Elizabeth Kolbert of the New Yorker is one of the best commentators on global warming around. She has been writing about Global warming for over ten years now. Her first book on climate change, Field Notes From a Catastrophe was written in 2006. Her most recent book on the environment was The Sixth Extinction: an Unnatural History, was written in 2014. This book is about the mass extinction which has been building on our planet for 50,000 years or so. The sixth extinction is the latest of six mass extinctions that have taken place on our earth. This one is distinguished from all of the rest by the fact that us humans are the ones who caused it.
Before her first book and almost every month since, Kolbert has been writing on the environment for the new Yorker. And not many of her articles has been very reassuring. Her latest climate article for the New Yorker was on the recent UN Climate Conference in Katowice, Poland. The gist of this article is that the world has been snoozing through the loudest alarms ever about the great climate disaster that is even now crashing down upon us.
Below are some of the take-ways from this article. You can read the entire article in the New Yorker by following the link at the bottom of this page.
“As negotiators from around the world gathered in Poland to discuss how to lower carbon emissions, the Trump Administration unveiled two schemes promoting fossil fuels.”
“Delegates arriving at the meeting [in Katowice Poland], known in United Nations-speak as a Conference of the Parties, or cop, were treated to an outdoor performance by a Polish coal miners’ band. Inside the convention pavilions, they found mounds of coal displayed behind glass, like objets d’art, as well as arrangements of coal-based cosmetics and coal-encrusted jewelry. Poland gets about eighty per cent of its electricity from coal, the most carbon-intensive of carbon-based fuels, and the Polish President, Andrzej Duda, noted in his opening remarks that the country had enough as yet un-mined supplies to last another two centuries. “It would be hard not to use them,” he said.”
“Depending on how you look at things, a coal-stuffed climate summit is either completely absurd—“beyond parody,” as one commentator put it—or merely appropriate. With each passing month, the threat posed by global warming grows clearer. And so, too, does the world’s failure to take that threat seriously. “We are in trouble,” the United Nations’ Secretary-General, António Guterres, said at the cop’s opening session. “It is hard to comprehend why we are collectively still moving too slowly—and even in the wrong direction.”
In October, a report from an international team of scientists warned that the planet was closer to dangerous warming than had previously been believed, and that a critical threshold could be crossed within a matter of years. To avoid this, a rapid and total overhaul of global energy systems would be needed. Such a transformation, the team observed, has “no documented historical precedent.”
Then, in November, a study put together by experts from thirteen U.S. federal agencies laid out the extent to which warming is already wreaking havoc in this country—via drought, intensifying storms, and an increasing number of wildfires. The study predicted that, as temperatures continue to rise, the country will experience “losses to infrastructure and property” that could run to hundreds of billions of dollars annually. (The Trump Administration did not tamper with the contents of the study, a version of which must, by law, be presented every four years. Instead, it sought to bury the assessment, by releasing it the day after Thanksgiving.) In the brief interval between the publication of the two reports, the deadliest wildfire in California’s history, the Camp Fire, claimed the lives of at least eighty-five people.
“As these alarms were going off, one nation after another reached for the snooze button. “
“Last month, the President-elect of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, chose as his Foreign Minister a climate-change denier, Ernesto Araújo. (Araújo has described climate science as part of a plot by “cultural Marxists” to cripple Western economies.) The incoming government promptly announced that Brazil was reneging on its offer to host the next cop, which is scheduled for November, 2019.”
“Last week, just as the session in Katowice was getting under way, the French President, Emmanuel Macron, suspended plans to raise that nation’s gasoline and diesel-fuel taxes. The increase had been intended to speed the transition to cleaner cars; the postponement came in response to violent protests by the so-called “yellow vest” movement. Demonstrators complained that Macron was worried about the end of the world, while they were worried about the end of the month.”
“The Trump Administration, meanwhile, has already made plain its intention of undermining the whole cop process. Last week, the Administration basically flipped off negotiators in Poland by unveiling not one but two new schemes for promoting fossil-fuel use. The first was a proposed rollback of an Obama-era rule that effectively blocked new construction of coal-fired power plants. (The rollback was presented by the acting head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Andrew Wheeler, a former coal-industry lobbyist.) The second was a plan to open some nine million acres of public lands in Western states to oil and gas drilling by sweeping aside protections for the greater sage grouse. Environmentalists—justifiably—labelled this move a “giveaway” to the fossil-fuel industry. As the Times noted, it would “open more land to drilling than any other step the administration has taken.”
“On Wednesday, even as negotiators in Poland were debating how to monitor CO2 reductions, researchers at the University of East Anglia and a group called the Global Carbon Project announced that emissions are again on the rise. Worldwide, they are expected to have increased by almost three per cent in 2018, to more than forty billion tons. In the United States, emissions rose by about 2.5 per cent, following a decade of decline. The message from this year’s tally “is more brutal than ever,” David Reay, a climate scientist at the University of Edinburgh, told the Guardian. “We are deep in the red and heading still deeper.”
“Even gloomier was the assessment of a trio of prominent researchers at universities in California and Texas, which appeared last week in Nature. They argued that, while the latest warnings have been dire, they have not been dire enough. Owing in part to the recent uptick in emissions, warming will be “faster and more furious” than predicted. “For decades scientists and policymakers have framed the climate-policy debate in a simple way: scientists analyse long-term goals, and policymakers pretend to honour them,” they wrote. “Those days are over.”
“If they’re right, this year’s carbon-friendly cop may indeed mark a turning point—the moment when climate negotiations can no longer be considered even a useful fiction. “
The image at the top of this page was shot in the high country of
Rocky Mountain National park in Colorado
in the early fall.