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Why are there 25 000 people flying from 197 countries into Glasgow?

It’s the COP26 Climate Change event from Sun 31st October to Fri 12th November.

Global heating is driving some alarming changes in climate.  It creates much more unpredictable and catastrophic events, like droughts, floods, bushfires and hurricanes.  Seagulls and many other Yorkshire businesses and homes flooded badly in 2015.  It’s always happened but is now more frequent and happens with more severity.

A warming planet also means movement of greater numbers of displaced people around the globe, as well  as more and more diseases jumping to humans or spreading from warmer parts of the World. 

A good reason to get all the experts and politicians together to sort out a Plan of Action, right?

A run through the history

COP26 in Glasgow is the latest in over 25 years of United Nations-led talks about climate change.  Some have been more important in getting countries to commit to cutting emissions – you may have heard of the Kyoto Protocol from 1997 and the Paris Agreement drafted in 2015 – both COPs.  Unfortunately, promises aren’t always enough to get the changes we all need.

For decades, scientists, including those from the oil and gas industry (who were among the first to research global heating in the 1960s and 70s), have been gathering huge amounts of information about what we’re doing, looking at the effects and projecting what’s likely to be in store.  All the specialists are in agreement, warning that these climate changes are directly linked to the fossil fuels we burn and other gases, such as methane and nitrous oxide, which we’re causing to be released into the atmosphere. 

What could never be argued is the scientific basis of global heating, first outlined in the mid 19th Century –pumping certain gases (chiefly carbon dioxide from industry) into the air will trap more energy in the Earth’s systems; more energy means the land, seas and atmosphere will all behave differently; the effects will go on for centuries, even if all the pollution is stopped tomorrow.

What is harder to predict – how it will all pan out for us and other living things on the planet.  We’re beginning to experience the results which are pretty close to the predictions, with only a 1.1OC change since 1880. 

No problem for the Worlds brightest minds gathering at COP, eh?

As well as being fiendishly complicated to get 200 different countries to agree across the huge range of actions needed, there have been some key barriers over the years…

  • Disagreement about how the World’s economy runs, in a nutshell we’re wedded to –
  • growth at all costs, consuming our way to happiness, competition is everything and winners take it all
  • Science shines a spotlight but can’t lead us out of the mire – that’s up to politicians
  • Big money in drilling and burning exerts huge political power

Progress has been made, but it always seems the best intentions and plans are watered down for those with most to lose from positive progress.

Where is the real drama going to happen in Glasgow?

It depends whether you prefer to follow the high-level discussions and national declarations in the ‘Blue Zone’ or the networking, creative expression and campaigning in the ‘Green Zone’.  In reality, they may both be eclipsed by some high-profile activism happening around the city.  Success in each of these three spheres is essential to get out of this disastrous rut.

Surely there’s some cause for hope!?

Of course!  But hope will probably lie away from the big hitters in the conference centre:

  • An international youth movement is turning away strongly from ‘Business as usual’
  • Local and regional governments, especially in cities round the world have worked more imaginatively and with more urgency to cut carbon than national governments
  • The call for ‘Building Back Better’ after Covid, which is strong and includes some great low carbon solutions, has lots of backers
  • The understanding and expertise about what we’ve got in store is growing all the time
  • Even ‘Big Money’ – insurance and financial investment companies – are moving away from dirty businesses as they’re too risky

Why are there 25 000 people flying from 197 countries into Glasgow?

It’s the COP26 Climate Change event from Sun 31st October to Fri 12th November.

Global heating is driving some alarming changes in climate.  It creates much more unpredictable and catastrophic events, like droughts, floods, bushfires and hurricanes.  Seagulls and many other Yorkshire businesses and homes flooded badly in 2015.  It’s always happened but is now more frequent and happens with more severity.

A warming planet also means movement of greater numbers of displaced people around the globe, as well  as more and more diseases jumping to humans or spreading from warmer parts of the World. 

A good reason to get all the experts and politicians together to sort out a Plan of Action, right?

A run through the history

COP26 in Glasgow is the latest in over 25 years of United Nations-led talks about climate change.  Some have been more important in getting countries to commit to cutting emissions – you may have heard of the Kyoto Protocol from 1997 and the Paris Agreement drafted in 2015 – both COPs.  Unfortunately, promises aren’t always enough to get the changes we all need.

For decades, scientists, including those from the oil and gas industry (who were among the first to research global heating in the 1960s and 70s), have been gathering huge amounts of information about what we’re doing, looking at the effects and projecting what’s likely to be in store.  All the specialists are in agreement, warning that these climate changes are directly linked to the fossil fuels we burn and other gases, such as methane and nitrous oxide, which we’re causing to be released into the atmosphere. 

What could never be argued is the scientific basis of global heating, first outlined in the mid 19th Century –pumping certain gases (chiefly carbon dioxide from industry) into the air will trap more energy in the Earth’s systems; more energy means the land, seas and atmosphere will all behave differently; the effects will go on for centuries, even if all the pollution is stopped tomorrow.

What is harder to predict – how it will all pan out for us and other living things on the planet.  We’re beginning to experience the results which are pretty close to the predictions, with only a 1.1OC change since 1880. 

No problem for the Worlds brightest minds gathering at COP, eh?

As well as being fiendishly complicated to get 200 different countries to agree across the huge range of actions needed, there have been some key barriers over the years…

  • Disagreement about how the World’s economy runs, in a nutshell we’re wedded to –
  • growth at all costs, consuming our way to happiness, competition is everything and winners take it all
  • Science shines a spotlight but can’t lead us out of the mire – that’s up to politicians
  • Big money in drilling and burning exerts huge political power

Progress has been made, but it always seems the best intentions and plans are watered down for those with most to lose from positive progress.

Where is the real drama going to happen in Glasgow?

It depends whether you prefer to follow the high-level discussions and national declarations in the ‘Blue Zone’ or the networking, creative expression and campaigning in the ‘Green Zone’.  In reality, they may both be eclipsed by some high-profile activism happening around the city.  Success in each of these three spheres is essential to get out of this disastrous rut.

Surely there’s some cause for hope!?

Of course!  But hope will probably lie away from the big hitters in the conference centre:

  • An international youth movement is turning away strongly from ‘Business as usual’
  • Local and regional governments, especially in cities round the world have worked more imaginatively and with more urgency to cut carbon than national governments
  • The call for ‘Building Back Better’ after Covid, which is strong and includes some great low carbon solutions, has lots of backers
  • The understanding and expertise about what we’ve got in store is growing all the time
  • Even ‘Big Money’ – insurance and financial investment companies – are moving away from dirty businesses as they’re too risky
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