By Louise Gray
Britain must adopt a ‘war time footing’ to tackle catastrophic climate change, a major report has warned.
The Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) said it would be almost impossible for the UK to meet ambitious climate change targets to cut greenhouse gases by 80 per cent by 2050 without drastic action.
The only way to reach the target would be to “go to war” against carbon emissions, its report said.
This would mean setting up a Department of Climate Security to act like the War Cabinet and co-ordinate action across every other Government department.
Unemployed people would be trained in making homes more energy efficient, factories would make solar panels and schools would encourage pupils to asopt more sustainable lifestyles. Money would be pumped into wind turbines, nuclear power stations and solar panels as a matter of urgency.
Individuals would also be expected to “do their bit” by reducing the amount of energy used in the home, flying less and switching to public transport rather than driving cars, the report said. Personal carbon allowances that limit the amount of energy used on transport, heating and flying could also have to be introduced.
Even then, the report said that the UK would have to adapt to a certain amount of global warming by building flood defences, making buildings cooler and changing the way cities are designed. ‘Geo-engineering’, such as artificial trees, that suck up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, would also have to be used in order to meet targets.
Tim Fox, lead author of the report, said the population must adopt a “war mentality”.
“What we are illustrating is the scale of the task before us and putting that into perspective. If you were fighting a war it would certainly need a certain level of rationing beyond what we see today to enable us to deliver the [cuts in carbon] that will still be lower than those the scientists tell us to deliver.”
“From all the evidence to date it is clear we’re losing the battle with climate change. We’re facing a requirement to decarbonise the economy at an unprecedented rate, which hasn’t been seen in industrialised nations before.”
“The Institution believes it’s time to go to war on climate change. It’s about to attack and it’s time to defend ourselves and fight back,” he said.
Professor Kevin Anderson, director of leading climate institute the Tyndall Centre, supported the idea of a war footing to tackle climate change, including rationing.
He said people in countries like Britain may have to accept a level of “discomfort” by reducing energy and even a “loss of liberty” by travelling less but these changes in lifestyle will prevent worse suffering in the developing world due to climate change as well as the costs to our own society in the future.
“Whatever the cost is of avoiding climate change – and we might think it’s high – it’s much lower than the costs of not avoiding dangerous climate change,” he said.