Climate Urgency Realism or Denial score
This is a suggestion for a scoring system to assess and help challenge any denial of the urgency of climate change and action needed.
IntroductionProgress in science and medicine has often been assisted by the construction of measurement scales or scoring systems in order to clarify a concept and aid the assessment of it.
Signatories to the SGR Science Oath for the Climate  make commitments
- to honesty: "...when describing the scale and timeframe of action needed"
- to "speak out about what is not compatible with the [Paris Climate Agreement] commitments, or is likely to undermine them."
A scoring systemSpeaking out about what is not Paris compatible could be considerably aided by a clear definition of what is and what is not compatible. One possibility would be to identify the five most important points when discussing the scale and timeframe of action needed, and to award a score to documents, media reports etc on each of these five points using
- +1 when the point is adequately covered
- 0 when the point is not relevant to the document, report etc
- -1 when the point is dealt with incorrectly, or when the point is relevant but has been evaded.
The five key points could be
- Global warming must be kept below 1.5°C by limiting further total global CO2 emissions to the CO2 budget specified by the IPCC
- The UK's CO2 budget should be determined as a "fair share" of the global CO2 budget
- The UK's per capita "fair share" CO2 budget will run out in 3 years at the current emission rate
- The UK Government's Net Zero 2050 strategy would take three times the UK's per capita "fair share" of the global CO2 budget
- Instead of the UK Government strategy, radical emission cuts of about 25% per year are needed in order to comply with the Paris Agreement commitments.
With a score of -1 to +1 on each of the five points, the overall total score would be in the range of -5 to +5.
The score would be a Climate Urgency Realism or Denial score.
ExamplesAn example of a document compatible with the Paris Climate Agreement is the Zero Carbon Sooner report from CUSP at Surrey University (2021) , which
- specifies a limit of 1.5°C and a global CO2 budget of 400 billion tonnes CO2
- calculates a UK share of the global budget as an equal per capita share, with a reduction of 15% because of the UK's high historical emissions
- calculates that this UK share of the global CO2 budget will run out in 3 years
- shows that the UK Government's Net Zero 2050 pathway would result in emission of several times the UK's "fair share" of CO2
- calculates that emission cuts of 27% per year are needed.
An example of a document that is incompatible with the Paris Climate Agreement is the UK Government's Net Zero 2050 Strategy , which has
- no mention of global CO2 budgets, only a net zero date which is of only minor importance
- no mention of equity between nations
- no mention of when the UK's CO2 budget will run out at current rates
- no mention that emissions under the Strategy would far exceed the UK's "fair share" of CO2
- denial that radical emission cuts are needed, showing a decline in emissions of only about 3% per year.
Potential use of a Climate Urgency Realism/Denial scoreThe scoring system could be a way of assessing, ranking and challenging individuals and organisations, of initiating debate, and of raising awareness.
It seems that most individuals and organisations are currently unaware or in denial about the extreme urgency, and this includes many climate campaigners and organisations.
The construction and use of scoring systems for Paris compliance should be seen as "normal science" rather than "activism", as it is a dispassionate assessment of texts and whether they are mathematically compatible with what governments have signed up to, with no preconceptions.
How realistic are emission cuts of 25% per year?If the UK had to make emission cuts of 25% per year, e.g. due to war and interruption of fossil fuel supplies, then of course it would.
Personal experience is that cuts of 10% per year by individual action is not difficult. If individual action is combined with appropriate government action, cuts of 25% do not seem out of reach.
If the UK does not make emission cuts in line with its commitments to the Paris and subsequent agreements, it is because it is making a choice that e.g. continued fossil fuel use for non-essential purposes such as flying on holidays is more important than stopping the emissions that are causing climate deaths and climate refugees. This choice is currently being hidden, but it is something that the UK population should be facing up to.
First published: 10 Apr 2022
Last updated: 11 Apr 2022