think tank the Breakthrough National Centre for Climate Restoration. In a paper for it, presented by the former chief of the Australian Defence Forces and retired Royal Australian Navy Admiral Chris Barrie, the outlook appears very bleak indeed. Says Barrie in his foreword, the report’s authors “have laid bare the unvarnished truth about the desperate situation humans, and our planet, are in, painting a disturbing picture of the real possibility that human life on earth may be on the way to extinction, in the most horrible way.”

And not at some far-off point generations from now; based on lack of meaningful global action, reports the Independent, “to rapidly extinguish all greenhouse gas emissions within the next decade, the authors sketch out a scenario in which global emissions peak in 2030.”

This is a perfect storm. Limited land, an expanding human population, and all wrapped in a suffocating blanket of climate emergency. Earth has never felt smaller, its natural ecosystems never under such direct threat...

Dave Reay, University of Edinburgh professor and expert reviewer for the IPCC report

Thankfully, it is not too late. If we modify our behaviour now and take responsibility for our stewardship of the planet, we could avert this, say the scientists – but only by taking action NOW.

Moves to allow soils and forests to regenerate and store carbon, and to cut meat consumption by people and food waste, could play a big role in tackling the climate crisis, the report says.

Such moves would also improve human health, reduce poverty and tackle the huge losses of wildlife across the globe, says the IPCC.

Burning of fossil fuels should end as well to avoid “irreversible loss in land ecosystem services required for food, health and habitable settlements,” says the report.

So what can we all do to effect change and save the planet?

Well, for a start, we need to transform energy – one of the industries most responsible for greenhouse gas emissions – into a 100% renewable, electric system. 

For consumers, that means switching your home to a green supplier. 

All Octopus’ electricity is sustainable and renewable. That’s 100% of it.

Customers with a gas supply can also opt for our Super Green Tariff, meaning we offset the carbon produced in their homes with the support of Brighton-based charity Renewable World. By joining Super Green Octopus, customers are directly funding renewable energy projects like the installation of solar-powered lighting systems in communities heavily reliant on dangerous kerosene.

What are we doing at Octopus?

We know that in order to combat the greenhouse gases poisoning our atmosphere, the UK needs to plant millions of new trees and preserve our precious carbon sinks. As well as supplying 100% renewable electricity, and funding projects to encourage green tech in fuel-poor areas, we also launched an ambitious programme to raise awareness about dangerous air pollution, planting 10,000 trees in our customers’ communities, partnering with pop stars, Arsenal FC players, celebrity gardeners to spread the word.

On average, each fully-grown tree will absorb 2kg of carbon dioxide, collectively making our atmosphere cleaner by more than 20 tonnes of CO2 every year. This is just a drop in the ocean compared to what we’ll need, of course. This is the second year in a row we’ve run the tree planting project, and it’ll only get bigger.

It was just one of the ways in which we’re spreading our mission to switch to renewable energy and turn our backs on fossil fuels forever. Moving to zero-emission electric vehicles is a key part of our campaign, too; take a look at Octopus Electric Vehicles to see some of our unbeatable offers on future-proof lease deals. 

We’re also building the tech to support a clean, green electric future – helping customers to shift their energy usage into times when energy is greenest and financially rewarding them for it. Using the power of smart meters, we’ve developed a number of tariffs like Agile Octopus with dynamic pricing that changes based on the highly-fluctuating wholesale price of energy. This means during periods of the day when energy is really cheap (usually late at night, during the day when everyone’s out, or at times when there’s a lot of excess renewable energy being generated) customers have a greater incentive to use this abundant, often green, energy up. This also reduces strain on the grid as less people are using energy at the peak times of the day, when energy prices get more expensive (and back-up fossil fuels have to be used to cover the excess. People with smart home solutions like battery storage, electric vehicles, electric heat pumps etc can make the most of under-utilised energy and save the grid from relying on fossil fuels when demand is high. 

Because we believe energy shouldn’t cost the Earth. 

This IPCC report will tell you how urgent that message is now becoming.

image of Eugene Costello

Eugene Costello

Journalist-in-Residence

Hey I'm Constantine, welcome to Octopus Energy!

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