The clock is running out - on us, me and you.
As The Guardian's Damian Carrington reminds us, the health of hundreds of millions of people around the world is already being damaged by climate change, in some cases terminally damaged as in "extinguished."
It's good to remember that we're getting our version of climate change, probably the mildest strain of the contagion, but every day in many distant corners of the world others are experiencing a far more vicious form of climate change, one that causes disease, all manner of suffering, dislocation and, yes, death.
Ask yourself if we, as Canadians, would support the sale and export of supertanker loads of bitumen to overseas buyers, if we had to accept that each load would claim innocent lives? Would we think it just fine to consign people - the weakest, poorest and most vulnerable - to that fate for the sake of a load of crud that should never have been brought to the surface in the first place? Do we think we have a right to windfall profit that surpasses another's right to live? Do you think there's a reason we don't ask these questions in our House of Commons and our provincial legislatures?
Heatwaves are affecting many more vulnerable people and global warming is boosting the transmission of deadly diseases such as dengue fever, the world’s most rapidly spreading disease. Air pollution from fossil fuel burning is also causing millions of early deaths each year, while damage to crops from extreme weather threatens hunger for millions of children.
The findings, published in the Lancet journal, come from researchers at 26 institutions around the world, including many universities, the World Health Organization, World Bank and the UN’s World Meteorological Organization (WMO). The WMO reported on Monday that the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere made a record jump in 2016 to hit a concentration not seen for more than three million years.
“Climate change is happening and it’s a health issue today for millions worldwide,” said Prof Anthony Costello, at the World Health Organization and co-chair of the group behind the new report. It follows a related report in 2009 that warned that climate change was the biggest danger to global health in the 21st century, an assessment repeated in the new report.
But Costello said acting to halt global warming would also deliver a huge benefit for health: “The outlook is challenging, but we still have an opportunity to turn a looming medical emergency into the most significant advance for public health this century.”
Whether it's crop failures from heatwaves, droughts and floods or respiratory failure caused by air pollution, or the spread of diseases such as Dengue fever or large scale deaths from overheating, the butcher's bill for our fossil energy promotion is growing alarmingly.
Meanwhile, another warning from the UN that emissions curbs promised by world governments and the private sector, even if they were magically honoured (and that would be real magic), still have us facing at least 3 degrees Celsius of heating by the end of the century. To put that in perspective, today we're at about 1 degree C of heating over pre-industrial levels. Today, at 1C, we're experiencing disease, dislocation, suffering and death on a scale of hundreds of millions of people, human beings.
As Costello argues, we still have an opportunity to achieve "the most significant advance for public health this century" but we're doing next to nothing to make that a reality. That holds doubly true for petro-states such as Canada. As Schellnhuber warned the delegations to the Paris summit in December, 2015, we have a chance but it demanded the "induced implosion" of the global fossil energy industry. Governments had to shut them down. Judging by our own prime minister, himself the father of young kids, that's simply not going to happen.