I am at the stage in life where I would like to see some grandchildren. The nice thing about grandchildren is that you can hand them back at the end of the day and then your life can return to normal. But I think it would be nice to be able to spoil them.
My three children range in age between 25 and 34 so it’s not unexpected that either of them would ordinarily have children of their own.
“Why would I have kids?” the middle one asks. “The planet is already in crisis and there are enough people living on it.”
Ouch. As a parent, that hurts. But there is an undeniable element of truth to his thinking. And as if to hammer his views on potential parenthood home, earlier this week the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) warned that a warming climatic event in the coming months, combined with human-induced climate change, will have far reaching repercussions for health, food security, water management and the environment.
For decades — as long as my daughter has been on this planet — climatologists and environmentalists have warned that if we want to stop the inevitable disastrous effects of climate change, we MUST limit the increase in global temperatures to just 1.5 degrees Celsius.
The target is bust
Sadly, the WMO reports that the target is bust. Blown. No chance. And this little blue planet we all share on its annual trips around the Sun, well, it’s going to get hotter. And hotter.
Already this weekend’s Formula One race in Italy has been cancelled. Heavy rains and severe floods have forced the organisers’ hand. And sadly the Italian authorities are looking for bodies.
In Western Canada, from Alberta to the Pacific, across the US states of Oregon and Washington, there is a heat dome forming, making for an even more intense forest fire season.
The WMO said people need to be prepared and that rising temperatures are moving us further and further away from the climate we are used to.
In Wales, where much of the water for Manchester and Liverpool, London and Birmingham, is normally collected through long, wet winter months, the reservoirs are lower than expected. It hasn’t rained there for 10 days — whereas normally 10 minutes without rain would be classified as summer.
The stark warning from the WMO says we can be practically certain that at least one of the next five years will be the warmest year on record — and it seems that we have one of those most years since my children were toddlers.
What makes the WMO so sure so sure are very strong signs that, late this year, we are likely to enter a positive El Niño climatic event.
El Niño is Spanish for a little male child, and it’s also the name given to a naturally occurring pattern of warming surface waters in the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean. It means that temperatures will rise elsewhere in the world.
The report says that this, combined with the underlying global warming trends, will drive the average temperatures to between 1.1 and 1.8 degrees above pre-industrial levels for each of the next five years. So, you forget that notion of 1.5 degrees. It’s as good as dead in the warm water.
Sweat it out
The report notes that there is a two-thirds likelihood that global temperatures will exceed the key level of 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming in at least one of those five years.
I’m no climate expert but have reported on the environment for the past 35 years, and knowing now that 1.5 degree goal is bust is a bit like getting a sucker punch in the solar plexus just when it seems as if there was a chance the fight could be won.
Maybe I’m being too harsh and too pessimistic. True, Petteri Taalas, the Secretary General of the WMO said that the El Niño combined with the latest data would not necessarily be a permanent or long-term exceedance of that 1.5 degree target.
Well, it’s that it feels like things have taken a negative turn. We can live with a once-off breach. Except that that breach of the 1.5 degree target will happen again and again — and again.
Those heavy Monsoons? Get used to it. Severe flooding? Suck it up. Higher temperatures for longer? Sweat it out …
Mother Earth’s anger at being abused for so long by so many is being felt more often in more places and with more intensity.
Summer rainfall in Europe will become more intense. That means flood controls won’t be able to cope and — as is happening in Italy — lives will be lost.
Another likely impact is that warming in the Arctic will be three times faster than the global average. If I did have grandchildren, would they fully appreciate the loss of polar bears or melting ice caps?
In addition, human-induced greenhouse gases are leading to more ocean heating and acidification, sea ice and glacier melt, sea level rise and more extreme weather events.
It’s just depressing. And it all leaves me very hot and bothered by our failure to take decades of warnings to heart and to do something.
Sure, the efforts by officials and us all need to continue and we have to do something.
I can’t really argue with the thinking that says that we made a mess of it all. Or have we?