UN Report Portends Disaster – A Prescriptive Response

Authors: Dr. Arshad M. Khan and Meena Miriam Yust 

Do it!  Do it now!  That is the unambiguous and uncompromising message from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report released on March 20, 2023.  Going merrily along as we have been doing will by 2035 be too late.

The result will be more and more frequent serious, sometimes catastrophic weather the likes of which both in frequency and severity we have not experienced previously.  Severe storms, hurricanes, typhoons, coastal flooding in some regions, drought in others leading to a fall in agricultural output, will put life at risk with the prospect of starvation a high probability for some.  

So what can we do?  It’s the same old story — humans have to end their profligate ways. 

We must cut back on eating beef; in fact all red meats.  As was once said … if cows were a country, it would be the third most polluting on earth.  Chewing the cud releases potent methane, much worse than CO2.  And while pork production may cause less pollution than beef, it is still significantly higher than growing grains, legumes or vegetables.  Moreover, should everyone adopt a Mediterranean diet, then approximately 3 gigatons (Gts) of CO2 would be reduced. 

The world as a whole emitted 51Gts of CO2 equivalent gases in 2016.  A continuation of this with existing climate policies would lead to a catastrophic 5 degrees Fahrenheit rise in mean global temperature by 2100.  Climate scientists inform us that these emissions would need to be halved by 2030 if we wish to limit warming to 2.7 degrees F — approximately half the temperature rise for half the emissions. 

The most important takeaway from the report is the fact of our reliance on fossil fuels, and that every CO2 reduction scenario necessitates a cutback in their use.  There are alternatives of course, but unfortunately none at present to meet current needs.

One of our worst polluters is the automobile and some countries are already doing something about them.  The UK has outlawed the sale of new gas and diesel cars after 2030 plus hybrids with a back-up internal combustion engine by 2035.  Plans are afoot for setting up charging stations to prepare for an all-electric vehicle future that includes large trucks. 

Thus a multi-pronged approach could be visualized as one of altering the landscape through laws as well as individual behavior by persuasion and incentives. 

In many countries, alternative power installations utilizing wind, tides and solar are already in operation.   For example, Bhadla Solar Park in Jodhpur, India spans a 14,000 acre area and produces 2.25 GW.  It has 10 million solar panels.  The Sihwa Lake Tidal Power Station in South Korea with a capacity of 254 MW of energy is currently the world’s largest of its type. Then there is a 1.3 GW offshore wind farm about 60 miles off the Yorkshire coast.  Comprising 165 wind turbines, it is now able to supply power to 1.4 million UK homes.  All of these alternatives provide clean, renewable energy.

Perhaps there is hope then that man’s ingenuity will help us survive.  Although it is equally clear it will need a helping hand from us … as individuals and as a collective with a unified spirit. 

Dr. Arshad M. Khan
Dr. Arshad M. Khan
Dr. Arshad M. Khan is a former Professor based in the US. Educated at King's College London, OSU and The University of Chicago, he has a multidisciplinary background that has frequently informed his research. Thus he headed the analysis of an innovation survey of Norway, and his work on SMEs published in major journals has been widely cited. He has for several decades also written for the press: These articles and occasional comments have appeared in print media such as The Dallas Morning News, Dawn (Pakistan), The Fort Worth Star Telegram, The Monitor, The Wall Street Journal and others. On the internet, he has written for Antiwar.com, Asia Times, Common Dreams, Counterpunch, Countercurrents, Dissident Voice, Eurasia Review and Modern Diplomacy among many. His work has been quoted in the U.S. Congress and published in its Congressional Record.