We’ve discussed the issue of climate change on many occasions on WHYS and as each month goes by more experts, more reports come out saying that we are approaching a “tipping point” beyond which we will struggle to reverse the effects on the planet. That’s exactly the message coming from scientists at a climate congress in Copenhagen this week.
Yet as the evidence continues to mount – why as individuals and countries are we failing to take significant action?
We’re not just talking about full blown deniers that climate change is happening. But there are many people, some indeed in our office, who admit they do a bit of recycling and think that’s enough. Yet still drive gas guzzling cars, over taking public transport and jet off on holidays.
And of course there are others who believe it is someone else’s problem and someone else’s responsibility. Or even with a desire to change their lives the struggle of day to day life means tackling climate change is at the back of their minds. Just putting food on the table or trying to find a job has to take priority.
Recent facts that have come out:
* Sea levels are rising twice as fast as we thought
* Over the next 100 years the world can expect to see a 4 or 5 degrees C rise in temperature, turning most of southern Europe to desert
* 85 per cent of the Amazon rainforest at risk of destruction due to estimated increase in temperatures
* The world’s best efforts at combating climate change are likely to offer no more than a 50-50 chance of keeping temperature rises below the threshold of disaster, according to research from the UK Met Office.
* Opinion polls show that about 58% of Americans believe human activity is causing climate change. However, many do not see a need for urgent action. A poll by the Pew Research Centre this year showed that climate change ranked last among topics of public concern to Americans.
Perhaps most disturbing of all, 60% of people believe that “many scientific experts still question if humans are contributing to climate change”. Thirty per cent of people believe climate change is “largely down to natural causes”, while 7% refuse to accept the climate is changing at all.
How is it possible that so many people are still unpersuaded by 40 years of research and the consensus of every major scientific institution in the world? Surely we are now long past the point at which the evidence became overwhelming?
This message from this week’s climate congress in Copenhagen is pretty grim.
George Monbiot, an environmental commentator in the UK thinks that we need to use stronger language like “climate breakdown”:
Using “climate change” to describe events like this, with their devastating implications for global food security, water supplies and human settlements, is like describing a foreign invasion as an unexpected visit, or bombs as unwanted deliveries. It’s a ridiculously neutral term for the biggest potential catastrophe humankind has ever encountered.I think we should call it “climate breakdown”. Does anyone out there have a better idea?
We’ll be speaking to, amongst others, George Marshall the founder of the Climate Outreach Information Network