Scientists are suggesting we can soon stop calling weather disasters ‘natural’. They said it with growing certainty a few years ago; now their doubts are even less, if nothing is done to stop climate change. Forget ‘natural’, it’s mankind. That comes from the UN Intergovernmental Panel of hundreds of scientists.
They’ve just reported that at least 95 percent of global warming is man-made. In 2001, the IPCC said 66 percent of it was induced by human activity. The worst thing of all is the burning of fossil fuels. The conditions leading to more disastrous weather, more often, they say, are now predicted to be able to raise average temperatures by the end of the century by almost five degrees Celsius. They haven’t much hope that prompt, globally-coordinated government actions might limit this to as little as 0.3 degrees Celsius.
Warming means the sea level rising. Using new computer models, they predict a far worse potential than in their 2007 report – now count on between 26 and more than 80 centimetres higher by 2100 – enough to swamp many cities around the world.
This year’s report agreed in Stockholm is a compilation of work by scientists from more than 100 countries. The 2007 report exaggerated the rate of glacier melting of the Himalayas. That undermined credibility, so this work is under mounting scrutiny. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said: “The heat is on. We must act.” The panel said recent natural variations that have slowed temperature rise won’t last.
In 2009, world leaders failed to reach a deal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, global warming’s number one cause. Governments agreed to work out a UN agreement in 2015. But considering the colossal expense, they usually prioritise economic growth.
This appears to ignore the business advice: ‘if you think safety is expensive, try an accident’. The environmental watchdogs warn of incalculable impact. Suffering from more unpredictable heatwaves, droughts, heavy rains and floods seems guaranteed in poor countries, and far beyond current lifetimes. Yet rich countries have plenty of cities on their coasts, too. Melting ice and an expansion of water as it warms also threatens them.