Heat waves, dying glaciers, floods of Biblical proportions – the consequences of climate change are becoming ever more dramatic. And these phenomena are no longer only harbingers.
In the meantime, there is scarcely a day when further shocking news does not alarm the public.
During May and June, thousands of people died from temperatures of up to 50C (122F) in India and Pakistan. At the beginning of August, entire areas in those countries, as well as in Myanmar, were swamped by monsoon rains. California is suffering from the worst drought in 1,200 years. Around the world, glaciers are melting at a record pace, along with the Antarctic ice sheet, which holds 70 percent of the world’s supply of fresh water.
In scientific terms, it is not possible to determine to what extent the climate catastrophes are due to coincidental weather phenomena and how much they are due to climate change. But the great majority of researchers are unanimous: Humanity is vigorously heating up the globe by emitting larger and larger amounts of greenhouse gases, particularly carbon dioxide, into the atmosphere.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. climate agency, announced recently that this June was the hottest worldwide since weather data was first recorded in 1880. It was 0.88C above the average value for the 20th century.
So it’s high time to take action.
In June, the heads of seven leading industrial nations worked their ponderous way through to this recognition at the G7 Summit in Elmau in Bavaria, where they had been invited by German chancellor Angela Merkel.
After they had allowed many climate conferences of the United Nations to end without a result, the leaders now made a historic promise: In order to limit the emission of carbon dioxide (CO2) to an amount the climate can bear – 2C – the world is supposed to bid complete farewell to coal, oil and natural gas by the end of this century.
The U.S. president, Barack Obama, said that climate change is no longer a problem of the next generation: “We have to take action – right now.”
But is it realistic to call on the world economy to turn its back on carbon?