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Peak Carbon and Decade of Action

Geologist, Alasdair Skelton, explains the concept of Peak Carbon and sets out what needs to done to solve the climate crisis in the Decade of Action.

Surrounded by water and forest, geologist, Alasdair Skelton explains that the tell-tale signs of climate change are all around us. Every third molecule of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere around us comes from human beings. He compares two years: 2019 and 2020.

He calls 2019 peak carbon. In one year alone, we added four petagrams of carbon to the atmosphere, equivalent to wrapping the Earth in a blanket, a half centimeter thick, of almost pure carbon dioxide (which can be likened to the atmosphere of Venus).

He explains that 2020 must be a turning point. In that one year, we cut our emissions by 7%1. This is largest cut in emissions that has ever happened. But 2020 was a very different year.

Taking climate justice into consideration, emissions reductions in richer countries need to be around 10% per year. This can be achieved by emissions reductions (standing for 70% of the solution), natural climate solutions2 (standing for 20% of the solution) and technical climate solutions3 (standing for 10% of the solution). Alasdair Skelton reflects on the risks of relying on technical solutions because these cannot yet be deployed at scale. He encourages focusing our attention on emissions reductions and natural climate solutions as we move forward to solve the climate crisis.

1 Le Quéré et al., 2020

2 The IPCC use the term nature-based solutions (NBS).

3 The IPCC refer specifically to carbon dioxide removal (CDR) to avoid confusion with solar geoengineer which is highly dangerous.

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Taking on the Climate Crisis with Social Change

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