“The world is facing a catastrophe.”
It is too late for individuals to make a significant difference in the preservation of ice caps. At the current rate of global warming, government intervention is needed.
In the following video and excerpt from A Farewell to Ice, Peter Wadhams, one of the world’s leading experts on polar ice, discusses the role that governments around the world need to play in order to combat global warming.
In September 2012 the summer sea ice reached its lowest area yet, and the BBC made a film about the retreat, in which I was interviewed, among others, and satellite maps of the retreat were shown. The programme was televised on 5 September 2012, and was followed by a studio discussion in which the BBC decided that both ‘sides’ should be represented. The entire body of climate scientists was represented by Natalie Bennett, newly appointed chair of the Green Party, whose heart was in the right place but who had no knowledge of the Arctic. The tiny group of deniers was represented by Peter Lilley MP, formerly a Tory government minister, who had just published a report funded by the Lawson foundation in which he recommended taking no action on climate change and ignoring the Stern review. He claimed that he had been brought to the BBC under false pretences, that the BBC report had been concocted (despite the fact that satellite images of ice retreat were shown), and that I was a ‘well known alarmist’, a slander which he repeated five times. He claimed that he knew more about climate change than I did because he was able to quote from the 2007 IPCC assessment which concluded that summer sea ice would not disappear until the end of the twenty-first century. Despite being vice-president of an oil company, Tethys Petroleum, which works mainly with regimes in Central Asia, Lilley was subsequently put on the Environment and Climate Committee of the House of Commons, from which advantageous position he worked to define climate change legislation. Thus Lord Lawson’s secretive foundation gained a representative on a powerful government committee. Lilley is not alone – there are many others in similar positions, especially in the ranks of the Republican Party in the USA, but he does personify the forces of obfuscation and misrepresentation which result in public inaction in the face of a major threat to human survival.
On the rare occasions when it engages in debate, Lawson’s Global Warming Policy Foundation now adopts a position slightly modified from its earlier simple blanket denial of climate change. It agrees that the climate may be changing, though not admitting that it is due to the activities of Man, but says that the way to deal with it is adaptation, not mitigation. ‘Mitigation’ means trying to do something about the causes of climate change, whether by reducing emissions, trying to find ways of removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, or managing solar radiation by geoengineering. ‘Adaptation’ means, in effect, ‘let’s let it go and just try to live with it’. The trouble is that the amount of warming that will occur if we just let things go, which even conservative IPCC models estimate as being 4ºC by the century’s end, is going to be catastrophic for the maintenance of life on Earth. The warming will continue beyond 2100 and reach greater heights in the absence of action on CO2.
Scientists who publicly state the facts about the climatic threat to the world offer a challenge to the national security of the state and provoke a response. In the UK Ian Boyd, the chief scientific adviser at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), said that scientists should avoid ‘suggesting that policies are either right or wrong’ and should express their views ‘by working with embedded advisers (such as myself), and by being the voice of reason, rather than dissent, in the public arena’. This statement of staggering arrogance assumes that Boyd’s wisdom is superior to everyone else’s and that he will always ‘speak truth to power’. But the attitude that it represents is being enforced through directives to scientists with UK Government research contracts. Governments of countries such as Canada and Australia, until recent political changes, went even further than the UK’s in their suppression of science, firing large numbers of environmental scientists so that research which determines the magnitude of climate-induced changes was simply not conducted any more. The key decisions about saving the world from climate change obviously have to be made by governments. But, tragically, some governments seem to have no intention of making them and are more interested in suppressing scientific research if results imply dissent.
The climate change deniers’ emphasis on adaptation has been powerfully answered by Professor Robert P. Abele:
As we inflict violence on the planet to the point of its mortality, we inflict violence on ourselves, to the point of our mortality. A dead planet will result in dead people, and a people and/or its leaders who are psychologically and/or ethically desensitized to the consequences of this Terran violence have no chance of long-term survival.
Or, as Chief Seattle put it more eloquently more than a century ago:
All things are connected. Whatever befalls the Earth befalls the children of the Earth.
If we destroy our planet we destroy ourselves. There is nowhere else for us to go. There is no planet B. It will not just be farewell to ice, but farewell to life.
Featured image credit: “cold-foggy-frozen-glacier-ice” by Pexels. CC0 public domain via Pixabay.