Terrorists get all the attention. Religious fanatics attack people in Paris and the television networks and other news media are all over it like a moths flocking to a flame. According to one data set, around 30,000 people died in terrorist incidents worldwide in 2014, a figure roughly equivalent to gun deaths in the United States each year. And I get it. Terrorism gets eyeballs and sells ads. It’s an easy story to tell: Good vs. Evil.

But there is a killer out there that no one is covering. It’s victims often go unnoticed, and even when they do make the news the killer is not always identified, and the threat it poses is all too often ignored or outright dismissed. Yet the number of its victims is far greater in scale than those who die at the hands of terrorists each year. And every once in a while the veil of secrecy, intentional or not, regarding the scope of its lethality is lifted. Such was the case in 2012, when a panel of dedicated research scientists revealed that roughly 400,000 human lives are lost each year because of this villain, which goes by the euphemistic name of Climate Change:

Nearly 1,000 children a day are now dying because of climate change, according to a path-breaking study published Wednesday (PDF), and the annual death toll stands at 400,000 people worldwide. […]

… That is a significant increase over previous estimates. The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the gold standard for climate science, said in its Fourth Assessment Report in 2007 that climate change caused 150,000 extra deaths a year.

But the 150,000 figure took into account only deaths from malnutrition, malaria, and diarrhea caused by contaminated water, a common result of floods. Excluded were the effects of heat waves, crop losses due to an increase in pests, and a range of other deadly diseases, which can be substantial. For example, the record-breaking heat wave that blanketed Europe for six weeks in summer 2003 caused at least 71,449 excess deaths, according to a 2008 study sponsored by the European Union.

Of course, these estimates are based on data from 2010 that is now 5 years out of date, but they are still immensely troubling. Yet, here we are in 2015, ready to expend billions more dollars in military and other expenditures to try to eradicate one group of terrorists in the Middle East because the City of Lights was the center of an attack that killed around 130 people. This in addition to the roughly $7 Billion the US spent this year (to date) in direct military operations against ISIS, alone. That’s more than a little ironic considering that the total global cost to the world economy from all terrorism last year was roughly $53 Billion. The cost of climate change to the world economy, on the other hand, is 22.5 times larger, coming in at $1.2 Trillion (again, using 2010 data).

This week in Paris a summit is being held to address the climate crisis. And make no mistake, it is a crisis that gets worse with each passing year. The Greenland ice sheet is melting before our eyes. So are major glaciers in Antarctica. Methane is being released in massive quantities from the Arctic tundra and from under the Arctic ocean, as that region warms dramatically. Droughts, floods, catastrophic storms, heatwaves and other climate related disasters follow one upon the other that it’s become oxymoronic to call them unprecedented anymore. The title of this report seems all too apropos: Humanity’s future in the balance at UN climate summit.

The conference represents the first bid for a truly universal climate rescue pact since the chaotic 2009 summit in Copenhagen ended in bitter disappointment. […]

At the same time, the window of opportunity for action has narrowed.

Just last week, Britain’s weather office said Earth has already heated by about 1 C — halfway to the UN target of limiting average global warming to two degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) above pre-Industrial Revolution levels.

The World Meteorological Organization says greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere hit a new record in 2014.

“We have a dramatic increase in the extreme weather events connected to climate,” former US vice president and Nobel-awarded climate activist Al Gore told AFP last week.

“We’re seeing sea level rise (to) now flood the streets of many cities during high tides. We’re seeing refugee crises that have multiple causes, but we know they are made worse by, for example, the historic climate-related drought in Syria.

Unfortunately, thanks to a small group of religious fanatics, no one in the news media is covering this crisis with anything like the same urgency that they expended covering the shooting and bombing attacks in Paris last Friday. Now don’t get me wrong. The loss of life from those assaults is tragic, and I do not mean to diminish the danger to innocent people posed by radical extremists of whatever ideological or religious stripe. But in light of what we now know about the climate crisis, and the sheer number of human deaths that result from it each year, not to mention an ongoing massive extinction event among millions of species of life, it is more than a little discouraging that so few people in the US see this crisis is as significant to the fate of humanity as we know it to be. According to that March, 2015 Gallup poll, only 32% of Americans worry a great deal about the effects of global warming on our climate. That’s roughly equivalent to the number of Americans who do not believe global warming is real. Indeed, a plurality of 42% of Americans believe that the threat from global warming is greatly exaggerated.

