33 Jean-Paul Klein – Climate Change: The Real Terrorist

Jean-Paul Klein

Climate Change: The Real Terrorist

Imagine a hypothetical dystopian scenario where your child suffers an incurable lethal virus that eats their insides out. While you must hear their constant cries and watch their skin rot, you also question when their suffering will end. Despite this, your community must continuously migrate in a scorching barren wasteland to avoid the countless, daily destructive hurricanes, whilst feeding on perished food to avoid starvation. With no other transportation but walking, every step is a burden, and what remains of the homes and cities are the ruins and rubble of the countless fires, hurricanes, floods, and tornadoes that ravaged them. While this horrific world is often conveyed in mass media, this is certainly our near-future if our humanitarian contributions to climate change or our political decisions to prevent overpopulation are not taken seriously. In fact, whilst climate change is defined as the broad range of global phenomena created predominately by burning fossil fuels (NASA) such as extreme weather events (sea-level rising or ocean acidification), global warming is the long-term warming of the planet due to fossil-fuel emissions. These two terms are interchangeably expressed throughout the concerns of climate change, and while some disbelieve that human activities contribute to climate change, multiple studies have proven otherwise. In fact, our exponential human activities not only cause climate change, but they also indirectly threaten our existence and violate the United Nations’ Human Right Declaration by impacting our physiological and psychological health and denying us a safe home.

Since the 1960’s, experts have noticed that climate change tremendously complicates our physiological health by introducing and amplifying pathogens and limiting our resources of food and water. Antonella Rossati, an Italian infectious disease specialist, reveals in her article that “Statistical Models…estimate the global burden of some infectious diseases as a result of climate change. According to the models, by 2030, 10% more diarrheal diseases are expected, affecting primarily the young children,” before adding, “If global temperatures increase by 2 – 3C, as it is expected to, the population at risk for malaria could [also] increase by 3% – 5%.” Indeed, climate change favours the environments set for water-borne or air-borne pathogens. More specifically, pathogens such as cholera can easily become prevalent in regions where floods caused by climate change have occurred, and pathogens such as influenza can prevail in humid environments during cold seasons. Additionally, the specialist states, “Higher temperatures may also facilitate the introduction of new pathogens,” and increase the likelihood emergence of new pathogens through natural disasters such as flooding, droughts and hurricanes. This occurs because organisms, which are able to easily divide at a remarkable rate, can also mutate significantly to a point that our immune system is no longer able to combat and resist against infections. At the same time, the consequences of climate change do not limit themselves to the increasing abundance and introduction of pathogens or pathological vectors such as mosquitoes and ticks, other scenarios such as contaminated and/or acidified water sources and starvation and/or malnutrition are also current consequences of climate change. Anil Kumar Misra, director of the geological department and Ph.D graduate from Sikkim University, India, asserts that  climate change has severely reduced water resources and agricultural production:

Studies (de Wit and Stankiewicz, 2006, Anthony Nyong, 2005) predict that by the year 2050 the rainfall in Sub-Saharan Africa could drop by 10%, which will cause a major water shortage. This 10% decrease in precipitation would reduce drainage by 17% and the regions which are receiving 500–600 mm/year rainfall will experience a reduction by 50–30% respectively in the surface drainage.

Misra recognises that African and Middle Eastern countries as well as China and India are the most affected ones. Indeed, the sum population of these regions represent approximately 60% (United Nations) of the global population. Along with the expected extreme high death rate in these developing countries in the years to come, victims will also suffer starvation, and/or malnutrition. Thus, the consequences of climate change can strike our physiological health through pathological means and nutritional means.

