Thursday, September 20, 2007

They think it's all over

Latest reports from the IPCC, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, indicate that a 2 degree rise in world temperatures is inevitable – within 10 years. There is now so much excess carbon dioxide in the global system that it is too late to stop this happening; there’s nothing we can do. It’s time to face up to the consequences and prepare to adapt to them.

Ironically the prosperous West may benefit form the temperature rise in the short term. Higher temperatures will mean substantially increased crop yields in North America, Northern Europe and Russia. Elsewhere the opposite is true. In some parts of the Third World flash floods will wash the crops from the fields and destroy buildings, bridges and roads. Rising sea levels will make other places uninhabitable – already parts of the Maldives have had to be abandoned.

Too much water in some places; too little elsewhere as the Himalayan glaciers melt and the rivers they fill run dry. Up to a billion people will lose their water supply. Many species will become extinct and diseases will appear in places where they have never been seen before.

All this sounds apocalyptic. Too dreadful to be true. Turn the page – let’s not think about it. And what can we do about it anyway? And there on the next page is an advertisement from the energy company Total. “Total is pursuing the development of gas fields across the globe…” And burning more gas releases more CO2. Three degrees? Four degrees? Six degrees?

It needs government action. It needs big business to take action. What we can do is be aware of what is going to happen and be aware of how it will change our lifestyles. We need to do as much as we can to cut our individual carbon footprints. We can change public opinion. Enough public opinion influences government and changes business behaviour.

Within 10 years. That means it won’t just affect our children or our grandchildren. It’s going to affect us.

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