Real Consequences

It is fair to say that our knowledge of the impact of climate change on human mortality is imprecise. However, we know it is already causing additional deaths every year.

Many impacts of climate change — such as “more frequent and more extreme” weather events, new and more vigorous diseases, and so forth — generate risks to human life …

  • CyclonesEtc Etc.gif
  • Heat waves
  • Floods
  • Drought
  • Malnutrition
  • Famine
  • Vector-borne diseases
  • Diarrhoea
  • Conflict over increasingly-scarce resources

The World Health Organisation estimates that between 2030 and 2050, there will be an additional 250,000 deaths per annum because of climate change. As the phenomenon worsens, the number will rise.

When we vote for politicians who do not tackle climate change aggressively or, worse, implement policies that entrench carbon-based technologies and industries, we are, collectively, actively contributing to these deaths.

Of real people, with names, with families, with hopes, with desires.

How is that a price worth paying for … whatever it is we think we get for climate-denying policies, when there are alternative ways of achieving our aims?

This week, key decision-makers in the U.S. — people who are in positions where being uninformed is simply inexcusable — are singing from the rafters, “We want to contribute to these deaths”.

That vulgarity is the inescapable conclusion of the facts.

Are Recent Weather events Caused by Climate Change?

Untitled tweet

Well meaning people (i.e. not climate-denying trolls) have been reasonably questioning whether it’s fair for me to say in this tweet that NZ’s record-breaking floods are caused by climate change.

Yes

The science has been clear for a long time: extreme weather events will become

  1. more frequent, and
  2. more extreme.

I don’t know if it can be determined whether this was one of the extra, “more frequent” events or one of the “normal” events. But the scale of it clearly falls into the category of being “more extreme”.

But here’s the thing: We’ve got common sense and intuition, which are backed up by mountains of scientific data and analysis. Based on all of that, we know that these unprecedented, record-breaking events are unnatural; we know they are the result of weak climate policies, among other things.

If we buy into the narrative that we can’t be sure whether some particular event is caused by climate change, we’re actually buying into the narrative that has been crafted by climate deniers.

And if your science-based intuition is still unsure, sweet. But at least you can fall back on the precautionary principle, which says that a lack of scientific certainty is not a basis for inaction; rather, the burden falls on others to prove why we shouldn’t act cautiously.