Dr. Adam Fenech, director of the Climate Research Lab at the University of Prince Edward Island, spoke those words at the 60th anniversary of the Pugwash Peace Conference Thursday night at the Peace Hall in Pugwash.
The panel discussion focused on ‘Empowering our Climate Future for Rural Communities' and Fenech started his talk by quoting a sentence which kicked off a conference he attended in 1988, the Toronto Conference on the Changing Atmosphere.
“Man is conducting an unintended, uncontrolled, globally pervasive experiment whose ultimate consequences could be second only to a global nuclear war,” said Fenech.
The unintended, uncontrolled consequences of that atmospheric experiment reared its ugly head this past summer.
“3.5 million acres of forest engulfed in flames in Alberta and British Columbia in July,” said Fenech.
And what about hurricanes Harvey and Irma?
“In August we saw Hurricane Harvey dump 1.3 metres of rainfall in one day. The largest, wettest hurricane on the continental United States in recorded history. 71 people died,” said Fenech. “A month later we had Hurricane Irma. Hurricane Irma ranked winds to speeds of almost 300 kilometres an hour, a Category 5 hurricane. 81 people died.”
As a scientist, Fenech said he delivers cold, harsh climate change realities. He said temperatures have risen 0.8 degrees Celsius in the past 100 years, and will rise another 0.8 degrees Celsius in the next 50 to 60 years, for a total of 1.6 degrees Celsius.
“First off. We’re screwed,” said Fenech. “We’ve already raised global mean temperatures by 0.8 degrees Celsius in the last hundred years.”
That number might not sound like much, but Fenech says if temperatures were five degrees colder than they are today we’d be in the middle of another ice age.
He also said the fossil fuels already burned will remain in the atmosphere for the next 50 to 60 years.
“They are going to warm the temperatures another 0.8 degrees Celsius, so we’re already at 1.6 degrees Celsius,” said Fenech.
“As a combination of nations we’re trying to reduce our contribution to raising global temperatures in the post-industrial age by 1.5 degrees Celsius,” he added. “We already can’t do that. We’re already committed to 1.6 degrees Celsius increase.”
What does that mean? Once again, it means ‘we’re screwed.’
“Even at 0.8 degrees Celsius we’re seeing 30 per cent less sea ice in the summer up in the north,” said Fenech. “Just this past summer we saw temperatures that were 22 to 24 degrees Celsius warmer on individual days up in the arctic.”
On top of all this, he says oil and gas companies have already located six times the amount of oil needed to supply the world’s long-term needs, and they’re still looking for more.
“British Petroleum is spending $10 billion over the next 10 years looking for more reserves,” said Fenech. “They seem to want to find every single fossil fuel in the ground and remove it to burn it.”
As a worldwide traveler on the lecture circuit Fenech said the contradictions in his life are not lost on him.
“I travel around the world as a climatologist burning fossil fuels telling people not to burn fossil fuels,” said Fenech.
“It’s a funny life I lead but, climate change?” asked Fenech. “We’re screwed, it’s our fault, it’s going to get worse and there’s nothing we can do about it.”