First of a two-part series
(Note: As this article
goes to press, one of the Philippine groups organizing for the global climate
strike is under surveillance by State security forces and has received reports
of an impending raid on their headquarters.)
Around the globe on September 20, the youth are leading a
coordinated strike to protest government and business inaction on climate
change. The climate strike is anticipated to be one of the largest
environmental rallies in history.
On Monday, September 23, the United Nations (UN) will hold a
climate action summit, which is more of an emergency meeting ostensibly to
seriously increase their commitments in reducing carbon emissions under the otherwise
watered-down 2015 Paris climate accord.
It seems however that the youth are not expecting any
dramatic outcome from the UN meeting. They are planning another global strike
for September 27 and every Friday thereafter until a drastic, genuine, official
action is taken.
While the climate issue appears to affect everyone, there
are climate change deniers. Led by the US and neoliberalism’s apologists, they
focus their efforts not on presenting contrary evidence but simply on
discrediting climate activists whom they tag “crisis-ists” or “crisis
alarmists”. The deniers are saying that the young people are simply being used
by the climate activists to paint an irrevocable apocalypse for the planet and
to call for system change.
Climate change is a hoax, the deniers say. They deny the
climate crisis. They deny the system of unsustainable production and
consumption known as monopoly capitalism as the root of the crisis, and that
this system is pushing humanity to the brink of a catastrophe. They deny that
some people and nations are more vulnerable than others and that monopoly
capitalism has brought on this historical injustice.
Instead, they justify the intensification of neoliberal
policies to maintain the unsustainable system and push for business-more-than-usual.
They do so in quite fascistic fashion, including the use of force to crack down
on the climate activists.
Here is the science
The Earth has been observed to be warming over the last
century at an accelerated pace through the last four decades, with the five
warmest years on record taking place since 2010. The average global temperature
has increased by 0.9°C and by as much as
2.2°C in some regions. In the
Philippines, the average temperature increased by 0.57°C from 1951 to 2009 alone.
Scientific evidence has concluded that climate change is caused by the upsurge of greenhouse gases (GHG),
especially carbon dioxide (CO2). GHGs are trapped in the atmosphere
to a level that far exceeds what is needed to warm the Earth. Scientists have
observed that GHG emissions have increased by 36% since 1850, since the
Industrial Revolution, and by 70% from 1970 to 2004, since the world made great
strides in technology and production.
CO2 is the most important for three reasons. It is the
largest man-made GHG, accounting for 84% of climate change from GHGs in the
last decade. It lasts in the atmosphere for extensive periods, say for hundreds
of years. Finally, it is the only GHG humans don’t need to survive.
More erratic and extreme weather events (torrential rains and
heavy downpours, severe flooding, landslides, droughts, forest fires, among
others) have been the most dramatic signs of climate change. Typhoon Haiyan
(Yolanda) alone is a global reminder of the increased incidence of climate
hazards, impacting on millions of lives, properties and livelihoods. The number
of super-typhoons hitting the Philippines has increased, while the cycle of the
El Niño drought in the country has shortened.
Oceans, like forests, can help moderate the climate. They absorb
more than 30% of the heat as well as 25% of the CO2
released by human activity. But with the Earth’s rapid heating and
chemical pollution, they have also absorbed the negative impacts of climate
change. Seawater is having a four-way transformation: acidification,
warming, de-oxygenation, and relative rise of level. This does not only
threaten biodiversity and the survival of the world’s species but may also lead
to the disappearance of island nations.
We are experiencing the risks in two ways: 1) the increase in
climate hazards that are leading to huge economic losses and human deaths, and
2) the increase in the vulnerability of communities in the forms of ecosystem
degradation, damages to crops, livestock deaths, food and water shortage,
air-borne and water-borne diseases, damages to infrastructure, degradation of
coastal regions, and displacement of lowland populations.
Doomsayers? The UN Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change
(IPCC) itself is saying that we need to keep global warming to well below 1.5°C to survive. It estimates that unless
current trends are radically reversed, the global average temperature will
shoot up by 2.5°C by 2050, compared to 1986-2005 levels. The IPCC identifies an average increase of 2.0°C as the
point upon which this rapid global warming is dangerous and irreversible for at
least a century. A 2014 study predicts that this benchmark will be reached by
2036. The global climate strikers on the other hand are predicting the
irreversible year to be 2030, or 11 years away.
Still, scientists point out that even if GHG emissions were
stabilized or reduced today, the already warm temperature of the ocean will
bring a warmer atmosphere over time. Stockholm Environment Institute scientists
also explain that the IPCC has under-estimated impact projections by failing to
take into account feedback loops, defined as effects that impact back on their
causes and therefore lead to even larger two-way effects. The scientists are
warning of future climate tipping points (other than the redline temperature),
which are abrupt, exponential and irreversible changes taking place due to a
complex of unforeseen feedback loops. We don’t have much time. ###
The last part of this series will discuss how climate
change is directly linked with the capitalist crisis, and how governments still
force harsher neoliberal policies that only aggravate the problem.
Photo from Bulatlat