Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Hurtling Towards the Wall

If anyone ever wonders why I seem to obsessively forward on information of this nature (in the Transition Lancaster newsletter), a little reflection should provide the answer: it is simply impossible for a human being to maintain his sanity and believe himself to be alone in his knowledge. I am following a compulsion buried deep in my evolutionary nature.

From the Inter Press Service in Paris:
PARIS, Jan 24, 2011 (IPS) - Despite repeated warnings by environmental and climate experts that reduction of fossil fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions is fundamental to forestalling global warming, disaster appears imminent. According to the latest statistics, unprecedented climate change has Earth hurtling down a path of catastrophic proportions.

It would be a mistake to regard this as hyperbole. We know, for instance, that sea-level rise this century is almost certainly to be in the multi-meter range, meaning a minimum of around 20' from present levels; this will inundate most every major metropolitan center in the US, from Miami to Boston. Flooding is already devastating many coastal communities worldwide. We know that a continent-sized Dust Bowl is growing now in the heart of North America, not to mention Africa, Asia and Europe. The world's coral are being driven to extinction -- and they have been present on Earth for over 540 million years. Occupying less than one-tenth of one percent of the world ocean surface, reefs nevertheless shelter around 25% of all marine species. Many of the world's peoples depend upon reefs for food, not to mention flood protection and tourist dollars.

Thank God for the economic collapse:
[Global greenhouse gas emissions], measured as equivalent to carbon dioxide, reached at least 32 billion tonnes last year, only one step below the most pessimistic scenario imagined by the IPCC in 2000: 33 billion tonnes of CO2.

The results for 2010 were conditioned by the present global economic crisis – meaning that under normal economic circumstances, the numbers would have been higher. In other words, total consumption of energy in 2010 would have been worse than the most pessimistic scenario the IPCC formulated ten years ago had the global economy been in better shape.

And more on this century of challenges:

According to the newest IPCC estimations, global temperatures may rise as much as eight degrees Celsius [14.4°F] by the year 2200.

Levermann explained that the temperature difference within an interglacial period, such as the one we are living now, have historically reached about five Celsius degrees.

"The transition between these temperature extremes lasted some 50,000 years in the past," Levermann said. "But at the present rate of [greenhouse gas emissions] we are reducing such a transition by 50 times."

He added that the rapid rising of global temperatures could provoke extreme weather catastrophes that humankind won’t be able to survive.

"The rising frequency of weather extremes, with their enormous social and economic consequences, would not allow public budgets to recuperate, nor give societies the time to breathe again," Levermann said. "Nor would insurance companies be able to compensate for the damages."

Levermann echoed earlier warnings that climate change could destroy countries such as Bangladesh, cities situated near the oceans, such as New York and Amsterdam, and make large parts of Africa uninhabitable.

"Climate change would destroy drinking water supplies, agriculture, habitats, and provoke giant waves of migration and mass mortality," he explained.

Levermann compared the consequences of global warming to a wall hidden in fog. "We cannot see the wall, but it is there. And we are driving at the highest possible speed towards it."

And people wonder why I seem so concerned. I will blog later on the efforts some are making to put us on a WWII-type footing to deal with this appropriately. Strict energy rationing and a rapid transition to a fossil fuel-free way of life would be good starts. Local transition movements only set the stage for this move to very necessary nation- and global-scale efforts.