By BETH MILHAM
This year, World AIDS Day, Dec. 1, fell right at the beginning of the Paris Climate Summit, and that coincidence brings to mind a rather frightening parallel.
By the year 2000, scientists had identified the virus that causes AIDS, had learned to test for it and had started developing effective treatments for it. But that year, a handful of scientists convinced Tabo Mbeki, president of South Africa, that HIV wasn’t the cause of AIDS. The policies he put in place as a result were directly responsible for the avoidable deaths of more than a third of a million of his people, according to a Harvard study cited in The Guardian in 2008.
By then, “South Africa (had) one of the severest HIV/Aids epidemics in the world. About 5.5 million people, or 18.8% of the adult population, (had) HIV, according to the UN.”
Today, more than 97 percent of the world’s climate scientists are warning us that global warming is not only occurring, but is accelerating, and is largely caused by human activity such as the burning of fossil fuels. But a handful of scientists have convinced the majority party in Congress that climate change is either not real or, if it is, human activity isn’t causing it.
Actually, these “scientists” are mainly affiliated with fossil fuel industry-funded think tanks, according to the book “Merchants of Doubt.” As a result, our nation’s government could be responsible for a global disaster orders of magnitude worse than South Africa’s AIDS crisis. Even as our president has taken a leadership role in Paris, Congress has begun undermining any commitments that might come from that conference.
Since September, a group of local residents has been taking part in activities to publicize and build public support for a successful outcome from the Paris Climate Summit. Let us now encourage Congress to listen to the vast majority of worldwide climate scientists, and not follow the lead of Tabo Mbeki, who purposefully condemned a generation of his nation’s citizens to an early death.
Beth Milham is a Newport, R.I., resident.