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Posted: November 9, 2019

Scientists say we’re ignoring a looming catastrophe

“Perceptions,” by Gerry Warner

Op-Ed Commentary

Can 11,000 scientists be wrong?

If you think so, you must be a compulsive gambler with deep pockets and a lifetime membership in the Donald Trump fan club. If you don’t, you must have at least a modicum of common sense regardless of your politics and an affinity for facts over ideology.

And the world needs more people like you.

I’m referring, of course, to the report issued this week in the journal BioScience, which states flatly that the Earth is facing a “climate emergency” and the world’s peoples face “untold suffering” if we don’t change our extravagant and wasteful ways that are overwhelming the earth’s natural ecosystems that support and sustain all life on our planet.

What’s different about this warning is that it’s not coming from the UN-based Intergovernmental  Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that’s made up of climate scientists only and has been issuing similar dire warnings since 1988. The BioScience report, on the other hand, comes from dozens of scientists in different fields and was endorsed by 11,000 experts from 150 different countries. That’s a lot of scientists to ignore.

“We declare clearly and unequivocally that planet Earth is facing a climate emergency,” the report states. “To secure a sustainable future, we must change how we live” adds the report which was issued on the 40th anniversary of the world’s first climate conference in Geneva in 1979.

Prof. William Ripple of Oregon State University, lead author of the report, says there’s no time to waste in averting the crisis. “The climate crisis has arrived and is accelerating faster than most scientists expected. It is more severe than anticipated, threatening natural ecosystems and the fate of humanity.”

The fate of humanity! Tough talk, but the report makes clear that this is what’s at stake if humanity is to survive accelerated climate change gripping the planet. As said at the beginning, we need to change our ways and these changes will be transformative.

The most urgent changes according to the report are ending population growth, leaving fossil fuels in the ground, halting forest destruction and curbing our lust for eating meat.

Permit me to add one more change. If we want civilization to survive, we’ve got to learn how to be humble. That may be the toughest change of them all and the most needed.

And why do I say that? The reasons are numerous and we better start learning them. We are by nature a proud species and due to our God-given smarts, we’ve come to dominate the planet in numbers, strength and impact. In fact, our impact on the Earth has become so great that scientists say we’ve created a new geological epoch – called the Anthropocene – where we’ve become the single, biggest force shaping the planet for better or worse. And who among us would argue that most of the changes wrought by humankind have been worse for Mother Earth rather than better?

Where do I begin? Our atmosphere is polluted with greenhouse gases. Our oceans are becoming acidic and choked with plastics. Our forests are being hacked down on every continent and in the Amazon Basin, the world’s oxygen lung, they are being torched for industrial agriculture and mining. We’re eating meat to excess, resulting in millions of acres of land being cleared for cattle that belch deadly methane into our already damaged atmosphere. And more and more, we’re choosing to live in great metropolises of 10 million, 20 million or more concentrating our wastes and filth to a degree that is poisoning the planet.

Did you see the pictures of New Delhi last week? The smog was so bad it left people gasping in the streets and at work. Arvind Kejriwal, India’s chief government minister, said in a National Post article this week, “Delhi has turned into a gas chamber.”

And it’s not just giant Asian cities like Delhi. Remember the forest fire smoke over Cranbrook the previous two summers?

I could go on but I’m not going to insult your intelligence with more unneeded examples. World-wide, we’re living on the edge of a climatic catastrophe.  Evidence of it can be seen everywhere including the environs of Cranbrook. So, what are we going to do about it? Continue to ignore it and attack those who speak against it? Or are we going to get off our lazy butts and change our destructive ways to heal our battered Earth.

The choice is ours.

– Gerry Warner is a retired journalist, who honestly believes a climate calamity is in the making.

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