I was having a nice lunch with a grand-daughter of mine, even as the Pope was making his spectacular address to the United Nations in New York. The address was spectacular because the Pope cut the ground from under the feet of many of the so-called “conservative” think tanks and other bodies of organised propagandists, who deny that climate change exists and is gradually setting the Earth on a path that will make it barely habitable in a few centuries time.
The Pope was saying: “Our world demands of all government leaders a will which is effective, practical and constant, concrete steps and immediate measures for preserving and improving the natural environment …..
The number and complexity of the problems require that we possess technical instruments of verification.
“The ecological crisis”, (the Pope acknowledged, to the chagrin of the global warming “deniers”) and the large-scale destruction of biodiversity, can threaten the very existence of the human species.
The baneful consequences of an irresponsible mismanagement of the global economy, guided only by ambition for wealth and power, must serve as a summons to a forthright reflection on man: “man is not only a freedom which he creates for himself. Man does not create himself. He is spirit and will, but also nature”
Frankly, I wasn’t paying too much attention to the live telecast of the Pope’s speech, and I didn’t notice my grand-daughter doing so either. But out of the blue, she asked me, in all seriousness: “Grandpa, when do you think the world will come to an end?”
Now, at that time, I hadn’t heard about the “Super Moon” phenomenon that was to occur in the early hours of 28 September 2015.
This was when the shadow of the earth passed across the moon, at the same time as the moon’s orbit brought it closer to the earth by a factor of several thousand. In the ensuing conjunction of stellar events, the moon became quite big to the human eye, at the same time as its colour to sub-orange. I suspect that in their circles, my grand-daughter’s age-group had been exchanging information about what this phenomenon in the sky portended for human life.
Anyway, the directness of her question took me aback. In my own youthful days, we used to discuss the end of the world and things like that in didactic Biblical terms – we took what was said in the Bible as the absolute truth; i.e. the trumpet would sound suddenly one day, and The Son of Man would descend down to judge the quick and the dead. End of story.
But I was having lunch with a young lady who had recently graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in one of the most prestigious Universities in Great Britain. To such an intelligent young person of today, the fate of the world is not to be found in Biblical myths. It is to be found in the here-and-now.
So I said: it depends upon how much carbon humans send from the earth into the atmosphere, to erode the protective layer of ozone and expose the earth to the full force of the sun’s poisonous rays.
That’s why we should take seriously, activities like those carried out by the German motor company, Volkswagen, which has has deliberately been misleading the agencies that set standards for the carbon emissions produced by motor vehicles, with a view to reducing them as much as possible. The agencies test vehicles at random to see whether the motor manufacturers are adhering to the standards set for them.
“But the agencies know that carbon emissions can end human life, yet, pestered as they are by the motor manufacturing companies and their political lobbyists, they have stopped short of forcing the manufacturers to switch from gasoline and diesel, to hydrogen or solar power, which are safer.
They have allowed the manufacturers to persuade them that it is too expensive to make a sudden switch to renewable energy.
Yet even the undue deference paid to them by the agencies does not satisfy them. So high is the profit motive amongst them that some of them are resorting to cheating the agencies – despite the agencies being so friendly towards them!
“For instance, VW has installed software in eleven million diesel-powered vehicles (discovered so far; there could be more!) That produce false results when the vehicles are tested to establish the level of carbon emissions the vehicles produce.
And where VW has led the way, others are certain to follow suit; after all, motor vehicle manufacturers have been stealing secrets from each other for years!”
I added, ”Of course, the Governmental agencies that have been fooled will fine VW heavily. But can the safety of humankind on earth be exchanged for fines?”
My grand-daughter sighed. I was depressed on behalf of my age group, for clearly, we have failed our offspring who are to inherit the earth after. What sort of earth shall we leave behind? I come to have lunch with my grand-daughter and the question on her mind is the fate of herself, her children and THEIR CHILDREN?
This is a matter that must concern all of us. Greatly. In Ghana, for instance, some people have been arguing that coal-fired generators (which, by the way, are being phased out by countries like China which have at last embraced the fact that they cause a myriad of illnesses as well as creating a hole in the ozone layer) should be imported to help solve our Dumsor problem.
I pray the Chinese Government not to agree, if it is ever asked to issue licences for coal-fired generators to be exported to Ghana. For I know that the Chinese Government has adequate technical expertise to be fully aware that such plants produce atmospheric pollutants that kill humans.
To send them to countries like Ghana when the Chinese are phasing theirs out , would constitute an unfriendly act for which succeeding generations of Ghanaians would never forgive China – a country which people of my generation supported as a good friend at the time the USA was trying to influence us to become unfriendly to China.
The thing about carbon emissions is that once they occur, nothing can be done to reduce or reverse their effect on the atmosphere.
If climate change alters the earth’s temperature by even 1-2 degrees Celsius in five years (say), rainfall can decrease drastically in some areas, while other areas will experience exceptional flooding. Shorelines will be consumed by erosion from the sea, as icecaps melt in the Antarctic and Arctic Oceans and send huge volumes of water and stronger currents around the world.
Tsunamis, frightening as they are, will not wait for earthquakes to unleash them. The melting icecaps will release water to swamp low-lying coastal areas and drown millions of people, or drive them far away from their traditional dwelling places.”
I told my grand-daughter: “Those are the short-term effects we can expect from climate change. If global warming continues unabated — and after a while the increase in global warming will be in geometric proportions – the whole earth would bake up and become uninhabitable by humans and animals and, of course, plants”.
My grand-daughter asked thoughtfully: “So we should find another planet on which people could go and live?”
“Yes;” I said, “there is talk at the moment that it might be possible to go and inhabit Mars. But it will take so long to get there! And how many people could actually go?
It will also cost trillions of dollars to send even a handful of people to Mars. The cost alone tells us we must take urgent measures urgently to make the earth safe, unless we want to end the human race.
But it is such a serious an issue that even capitalists have begun to support measures to end climate change, in spite of the fact that it will cost them to experience a fall in profits.
“For instance, I heard a radio programme on the BBC in which Sir Richard Branson, one of the richest company owners of the world (Virgin Airlines) said that he wouldn’t mind governments imposing a higher tax on aviation fuel to cut down on the number of flights.
Who would have thought that such a man would say a thing like that? But he said he lived on as beautiful island in the Caribbean and had seen with his own eyes, the effect of global warming on its beauty.
Very soon, the incredibly pretty coral reefs in the sea surrounding the island would die off completely if global warming continued, he said.
“Okay, that is the short-term problem, ”my grand-daughter said. “What about the long-term future of Planet Earth?
I shall discuss that question in a second article.