Fossil fuels are on the clock to save planet
Catholic environmentalists have urged the public to change the way they live after scientists claimed that a world without cars, planes, ships and factories powered by fossil fuels would have to become a reality in the next 40 years in order to keep global warming below safe levels.
Researchers from the University of Leeds used climate simulations to predict the fate of the planet under different fossil fuel scenarios.
They found there was a 64 per cent chance of pegging global warming below the critical threshold of 1.5C above pre-industrial levels – but only if a massive programme to rid the world of fossil fuels started now, with an end to their use by 2060.
Dr Edward Echlin, an eco-theologian and Honorary Fellow at Leeds Trinity University, urged everyone to begin reducing fossil fuel use now.
“We must do something to lessen greenhouse gases by decreasing fossil fuel use,” he told The Catholic Universe. “We can do this by living sustainably, for example, by only essential flying. Churches can lead by careful insulation of our buildings and by planting fruit trees in our grounds.”
Under the scientists’ scenario, petrol and diesel-driven cars, aircraft and ships and carbon-emitting power plants and factories would have to become history by 2060, replaced by zero-carbon alternatives such as electric cars, modern-style sailing vessels and renewable energy sources.
Ellen Teague of the Columban Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation called for greater use of public transport rather than private forms of
“We need to de-carbonise quickly, within a 12-year window, according to scientists. For myself, I use public transport a lot more than I used to. I also drive a hybrid car which recharges its own battery ‘on the move’,” Mrs Teague told The Catholic Universe.
“I still fill up the tank, as I have a conventional petrol engine – but hybrid efficiency means that fuel lasts that much longer,” she added.
She also noted that her husband has embraced “the more radical technology of a completely electric car”.
“In the summer we drove it around Cornwall and had no problem charging. Even the Minnack Theatre had two charging points,” she said.
A big question mark also hangs over the future of commercial air travel.
Currently there is no practical alternative to kerosene aviation fuel, despite experiments involving solar powered flight and hydrogen.
Delaying action until 2030 reduced the chances of keeping a 1.5C lid on global warming to below 50 per cent, said the scientists writing in the journal Nature Communications.
Mrs Teague said: “Truly green activists will not fly – a voluntary choice at the moment – but my boycott is long-haul flights, at least for now. I currently fly within Europe once or twice a year, but there is indeed a big question mark over commercial air travel. I truly hope it reduces for everyone and is not simply reserved for the rich, who will want restriction on their travel.
“It is good to know that scientists feel that keeping within a 1.5 degree rise of global temperature is still possible,” she added. “Let’s implement the Paris Agreement.
“Initiatives such as church divestment from fossil fuels and Livesimply parishes who have embraced renewable energy give hope from the Christian community. We are working hard on ‘ecological conversion’ but must keep up the momentum.”
Picture: Exhaust fumes coming from the exhaust pipe of a car. (Sebastian Gollnow/DPA/PA).