Climate change recognition should prompt drastic action

Date: Monday 8th April 2019

PERVERSELY, despite disagreeing fundamentally with Jeremy Godwin (Herald, 30th March) with regard to climate change, I am grateful that at least his protestation that the climate crisis is unreal creates an opportunity to challenge his assumptions.

He is right to point out that global temperatures have fluctuated over the centuries and millennia. However, almost universally the scientific community is telling us that the evidence of alarming rapidity of rise in temperatures is incontrovertible.

Records kept since 1880 show that until the 1940s there was relative stability but then acceleration, particularly and hugely from around 1970 reflecting the rate of global industrialisation and in parallel the rate of deforestation.

It is clear that the rate of rise is associated with industrialisation and our rapacious exploitation of the natural environment to feed our addiction to perpetual growth — uncontrolled growth that, as Ali Ross pointed out (Herald, 30th March), may ultimately consume us all.

If we do not curtail global temperature increase, low lying land will succumb to sea level rise and desertification will result with consequent loss of agriculturally productive land and with dire implications for food security.

In turn mass population movements will be inevitable and water shortages will be likely to precipitate major conflicts.

We need to appreciate that these scenarios are not apocalyptic fantasies but recognised in the mainstream of world politics. For example, Christine Lagarde, head of the International Monetary Fund, has said: “Make no mistake, without concerted action, the very future of our planet is in peril.” Or to take another example, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, launching a bid for the UK to host the next International Climate Change Conference, said last week: “If we are going to ensure that future generations do not pay a price for our prosperity today, we must collectively change our economies and societies.”

Quoting sources such as these illustrates that the crisis is recognised. However, recognition has not yet led to the level of action that is required. Policy, for example, on fossil fuels remains contradictory, greenhouse gasses are not being curtailed and we continue to think we can have unfettered growth and still tackle the crisis.

If we care about the future of the planet we must lobby for policy that reflects the urgent need to curb the devastating impacts that we human beings are causing.