Time to declare a global state of emergency?

At the heart of the natural sciences is the uncertainty principle, which defines the limitations of knowledge about physical phenomena. The principle states that the position and the velocity of an object (a particle) cannot both be measured at the same time, even in theory…

Determining probabilities, risks and likelihoods is the generally accepted means of overcoming the difficulties of precision, which is exactly what the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) does in reporting on measurements of global warming and indicating scenarios for the future. Thus, recent studies of the disappearing ice sheet in the Arctic use time series observations of the extent of the ice cover, the thickness of the ice in different seasons and so on, in order to determine scenarios for the future, thereby predicting within a range of possibilities when there will be no ice left. But although the exact consequences of this dramatic change are unknown, there is consensus that significant disruption in terms of weather patterns, further warming and rising sea levels are likely outcomes. There’ll probably be no polar bears either…

Economists and political scientists are also studying the problem of climate change. In addition to calculating the costs of action and inaction, there is much debate about appropriate measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the possibilities of enhanced ”resilience”, i.e. people’s abilities to cope with the changes in temperature, altered rainfall patterns, storms, floods, etc. But social scientists have also been examining the apparently ubiquitous problem associated with climate change: denial, i.e. refusal to accept that it is happening at all. Variations on this theme also include shifting the blame for pollution of the atmosphere to anything ranging from sunspots, god’s will or the Chinese…

Information about the effects of higher concentrations of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere has been available for a long time. There is nothing new under the sun! In the 1987 ”Brundtland” report to the United Nations on the prospects for sustainable development – Our Common Future – it was noted that catastrophic climate change must be considered a ”plausible and serious probability.” The World Commission chaired by the Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland, then asked the key question: ”how much certainty should governments require before agreeing any action?”

Fast-forward another 20 odd years to an issue of the American magazine National Geographic published in 2008 in which visible signs of global warming, the scientific evidence and a range of solutions were outlined. Noting that the environment “needs all the help it can get”, the editors of this special report lamented the slow movers in powerful positions in Washington, while enthusing about progress on clean energy, etc. at city and state levels. The target is “weaning ourselves from coal, gas and oil…” they concluded.

Finally, after numerous stops and starts in international negotiations through the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), a comprehensive global agreement was signed in Paris in 2015. Unlike the 1997 Kyoto Protocol to the Convention, there are no legally binding greenhouse gas emissions targets in the agreement, but almost all governments signed up for making “nationally determined contributions” that it is hoped will solve the problem (cutting emissions). For once it appeared that the urgency of the matter had penetrated through the fog of opposition that has been generated by those who pretend that no scientific consensus has been reached.

At least until the arrival of Mr. Trumpet and his squad of “business leaders” who have taken over the White House following the disastrous American election in November 2016. The United States looks increasingly like a banana republic, led by bigots and charlatans. Not content to preach the sermon of extreme avarice to the citizens of the richest nation on the planet and one of the most destructive in terms of carbon, the stupidity of the latest President stretches to undermining the 30 or so years of painstaking progress to reach agreement on how to tackle the problem of climate change. In other words, under the influence of get-rich-quick wheelers and dealers representing a tiny elite of super-consumers, Mr. Trumped Up has turned to the favourite retreat of those opposed to climate change: denial.

Given the information emerging from scientific investigations and the observations of the multiple impacts of global warming, it doesn’t take much intelligence to realise that drastic actions are required. But it seems that politicians must be forced into much harsher discomfort zones before any measures will be taken. Some argue that a global state of emergency needs to be declared. Sadly, such a call for renewed efforts to cut emissions and prepare adaptation measures is likely to be ignored by the greedy and stupid so-called leaders who have taken over the asylum.

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