Introduction: Radical Realism

Introduction: Radical Realism

This dossier aims to give a broad overview of exciting new and old pathways towards a climate-just 1.5°C world. Pathways that are grounded in radical, social and environmental justice-based agendas for political change.

IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C

In the fall of 2018, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will publish a Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C, the more ambitious climate goal enshrined in the Paris Agreement – a report commissioned by the 2015 UNFCCC Conference of the Parties in Paris to research in depth the impacts of global warming at 1.5°C as well as potential mitigation pathways towards 1.5°C.

Many people have come to doubt the feasibility of limiting warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. This is not because of geophysical realities, but because of inability and unwillingness to envision, and deem feasible, a radical shift in the resource-intensive, wasteful and imperial lifestyles of a tiny global elite and of the global middle classes. It is possible to limit global warming to well below 2°C and even to 1.5°C while enhancing wellbeing and prosperity for everyone and conserving biodiversity and ecosystems. However, it is not possible to sustain the profit margins of polluting industries and transnational corporations without crossing planetary boundaries and undermining social equity and human rights.

Climate science is unambiguous: Business as Usual is not an option.

There is no more tinkering around the edges. The difference between 1.5° and 2°C global warming is one of life and death for millions of people. At 2°C, heat waves last longer, extreme weather events become more intense and tropical coral reefs stand no chance of recovery. Losses in crop production and freshwater availability intensify over this half-degree of global warming.

Beyond 2°C, a “Hothouse Earth” trajectory implies a world of cascading tipping points and feedbacks in the climate system that will be deeply disruptive to societies and ecosystems.

Limiting warming to 1.5°C, in contrast, significantly reduces the risks of climate change for the great majority of plant and animal biodiversity. Not least, 1.5°C is our best hope of achieving future environmental and social justice, of limiting the impacts of a global crisis that was born out of historical injustice and highly unequal responsibility.

The legally binding goals enshrined in the Paris Agreement are a lifeline for those already experiencing the effects of climate change. Yet policymakers across the world are failing to embark on a trajectory of change that safeguards human wellbeing, choosing instead to hazard untold suffering and environmental destruction.

Climate change is a catastrophe with many slow onset events and many big and small disasters – but we do not have to watch it unfold as bystanders. Neither do we have to accept large-scale technological quick fixes, so-called geoengineering or climate engineering, that are increasingly being presented as an alternative to runaway climate change and have crept into mainstream climate-economic models. Geoengineering is the perfect excuse to continue Business as Usual and to bet on risky “technofixes” to save the day, despite the profound risks and potentially devastating and irreversible impacts that these technologies entail.

Building momentum for real solutions

There are myriad local, regional and global solutions out there based on the tools and technologies proven to be working and ready to be scaled up. Limiting global warming to 1.5°C is possible – and it is possible doing so by relying on solutions to climate change that are socially just and ecologically sound, respectful of human rights, Indigenous Peoples‘ rights and land tenure rights. While reducing greenhouse gas emissions, these solutions also strive to democratize our economies and gear them towards a public-goods approach, knowing that a major shift in the way we produce and consume is inevitable if we are serious about limiting global warming.

This dossier aims to give a broad overview of exciting new and old pathways towards a climate-just 1.5°C world, grounded in radical, social and environmental justice-based agendas for political change. These trajectories show that more transformative and just visions of a 1.5°C world than envisioned in mainstream climate policy are possible, and have been spelled out in detail by activists, movements and scholars across the globe.

These real solutions and alternatives to mainstream and growth-fetishizing climate economics that are safe to deploy and that eliminate the purported need to rely on high-risk “technofixes”.

Those who continue to ignore or disregard this crucial knowledge because they believe it is “too radical”, “politically unrealistic”, “naïve”, or simply “too messy and complex to implement” ignore a very basic truth. To put it in Naomi Klein’s words: “We aren’t losing earth – but the earth is getting so hot so fast that it is on a trajectory to lose a great many of us.” If the essence and purpose of politics is to foster wellbeing and safety in communities, the only possible response to the challenge of limiting global warming to 1.5°C is what we would like to call Radical Realism.

Find more information in the Radical Realism Dossier and answers in the FAQs on the 1.5°C Target and Geoengineering.

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