Monday, February 11, 2008

A POTENT WARNING RATHER THAN A HOPEFUL FUTURE



Keith Farnish in the UK characterized our polar cities idea as "a potent warning rather than a hopeful future," and he is completely right in looking at it this way. I am not predicting that we will need polar cities, I am just speculating. I hope we never need them. But if all else fails, and all the techno fixes fail to work, or stop global warming in its tracks, then some kind of sustainable population retreats in northern areas might be needed, 30 generations down the road. Not now. Not now, of course. Now it the time to party like there's no tomorrow, right? Burn! Slash! Consume! (Kidding)

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

EMAIL:

"Hi Danny,

I am afraid I haven't given it enough thought to really have a settled opinion about your polar cities idea. But as Keith Farnish's comments suggest, it is a potent way to get people to consider avoiding such a fate.

I note that in the meantime, people are taking very seriously the prospect of turning Churchill, Canada, into a year-round port for trans-shipping wheat that they expect will be grown in northern Canada once global warming makes it possible."

- email from a well-regarded futurist based in Los Angeles

dan said...

A reporter for a major wire service in Europe wrote to me today;

"Dear Danny,
thanks for all your mails -- sorry but I think I will pass
for the time being on writing about your polar cities idea, unless you
have some funding or other form of high-level backing...it's thought
provoking but the idea of future generations having to move to the
arctic in a few hundred years time makes me shiver and I fear it may
sound scaremongering to others.

If you get any further with it, please let me know."

Anonymous said...

ON GLOBAL WARMING

by Gwynne Dyer, UK columnist
Feb. 15, 3008

It's an old joke: everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.

The same, unfortunately, is true for the climate.

They are talking about it. They were at it again in Honolulu recently, discussing mandatory, internationally binding commitments on greenhouse gas emissions.

At the Bali meeting in December, China hinted it might consider something like binding emission caps in the long run. But there is no sense of urgency.

Not, at least, the sense of urgency that would be required to take actions that would invalidate the prediction, in the latest issue of the journal Science, that climate change may cost southern Africa more than 30 per cent of its main crop, corn, by 2030.

No part of the developing world can lose one-third of its main food crop without descending into desperate poverty and violence.

The mentality of it-can't-happen-here persists.

The two Democratic candidates for the presidency in the United States promise 80 per cent cuts in emissions by 2050, and John McCain for the Republicans promises 50 per cent cuts by then.

Nobody points out such a leisurely approach condemns the world to a global temperature regime at least three or four degrees Celsius (5.5 to 7 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer than today.

Nobody points out those are average global temperatures which take into account the relatively cool air over the oceans.

Few people are aware these higher temperatures will prevent pollination in many major food crops in parts of the world that are already so hot they are near the threshold, and that this, combined with shifting rainfall patterns, will cause catastrophic losses in food production.

Over the past few weeks, in several countries, I have interviewed senior scientists, government officials and think-tank specialists whose job is to think about climate change daily.

And not one of them believes the forecasts on global warming issued by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change just last year; they think things are moving much faster.

The IPCC's 2007 predictions were frightening enough.

Across the six scenarios, it predicted rises in average global temperature of between 1.8 and 4.0 degrees Celsius by the end of the 21st century, with a maximum change of 6.4 degrees Celsius in the high scenario.

But the thousands of peer-reviewed scientific papers the IPCC examined in order to reach those conclusions dated from no later than early 2006, and most relied on data from several years before that.

It means the IPCC report took no notice of recent indications that the warming has accelerated dramatically.

While it was being written, for example, we were talking about the possibility of the Arctic Ocean being ice-free in late summer by

2042.

Now, it's 2013.

Nor did the IPCC report attempt to incorporate feedback phenomena suspected of being responsible for speeding up the heating such as the release of methane from thawing permafrost.

Worst of all, there is now a fear carbon sinks are failing, and in particular the oceans, which normally absorb half the carbon dioxide produced, are losing that ability.

Maybe the experts are wrong. Here in the present, out ahead of the mounds of data that pile up in the rear-view mirror and the studies that will eventually get published in the scientific journals, there are only hunches to go on.

But while high-level climate talks pursue stately progress toward some ill-defined destination, down in the trenches there is an undercurrent of suppressed panic.

The tipping points seem to be racing towards us a lot faster than people thought.

[Gwynne Dyer is a London-based independent journalist