Author: Stuart Thorp
In this article I'll start by talking about my holidays and my studies from a Climate Action perspective and then relate these to what we can be doing, together with our PMI colleagues across Europe, to tackle the Climate Crisis.
Holiday in UAE & Oman
Since writing my February article, I have enjoyed a wonderful holiday in UAE & Oman to celebrate a 'special birthday' with my wife and some friends.
Before you ask, yes, we flew (estimated 1.45 Tonnes CO2e flight emissions), however I have funded the planting of sufficient trees to compensate these emissions many times over.
I saw significant changes in the UAE since my previous visit (10 years ago):
- Recognition of Climate Change and the need to reduce fossil fuel emissions (e.g. in the "Zayed's Antarctic Lights" documentary)
- Improvements in waste collection & recycling.
- More openness and less sense of nationality-based hierarchy.
I was asked about my view on the changes.
My response was cautiously positive, but it all depends on the COP28 outcome (as UAE have the COP28 Presidency):
- If COP28 achieves an outcome aligned with Paris Agreement objectives (limiting global average temperature rise to 2C max and preferably 1.5C) then UAE will have demonstrated its commitment to a future without fossil fuel.
- If COP28 does not maintain the Paris Agreement objectives then it would bring into question the commitment of UAE (and by association, the whole fossil fuel industry) to delivering the Paris Agreement.
Positive COP28 Presidency by UAE would be a good example to the whole industry globally and may sign to world leaders that digging for more oil & gas (like the recently approved Alaska Oil Project) may not be economically lucrative in the long run (especially when the cost of Climate mitigation also considered).
My personal view is that we should assume a pessimistic case and be working urgently on reducing fossil fuel demand as, regardless of the COP28 outcome, this should ease the challenge of limiting global average temperature rise to 1.5 C. Perhaps rather cynically (not my preferred style), taking this view means that we have wasted no time if there isn’t genuine commitment to COP28 maintaining the Paris Agreement.
Already starting to reduce demand also sends the strongest possible message to the fossil fuel industry (otherwise, “if we keep burning it, they will keep pumping it”).
If you are unsure about how to reduce your fossil fuel consumption, one suggestion is to reduce top-speed and aggressive acceleration when driving; 10% reductions in driving related emissions can easily be achieved in this way.
I am looking forward to positive news in Dec 2023 of the UAE-chaired COP28 delivering a successful outcome. I will then be able give my unreserved positive feedback on the transformational progress in the UAE.
Initial signs are positive as I have just received news of the "Road to COP28" event taking place in the UAE towards raising awareness and mobilising an "all-of-society" effort towards COP28. It is interesting and encouraging to note the apparent similarity with the "Walk2COP27" event led by Sam Baker (who presented this to us in the PMI Belgium Nov 2022 special meeting on Climate Action).
I have been continuing my studies on Climate Science by following the "Climate Change: The Science and Global Impact" MOOC led by Climate guru Michael Mann. I was very happy to pass my mid-course assessment with a good rating and hope to conclude the course during March.
My summary last month was that the physics behind the global average temperature increase is relatively straightforward. In subsequent modules, I have been learning about more detailed impacts on the global climate.
I have found the course absolutely fascinating from a scientific perspective, if rather alarming from the perspective of the impact to the nature of our planet. The following points struck me in particular:
- Ice sheets are melting faster than previously thought:
Previous Climate models had not modelled the detailed physics of the ice melting process.
This may lead to faster than previously expected increases in sea level - possibly increasing by 2 metres by 2100. This is of course significant in "low lying" countries such as Belgium.
- The "AMOC" is weakening:
The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC - also sometimes referred to as the "The Great Conveyor Belt ") is a flow of warm surface currents from the Pacific and Indian Oceans through to the Northern Atlantic, where the flow descends to the deeper ocean due the combined effects of salinity and cooling of the stream. The cooler, sub-surface stream then returns to the Indian and Pacific oceans.
The AMOC is weakening because of the combined effects of global warming and the freshwater from Greenland ice-melt reducing salinity. The AMOC could eventually stop - leading to significant and sudden changes in global heat distribution.
- El Niño will soon return:
For the last 3 years, during which we have been experiencing record summer temperatures, there has been a "La Niña" pattern in the Pacific Ocean - the effect is complex but generally leads to slowing of global temperature rise. The NOAA Climate Prediction Center has published an advisory note mentioning an expectation of reverting to El Niño conditions possibly already from Summer 2023.
This is likely to mean that even warmer Summers are approaching!
- Uncertainty is not our friend:
In the course, Michael Mann frequently uses the phrase "uncertainty is not our friend". This is partly because if we know for sure what climate conditions are coming, we can plan ahead, and start to adapt to the new situation. Also, where there has been past uncertainty in climate models, they have typically underestimated the climate impact (as an additional phenomenon had not been fully modelled).
The above points are certainly concerning; however, the scientific consensus is that it is not too late to act to help to mitigate the effects and associated uncertainty.
This is a convenient introduction to what we can be doing together as the PMI.
PMI Europe Climate Action
In the last month, Christine Dassy and I have reached out to the Presidents of the other European PMI Chapters to seek their participation in a call (scheduled for 29 Mar) in which we will explore whether there is interest to scale up PMI's Climate Action initiatives at a European level.
So far, we have received positive feedback from 8 Chapters, with hopefully more showing an interest. As part of the input to this initiative we have summarised the PMI Belgium activity as follows:
PMI Belgium Chapter – Progress up to Mar 2023:
*PMI.Be - Jan.23 Update on Climate Action, **Feb.23 New Life: Out of Corporate and Into Climate, ***Walk2COP27, ****Event Video
PMI Belgium Chapter – Potential themes for 2023:
I hope to be bringing, in next month’s article, the news of a positive engagement with our PMI colleagues across Europe.
As with all of these newsletter articles, your feedback and comments are very welcome.
We'd also love to hear of your experiences in:
- delivering projects relating to sustainability
- delivering any projects in a more sustainable way.