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Crying wolf? Media barely notice latest U.N. climate report

Art lMoore

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Scientists lament 'blindness' to irreversible 'existential crisis'

What if the United Nations issued a climate-change report warning of an imminent, irreversible global cataclysm if immediate action is not taken, and nobody was there to hear it?

On the heels of the issuance Monday of the third segment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, The Guardian newspaper of London did notice that nobody seemed to be listening as the world focused on other issues.

"Scientists fear that their last-ditch climate warnings are going unheeded amid international turmoil caused by the war in Ukraine, and soaring energy prices," the paper said.

The Guardian report by Fiona Harvey was spotlighted by the popular climate-change skeptic blog Watts Up With That, which commented that climate-change warnings "appear to have finally jumped the shark even with liberal media audiences, with reporters focusing on issues people care about, like the economy and Russia’s war with Ukraine."

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Harvey reported that "despite warning of catastrophic and irreversible upheavals that can only narrowly be avoided by urgent action now," the previous installment of U.N. panel's vast report received "only muted attention" when it was published one month ago, just as Russia invaded Ukraine.

The second installment, noted Deborah Brosnan, a scientific consultant and adjunct professor of biology at Virginia Tech University, "was widely anticipated, but completely ignored."

Brosnan told The Observer, The Guardian's sister Sunday newspaper, she understood that people were shocked by the Ukraine war and concerned about soaring inflation. But she insisted the "climate crisis" needs urgent attention.

"The war in Ukraine is a terrible tragedy playing out before our eyes, and families rightly fear being pushed into poverty by inflation," she said. "Yet we seem blind to the fact that an even larger and existential crisis is already unfolding today – one that will result in a global humanitarian crisis and on a scale never seen before."

While many scientists – pointing to the countless failed predictions of promoters of the theory that mankind is causing catastrophic climate change – take issue with the U.N. panel, it’s clear that some of the most popular purveyors of its findings have overstated its conclusions.

In January 2019, for example, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., said at an event in which she defended the price tag of her "Green New Deal" by saying the world "is gonna end in 12 years if we don't address climate change, and your biggest issue is how are we gonna pay for it?'"

Her claim of impending doom relies on the 2018 U.N. "Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5ºC," which did not conclude the world would end in 12 years. The climate scientists who produced the report warned that any rise in global warming of more than 1.5 degrees celsius by 2030 would result in drought, floods, extreme heat and poverty for hundreds of millions of people.

'We are at a crossroads'
The latest U.N. report claims that to meeting Paris climate treaty objectives, humanity has less than three years to stop the rise of carbon emissions that the scientists contend is warming the planet and threatening a "livable future."

The emissions must peak by 2025 and then drop sharply to remain even with the Paris treaty's conservative goal of limiting warming to 2 degrees Celsius this century. The prime goal is to keep warming at no more than 1.5 degrees.

"We are at a crossroads," said IPCC chief Hoesung Lee. "The decisions we make now can secure a livable future. We have the tools and know-how required to limit warming."

The panel concluded that limiting the rise in global temperature to 2 degrees Celsius would require burning 30% less oil, 50% less natural gas and 80% less coal unless technology is used to catch and store the CO2 released.

To reach the Paris targets, by 2050, the world must transition to a "net zero" global economy in which nearly all of the energy comes from "non-carbon-polluting" sources, the U.N. panel contends.

In 2019, solar and wind together only accounted for 8% of total electricity generation. The rest came from fossil fuels, especially coal.

The report concludes that practical measures such as plant-based diets, electric vehicles, car-free mobility, telecommuting, climate-proof buildings, enhanced energy efficiencies and fewer long-haul flights could cut CO2 emissions by 40% to 70% by 2050.

But even in the most optimistic emissions scenarios, the scientists say, several billion tons of CO2 will need to be extracted each year from the atmosphere by 2050. And by 2100, the need will grow to hundreds of billions of ton.

"Carbon dioxide removal (CDR) is necessary to achieve net zero CO2 and greenhouse gas emissions both globally and nationally," the report says.

Among the strategies for carbon capture are tree-planting and machines that chemically extract CO2 from thin air.

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