By Lisa Vives, Global Information Network
NEW YORK | 28 November 2023 (IDN) — The phrase “climate change” has slipped quietly but firmly into our popular vernacular. It pops up around the clock, in the news, in school and church, on the street, and in speeches by politicians running for office.
According to scientists, climate change is a phenomenon bringing our planet to a “tipping point,” if it hasn’t already crossed it.
“The evidence is clear,” declared the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2006. “Global climate change caused by human activities is occurring now. It’s a growing threat to society.”
This week, the annual UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC), known as the Conference of the Parties, or COP, will take place in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). It’s expected to be the largest climate conference since the first was held in 1995.
Over 70,000 attendees are expected, including government officials, business and financial leaders, youth advocates, delegations from Indigenous communities, and lobbyists and representatives from fossil fuel companies who comprise a growing presence at the meetings.
The conference runs from 30 November to 12 December. US Climate Envoy John Kerry and China’s Special Representative on Climate Change Xie Zhenhua will be attending the talks, representing the world’s two biggest emitters of greenhouse gasses. The Pope, Bill Gates, and climate justice activist Vanessa Nakate from Uganda will also be there.
In a recent interview with the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, Nakate underscored how climate change is not just a concern for the future but is already causing death and destruction in her home country and communities across Africa.
Last week, scholars from climate and health science, policymakers, and humanitarian workers met at the American Geophysical Union’s headquarters in Washington, DC, for the Chapman Conference on Climate and Health for Africa. More than 120 participants from 24 countries attended the meeting, with presentations ranging from the effects of extreme heat on maternal health to the climate drivers of malaria.
“When it comes to climate change,” said Dr. Rick Spinrad of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA),” the wolf is in the house, and the consequences are hitting us”—as far as economic, social and health impacts.
Illness stemming from a warming climate is a “low-hanging fruit” in early-warning systems, said Dr Wassila Thiaw, a meteorologist at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center.
“It’s about temperature, humidity—and how they affect health, and we can predict that,” she said. “And we can provide the forecasts to governments and make them accessible to people.”
Prof. Kris Ebi from the University of Washington started the conference’s third day with a presentation on heatwaves and early action plans. She recalled the 2021 “heat dome” event when temperatures reached scorching levels, resulting in some 800 excess deaths. It was later termed a 1-in-10,000-year event.
“These people died because of climate change,” Ebi said, adding: “Every heat-related death is preventable.”
“These are not your normal weather systems of the past. You have to do climate repair to change it,” said extreme heat expert John Nairn.
Meanwhile, heavy rainfall in the last two months brought extensive flooding in Somalia, Ethiopia, and Kenya following the most prolonged drought.
Days after the floodwaters swallowed her home in eastern Kenya, Fatuma Hassan Gumo waded through thigh-deep murky water to collect her only remaining possessions—floating utensils.
The fruit vendor was forced to flee at night from her submerged home to the nearest dry land with her family of 12, including seven children.
They are among thousands of people left homeless and destitute by torrential rains that have lashed much of Kenya, killing more than 70 people.
Coverage of the disastrous flooding can be viewed on Al Jazeera from 23 November. [IDN-InDepthNews]
Photo: Senegalese women demonstrating against climate injustice and the cost-of-living crisis in Dakar. Source: HICGI News Agency, 27 November 2023.
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