Climate Change Is Seldom Out of the News

Fr. Sean McDonagh, SSC
October 1, 2010

Climate change or events linked to climate change are seldom out of the news these days. Scientists tell us that 2010 may be the hottest year in recorded history. In July and August 2010, monsoon floods on the Indus River killed more than 1,600 people and adversely affected the lives of 20 million people, leaving many without homes, possessions or livestock.  The floods have wreaked havoc on roads and bridges and as a result aid agencies are finding it increasingly difficult to get clean water, food and medicine to vulnerable people. This undoubtedly will lead to many more deaths especially among children and the elderly. A heat wave in Russia has led to extensive forest fires which have also affected croplands. As a result, the Russian government banned the export of wheat. In the remote town of  Zhouqu in China, torrential rain and mudslides left hundreds of people dead.

While none of these events can be directly related to climate change, they are consistent with the predictions which climate change scientists have been making during the past 20 years. Scientists have also been warning that unless decisive action is taken in the next few years to curb greenhouse gas emission an average rise in global temperature of 3.5 degrees Celsius is certainly in the cards. This would create a very hostile world both for humans and many other creatures.  Polar bears and many other species would be heading towards extinction. Storms as ferocious as hurricane Katrina, which devastated New Orleans and the Mississippi coast, would be occurring regularly in many parts of the world. Sea levels would continue to rise as glaciers melted in both Greenland and Antarctica and million of tons of methane would be released as permafrost thawed in both Siberia and Alaska. Vast tracts of rich agricultural land in places such Australia, North America, Europe, South America and Asia would be transformed into deserts or semi-deserts, thus creating famine conditions in many parts of the world.

At the end of August 2010, Bjorn Lomborg, one of the most influential climate change skeptics declared that, “global warming is undoubtedly one of the chief concerns facing the world today,” and, “a challenge which humanity must confront.”(1) In his forthcoming book, Lomborg and his colleagues argue that vast sums of money need to be set aside to carry out research on climate change in order to develop clean energy sources such as wind, wave, solar and even nuclear power. He estimates that a $7 per ton tax on carbon emissions would raise $250 billion each year. He would allocate $100 billion to researching and developing clean energy technologies while $50 billion would be used in adapting to the climate change already in the pipeline by building sea defenses.  $1 billion could be spent on climate engineering, and the remaining $99 billion should be used on “getting virtually everybody on the planet healthcare, basic education, clean drinking water and so on.”(2)

Fr. Sean McDonagh lives and works in Ireland.

(1) Juliette Jowit, “Top climate skeptic calls for $100 billion fund to fight warming,” The Guardian, August 31, 2010, page 1.

(2)  Juliette Jowit, “The dissenting expert who came in from the cold climate change,” The Guardian, August 31, 2010, page 7.