Saturday, February 03, 2007

What is to become of the human species?

The conclusions of the conference on climate change are eye openers, depressing and they lead to whole host of other questions that need to be answered.

First of all the depressing part. Global warming is happening, it is being caused by human activity, temperatures are likely to rise by 2C to 6C by the end of this century and they are likely to take at least a 1000 years to begin falling again.

I believe that it was the same group of scientists who warned, in 2001, that we may be approaching a tipping point where global warming occurs regardless of any change in human behaviour. I guess we can safely assume that we passed that tipping point many years ago.

As a corollary to that we can conclude that the first part of the global warming debate is over. It is happening and it is going to continue to happen for at least the next two generations. So if you are one of those who still denies the existance of global warming get with the program.

Now some of the questions:

Will the rise in temperatures continue into the next century? Or to put it another way will temperature eventually stabilize at a certain level or continue rising? The report is silent on that very important point I would hope the climate science community will begin looking to answer this question.

Can we minimize the rise in temperature over the next century. I am no expert on this science but I can only assume that a rise of 2C by the end of the century is probably better than a rise of 6C. For now we should assume the answer is yes because the alternative is unthinkable.

A final question is what are we going to do to deal with the effects of global warming in the coming decades?

I have seen many people who claim that trying to deal with global warming now will cause unspeakable harm to our economy. To which I respond, whether we pay the price now or pay it later we cannot avoid the costs of global warming.

During the 1990s there was much talk about the national debt, which is why Paul Martin eliminated the federal fiscal deficit. I would submit that we are now beginning to see that we are accumulating a global debt and we are continuing to add to that debt by the day. Just like the national debt is going to be a burden on future generations of Canadians the global climate change debt is going to be a massive burden on future generations of the human species.

I would submit that we have to begin taking measures to pay that debt down now. We need to take measures to reduce our GHG emissions in real terms sooner rather than later. Any plan that calls for increasing our GHG emissions is hopelessly insufficient. We need to take them even if other countries in the world will not follow suit right away. We need to begin addressing this issue because our children and grandchildren cannot do it for themselves.


Blogger onizuka808 said...

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February 03, 2007 4:15 PM  
Blogger Miles Lunn said...

Interesting post. I would argue that global warming simply represents the average rise in temperature. Some places such as the Arctic will likely see much larger temperature rises, while other areas may even get cooler such as Europe, since their mild winters are mainly due to the Gulf Stream and the melting ice packs would weaken it thus meaning less of a moderating effect in the winter.

The exact effects will depend a lot on where and what species. In low lying areas it could be devastating due to rising ocean levels. Also it depends on how easily we can adjust to climate change. Some species can handle major climate changes others cannot. I don't think it will mean the end of us humans.

After all I moved from Vancouver to Toronto this year and the winters in Toronto are more than 6 degrees colder than Vancouver and likewise the summers and more than 6 degrees hotter. On the other hand some plant life cannot handle even minor changes.

February 06, 2007 10:18 PM  

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