Is declaring climate emergencies justified?

By: Blogger

Weather Eye
with John Maunder

Some of the answers to the complexities of the climate system are given in my recently published book “Fifteen shades of climate... the fall of the weather dice and the butterfly effect”. The following are extracts from pages 287-292.

Whether the declaration of such ‘emergencies’ is justified, time will tell, but it important to understand the time-line of how and why “climate emergencies” have been declared.

Is Declaring Climate Emergencies Justified?

Oxford Dictionaries declared “climate emergency” the word of the year for 2019, following a hundred-fold increase in usage that it says demonstrated a “greater immediacy” in the way we talk about the climate. The website reports that climate emergency is defined as “a situation in which urgent action is required to reduce or halt climate change and avoid potentially irreversible environmental damage resulting from it”. Oxford said the words soared from “relative obscurity” to “one of the most prominent – and prominently debated – terms of 2019.” According to the dictionary’s data, usage of “climate emergency” soared 10,796%.

Oxford said the choice was reflective, not just of the rise in climate awareness, but the focus specifically on the language we use to discuss it. The rise of “climate emergency” reflected a conscious push towards language of immediacy and urgency. The dictionary said that in 2019, “climate” became the most common word associated with “emergency”, three times more than “health emergency” in second. In May 2019 The Guardian updated its style guide to clarify that “climate emergency” or “global heating” would be favoured over “climate change” or “global warming” (although the original terms are not banned) – to better reflect the scientific consensus that this was “a catastrophe for humanity”.

What follows is a “time history” of the declarations of “climate emergencies” from the first declaration in the City of Darebin, Melbourne, Australia on 5 December 2016 to 2010.

Whether the declaration of such ‘emergencies’ is justified, time will tell.

A climate emergency declaration or declaring a climate emergency is an action taken by governments and scientists to acknowledge humanity is in a climate emergency. Wikipedia states the first such declaration was made in December 2016. Since then over 1,400 local governments in 28 countries have made climate emergency declarations (as of 23 February 2020).

Once a government makes a declaration the next step, at least in theory, is for the declaring government to set priorities to mitigate climate change, prior to ultimately entering a state of emergency or equivalent. In declaring a climate emergency, a government “admits” that global warming exists and that the measures taken up to this point are not enough to limit the changes brought by it. The decision stresses the need for the government and administration to devise measures that try and stop human-caused global warming.

The declarations can be made on different levels, for example at a national or local government level, and they can differ in depth and detail in their guidelines. The term climate emergency does not only describe formal decisions, but also includes actions to avert climate breakdown. This is supposed to justify and focus them. The specific term “emergency” is used to assign priority to the topic, and to generate a mind-set of urgency. The term “climate emergency” has been promoted by climate activists and pro-climate action politicians to add a sense of urgency for responding to a long-term problem.

Climate Emergency Declaration petition

Encouraged by the campaigners behind a Climate Emergency Declaration petition, which had been launched in Australia in May 2016, the first governmental declaration of a climate emergency in the world was put forward by Trent McCarthy, an Australian Greens Councillor at the City of Darebin in Melbourne, Australia. The city declared a climate emergency on 5 December 2016. In August 2017, Darebin decided upon a catalogue of actions in a “Darebin Climate Emergency Plan”. Darebin’s declaration was followed by Hoboken in New Jersey and Berkeley, California.

Following these developments, in 2018, UK Green Party politician Carla Denyer, then a member of Bristol City Council, took the lead role in bringing about Bristol City Council’s declaration of a climate emergency. This was the first such declaration in Europe, and has been widely credited as a breakthrough moment for cities and national parliaments beginning to declare climate emergency. Denyer’s motion was described in the UK newspaper The Independent as ‘the historic first motion’ which by July 2019 had been ‘copied by more than 400 local authorities and parliaments’. On 28th April 2019, the Scottish Parliament declared a climate emergency, making Scotland the first country to do so. This was quickly followed by the National Assembly for Wales on the 29th April and then the Parliament of the United Kingdom for the UK as whole on 1st May 2019.

