Time to believe Cassandra, take action
Panama: The Cancun climate summit was a success, negotiators say, because leaders agreed to curb emissions and to help fund small, poor countries adapt to climate impacts. But the 193 governments involved have again failed to agree on how deep the cuts should be, and the urgent halt in dangerous emissions is far from assured. If all the world’s a stage, then surely this is a Greek tragedy in which the climate scientists play Cassandra, the prophesier of doom, fated to be disbelieved.
From the lack of any real binding commitment to act on the model data predictions presented by climatologists, I can only conclude that global leaders – and perhaps the public at large – simply don’t believe the threats to the planet’s humans.
Climate change is already happening, as I have seen on this two-year journey through the developing world. It is already killing people.
Weather is changeable and because it is not possible to identify single events as ’caused by climate change’, it is also easy perhaps to dismiss scientists warnings about the extreme weather events – that destroy millions of homes – becoming more likely.
Is it also easy to ignore the tropical glacier melt that’s unstoppable now? Perhaps, if you live in the rich world, where you home is currently buried under snowfall.
Hearing the contradictory way that leaders proclaim the importance of climate action, versus the actual climate action they are willing to commit to (nicely observed by my colleague Catherine Brahic, who was at Cancun), you don’t have to be a psychologist to realise that while many have intellectually grasped Cassandra’s message, they haven’t emotionally understood it at all.
Unfortunately, the world doesn’t have time for this kind of autistism: even if countries were to act on the loose agreements made this morning (and they are under no obligation to do so), we would still be looking at 4 degrees of warming – something that would kill millions.