As Cancun climate talks plod along, the world copes with Hell and High Water

Pachauri: Climate change impacts are ‘here and now’

As the world’s environmental ministers arrive in Cancun, Mexico, for the 19th year of negotiations to address global warming pollution, new climate disasters are killing people across the planet. IPCC chief Dr. Rajendra Pachauri warned Friday at a forum on communicating climate science that the impacts of climate change are here and now. Brad Johnson has the double story.The slow-moving climate talks are hobbled by insufficient amibition, and uncertainty over whether the United States or China “” the world’s largest climate polluters “” will follow through with their Copenhagen Accord commitments. The Obama administration’s stated commitment to cut pollution by 17 percent by 2020 from 2005 levels, after Republican climate deniers killed cap-and-trade legislation, now depends on whether the Environmental Protection Agency’s planned greenhouse standards survive a polluter onslaught.

Meanwhile, the building heat trapped by billions of tons of fossil fuel pollution is fueling catastrophic changes in the world’s climate system predicted years ago by scientists:

– The worst wildfires in Israel’s history, fueled by record warmth and drought during the cele, “have destroyed large sections of Israel’s northern area” and killed 41 people. Four days of intense battle during the celebration of Hanukkah, with assistance from Greece, Cyprus, Egypt, Jordan, Turkey, Russia, France, Britain, Switzerland, Spain, US, Germany, Bulgaria, Italy, Azerbaijan and others, have finally begun to bring the devastation under control.

– Forty-two separate wildfires are burning in neighboring Lebanon, which has the same tinderbox conditions.

– Dynamic winter-storm systems driven by the rapidly warming Arctic have plunged much of Europe into killer cold weather for the second year in a row, months after a summer of record heat and precipitation. Up to 30 people have frozen to death in Poland, and thirty more killed in the rest of Europe.

Floods have hit Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro and Serbia after “three weeks of torrential rains,” forcing the evacuation of tens of thousands of people.

– Thousands of people have been evacuated amid catastrophic floods in Australia that have already destroyed $500 million in crops, with rivers still rising.

Thunderstorms, high winds and tornadoes ripped through the southern United States, injuring at least 30 people, destroying buildings, toppling trees, flooding highways and forcing schools to close.

– New Zealand is facing an intense heatwave and its third consecutive summer of drought.

Speaking at the funeral of a teenage volunteer firefighter, President Shimon Peres said the wildfire “disaster taught us that all of us, Jews, Arabs, Druze, and other peoples, share the same fate.”

In a related WonkRoom cross-post, IPCC chief Pachauri warns the impacts of climate change are “here and now.”

Pachauri, the chair of the Nobel-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, said that scientists need to do a better job explaining that global warming is not a distant threat, but a present reality:

It is important for us to emphasize the fact that climate change and its impacts are not something in the future. They are here and now. And I am afraid the scientific community has not been very effective in communicating this message, and I hope that we can do something about it.

Pachauri made his remarks at the Climate Change Communication Forum held in association with the ongoing international climate talks in Cancun, Mexico. In his speech, he also argued it is important for people to understand the successes already achieved in tackling global warming pollution, particularly the “win-win” solutions such as energy efficiency that improve both environmental and economic health.

Brad Johnson

Related Hell and High Water posts: