Raising the alarm on climate change
On August 9, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change — a panel of leading global scientists — published an interim report that summarises how well the human family are doing in addressing the climate crisis.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres made comments at the press conference and raised the alarm:
“Today’s interim report…is a red alert for our planet. It shows governments are nowhere close to the level of ambition needed to limit climate change rise to 1.5 degrees [by the end of the century] and meet the goals of the Paris Agreement”.
It is clear that the Secretary-General, given the existential threat that we face as a species, is setting aside niceties, looking to get everyone’s attention. Mr Guterres is suggesting that global leaders appear to be acting like the Roman Emperor Nero — two thousand years ago — “fiddling while Rome is burning”.
Of course, that’s no joke as we all have witnessed in recent weeks devastation related to climate crisis across the globe:
• The United States is experiencing another summer of extreme heat, which has fuelled historic forest fires; especially ravaging extremely large swaths of area along the Pacific coast. Of course, these conditions know no national boundaries so that Canada is also affectted with unprecedented temperatures above 120F
• According to a recently published assessment by The New York Times, the extreme heatwave has caused more than 600 deaths in North America
• Greece and Turkey, neighbouring countries that have been bickering for generations, are joined together in “unholy matrimony” experiencing extensive forest fires across their respective countries. Ironically, Turkey is also challenged with devastating floods in its northern provinces
• Germany suffered more than 300 deaths as a result of flash flooding. Torrential rain also caused flooding in New Zealand, Nigeria, Iran, among a list of countries
• On July 12, London recorded the equivalent of a month of rain on that day, causing unprecedented flooding, including to its Underground system. Cities in various parts of China had similar but more extensive experiences, with 100,000 people temporarily trapped in a subway system owing to torrents of rainfall, resulting in more than 30 deaths
• As the climate scientists had predicted, the “man-made” climate crisis is playing havoc with the planet’s normal weather patterns. So while many areas are experiencing devastating flooding, others are faced with drought.
• The middle and western parts of the US — half of its landmass — have been in a protracted drought for the past two years, leaving states such as California “high and dry”. The resultant and historically low level of water supplies is having a direct adverse impact on farms and food production
The interim report points out that while some countries have been making the shift required to save our future, the collective effort is far too limited.
The Secretary-General has noted that, in light of the findings of the interim report, 2021 has become a make-or-break year. This tipping point comes at time when representatives from all countries across the globe will gather in Glasgow in the autumn for the UN Climate Change Conference — COP26. This offers an eleventh-hour opportunity to address the existential threat of the climate catastrophe in a reasonable way.
Given this reality, all of us resident in Bermuda should consider how we can play our part — in our organisations, neighbourhoods, families and personally.
The UN is providing some guidance:
“Decision-makers must walk the talk,” Mr Guterres urged. “Long-term commitments must be matched by immediate actions to launch the decade of transformation that people and planet so desperately need.”
We all are “decision-makers” in some way, as even school students across the globe have been demonstrating on Fridays. Each of us has some part to play. Our thoughts and prayers could promote sane outcomes from the deliberations in Glasgow.
• Glenn Fubler represents Imagine Bermuda
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