Is it too late to save Earth? I Inside Story

our planet is facing a climate emergency

that's the dire warning from thousands

of scientists who say we're not taking

time it change seriously their report

says unless we change the way we live

humanity faces untold suffering so what

will it take to save planet Earth and

world governments and world leaders

listen to these latest warnings this is

inside story


hello and welcome to the program I'm

Darrin Jordan the world is facing a

clear and existential threat a climate


that's the stark warning by a global

group of 11,000 scientists their report

gives simple and immediate steps that

could make a difference

they say the climate crisis is

accelerating faster than most scientists

expected it's closely linked to wealthy

lifestyles and excessive consumption

people must eat less meat emissions must

be cut and fossil fuels replaced without

action they say large areas of Earth

could become uninhabitable but

scientists say there is hope and the

global protest movement can bring change

well let's not get the thoughts of our

guest joining us in Penang Malaysia

Meena Rahman she's the climate change

program coordinator at the 3rd world

network from reading in the UK Elizabeth

Robinson she's a professor of

environmental economics at the

University of Reading and in London Doug

Parr he's the policy director and chief

scientist at Greenpeace UK a warm

welcome to the program Doug Parr let me

start with you if I may there from

Greenpeace how significant do you think

this endorsement by this group of 11,000

scientists is and why why are climate

experts now ratcheting up the language

to call this an emergency

well I think for a long time we've seen

scientists try to play the kind of be

kind of withdrawn from the political

system and saying we can put our

information into the political system

and this is going to make it work and I

think what we're seeing is that a lot of

the scientific community and the broader

academic community are beginning to

worry that this is in no way big enough

or insignificant enough as an

intervention from their side to do the

sort of things that they can see coming

up because as they say this is going to

be a threat to essentially the whole of

humanity and the way the humanity

actually operates and they can't just

sit on the sidelines anymore they have

to be saying look you really need to do

things now now because the sort of

things they're saying and not things

that people haven't said before you know

you refer to the protest

in the in the introduction a lot of the

same kind of messages have been coming

from there and they're simply adding an

important level of academic rigor if you

like saying if we're going to tackle

this problem we have to do the following

things on fossil fuels on nature on

forest conservation on consumption like

it in aviation and on diet so I think

there's a there's a shifting tone

because the emergency is becoming more

of an emergency with every passing day

alright we'll come back to the issue of

the politics of climate change a little

bit late in the program done let me

bring in Mina Rothman there in Malaysia

Mina does using the word emergency add a

sense of urgency to this global crisis

certainly I do think that we all

recognize the urgency particularly for

the developing world and communities who

live in Asia for instance we are very

concerned about the rising sea level and

what that will do to many of our island

nations or even the coastlines where

millions live so it is actually quite

frightening and quite astonishing in

terms of the recent signs that we are

reading and what I think the emergency

call and the urgency call is a very

important in this part of the world

Elizabeth Robinson

from Reading University I mean this is

the first time a large group of

scientists have formally come out and

called climate change and emergency so

it is interesting and significant as

Doug was saying there but how different

do you think this report is from

previous ones because we've heard much

of the debate before haven't we that's

true I think the debate has been around

for a long time and to some extent for

quite a long time now we've known what

the problem is and we we've also really

known what we want to do what we haven't

seen is action so we've seen commitments

we've seen the Paris agreement

commitment we've seen our former Prime

Minister May

committing to a NetZero by 2050 but we

haven't seen action and so here I

suppose on the one hand it's a call to

action and there's this change in

terminology and vocabulary that's quite

important now that instead of us talk

about global warming and talking about

something it's sort of

in the future yes we might be making the

effect now but it's sort of something

it'll happen to us in the future it's

really saying no this is happening now

and so I think one it's this this strong

voice of scientists coming together

until I think it's it's this message

that we can pick up the signs of the

climate crisis already and one of the

very powerful things I think about their

their report is this idea that let's

track these indicators and show what

progress were making but also that there

are some impacts of climate change that

we're already picking up and these are

serious impacts I was just going to say

the other thing to say is that the terms

that climate emergency climate crisis to

some extent you know certainly city in

the West we might say well you know it's

getting a bit warm or the weather's a

little more extreme but I think it's

it's still hard for people to act but

when we talk about the opportunities the

opportunities we can create to craft a

world in 20 30 40 years that looks a lot

more a better place to live in terms of

the actions we need to take any how to

