28 July 2023

Earth needs a world climate crisis organisation, says eminent scientist

28 July 2023

Countries should band together and form a world climate crisis organisation akin to the World Health Organisation (WHO), to steer humanity through the unfolding disasters associated with the heating planet, one of the UK’s leading climate scientists has said.

Sir David King, former UK chief scientific adviser and chairman of the Climate Crisis Advisory Group, said it is now “almost certain” that the global average temperature will rise to at least 2C above pre-industrial levels, which scientists have warned could lead to further irreversible heating.

At 1.2C the Earth is already experiencing severe heatwaves, wildfires, storms, sea-level rise and species decline, with UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres saying: “The era of global warming has ended, the era of global boiling has arrived.”

This is primarily driven by the burning of fossil fuels since the industrial revolution and has led to a build up of greenhouse gases – mainly carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and water vapour – in the atmosphere.

Extreme heat, flooding, wildfire smoke, increased spread of disease and loss of food means climate change poses a significant threat to human health around the world, a threat Sir David said needs a united global effort to contain.

He told the PA news agency: “In terms of a health crisis, such as the Covid crisis, we have a World Health Organisation and it’s based in Geneva and is part of the United Nations. We don’t have a world climate crisis organisation.

“That’s what we need, so that all countries of the world could come together through a body of this kind, as we do when there’s a health crisis, we all contribute to the cost of the WHO.

“We need a global system that pulls us all together to battle with this external threat to our manageable future.”

Sir David has proposed a planning strategy of four Rs to deal with the climate crisis.

Rapid emissions cuts through reducing fossil fuel use and deforestation by five times the current rate; removing carbon from the atmosphere with new technology; repairing, or refreezing, the Arctic so that more solar energy is reflected off white ice instead of absorbed by dark waters; and resilience – adapting to the degree of change that is now inevitable.

He said reducing demand for high-carbon industries like flying is the only realistic way to immediately bring emissions down in the absence of sustainable technology, but the UK Government is failing to do this, despite recommendations to do so from the Climate Change Committee.

The climate scientist said: “This is the first Government that has done this. Until 2017, Governments of all colours followed this policy very closely but we’ve seen that really being ignored now.

“That is pure expediency and I feel that we’re being badly let down by leadership.”

Speaking to BBC’s Newsnight on Thursday, Labour MP Barry Gardiner said the UK should be on a “war footing” against the climate crisis.

He said: “If this were a war, we wouldn’t be arguing whether the Labour strategy or the Tory strategy were better, we’d be working together to try and win.

“Well it is a war, it’s a war for survival, and climate change threatens everything.

“It threatens our food security through drought, desertification, it threatens our homes and our cities through floods and coastal inundation.

“What we need to be doing is saying, let’s get together, let’s mobilise on a war footing.”

The best videos delivered daily

Watch the stories that matter, right from your inbox