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'We have to take ownership', says climate expert

Portrait of Anna Lisa Mills

Local councils, charities, politicians and local businesses have been told that they can't ignore climate change and continue as if it is 'business as usual'.

Climate change consultant Anna-Lisa Mills told a meeting of representatives of the public, private and voluntary sector in Gateshead this week that 'incremental changes' are not going to take us off the path that our planet is currently on.

Her speech came at the start of a workshop designed to prompt discussion around the climate emergency and what actions Gateshead can take to deal with it.

Climate Workshop_01
The workshop - called 'A Vision for a Better Future' - was organised by Gateshead Council as the first step in a six-month process to map out the activities needed to support businesses, communities and residents in making a transition to a cleaner future.

"If you look at our concentration of greenhouse gases in June 2019 , we are at 414 parts per million," she explained. "That is off-the-scale".

"Never in 800,000 years have we had more than 300 ppm of CO2 in our atmosphere, and we know that CO2 holds heat. Scientists warn that if we go above 1.5 degrees of warming, we risk passing tipping points, points of no return. And we are now edging ever closer to that 1.5 degree threshold."

She explained how the reduction in arctic sea ice means that less of the sun's solar energy is now being reflected back out to space, causing the planet to heat up which then accelerates the melting of the ice in an ever-quickening vicious circle. At the same time, melting of the world's permafrost is releasing large quantities of trapped methane - which is 28 times more effective in trapping heat - into the atmosphere, which again accelerates the process of global warming.

Climate Workshop_02
Ms Mills said that 97% of all the scientific research papers on climate change agree that climate change is happening. The 3% who say there might be some doubt, she said, are largely funded by the fossil fuel sector.

"It's like in the 1960's when the tobacco industry threw doubt over whether there was a connection between smoking their products and risks to people's health. We've seen this before."

Also addressing the workshop was 11 year old Lily Avery, an Extinction Rebellion activist who urged the adults in the room to help children her age by taking the issue of climate change more seriously.

"Young people are the future of the world and we need to get all young people to care about climate change", she said.

She said it was important for young people to understand about climate change but that adults had to listen to children's fears because only adults could take the actions necessary to deal with it.

Councillor John McElroy, Cabinet member for Environment and Transport, says:

"What was absolutely clear from yesterday's event is that we can't just continue with business as usual. We can't make small incremental changes and hope these will take us off the path that our planet is currently on.

Climate change in Gateshead"That's why Gateshead Council is putting the climate emergency at the heart of its policy and budget setting processes - because not to do so would be reckless.

"All of us have contributed to this problem and we need to accept that each of us has a responsibility to be part of the solution.  As Anna-Lisa Mills put it so simply, thinking that somebody else is going to fix it isn't going to get us anywhere. We each have to take ownership."

Gateshead currently produces around 5.3 tonnes of CO2  per person, compared to the national average of 5.4 tonnes per head. Around 40% of all CO2 emissions in Gateshead come from motor vehicles.

Gateshead Council declared a climate emergency last autumn and is currently drafting a strategy to ensure that Gateshead Council's activities are carbon-neutral by 2030.

Portrait of Anna Lisa Mills
25 February 2020

Local councils, charities, politicians and local businesses have been told that they can't ignore climate change and continue as if it is 'business as usual'.

Climate change consultant Anna-Lisa Mills told a meeting of representatives of the public, private and voluntary sector in Gateshead this week that 'incremental changes' are not going to take us off the path that our planet is currently on.

Her speech came at the start of a workshop designed to prompt discussion around the climate emergency and what actions Gateshead can take to deal with it.

Climate Workshop_01
The workshop - called 'A Vision for a Better Future' - was organised by Gateshead Council as the first step in a six-month process to map out the activities needed to support businesses, communities and residents in making a transition to a cleaner future.

"If you look at our concentration of greenhouse gases in June 2019 , we are at 414 parts per million," she explained. "That is off-the-scale".

"Never in 800,000 years have we had more than 300 ppm of CO2 in our atmosphere, and we know that CO2 holds heat. Scientists warn that if we go above 1.5 degrees of warming, we risk passing tipping points, points of no return. And we are now edging ever closer to that 1.5 degree threshold."

She explained how the reduction in arctic sea ice means that less of the sun's solar energy is now being reflected back out to space, causing the planet to heat up which then accelerates the melting of the ice in an ever-quickening vicious circle. At the same time, melting of the world's permafrost is releasing large quantities of trapped methane - which is 28 times more effective in trapping heat - into the atmosphere, which again accelerates the process of global warming.

Climate Workshop_02
Ms Mills said that 97% of all the scientific research papers on climate change agree that climate change is happening. The 3% who say there might be some doubt, she said, are largely funded by the fossil fuel sector.

"It's like in the 1960's when the tobacco industry threw doubt over whether there was a connection between smoking their products and risks to people's health. We've seen this before."

Also addressing the workshop was 11 year old Lily Avery, an Extinction Rebellion activist who urged the adults in the room to help children her age by taking the issue of climate change more seriously.

"Young people are the future of the world and we need to get all young people to care about climate change", she said.

She said it was important for young people to understand about climate change but that adults had to listen to children's fears because only adults could take the actions necessary to deal with it.

Councillor John McElroy, Cabinet member for Environment and Transport, says:

"What was absolutely clear from yesterday's event is that we can't just continue with business as usual. We can't make small incremental changes and hope these will take us off the path that our planet is currently on.

Climate change in Gateshead"That's why Gateshead Council is putting the climate emergency at the heart of its policy and budget setting processes - because not to do so would be reckless.

"All of us have contributed to this problem and we need to accept that each of us has a responsibility to be part of the solution.  As Anna-Lisa Mills put it so simply, thinking that somebody else is going to fix it isn't going to get us anywhere. We each have to take ownership."

Gateshead currently produces around 5.3 tonnes of CO2  per person, compared to the national average of 5.4 tonnes per head. Around 40% of all CO2 emissions in Gateshead come from motor vehicles.

Gateshead Council declared a climate emergency last autumn and is currently drafting a strategy to ensure that Gateshead Council's activities are carbon-neutral by 2030.

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