mitigate climate change that also can

put quite a positive spin on encouraging

people to take actions so rather than

saying you know we're incurring a cost

now we're saying actually we're

investing in a better future so I think

it's also important the way the message

is sent yeah let me come back to you for

a second because the timing of this

report is quite interesting I mean the

latest study this study was released on

the same day that satellite data was

published showing that last month was

the warmest October ever on record does

this suggest do you think that we're at

some kind of a critical tipping point in

terms of global warming I think what

we're seeing is that there's a

succession of months I mean the October

record was was following on from several

other monthly records which were the

warmest ever so I think what we're

seeing is is a kind of culmination of

what we've been doing over several years

sorry over several decades leading to

heightened temperatures across the globe

now that we know that warming can work

like that and that there are sort of

bursts of warming and then it might

plateau for a while I think the thing is

we don't we know this warming now we're

starting to see the effects in terms of

wildfires ice melting Arctic Antarctic

Greenland and so on we we might be lucky

and it kind of plateaus for a while and

we get we can get our act together in

terms of cutting emissions but we

don't know that for sure what we but

it's definitely at a point where it's

becoming much more real and as Elizabeth

said the these effects are becoming very

real right now in a number of countries

so we haven't got any time to waste

Mina let's bring you back into the

discussion here because we're told that

indicators like meat production and meat

consumption global tree loss as well as

fossil fuel consumption are collectively

telling us much more

I mean how important are those factors

in the overall picture do you think well

I do think that we need to look at this

in terms of who is actually causing much

of the emissions problem there has been

a history to it and this is why in the

climate change convention and in the

Paris agreement there is a common but

differentiated responsibilities that

developed developing countries talk

about and they talk about equity the

Industrial Revolution led to much of the

emissions in the past and there is a

historical responsibility and in fact as

much of the emissions that we see today

have been there from history and the

impacts that all that we are facing

already is the result of the history

that has happened so the people who are

least responsible for climate change are

now facing the impacts particularly the

poor so you you know if you look at than

the 20% of the rich world contributing

to 80% of the global emissions you can

actually see the stock inequity in terms

of the problem so if we want to talk

about rectifying the problem we do have

to talk about the rich having to pay

much more and not past the burden onto

the poor now we chop of meat consumption

and how we need to change our our

dietary patterns but for a lot of the

developing world the hungry of the

developing world they have no food to

eat so how do you talk about the

changing of diet in an in a hungry world

yeah I mean that's an interesting

contradiction Elizabeth you're nodding

your head there what would you like to

come back on that I think I think Nina's

made just a very important point one

there's the moral obligation of higher

income countries to

there's the reality that per capita

emissions in high-income countries are

just dramatically higher than low-income

countries and yes when we talk about

quite often Visayas people need to

reduce their meat consumption we do need

to nuance that if we look in higher

income countries most of us are eating

far more meat than we need to and

there's quite a lot of evidence that we

could have our meat consumption improve

our health and reduce emissions at the

same time so certainly at a planetary

level yes we need to look at a more

armed plant-based diet and the the

reality is that if we don't reduce our

emissions globally the countries that

are going to be particularly harmed by

climate change are those low-income

countries so we've already seen that

that the crop production is going to be

most harmed in countries which are

already food insecure that these large

shocks that we see um sort of

propagating through the food systems

such as in 2008 it was it was droughts

in Australia that led to a food crisis

in 2008 and now people living in the UK

like myself it was probably just a

little ripple I don't think we even

noticed food prices going up but if you

were living in Haiti this this was a

tsunami of increasing food prices a

country which was already food insecure

highly reliant on food imports and the

2008 food crisis led to riots and

actually the toppling of the Prime

Minister so in terms of food security

the fundamental issue is that crop yield

potential the ability of our crops to

actually build to keep increasing yields

is starting to fall at a global level

the country's most likely to be hit are

those low income countries so it's a

very nuanced conversation on the one

hand higher income countries yes we can

reduce our consumption of meat on the

other hand I mean low and low income

countries it's more how do we help to

keep those yields up in an era of

climate change let's just look a bit

deeper into the report if we can Doug

Parr this is the first time we're now

seeing a climate change report that

addresses the controversial and prickly

subject of population and control why is

this such a political hot potato within

the climate change debate do you think

well I think it's it's become the

population issue is one that I think

it's it's an indicator I don't think

