The tipping point for irreversible damage to the planet for human beings is likely to be reached if not this year, then within three years, as widely reported this week.

When the scientists are asked why, they answer as they have for decades now, that it is because we humans keep burning fossil fuels, which creates the emissions that are altering the climate and killing us as well as other species. 

Despite promises from governments, we have not stopped burning oil, gas and coal, and the fossil fuel companies and their investors keep raking in massive profits and receiving licences for new exploitation and pipelines. We are way past individual recycling or even reductions by 2030 or 2050 being enough. We would have to stop immediately and start reversing.

Ham & High: Dorothea Hackman says that we have to stop burning oil, gas and coal immediately Dorothea Hackman says that we have to stop burning oil, gas and coal immediately (Image: Dorothea Hackman)

But what does going past the 1.5 degree tipping point mean? Terrifyingly, the ice shelves in Greenland and the Antarctic could melt, which would raise sea levels with catastrophic consequences for island states and coastal cities. We have in addition this year the commencement of the heating effect from El Niño, with the impact of fire and floods around the world.

Fire and floods will not just kill and displace people, they mean that crops and food production generally will fail, so that famine, already a consequence in equatorial Africa, will follow for millions. And on the heels of famine follows war. We cannot deny our fellow humans help in their greatest hour of need. So much of the harm stems from our own expansion on a finite planet. 

Here in Britain, we have experienced austerity measures for more than a decade, pushing people into destitution: over three million children growing up in poverty. Shame on our government allowing the economy to be plundered for the benefit of a tiny minority.

And on top of a cost-of-living crisis there are crippling energy costs on ordinary families benefitting shareholders.

But the consequences of failing food production will mean a greater disaster, as even the people in this country have less hope of being able afford to buy food for themselves and their children. Government long ago pushed responsibility onto charities (Cameron’s “big society”) but they will have to step up now and invest in infrastructure for equitable distribution of the food that will be available from the next few years.

The Trussell Trust is an umbrella body for hundreds of foodbanks nationally. They gather data and publish annual statistics (see an analysis at:, which shows that since last year demand at Euston Foodbank has nearly doubled and the percentage increase for children in is 91%.

Relying on the kindness of strangers is not going to be enough to feed us all. And we urgently need governments to stop all new fossil fuel exploitation.

  • Dorothea Hackman is head of Camden Civic Society and chair of trustees at Euston Foodbank.