Capital Thinking. Globally Minded—Professor James Renwick

Capital Thinking. Globally Minded—Professor James Renwick


Climate change when I first started
thinking about it, seemed like some distant issue. Sort of interesting from a
scientific point of view, but it wasn’t actually something we need to worry
about today. Over the last 20 years we’ve really come to
understand that’s not true. There’s absolutely no
denying that climate change is happening. There’s all manner of evidence from all over the
world that’s been amassed for decades now. So
my main areas of research are around how the climate system works. If we put a lot
more greenhouse gas in the atmosphere what will climate look like in another 50
years or a 100 years time? That’s what I spend a lot of
time thinking about these days. 2015 was the warmest year on record globally. By
far it was a big step up from the previous record which was
2014. And 2016 is coming in as significantly warmer than
2015 already. There’s been a lot of warming globally. We’ve seen an acceleration recently in
sea-level rise. Over the last few years sea-level’s being going up about five or six
millimetres per year, which is double the rate it was 20 years ago, which was
double the rate it was 50 years ago. The expectation is that rate of rise is just going to keep going up. Sea-level
is not going to drop any time soon. It’s going to keep rising, the rate that
it rises depends on what we do with greenhouse gas emissions. Just how we
deal with that remains to be seen, but the coastline would be significantly
redrawn even with a metre or so of sea-level rise. There are plausible reasons for
thinking that we could see big changes in the climate in our lifetimes,
in the next 30 to 50 years. That does keep me awake. I still sleep absolutely, but I do lie
awake a bit and worry about these things. And that understanding that
we’re close to the brink of some pretty big changes in climate and lot of people
just aren’t so aware. There needs to be a shift in our perceptions, as communities,
as nations, to address this problem. If we’re going to cap the warming we
actually have to do something very urgently. The Paris Agreement was a great
achievement from a diplomatic point of view, but action’s what’s required. I
don’t know that it’s quite being taken on board. How much action’s required and
how urgently it’s needed.

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