Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Waiting For a Beating

Climate change experts are becoming reluctant to speak their minds. Oh they're still plenty willing to talk about the endless river of data and research that steadily and consistently reinforces their scientific consensus. They're reluctant to give their views on mankind's political and social willingness to confront the challenges of climate change and our dwindling chances of meeting even dangerous limits on global warming in the 21st century.

The widely accepted consensus is that we have to limit warming to two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels by the end of this century or face catastrophic climate change impacts. Four out of five climate change experts surveyed by The Guardian don't think we have much hope of staying within the 2 degree limit.

Today's Guardian poll of attendees at a climate conference last month in Copenhagen exposes the gulf between political rhetoric and scientific thinking. Of more than 250 experts surveyed, more than half said the 2C target could still be achieved but only 18 thought that it would be. By the end of the century, most thought average temperatures would rise by some 4C.

...Several scientists said the G20 summit in London, where climate change was barely considered, had convinced them the action required would not be taken. Simon Lewis, a climate researcher at the University of Leeds, said: "The summit shows that political leaders do not regard climate change as an urgent issue. They were tasked to re-configure the global economy and they chose to re-affirm the old model, and not move to a low-carbon economy as scientists have urged. The summit was more of an end-of-the-world order than a new world order."

Bob Doppelt, director of the climate leadership initiative at the University of Oregon, said: "One of the problems is that the issue is still being framed as a scientific and environmental issue. This is a major mistake. Climate change is just a symptom of dysfunctional social and economic practices and policies. It is a social and economic issue. The emphasis needs to shift away from the biophysical sciences now to the social sciences if we have any hope of solving this problem."

Others said it could take a series of extreme weather events similar to Hurricane Katrina and the 2003 European heatwave to force political action. One said a "9/11-type event" that could be traced to increased greenhouse gas emissions might break the political deadlock.

Put another way, mankind is waiting for a climate change beating of monumental proportions to spark the global consensus necessary to address the social and economic dimensions of global warming. Until and unless we reach that threshhold while we still have the strength and good fortune to even forge an international consensus, we seem bound to descend into an 'every nation for itself' regime that will then evolve into adversarial blocs. Once that happens, achieving any meaningful, comprehensive and effective consensus probably becomes a lost and unrecoverable opportunity. But don't take my word for it. This very endgame is reflected in the global warming studies conducted by both the Pentagon and the British Ministry of Defence.

Unfortunately, we're much more practised and comfortable with resorting to military solutions than social and economic restructuring.


Anonymous said...

Don't you think governments know exactly what is happening? Could they not be using the tactic of not wishing to address the actual pollution problem in an attempt to decrease the world's population? let's face it, war makes money for people who already have lots of it. They see themselves as being protected by it. However, that will not be the case if we keep going in the direction running full tilt. Cheers, A. Morris

The Mound of Sound said...

Yes, I do think many governments know what's happening, at least within the ranks of their senior bureaucrats. That said, it would require a rare level of conspiratorial collaboration to advance this as a tool of depopulation. The notion of that being kept secret, many thousands of lips sealed to protect such a monstrosity, is unthinkable. It would take just one or two insiders of conscience to throw their superiors to the sharks.