Nevertheless, the effects of climate change do not restrict themselves to affecting human physiological health, but they also influence our psychological health and behaviour. Indeed, researchers have identified that post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and human aggression have indirectly become prevalent mental and behavioural results due to climate change. The American Psychological Association (APA) defines PTSD as a stress/traumatic disorder that is triggered by exposure to actual or threatened death, serious injury or sexual violation. Symptoms of this disorder include re-experiencing traumatic events, avoidance of thoughts, feelings, memories of the traumatic event, negative cognitions and aroused moods (APA). For instance, Elisabeth Rataj, a medical evidence-based (EBM) researcher from the University Hospital of Dresden, Germany, confirms in her article that climate-change induced-PTSD has increased by 0.2 – 53% across 10 different studies in various developing countries that have endured natural disasters, in her extensive scientific literature analysis. Indeed, while developing countries such as Vietnam and Nicaragua do not contribute to climate change as much as developed countries, these former countries experience the consequences of climate change the most. They are unable to adapt to the effects of climate change, which leads to a major prevalence of climate change induced-PTSD. On the other hand, this PTSD is rare among North American and European citizens because many North American and European countries have the financial advantages to adapt to the consequences of climate change. Furthermore, Craig A. Anderson – professor and director of the department of psychology in Iowa State University and Ph. D graduate from Stanford University – and Matt DeLisi (2011) reveal in their article, “Implications of Global Climate Change for Violence Developed and Developing Countries” that “uncomfortably warm temperatures (relative to comfortable temperature) increased participants’ feelings of anger and hostility…Even when such factors [poverty, unemployment, age distribution, culture] are controlled,” For example, the psychologists demonstrate in their statistical analyses that for every 1F (0.56C) increase, an average of 79 murders/assaults result per 100,000 people. Moreover, they also conduct another statistical analysis by implementing factors such as temperature, year, and prison to distinguish the exact correlation between the temperature increase and the number of murders/assault per 100,000. On average, for every 1F increase (0.56C), an additional total of people killed was found at 4.15 per 100,000 people (Anderson). This discovery is fundamental in predicting how perilous social interactions and day-to-day activities will become in the near-future. As the psychologists explain, the central explanation for this correlation is the fact that people become easily irritated in uncomfortable environments. This “crankiness” could disadvantage businesses, academic environments, social occupations, and possibly political decisions, which are crucial to the planet’s fate. Thus, not only will we suffer nutritional restrictions and more dangerous diseases, but as time moves on, we can expect to live in a more perilous atmosphere.

Although the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights accentuates that humans are allowed residence in (Article 3) and to return to their country (Article 13), the consequences of climate change cannot guarantee these provisions. Before the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) was created in 1988, the United States suffered one of the costliest and deadliest summers that same year: the 1988 – 1989 North American Drought bears its name from its significant death toll (5,000 – 10,000) (Karas) and expenses ($7.5 billion) (NOAA), while the Yellowstone Fires of 1988 blazed approximately 683,000 acres (Whipple). Since the organisation’s creation, the IPCC has recorded tens of thousands of destroyed homes from the multiple natural disasters that occurred throughout the years, most notably hurricanes Maria, Harvey (2017) and Katrina (2014), which left tens of thousands of individuals homeless. Sarah Zhang, author of “Will People Return to Houston After Hurricane Harvey?” in The Atlantic, points out the consequences after hurricane Harvey, “Even when the water is gone, Houston will not be as it was.” In another instance, Pam Wright, author of “Puerto Rico’s Hurricane Maria Mass Migration Confirmed by New Census Bureau Data” on The Weather Channel, confirms that after Hurricane Maria, “an estimated 129,848 people left Puerto Rico between July 1, 2017 and July 1, 2018, a 14 percent drop [in their population]” whilst Nevada and Idaho were the “fastest growing states” in the country (2.1%). However, while these two reports indicate the gravity of the consequences, they only report two natural disasters among hundreds of unreported ones. Indeed, other territories such as the Fiji Islands or the Solomon Islands are currently on the verge of extinction due to the rising water-levels. Ken Belson, author of “Paradise Threatened: Fiji’s War Against Climate Change” in New York Times, narrates his first-hand experience of the threat in the Fijian islands: “The country now faces major environmental challenges…Rising sea levels has led to the erosion of Fiji’s coastal areas, and the intrusion of saltwater has destroyed farmland and forced residents to move to safer grounds.” This problem is detrimental especially when the United Nations cites that the Fijian Islands and the Solomon islands have a total population of approximately 919,000 and 635,000 respectively. If the inhabitants are to survive their islands’ submersion, this could cause an extreme migration flux towards a greater country such as Australia or the United States, which could cause matters to spiral by way of civil disputes, crimes, unhygienic conditions, violence, pollution and transmission of illnesses. As Article 13 states in the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, “Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country,” but these immigrants cannot return home when their country is flooded.  Dr. Alexander Alvarez, professor of Criminology & Criminal Justice of Northern Arizona University stated that the International Organization for Migrations (IOM) expects 200 million people to be on the move by 2050. In fact, this immigration also violates Article 9: “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.”  That being said, the consequences of climate change force populations to emigrate against their will. To aggravate the situation, these catastrophes have wreaked havoc across agricultural lands, water sources and have even killed thousands. The reports by Wright and Belson also demonstrate the vulnerability of these respective developing countries. While these developing countries endure the worst of spiraling effects, they also lack the financial means to combat these environmental and political consequences. Thus, our human activities indirectly prevent others from securing a safe home through the occurrences of natural disasters.

