What can be done to change the course?

written by Dr. Johannes Meier, CEO, European Climate Foundation, www.europeanclimate.org

 “It wasn't until we were in the lifeboat and rowing away, it wasn't until then Irealized that ship's going to sink.” – Eva Hart, Titanic survivor

The anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic gives us an opportunity to focus on what human beings are capable of both in terms of engineering achievement and hubris. As the CEO of an organisation that is committed to helping Europe mitigate climate change, the tragedy provides a useful allegory to consider whether the course we are currently on, in terms of the way we power our economy, is destined to end catastrophically. The events of one hundred years ago also give us pause to assess if there is another, safer and wiser direction that we could take.

Our current practice of extracting fossil fuels from beneath the earth in order to burn them and generate energy has served our economies well and helped generate unimagined wealth and progress. But the flip side of thisprogress has been dangerous and growing levels of carbon dioxide and other ‘greenhouse gases’ in our atmosphere.

Science tells us that the levels of these gases will create fundamental changes to our climate system, leading to great unpredictability in weather patterns, threatening lives andlivelihoods around the planet.But just like both the owner and the captain of the Titanic, when challenged about the wisdom of maintaining such fast speeds in dangerous waters, our political rulers have so far failed to heed these warnings.

However unlike in 1912, there is some welcome news: If we act quickly and decisively, disaster can be averted. The European Climate Foundation, working together with energy companies, think tanks, NGOs and energy experts, has been able to show that the decarbonisation of our power sector – essentially generating energy in a way that is carbon free – is both technologically achievable and economically affordable. Our focus has been specifically on what is achievable in Europe, but many of the lessons learned, such as the development of renewable energies, the need to expand power grids, increasing energy efficiency and financing the low carbon transition, apply to all parts of the world.

Such low carbon development will play a crucial part in allowing our atmosphere to stabilise and preventingdangerous global temperate rises.

The European Climate Foundation has written a series of reports about how the low carbon transition can be made. You can read them at www.roadmap2050.eu. In addition we work with a wide variety of partners from NGOs and academic institutions to think tanks and companies to demonstrate the exciting opportunities inherent in the low carbon future.

We want to build confidence that a safer future is technically and economically possible for our planet. The challenge is to translate this confidence into action at all levels of all societies. There simply is no lifeboat for many at risk from climate change.