On Thursday 21st November, the next “Green Drinks” will be held at the Methodist Hall on Oldham St, central Manchester. Details on the poster here. No need to book, just turn up. It’s a session about the jargon around climate change, with Dr Joe Blakey (1) There’s an interview with him below…
Who are you?
I am a Lecturer in Geography at The University of Manchester. I’m a Political Geographer and I’m interested in decarbonisation politics and the ways in which how we count carbon shapes this.
What’s the most annoying/misleading bit of climate jargon, that misleads people the most
My biggest bugbear is not stating what ‘zero carbon’ refers to. In most city plans and government publications it refers to our goal of zero carbon energy and transport systems. It typically does not capture how we might reduce our influence in carbon intensive activities elsewhere (e.g. through our investment, consumption, aviation, shipping). In a globalised and interconnected world this is imperative and we should not gloss over the wider implications of our actions.
What is the second most annoying/misleading bit of climate jargon?
Carbon reduction dates, such as the UK’s ambition to reach zero carbon (in terms of our energy consumption and point source emissions) by 2050. The crucial thing to consider is the total amount of carbon emitted as a whole between now and the end of the century (cumulative emissions). We need to keep this as low as possible and the date when we go zero carbon is only part of that complex puzzle. The problem is in much debate we tend to only talk about the zero carbon date.
There’s all these different numbers floating about with regards to Manchester’s record on climate change – 41 per cent of this, 48 per cent of that. Is there a simpler way of thinking about how much carbon we have spent, how much we have left if we are to be fair to the rest of the people on this planet, let alone all the other species?
The Tyndall Centre have said that Manchester is only allowed to emit 15 million tonnes of CO2 (directly, or from our energy consumption) between 2018-2100 to play our ‘fair’ part in keeping temperature increases below 2 degrees against pre-industrial levels. We used around 2 million tonnes of this last year alone. Thinking in tonnes allows us to see how much we’ve got left and how fast it’s running out!
A similar picture can be seen at a Greater Manchester level too, where there is a budget of 71 million tonnes of CO2 (directly, or from our energy consumption) that it must not exceed between 2018-2100.
In short – we need to think in tonnes and think about spending these tonnes of carbon very wisely indeed!
(1) Full disclosure – Dr Blakey is a good friend of the editor of this website.