The primary solutions to the problem of climate change are to:

  • cease use of fossil fuels
  • shift human diet away from meat (especially beef and lamb)
  • reverse deforestation.

More generally, global warming is a symptom of a wider issue of sustainability. In essence the earth’s resources are finite, this includes the flora and fauna, as well as the minerals of the earth itself. Additionally, the earth has limited capacity to absorb the waste streams that have arisen from human activity. The emission of greenhouse gases such as CO2 and CH4 is one such example, but also the uncontrolled littering of plastic waste has entered the human food chain, and other pollutants have harmed human, animal and plant life on land and in the oceans.

Whilst the solutions are relatively simple to theorise, the translation into action has proved controversial. An immediate cessation of emissions causes economic harm to all sections of the community. The pathway to a sustainable world has been much negotiated internationally as the developed world seeks to maintain its lifestyle and the more populous less developed world aspires to a higher standard of living. Vested interests and infrastructure can be adapted over time, particularly as new technology is applied to supply energy cheaply and widely without the use of fossil fuels. This is explored in the Energy section. Many leading industrial countries have committed to achieving net zero emissions by 2050 or thereabouts. The UK Government has made this commitment a legal obligation, and the outline plans on achieving this Net zero goal are coordinated by the Committee on Climate Change.

The rational economic basis for international action was largely established in the Stern Report published in 2007 on behalf of the British Government. In summary it showed that action now to head off global warming might cost 1-2% of annual GDP but excessive delay could see the cost of mitigation, adaptation and damage rise to 20% of annual GDP.