By Owei Lakemfa
AS we struggle to survive raging floods, the White House was this week busy, not with helping humans fight them, but employing intercontinental ballistic missiles to shoot down the United Nations Report that humans are a major contributory factor.
The UN Report written by ninety-one authors and review editors from 40 countries, and, using more than 6,000 scientific references, had a total of 42,001 expert and government review comments before its release on October 8. It warned that the world has just twelve years to avert climate change catastrophe which would include massive flooding, wildfires and food shortages.
The UN which says every extra bit of warming matters, called for limiting global warming to 1.5°C compared to 2°C, or more. It argued that if this is achieved, by 2100, global sea level rise would be 10 cm lower, the likelihood of an Arctic Ocean free of sea ice in summer would be once per century, and coral reefs would decline by 70-90 percent rather than 99 percent.
However, American President Donald Trump who had once called climate change a hoax, dismissed the warnings saying: “You’d have to show me the scientists because they have a very big political agenda.” Andrew Emory Dessler, climate scientist and Professor of Atmospheric Sciences at Texas A&M University responded to Trump’s accusation: “At its heart, this is just a wacky conspiracy theory. It’s important to realise that there’s never been a conspiracy by a huge field of science.
And this would have to be an extremely massive conspiracy, considering the thousands of scientists working on this. On the other hand, there have been many examples where political advocates have tried to cast doubt on science that is extremely solid. That’s what’s going on here.”
Professor Katharine Anne Scott Hayhoe, climate scientist at Texas Tech University, also responded to Trump: “A thermometer isn’t Democrat or Republican. It doesn’t give us a different answer depending on how we vote.”
Trump’s top White House Economic Adviser, Larry Kudlow also attacked the UN Report as overestimate. “I don’t think we should panic…I don’t think there’s an imminent disaster coming, but I think we should look at this in a level-headed and analytic way.”
As for the human element in climate change, he said: “I’m just saying do we know precisely…how much of it is man-made, how much of it is solar, how much of it is oceanic, how much of it is rainforest and other issues”
As this diversionary Trump war rages, I have become a daily monitor as the floods rise in my ancestral home in the Niger Delta. In the last few weeks, some relatives and friends have had to relocate. Schools were closed in in many parts. But we continue to hope it will not get to the 2012 levels when whole towns and villages evacuated. That year, 363 Nigerians were killed in the floods with 2.1 million displaced. In the current floods, we have lost 141 persons. In the three East African countries of Kenya, Rwanda and Somalia, 300 lives have been lost to rains and floods this year.
In the last two weeks, floods killed at least 12 in southwest France, and another dozen on the Spanish island of Mallorca. Perhaps, the most tragic of these disasters occurred on Sulawesi Island, Eastern Indonesia on September 28 when a combined 7.5-magnitude earthquake followed by a tsunami, killed more than 1,700 persons. An unknown number were buried under soil or swept away by waves. So overwhelming was this disaster that the government decided the best option was simply to turn some villages into mass graves since there was little chance of exhuming most of those buried in the soil.
If there is a country where a general agreement has been reached that the climate has gone bunkers, it is Japan. This year, it has been hit by a combination of earthquakes, typhoons, landslides, floods and heat waves!
Trump who had last year, pulled the United States (US) out of the Paris Climate Change Accord, is not positing a counter scientific research or argument to that of the UN. His thoughts and policies are ruled by monetary, rather than human considerations or the future of the universe. This week while touring Florida where Hurricane Michael had made a landfall killing at least 31 with several people still missing, the American President revealed why he is opposed to curbing gas emissions and checking climate change: “I will say this. I don’t want to give trillions and trillions of dollars. I don’t want to lose millions and millions of jobs. I don’t want to be put at a disadvantage.”
Trump consistently rates money above human lives. In the on-going case of the suspected murder of Saudi journalist, Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi embassy in Turkey, a lot of Americans have argued that their country which claims to be a champion of fundamental human rights and press freedom, should take a stand against Saudi gross violations of human rights.
Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky for instance, argues that: “The Saudis will keep killing civilians and journalists as long as we keep arming and assisting them. The President should immediately halt arms sales and military support to Saudi Arabia.” Trump retorted: “What good does that do us? I would not be in favour of stopping a country from spending $110 billion — which is an all-time record — and letting Russia have that money and letting China have that money,” His reference is to the 2017 arms deal with the Saudi monarchy.
On the UN Report, it is not Trump alone that sees it from the prism of the dollar. Florida Senator Marco Rubio, also has money, not human lives on his mind. Rubio who is witness to the Hurricane Michael catastrophe in his constituency, said although he recognises that human activity is the main cause of climate change, but policies that would be suggested to check this will need to be weighed against “the public interest and other topics.”
He added: “If we’re going to have that debate about whether certain laws should be passed in order to alleviate what some scientists or a lot of scientists are saying is the cause of this, that has to be balanced with the public interest and other topics like the economy and the like.”
It is amazing that the US with a huge body of knowledge and knowledgeable people can be led by an administration which displays so much contempt for knowledge and universal wellbeing: the beautiful thing is that the rest of humanity is marching on.