We are hummingbirds putting out the fire of climate change

The Prince of Monaco, Prof. Jean Pascal van Ypersele a Belgian climate scientist and Sunita Narain an Indian social activist took the stage at the UN in Geneva yesterday to speak about climate change.

The main themes to emerge from the two hour event in the cavernous neoclassical Assembly Hall was how the poor suffer disproportionately and the hard choices that need to be made to stop climate change. A striking metaphor was offered of a hummingbird dousing a fire with water from its beak. It begged the question of whether we are doing enough to stop climate change.

Climate talk at the UN Assembly Hall in Geneva

Climate talk at the UN Assembly Hall in Geneva

Jean Pascal van Ypersele vice-Chair of IPCC gave a briefing on the findings of the most recent IPCC report on climate change. Graphs from the report highlighted the rising temperatures and increasing CO2 concentrations. For 400,000 years, the concentrations varied between 200-300 parts per million (pcm). Now we are at 400 and predicted to reach 900 by 2100.The Business as Usual scenario, that we are currently on, will result in 4.8C average warming. This will be catastrophic in terms of impacts like rising sea levels, heatwaves and lost agricultural productivity but also ocean acidification. Professor van Ypersele showed a slide of the Nile Delta, home to 10 million people. He said that a half metre rise (which is likely) will mean displacing millions of people.

Impact of sea level rise on the Nile Delta

Impact of sea level rise on the Nile Delta

He described how the sense of urgency of each IPCC report has increased. In 1990, he said the first report conveyed that “there might be a problem”; in 1995, “it said that it was definitely a problem”, in 2007 it urged that we “sort it out soon” and in 2013, the report is beginning to “sound like a broken record – we really have checked the science and we are not making this up”.

Van Ypersele finished by quoting a poem by Pierre Rahbi in which a hummingbird starts to douse a forest fire collecting water with his beak. The armadillo mocks the bird “Are you not mad? Do you think you can put out the fire with these drops of water?” The hummingbird answers “I know, but I am doing my part”.

Pierre Rabhi poem on the hummingbird

Pierre Rabhi poem on the hummingbird

When we are old and if the sea levels have risen, the oceans acidified and the glaciers  all gone, can we tell our grandchildren that we did the best we could to stop climate change?

Here are some of the questions that children are already asking. https://invisiblegreenhand.wordpress.com/2013/07/01/children-bearing-much-reality-on-climate-change/


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