it's a useful way to frame the debate

though and that's that's one of the

controversies within the

environment movement some people think

think that it's a useful way to talk

about tackling emissions and I would

actually disagree with that because

there are issues around human rights and

fundamental ones of climate justices

have already been referred to about

where responsibilities should lie I mean

you know frankly if we're going to

reduce the population the river the

population needs to be reduced in

wealthy developed countries but it's I

would actually disagree that it's a

useful way to look at it because it's as

much to do with with technology and

lifestyle in developed countries and

there are a whole different set of

issues that apply in developing

countries where things like

infrastructure welfare states and so on

don't exist so it is a controversial

issue because there are different ways

of looking at the climate problem now

and I think it's as an indicator looking

at per capita consumption and so on I

think it shows where responsibilities

can lie but as a way of saying this is

how we tackle it I think that's where

the problems start Mena I'd like to

throw that point to you because the idea

of trying to influence human population

growth as Doug said is hugely

controversial and even UN climate

negotiators have avoided this but can we

still afford to ignore it well I do

think this is where we need to come to

the question of is it population now is

it who is consuming and who's producing

the emissions most of all this is an old

debate actually if you remember from the

Rio days itself when there was this Rio

summit in 1992 the same problem the

population problem was posed as the

major problem for the environmental

crisis but very clearly it was already

debunked quite early on if you look at

the lifestyle of the rich American for

instance what the American rich consumer

eats is much many many many more times

compared to a Chinese or an Indian or

even Acadian so population is not the

question it's the who's causing most

most of the

and the production of the emissions so I

don't think that the population debate

actually clouds the problem and it puts

the prop the the blame on the developing

world which is largely where the

population is so I don't think that the

population debate is not helpful and it

actually mischaracterizes the problem

where we have to see the rich of the

world the 20% of the rich consuming much

of the resources including the carbon

emissions alright stay with us won't you

because I want to expand on the

political timing and the political

impact of this report the scientists

warning was published a day after US

President Donald Trump began the formal

process are withdrawing from the Paris

climate Accord well the pact was agreed

by 185 countries back in 2015 to fight

climate change by reducing greenhouse

gas emissions

Washington presented its withdraw letter

to the United Nations on Monday but

it'll take at least a year to formally

lead the u.s. is the only country to

pull out so far let's go back to our

guests Doug par let me start with you

how significant then is the timing of

this report given that President Trump

has begun the formal process of taking

the u.s. out of the Paris climate deal I

think the the report is a salutary

reminder that the weight of scientific

evidence is very firmly on the side of

doing something very soon and very

profoundly about climate emissions what

the Trump or our shows which anybody who

pays attention to what's going on there

is that they don't really care about

scientific evidence they're gonna back

their own prejudices and in the fossil

fuel industry it's not so the Trump

let's let's be clear the the Trump pull

out from Paris or attempt to pull out is

really unhelpful but I think we're also

seeing that other countries around the

world are almost using it as a

galvanizing thing to step up to the

plate so it's you know there are two

sides to this of course it's really

unhelpful of course it'd be far better

if they stayed in of course it would be

better if the White House was behind

domestic emissions reductions on the

counter side

it's forced other people to say us

leadership is not going to be here we

need to step up and it also has meant

almost by in reaction to it that US

states on particularly the East Coast

are saying well we're gonna step up and

do stuff in America anyway Elizabeth

Robinson president Trump always said

look the Paris climate deal was bad for

American jobs and it was bad for the

American economy

what's this telling us though broadly

about the political game of balancing

economic growth with the need to

radically address climate change I I

don't know what is telling start

bouncing you can't grow if I think it

tells us that politicians aren't willing

to make the commitments that are needed

but it but we do see that tension in the

UK I'm just thinking you know that the

arguments were sort of the expansion of

Heathrow Heathrow for a third runway and

and the idea that will create jobs and

growth and yet you know that it will

directly increase emissions we look at

this sort of argument over you know

fracking or no fracking the jobs versus

the climate so it's but but i think you

know i agree with what Doug said it's um

in most for many higher income countries

it's actually economically sensible to

embrace actions that mitigate climate

change so there's a huge opportunities

in the future so one in terms of if we

look at economic growth when we look at

say air pollution so you know we've seen

we've seen the images in Delhi and we

know in London I live in London and the

emissions you know we we we exceed our

emissions sort of what's what's the

legal emissions well before the end of

the year every year so I think it's it's

