Sunday, 23 September 2007

Catastrophic warming

excerpt from dailykos blog Sep 23, 2007. For the full blog see The graphic is courtesy of Greenpeace. Barcelona writes:

"Some mornings I wake up wanting to scream. Everything seems so... normal. Birds twittering in the trees outside. An early flock of Canada geese honking overhead. A paler shade of sun streaming in through the trees outside my wide bedroom window. A beautifully cool autumn day in the offing, but I still can't shake the feeling. I rise from my bed, splash water on my face, head for the kitchen for my morning coffee, stopping to pick up my morning paper at the front door on the way. I scan the front page, leaf through to the editorial pages, just for a sign that someone, ANYONE in those crowded rooms where headlines are made and people decide what gets on Page One GETS IT. The feeling changes to a slow burn. I turn on the radio, to my favourite morning show on Radio-Canada. Most mornings it's just chatter about politics, sports, the arts, interviews with famous peope, laughter, jokes. And then sometimes, like this morning, I get lucky. I catch a conversation in progress. How come this isn't front page news? the host is asking. I like the host. He gets it. Yeah it's strange, the person he's talking to is saying. I recognize him. It's the environment correspondent. And then he continues and that sense of dread I woke up with explodes into full-blown, impotent rage.
His report lasts barely a minute. To be fair, maybe two. I rush to the computer to look up the article in The Independent (UK) he was quoting from. It's dated september 19th. Four days ago! First I've heard of any of this. My outrage grows. Yes, I feel like screaming. Don't you? WHY IS THIS NOT FRONT PAGE NEWS?"
The latest study from the United Nation's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) put the inevitability of drastic global warming in the starkest terms yet, stating that major impacts on parts of the world – in particular Africa, Asian river deltas, low-lying islands and the Arctic – are unavoidable and the focus must be on adapting life to survive the most devastating changes.

A rise of two degrees centigrade in global temperatures – the point considered to be the threshold for catastrophic climate change which will expose millions to drought, hunger and flooding – is now "very unlikely" to be avoided, the world's leading climate scientists said yesterday.


For more than a decade, EU countries led by Britain have set a rise of two degrees centigrade or less in global temperatures above pre-industrial levels as the benchmark after which the effects of climate become devastating, with crop failures, water shortages, sea-level rises, species extinctions and increased disease.

Two years ago, an authoritative study predicted there could be as little as 10 years before this "tipping point" for global warming was reached

The IPCC said yesterday that the effects of this rise are being felt sooner than anticipated with the poorest countries and the poorest people set to suffer the worst of shifts in rainfall patterns, temperature rises and the viability of agriculture across much of the developing world.


"Even if we achieve a cap at two degrees, there is a stock of major impacts out there already and that means adaptation. You cannot mitigate your way out of this problem... The choice (now)is between a damaged world or a future with a severely damaged world."

The IPCC assessment states that up to two billion people worldwide will face water shortages and up to 30 per cent of plant and animal species would be put at risk of extinction if the average rise in temperature stabilises at 1.5C to 2.5C.

"The article goes on to list the consequences for every continent. Should be making headlines everywhere on Earth and certainly no less than economists' and central bankers' pronouncements and predictions.
Just last February, when the full IPCC met to issue its fourth report, scientists' assessment of our situation were dire but their predictions were far more cautious. Now, barely more than 6 month later, they are stating unequivocally that catastrophic warming is now unavoidable. In our lifetimes. And all we can do is prevent even more appalling devastation for our children's generation...."

The ocean 'carbon sink' has filled up: consequences are discussed in a 2006 Scientific American article. Other dangers include ocean warming, sea level rise, pollution and overfishing.

See also videos
Voices from the margins at New Internationalist
Atossa Soltani of Brazil -- on Climate Change
Desmond Desai of South Africa -- on Corporate Power

and Bill McKibben's review of the latest books on global warming in Oct 2007 NYRB 24 Sep 07:Bill McKibben discusses his book Blessed Unrest, Paul Hawken his Deep Economy.

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