Global warming is every bit as serious and as threatening as pandemics are

I’ve just read the results of the Biennial of the Americas, COP26, which took place in Glasgow, Scotland, from 20 to 27 September, 2019. It is no good to have global warming if we’re not acting on it. And I know this, because I was one of more than 40 scientists who did not take part in the Biennial.

We were asked to prepare submissions, assess policies that had been developed and assess the energy efficiency of policies in 50 countries. And we simply couldn’t get our heads around the massive amounts of data being thrown at us. For the vast majority of us, the difficulty in reaching the final decisions was impossible.

A “peak” of global warming must be reached to ensure that the threshold of global warming can be kept below 2°C, as enshrined in the Paris agreement. This will require us to scale up efforts to adapt to climate change and provide a more robust funding mechanism for the poorest countries that need it. But we are not making much progress in Europe. Instead, the dramatic consequences of climate change are clearly being ignored.

People have gathered in Glasgow to debate what happens next. My question is: How many parties do we have to go to until the start of COP24 in Katowice, Poland, in December? I imagine that some of the good news from Glasgow, which might lift some minds in Europe, will not stop with that. This Biennial is a reminder that there is a threat to human civilization and that it’s a threat which will not go away until the day that we decide to act on the very real problem at hand.

We simply cannot afford to stand around and count how many events we have to attend, before the task of acting is set. We need to start addressing this when we sit down at our dinner tables on Thursday evenings, a move which is increasingly becoming an ever-lucrative pastime for many of us. The solutions to the challenges we face are easily available, yet there’s no sense that the pressures to implement them have increased.

The Biennial was a terrific opportunity for Scotland, showing us the world in a much-needed light. Instead, it’s a waste of time and energy if we don’t tackle the problem. Too many countries in Europe are just sitting there thinking, “We’re not doing that much. It’s too hard.”

Even if you get the numbers right, it’s just as hard to tell the difference between the 40 people sitting around a conference table in Glasgow and the 2 billion who can’t leave their homes because of rising sea levels.

Today, there are 150,000 people who do not have enough food to eat. If climate change is considered as a pandemic, it threatens more than a billion people. Currently, millions are battling to survive floods, cyclones and heatwaves. Climate change, in this very tangible sense, is a very real threat and we should not be reluctant to consider it that way.

There is simply too much need out there and too many fears. Climate change is every bit as serious and as threatening as pandemics are. I hate the labels but they do help us all see the threat, and confront it.

Scientific knowledge offers us the answer, just as it did back in the 16th century with epidemics.

Scientists told us the exact number of Ebola cases and that epidemics were impossible. Even though they were wrong, we still acted. I would like to think we will act on climate change and that we will catch up.

This is not an argument about current emissions reduction targets, which as of yet are still insufficient to limit the most dangerous climate change to be avoided.

If we fail to confront the issue of climate change at COP26, then we will lose whatever gains were made. If we fail to face the fact that inaction is the very last thing we can afford, we will lose our means of coping. We will lose the world we want for our children and the world we want for them.

It’s time to change the game. We will lose nothing by giving up the fight for humanity to survive. We can still change the world for our children.

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