Pope Francis declared a climate emergency in June 2019. The Pope also called for a “radical energy transition” away from fossil fuels towards renewable energy sources, and urged leaders to “hear the increasingly desperate cries of the earth and its poor.” He also argued against “the continued search for new fossil fuel reserves” and stated that “fossil fuels should remain underground.”

On 10 July 2019, more than 7,000 higher and further education institutions from six continents announced that they were declaring a Climate Emergency, and agreed to undertake a three-point plan to address the crisis through their work with students. In June 2019, Councillor Trent McCarthy of the City of Darebin brought together councillors and parliamentarians in Australia and around the world for two online link-ups to connect the work of climate emergency-declared councils and governments. Following these link-ups and a successful motion at the National General Assembly of Local Government, McCarthy announced the formation of “Climate Emergency Australia”, a new network of Australian governments and councils advocating for a climate emergency response. Representative Earl Blumenauer of Oregon believes the US government should declare a climate emergency. Blumenauer’s proposed legislation was supported by 2020 US Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, as well as Congresswoman Alexandria OcasioCortez.

In 2019, according to an eight-country poll, a majority of the public recognise the climate crisis as an “emergency” and say politicians are failing to tackle the problem, backing the interests of big oil over the wellbeing of ordinary people. The survey found that climate breakdown is viewed as the most important issue facing the world in seven out of the eight countries surveyed.

The Australian Greens Party called on the federal Parliament to declare a climate emergency. Greens MP for Melbourne, Adam Bandt, welcomed the UK Parliament’s declaration of a climate emergency and argued that Australia should follow their lead. In October 2019, an official e-petition to the Australian Parliament calling for the declaration of a climate emergency, received more than 400,000 signatories. (This is the single most popular online Parliamentary petition in Australia.) In October 2019, the Australian Labor Party supported the Greens Party’s policy to declare a climate emergency, however the proposition failed with the rejection of the Morrison Government.

First National Climate Emergency Summit

On 5 November 2019, the journal BioScience published an article endorsed by further 11,000 scientists from 153 nations, that states Climate Emergency (“We declare clearly and unequivocally that planet Earth is facing a climate emergency”) and that the world’s people face “untold suffering due to the climate crisis” unless there are major transformations to global society. On 14-15 February 2020 the first National Climate Emergency Summit was held at the city hall in Melbourne, Australia. It was a sold out event with 2,000 attendees and 100 speakers. On 28 November 2019, the European Parliament declared a climate emergency.

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has outlined the facts you need to know about why we need the Climate Emergency. Of course, time will tell whether the “Declarations” were necessary and what affect they had in policy decisions.

• Climate change is real and human activities are the main cause. (IPCC) • The concentration of greenhouse gases in the earth’s atmosphere is directly linked to the average global temperature on Earth. (IPCC) • The concentration has been rising steadily, and mean global temperatures along with it, since the time of the Industrial Revolution. (IPCC) • The most abundant greenhouse gas, accounting for about two-thirds of greenhouse gases, CO2, is largely the product of burning fossil fuels. (IPCC) . Impacts of a 1.1°C increase are here today in the increased frequency and magnitude of extreme weather events from heatwaves, droughts, flooding, winter storms, hurricanes and wildfires. (IPCC)

What do we need to do to limit global warming and act on climate change? • The UNEP Emissions Gap Report (EGR) 2019 shows that we are on the brink of missing the 1.5°C target and condemning humanity to a future of serious climate change impacts. Countries cannot wait until they submit their updated Paris pledges in one year’s time to act. • To prevent warming beyond 1.5°C, we need to reduce emissions by 7.6% every year from this year to 2030. (EGR, 2019) • 10 years ago, if countries had acted on this science, governments would have needed to reduce emissions by 3.3% each year. Every year we fail to act, the level of difficulty and cost to reduce emissions goes up. (EGR, 2019) • Nations agreed to a legally binding commitment in Paris to limit global temperature rise to no more than 2°C above pre-industrial levels, but also offered national pledges to cut or curb their greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. This is known as the Paris Agreement. The initial pledges of 2015 are insufficient to meet the target, and governments are expected to review and increase these pledges as a key objective this year, 2020.

