The Road to Catastrophe
source : The Week News Staff The Week - Issue 707 of 21st March 2009
The main stories ...
The road to catastrophe
Scientists issued a desperate plea to world leaders last week to act on global warming or face the" devastating" consequences. More than 2,500 climate experts from 80 countries meeting in Copenhagen warned that, with new research suggesting sea levels are set to rise twice as fast as predicted in 2007, there was "no excuse" for inaction. The emergency summit was a precursor to
a major UN meeting in December, also in Copenhagen, which aims to agree a successor to the Kyoto climate treaty.
"Don't be misled by the recent cold winter," said the FT. Last week's Copenhagen meeting shows that global warming is an
even bigger problem than we thought. Politicians used to take comfort from predictions that average temperatures might rise 2C this century, "an increase to which the world could
just about adapt". But that forecast
is now "out of date". We've become so numbed to the warnings of "doom¬mongers" that we're in danger of missing the significance of this latest one, said The Observer. There's also
a risk that people will slip into
'u 2 C . I "defea~sm". We must avoi~ bC?th
London s ~ ture. As ene from the fzlm Food these pitfalls. Global warmmg IS real,
Lord Stern told the conference that his influential 2006 report but we still have an opportunity to do something about it.
on climate change had underestimated the risks. Whereas it "With the departure of George Bush from the White House,
had warned that global temperatures could rise by between a significant political obstacle to action has gone."
2C and 3C by the end of the century, he now put the range at between 4C and 7C. That would render much of the world uninhabitable, leading to "extended conflict". A Met Office study unveiled at the summit showed that, even under the most optimistic projections, the destruction of between 20% and 40% of the Amazon rainforest was now "irreversible".
World leaders must rise to this challenge, said The Daily Telegraph. Devising a plan to reduce carbon emissions won't be easy, but its difficulty will be "as nothing compared to the impossibility of lowering sea levels and eliminating huge deserts once irreversible climate change has taken place".
... and how they were covered
Global warming is indeed leading us towards "an unprecedented catastrophe", said Christopher Booker in The Sunday Telegraph - but it's not the one predicted by the "scaremongers" in Copenhagen. The real disaster is that we may end up further bankrupting our economies tackling a non-existent crisis. The alarmists' case rests entirely on computer models that have already proved to be hopelessly unreliable.
If only that were true, said Fred Pearce in The Daily Telegraph. While it's always possible that some climate experts are "getting carried away", the rise in sea levels is a measurable fact. They rose by 2cm in the 19th century and 19cm in the 20th. In the 1990s the rate reached the equi¬valent of 30cm in a century; the figure is now nearer 40cm. The Thames Barrier is being raised more and more often to protect London. At this rate, "a one-metre rise by 2100 looks more than likely". That would flood the homes of hundreds of millions of people across low-lying areas of the world. And it wouldn't just be a case of "toodle-oo for Tuvalu"; a metre rise would also mean "the exit of Essex, the fall of the Fens and the Trent Valley turning turtle".
Behind the scenes of the Copenhagen summit, said George Monbiot in The Guardian, you heard the same whisper from climate scientists everywhere: "It's over." Hopes of limiting global warming to 2C are gone; now, "we'll be lucky to get away with 4C". It is hard to have any confidence in the ability of world leaders to rescue the day. Global talks so far have been "a total failure". The original Kyoto emission targets were set too low and the whole deal was riddled with loopholes. The only reason that nations such as the UK have met their Kyoto targets is because they outsourced their pollution to other countries. The chances of politicians getting their act together in time to make a real difference are slim. But however unlikely success seems, we can't behave as if it is too late, "for in doing so we make the prediction come true. Tough as this fight may be, we cannot afford to surrender."
The Maldives announced plans this week to become the world's first carbon¬neutral country, reports
The Observer. The president of the low-lying islands, Mohamed Nasheed, hopes
to move the nation to 100% renewable energy within a decade with the help of 155 wind turbines, half a square kilometre of rooftop solar panels and a biomass plant burning coconut husks.
"We won't pretend that this plan is going to be easy," he said. "There will be hiccups, and electricity supply will occasionally be disrupted. But we think that building a near¬zero carbon Maldives is a realistic challenge. Get it right, and we will show the world that action is possible, and at a reasonable cost."
Editorial Comment: It is something of a relief to find that the message on global warming and climate change is really coming home to roost. Maybe there will be a little more attention to the issue when people begin to realise that it really will affect their own lives and livelihoods and press for sustainable CO2 emission levels. Our fish and chips may be one of the first victims !!