it's a false logic to say that that if

we put our country first what we do is

actually ignore climb or not take those

actions to mitigate climate change the

economic opportunities of mitigating

climate change are very high Meena

Rahman there in Penang

I mean we're now being told to reduce

air travel we're being told to stop

eating meat and possibly have less

children with population control that's

a very difficult message to sell to

ordinary people and to politicians so

how do you get that message across in

countries like Malaysia then well I do I

think that what we are saying to people

here and I think they are already

feeling it if you look at the indigenous

peoples of the coast

communities who are beginning to feel

the impacts the heat the longer droughts

the heat waves the I mean people are

already feeling it so the point really

is for us in the developing world how do

you make the transition it's easy to say

in the rich that you can you know you

just have to decouple from economic

growth but here the question really is

one of how do you maintain you how do

you reach sustainable development

meaning livelihoods and jobs and and

income at the same time in a

carbon-constrained world for that to

happen you don't need the transition

which is through financial transfers

from the developed world to the

developing world you don't need the

money the technology transfer so that we

can leapfrog and not make the mistakes

of the West but what we see not

happening enough in fast enough is is

for the financing in for the

technologies to flow but that's only one

part of the problem the other part of

the problem is adaptation many of our

countries have got no options the floods

come or the he or the fires come and you

have to respond you have no choice like

look at Philippines and the category 5

hurricane storms people have to rebuild

their lives and they have to do this

with money so how do you actually make

people lead a dignified life and that to

me is fundamental in terms of

international climate agreement so for

the Trump administration to just walk

out it's really trying condemning

millions and of people around the world

to climate injustice and that's

unethical and that's immoral really it's

it's an interesting point you make

meaner let me come back to you Elizabeth

for a second and stay with the turqu

with the with the the terms in terms of

the politics of climate change I mean

the UK goes to the polls on December the

12th do you think this could be at the

UK's first general election where

climate change plays a much more

defining role for voters I think it

might have been if there wasn't another

big issue on our minds at the moment

it's really frustrating on the one hand

we see certain parties we see we see the

Liberal Democrats we see the Green Party

very emphatically talking about climate


need to do something about the climate

emergency and recognizing that as

investments in clean technologies

investments in climate make change

mitigation those investments that will

make our country actually more equitable

and more healthy place to live in and at

the same time reduce climate change and

of course recognizing our obligations to

low-income countries ah if we didn't

have the distraction of bricks it I

think climate change would have actually

been very much on the radar but but the

reality is there are other issues in the

UK that are going to completely distract

from this so on the one hand it's really

good that the political parties or some

of them at least excuse me are really

emphasizing the importance of tackling

climate change but on the other hand I

think I think was distracted um Doug

Parr let me get a final thought from you

I mean is there still time to reduce

greenhouse gas emissions or are we

already too late do you think well it

depends what you mean by too late I mean

we've already seen over 1 degree of

global warming for some you know for a

lot of coral reefs that's already too

late for some people who are on the

receiving end of floods like in

Mozambique with the recent typhoon

that's already too late but for every

half a degree every point one of a

degree that we can keep climate change

under control that is still a win

compared to what otherwise would have

been the case can we still make the

Paris target of 1.5 degrees

yes but it needs technically it's

possible we'll take a humungous effort

Meena Rahman in Penang a final thought

from you I mean scientists are asking us

really for a transformative change from

humanity is this report do you think

likes to make governments and ordinary

people in Malaysia sit up and take note

I think many people are beginning to pay

attention and they are really sitting up

already because they're feeling the


I think the all the the northern

movements in terms of what the climate

strikes in and so on though that's

important because politicians in the

north will listen to their people same

as what we are doing in terms of civil

society and social movements pushing our

own governments to do more

for developing countries until much more

financial resources come and this is the

case of the Green Climate Fund for

instance the more money there is no

Green Climate Fund the more the more

that the developing world can do and so

it makes our life easier in going to our

governments they say you cannot do

business as usual anymore you need the

transformation but that has to come with

money inside and finance and technology

transfers all right it's a it's it's an

interesting conversation but I'm afraid

we have to leave it there for now

Meena Rahman in Penang Doug Parr in

London and Elizabeth Robinson in Redding

thank you very much indeed for your time

and thank you too for watching you can

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good bye for now