Climate Change Is Upon Us

by Fr. Shay Cullen

The sights, sounds, and smells that assailed me as I was walking through the devastated chaos and destruction of Tacloban city in the Philippines last year, soon after the most powerful storm ever to hit land, made me realize that this was the future. This utter devastation wrecked by a vengeful nature on her tormentors was going to be repeated across the globe. Climate change is upon us.

Extreme weather conditions will be what we can expect in the future. In the UK last year, massive unprecedented flooding cut off towns and villages. The economic cost was massive. We have to ask why and what can be done to prevent such destructive weather conditions getting worse and less frequent. The Philippines experienced 25 typhoons in 2013.

Humans are the custodians of the creation and guardians of the planet and yet we have sinned against it. Now it’s time to repent and make amends, but how?

As I write this, the Balkans are experiencing the worst flooding in 120 years when records began. Vast areas of countryside, towns and villages are inundated and as many as 300 land slides have destroyed property and 35 people were killed. In three days, rain that would normally fall in three months hit the region causing destruction, death and huge commercial loss. In Afghanistan a few weeks ago, an entire village with hundreds of people were buried alive when a rain saturated hillside came roaring down to bury and smother them all.

Every news bulletin seems to carry reports of another huge ecological disaster, droughts and wild fires in the United States are consuming forests and fields, even more destructive floods are to come in Europe we are told.

Last week, the United Nations Inter-County Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) made it’s latest report after seven years of exhaustive research and number crunching to inform and convince us that catastrophic climate change can be averted and even reversed if we act now. The report was made by 1,250 eminent scientists and experts and endorsed by 146 governments.

It’s for real, the planet has warmed up and we humans have caused it by burning fossil fuels non-stop for the last 150 years. That has to stop. We must turn to alternative sources of energy, the report strongly advises, or else.

The worst offenders are the oil and coal-burning industries. Their power plants, factories, houses and cars warm the earth by releasing CO2 gases. The carbon dioxide and methane gases create a blanket around the earth causing this warming. This in turn has melted huge sections of the polar ice caps and removed nature’s big reflector of sun light. Antarctica is melting too. Soon the rise in ocean levels will be covering low lying islands and beach fronts.

The permafrost in Siberia and Canada is melting, releasing even more deadly methane gas from the once frozen bogs and releasing it into the atmosphere. The effect on food production and water resources will be massive and will lead to food shortages and the social impact will be great; migration and armed conflicts will erupt.

China, one of the worst climate polluters with its thousands of coal and oil power plants is in direct conflict with Vietnam after moving an oil drilling platform into waters claimed by Vietnam. Riots, property destruction and the evacuation of thousands of Chinese from Vietnam is the news this week.

The content of the reports of the IPCC are vehemently denied by powerful business interests in the gas, oil and coal industries. These thermal tycoons want the burning of fossil fuels to continue but the time is coming when fossil fuels have to be abandoned and left in the ground. Alternative renewable sources of electric power like solar, wind and geothermal electric generation have to power the future.

Huge investments have to be made in wind and solar power. Natural gas is a much cleaner source of energy but with some limitations, but a better alternative to coal. The common people and their governments have to stand up to the polluters of the planet and bring closer that day when the demand for oil and coal will taper off. In the Philippines, crony capitalists are manipulating the national leadership and “capturing” the regulators to persuade them to approve more coal plants.

We all have to be caretakers of our God-given world, the garden of Eden is sadly wilting and dying and we humans will be dying in body and spirit with it through disease, famine, and extreme weather events. Remember, more than 6000 people were killed by Typhoon Haiyan last November 8, there will be many more dying in future storms and floods of equal magnitude. We must preserve all life, especially the life of the planet itself.


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