Warning of ‘untold suffering’ from climate change

I have thought that doom and gloom preached by climate activists has been a bit extreme and more likely to turn off popular support for much more drastic action than anything.

But many scientists are also making grave warnings.

I don’t think we can carry on as if there is no problem with little more than hot air from politicians. We have to make significant changes to how we live, as individuals, as a country, and as a planet. The worst that can happen is we will be better off – and more importantly, future generations will be better off, and our planet will be better off. And we could prevent much worse from happening.

Stuff: ‘Untold suffering’: Global scientists warn of climate emergency

More than 11,000 scientists from around the world have declared a “climate emergency”, warning of “untold suffering” and calling for action ranging from curbing human population to leaving fossil fuels in the ground.

The unusual international collaboration, published in BioScience journal, was backed by more than 350 Australian scientists, including 10 current or ex-CSIRO researchers. Signatories hailed from 153 countries.

Despite warnings being issued for decades that rising greenhouse gases would disrupt the climate – and a slew of summits and treaties – such emissions have continued to rise with “increasingly damaging effects”.

“An immense increase of scale in endeavours to conserve our biosphere is needed to avoid untold suffering due to the climate crisis,” the article said.

Some of us in temperate New Zealand could shrug and smugly say that a few warmer days would be good. But it’s much more complex than that.  A few more storms and floods and maybe droughts could have a big impact here. As could population pressure from elsewhere in the world if overcrowding, pressure on food and water resources and  less a liveable climate push people to higher and lower latitudes.

We are not just facing possible climate change issues. Alongside that an expanding population will make adverse effects harder to deal with.

The researchers – members of the Alliance of World Scientists – identified six critical steps governments, business “and the rest of humanity” can take, including leaving remaining stocks of fossil fuels untapped and “carefully pursuing effective negative emissions”, such as “enhancing natural systems”.

The signatories also highlighted population, a target often omitted in climate debates. The report noted the number of humans was swelling at the rate of 200,000 people per day, or more than 80 million a year.

Populations “must be stabilised – and ideally, gradually reduced”, it said. Strengthening human rights, including making education “a global norm for all, especially girls”, were ways to stem population growth.

Those of us who already have families, and perhaps grandchildren, may not see much in this. But there are signs that a growing number of young people are not only concerned about their own future, they are also seriously concerned about the future of the planet, to the extent that they are thinking of having only one child or no children.

If this happens to any degree it will also eventually have a big impact on an aging population. Our age demographic is already getting top heavy through better health extending lives, and smaller and more delayed families.

“If you have a rising human population, there’s the need for more food and the need for more energy,” said Thomas Newsome, one of the paper’s authors and a lecturer at the University of Sydney, Australia.

I’m amazed that much more isn’t being done to conserve energy and reduce energy needs.

Newsome said the impacts of climate change already underway were broad-ranging, prompting concern if not alarm from researchers ranging from human health to ecology and the social sciences.

Charlie Veron, a marine biologist accredited with naming about one-fifth of the world’s coral species and among the signatories, said climate change “was a lot, lot more serious than the general public realises”.

Young people in particular “should make as much noise as they can”, Veron said, referring to the recent school strikes for climate action. “They are facing a world that will be absolutely horrible place.”

The loss of half the Great Barrier Reef’s corals in two consecutive summers of mass bleaching had failed to prompt action. “It’s still not taken seriously,” he said. “What’s it take to wake the country up?”

Climate impact on our neighbour Australia will have a significant impact on us here.

Linden Ashcroft, a lecturer in climate science and science communication at The University of Melbourne in Australia, said the report “adds to the roar from all fields of science needs to be taken now”.

Other steps people should take include eating mostly plant-based foods to reduce methane and other emissions, saving remaining primary forests to protect biodiversity, and shifting to a carbon-free economy based on renewable energy, the report said.

We should all be doing more than considering changing our diets and our style of living. We can and should be making positive changes – this will likely benefit our own health anyway, and may help the health of others and our planet.

There will always be some who grumble and claim that there is nothing wrong and/or nothing we can or should do differently.

But the weight of science (as imperfect as climate science is it is leaning strongly towards drastic effects and drastic actions) and the growing strength of public realisation and acceptance of personal and collective responsibility.

The worst that can happen if we do something about it is we will likely be better off, healthier.

The worst that can happen if we pretend we are not adversely affecting our planet is difficult to predict, but it could easily be very bad, perhaps not for us, but for future generations.

We can do much more about it, and should. On an individual level it doesn’t need to be drastic change, but we should be moving in better direction.


See also…

The Independent – ‘Untold human suffering’: 11,000 scientists from across world unite to declare global climate emergency

Washington Post – Trump makes it official: U.S. will withdraw from the Paris climate accord

The Trump administration notified the international community Monday that it plans to officially withdraw from the Paris climate accord next fall, a move that will leave the world’s second-largest emitter of greenhouse gases as the only nation to abandon the global effort to combat climate change.

President Trump has long criticized the 2015 accord and insisted that the United States would exit it as soon as possible. As recently as last month, Trump called the agreement “a total disaster” and argued that the Obama administration’s pledges to cut carbon emissions under the deal would have “hurt the competitiveness” of the United States.

In a statement Monday afternoon, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the administration had sent official notification of its plans to the United Nations.

“In international climate discussions, we will continue to offer a realistic and pragmatic model — backed by a record of real world results — showing innovation and open markets lead to greater prosperity, fewer emissions, and more secure sources of energy,” Pompeo said. “We will continue to work with our global partners to enhance resilience to the impacts of climate change and prepare for and respond to natural disasters.”

Time: Trump’s Paris Agreement Move Is Unpopular. Here’s How He’s Trying to Spin It.

By leaving the landmark climate deal, Trump would fulfill a campaign promise, pleasing some of his supporters in the fossil fuel industry while angering mostly those unlikely to support him anyway.

But since then the politics have changed: climate change is now one of the most-discussed issues in the 2020 presidential race and the vast majority of Americans say they support measures to reduce emissions, including the Paris Agreement.

While Trump’s policy agenda on climate hasn’t changed to meet the political moment, there are signs suggesting that his messaging has. He’s largely stopped making the brazenly inaccurate claim that climate change is a “hoax,” instead making a more nuanced but also spurious claim that climate policy would mean wrecking the economy.

In a statement Monday announcing the U.S. withdrawal, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the U.S. “has reduced all types of emissions” and claimed the Paris Agreement imposed an “unfair economic burden” on the U.S. This is the other side of Trump’s new climate messaging plan: he and his Administration argue that Democratic policies aligned with scientific consensus will destroy the economy.

In a telling interview on the podcast Climate 2020, John McLaughlin, one of Trump’s top pollsters, acknowledged that the “vast majority of Americans” know that climate change is happening, but said that they remain skeptical of the costs, hinting at how the Trump campaign might try to explain its inaction on the issue. Specifically talking about leaving the popular Paris deal, McLaughlin suggested that Trump needed to hammer home his talking points about jobs. “Voters are highly cynical,” he said. “They don’t want to lose their jobs over this and they don’t want to pay a lot of money.”

Not doing enough could destroy the US economy, but that’s probably a longer term risk – beyond the current presidential term.