Emergency on Planet Earth

What is this book?

Part 1: Back to the start… How did we get into this climate mess and is it really that bad?
How can we be so sure that the Earth is heating?
Why should we care about a few degrees of heating?
Hasn’t the Earth been hotter in the past?
What exactly are greenhouse gases and what is the greenhouse effect?
Can we be certain that humans are causing global heating?
Haven’t natural fluctuations in carbon dioxide affected the Earth’s temperature?
What’s happened in the past few thousand years?
What’s happened in the past 150 years?
What are greenhouse gas emissions like today?
We have been warned over and over!

Part 2: It’s getting hot in here… What’s already happening to our planet as a result of global heating and why?

What is already happening to our weather?
More extreme weather
Longer and more intense heatwaves
Longer and harsher droughts
More forest fires
More extreme storms and floods
Stronger hurricanes

What is global heating doing to our oceans, coastlines and wildlife?
Melting ice and rising seas
Loss of homes due to rising seas
Impacts of heating on ocean life
Impacts of carbon dioxide on ocean life
Impacts of heating on land-based wildlife

Part 3: The lie of the land… What other damage are we doing to our planet?

How are we damaging our land and our waters?
Loss of natural resources
Intensive agriculture
Livestock farming
Soil degradation
Loss of grasslands, mangroves, wetlands and peatlands

How are we polluting our waters?

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How are we polluting our air? 54

How are we destroying our wildlife? 55 Why should we care about the loss of our wildlife? 55 Loss of species 56 Loss of fish, whales and dolphins 58 Loss of insects 59 Loss of wildlife in the UK 61 The Sixth Mass Extinction 62

Part 4: Sick, thirsty, hungry and homeless… What knock-on effects are we already seeing? 63 Impacts on human health 63 Health threats from extreme weather 63 Increased spread of diseases 64 The threat of new diseases 65 Health threats from air pollution 66 Health threats from intensive agriculture 67 Children and the elderly are especially vulnerable 67 Impacts on global food production 68 Impacts on water availability 70 Mass displacement and threats to safety, human rights and our global economy 71

Part 5: Too hot to handle… Where are we heading? 74 How hot is too hot? The promises of the Paris Agreement 74 How hot is it likely to get and when? 75 The additional risks of feedback loops 78 Water vapour and clouds 79 The ice-albedo effect 79 Melting permafrost 80 Wetland methane production 81 Drying soils and mega-heatwaves 81 Carbon cycle feedbacks 82 How tipping points might make things even worse… 82 Permafrost collapse 84 Ice sheet slippage 85 Thermohaline circulation 86 Forest dieback 86 The compound risk of multiple tipping points 87

What will our world look like in 2050 if we don’t take radical action now? 88 2050: More intense heatwaves and forest fires 89 2050: More intense storms, floods and hurricanes 90 2050: Increased droughts and water shortages 91 2050: Rising seas and increased coastal flooding 92 2050: More devastating loss of wildlife on land and in the oceans 94 2050: Further reductions in food production 94 2050: More devastating impacts on human health 96 2050: Mass displacement 97 2050: Poverty and financial instability 97 2050: Social instability and conflict 98

What will our world look like by the end of the century? 98 2100: Extreme weather 99 2100: Flooding and mass migration 99 2100: Wildlife loss 100 2100: Impacts on human health, food and water 100

What will our world look like by the end of the century if we reach 4°C of heating? 101 4°C of heating: Extreme heat 102 4°C of heating: Rising seas, flooding and mass displacement 104 4°C of heating: Wildlife loss 105 4°C of heating: Reductions in food production 105 Not worth the risk: why we need to apply the Precautionary Principle 106

Part 6: Enough is enough… How are our governments letting us down? 108 What are governments ‘supposed’ to be doing to address the ecological crisis? 108 What are governments ‘supposed’ to be doing to address the climate crisis? 109 The Paris Agreement 109 Net zero by 2050 109 Can we really get to net zero this way? The problem with relying on negative emissions technologies 110 Why net zero by 2050 isn’t actually fast enough 111 Why richer countries need to get to net zero MUCH sooner than 2050 112 How our governments are making the climate crisis worse, not better! 113 Emissions from shipping and aviation are on course to reach dangerous levels 114 Governments are still subsidising fossil fuels 115 Governments are approving new fossil fuel projects 116 Banks are financing the fossil fuel industry 117 The way that governments invest money in emerging from the coronavirus crisis is crucial 117 Is the UK government doing enough? 118 UK emissions are falling - but only in some sectors 118 UK figures don’t account for aviation, shipping or embedded emissions 119 UK emissions are not falling nearly fast enough 120 The UK government is missing its own targets 120 The UK needs to be getting to net zero by 2025, not 2050 122 The UK government is making things worse, not better! 123 The UK government is subsidising fossil fuels 123 The UK government is approving NEW fossil fuel projects 123 UK banks are investing in fossil fuels 124 But the UK only emits 1.5% of the world’s carbon, shouldn’t we be focusing our efforts elsewhere? 124

Part 7: Act now… So what do we do? 126 How long do we have and is it already too late? 126 So what needs to happen now? 126 Why individual action isn’t enough 127 The urgent need for collective action 128

Quotes 132

Credits and reviewers 143 What other scientists, political voices and readers are saying about this guide 145 Articles, interviews and short films about this guide 147