Which may explain why further military expenditures to combat a band of at most 30,000 jihadists in the deserts of Iraq and Syria is far more likely to win approval, than any real action at the Paris Climate summit. Despite the public proclamations of President Obama regarding his optimistic belief that an agreement on the most modest of goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is possible, Republican elected officials across the board are condemning him and the talks in Paris in their attempt to sabotage any deal on climate whatsoever.

GOP Senators on Tuesday night voted 52-46 in two largely symbolic, mostly party-line votes to scuttle Obama’s global warming efforts. Meanwhile, in the House, Republican lawmakers continued working to arrange closed-door, deposition-like interviews of government climate scientists whose recent findings refuted a common plank of climate change denial.

“The Obama administration is putting facts and compassion to the side in order to advance their ideological agenda,” Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said on the Senate floor Tuesday, alleging that the administration’s environmental regulations will lead to “higher energy bills and lost jobs.”

One of Tuesday’s resolutions aims to block the Clean Power Plan, the first federal rule limiting heat-trapping carbon emissions from existing power plants. The other resolution targets regulation for new power plants. […]

[T]he Senate’s vote effectively signals to the world that Obama’s climate policies lack support among many lawmakers at home.

“We must remain vigilant in guarding against their expansion by an administration that appears to be more focused on striking a deal on climate change with the United Nations than meeting the energy needs of Americans,” Sen. Lisa Murkowski, an Alaska Republican and chairwoman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said of the rules.

It is not surprising that knowlegeable observers are pessimistic that the Paris summit will lead to any real changes by policy makers in the developed world when it comes to taking the necessary actions desperately needed to reduce carbon emissions as quickly as possible.

The United Nations Paris Climate Conference aims to get countries to set emissions reductions targets that would keep global temperatures from rising more than 2 C above pre-industrial times.

While Foreign Affairs Minister Sté​phane Dion says the work at the Paris conference is important, he doesn’t expect that goal will be achieved.

“If you compare with what the science is asking us to do, it’s very unlikely that Paris will deliver a 2 C agreement,” Dion told reporters at the APEC summit in Manila on Wednesday.

Dion should know. He has been intimately involved in international climate change discussions on behalf of Canada for over ten years. And his is far from the only pessimistic voice regarding what can and will be achieved in Paris.

About 160 countries have already filed voluntary carbon-curbing pledges to underpin the future pact, but scientists say the aggregate effect falls far short, and Earth is on course for warming of about 3 C, or more.

Scientists say 2 C is the threshold beyond which humankind will struggle to adapt to massive crop failures, water shortages, killer storms, disease spread and wars over dwindling resources. […]

As it stands, the 55-page blueprint negotiated over the last six years is little more than a wish list of individual nations — many of them contradictory — for dealing with the challenge at hand.

Many fear this may be our last stab at producing a negotiated plan for ensuring Earth remains hospitable to humans.

Japanese climate negotiator Aya Hoshida told AFP: “If we fail… it will be very difficult to create the same type of momentum and a sense of urgency to adopt this agreement.”

Meanwhile, the deaths and misery that arises from a warming planet continue to mount in 2015, a year likely to be acknowledged as the warmest on record by the time all the date is in. More people will die, more will become refugees, and more will starve or suffer from malnutrition.

One wonders what it will take to make the world’s leaders take action. We have already passed the point to prevent an increase in surface temperature of 2 degrees C over pre-industrial levels. Our oceans are dying from all the carbon they intake. Infectious diseases are spreading. We are in a world of hurt, and yet not enough is being done to address the problem. Maybe that’s because, unlike terrorism, we can’t readily point the finger at someone other than ourselves and label them the bad guys. Too many of us are to blame, from timid and/or corrupt elected officials, to greedy multinational corporations, to labor unions in dirty dirty industries such as coal mining and oil and gas production, to the failure of major media figures and outlets to adequately cover this crisis, or indeed to cover it at all. But perhaps the most guilty are those who blithely accept the propaganda and lies promoted by those with a vested interest in maintaining the status quo.

To many people tell themselves it can’t really be all that bad. Too many refuse to look at the evidence that is right in front of their eyes. Too many swallow the conspiracy theories promulgated by nutcases and paid propagandists that global warming is a hoax conceived by greedy scientists and tyrannical leftist government out to destroy their “freedoms”. And far too many simply don’t want to hear about this problem. As if their deliberate ignorance will somehow make it all go away.

If only climate change wore a scarf to cover its face, screamed ridiculous religious nonsense at the top of its lungs and and used a medieval sword to lop off people’s heads, videos of which were then posted to You Tube videos. I bet then we’d get some action.

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