COP 26 Glasgow

• This review of the Paris Agreement commitments will take place at the 2020 climate change conference known at COP26 in Glasgow, UK in November 2021. This conference was expected to be the most important inter-governmental meeting on the climate crisis since the Paris agreement was passed in 2015 but has been postponed because of COVID-19. • The success or otherwise of this conference will have stark consequences for the world. If countries cannot agree on sufficient pledges, in another 5 years, the emissions reduction necessary will leap to a near-impossible -15.5% every year. The unlikelihood of achieving this far steeper rate of decarbonization, means the world faces a global temperature increase that will rise above 1.5°C. Every fraction of additional warming above 1.5°C will bring worsening impacts, threatening lives, food sources, livelihoods and economies worldwide. • Countries are not on track to fulfill the promises they have made. • Increased commitments can take many forms but overall they must serve to shift countries and economies onto a path of decarbonization, setting targets for net zero carbon, and timelines of how to reach that target, most typically through a rapid acceleration of energy sourced from renewables and a rapid deceleration of fossil fuel dependency.

While there will still be serious climate impacts at 1.5°C, this is the level scientists say is associated with less devastating impacts than higher levels of global warming.

Climate emergency warning exposed as fraud

In contrast with the above there are of course other viewpoints as to whether the “declaration of climate emergencies” is necessary. In a review in the March 3, 2020 edition of the Manila Times Yen Makabenta featured two articles: 1. “Climate emergency warning exposed as fraud” by Bob Adelmann, New American, Nov. 12 2019; and 2. “The biggest lie ever told – man-made global warming” by Tom Harris, America Out Loud, March 29, 2019.

Bob Adelmann exposed the lie about 11,000 scientists approving and supporting the warning of a climate emergency. He wrote: “When the American Institute of Biological Sciences (AISB) released its warning of a climate emergency last week, the mainstream media reported it without checking its veracity. After all, the AISB is a prestigious non-profit with goals that sound honourable. This is being sorely tested now that it was learned that many of the 11,000 ‘scientists’ who approved of and supported the climate warning weren’t scientists after all. But none of this deterred august members of the Fourth Estate from reporting favourably on the warning as its recommendations lined up with the standard global-warning demands being pushed by climate alarmists.

The Washington Post breathlessly headlined: “More than 11,000 scientists from around the world declare a ‘climate emergency’ – and then further tarnished its image by declaring that it marks the first time a large group of scientists has formally come out in favour of labelling climate change an ‘emergency.’ ” On the other hand, Ezra Levant, a Canadian media personality and political activist, called the whole thing a joke: “I’m sorry, but that’s a joke… I wonder, are there even 11,000 climate scientists in the world?”

Tom Harris’ article in America Out Loud is even more devastating. It destroys the claim that CO2 causes climate change. Mr. Harris wrote:“Today’s climate change is well within the range of natural climate variability through Earth’s 4.5-billion-year history. In fact, it is within the range of the climate change of the last 10,000 years, a period known as the Holocene, 95% of which was warmer than today. Indeed, it is now cooler than the Holocene Optimum, which spanned a period from about 9,000 to 5,000 years ago. The Optimum was named at a time when warming was understood to be a good thing in contrast to the miserable cold times that periodically cripple mankind. A small group fooled the world into believing that warming is bad and that today’s weather is warmer than ever before, all caused by the human addition of a relatively trivial amount of CO2 to the atmosphere. It is the biggest lie ever told, and that reason alone caused many to believe.”

The ultimate lie is that members of the IPCC community are telling us the truth about the dangers of man-made climate change. In 1998, Kyoto Protocol supporter Professor Tom Wigley estimated that, even if we met all the Kyoto reduction targets, it would only lower temperatures by 0.05°C by 2050. After the Paris Agreement, Danish statistician Bjorn Lomborg calculated that, if fully implemented, Paris would reduce the global temperature by 0.048°C by 2100.

As previously noted, whether the declaration of such ‘emergencies’ is justified, time will tell.