Monday, January 30, 2006

Tipping Point

We are entering a new phase in the debate over global climate change. Scientists are now openly debating whether or not we have crossed a threshold where cataclysmic change is now irreversible:
Rising concentrations of greenhouse gases may have more serious impacts than previously believed, a major scientific report has said.

The report, published by the UK government, says there is only a small chance of greenhouse gas emissions being kept below "dangerous" levels.

It fears the Greenland ice sheet is likely to melt, leading sea levels to rise by seven metres over 1,000 years...

Environment Secretary Margaret Beckett said the report's conclusions would be a shock to many people.

"The thing that is perhaps not so familiar to members of the public... is this notion that we could come to a tipping point where change could be irreversible," she told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

It is beyond belief that some countries are discussing the ramifications of tipping points, while others openly censor their scientists from acknowledging the existence of global warming. Clearly, time is running out and yet we live in an environment where the radical changes required aren't even debated. We are so behind the curve, that it is still an effort to get countries like the United States to accept the existence, nevermind the solutions, to global climate change.

I am not a fan of Harper for a number of reasons, but the Conservative platform on the environment is most disappointing. The Harper view puppets the backward American attitude and fails to tackle the issue with any urgency. Instead of discussing new initiatives that go beyond an inadequate Kyoto Accord, Canada is now preparing to debate the merits of this half measure. While we move like sloths, the changes move with rapid speed.

One of my favorite theories is the Gaia hypothesis, first proposed by James Lovelock. The earth is seen as a living organism, that acts and reacts in totality like other living creatures. It is such an interesting, and increasingly rational, way to view the world in which we live. James Lovelock has a new offering due out, and in it he speaks of our dire circumstances:
Our planet has kept itself healthy and fit for life, just like an animal does, for most of the more than three billion years of its existence. It was ill luck that we started polluting at a time when the sun is too hot for comfort. We have given Gaia a fever and soon her condition will worsen to a state like a coma. She has been there before and recovered, but it took more than 100,000 years. We are responsible and will suffer the consequences: as the century progresses, the temperature will rise 8 degrees centigrade in temperate regions and 5 degrees in the tropics.

Much of the tropical land mass will become scrub and desert, and will no longer serve for regulation; this adds to the 40 per cent of the Earth's surface we have depleted to feed ourselves.

It really is all too depressing.

1 comment:

Politicagrll said...

I also found the article depressing. But at least it's getting good media coverage in the UK. I've seen it briefly mentioned in the Toronto Star but so far that is it (i haven't gone through CBC online yet though...)

Global warming is going to have a large impact everywhere including Canada...