Fact Check: Don't believe naysayers, there is a climate emergency

Activists in Nairobi in this file photo hold up banners as they protest demanding that action be taken to stop environmental disaster.

Photo credit: File I Nation Media Group

On December 2, 2022, a twitter user by the name Dr Matthew M. Wieclicki posted that there is no climate emergency, that there has been no increase in extreme weather events and that less people die from climate related disasters today than ever before. 

The tweet, which was retweeted 996 times, liked 3672 times and garnered 300 quote tweets, was in response to an article by  SpringerLink that was assessing extreme events trends in times of global warming

“I'm shocked by the anger of some folks when I say there is NO climate emergency. There has been NO increase in extreme weather events (see manuscript below) and less people die from climate related disasters today than ever before. What's the need to always be in crisis mode?” asked Dr Matthew.

 However, this user failed to indicate that the conclusions of the very report, titled  A critical assessment of extreme events trends in times of global warming, are currently under dispute and  are being investigated.

The sentiments to deny the existence of a climate emergency were echoed on September 8 by another user by the name @danielgothits, a verified twitter user, who claimed that there is no climate, energy or health emergency.

This user in fact encouraged his followers to “have fun, enjoy life, eat a steak and ignore all the brainwashed NPCs.” The tweet garnered nine quote tweets, was retweeted three times and was liked 60 times.

The claim that there is no climate emergency is false, and the contrary is proven by the fact that different actors, from scientists, climate activists, political leaders, sustainability advocates have been calling for urgent action to halt climate change and its potentially irreversible effects.

In November 2019, for example, members of the European Parliament declared a state of climate emergency, followed by Pope Francis, who asked global leaders to “take drastic measures to combat global warming and reduce the use of fossil fuels.

“We have caused a climate emergency that gravely threatens nature and life itself, including our own. Governments should renew commitments decisive for directing the planet towards life, not death,” said Pope Francis in a written appeal.

As regards humans, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC) noted that climate change influences human health in numerous ways, including intensifying existing health threats and leading to emergence of new threats.

The health effects of these disruptions include increased respiratory and cardiovascular disease, injuries and premature deaths related to extreme weather events, changes in the prevalence and geographical distribution of food- and water-borne illnesses and other infectious diseases, and threats to mental health.
Climate change has also been proven to threaten human health and well-through  increased extreme weather events, wildfire, decreased air quality, and illnesses transmitted by food, water, and diseases carriers such as mosquitoes and ticks.

National Climate Assessment, states that “Increases in global temperatures could cause associated increases in premature deaths related to worsened ozone and particle pollution.

Estimates made assuming no change in regulatory controls or population characteristics have ranged from 1,000 to 4,300 additional premature deaths nationally per year by 2050 from combined ozone and particle health effects.”

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) also says that the world is already in a state of climate emergency, and that we need to shift into emergency gear because greenhouse gases have increased so much so they can “significantly alter the composition of the atmosphere and average world temperature has risen between 1.1 and 1.2 degrees Celsius.

Worst impacts

In their Emissions Gap Report released in 2020, which shows the difference between 2030 greenhouse predictions and where they should be to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, UNEP says that a brief dip in carbon dioxide emissions caused by COVID-19 pandemic does not make any significant difference to long-term climate change.

It adds that “the world is still heading for a catastrophic temperature rise in excess of three degrees Celsius this century – far beyond the Paris Agreement goals of limiting global warming to well below two degrees Celsius.

To limit global warming and act on the climate emergency, UNEP recommends that countries need to prevent warming beyond 1.5 degrees Celsius, by reducing emissions by 7.6 per cent every year from now till 2030.

They also recommend conserving and restoring natural spaces to limit carbon emissions, and call on countries to commit to drive their countries onto a path of decarbonisation and to accelerate energy sources from renewables and reduce reliance on fossil fuels. 

Even though Kenya is not part of the 39 countries globally that have declared a climate emergency, President William Ruto promised to make climate change a key agenda in the government, and to boost clean energy and phase out fossil fuels by 2030.

This fact-check was produced by Daily Nation with support from Code for Africa’s PesaCheck, International Fact-Checking Network, and African Fact Checking Alliance network.