Opinion Round-up: Let’s talk about climate change

A thermal power station in Sofia, Bulgaria. -- FILE PHOTO: AFP
A thermal power station in Sofia, Bulgaria. -- FILE PHOTO: AFP

Act before it’s too late. 

This is the key message from climate experts, scientists, politicians and media around the world following the latest report from the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). 

For those who haven’t been following this topic, you may want to read three very useful explainers from The Conversation on the structure of the IPCC and how it works; how IPCC reports are written; and how to read an IPCC report. The pieces can be found at: https://theconversation.com/topics/ipcc-fifth-assessment-report

The latest assessment report is the fifth since the IPCC was set up in 1988. It will hopefully help governments reach a global pact on climate change by December next year.

We’re putting together a special package of stories on climate change in this web exclusive for Straits Times readers. 

Find out from Straits Times Environment Correspondent Feng Zengkun just why his holiday and air-con use plans have changed after he started covering green issues. His point: Individuals play a role to save the earth. Read his blog here: http://bit.ly/1n4c3GQ

Giving the big picture, former presidents José Ramos-Horta and Mohamed Nasheed of Timor-Leste and the Maldives call on Asian governments and leaders to start showing the way on how to manage climate change. “Huge standing armies, or high-tech weaponry, won’t protect us from the next super-typhoon. In the climate battle, our infantry will be mangrove forests and solar panels,” they write. Find out what they advocate here: http://bit.ly/1mXYNGC

Bloomberg columnist Clive Crook hits the nail on the head with his recent commentary on the disconnect between the science and the public. His piece can be found at http://www.bloombergview.com/articles/2014-04-03/scare-tactics-fail-climate-scientists-and-everyone-else

The apocalyptic warnings from climate scientists seem to have fallen on deaf ears. When the challenge in front of you is described to be one of the most daunting ever faced by mankind, mortal humans cope by shrugging it off and turning away. Climate experts Cecilia Tortajada and Asit K. Biswas, discuss the impact of climate change on weather patterns and food security. They highlight the difficulty in communicating the complexities of climate change science. Read their article here: http://bit.ly/1lQpX1V

Take the concept of a “one in a hundred year” extreme weather event. Such events have a once-in-100-year probability of occurrence. This means that such events may occur on an average of 10 times in 1,000 years. It is not impossible for three 100-year floods to occur every year for three consecutive years and then not occur for the next 500 years. The increased frequency of severe floods and prolonged droughts taking place at the same time at different parts of the world is proof that the odds are becoming heavily stacked against us. The two writers warn that the complexities of climate change science often give a false sense of security both to politicians and the general public.

This is where communicators play a role. We might take up the advice of Dennis Posadas, technical consultant for low-carbon projects. Get back to the basics of story-telling, he suggests. “In this world of social media and the Internet, getting heard above the din requires more than a loud voice. It also requires presenting information and facts in a proper context that everyone can appreciate,” he says. Find out more about what he says here: http://bit.ly/PS1JXt

 Here at STOpinion, we are doing our small part by starting a discussion on climate change and following the Nobel-prize winning IPCC on our new twitter account @STopinion. Follow us and join in the discussion.