Talking point: Eye of the storm

Written by on 20 November 2013

It is very easy to get lost in numbers when talking about climate change.
Predicted rises in temperatures, disputed or not, total amounts of carbon released into the atmosphere – even the scientific consensus on whether the causes of climate change are man made or not – all becomes a number-crunching exercise and more about watching the columns on a spreadsheet than tackling the reality of the devastating impact of a weather phenomenon.

When Philippines commissioner Yeb Sano, choking back tears as he spoke at the UN climate talks currently ongoing in Warsaw, promised to go without food for the entire two-week event until some meaningful action was agreed, he was not thinking about the intricate debate over a 15-year ‘pause’ in global warming or whether, as Owen Paterson, UK Secretary of State for the Environment claimed, global warming could mean longer growing seasons and the ability to grow crops further north in colder areas.

Thousands of people are feared to have been killed after a 235mph Typhoon Haiyan struck the central Philippines, the most powerful storm ever recorded.

Sano’s promise to fast was in solidarity with his brother who had not eaten for days after the incident and he called for tough action and a pledge of $100bn by 2020 from richer nations to help other developing nations adapt to the already changing climate.

He said: “We refuse, as a nation, to accept a future where super typhoons like Haiyan become a fact of life. We refuse to accept that running away from storms, evacuating our families, suffering the devastation and misery, having to count our dead, become a way of life. We simply refuse to.”

In Scotland, where the current government has been praised for setting the most ambitious goals to reduce carbon emissions, but criticised for not meeting the first two annual targets, the focus has not just been on the need for a greener outlook, but the concept of climate justice.

Although the UN’s International Panel on Climate Change delivered a damning report last month, leaving no place for doubt on the severity of the task in hand, scepticism over the reality of climate change still remains – and there is a continued resistance to measures that are supposed to tackle it.

For Sano, there was no doubt: “To anyone who continues to deny the reality that is climate change,” he said, “I dare you to get off your ivory tower and away from the comfort of your armchair.”

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