Feel the fear of climate breakdown

| 16th September 2019
Former chief scientist Sir David King says situation so grave UK should cut emissions of greenhouse gases to almost zero by 2040.

It's appropriate to be scared.

A top scientist has said it is "appropriate to be scared" about the pace at which climate change is taking place.

Former chief government scientist Professor Sir David King said the situation was so grave that the UK should bring forward the date for cutting emissions of greenhouse gases to almost zero from 2050 to 2040, according to the BBC.

Another scientist told the broadcaster about the "numbing inevitability" of climate change, while another expressed concern about public fear around the issue and compared it to the fear of nuclear war in his youth.

Hurricanes

Prof King told the BBC: "It's appropriate to be scared. We predicted temperatures would rise, but we didn't foresee these sorts of extreme events we're getting so soon."

He said the world could not wait for scientific certainty on events like Hurricane Dorian, but said he believes the likelihood that Dorian is a climate change event is "very high".

He added: "I can't say that with 100 percent certainty, but what I can say is that the energy from the hurricane comes from the warm ocean and if that ocean gets warmer we must expect more energy in hurricanes."

Scared

He continued: "If you got in a plane with a one in 100 chance of crashing you would be appropriately scared.

"But we are experimenting with the climate in a way that throws up probabilities of very severe consequences of much more than that."

Physicist Prof Jo Haigh from Imperial College London told the BBC: "David King is right to be scared - I'm scared too."

Afraid

Gerald Meehl, a senior scientist at the US National Centre for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colorado, told the broadcaster: "I have a sense of the numbing inevitability of it all.

"It's like seeing a locomotive coming at you for 40 years - you could see it coming and were waving the warning flags but were powerless to stop it."

Petteri Taalas, who is secretary-general of the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), said he wants to "stick to the facts", which he said are "quite convincing and dramatic enough".

"We should avoid interpreting them too much. When I was young we were afraid of nuclear war. We seriously thought it's better not to have children.

"I'm feeling the same sentiment among young people at the moment. So we have to be a bit careful with our communication style," he said.

This Author

Brendan Montague is editor of The Ecologist.

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