IPCC

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World needs to get its shit together on climate change | 

The effects of drought on maize on an experimental plot at the the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute's Kiboko Research Station.
The effects of drought on maize on an experimental plot at the the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute’s Kiboko Research Station.
Anne Wangalachi/CIMMYT

Another week. Another meeting. Another paper. Another warning that climate change is a big deal.

It’s the annoying broken record playing in the background so quietly that most people don’t hear it. The few that do hear the repeated calls for immediate action to slow down the progress of climate change are trying to make the world’s leaders pay attention and actually do something.

The latest warning comes in the form of a report from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). In far more technical terms, the hundreds of scientists who participated in the report agree that we are all screwed if greenhouse gas emissions are not cut. This will have an impact in every part of the world, falling hardest on the world’s poor who are already vulnerable to shocks like erratic rains, droughts and natural disasters.

It is careful to say that climate change alone is not going to doom the world. There are other factors that are already making things hard for some people, from lack of economic opportunity to inadequate healthcare access. These are the kind of areas where worldwide progress has been made, but are at risk if climate change is not reigned in.

For his part, Columbia University’s Steven Cohen is a glass half-full kind of guy when it comes to climate change. The Executive Director of the Earth Institute blogged about his optimism in the Huffington Post following the post-IPCC report hysteria. In it, Cohen said he believes solutions will be found to the problem that go well beyond simply reducing the amount of carbon we toss up into the air.

“The issue we face is not our survival, but our willingness to accept the final triumph of technology at the expense of the planet we are biologically and emotionally connected to. Currently, we do not have the technology to supplant nature. For that reason, and possibly others, the IPCC’s projections do not consider the possibility that natural systems could be replaced by artificial ones,” he wrote.

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Improving health by fighting climate change | 

WHO

A recent poll by Pew (which, given the findings smells like the right name for it …) found that nearly half of all Americans mistakenly believe there is no scientific consensus on the evidence for climate change.

Oddly, the pollsters also found that as the evidence has mounted over the years, convincing more skeptical scientists, fewer Americans seem to believe the evidence (which could, of course, be explained by some other factor at work, such as the cognitive effect of reality TV or maybe mass dumping of lead in the water).

Maybe the public would gain a better appreciation of the threats to humanity posed by climate change, aka global warming, if experts instead focused on describing in detail what it poses for our health and well-being — as a great global sickening, climate-changing environmental carnage or the brave new world of less food, less water, more heat, more disease, pollution, floods, droughts and a lot more chance for human conflict over the resources of a diminished and even more brutal world.

Or, well, maybe we should just stop being so negative and go for a bicycle ride.

Those were basically the two points made by Dr. Jonathan Patz, lead author of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (which, with Al Gore, won the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize), at a Tuesday evening forum at the University of Washington sponsored by the Washington Global Health Alliance. Continue reading