Swaziland
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NO JOKE, YOU CAN CHOKE

When I lived in Botswana it was said that if a Motswana used an adjective without a noun you assumed he or she was talking about cattle.

With an English person it’s the weather; because it’s so variable and unpredictable in that part of the world that you take a T-shirt and a raincoat with you in an outing (lol). But what’s happening in our world today is no joke. It can get so hot you might choke. Weather extremes are about as tough as anything you’ll have to deal with; whether it’s freezing cold, stiflingly hot or flooding you out. And with four global climate records having been broken in the middle of this year it’s currently purgatory for millions. The records? Highest average global temperature, highest average global temperature for June, record high ocean temperatures and lowest Antarctic sea-ice levels. Planet earth is in a place it has never been before.

Abuse

I recently experienced some abuse from one of the sceptics about the crisis that we call global warming. Ironically it was in an amusing situation I’ll tell you about when we’re not in the serious mood of today. Highly reputable scientists in their hundreds say there is no doubt that the rapid climate change seen over the past century is caused by humans through the widespread use of fossil fuels – coal, oil and gas – in homes, factories and transport. When fossil fuels burn, they release greenhouse gases – mostly carbon dioxide (CO2). These gases trap the sun’s heat in the atmosphere, causing the planet’s temperature to rise. You know all that but did you know CO2 levels are now the highest at any time in the past 800 000 years. Show that to the doubting Thomases.

Awareness

How fascinating that the world’s awareness of the special CO2 trapping effect started in the 1820s, when French physicist Joseph Fourier said that, at its distance from the sun, planet earth should be very cold; earth’s atmosphere must, therefore, contain something that kept the planet warm; an invisible blanket of some kind. Then in 1856 an American, Eunice Foote, declared that CO2 could trap energy while a Briton, John Tyndall, a few years later, wrote that, on top of carbon dioxide, hydrocarbons – such as methane – would have even greater impact while at very low concentrations. The greenhouse effect and its key players had been identified. They keep earth warm by inhibiting the escape of energy back into space.
And it’s the heat that’s killing people today. The average global temperature topped 17C for the first time, reaching 17.08C on July 6, 2023, according to an EU climate-monitoring service, Copernicus.

The dangerous heatwaves in Europe could break further records, says the UN. The sirens are screaming from the scorching streets of the southern states of the USA, and right across to southern Europe and China. Heatwaves are the new normal as temperatures have exceeded 50C in USA and China. One of the great wonders of the world – the Acropolis of Athens – was closed because of the heat; the building is made of rock, which, like metal, is a strong heat conductor. The Rhodes wildfires in Greece are like a ‘biblical catastrophe’; that’s how you choke. And who is otherwise taking it seriously? A few countries, yes, but there remains a prevailing global selfishness, often politically motivated; as in, ‘Look’ ere, mate, our own bunch come first’.

The international climate conferences are a showpiece of ducking and diving. And some recent information shared by ESG Book – a global leader in sustainability data and technology – reveals that the vast majority of the world’s biggest companies have done almost nothing in the past five years to cut their planet-heating pollution enough to help avoid catastrophic climate change. ESG Book states that only 22 per cent of the world’s 500 biggest public companies, by market value, have aligned with the Paris Agreement, aimed at limiting global warming to a 1.5C increase above pre-industrial levels. That’s a tiny gain from 18 per cent of firms in 2018.

Treatment

And at a national level, the largest emitter of greenhouse gases throughout the world is China, with 10 668 million metric tons emitted in 2020. And yet it receives preferential treatment as a ‘developing country’ within the UN climate framework, as well as other international arrangements. Indeed, from Africa to Latin America, and even Europe, China is viewed as a rich global superpower. But it isn’t. Beyond the major urban centres, that the outside world sees, lie vast areas of low development. It’s a complex situation. And the more obviously developing countries argue: You in the First World had your share of greenhouse gas emission since the start of the Industrial Revolution in the early 1800s; it’s our turn now. And it isn’t just heat; the Canadian province of Nova Scotia is experiencing the largest rainfall in half a century. Forgive the writer’s indulgence in repetition but he is more tuned into his own term ‘Global Crazy’; because that’s the way it’s going. More on that next week, as well as bringing the spotlight much closer to home.