VAL G ABELGAS: Climate change: Will the world ever listen?

Just as the appeals to control the sale and regulate the use of guns are basically being ignored despite the wave of mass shootings that have killed scores of Americans in the past few years, the warnings on the consequences of climate change continue to fall on deaf ears.

Year after year, the effects of global warming have resulted in excessive heat, massive floods, destructive wildfires, drying lakes and rivers, expansive drought, and other extreme weather conditions. And each time, scientists warn of the dire consequences of climate change, and still, governments and industries continue to drag their feet to slow down global warming.

 Just last week, a massive heat dome engulfed much of the United States, placing more than 25 million people in over a dozen states under extreme heat alert, with temperatures in the upper 90s and the heat index levels well into the triple digits.

The heat warning came on the heels of another record-breaking heat wave the week before, with temperatures reaching triple digits by the end of the week. In both instances, hundreds of thousands of Americans were without power due to excessive use of air-conditioning that tested power generators to the limit.

In Western Europe this week, million of Europeans sweated under sweltering early summer heat as wildfires burned acres of forests in Spain and other areas, drought stalked Italian farmers, and temperatures went past 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

Meanwhile in Chile, the Penuelas Lake, which is the major source of water supply for Chileans, has dried up and turned into a virtual desert, with bones of fish and other sea creatures scattered on what used to be the lake’s bed. To give you a clear idea of how global warming has squeezed the huge reservoir dry, the lake used to hold water equivalent to 38,000 Olympic size swimming pools 20 years ago, but now holds water equivalent to just two swimming pools.

Higher air temperatures have resulted in snow in the Andes, once a key store of melted water for spring and summer, not compacting, melting faster, or turning straight to vapor instead of sending water to the country’s rivers and lakes.

The same is happening to the Colorado River, which runs from Rocky Mountain in Colorado to Utah, Arizona, Nevada and California, and supplies much of the water requirements of these states plus two others others – New Mexico and Wyoming.

The Colorado River also dumps water into Lake Mead in Nevada and Lake Powell in Utah and Arizona, which are two of the largest water reservoirs in the United States that are responsible for the supply of drinking and irrigation water, and for generating electricity in some western states, including California.

As a result of the rapid drop in the river’s water level – and consequently of that of Lake Mead and Lake Powell – federal officials have warned that supply cuts would have to be imposed on the seven states to conserve Colorado River’s water.

Scientist say that the drought has been ongoing since 2000 and that the last 20 years has been described as the driest two decades in the last 1,200 years!

If you live in California and the six other states dependent on Colorado River, you would have experienced the drought’s effect in terms of restrictions in outdoor watering, higher water and power bills and intermittent power outages. For farmers, it means less water for irrigation and, therefore, less harvest and less income.

In Southern California where I live, state and county officials are demanding that businesses and residents cut outdoor watering to one day a week. In the next few months, we will again see brown yards across the region or in households that can afford them, yards covered by synthetic grass.

Worse, if the drought persists, the Metropolitan Water Board may completely ban outdoor watering by September 1.

On the extreme opposite side of the climate crisis are the massive flooding and strong typhoons that have hit areas that have traditionally not experienced such weather disturbances.

Last year, 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.

Last April, at least 443 people died and 63 others were missing after the deadliest storm on record rained down on the city of Durban and the surrounding area of KwaZulu-Natal province in South Africa.

Just before that, 86 people died from mass flooding in Iran, Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, areas that were rarely visited by typhoons.

Everyone who cares agrees that climate change has reached alarming proportions. Last year, the British leader of the November 2021 climate talks (COP26) warned that “failure to act now” on climate change would lead to “catastrophic consequences to the world.”

Alok Sharma, the British minister in charge of the 26th UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) said then: “You’re seeing on a daily basis what is happening across the world. Last year (2020) was the hottest on record, the last decade the hottest decade on record.”

Again, in April this year as the world prepares for the 27th UN Climate Change Conference (COP27), UN secretary general Antonio Gutteres, in reaction to the latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), warned that unless governments everywhere reassess their energy policies, the world will be uninhabitable.

The IPCC has insisted that all countries must reduce their fossil fuel use substantially, extend access to electricity, improve energy efficiency and increase the use of alternative fuels, such as hydrogen.

Gutteres said unless action is taken soon, some major cities will be under water, and that  “unprecedented heat waves, terrifying storms, widespread water shortages and the extinction of a million species of plants and animals” would occur.

“This is not fiction or exaggeration. It is what science tells us will result from our current energy policies. We are on a pathway to global warming of more than double the 1.5-degree (Celsius, or 2.7-degrees Fahreinheit) limit that was agreed in Paris in 2015,” the UN chief added.

Many scientists have echoed Gutteres’ warning. Will the world ever listen?

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