Since its first mentioning, the topic of climate change has been met with two extremely complex and opposing viewpoints. On one end of the population spectrum, it is believed that human activities heavily influence climate change and emit more greenhouse gases than our natural environments, and on the other, it is believed that climate change is primarily caused by natural events. In a 2017 interview on CNBC, the current American Secretary of Energy, Rick Perry, for example, supports the latter claim, “No, most likely, the primary control knob [to control the Earth’s temperature and climate] is the ocean waters and this environment that we live in.” Still, Perry makes a hasty generalisation by failing to support his claim with relevant evidence. He seems to believe that oceans emit more greenhouse gases than our fossil-fueled emissions despite admitting that humans contribute to climate change. The problem is that this claim also opposes the extreme, measured environmental changes (temperatures, sea level rising) in recent years, documented by reliable scientific organisations such as the IPCC, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the Arctic Climate Change Assessment (ACCA).  The IPCC, for example, states in the Summary of their Fifth Assessment Report (AR5): “The evidence for human influence on the climate system has grown since the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report (AR4).” More specifically, they strengthen their claims by revealing that greenhouse gases emissions have increased by 78% from 1970 to 2010 from fossil fuel and industrial processes. Additionally, Perry uses another hasty generalization in the interview when he states that science is not “settled.” In other words, Perry seems to be suspicious of the science. While it is suspected that numerous scientists manipulate their data, the credibility of the scientists, the repetition and the accuracy of these measurements, and the locations of published scientific data are among numerous factors that determine the reliability of the scientific data. In this case, the IPCC is not only a supporter of the former claim among numerous others, but its roster also compromises over 800 lead authors and review editors from over 1,000 contributors (Union of Concerned Scientists). Thus, while Rick Perry does not support the evidence provided by the IPCC, and instead claims that climate change is induced by natural events, he also states his scepticism against science. However, the IPCC does demonstrate a substantial amount of evidence to prove that humans are majorly affecting our planet’s health, which will inflict severe physical and psychological damage to our health and security.

Still, there are multiple possibilities to ameliorate this overwhelming situation. In fact, the American Institute of Physics (AIP), a corporation founded in 1931 by leading physicists, notes that scientists began to observe the effects of climate change since the 19th century. Over time, this issue became a political debate, though it was not until 1979 that the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) organised the First World Climate Conference. Six years later, the Montreal Protocol was established in an attempt to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, which contributed to the depletion of the Antarctic ozone layer. Until today, scientists, entrepreneurs, politicians, humanitarians and environmentalists, architects, economists, historians are proposing to extend educational opportunities and to optimise kitchen appliance administration to improve our health, social interactions, moods and more importantly, our environment, among other solutions. By kitchen appliance administration, studies have demonstrated that refrigerators are the major appliances in our kitchen that contributes to climate change. While they have evolved from a luxury to a normality in our homes, they are not the stemming issue to this climate change situation. In fact, it is the technological advancement and scientific discoveries that led industries to exponentially produce items to facilitate our lives since the Industrial Revolution. In turn, this led to greater access to comfort and safety, healthier lives, greater life spans and thus, an increasing birth rate, which finally resulted in the stemming issue of overpopulation. That being said, it is imperative that our societies must control their birth rate to facilitate the resolution of the upcoming climatic disasters.

Paul Hawken, an American environmentalist, entrepreneur and author, proposes countless solutions to improving our atmosphere and reducing the consequences of climate change and global warming in his book, Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming (2017). The environmentalist strongly recommends that education should not be gender specific in any country. He believes that girls should be scholastically educated since childhood. Before revealing the countless benefits to this unusual claim, he supports it by revealing the results of a demographic analytical research, published by Science, and by mentioning other credible experts such as the Brookings Institution, a social scientific and economic research group founded in 1916, Malala Yousafzai, a Nobel Laureate and a women’s education activist, a 2010 economic study and a 2013 study. The entrepreneur contends, “Women with more years of education have fewer, healthier children and actively manage their reproductive health.” He lists the numerous benefits that educating females in school could emerge by 2050, such as a large population reduction (-843 million), an economic growth, a decrease in maternal and infantile mortality, a “lower incidence of HIV/AIDS and malaria,” an agricultural activity and nourishment improvement, and finally a greater resistance against natural disasters that results in less “injured, displaced, or killed,” among other civil and cultural benefits. This implementation could also reduce the emission of 59.6 gigatons of carbon dioxide by 2050 (Hawken). On the contrary, there are several, economic, nutritional and cultural obstacles that countries that do not educate their women, face. Yemeni families for example may not have the means to finance their daughter’s education as these children are born to serve and feed their families. Some of these countries may lack adequate transportation systems, schools, teacher quality and instruction materials. Despite these financial and nutritional challenges, this solution is more achievable than Hawken’s managerial solution. The remaining obstacle, however, is related to cultural traditions, for example, in Saudi Arabia. As Hawken demonstrates the countless benefits to scholastically educating women, these traditions must be abolished. His list of benefits clearly indicates that educating women could greatly diminish the effects of climate change and ultimately, global warming. In this time of history, global warming is an imminent global phenomenon that threatens our human existence. It is preferable to save one’s lives, then to hold your cultural and political values when faced against the disastrous natural disasters that could wipe out a large portion of the population in a matter of days. Thus, women must be educated in order to combat global warming.

