Climate change isn't a future problem - Greenpeace

2013-10-08 14:05
Climate change is likely to impact on the natural environment. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

Climate change is likely to impact on the natural environment. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

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Cape Town - Climate change is seen as a problem of the future and that creates an atmosphere of inaction, an environmental organisation has said.

"Part of the problem is that climate change is perceived as being a 'future problem'. The reality is that messaging around climate change should focus on the fact that climate change is already happening, and we are all already beginning to feel the impacts," Melita Steele, Greenpeace Africa climate and energy campaigner told News24.

Greenpeace, along with other environmental organisations are focused in trying to educate the public about the real risk of climate change.

Scientists warn that continued warming will result in the feedback effect - when extreme weather events become the norm and sea levels rise to drown coastal areas.

"Messaging to the public should focus on the fact that climate change is real, it is happening right now - but we can still make the choices to choose a different future and reduce the impacts of climate change," said Steele.


The UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recently conducted its Fifth Assessment Report on climate and the possible causes and impact.

The organisation says that it is over 95% certain that the evidence for climate change is due to human activity and urged policymakers to begin the implementation phase of strategies to limit the impact of the feedback effect.

Scientists have calculated that 2°C of warming may lead to catastrophic consequences.

"Governments have pledged to hold the increase in warming below 2°C but instead we are hurtling down the wrong road with our foot on the accelerator, and they are squabbling about the seating arrangements. Limiting the risk of more and more climate fuelled extremes requires a rapid peak and decline of emissions," Steele argued.


One of the factors impacting on the urgency of climate change is the sceptic community that protests that there is no evidence that climate change is taking place or that it is not caused by humans.

Scientists, however, reject these ideas, saying that the phenomenon is not new, and more evidence has made the model more robust.

"We've known for over 20 years that the climate is changing," Professor Inez Fung from the University of California, Berkeley told News24.

Fossil fuels

She echoed the sentiments expressed by Naomi Oreskes, professor of History and Science Studies at the University of California San Diego.

Oreskes, who co-authored Merchants of Doubt with Erik Conway, said that established science is usually conservative in its view, despite the accusation of exaggeration.

"We've heard a lot of noise lately about exaggeration of scientific claims - alarmism; hysteria - but actually, I believe that history shows that scientists have actually been conservative in their estimates and that global warming has begun to unfold faster than scientists thought," said Oreskes.

Steele said that it undeniable that climate change is linked to the burning of fossil fuels and urged the government to direct more support for renewable energy projects.

"Burning coal to produce electricity is one of the dirtiest and most destructive practices on the planet, and Greenpeace will continue to call on South Africans to ask the South African government to phase out coal and invest in renewable energy instead."

- Follow Duncan on Twitter
Read more on:    un  |  greenpeace africa  |  climate change

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