Climate emergency

CO2 levels rocketing

Graph: Carbon dioxide levels over past 400,000 years. Since 1950 levels have rocketed.

The level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere continues to rocket up. This is a climate emergency. We need radical climate action now.

We can avoid irreversible, dangerous climate change, but only if we to do everything, and we do it immediately.

Piers Forster: climate physics professor: New Scientist: 4 Dec 2018.

(United Nations urges world leaders to declare a state of climate emergency: ABC: 13 Dec 2020)

Staying under 1.5 C rise

The agreed threshold of irreversible, dangerous climate change is a 1.5 C increase in temperature over the pre-industrial temperatures. To give ourselves more than a 50% chance of staying under a 1.5 C rise, we must start decreasing global greenhouse gas emissions soon and get down to net zero emissions by about 2050.

We have the technology to do it, but we need to overcome the denial that has stalled climate action for the last 30 years. We have to change strong habits around fossil fuels, eating meat, flying, and over-consumption.

(How to take on climate change and win: New Scientist: 4 Dec 2018)

Draw carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere

Carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere

The above graph shows the high carbon dioxide level in the atmosphere and how this level is increasing fast. To give our coral reefs and glaciers a chance of survival, we need to reduce the carbon dioxide level from the current 410 parts per million (ppm) to a level at which the earth begins to cool. This level could be around 280 ppm.

Carbon dioxide emissions

To reduce the carbon dioxide level, we need to bring global carbon dioxide emissions down to net-zero and then go beyond zero emissions, drawing carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.

There is no “carbon budget”

There’s no “carbon budget”. It is too dangerous to keep on burning.

An “Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Summary Report 2013” implies that there is a large amount of carbon dioxide that humans can still emit and still stay safe. This is the so-called carbon budget.

In “The Real Budgetary Emergency and the Myth of Burnable Carbon”, David Spratt identifies three difficulties with this carbon budget as:

  • It assumes that keeping the temperature increase to below 2°C will keep us safe.  However, a temperature increase of 2°C is the boundary between dangerous and very dangerous climate change.
  • It assumes that there will be no emissions from the carbon and methane stored in the permafrost.  Any estimate of a safe level for future carbon emissions must factor in these emissions as they could be enormous.
  • It gives us a 66% chance of staying within the 2°C temperature increase.  So there is a 34% chance of the temperature increase exceeding 2°C, that is a one in three chance of extreme global danger. Only a desperate person would get on a plane with their family when they knew it had a 1 in 3 chance of crashing? 

Radical emergency action

We must mobilise to give ourselves a chance of avoiding the destruction of the natural world as we know it and the collapse of civilisation.

We need a massive and rapid mobilisation, like that during World War Two, to rapidly bring net greenhouse gas emissions to zero. 

We have already heated the world to a dangerous level, and we show little sign of stopping. This is evidence of widespread institutional failure. Despite this institutional failure, we must organise to limit this dire threat.

(The emergency climate movement: EcoWatch: 26 Sep 2015: Margaret Klein Salamon)

(The Climate Emergency Declaration and Mobilisation: Climate Emergency Site)


Climate Emergency Declaration and Mobilisation In Action (Cedamia) calls on all levels of government to declare a climate emergency.

(The Cedamia action plan: Cedamia)

This mobilisation will be demanding and disruptive because there are no longer any non-radical, incremental paths available.

Updated 24 March 2021