Monday, July 24, 2006

An Inconvenient Truth

I went to see An Inconvenient Truth again last night, this time with several members of my church. That movie is more scary than any horror movie I’ve ever seen. Then again, this is real –and it affects the entire human race and the whole planet, so how could it not be scary?

Afterwards a bunch of us went to a nearby coffee shop and had a discussion. Now, my church is a pretty enlightened group. We are UUs, after all. Everyone there knew going in what a big problem Global Warming is. And we’re all Liberals and involved in the Green Movement to one extent or another. So, I was astonished to discover how many of them passionately believe that we don’t need to worry that much –because our technology will save us.

I think I’m missing something here. Maybe it’s the definition of ‘save us’. Because the last time I checked, it was our technology combined with human nature that got us into this mess in the first place. If ‘save us’ is defined as keeping the human race from extinction and/or from destroying the planet, then I’ll buy it. But they seemed to think that it could stop global warming, preserve our civilization, and keep our lifestyles intact.

Hmm, in geek speak ‘Does Not Compute’. Now I love these people, don’t get me wrong on that, but I think that they are dead blind on this issue. How in the name of God is any technology going to stop this madness while also allowing us to maintain our wasteful, consumerist, disposable lifestyle? And that’s just for those of us in the first world; there are 6 billion plus people on this planet, and something like 80% of them do not live like we do. But they all want to, and it’s obvious why. So, do we deny them that if we are to continue living like that? We couldn’t even if we tried. It would also be highly unethical to oppress others in the name of self-advancement, no matter what the dictators of history and the modern day would say. But consider this: if even just China elevated all of its people to First World standards, it would DOUBLE humanity’s impact on the planet. Multiply that by another five.

Again, it does not compute. There is going to have to be a major paradigm shift in this world if we are to survive, much less conquer climate change. To take into effect the seriousness of this problem, just consider Greenland. It lost 52 miles of ice last year –some of that even in December. Furthermore, the rate of loss had doubled in the past five years. Let’s assume for a moment that this loss rate continues to increase linearly at 20% per year for the foreseeable future. In 45 years, the total amount of ice lost would be over 900,000 square miles. The total area of Greenland is only 822,000 square miles. Now, obviously this is a very simplistic model. It doesn’t take into account the volume of the ice, only the area, it doesn’t allow for the small amount of refreezing and new ice fall in winter –and it doesn’t take into account that such a system is really non-linear, and the acceleration rate increases exponentially as time passes. So, despite its limitations the message is clear –without immediate drastic action, the Greenland Ice Sheet will be gone by the time my as yet to be born children enter college. Sea levels will rise up to 20 feet world wide, inundating low-lying areas and displacing millions upon millions of people.

What I ask you, are the chances of anything being done to stop this in time? Or of any measures taken having effectiveness? In today’s world, I estimate the probability at just above zero.

Which brings me to my next point. The movie included a great quote from Winston Churchill:

“The era of procrastination, of half-measures, of soothing and baffling expedients, of delays, is coming to a close. In its place, we are entering a period of consequences."

We have all ready entered that period of consequences. From here on there will just be more of them, and they will be harsher. The true consequences of climate change can not be measured in money, or property loss. Stronger storms, rising sea levels, droughts, all of these things also are not good measures. The true measure is in lives, human and otherwise. ONE human life lost unnecessarily is too many. Never mind more.

We passed that threshold long ago. The tragedies in Niger and Darfur are occurring partly because of the drought that has dried up most of Lake Chad. The drought was due at least in part to climate change. The thousands dead in the heat waves across Europe a few years ago, in the flooding worldwide, the deaths due to Katrina. All of these are due in part or in whole due to climate change. We are responsible for them as a species.

It will get worse. Many more are going to die. I do not mean to sound like a doomsayer; I am merely reading the writing that’s on the wall for all who have eyes to see. And it breaks my heart. I see every early death as a tragedy beyond compare. I wish with all my heart and soul that we can find a way to stop this madness before it’s too late. But I’m afraid it all ready is for too many. The question is now, not can we stop it before it gets too bad, but how much will we lose before we come to our senses?


Post a Comment

<< Home