75 months and counting ...United Kingdom
Quarter of the way in, we are perhaps further from holding back the warming tide than when we began. But there is still time.
Twenty five months ago, working with my colleague, a climate scientist, Dr Victoria Johnson, and others, I decided to find out how long it would take before, on the best data available, we would begin to cross red lines where climatic instability and extremes were concerned. A quarter of that time has now passed.
To minimise the danger of alarmism, but without hiding from the facts, we set our parameters to assume that humanity would be on the lucky end of the spectrum of environmental risk. We were optimistic, perhaps too much so, about the speed and likelihood with which ecological dominoes might fall in a warming world. Nevertheless, what we found was startling. One hundred months on from August 2008 we were set to cross an atmospheric threshold.
The accumulation and concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere would make it more likely that global average temperatures would rise 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels. That point was significant because 2 degrees is generally thought to be the temperature around which a number of complex environmental changes start to feed off each other, making their dynamics harder to predict and harder to control.
Vitally these changes, such as glacier melt, forest die-back, and the weakening of ecosystems' ability to absorb carbon – are both the result of warming, and also likely to add more fuel to the fire. In other words, it represents the beginning of a process which could become uncontrollable and irreversible.
Since then, an international recession, rooted in a market failure of the financial system underlying Anglo-Saxon economies, has partially and temporarily slowed the rise in greenhouse gas emissions, as economic activity slowed.
Unfortunately it has not, at the same time, led to a low-carbon re-engineering of the energy, transport, and agricultural systems of those same economies. The potential for a win-win response to recession was passed-by. A "green new deal"-type package of economic stimulus could have created jobs, lowered energy costs, increased security and set an example for tackling climate change to the wider world.
Instead, for a short time at least, the old systems were propped up. Car companies were bailed-out and people were encouraged to keep over-consuming – shopping till they dropped – to resuscitate the economy.
Then came the new coalition government's bonfire of the environment. Many of the institutions and much of the resources key to a low-carbon transition have been either run-down or axed.
So, here we are. One finger of a four-finger KitKat eaten. The first bend of a 400 metre race run. Act one of a four-act play complete. Yet, we are perhaps further from holding back the warming tide than when we began to count down the months in which meaningful action could take place.
What will happen when the months have run their course? Even without action, nothing in particular will occur on the stroke of midnight on the last day of the last month. But something will have shifted.
There will be the dull creeping awareness of an opportunity missed to prevent inexorable, destabilising change. A rise, perhaps, in bashful apologies and excuses about why it was impossible to do the right thing while there was still time. We may feel like kicking ourselves, often.
And what will the future look like? The severe droughts during August in Russia, and the huge floods in Pakistan may not be directly, causally related to current patterns in warming (although their scale and severity might well have been influenced by it).
But these are the kind of extreme events set to become more common in a warming world. High and volatile food prices are another intimation of the weakening security we all face.
But, there is still time. Changes in direction as fast and as large as those needed now have been achieved before, and during the lives of many people living today. We cannot escape the fact that will take enormous collective action – a form of rugged collectivism as brave as any acts of individual heroism. There are signs, finally, that walls of reluctance are beginning to crack. Yesterday the Guardian reported that Bjørn Lomborg, the self-styled "Sceptical Environmentalist" had overcome his dismissive attitude to climate change and now thought it worth spending $100 billion a year to stop it.
Three fingers left to eat, two straights and a bend to run, three acts still to play.
El contenido de las noticias que se presentan en esta sección es responsabilidad directa de las agencias emisoras de noticias y no necesariamente reflejan la posición del Gobierno de México en este u otros temas relacionados.
- Detrás de Cámaras
- Galería de Medios
- Notas de prensa
Page 'Breadcrumb' Navigation:
Site 'Main' Navigation: