As I write this, monster typhoon Kammuri is ravaging the Bicol region in the central Philippines. It is packing winds at 209 kilometers per hour (130 mph) and it is more ferocious than the previous typhoons to hit that part of this nation’s archipelago. Tidal surges are wrecking houses and the wind is ripping away and shredding the light bamboo structures of the poor. On the mountain, landslides threatened whole villages. This is climate change for the worst, the very worst as the earth grows hotter and the oceans warmer causing massive evaporation and forming the typhoons and massive rainstorms that are causing flooding everywhere.
It is not only the Philippines that is being pounded with excessive storms and massive flooding. Australia, California and central and South Africa were recently hit by severe drought. Seemingly endless forest fires are ravaging the forest worldwide and the smoke and smog are killing thousands of people. The great Amazon rainforest is burning. Thousands are suffering. Plants and animals perish. Over a hundred elephants died from starvation in Zimbabwe this year.
This we must and can stop. The experts and advocates saving the planet call it an “ecocide” where the ecology and environment are being destroyed before our eyes. There is always hope that humans can change their destructive lifestyles and convert from using coal and fossil fuels that drive industrial production to renewable sources of energy such as geothermal, solar and wind power. The United Nations Climate Change Conference called COP25 is bringing together more than 50 heads of state in Spain where the nations must present new climate control action plans if we are to control the rise in world temperatures.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that action and important decisions must be made now to cut the greenhouse emissions that are pumping deadly gases into the atmosphere. The coal-fired power plants and factories burning oil are the main culprits as well as the millions of diesel- and gas-powered vehicles around the world. The change to renewable sources of electricity has to be urgently accelerated if we are to hold the rising temperature to 1.5 degrees and reach carbon neutrality by 2050. That is to produce no more CO2 than the forests and oceans can absorb and offset by planting trees, using carbon capture technology and a zero-tolerance for greenhouse gasses.
The greater risk, according to some climate advocates, is what UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said this week. It is that the “point of no return is no longer over the horizon.” What he means is the point when the climate gets so hot that it is not possible to stop or reverse it. When the planet has heated up to melt the permafrost, billions of cubic feet of methane gas will rise into the atmosphere and thicken the blanket around the planet so no heat can escape and the sun will bake us as if we are in an oven. The ice in Antarctica and the Arctic is melting so fast there is too little ice to reflect the sun’s rays back into space. It could lead to a disastrous drought globally and food crops will fail and mass starvation will be the result.
The scientific evidence is clear. The years 2014 to 2023 will be marked as the hottest years in 150 years. That indicates that the climate has warmed one-degree centigrade since the levels in 1850-1900. The forecast of temperature rise will be between 1.03 and 1.57 degrees above pre-industrial levels in the coming years. However, if nothing is done now, by the year 2100, the increase will reach a critical disastrous 3.2 degrees increase. If the industrialized nations act now to change, then the increase will still be very dangerous and a disastrous 2.9 degrees increase.
The biggest polluters on the planet are the United States and China. India is not far behind. President Trump does not believe the scientific evidence that the climate is changing since he lives in a permanent climate-controlled environment with air conditioning. China wants to be a global power as powerful as the United States and keep building coal-fired power plants to produce and sell to the world and grow economically and militarily.
However, the good news is that leading Democrats from the United States Congress are in Spain for the conference. US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said at the opening of the conference that in addressing climate injustice, many small island nations must have the support and there must be “economic and environmental justice for all.” The President of the Marshall Islands in the Pacific said that they are fighting for life as oceans rise due to melting ice caps and are inundating their low-lying islands.
Another deep concern posed by the rising waters around the Marshall Islands is the huge concrete dome known as the Runit Dome that encases 3.1 million cubic feet of deadly radioactive debris and soil including the death-dealing plutonium. Susanne Rust of the La Times reports the United States detonated 67 nuclear bombs between 1946 and 1958 in the Marshall Islands.
Several islands were vaporized and thousands of islanders were evacuated and exiled. Many were suffering the severe effect of radiation. The huge dome is gradually under threat from the rising oceans and the radioactive waste will likely seep out and contaminate the ocean waters and marine life. It could be goodbye to the Marshalls and their wonderful resilient people. We hope not and if global action is taken to curb global warming there is a chance they and mankind will survive.