Countering climate change

Countering climate change

Countering climate change
A burnt tree following a wildfire near Burgos, Spain, July 25, 2022. (AFP)
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As temperatures surge upward shattering records and lives with an alarming consistency, it is jaw-dropping to just take stock of the phalanxes of climate-change deniers.

Most species on this planet may reach the level of extinction before some of these diehard, cultist, fact-denying, science skeptics smell the coffee.

Being a skeptic is one thing and perfectly acceptable. Challenging the research and insisting on evidence is responsible. It is legitimate to question how serious the crisis is, how fast the world has to act, how much time is left to deal with it, and what steps should be taken first.

Many were latecomers to the gravity of the challenge life on Earth faces, not least in the Middle East. Yet even in the hydrocarbon rich states, that may be considered to have so much to lose on this front, tackling the environment and man-made climate change has become a top priority.

It is also understandable why many simply do not wish to face the reality. It is tough. It is hard to get one’s head around the challenge in front of us all. The attractions of wanting to believe the climate-change deniers are clear.

What is not acceptable, and is frankly extremely dangerous, is the head in the boiling sand approach of the climate change denial movement. This is a debate-free zone. It is akin to a religious belief that the climate has not altered one jot and those who say it has, are either grand conspirators or their victims. As too often nowadays, science and expertise are derided and dismissed.

Worse still, are those who knowingly trumpet pseudoscience and dangerous conspiracies. Alarmingly many of those who parroted dangerous coronavirus pandemic conspiracy theories are also in the climate change conspiracy camp.

Sadly, the most serious challenge is in the US, where largely far right groups try to undermine the science. One survey, in 2008, showed that in America, 92 percent of climate-skeptical materials were linked to conservative think tanks. While Democrats have tended to become more concerned about climate change, the Republican party is still dominated by climate-change skeptics.

Members of the credible scientific community are clear. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change determined that, “since systematic scientific assessments began in the 1970s, the influence of human activity on the warming of the climate system has evolved from theory to established fact.”

The science shows that climate change is not just happening but getting worse.

Which begs the question what such delusional headbangers think is happening? Do they have to wait until all the ice sheets, and glaciers have disappeared? Given that, according to NASA, Greenland lost an average of 279 billion tons of ice per year between 1993 and 2019, they may not have to wait long. Such attitudes represent a serious threat to our existence and have to be faced down.

Climate change kills. It destroys homes and livelihoods. It will get worse and will only be halted with systematic and determined global action.

When record temperatures are broken once again in Europe, they just say this is fake or quite natural. They think the same when learning nearly half the continent is facing drought this summer. The huge numbers of wildfires across Europe and elsewhere are just part of the natural cycle, though clearly, they are not given their increased frequency and intensity.

Wildfires are getting more ferocious every year not least due to drier winters and longer, hotter summers. They have even broken out in Scandinavia and recently, in southern England, where temperatures tipped over 40 degrees Celsius for the first time in recorded history. Rail lines are buckling in the heat. Wildfires destroyed 41 homes around London.

Paris recorded temperatures of more than 40 degrees Celsius for only the third time since recordings began in 1873. In Greece, officials said that since the fire season commenced on May 1, they had tackled more than 2,500 fires. According to the World Health Organization, this year alone, “we have already witnessed more than 1,700 needless deaths in the present heatwave in Spain and Portugal alone.”

Major cities suffering from heat stress will have to adapt. Early warning systems are needed. Urban construction will have to change. Rather than treat heatwaves as emergencies many countries will have to plan for them as standard, not rare, events.

This is the future. In the hotter countries of the Middle East, extreme heat may render areas uninhabitable. Look at the dust storms in Iraq. In countries such as Britain, the population will have to adapt their housing and lifestyles to cope with temperatures the country is not used to. At the same time severe flooding in Europe is also an immense risk.

How serious is this climate-change denial movement? It is hard to charge. A recent opinion poll in Britain showed that 70 percent of people believed climate change was the cause of the recent heatwave, but 17 percent claimed it was unrelated. Even if some of that 17 percent were skeptics, not denialists, it is worryingly high.

A major public education program is required. Climate change should be taught at schools or at least incorporated significantly into the curriculum.

The media too can play its role. Gone should be the days of false balance between eminent scientists and heavily paid climate denying lobbyists. Broadcasters and editors should abstain from marketing images of fun and children splashing in the water in the sun during a heatwave as if this was all normal and lovely.

What is not acceptable, and is frankly extremely dangerous, is the head in the boiling sand approach of the climate change denial movement.

Chris Doyle

All of this leads up to the next COP climate conference in the Egyptian resort city of Sharm El-Sheikh, in November. Many excuses for inaction may be made citing the global financial crisis and the Russian invasion of Ukraine. It should not be a choice. Investment into countering climate change is too vital to be subject to the fate of the financial markets. The funding must be ringfenced. The impact of climate change cannot be left to the side to wait for another day.

Speaking at the recent Petersberg Climate Dialogue in Berlin, the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said: “We have a choice. Collective action or collective suicide. It is in our hands.”

  • Chris Doyle is director of the Council for Arab-British Understanding, in London. Twitter: @Doylech
Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News' point of view