Climate Change: Will a Disaster Wake Us Up?


John Scales Avery – TRANSCEND Media Service

In a 2011 interview in The Guardian, Sir David Attenborough was asked: “What will it take to wake people up about climate change?” He replied “Disaster. It’s a terrible thing to say, isn’t it? And even disaster doesn’t always do it. I mean, goodness me, there have been disasters in North America, with hurricanes, and one thing and another, and floods; and still a lot of people would deny it, and say it’s nothing to do with climate change. Well it visibly has to do with climate change!”

The disasters continue: In recent weeks the drought has deepened in the southwestern part of the United States, and it has reached completely unprecedented severity.

The drought will have consequences, not only for the United States, but also for people throughout the world who are dependent on exports of grain grown in that region. The pumping of water from the Ogallala Aquifer has traditionally been used to supply irrigation water to the region, but over the years, the aquifer has been seriously overdrawn, and soon it will be useless.

Throughout the world, water shortages produced by a combination of climate change and falling water tables threaten the food security of large portions of the world’s population. At the same time, in other regions, climate change will produce more and more disastrous floods.

But are these disasters enough to wake us up to the grave dangers of runaway climate change? Or are we so addicted to the use of fossil fuels that we cannot give them up?

Is there a difference in the attitudes of ordinary people and those of corporate-controlled governments? It is certain that the fossil fuel giants are determined to convert their coal, oil and gas holdings into cash. But ordinary citizens are more responsible, as was shown by the massive popular demonstrations at COP 15 in 2009.

UN Secretary General Ban ki-moon has invited heads of state and governments to a 2014 Climate Summit, which will take place in New York on 23 September, 2014. Many thousands of ordinary people plan to march in New York on that day, to show their concern for the future of our planet, and to demonstrate how much they desire to give future generations of humans, animals and plants a world in which survival will be possible.

In order to prevent a tipping point, after which human efforts to prevent drastic temperature increases will become ineffective, it may be necessary for ordinary people to replace their oligarchic governments with true democracies


John Scales Avery, Ph.D., who was part of a group that shared the 1995 Nobel Peace Prize for their work in organizing the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs, is a member of the TRANSCEND Network and Associate Professor Emeritus at the H.C. Ørsted Institute, University of Copenhagen, Denmark. He is chairman of both the Danish National Pugwash Group and the Danish Peace Academy and received his training in theoretical physics and theoretical chemistry at M.I.T., the University of Chicago and the University of London. He is the author of numerous books and articles both on scientific topics and on broader social questions. His most recent book is Civilization’s Crisis in the 21st Century


This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 21 Jul 2014.

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