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The Disconnect That Is Driving Us Towards An Apocalypse
The chasm between science and politics is getting wider.
Over the past few months, the impact of climate change has become excruciatingly obvious. Yet scientists are warning us that this is just the beginning, and over the next few decades, we will witness a climate disaster like no other, impacting everything from our health, our economies, our food supplies, and potentially even our societies. Yet, the political world doesn’t seem to be heeding these warnings, and a gaping rift between these two great forces of humanity is growing. If this peculiar divide isn’t fixed, then our terrible is sealed. Let me explain.
The World Weather Attribution group (WWA) uses peer-reviewed methods and papers to figure out if extreme weather events are caused by climate change. A recent study of theirs looked into the current heatwaves around the world. Using weather data collected up to the 18 of July, and several advanced computer models, they compared how the weather of today is being influenced by climate change compared to how it would be influenced if we had the climate of the pre-industrial 1800s. This study found that the deadly heatwaves currently gripping the US and Europe were 950 to 4,400 times more likely to happen thanks to climate change. Meanwhile, they discovered that the recent heatwave in China was made 50 times more likely.
In other words, the horrific heat threatening lives and kickstarting wildfires across Europe and North America would have been “virtually impossible” without man-made global warming.
But, we have only experienced around 1.1 degrees Celsius of global warming so far. Scientists are predicting that within the next few years, we will surpass 1.5 degrees Celsius and will go on to experience a mind-blowing 3 degrees Celsius of warming with our current measures in place. This is why one of the co-authors of the WWA’s paper said, “it could well be that this is what will be a cool summer in the future unless we rapidly stop burning fossil fuels,” and went on to say, “This is not the new normal. As long as we keep burning fossil fuels, we will see more and more of these extremes.”
Scientists and analysts are desperately ringing the warning bell, trying to warn us of the catastrophic impact this baking future holds for us. The European Central Bank found that 75% of European loans are to businesses that heavily depend on a thriving environment, which is set to be decimated by the climate crisis, and as such, the European financial system is at risk of a massive climate-change-driven collapse. Scientists have found that global crop yields could fall by up to 21% with the current predicted levels of global warming, which is enough to threaten food security in even developed countries. Climate models are predicting that the climate in many countries will become too hot for human habitation, driving millions, possibly billions, to become climate refugees, causing a refugee crisis larger than WW2.
Thanks to the growing body of evidence for just how catastrophic climate change will be, scientific institutions have been pushing for faster climate action. For example, IRENA recently released a report that found that investment in renewable energy needs to quadruple in order to meet climate targets and that this money can easily be found by redirecting investments in the fossil fuel industry. Researchers from Chalmers University of Technology and Lund University found that for us to meet our 1.5 degrees Celsius targets, we need to start globally phasing out coal power over the next 15 years. Recent research has found we are getting perilously close to climate tipping points which would cause irreversible damage to the climate and global ecosystems, such as oceanic current collapse and permafrost thawing. There is a plethora of other peer-reviewed research papers and reports out there that point to the same thing, we aren’t doing enough.
Yet, this isn’t being reflected in the broader political spectrum. In fact, it seems like politics is our right to ignore these warnings.
Take comments by Michael Gove, the Housing Minister of my own country, the UK. In an interview, he recently said that we would not make climate action “a religious crusade” after his party narrowly won a local election by opposing charges for the most polluting vehicles. He went on to say, “One of the dangers — I don’t think Labour are alive to this at all — is that if people think that you are treating the cause of the environment as a religious crusade, in which you’re dividing the world into goodies and baddies, then you alienate the support that you need for thoughtful environmentalism.” Now, you can read this has him wanting a more measured approach that won’t leave voters in the lurch. However, Gove has a history of climate inaction and sending the UK’s climate ambitions backwards. For example, he approved the opening of the UK’s first coal mine in 30 years. So his version of “thoughtful environmentalism” doesn’t reflect that massive action needed to save the planet. In fact, his labelling such rapid action as “a religious crusade” undermines its credibility and urgency, despite the warnings and advice from the scientific community.
