Voices: This finally convinced Boris Johnson on the climate crisis – now other MPs need to see it too

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Angus had heard that a presentation by the government’s chief scientific adviser Patrick Vallance to Boris Johnson had opened his eyes  (Zoe Tidman / The Independent)
Angus had heard that a presentation by the government’s chief scientific adviser Patrick Vallance to Boris Johnson had opened his eyes (Zoe Tidman / The Independent)

For 37 days, Angus Rose went on hunger strike. He took his body to the edge of permanent damage and potential death.

He told me it was because he felt it was, “nothing less than [his] duty” to do something about the inaction on the climate crisis by the UK government, and was “in direct proportion to the risks facing my nephews.”

So, what was he demanding? An immediate ban on holiday flights, free public transport or at a minimum first step a ban on all new fossil fuel investments?

No.

Angus had heard that a presentation by the government’s chief scientific adviser Patrick Vallance to Boris Johnson had opened his eyes to the existential risk the climate crisis posed to the UK. He had gone on hunger strike to ask that MP’s and cabinet members get the same presentation. Many of us who had come in contact with Angus, recognised that he was utterly determined to either get the presentation or die in the effort.

So, what was in this famous presentation? The 11 slides were released to the public after an FOI request from Carbon Brief. They summarised the climate emergency as follows:

1. Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has risen from 300 parts per million (ppm) to 415ppm since 1960. The highest level for safety is 350ppm. Temperatures have risen by 1.2C since 1850 and sea-levels by 60mm since 1995.

2. Computer models have accurately predicted temperature rises across the globe in line with increasing levels of carbon dioxide.

3. Over 3.4 million cubic kilometres of summer Arctic sea-ice has been lost since 1980. This is equivalent to the area covered by India, Bangladesh and Bhutan combined! An area the size of Scotland is lost each year.

4. This slide showed maps of how extreme rain and heat events have increased across the globe.

5. Extreme UK rainfall events and flooding are now seven times more likely than in the last century.

6. Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere could rise from 2100 gigatons currently, to over 8000 gigatons by the end of this century, if no action is taken.

7. Potential rise in temperature ranges from about 1.6C to a terrifying 8C, depending on whether we radically cut emissions now or we keep burning more and more fossil fuels. A rise of 8C would cause the end of civilisation as we know it and the obliteration of millions of species.

8. UK coasts face a sea-level rise of between 0.2m to over 0.7 meters by the year 2100, depending on urgency of action on emissions.

9. This slide demonstrated how accurate the modelling of temperature forecasting has been since 1950. It said we could pass the red danger-line of 1.5C rise within three years!

10. If we cut emissions by about 50 per cent in the 2020s and to net-zero by 2050, we could limit the long-term temperature rise to 1.3C. This would mean the worst impacts would be avoided for future generations.

11. This slide was the most devastating. It was a list of climatic tipping points which if passed result in irreversible consequences. These included the Amazon and Boreal forests tipping into mass diebacks and the arctic permafrost melting. These would lead to enormous rises in CO2 and accompanying temperature rises. They said both the Greenland and Antarctic icesheets could tip into unstoppable melting and the Gulf Stream could halt completely, which would destroy the UK’s current temperate climate.

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All of these tipping points are now at Code Red. If they occur, as they are increasingly likely to, it would be too late for humanity to cut emissions to stop devasting impacts on future generations.

To huge relief, on the 37th day of his hunger strike, the APPG on Climate Change agreed to stage the presentation requested by Angus for MPs.

Angus wants people to email MPs urging them to attend the briefing, which they can also do remotely. He also told me the hospital is hopeful that no long term damage has been done to his organs or muscles, despite the length of the hunger-strike.

Unless governments, oil companies and the media act, more people will take even more desperate measures to get them to act.

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