Furthermore, Paul Hawken believes the most crucial convention that we should adopt is refrigeration management. He confirms that refrigerators and air conditioners contain chemical refrigerants such as hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) that “warm the atmosphere… one thousand to nine thousand greater than that of carbon dioxide.” In fact, these chemical refrigerants are substituents to the scientifically-proven refrigerants (chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs)) that depleted the Antarctic ozone layer after the introduction of aerosols. Despite the Montreal Protocol (1987), the Paris Agreement (2015) and the Kigali Agreement (2019), Hawken states that refrigerants must be “disposed of effectively,” before recommending to “increase the refrigeration efficiency in appliances…lower the demand/use of appliances and…production of refrigerants” on his website. These refrigerants, Hawkens advises, can be “reused” or recycled into other chemically and environmentally-friendly usages. This adaptation offers essential solutions that could benefit our atmosphere by the year 2050 such as the reduction of 89.74 gigatons of carbon dioxide, and the significant reduction of greenhouse gas emissions (Hawken). Conversely, this adaptation is oppressively burdensome on a practical level. The limited use of refrigeration for example, can be uncomfortable for many as refrigerators play crucial roles to storing our food fresh. Unless people are willing to finish their meals, millions of tons of food could be thrown away, which could also contribute to pollution. This managerial solution would also require families to learn new methods of cooking and manners to preserve food for as long as possible to limit pollution rates. This is not to mention that the financial implications to manage refrigeration are gargantuan. According to Hawken, the management of refrigeration would cost over $902.8 billion, a sum that any country is unwillingly prepared to finance. The limited usage of air conditioner could also cause distress, anxiety, and heat strokes among other issues in populations as global warming is occurring. And, as the population increases by over 150,000 people per day (Worldometers), so will the demand for refrigerants. That being said, if we are to survive as a human species in the long run, refrigeration must be managed to prevent the worst disasters to appear.

While Hawken’s proposed solutions could improve the worst climatic effects of climate change, they are not the key solutions that could save the threatening human existence. Research suggests that our planet is beginning to experience a situation of overpopulation as the consequences of climate change all boil down to the increasing population size (Bennett). It is reasonable to believe that individuals naturally desire comfort, food and water, clothes and warmth to name a few of the essential factors in our quotidian. However, the fulfillment of these essentials spends our planet’s resources, and as the population increases exponentially, so does our resource expenditures. Nonetheless, experts must contribute to controlling the exponential birth rate through political policies, the manufacture and promotion of contraceptive techniques and medication, the implementation of sexual education and counseling. In 1979 for example, the Chinese government imposed the one-child policy for thirty-six years. Although this policy has introduced mental, psychological, social, demographic, and economic complications, it also resulted in the prevention of 250 – 300 million people as well as the increased wealth and freedom of the government (Hesketh, 2005). One issue with this policy was that female babies were discriminated to male babies. This led to, as Hesketh observes, “[The increased] kidnapping and trafficking of women for marriage and… sex workers, [as well as a] rise in… sexually transmitted diseases.” To combat this situation, governments enforce security measurements and avoid discrimination to prevent prostitution and depression among men due to loneliness. Moreover, Mohammed Karamouzian, Medical Ph.D graduate, University of British Columbia, Canada, reveals how the combination of an exemplary family planning implementation, the social and cultural norms, the mentality of families, and political decisions has decreased “[t]he total fertility rate…from 6.5 in 1960 to 1.6 in 2012” in Iran. Although current legislative decisions are promoting families to increase their families, such as the restriction of contraception and the outlawing of abortions, this policy resulted in the increase literacy rate of adult men and women and school enrollment, modernization of technology, reduction of water scarcity and increase agricultural production (Larsen, 2005). That being said, China and Iran are prime examples to demonstrate the many benefits that result if birth control and family planning are emphasised in our societies. As time progresses, these policies must be implemented to prevent the worse climatic consequences our populations could face.

To conclude, studies have confirmed how climate change affects our physiological and psychological health as well as our security. In reality however, today’s climate change effects are the consequences of previous human activities. If our political decisions and human contributions do not promote global sustainability, we can only expect to endure a similar death toll like the Black Death as the consequences of climate change will worsen. While environmentalists such as Paul Hawken are currently proposing solutions such as refrigeration management to heal our planet, these solutions often require tremendous amounts of effort to make a habit. They do not resolve the consequences of climate change but only prolong them. Therefore, we must focus our attention to prevent overpopulation by limiting the exponential birth rate with policies, laws, fines set by our governments. Additionally, other simpler actions such as recycling aluminum cans, throwing away trash into trash bags, avoiding products (plastic for example) which could harm our ecosystems, reusing water bottles, cycling more and driving less, and even donating untouched food to disadvantaged ones are among the list of countless other solutions that could slightly improve our disastrous climatic situation.
















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