Sunday, March 11, 2007

Still Think We Should Keep Flying...?

From The Sunday Times
March 11, 2007
To the end of the earth

This is our future - famous cities are submerged, a third of the world is desert, the rest struggling for food and fresh water. Richard Girling investigates the reality behind the science of climate change

Mark Lynas rummages through his filing cabinet like a badger raking out his bedstraw, much of the stuff so crumpled that he might have been sleeping on it for years. Eventually he finds what he is looking for - four sheets of printed paper, stapled with a page of notes.
It is an article, dated November 2000, which he has clipped from the scientific journal Nature: "Acceleration of global warming due to carbon-cycle feedbacks in a coupled climate model". Even when they are mapping a short cut to Armageddon, scientists do not go in for red-top words like "crisis". If you speak the language, however, you get the message - and the message, delivered by the UK Met Office's Hadley Centre for Climate Change, was cataclysmic.

"There should have been panic on the streets," says Lynas in his new book, Six Degrees, "people shouting from the rooftops, statements to parliament and 24-hour news coverage."
In layman's language, Hadley's message was that newly discovered "positive feedbacks" would make nonsense of accepted global-warming estimates. It would not be a gradual, linear increase with nature slowly succumbing to human attrition. Nature itself was about to turn nasty. Instead of absorbing and retaining greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, the figures suggested, it would suddenly spew them out again - billions of years' worth of carbon and methane, incontinently released in blazing surges that would drown or incinerate whole cities. Ice would melt in torrents, and the Earth's essential green lung, the Amazon rainforest, could be moribund as early as 2050. A vicious spiral would have begun which would threaten not just our way of life but the very existence of our own and every other species on Earth. Lynas's notes, still fixed to the report, have the dour humour of the gallows: "The end of the world is nigh, and it's already been published in Nature."

Read the rest of the article folks - very, very carefully. Time to riot.



Anonymous said...

It is all very sobering, but I still don't know what it will take for enough people(and governments)to "get it". I have been very concerned about the existence of positive feedback loops for years but I don't see much attention being paid to it outside of scientific circles.

I think that most people just don't really understand any of this- and a degree of two sounds so harmless. They associate a rise in temp of one or two degrees with the difference in how it feels outside if it's 70 or 72 degrees- no big deal.I don't know how to get this across. I teach this at the college level and my students either don't believe any of it, or think it will all happen some day when they're dead and who cares, or for the few who do get it, don't believe people will change enough to make a difference.

I keep trying but just don't know what it will take to create the major changes we need. And if we try to get people to pay attention to the situations that would result from any or all of these "tipping points", it somehow doesn't seem real to them. The sky is blue, the birds are singing, and they don't sense any real danger....


RAS said...

Of course we should keep flying. And consuming as much as we want. And chopping down the rain forest to grow beef. Etc etc etc. Why should we cut back just to make sure future generations have a planet? As long as we get ours, what does it matter?

Seriously, most people have no idea what this is all about. Those that do, often think that it is not their fault and the government should take responsibility for fixing it. Most of the remainder are waiting on a technofix. God forbid we have to give something up to make sure our kids live at all! And some do have the sense of entitlement evidenced above. People are genetically hardwired to respond to short term risks. If the Huns aren't coming over the wall, or its not blatantly self-evident that they're about to, most people won't react. And that's before you add in the hypnotic effects of modern media, and the concerted campaign of denial. The second comment at the bottom of the article referenced a mockumentary which aired in the UK last week and was aimed at debunking the 'myth' that humans cause global warming. Hello????

When does the necessity of saving the planet justify extreme action?

jlpicard2 said...

We will react when it will already be far too late. With peak oil, I fully expect we will cause even worse problems. We will cut down the forests, burn all the coal, etc to try to slow our decent. Peak oil will help with oil sourced CO2 emissions, with many major fields now in a significant decline. Coal will make the problem worse. I fully expect we will destroy the planet, either through cataclysmic global warming, or through nuclear war, or both.

Unfortunately, preserving the Earth for future generations is not profitable. Those in true power only respond to profit, and short term at that. Unless preserving the planet from destruction made a lot of money for the elite, than it will not happen. :(

Anonymous said...

Is there any chance that a the effects of PO in terms of people not being able to travel will arrive in time?

I'd like to think so, but recenly one of my SIL borrowed money to fly herself and 7 other families members for a one day famiy reunion. (It was only a 2 hours flight, each way...) It makes me think that we are so in the habit of borrowing for whatever we want or THINK we need that we won't let the cost stop us.

I read (I think in Generation Debt) that people rack up debt for education housing and flying to friends weddings. Now the first 2 might be unavoidable, but when people feel that they will loose the friendship if they don't turn up at the wedding, something is wrong. What sort of a friendship is it that you can't say, sorry, but can't afford to come? and have the friend understand.

Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that wedding seem to have become an occasion for people to spend money they don't have while throwing hissy fits over everthing. (Learned this cataloguing a slew of bridal books and one that was horror stories is mistreated brides maids, where the bottom line was -- "and she used to be such a nice person..."


Shaunta said...

So many people go around saying "we won't change, people won't change" and people hear it so much it seems like the truth. And the entire problem is so huge and daunting, that even though an individual has it in their heart to change, they don't think it will matter because they've heard "people are selfish and they don't care about the future and they won't change."

Seems to me that the biggest first step is to stop putting the message out there that people won't change--that everyone but the person talking is too selfish to care.

Imagine the difference between George W. spouting off about technology saving us, vs. what it would have been like to have a president like John Kennedy saying "ask not what you can do for yourself, but what you can do for your community." Leadership is important and we're witnessing the consequences of scary bad leadership.

We need strong leaders willing to ask for big sacrifices and educators to make us understand why the sacrifices are worthwhile. Most people have it in them to want to be a hero.

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