“A leader is a dealer in hope” – Napoleon Bonaparte
Over the last week or two there has been a definite shift in the ‘global mood’ on climate. The drum-beat has been reverberating across the globe via social media (and even mainstream media), with a steadily increasing pace. People, institutions who don’t know each other are connecting over a single concern: #climate.
News that the poles and glaciers are in trouble has rung alarm bells. New findings emerged this week that both the West Antarctic Ice sheet and Greenland were in more trouble than anyone realised. In particular, the ‘hard edges’ – which act like ‘corks’ for blocking the flow of other land-based ice sheets into the ocean were starting to crumble. The ‘beds’ of glaciers were also more vulnerable to sea water intrusion, which destabilises them from underneath. This seems to have galvanised people.
Also, strong leadership is emerging.
- On 21st May 2014, Bill McGibben’s global rallying cry was published in Rolling Stone magazine: “A Call to Arms: An Invitation to Demand Action on Climate Change”. It’s not the first time he has issued direction to the disparate mob of global citizens and groups concerned about climate change; his 350 Campaign has been doing so the last few years, increasingly gathering steam.
- This time, Bill McGibben has targeted the dates of 20-21st September 2014, and the location of New York City. This is when Global Leaders will meet to discuss climate change – a preliminary meeting before the next formal UNFCCC meeting in Paris 2015. Bill McGibben has invited anyone who cares, across the globe, to attend. Or to make a lot of noise about this day and the decisions that are made.
- On the very same day that Bill’s call to arms was published, (21st May 2014), Pope Francis made a similarly significant statement. Over 2-6 May 2014, the Vatican had run a multi-disciplinary summit titled, “Sustainable Humanity, Sustainable Nature, Our Responsibility.” The result was a strong call for action from Pope Francis.
- He said: “Creation is not a property, which we can rule over at will; or, even less, is the property of only a few: Creation is a gift, it is a wonderful gift that God has given us, so that we care for it and we use it for the benefit of all, always with great respect and gratitude….”
- And… “But when we exploit Creation we destroy the sign of God’s love for us, in destroying Creation we are saying to God: ‘I don’t like it! This is not good!’ ‘So what do you like?’ ‘I like myself!’ – Here, this is sin! Do you see?”
- Muslims are the same: protecting the environment is increasingly regarded as a sacred duty – it is ‘Creation Care.’ A speech by Iftikhar Awan shows this approach: “ensuring that we save the planet is not a choice for mankind (and Muslims in particular), it is a sacred duty that Allah has given us and for which we will be held accountable on the Day of Judgement. Sadly, the reality is that Muslims have forgotten this sacred duty, and not many scholars or imams have emphasized or reminded of this.” This Blog site, ‘The Green Bush’ on Muslims and the environment reflects similar sentiments.
This mood of ‘action’ comes on the back of a depressing end to 2013. Perhaps the current determination relates partly to the dark days of late 2013:
LATE 2013 – ALL BAD NEWS:
- Current global energy plans will take us over the edge. Bill McGibben published his piece (also in Rolling Stone) that laid out the maths of climate change in a very basic and understandable way – in a way that the global population could at last see what they were dealing with. He explained that to stay ‘safe’, we can only pour 565 more gigatonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere by 2050. Yet there is 2,795 gigatonnes of carbon sitting in the ground that energy companies are planning to burn. The current rate of burning suggests that the 565 quota will be used up within 16 years.
- International talks aren’t working. The International Climate talks – UNFCCC COP 19, in Warsaw, Poland, December 2013 – failed again to achieve anything meaningful, as reported here. In fact, there was a hardening of many countries positions to resist climate action.
- 2 degrees is not safe enough. Also, the climate news got worse. James Hansen published a hard-hitting paper titled, ‘Assessing “Dangerous Climate Change”: Required Reduction of Carbon Emissions to Protect Young People, Future Generations and Nature.” This argued convincingly that due to delayed action, new scientific insights about when ‘slow feedback effects’ would be triggered; and the different ways soil, agriculture and forests could either be carbon ‘sinks’ or ‘sources’ – depending upon the amount of warming, that a new dangerous limit needed to be set. Rather than aim for 2 degrees, Hansen argued, we must limit warming to 1 degrees, (we are already at 0.8 degrees). He provided a cold slap in the face for those who think geo-engineering will save us all: reducing carbon concentration in the atmosphere via geo-engineering (if the technology is proven to work) by only 52ppm would cost between $100-400 trillion dollars.