OPINION: Why we need a bad outcome at Glasgow climate talks

Flooding at Brazen Gate, behind Queens Road Sainsbury's supermarket.

Flooding - such as here in Norwich in July - has become more common as climate change impacts upon the UK weather - Credit: Stefan Kuna

Prof Rupert Read from the University of East Anglia will attend the 26th climate ‘COP’ in Glasgow knowing it’s almost certain to fail us but hopeful that its failure will provide something even more necessary - a massive wakeup call for humanity

Yes, you read that headline right. I am hoping for a bad outcome from November’s global climate conference, hosted here in the UK; because, at this point, that is the best that we can hope for.

The realistic alternatives to a bad agreement? A terrible agreement or no agreement at all.

However, my reason for travelling all the way from Norwich to the 26th meeting of the Conference of Parties (COP) in Glasgow has more to do with what could happen once all the politicians have stopped talking.

I think the moment that will go down in history will be at the end of the conference.


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It will be then, when the world sees how badly our governments have failed us, when a larger part of the population realises that there is no cavalry riding to the rescue, that will be one of humanity’s defining moments.

When more people wake up to the fact that the unprecedented floods and fires, heatwaves and crop-failures, the increasingly dangerous changing of the weather and the seasons, the deaths of the bees and many more, are only going to get worse –much worse - unless we rise up, take charge and make change.

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And, while I will make good use of my official badge to highlight what happens at the summit, really why I am going is to witness and be part of the key moment where we say ‘enough is enough’.

It’s not like governments haven’t had their time. They have had 25 chances to get it right (and failed).

While the climate agreement reached in Paris in 2015 was symbolic in finally acknowledging the trouble we are in, little has been done since to actually transform the system – and that’s why I believe this time will be no different.

Dr Rupert Read for byline pic

Prof Rupert Read - Credit: Archant

The agreed goal was to stop the world’s average temperature rising more than two degrees, or ideally 1.5C.

However, a new report by the independent policy institute, Chatham House, has concluded that if emissions follow the trajectory set by current Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs): “...there is a less than 5% chance of keeping temperatures well below 2C above pre-industrial levels, and less than 1% per cent chance of reaching the 1.5C target set by the 2015 Paris Agreement.”

Let’s be clear, a rise of 1.5C is generally seen as the most humanity could cope with without suffering widespread economic and social upheaval, so what would 2C be like? Well, you’ve seen what’s happening already, at just 1 degree of overheat.

The alarm bells aren’t just ringing, they are deafening. There’s no more time for half-hearted deals that might look good on paper and have politicians patting themselves on the back for a job well done but are entirely ineffective.

Actually then, thinking about it a bit more, maybe no agreement at all might even be the optimum outcome.

If our so-called leaders are unable to pretend that they’ve come up with something world-saving - and they certainly won’t be able to pretend that if there is no binding agreement at all in Glasgow - then we citizens of the world will finally know the truth: that it’s up to us now. Us the people.

So here’s a bold final thought. If you can, find your way to Glasgow for the COP - and definitely for its end on November 12 - and join us in leading the way.

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