There are a few words spoken by Ronald Reagan during his address to the United Nations in 1987 that I feel resonates today just as much as they did back then. He said that “I occasionally think how quickly our differences worldwide would vanish if we were facing an alien threat from outside this world” when talking about the challenges of achieving peace. In a lot of ways I feel this quite easily applies to the battle with global warming. It may not be aliens but the world is certainly under threat.
An alien race would probably be surprised that we pollute the air we breathe and dump plastic waste in the ocean. I’m not sure they would understand how we still use fossil fuel burning cars when electric cars have been around for over 100 years. How we still use single use plastics when alternatives are available to us and have been for decades. They would also ask why we still use non-renewable energy when renewable energy such as wind turbines has existed for hundreds of years. I think an alien race would struggle to understand the choices we have made which have endangered our planet.
Although we may not be able to change the past we can certainly change the future. In fact the more I listen; it’s actually that future that is speaking up about this. If anything gives me hope that we can fight this enormous threat it’s Greta Thunberg. If she can sit outside the Parliament in Sweden at just 15 years old to protest the inaction on global warming then we can all do our bit.
However the scale of this issue means we are short of time in which to change. The UK governments’ target of 2050 is not really much of a target at all. Oil reserves will run out in approximately 47.7 years time and gas in 49.8 years. With the global south increasing its use of fossil fuels this may even be a fairly optimistic projection. We also can’t use these resources if we want to keep global warming under control.
Proposals such as the green new deal have attracted media attention but unfortunately it contains little in the way of substance. What we need is a radical plan to transform the UK economy, to reform our government and to work together with other countries on this issue at a global level. In the next sections I will lay out some of the steps a future UK government could take to fight global warming.
The biggest step is to change where we get our energy from. Fossil fuels are both bad because they damage the environment but also because will eventually run out. It makes little sense for the world to rely on sources of energy that will run out. A solution is to tax non-renewable energy sources and use the revenue to give tax breaks to renewable energy consumers. This alongside subsidies will help to use free markets to drive the change towards renewable energy. Government projects are also needed such as building the Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon which would also help to boost the Welsh economy. Finally the UK should phase our nuclear energy, move away from our reliance on natural gas and end our use of coal power.
Another step is to upgrade our transport network which is already in dire need of improvements. I would propose ditching our current High Speed 2 rail plans for a Hyperloop line. Hyperloop combines both magnetic levitation and a vacuum tube to produce incredible speeds. It can also be run using solar power making it an environmentally friendly alternative to HS2.
Although such a plan would take some of the pressure off of our road network we also need to focus on making our transport greener. The switch to self driving cars and buses can be used increase the number of electric cars on the roads. Placing a tax on fossil fuel burning cars and using the revenue used to fund tax breaks for electric cars would help to encourage the electric car market. However investment in infrastructure for electric cars such as charging points will also making the switch easier.
Another important area where energy is used is within the home. Solutions include building new passive housing which would reduce energy usage by keeping houses at a more stable temperature. This would both save money on energy bills for home owners but would also reduce the UK’s energy usage making it easier to reach a zero emissions. Another step is to replace current gas appliances with electric ones to move away from reliance on natural gases.
The Paris Agreement of 2016 showed that working together with countries around the world on global warming is possible. However as the effects of global warming become more apparent, pressuring the United States to remain a member of this agreement will become even more important. Alongside this using carbon capture technology which draws carbon out of the atmosphere could be an area for continued investment even when the UK has reached zero emissions itself.
This may seem like a huge set of changes but I believe they are changes that need to happen. One thing is clear however, we need to change. If we don’t and aliens do visit earth in a few decades time, we may not be here anymore.