Saturday, November 17, 2007

The Overarching Crisis

By Carl

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has issued a new report which one author has termed its "strongest report yet."

There's not a helluva lot of good news in it, I'm afraid, but that doesn't mean action can't be taken immediately:

Among the report's top-line conclusions are that climate change is "unequivocal", that humankind's emissions of greenhouse gases are more than 90% likely to be the main cause, and that impacts can be reduced at reasonable cost.

The synthesis summary finalised late on Friday strengthens the language of those earlier reports with a warning that climate change may bring "abrupt and irreversible" impacts.

Such impacts could include the fast melting of glaciers and species extinctions.

(ed. note: Or the forced evacuation of a city of millions and its environs.)

"Approximately 20-30% of species assessed so far are likely to be at increased risk of extinction if increases in global average temperature exceed 1.5-2.5C (relative to the 1980-1999 average)," the summary concludes.

Other potential impacts highlighted in the text include:

- between 75m and 250m people projected to have scarcer fresh water supplies than at present
- yields from rain-fed agriculture could be halved
- food security likely to be further compromised in Africa
- widespread impacts on coral reefs

Please note the clause I highlighted: if increases in global average temperature exceed 1.5-2.5C (relative to the 1980-1999 average). That means the IPCC has dumbed down the assessment targets for warming, basically tossing out the first hundred years of formal meteorological recorded history to focus on the era that was already far warmer than it ever had been since the last Ice Age.

Things are bad enough that the Norwegian government has decided to open a "Doomsday Vault" to store seeds to survive the coming crisis:

Engineers have begun the two-month process of cooling down a "doomsday vault", which will house seeds from all known varieties of key food crops.

The temperature inside the Svalbard Global Seed Vault will drop to -18C (0F) in order to preserve the seeds.

Built deep inside a mountain, it aims to safeguard the world's crops from future disasters, such as nuclear wars, asteroids or dangerous climate change.

The first seeds are scheduled to arrive at the Arctic site in mid-February.

The Norwegian government is paying the $9m (£4.5m) construction costs of the vault, which will have enough space to house 4.5 million seed samples.

In the Hollywood version of this, the vault survives global climate change only to get hit by an asteroid, or worse, a fungus, but I digress.

It can't be helping any that carbon dioxide emissions have grown 35% faster than predicted since 2000... gee... who's been president this whole time, I wonder?

We're going to start seeing many more stories like this one, "US wants freeze on tuna fishing," in the near future. And yes, the United States comes off as a petulant little boy in that story, for a reason!

Yes, the presenting cause has been overfishing, but the backdrop to the story is that bluefin tuna are as reliant on zooplankton as every other fish in its food chain, and global warming is decimating the entire oceanic life cycle.

Atlantic cod is a good example of how this plays out: cod fishing was banned in the Grand Banks off the American coast in 1992.

Cod are still there, but their numbers have not increased since the ban went into effect, meaning they are barely breeding at replacement rates and not growing a population, which you'd expect for an apex fish.

So is there any good news out of this summary report of the IPCC's previous three reports this year? Sure. A little.

The growth in greenhouse gas emissions can be curbed at reasonable cost, experts at a major UN climate change conference in Bangkok have agreed.

Boosting renewable energy, reducing deforestation and improving energy efficiency can all help, they said. [...]

The sharpest cuts, keeping greenhouse gas concentrations to levels equivalent to between 445 and 535 parts per million of carbon dioxide, might cost anything up to 3% of global GDP by 2030, while milder curbs could even enhance growth.

Basically, signing onto and keeping to the Kyoto Protocols, for less than $400 billion per year, or roughly what we spend in Iraq in one year, including the "hidden costs."

Hmmm... which leading economic power has refused to endorse that, I wonder?

(Cross-posted to Simply Left Behind.)

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  • Maybe we are going about this thing all wrong -- trying to attack the many arms of the Climate Change problem instead of going for its eye.

    On the face of it, Climate Change is a problem of excess CO2 emissions. But analyse deeper, and one finds that it's a problem of overconsumption by all of us, individuals, corporates, government.

    Analyse still deeper, and one finds that overconsumption is triggered by and funded by CREDIT. There is an overabundance of bank credit -- far out of proportion to actual earnings and savings -- that gives people the power to overspend and overconsume.

    So this is where the cancerous tumour can be clearly isolated from human flesh. This is where we can start cutting away surgically, methodically, without hurting too many people.

    CONSUMER CREDIT -- loans extended by banks for purchase of new vehicles and consumer appliances -- is a major artery feeding this tumour. Easy loans warp our purchasing decisions, making our desires seem like needs.

    Two calls from an aggressive marketer of car loans is all I need to make me feel that I NEED to step up from my family car to an SUV.

    CREDIT CARDS make one feel really wealthy, by enabling one to securely carry large amounts equivalent to many months' earnings in ones wallet.

    And when you do that, you are potentially able to do all those wonderful, beautiful, generous things that you see in TV commercials like buying your wife a diamond solitaire, booking the Presidential suite for your wedding anniversary or surprising her with a couple of air-tickets to Paris.

    Consumer credit and credit-cards are the hot air causing the great big Economic Growth balloon to go up... and up... and up.

    Driven by this excessive consumer demand, a number of industries flourish, new corporates are created, and new factories get built, diversified, expanded, acquired... We aren't only borrowing economically, we are borrowing ecologically.

    Suggested line of action: At an individual level, we should stop buying things with credit, and stop using our credit cards. It is worth cutting up our credit cards. Let us stop borrowing from the future.

    And as a community of concerned citizens, let us lobby for a clampdown on consumer credit. Let us write to the government, to our Central Banks and to individual banks and bankers.

    Let each person in the banking industry be targetted with this message: Cap and roll back. Let us ask for a freeze of consumer credit at current levels this year, and a 50% reduction in the amounts of credit given each year.

    This would give the economy about three years to adjust to the changing scenario.

    Three years is 36 months -- far more time than the economy and its stakeholders get for adjustment when the stock-markets crash. So why delay, postpone and vacillate?

    Krishnaraj Rao

    By Blogger Friendly Ghost, at 5:15 AM  

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