Guest essay by Eric Worrall
Does the world truly not care about how they feel?
Climate scientists are struggling to find the right words for very bad news
By Chris Mooney & Brady Dennis
6 October 2018 — 12:00am
In Incheon, South Korea, this week, representatives of more than 130 countries and about 50 scientists have packed into a large conference centre going over every line of an all-important report: what chance does the planet have of keeping climate change to a moderate, controllable level?
“It’s the biggest peer-review exercise there is,” says Jonathan Lynn, head of communications for the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. “It involves hundreds or even thousands of people looking at it.”
The IPCC, the world’s definitive scientific body when it comes to climate change, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize a decade ago and has been given what may rank as its hardest task yet.
It must not only tell governments what we know about climate change – but how close they have brought us to the edge. And by implication, how much those governments are failing to live up to their goals for the planet, set in the 2015 Paris climate agreement.
“Half a degree doesn’t sound like much til you put it in the right context,” says Durwood Zaelke, president of the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development. “It’s 50 per cent more than we have now.”
“The pledges countries made during the Paris climate accord don’t get us anywhere close to what we have to do,” says Drew Shindell, a climate expert at Duke University and one of the authors of the IPCC report. “They haven’t really followed through with actions to reduce their emissions in any way commensurate with what they profess to be aiming for.”
“There are now very small number of pathways [to 1.5C] that don’t involve carbon removal,” says Jim Skea, chair of the IPCC’s Working Group III and a professor at Imperial College London.
It’s not clear how scientists can best give the world’s governments this message – or to what extent governments are up for hearing it.
I once visited South Korea, lovely people though there are some interesting opportunities for cultural misunderstandings.
If there was any place in the world capable of changing their lives because climate it would be South Korea. Their history is full of stories like, one day the king decided he was fed up with using the Chinese writing system, so the entire country adopted a new alphabet the king designed, the system they still use today. Or take the walls of Suwon, Hwaseong Fortress. The king was fed up with court, wanted to live away from all the politics – so he ordered everyone to drop everything and build this insanely long wall around his new capital. I walked that fortress wall, it was tall and solid, in most places way too high to jump off. They didn’t stop building because a mountain got in the way of their planned wall site, they just chiselled away parts of the mountain and looped the wall over it. Took a good half day to complete the walk around that wall.
Koreans have a long tradition of cooperating to achieve extreme goals set to them by their leaders.