Monday, October 18, 2010

It's the End of the Line - Act Immediately or Face Mass Extinctions

Many people "get" the reality of global warming and the associated host of other ecological threats.  But, of those, there are many who either think it's hopeless or are "wait and seers" and don't necessarily support prompt and potentially disruptive action.

Well the word from the United Nations "Convention on Biological Diversity" has opened its 12-day summit with a plain warning - we must take immediate action to stop the accelerating loss of animal and plant species and their habitat or face near-term, man-made mass extinctions.

"The time to act is now and the place to act is here,"  CBD executive secretary Ahmed Djoghlaf said, describing the summit as a  ""defining moment" in the history of mankind, reports the Agence France Presse.

Scientists say climate change and human population pressures are destroying ecosystems such as tropical forests and coral reefs as well as animal and plant species. A recent report by WWF warned that the world's 6.8 billion humans were living 50% beyond its sustainable means in 2007 and that, at current rates, a second Earth will be needed by 2030 to meet the planet's needs.

The indifference of our political leadership from every party is bewildering.   Can they not see what's happening or grasp what that means?   Do they really think Canadians will be immune to the fallout from this?

We're nearing the end of the line.   It's even visible to our satellites.   Take deforestation, a key destroyer of animal and plant habitat.   Some places are logging off valuable lumber where it really shouldn't be taken at all.   In other places the forests are being cleared for space to farm biofuels.   Still other places, like Western Canada, are seeing forests ravaged by climate-change induced infestations of pests like the Lodge Pole Pine beetle.

You don't need to grasp the intricacies of climate change science to understand the widespread destruction of coral reefs and the vital role those reefs play in sustaining marine biodiversity.   You don't need a university degree to understand that we're steadily collapsing our fish stocks, one after another.

Unless you're one of these weird shits that believes the earth is 6,000  years old and embraces apocalyptic visions of the Rapture (oops, I really didn't mean to slag the Conservative government), the need to act is obvious.   It's not a matter of throwing ten or twenty million dollars to research programmes or eco-organizations.   It's a matter of resolving to do whatever it takes to arrest the devastation of our planet's biodiversity.

“Biodiversity underpins the health of the planet and has a direct impact on all our lives. Put simply, reduced biodiversity means millions of people face a future where food supplies are more vulnerable to pests and disease and where water is in irregular or short supply,” said James Leape, WWF International’s Director General.

“No one can escape the impact of biodiversity loss because reduced global diversity translates quite clearly into fewer new medicines, greater vulnerability to natural disasters and greater effects from global warming.”

So, what are the chances of meaningful action resulting from the Nagoya summit?  According to Der Spiegel, the odds are pretty lousy.   Once again the world is looking to the U.S. for leadership and, once again, America appears utterly indifferent.


LMA said...

A Yale study recently reviewed on showed that over half of Americans had limited or inaccurate knowledge about climate change, e.g., about half believed that aerosol cans, volcanic eruptions and the space program were contributing to climate change, and that fossil fuels are the fossilized remains of dinosaurs. Two thirds had never heard anything about coral reef bleaching or ocean acidification. The study suggested that people don't have to learn about climate change because it doesn't yet impact their daily lives.

A lot of us live in cities and are becoming increasingly diconnected from nature so we don't see the changes that are happening and affecting other species. IMO it is going to take some catastrophic natural disaster to wake us up.

The Mound of Sound said...

Well, we shouldn't have to wait very long for that catastrophe to show up LMA.

We're burning so many of these candles at both ends yet can't seem to grasp how that ends if the flames aren't stopped.

It's long been apparent to me that those of us who live in small coastal towns surrounded by expanses of forested mountains see the impacts of climate change far more clearly than city dwellers. Those in the far north or in the southern hemisphere see it even more starkly.

Unfortunately our political leadership see very little gain to be had in the environmental realm. If anything they see it as risky, perhaps even toxic to their personal ambitions. At best they pay it lip service and then quickly move on.

LMA said...

We need leaders who are environmentalists first and politicians second. People who are willing to take action, rather than just set nonbinding targets, for reducing GHG's and preserving biodiversity. Thomas Mulcair perhaps?

The Mound of Sound said...

It's a combination of scourges we have to replace - 18th century economics, 19th century energy, 20th century geo-politics. Their synergy powerfully propelled the world until they stopped working around the 1970's. Yet we're so ingrained to see our future in the context of these conventions that it becomes almost impossible to imagine the alternatives necessary to adapt to the 21st century challenges.

I don't know much about Mulcair but I have no reason to believe his party or caucus has much appetite for the sort of change that's required. The NDP has already come out on the wrong side of the carbon tax issue. There's been no sign they've suddenly seen the light.

LMA said...

Hey you never know. Maybe we'll get to a carbon tax when there are renewable alternatives available.

I've been trying to read up on Mulcair a bit because I like his fire and passion about the environment. You might want to check out an article by Kady O'Malley in Macleans 27 June, 2007 in which he outlined his priorities, i.e., environmental issues, Kyoto, sustainable development, Canada's role as a peacekeeper, tight budgets with a "heart", etc. I respect Layton, but Mulcair might revitalize the party and lead us forward.

The Mound of Sound said...

I guess that's what they say about always living in hope. Right now it sure beats the alternative.

Maybe I can find the June, 2007 Macleans on my next trip to the doctor. They seem to have very edition of that magazine dating back to the invention of internal combustion.

LMA said...

I found some more recent quotes from Mulcair. He thinks the Tar Sands are the antithesis of sustainable development, and that their development should proceed at a slower pace. Big deal. Doesn't seem much different from Iggy after all. Damn!

Anonymous said...

This is a great read............... Cheers, Anyong

LMA said...

Anyong, as this report says "the information and tools we need to change this trend are readily available". Canada should be leading the pack when it comes to investment in renewables. Instead we subsidize Tar Sands development. Is there no political leader who has the guts to call for a moratorium on the Tar Sands? I despair sometimes.

The Mound of Sound said...

I suspect we're seeing one of the uglier aspects of wedge politics. No matter what Harper does his support seems to stabilize in the mid to high-30's. No matter what Harper does, Ignatieff's numbers trail his party's meagre high 20's-low 30's.

Ignatieff's only hope of becoming prime minister is to wait for Harper to implode. In other words, he's gutless. He won't bring down the government while his own numbers languish which, essentially, allows Harper to achieve his agenda incrementally.

Ignatieff is the best thing Harper has going for him. It pains me to say that but it's absolutely true.

Iggy is hanging on by his fingernails. You'll not find any courage there.

The Mound of Sound said...

@ Anyong. This post is linked to the WWF report via the USA Today story above.