COP26: Climate change is prompting world-leading scientists to question whether they should have children. But we must not give in to despair – Scotsman comment

The scientists who produce reports for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change are the world’s leading experts.

Naturalist and broadcaster David Attenborough issued a stirring rallying cry to world leaders at the COP26 climate change summit in Glasgow (Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
Naturalist and broadcaster David Attenborough issued a stirring rallying cry to world leaders at the COP26 climate change summit in Glasgow (Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

And it is clear, from a survey carried out by the journal Nature, that a sizable proportion of them are much more than simply worried about the future of humanity.

Sixty per cent of the 92 respondents to the poll said they expected the world to reach at least three degrees Celsius of global warming by 2100; 61 per cent said they experience anxiety, grief or other distress because of concerns about climate change; and 41 per cent said the rising temperatures had made them reconsider major life decisions, such as where to live.

Seventeen per cent said it had made them question whether they should have children.

In contrast, just four per cent thought the world might still meet the target of limiting global warming to 1.5C with just over 20 per cent expecting it would be restricted to 2C or less.

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Such pessimism from scientists who understand what is happening better than almost anyone else is deeply alarming and should make anyone who still doubts the need for radical action think again.

However, it absolutely should not make anyone give in to despair or to the idea that we must simply surrender ourselves to the prospect of global warming and do our best to adapt to the dangers this will bring.

“Doomism” is, according to leading climate scientist Professor Michael E Mann, a strategy currently being deployed by some within the oil and gas industry to make us give up on efforts to stop producing the greenhouse gases that cause global warming.

But this just shows the depths to which they have sunk.

As 95-year-old naturalist and broadcaster Sir David Attenborough told the COP26 summit yesterday: “In my lifetime, I’ve witnessed a terrible decline. In yours, you should witness a wonderful recovery… If working apart we are powerful enough to destabilise our planet, surely working together we are powerful enough to save it.”

Humanity has always been at its finest when rising to meet the most serious challenges. So, in a way, we are blessed to have such a chance to show posterity just how much we can achieve. This is not a time for defeatism, but for vital, decisive action.

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