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Going Beyond Dangerous Climate Change: Exploring the void between rhetoric and reality in reducing carbon emissions

Professor Kevin Anderson, University of Manchester

Wednesday 29 February 2012, 1430-1530
Marcus Merriman Lecture Theatre

Unprecedented growth in recent emissions demands a radical departure from the mitigation proposals suggested by many policy makers and scientific reports. This presentation strips away the rhetoric of such proposals to reveal a profound challenge to science and society. It argues that our abject failure to reduce emissions leaves the global community with stark choices. To continue the delusion that emission can be controlled through rhetoric, financial fine-tuning and piecemeal incrementalism; to view the future as one of futility and despair; or to acknowledge that the greatest obstacles to real change are an absence of honesty and imagination alongside a fear of change itself. The paper concludes that whilst 2°C futures are all but lost, early harnessing of human will and ingenuity may yet offer opportunities to deliver relatively low-carbon and climate-resilient communities.

Kevin Anderson is professor of energy and climate change in the School of Mechanical, Aeronautical and Civil Engineering at the University of Manchester. He has recently finished a two-year position as director of the Tyndall Centre, the UK's leading academic climate change research organisation, during which time he held a joint post with the University of East Anglia.

Returning full time to Manchester, Kevin now leads Tyndall Manchester's energy and climate change research programme and is deputy director of the Tyndall Centre. He is research active with recent publications in Royal Society journals, Nature and Energy Policy, and engages widely across all tiers of government.

Kevin's research interests include: understanding the implications of rising emissions and the latest climate science for mitigation and adaptation policy; analysing opportunities for rapid decarbonisation of the UK's energy system; and quantifying the role of international transport (aviation and shipping) in a low-carbon society.

With his colleague Alice Bows, Kevin's work on carbon budgets has been pivotal in revealing the widening gulf between political rhetoric on climate change and the reality of rapidly escalating emissions. His work makes clear that there is now little to no chance of maintaining the rise in global mean surface temperature at below 2°C, despite repeated high-level statements to the contrary. Moreover, Kevin's research demonstrates how avoiding even a 4°C rise demands a radical reframing of both the climate change agenda and the economic characterisation of contemporary society.

Kevin has a decade's industrial experience, principally in the petrochemical industry. He sits as commissioner on the Welsh Government's climate change commission and is a director of Greenstone Carbon Management - a London-based company providing emission-related advice to private and public sector organisations.