It isn’t just Gove, though; the UK’s government is rife with this sort of misrepresentation and manipulation and pig-headed ideology in the face of scientific fact. Take Lord Frost, a former Tory minister and Brexit negotiator (oh, didn’t he do a good job there…). He recently said, “Digging deeper, what are those consequences of the hotter, warmer summers and warmer, wetter winters? “At the moment, seven times as many people die from cold as from heat in Britain. Rising temperatures are likely to be beneficial.” Let me be blunt here; there is no scientific evidence at all to support this utterly moronic point of view. Firstly, climate change can make sudden and prolonged cold snaps even more severe, so he is horrifically wrong there. Secondly, his stance trivialises the truly catastrophic impact climate change can have on the UK and yet again undermines the warning given by scientists.
But it isn’t just the UK; there are political figures with significant support in many countries touting the same anti-climate-action bullshit. As most of my readers are Americans, let’s have a look there.
Presidential hopefully and Governor of Florida Ron DeSantis is a controversial figure, to say the least, but his approach to climate change is genuinely worrying. In a recent interview, when asked about climate change, he said, “I’ve always rejected the politicisation of the weather,” which shows he completely misunderstands the situation as the weather isn’t climate, it instead is influenced by climate, and also that modern society depends on stable habitable weather, which climate change will take away. He went on to say that he doesn’t think the government should intervene and let the private sector innovate its way to reduce emissions. This is akin to allowing the nuclear industry to dump its waste wherever they want and believing the influence of capitalism and the free market will ensure no damage is done. Top economists and scientists all agree that government intervention is needed to avoid the climate crisis. DeSantis’s approach would see the US blow way past its climate targets, give those responsible for it a get-out-of-jail card, and put millions, possibly billions, of lives at risk.
Another presidential hopeful and off-again-on-again friend of Trump’s Mike Pence has similarly misinformed opinions on climate change. He has stated that he believes the Earth is actually cooler than it was 50 years ago, which is provably incorrect. He has repeatedly stated that he thinks climate change is a myth and has blocked several acts, laws and plans to tackle carbon emissions in the US. He even called for more offshore oil drilling to take place immediately after the Deepwater Horizon disaster.
But this isn’t just a select few within the US government who outright don’t believe in climate change. Analysis from the Center for American Progress found that in 2021 there are still 139 elected officials in the 117th Congress, including 109 representatives and 30 senators, who refuse to acknowledge the scientific evidence of human-caused climate change. That is more than 25% of the members of Congress!
This systematic refusal to recognise the absolute mountain of scientific evidence, advice and warnings is getting stupid. These individuals are more interested in getting and keeping power than genuinely helping and educating the populace to help prepare for the catastrophe coming our way. As such, their scientific illiteracy, purposeful or not, is leading us astray and toward an apocalypse.
Oddly enough, this is not a new problem. The incredibly influential political thinker Confucius lived in a time of idiotic monarchs, ranging wars and gathering more power for themselves, despite the overwhelming resistance from their advisors, warning them that these actions would hurt their nation, and he had enough. He developed a political framework that held leaders accountable and ensured they abided by their advisor’s counsel; otherwise, they could be dethroned. His teachings and political theory were adapted after his death by the Han Dynasty, and using his work, they were able to usher in centuries of peace throughout China. It’s about time we learnt from Confucius. We need to hold these political leaders to account, and luckily, as we live in a democratic society, that is easier than it was in Confucius’s time.
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Sources: Scientific American, American Progress, Copernicus, Lumen Learn, The Arctic Institute, Planet Earth & Beyond, Planet Earth & Beyond, Planet Earth & Beyond, New Statesman, Greenpeace, The Independent, The Independent, Reuters, Politico, The Guardian