17 October 2010

One Single Little Declaration Would Change It All

DANGER! We are beyond DANGEROUS climate change!

That one little declaration on the part of any nation with influence at the international level would change the game — and the future — at the Cancun climate talks coming up later this year. (And yes, I'm oversimplifying to make a point.)

That's because "avoiding dangerous interference with the climate system" is the objective of the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), to which most nations in the world are signatories (and therefore legally bound). Since we have no only not avoided dangerous interference, we have surpassed dangerous interference, there should be huge legal and political ramifications.

But the developed (Annex 1) nations get away with this because they haven't yet "defined" dangerous interference. And if there's no definition, well, how can we be held responsible? Annex 2 (developing) nations, I'm afraid, are just as guilty here — they could have (and should have, considering they're already experiencing the dangers of interference with the climate system) defined and called dangerous. I think they're afraid of larger nations cutting off aid and development funding. (Don't get me going on that one! The UNFCCC says that developed nations should be helping smaller nations develop clean energy technologies, etc. but not much of that has been happening either. We are SO short-sighted and stingy!)

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says they can't define "dangerous" — it's a value judgement that only society can make. Only a handful of climate scientists has dared wander into this fray. James Hansen, John Holdren, Hans Schellnhuber, Bill Hare, and perhaps a few others have stated that we're flirting with climate catastrophe (my words, not theirs!).

Society (at least in influential countries) ain't about to declare "dangerous interference" anytime soon, partly because the denial industry has people so confused all they want to do is watch TV, and partly because their favourite TV show is coming on in just a few minutes. Certainly anyone intimately connected to rape-and-pillage capitalism isn't going to sound the alarm.

So, maybe that leaves the one profession that mops up after "dangerous" every day: the healthcare profession: doctors, nurses, public health officials, and other associated groups. But it can't be about "change the lightbulbs in your clinic" — we're way beyond that personal actions stuff now. If no one else will do it, all the doctors of the world should stand up with their allied colleagues and declare, in a loud, influential voice: "HOLY CRAP! IF THIS ISN'T DANGEROUS INTERFERENCE WITH THE CLIMATE SYSTEM, I DON'T WANT TO BE AROUND WHEN THE $#@! REALLY HITS THE FAN!"

Oh, sorry, did I say that out loud? Let's try it again:

Doctors and other healthcare professionals should stand up with their beleaguered colleagues from Russia and Pakistan and Niger and say firmly: "We know danger, and this is it."

Visit Climate Change Emergency Medical Response for more information.

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I would appreciate hearing your thoughts or questions on this post or anything else you've read here. What is your take on courage and compassion being an important part of the solution to the climate change emergency?