Friday, 4 September 2009

10 percent in 2010

In the UK global warming is seen as real, and not a left wing conspiracy, supported by radical scientists. The summers of 2007 to 2009 saw unseasonal rainfall and flooding, people losing their houses. The affected County Councils are spending money to shore up flood defences to prepare for rising seas. Latest studies of Greenland glaciers show those glaciers are melting at a much higher rate than predicted by current climate change models. If they melt, sea level could rise within the next 100 years by several meters.

A natural Earth cycle or a result of human activity? No argument will silence all doubts. The debate will continue until the last debater is shot. As a geologist I can see that natural climactic cycles, visible in the rock record, are part of our Earth's history. Regarding the present changes, I defer to scientists who have studied the data. With few exceptions, they speak with one voice, that the present climate changes are due to the human impact on natural ecosystems --- burning fossil fuels and deforestration being the chief activities. This has become particularly acute because of our growing population.

Politicians talk and debate. In London, they discuss whether to cover the island with wind generators or put them all offshore. In Copenhagen, they bluster about who should make the first carbon dioxide cuts --- Americans, Chinese or Europeans who caused the problem in the first place? The Brits propose that we pay third world countries not to develop technologically, so that Brits can go on, business as usual. A convenient solution. One can conclude only one thing from the debate--- that we'll all fry before policicians come to an agreement that's likely to make any difference.

Or, the people can take action and show the bastards how it must be done.

Last week, "The Guardian" daily newspaper threw its support behind a grass roots movement, for every household to cut its carbon footprint by 10 percent in the year 2010. So far 10,000 people have pledged their support including many multinational corporations, all of Gordon Brown's cabinet, movie stars etc...According to the climate models, an immediate 10 percent global cut in carbon emissions is what is required to avoid an increase of 2 degrees celcius in our global temperature. Such an increase is likely to cause ecological changes that will result in further temperature increases. The carbon cuts have to start somewhere. Given that the UK only produces 3% of the world's carbon emissions, a 10% cut is not a large portion of the global budget. But it may generate the political impetus for other countries to follow suit, and for politicians to take meaningful action.

We may be too late. Arctic ice is melting more rapidly than predicted. Are we past the point of no return, where the Earth will grow warmer regardless of what we do? Nobody knows. To accept this scenario as true and to do nothing, will make a disastrous global warming of several degrees celcius an inevitability. Or, we can bury our heads in the sand and hope that none of this is real. That God will come to our aid, or that the sun will cool off. We can hope we'll all be dead before the disaster comes to roost.

I think about my children, the legacy we are about to leave them. Will they see scenes of mass starvation, wars fought over scarce resources, and mass migrations all because our generation was unwilling to make the right choices? The latest scenes from Bangladesh where 20 million people will have to move from areas inundated by rising seas, are a sample of things to come.

Amber and I are taking the 10:10 pledge. We are not sure how we will make good on the pledge but we will do what we can. We may cut down on car journeys, take the train more often, install more home insulation or fly less. We have more options than many people. We will keep you posted.

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