UN Panel's Dramatic Warning on Global Warming

Dennis Loo | November 3, 2014

The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change on Sunday, November 1, 2014, issued its starkest warning to date. As the NYT described it today:

Failure to reduce emissions, the group of scientists and other experts found, could threaten society with food shortages, refugee crises, the flooding of major cities and entire island nations, mass extinction of plants and animals, and a climate so drastically altered it might become dangerous for people to work or play outside during the hottest times of the year.

Global warming is not something down the road. It's something happening now. Tens of thousands of people have died, as one indicator of this. Mass species extinctions are happening, for another. The ocean is acidifying and in danger of being unable to sustain life within a mere few decades, for a third. And we need not even go beyond the third to recognize the magnitude of this catastrophe happening as we speak and as we (still) live and breathe.

As the NYT article goes on to point out based on the UN report, what needs to be done now is drastic and the behavior of governments and oil companies are directly the opposite of this, adding up to a catastrophe of unparalleled proportions:

If governments are to meet their own stated goal of limiting the warming of the planet to no more than 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, or 2 degrees Celsius, above the preindustrial level, they must restrict emissions from additional fossil-fuel burning to about 1 trillion tons of carbon dioxide, the panel said...

Yet energy companies have booked coal and petroleum reserves equal to several times that amount, and they are spending some $600 billion a year to find more. Utilities and oil companies continue to build coal-fired power plants and refineries, and governments are spending another $600 billion or so directly subsidizing the consumption of fossil fuels.

By contrast, the report found, less than $400 billion a year is being spent around the world to reduce emissions or otherwise cope with climate change. That is a small fraction of the revenue spent on fossil fuels — it is less, for example, than the revenue of a single American oil company, ExxonMobil.

In the face of this worldwide emergency, we have the US government, beginning with Barack Obama, proclaiming the need for energy independence, "all of the above" oil extraction strategies, and touting the virtues of "clean" energy in natural gas obtained through - and Obama won't use the actual term because he knows how terrible it sounds - fracking, which in fact is exceedingly dirty and dangerous. The political candidates of both major parties, current office holders, economists, and media pundits all speak of "economic growth" and "jobs," rather the way a PR spokesman, if there were such a thing, for a cancer might speak about the need for the cancer to grow. In other words, if we compare the world to a patient being seen by a group of doctors, what we have instead of professionals seeing to the health and well-being of the patient, is a group of witch doctors who are concentrating on the health and growth prospects for a virulent cancer, trying to figure out how to make that cancer grow, rather than recognizing that the growth is a cancer that is killing the patient.

Dennis Loo sits on the World Can't Wait Steering Committee. This article was first posted at his website, DennisLoo.com, today, November 3, 2014.