Fiddling and Burning

I’ve been through several stages over the climate change issue, starting with fear and terror, moving through to thank-god-I-won’t-be-around-for-the-worst-of-it, rumbling along to my present unsustainable (probably) position of (and this is going to sound mean) humanity-deserves-what’s-coming. Ultimately, I don’t believe we’re going to do anything about it – well, not unless there’s a revolution that effectively overthrows the corporate-run state that currently masquerades (increasingly poorly) as the social democratic state. There are too many powerful interests committed to doing nothing. The latest interesting thing I read was on the U.S. “ThinkProgress” site’s “ClimateProgress” blog. It’s titled: “An Illustrated Guide to the Science of Global Warming Impacts: How We Know Inaction Is the Gravest Threat Humanity Faces” and basically tells us that climate scientists — who for a while naively thought they would be listened to because, well, they’re scientists and they truck in facts — have been giving us the relatively nice scenario of what’s coming. As the author of the above post, Joe Romm, notes:

Until recently, the scientific community has spent little time modeling the impacts of a tripling (~830 ppm) or quadrupling (~1100 ppm) carbon dioxide concentrations from preindustrial levels. In part, I think, that’s because they never believed humanity would be so stupid as to ignore the warnings and simply continue on its self-destructive path. In part, they lowballed the difficult-to-model amplifying feedbacks in the carbon cycle.

And here’s what we’ll be getting (it’s U.S. focused):

• Staggeringly high temperature rise, especially over land — some 10°F over much of the United States
• Permanent Dust Bowl conditions over the U.S. Southwest and many other heavily populated regions around the globe
• Sea level rise of around 1 foot by 2050 (30 cm), then 4 to 6 feet (1.2m to 1.8m), or more, by 2100, rising some 6 to 12 inches (15cm to 30 cm), or more, each decade thereafter
• Massive species loss on land and sea — perhaps 50% or more of all biodiversity
• Unexpected impacts — the fearsome “unknown unknowns”
• Much more extreme weather
• Food insecurity — the increasingly difficulty task of feeding 7 billion, then 8 billion, and then 9 billion people in a world with an ever-worsening climate.
• Myriad direct health impacts

Our Ministry for the Environment has some pretty maps showing the impact on New Zealand.  They have icons of suns and trees and swirly things that represent wind. They look like something that could illustrate a children’s book! The media hardly reports on this issue, though the Listener did some good work late last year.

Clearly the issue is just too big and too scary and doesn’t involve enough celebrities and low cut dresses and “man bites dog” headlines.  The mainstream media is not just failing us in a benign sort of “I wish they were better” way, they are doing harm. Which brings me back to how I arrived at my current humanity-deserves-what’s-coming position.

The Wellington City Council posted a video some time ago visualizing what a sea level rise of 1m would look like in the CBD which is here:

I didn’t find a similar video of Auckland…though the image below of Mission Bay in Auckland is from “Vulnerability and adaptation to sea-level rise in Auckland, New Zealand,” by Georgina Hart (NZCCRI 2011 report 08, October 2011, The New Zealand Climate Change Research Institute, Victoria University of Wellington). A pdf of the paper is here.

But, hey, who cares about all that that when there are important stories about naked surfers and running shoes for fashionistas (a couple of examples from today’s Stuff), and (many) churches are more concerned about contraception and abortion than the end of civilisation as we know it. I wonder what the stage after humanity-deserves-what’s-coming is? Any ideas?

p.s. I just realised the view that illustrates the header of this blog, which was taken around East Cape, won’t be around either…

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