War on climate change

The UK government should attack climate change as if it were a war, according to a new report from the Institute of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE).


The professional body has today called for the government to deploy a swift offensive on climate change with an arsenal of new engineering projects aimed at generating cleaner energy, capturing and sequestering carbon-dioxide emissions and controlling the effects of environmental disasters on communities.


‘The climate is changing much faster than what was previously expected,’ said Tim Fox, head of environment and climate at the IMechE.


‘The institute believes it is time to “go to war” on climate change.’


Fox added that the UK’s current goals for decarbonisation laid out in the Climate Change Act last year are impossible to meet with the government’s plan of action.


That plan relies too heavily on mitigation of climate change, he said, by promoting a greater reliance on renewable-energy sources and the construction of new nuclear plants.


Fox pointed out it would be impossible to build enough renewable-energy devices or nuclear plants quickly enough to meet the government’s carbon-reduction timelines.


‘Our predictions show at the current rate of decarbonisation, the UK will meet its 2050 80 per cent target in reductions by 2100 at the earliest,’ he said.


‘At 2050, there will be a shortfall of around 330 mega tonnes of CO2 to be dealt with, which hasn’t been achieved through decarbonisation.’


The IMechE report suggests mitigation is only one way to tackle the climate-change problem.


The government needs to start deploying methods for attacking CO2 emissions through geo-engineering with technology such as smart city buildings that use algae not only as a biomass energy source but also as a way to soak up carbon emissions.


Other ideas include installing forests of artificial trees designed to absorb emissions.


The IMechE believes these two ideas could be deployed on a global scale by 2040.


The report also suggests the government should help societies protect their assets from flooding and other disasters created by the inevitably changing climate.


Fox added that the IMechE has called on the government to develop a new climate change-focused department next year.


‘We call this department the Department for Energy and Climate Security,’ he said.


‘That department will be charged with and given appropriate powers to bring together all of the necessary actions that are currently not being brought to bear on climate change.’


A backer of the IMechE strategy, Kevin Anderson, head of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, admitted the financial costs of deploying such a plan will be expensive.


However, he said the economic benefits that come with it will be much more significant.


The IMechE ambitiously estimates that a MAG (mitigation, adaption and geo-engineering) strategy could create 500,000 jobs by 2020 and possibly 2,000,000 jobs by 2050.


More importantly, Anderson said, the cost of doing nothing would be much greater.


He explained that if emissions increase at the same rate they have in the past decade, the Earth will definitely exceed the temperature limit at which it is possible to contain global warming.


Much of the scientific community believes that the risks and consequences of global warming can only be contained if the warming compared with pre-industrial times does not exceed 2oC.


Anderson said if emissions increase at the same rate, the Earth could reach a 4oC change as early as 2060.


‘The costs of living in that world are broadly infinite,’ he concluded.


‘The cost of avoiding climate change is a lot lower than not doing anything.’


Siobhan Wagner