In October 2018, the IPCC released its latest climate change predictions and with it came a stark warning to the world – 12 years to try and keep average global temperatures between 1.5 and 2oC before our planet begins to suffer irreversible damage to ecosystems. A sobering thought indeed. “It’s a line in the sand and what it says to our species is that this is the moment and we must act now,” said Debra Roberts from the working group of impacts.

So, what difference will 1.5oC really make? After all it doesn’t sound all that much. For a start, 2oC would mean a complete elimination of global coral reef systems whilst the lower figure will see 90% wiped out. These coral ecosystems are some of the most diverse on our plant and with their loss will follow all the species associated with them. Further, ocean acidification and increases in oxygen dead zones are predicted to cause a decline in marine fisheries by around 6 million tonnes at 2oC. Grim reading when many fisheries are presently being over-exploited.

Models show that extreme heatwaves and droughts will be experienced by 14% of the planet at least every five years. At 2oC, this figure rises to 33% of the planet. This is likely to mean that crop yields will almost certainly decline and put extra pressure on farming maintain present productions. As things stand the Food & Agriculture Organisation (FAO) are already predicting that global population will soon overtake the food supply index.

The same old guff is repeated about turning off lights and switching to LED bulbs.

As the ice in the polar regions melt, taking with it important ecosystems, global sea levels are predicted to rise by around 10cm until 2100, with this figure increasing quickly past this point due to the loss of locked in ice melt. Much of the reclaimed land around Gibraltar is barely over 1.5m above present sea-level and keeping the ocean off during storm surges could prove problematic going forward.

Enter Greta Thunberg, a young Swedish political activist campaigning against governments lack of action against climate change. She is responsible for the school climate strikes, one of which took place in Gibraltar in March with over 500 students taking part. Miss Thunberg spoke at the UN COP24 conference where she gave a scathing speech demanding that global governments “pull the emergency brake” and “stop stealing our future!”. Her words have inspired the younger generations to fully engage and mobilised swathes of youths into action. They have also earned her a nomination for the Nobel peace prize!

So what do we need to do and how realistic are these targets? Personally, we must collectively pressure governments to make these required changes through realistic policy. Discussions on climate are rarely backed up by meaningful planning and targets, rather, the same old guff is repeated about turning off lights and switching to LED bulbs. The consumer must act. Whilst I do not doubt that these actions can help on a global scale, they tend to misrepresent the global effect that the action has on climate change. Governments need to get real on our climate emergency. Presently, Gibraltar generates less than 1% of our energy from renewables and whilst the new LNG power station is a step in the right direction, is it enough in a global climate crisis? I would say not as it continues to produce CO2.

Local targets have been set to 20% of our energy to be generated by 2020 and even analysing with a favourable eye one realises that we have just over 1.5 years to reach this goal. To achieve this there is going to have to be a huge financial investment and works on these plants would need to start imminently. Indeed, it would be reasonable to suspect that even if works on these renewable plants began today, that they would not be ready for commission by the end of 2020.

Gibraltar generates less than 1% of our energy from renewables; whilst the new LNG power station is a step in the right direction, is it enough in a global climate crisis?

It would seem that local targets should be set for each new building’s renewable generation, say 5%. Grants could also be made available to offset costs to private properties whilst government-owned estates could have a collective generation on roofs. This wouldn’t fix the issue but it is a realistic start. Further targets could be increased over time increasing each buildings potential to generate its own electricity which would start to have a tangible effect. Gibraltar also needs to upgrade its power distribution system to allow users to feed back into the grid and incentivise this movement further. But this will all take lots of time and, more importantly money.

If Thunberg has taught us anything it is that in the fight against climate change it is that neither resources nor finances are the real issue; it is lack of a global political will which slows everything down and Trump epitomises that. Political egos and aspirations must be put to one side and do what is right, forgoing populism. As we inch closer to the tipping point, I often contemplate if, as a species, we are even capable of such selflessness. Time will tell.