Climate warming stripes by Ed Hawkins

How much does a developed country need to consume to secure a high quality of life?

27 October, 2022

John Barrett

Reading time: 3 minutes

John Barrett talks about the contribution that he, Jillian Anable, Christian Brand and Alice Garvey made to Greta Thunberg’s new book – The Climate Book, published today.

“The Climate Book” created by Greta Thunberg is released on October 27th. I’m proud to be one of four researchers from the Centre for Research into Energy Demand Solutions (CREDS) to contribute to the book.

Greta Thunberg invited around 100 experts to share evidence on the scale of the climate crisis and the solutions that humanity has to find to address it. It is an excellent resource for everyone to get an evidence-based overview on the climate crisis. Greta Thunberg has always implored leaders to listen to the science and this is her attempt to capture those thoughts in an accessible and digestible form.

My contribution, working with Alice Garvey, my colleague at the University of Leeds, explores the distribution of Greenhouse Gas Emissions from industry across the world and shows how ever expanding global supply chains have allowed developed countries to outsource manufacturing to transition economies while continuing to consume at an ever increasing rate. We argue that alongside improvements in the efficiency of technology, the rapid roll out of new technologies and switching to low carbon fuels, fundamental questions need to be asked about how much a developed country needs to consume to secure a high quality of life for its residents when the world is facing an existential crisis.

With so many incredible contributions, I have not had time to read them all yet, but definitely intend to. However, there are some important messages that run through the book:

  • The first lesson has to be to listen to the science and as Greta says in the book, “The science is as solid as it gets”.
  • The second lesson is that we know most of the solutions and these can be implemented at a rapid speed in line with the reductions required to avoid some of the worse consequences of climate change.

This leads to question why the necessary change has not happened, another topic considered within the book. It’s not because the science is shaky or that we don’t know the solutions. It’s because vested interests are at play that question the science, downplay the opportunity for change, imply that it will damage the economy and that the general public don’t want it. None of these assertions are true. These vested interests have benefited hugely from the current unsustainable system that is catastrophic for the vast majority of humans. The role of scientists can no longer be to simply do “good science”. There is also a requirement to ensure that this evidence is heard and to challenge individuals and institutions that see no benefit in addressing the climate crisis. It means not stopping at the publication of an academic paper that has limited readership. It means engaging with governments, media and civil society, highlighting mis-information and presenting the evidence.


The four authors that contributed to The Climate Book from CREDS were Jillian Anable, John Barrett, Christian Brand and Alice Garvey.

Banner photo credit: Ed Hawkins, University of Reading