Hong Kong's freedoms are vitally important—and so is its climate

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      This weekend, Canadian media outlets, including this one, focused on duelling rallies in Vancouver, Toronto, and Calgary over Hong Kong's future.

      Those who backed Hong Kong democrats encountered large numbers of flag-waving, slogan-shouting pro-China supporters.

      Feelings ran high as the two groups chanted at one another outside a Canada Line station on West Broadway in Vancouver.

      Police had them separated by only a couple of metres.

      As I walked between them—and witnessed their passion—I couldn't help but wonder how long Hong Kong might last after China's "one country, two systems" approach expires in 2047.

      That's because Hong Kong, like many other port cities in the tropics, faces extreme risks as a result of rising global greenhouse gas emissions.

      "Tropical and extra-tropical storms may also respond to a warming climate by being even more extreme (MetOffice, 2014)," a 2017 UN report on port cities and climate stated. "Their impacts on coastal transport infrastructure could be very severe, particularly due to the extreme sea levels (ESLs) they induce (Hallegate et al, 2013)."

      These dangers were also outlined in a 2008 paper by Richard Welford, chair of the sustainability group CSR Asia and then a professor at the University of Hong Kong.

      In "Climate Change Challenges for Hong Kong: An Agenda for Adaptation", he pointed to extreme weather events, super-typhoons, heavy rainfall, sea-level rises, and tidal surges in the city's future.

      Last September, Hong Kong narrowly missed the worst of Category 5 Super Typhoon Manghkut. It had wind speeds peaking at 285 kilometres per hour over a one-minute sustained period.

      NASA captured this image of Typhoon Mangkhut at its peak intensity on September 12.

      Welford's paper also highlighted the need to prepare for flooding, overstrained drainage systems, periods of drought, dangerous heat waves, and threatened ecosystem services.

      "Levels of awareness in Hong Kong in relation to climate change remain relatively low," Welford wrote back in 2008. "There is a need for public education, community-based adaptation, planning and incentives for businesses to put in place mitigation and adaptation measures."

      In March of this year, about 1,000 Hong Kong high school students participated in a climate strike inspired by Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg. Unlike in Canada, the students were discouraged from taking this action.

      In the Hong Kong Free Press, scholar Dhanada Kanta Mishra wrote that Hong Kong's climate action plan accurately reflects the potential impacts on the city. But he claimed that the responses have been "underwhelming".

      "The vast potential for renewable energy is treated as unfeasible for some patently silly reasons," Mishra reported. "For example, the vast water bodies that could be used for floating solar panels are considered out of bounds, being reserved for public recreation.

      "A major flaw of the report is its calculation of per capita emissions, which are under-estimated by a factor of 2 to 3," Mishra continued. "It disregards all the emissions due to the outside production of Hong Kong’s imports. It ignores food consumption patterns, which in Hong Kong are dominated by beef and pork, a major source of greenhouse gases."

      In the meantime—in the absence of sustained front-page media coverage of climate change—environmental activists are relying on Twitter to get their message out about magnitude of the crisis.

      One of the most active is an account called Climate Watcher (@pmagn).

      Below, you can see some of this account's weekend tweets, which cited experts discussing the possibility of human beings going extinct.

      Spend a couple of minutes taking this in:

      The climate scientist who's most active in trying to educate the public on Twitter is Michael Mann.

      He's a distinguished professor of atmospheric science and director of the Earth System Science Center at Penn State University.

      While Mann is extremely concerned about the impact of climate change, he still doesn't think it's too late to take action to address the problem and preserve humanity's future on Earth.

      I encourage anyone who's reached the end of this article to follow both of these accounts.

      It doesn't always make for easy reading, but we're going to need all the wisdom we can muster if we're going to have a livable world for those who are being born this year.

      Below, you can watch the full interview with Extinction Rebellion cofounder Roger Hallam, which was on the BBC Hard Talk program.

      Watch the entire BBC Hard Talk interview with Extinction Rebellion cofounder Roger Hallam.

      Next, you can see the reaction to Hallam's most incendiary comment from Jonathan Foley, executive director of Project Drawdown.


      Climate Feedback says Hallam's claim of six billion deaths in the 21st century is "unsupported" and "incorrect", based on an analysis by four climate experts.

      "Research shows that continuing climate change results in a broad array of serious threats to humans and other species," the website states. "However, counter to Hallam's statement, published studies have not predicted 6 billion human deaths this century and there is no credible mechanism referred to justify how this could happen."

      To read the Climate Feedback evaluation, go here.