Rising world tensions; relief is needed

The Secretary-General of the United Nations, António Guterres, is hardly ever heard from. He’s a bureaucrat and quite a calm individual. That’s why it was somewhat of a surprise, mid-summer, to have him issue a global threat warning. For months he has been gathering data and input from offices of the U.N. in almost every country. 

And, because the U.N.’s Environment Programme has scientist friends in the United States government (even if those same scientists are now gagged by this administration’s efforts to roll back any climate regulations) he was able to get real U.S. data from NASA and NOAA and otherwise silenced EPA scientists to confirm his fears and other countries’ data and worries.

Being a calm man, his warning was equally sanguine: Spotlighting global geopolitical hotspots, he affirmed that sudden global warming is causing rising political tensions that are dangerous and avoidable. Adding, that while there have always been hot summers, this is “not the summer of our youth,” but a climate emergency.

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So, some science: World Meteorological Organization (WMO) shows that 2019 has had the hottest June ever, with records broken from New Delhi to the Arctic Circle, from Sydney to Siberia, from Buenos Aires to Montreal. These are facts. And July is also on course to equal, or surpass the hottest month in recorded history. And 2015 to 2019 are likely to be the five hottest years on record ever — repeat ever. And that data stream goes back, way back, past human habitation on much of the planet’s surface to the earliest times and earliest ice ages.

“If we do not take action on climate change now,” said Mr. Guterres, “these extreme weather events are just the tip of the iceberg. And that iceberg is also rapidly melting.”

At this coming September’s U.N. Climate Summit in New York City, he has called for every nation to consider that the “ticket to entry is bold action… bold action and much greater ambition.” 

How bold? We need to cut 45% of greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, achieving carbon neutrality by 2050. “We need rapid and deep change in how we do business, generate power, build cities and feed the world.”

The big question is how. Yes, the growing use of new technology is helping advance renewable energy to be cheaper than fossil fuels. And yes, the planting of millions of trees can reverse deforestation and remove carbon dioxide from the environment. 

Also, the money boys and girls are increasingly pricing carbon risks into their decision-making process. They have seen the writing on the wall and are beginning to press political leaders to help phase out fossil fuel dependence. 

In fact, leading businesses from China to India to Europe and the Americas are recognizing that, in order to avoid huge losses later on (after all who can you sell that gas-guzzler to if we’re all dying?), now is the time to move from the “grey” polluting economy, to a green economy.

But the political obstacles, especially with this brutal Administration, create an uneven playing field, as they are more against remediation, more pro-pollution. If the rest of the world saves the planet without the United States, then the United States will be forever seen as the freeloader (at best) or the pariah of humanity (at worst).


Peter Riva, a former resident of Amenia Union, now lives in New Mexico.