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A Tale of The Arctic Canary and The Renewable Honey Badger


Once upon a time there was a Canary that worked in an Arctic Coalmine and a Honey Badger who persistently fought against the odds for a renewable energy future…

If ever there was a geographical metaphor synonymous with the canary in the goldmine, it is the Arctic. While the Trump administration launches a broad assault on policies put in place by the Obama administration to reduce carbon pollution, the pristine white of the Arctic is actually turning green. This, because of the massive blooms of plankton that are growing beneath the thinning sheets of sea ice.


This computer model shows areas of ice thin enough to allow plankton to grow underneath

Since pre-industrial times, the unabated use of fossil fuels, especially coal has emitted close to 1 trillion tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere. Before the Industrial Revolution, global atmospheric carbon emissions measured 280ppm, ensuring a lengthy period of climate stability, allowing human civilisation to thrive.

How times have changed. Remember a few years when we crossed the 400ppm threshold – last witnessed over 1 million years ago? This, at a time when human impact on the planet proved so evident, it even led to a new geological era being created, marking our departure from the ‘Holocene’ into the ‘Anthropocene’. Rapid fast forward to where we are now. Take a look at what the latest readings from the Mauna Loa observatory – here – signifying annual increases of 3ppm, which if left unchecked will surpass 450ppm, resulting in us reaching the highly dangerous 2 degree temperature threshold by 2030.

How fitting indeed that the canary was used in coal mines as an advanced warning of some danger. The metaphor originates from the times when miners used to carry caged canaries while at work. If there was any methane or carbon monoxide in the mine, the canary would die before the levels of the gas reached those hazardous to humans.


Well, the canary is about to choke folks and we need to get out of the mine and stop extracting more fossil fuels, especially coal! The good news though is that coal REALLY is on the way out! 2016 saw a worldwide 48% drop in pre-construction activity, a 62% drop in construction starts, and a 19% drop in ongoing construction.

And while Trump’s pro-coal policies may help keep a few coal power plants that were scheduled for phase-out in operation for a few years, it’s unlikely any new coal power plants will ever be built in the U.S. because coal power simply cannot compete with natural gas and renewable energy.

The ‘RENEWABLE’ HONEY BADGER doesn’t care!!


That’s because the transition to clean energy really is irreversible. “Although substantive action over time will be required to realize the vision of Paris, analysis of countries’ individual contributions suggests that meeting medium-term respective targets and increasing their ambition in the years ahead—coupled with scaled-up investment in clean-energy technologies—could increase the international community’s probability of limiting warming to 2°C by as much as 50%”. (Former U.S. President, Barack Obama).

Extending this positive, renewables narrative further, we can now apply a “carbon law” approach to rapidly reduce emissions. Recently, researchers, in the journal Science have argued that a carbon roadmap, driven by a simple rule of thumb or “carbon law” of halving emissions every decade, could catalyse disruptive innovation. Such a “carbon law”, based on Moore’s Law in the computer industry, applies to cities, nations and industrial sectors.

“We are already at the start of this trajectory. In the last decade, the share of renewables in the energy sector has doubled every 5.5 years. If doubling continues at this pace fossil fuels will exit the energy sector well before 2050,” says lead author Johan Rockström director of the Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University.

If we are to escape the worst consequences of climate change then our hopes will be underpinned by the success of this carbon law approach. Otherwise, we will be forced to safeguard our survival in employing high risk alternatives linked to geoengineering – a harsh and distinct possibility that could materialize much sooner than people envisage.

For further details, please contact:

James D. Butler – Business Development Director

CLIMATE CHANGE – The New Economy


Telephone: +44 7432 740836