So we had the Paris climate accord and everything is going to be all right? Unlikely. Nothing is binding and business goes on as usual, with exceptionally low oil prices.
Scientific voices are increasingly strident about the dangers. Have we actually already reached a tipping point? We do not know. In one recent piece of research, former top NASA scientist James Hansen and 18 co-authors suggest that current climate models grossly underestimate the effects of climate change on ocean currents. It seems that ice sheets may melt much faster than current models have anticipated – leading to much faster rise in sea levels than currently predicted. And storms could become much more severe that we have experienced so far, resulting in unimaginable tsunamis.
In the recent ‘Network Review’ of the Scientific & Medical Network, David Lorimer reviews the book ‘Paris and the Survival of Civilisation’ by David Ray Griffin, retired American professor of philosophy of religion and theology. Griffin, a meticulous scholar, analyses the current situation. Lorimer’s review gives a good overview, which you can read if you join the network.
Here’s my 3 point summary:
- There is already clear evidence of disruption caused by climate change in the increasing incidence of extreme weather events and related political problems, such as Syria, which are leading to increasing refugees and terrorism. This can only accelerate with current emission trends.
- There has been a massive collective failure of media and politicians across the world to respond to the challenge, encouraged by fossil fuel interests funding climate denial and a mindset dominated by the need for short term economic growth in a system that is clearly failing us.
- 80% of known fossil fuel reserves would need to stay in the ground to avoid catastrophe, yet governments continue to subsidise fossil fuels when in fact the rapid transition to ‘mostly renewables’ is the only real viable option.
In the above, I’ve just picked out a couple of examples of the voices calling for sanity. There are many.
What is really needed is a clear vision of a sustainable future with renewable energies, such as that being pioneered by Elon Musk and Tesla, and a worldwide programme to manage the transition. And then a sense of urgency, that was not evident in the conclusions from Paris.
Minimal first steps would be removal of all carbon subsidies and their transfer to renewables, and immediate carbon taxes to establish the funds needed to fight the consequences. Then at least we’d know our leaders were taking it seriously.
The economic/banking system also needs some sort of overhaul, so that it will support the transition and not be a continuous obstacle.
Will it happen? Not today. A sea change in the cultural and economic climate is needed. Every mind changed will help. Every piece of research, personal interaction, tweet, post and book will help. Every vote for right thinking politicians will help, in the democracies. Every choice to reduce personal carbon emissions will help.
We have to believe that collectively we can act in time.
The danger is that we get bogged down in fighting the symptoms, such as flooding, wildfires, water shortages, refugees and terrorism – and forget about the real problem that will eventually overwhelm many or all of us, or our children and grandchildren.
Picture of ‘My village’ By Almunimsajib2014,