In a stark warning to the world, the British leader of the United Nation’s next climate talks in November, said failure to act now on climate change will result in “catastrophic” consequences to the world.
“This is going to be the starkest warning yet that human behavior is alarmingly accelerating global warming and this is why COP26 has to be the moment we get this right. We can’t afford to wait two years, five years, 10 years — this is the moment,” said Alok Sharma, the British minister in charge of the 26th UN Climate Change Conference (COP26).
Sharma added: “You’re seeing on a daily basis what is happening across the world. Last year was the hottest on record, the last decade the hottest decade on record.”
It shouldn’t be difficult to understand where Sharma’s assessment is coming from. Just consider these latest developments in the world’s environment:
• A total of 91 wildfires are raging across the United States, razing more than 1.8 million acres as of end of July. The Dixie fire alone in northern California has leveled the entire town of Greenville to the ground and has so far razed more than 1,000 homes and threatening thousands more. Another California fire, the Bootleg Fire, has burned more than 400,000 acres. Idaho has 23 raging large wildfires.
• Wildfires caused by extreme heat and dry vegetation have also burned tens of thousands of acres of land in Oregon and British Columbia in Canada, two areas that are not accustomed to drought, extreme heat and wildfires. Oregon has 11 raging wildfires that have razed more than 550,000 acres so far.
• Wildfires are also wreaking havoc in Greece and other Mediterranean cities, forcing the evacuation of thousands of residents. Wildfires also razed 1,700 square kilometers of land in Colombia, an area the size of its capital Bogota.
• Record-setting heat were experienced by people in almost the entire southern Europe, from Turkey to Spain, also setting off wildfires that destroyed homes and forcing the evacuation of thousands.
• Massive flooding devastated much of Western Europe, particularly Germany, Belgium and the Luxembourg countries. Huge floods also destroyed homes, vehicles and buildings in Japan and China. Massive floods also hit desert areas in Saudi Arabia and Oman. These areas have not been hit by such massive flooding in more than a century.
• Climate change is set to devastate Kenya’s tea production as the world’s largest exporter faces rising temperatures, erratic rainfall and insect infestations, according to a scientific analysis.
• Extreme heat and drought are threatening residents and farms of several states, particularly the western part of the United States.
• And to top it all, snow fell on the Northern Cape part of South Africa for the first time in more than 50 years.
It’s not just wildfires, massive floods, extreme heat and drought that should make us seriously concerned about the effects of climate change.
A recent study by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has revealed that Earth is trapping double the amount of heat now as it did in 2005, researchers say, leading to further increase in global temperature, more snow and sea ice melting, and higher sea level.
The study found that what’s known as the Earth’s energy imbalance — the difference between how much of the sun’s energy the planet absorbs and how much energy is radiated back into space — approximately doubled from 2005 to 2019. The cause of this energy imbalance is due in part to human-induced greenhouse gas emissions, the researchers reported.
The impact of the unprecedented rise in sea levels caused by the melting glaciers and sea ice is getting close to home, as Manila is one of seven Asian cities in danger of sinking and heightened flood risks by 2030, according to a study conducted by the environmental group Greenpeace East Asia.
The other cities are Bangkok, Jakarta, Tokyo, Seoul, Taipei, and Hong Kong, all coastal cities. The study said the sea-level rise and intense tropical storms could bring more damaging wind speeds, higher storm surges, and increased extreme rainfall in the following years.
Another study by scientists from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany found that a large system of ocean currents in the Atlantic has been disrupted due to human-caused climate change. They said that if that system collapses, it would lead to dramatic changes in worldwide weather patterns, including the rapid freezing of much of North America, very similar to what happened to the US in the science fiction film, “The Day After Tomorrow.”
Scientists said if this circulation shuts down, it could bring extreme cold to Europe and parts of North America, raise sea levels along the U.S. East Coast and disrupt seasonal monsoons that provide water to much of the world.
It’s disheartening that many of our leaders, including former US President Donald Trump and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, have chosen to ignore these warnings. In his very first year in office, Trump pulled the country out of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, which aims to combat climate change and to accelerate and intensify the actions and investments needed for a sustainable low carbon future. In rejecting the agreement, Trump – echoed by Duterte — said it disadvantages the United States to the exclusive benefit of other countries, leaving American workers and taxpayers to absorb the cost in terms of lost jobs, lower wages, shuttered factories, and vastly diminished economic production.”
In 2019, he sat out the G7 Summit on climate change. In climate change circles, Trump’s term should be called “The Lost Four Years.”
Fortunately, his successor, President Joe Biden, listens to scientists. One of his very first actions as president was to re-join the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. He has also pledged to shift to alternate energy from the carbon-emitting coal and oil.
All these studies are not meant to scare us, but to wake us up into the reality that unless we do something about climate change, it will bring dire consequences to the people of this planet, to our children, and our children’s children. The COP26 climate talks, scheduled in November in Glasgow, Scotland, will bring together climate negotiators from 196 countries and the EU, along with businesses, experts and world leaders.
Let us hope the participants come up with something that would significantly slow down global warming and save us all from the catastrophic consequences that scientists have been warning us about for decades. Let us not wait for “the stroke before midnight” to confront climate change. The world has to heed the scientists’ warnings now.