Two heated news events this week seem to represent causes for global concern.
First, a leak of documents seen by BBC News shows how countries are trying to change a crucial scientific report on how to tackle climate change.
The leak reveals Saudi Arabia, Japan and Australia are among countries asking the United Nations to play down the need to move rapidly away from fossil fuels, the BBC reported this week.
It also shows some wealthy nations are questioning paying more to poorer states to move to greener technologies, the BBC found.
This “lobbying” raises questions for the COP26 climate summit in November.
The leak reveals countries pushing back on UN recommendations for action and comes just days before they will be asked at the summit to make significant commitments to slow down climate change and keep global warming to 1.5 degrees.
According to the BBC, the leaked documents consist of more than 32,000 submissions made by governments, companies and other interested parties to the team of scientists compiling a UN report designed to bring together the best scientific evidence on how to tackle climate change.
These “assessment reports” are produced every six to seven years by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and are used by governments to decide what action is needed to tackle climate change, and the latest will be a crucial input to negotiations at the Glasgow conference, the BBC report states.
“The comments from governments the BBC has read are overwhelmingly designed to be constructive and to improve the quality of the final report,” the BBC reported Thursday.
The IPCC is defending the impartiality of the process.
“There is absolutely no pressure on scientists to accept the comments,” Professor Corinne le Quéré of the University of East Anglia told the BBC. “If the comments are lobbying, if they’re not justified by the science, they will not be integrated in the IPCC reports.”
Meanwhile, The Washington Post on Thursday published an article citing a top medical journal that found climate change is, in fact, triggering food shortages, deadly disasters and disease outbreaks that would dwarf the toll of the coronavirus. But aggressive efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions from human activities could avert millions of unnecessary deaths.
According to the Post, in its annual “Countdown on health and climate change,” the Lancet this week provided a sobering assessment of the dangers posed by a warming planet.
It noted, more than a dozen measures of humanity’s exposure to health-threatening weather extremes have climbed since last year’s report.
“Humanity faces a crucial turning point,” the doctors say, with nations poised to spend trillions of dollars on economic recovery from the pandemic and world leaders set to meet in Glasgow for a major UN climate conference in less than two weeks.
According to the Post, the United States is working to assemble a set of climate policies to help coax bigger commitments from other top emitters at that conference, even as the Biden administration is scaling back its climate legislation.
The Post reports that “rising temperatures have led to higher rates of heat illness, causing farmworkers to collapse in fields and elderly people to die in their apartments. Insects carrying tropical diseases have multiplied and spread toward the poles. The amount of plant pollen in the air is increasing, worsening asthma and other respiratory conditions. Extreme floods and catastrophic storms have boosted the risk of cholera and other waterborne diseases. Smoke from fires in California infiltrates the lungs and then the bloodstreams of people as far away as Texas, Ohio and New York. Droughts intensify, crops fail, hunger stalks millions of the world’s most vulnerable people.”
The Post writes, “The Lancet study is just the latest salvo from health professionals demanding a swift end to burning fossil fuels and other planet-warming activities. In a special report released last week, the World Health Organization called climate change ‘the single biggest health threat facing humanity,’ warning that its effects could be more catastrophic and enduring than the coronavirus pandemic. Dozens of public health experts are headed to the UN climate summit starting at the end of the month, aiming to convince world leaders that they must take bolder action to curb their nations’ carbon output.
Pressure is on for the talks in Glasgow to yield fresh calls for action. Because as this week’s news suggests, climate change experts seem to be in panicking.
You can find the entire Lancet report at bit.ly/Lancetclimatestudy online.