I recently listened to portions of Al Gore’s statements at the World Economic Forum discussing some of the possible impacts of climate change and then read comments by Jimmy Failla, who spoke in response to some of Gore’s statements. It is my opinion as a climate change impacts scientist and researcher that Gore’s comments are primarily exaggerated, and the extreme language he uses to illustrate his position makes him an easy target for those that do not believe that climate change is real and or think that projected impacts are exaggerated.
For example, Gore refers to the oceans boiling as a way of saying we are experiencing increased ocean temperatures, which is likely enhancing the devastating impacts of hurricanes, including increased flooding due to higher possible perception totals as a result of these increased sea surface temperatures. Gore is correct in that the ocean conveyor system is an essential contributor to driving global climate in its energy distribution around the planet and serves to moderate temperatures in places like the United Kingdom. As such, we are altering this conveyor system could have potentially devastating global impacts.
Gore is also correct in that there is little to no scientific doubt that portions of our planet are becoming dryer, as evidenced by the increased need for irrigation to produce crops or the clearly visible impacts of climate change on enhanced wildfire incidents and the lengthening of an already too long wildfire season in many parts of the world. Finally, Global climate-forced migration will indeed be a critical challenge we face as a society as a negative impact of climate change. As evidenced by the poor global handling of political refugees in the last decade, we have little to no willingness or ability to handle such catastrophic humanitarian events. We must find a solution where the cure is not worse than the disease.
There are many examples of highly negative climate change impacts being discussed by environmentalists. Still, the implementation of mitigation strategies for climate change has been slow likely due to the ongoing global reliance on fossil fuels and a general lack of practical solutions posed by many environmental activists. Although UAE has received some backlash for naming Sultan al-Jaber, CEO of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Co, to preside over COP 28 climate talks, this move could be genius given his breadth and depth of knowledge on both fossil fuels and renewable energy. The issues surrounding climate change and the need to implement mitigation and adaptation strategies are complex and still being debated and, as such likely will require sophisticated solutions and support from environmentalists as well as those more entrenched in the global fossil fuel economy. What is critical is to find pragmatic mitigation and adaptation strategies implemented over time that addresses climate change without resulting in societal hardships in the near term as undesirable as the potential consequences resulting from climate change.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr. Tim Frazier is a Professor of Emergency and Disaster Management at Georgetown University and holds a Bachelor of the Arts degree in Geography from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville and a Master of Science and Doctor of Philosophy degrees in Geography from the Pennsylvania State University.