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  1. Coping with COP
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  3. From past-times to crunch-times
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The Dates:
From past-times to crunch-times

A whistle-stop tour of the climate timeline.

We’ve been knocking around for 200,000 (or potentially 300,000) years, and we’ve become pretty indoctrinated in the concept that our quality of life steadily increases as those years roll on. Whether that remains the case, however, hinges on what we do over the next decade.

10,000 BC

The Holocene

The stable bit we needed, that came after the last ice age. Pre that, we were pretty much biologically as we are now - but the global temperature couldn’t make its mind up (I’m hot, no I’m cold, no - hang on…) which made it hard for us to flourish as a species.

The Holocene has been the most stable period in Earth’s history. But now it’s over 😔


The Anthropocene

(recognise the ‘anthro’ part?) The next phase of the Earth’s environmental history is named after us, because we’ve created it.

World population 2.5 billion.


Apollo 11 beams back the first ever photos of Earth from space. Minds blown. Suddenly we feel vulnerable and alone in a big dark universe.

World population 3.5 billion.


Term global warming first used by US scientist Wallace Broecker. (Wally goes on to become a climate science legend.)


We find the hole in the ozone layer over Antarctica. First conference on the greenhouse effect held in Austria.

World population 4.8 billion.


Montreal Protocol signed by every single UN member state (198) agreeing phase out of ozone gobbling CFCs.


James Hansen tells a Congressional hearing that he’s ‘99% sure’ that climate change is here, it’ll get worse and we cause it.


1st IPCC report - ‘we think it’ll get hot in here’. Climate change now becoming a real concern – but it doesn’t stop us starting a 30-year fossil fuel / agrochemical / logging mega-party.


2nd IPCC report - ‘it’ll very likely get significantly hotter in here in the next 100 years (and we’ve almost definitely caused it)’.

World population 5.7 billion.


3rd IPCC report - ‘it’s not been hotter in here since the end of the last age - it’ll get hotter fairly rapido and we’ll likely see bad and unpredictable events’. The debate pretty much ends; almost all scientists by then agree that climate change is happening and that we cause it.


4th IPCC report - ‘what it will cost us to reduce emissions is nothing compared to the cost of dealing with what will happen if we don’t. It’s getting hotter and causing damage more rapido than expected.’


5th IPCC report - If we don’t get some policies and action, we could be looking at warming of 3.7 - 4.8 degrees by 2100. ‘That is, like, majorly bad for humanity.’

World population 7.5 billion.


The beginning of the decade that will define our species; the last real chance we have to stave off the cycle of doom (the impacts of temperature rises being irreversible, like biodiversity loss and rising sea levels). We all know what else happened.


6th IPCC report - ‘we’re officially guilty as hell and it’s bad.’ The ‘starkest warning yet’ and its first totally unambiguous statement. Some things, like some sea level rise, can’t be stopped. The good news - net zero can work in preventing the worst scenarios - if we get our shizzle together now.


The UK’s last coal fired power station will close.


We need to have halved our emissions by this point if we have a hope in hell of getting to net zero by 2050.
China’s emission peak hits (though there’s a tiny chance this could be 2025).
US reduce emissions by 50-52% (compared to 2005 levels).
EU reduce emissions by 55% (compared to 1990 levels).

Estimated world population 8.3 billion


UK law that by this point UK emissions will be 78% lower than they were in 1990.
All UK electricity will be clean.
The US will have decarbonised its electricity grid. (#goJoe)


1.5 degree rise expected to kick in here. Further rises dependent on our action 2020-2030.



Estimated world population 9.4 billion.


China carbon-neutrality target, having (fingers crossed) started reducing emissions following a 2030 peak. Russia’s expected net zero target.


Peak human population: 9.7 billion (global population likely to drop from this point – if female education and opportunity continues to rise).


Sea level rise around New York could be 90cm, flooding parts of Queens, Brooklyn and parts of Lower Manhattan (NASA).


Estimated world population 8.8 billion.

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