Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Imagine Taiwan in the year 2500, oped piece by Dan Bloom on climate change and polar cities in the future: a worrst case scenario

Imagine Taiwan in the year 2500 A.D. (and the rest of the world, too!)

By Dan E. Bloom


special to the Taipei Times (print edition and online)

December 16, 2009, Page 8 - [Editorial page, oped page]

Two recent articles about climate change (“How much more proof is needed for people to act?” and “Ignoring the future — the psychology of denial,” Dec. 4, page 9) emphasized the importance of facing major issues that will have an impact on the future of the human species. Climate change is indeed an issue that is on everyone’s mind, and while Taiwan seems to be far removed from the experts who recently made their way to Copenhagen to try to hammer out blueprints to prevent global warming from having a Doomsday impact on humankind, Taiwan is also on the front lines of these issues.

Despite most observers’ belief that solutions lie in mitigation, there are a growing number of climatologists and scientists who believe that the A-word — adaptation — must be confronted head-on, too. The fact is — despite the head-in-the-sand protestations of denialists like Marc Morano and Sarah Palin in the US — that we cannot stop climate change or global warming. The Earth’s atmosphere has already passed the tipping point, and in the next 500 years, temperatures and sea levels will rise considerably and millions, even billions, of people from the tropical and temperate zones will be forced to migrate in search of food, fuel and shelter. This includes the people of Taiwan.

By the year 2500, Taiwan will be largely uninhabited, except for a few stragglers eking out a subsistence life in the heights of the Central Mountain Range. The rest of the population will have migrated north to Russia’s northern coast or northern parts of Alaska and Canada to find safe harbor from the devastating impact of global warming.

A researcher at Academia Sinica, Wang Chung-ho (王中和), told a reporter for the Liberty Times (the Taipei Times’ sister newspaper) earlier this year that there was a good chance Taipei would be flooded by the end of this century, adding that the the capital might have to be relocated to higher ground in less than 100 years. Wang said the entire Taipei basin would likely be engulfed by rising seas by 2100, triggered, of course, by global warming. Wang said his research showed that most of the west coast of Taiwan would be submerged by rising sea levels by that time, as well.

Wang’s report, which was presented at a public forum sponsored by Academia Sinica, theorized that sea levels would rise by at least 1m, gobbling up all low-lying areas of Taiwan, from Kaohsiung to Taipei. “Taiwan must be prepared for the worst-case scenario,” Wang said, according to the Liberty Times.

If Wang is correct, and Taipei is faced with major flooding in 90 years, then what will life be like in Taiwan in 490 years? Most likely, Taiwan’s population will have left the country for faraway northern regions to find shelter in UN-funded climate refuges in places such as Russia, Canada and Alaska. Taiwanese climate refugees will join millions of others from India, Vietnam, Thailand, Japan and the Philippines. It won’t be a pretty picture.

When a reporter asked Wang if this was a possible future scenario for Taiwan some 500 years from now, he said it was very possible, and that these issues needed to be addressed now, if only as a thought exercise, and even if it all sounded like a science fiction movie script. When the same reporter asked acclaimed British scientist James Lovelock if such a scenario for Taiwan were likely, he said in an e-mail: “It may very well happen, yes.”

We humans cannot engineer our way out of global warming, although scientists who believe in geo-engineering have offered theories on how to do it. There are no easy fixes. Humankind has pumped too many greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, the result of the industrial revolution that gave us trains, planes, automobiles and much more, enabling us to live comfortable and trendy lives — and now there is so much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere that the Earth cannot recover.

Forget using your reusable steel chopsticks at Taipei eateries, forget planting more trees around the island, forget cleaning up the polluted rivers of Taiwan, forget trying to be more “green” in your daily life. Taiwan, like the rest of the world, is doomed to a bleak future full of billions of climate refugees seeking shelter in the far north, and in places like New Zealand, Tasmania and Antarctica in the far south.

Meetings in Copenhagen and Rio de Janeiro and at the UN in Manhattan will not stop global warming.

What we need to focus on now is preparing future generations for what our world will become in the next 500 years and how best to survive it.

For the next 100 years or so, life will go on as normal in Taiwan. There is nothing to worry about now. For the next 100 years posh department stores will hawk their trendy items, computer firms will launch their latest gadgets and airline companies will continue to offer passengers quick passage here and there, to the Maldives and to Manhattan, for business and for pleasure.

But in the next 500 years, according to Wang and other scientists who are not afraid to think outside the box and push the envelope, things are going to get bad. Unspeakably bad.

Those of us who are alive today won’t suffer, and the next few generations will be fine, too. The big trouble will probably start around 2200 — Wang says 2100 for Taipei — and last for some 300 years or so.

By 2500, Taiwan will be history, as will the nations of Africa, Asia, North America and Europe.

We are entering uncharted waters, and as the waters rise and the temperatures go up, future generations will have some important choices to make: where to live, how to live, how to grow food, how to power their climate refugee settlements, how to plan and how to pray.

In a recent op-ed on this page (“Taiwan remains oblivious to climate,” Dec. 14) Chen Meei-shia (陳美霞), a professor of public health at National Cheng Kung University, said “the lives of most Taiwanese are based on the aspiration to and an obsession with consuming large amounts of products.” One can therefore conclude that most people in Taiwan are not interested in thinking about the future impact of climate change on their country.

This attitude does not bode well for the future of Isla Formosa, the “beautiful island.”

Dan E. Bloom is a climate activist and writer based in Taiwan.
This story has been viewed 6,777,567,310 times.


Nina Munteanu said...

Excellent post, Dan! I concur with your summary and prognosis... except for one thing... While I know you don't intend this, your write up could be construed as recommending a laissez faire attitude for the present, leaving those in the future with the burden of severe adaptation. I think we can do a lot now with attempts to lesson the impact. Anything will be helpful. I think that by adopting a more "green" attitude people are buying into a more adaptive lifestyle that will prepare them and their descendants for necessary adaptation to a changing and more harsh world. Getting green is our first step in adaptation.


My friend Nina Munteanu in Canada, who is a science fiction writer par excellence with several novels published already and more to come, and who is also an environmental activist who has been profiled in stories in the New York Times, told me in an email today, after reading my oped piece in the Taipei Times:

"Excellent post, Dan! I concur with your summary and prognosis... except for one thing ... where your write up could be construed as recommending a laissez faire attitude for the present and severe adaptation in the future.

I think we can do a lot now with attempts to lesson the impact. I think that by adopting a more "green" attitude people are buying into a more adaptive attitude that will enable them and their descendants to adapt to a changing and more harsh world.

Getting green is our first step in adaptation.

Nina can be found at these good websiters:

The Passionate Writer: www.ThePassionateWriter.com

The Alien Next Door: http://sfgirl-thealiennextdoor.blogspot.com

Darwin's Paradox website: http://www.darwinsparadox.com


Anonymous said...

HERE are the 100 reasons, released in a dossier issued by the European Foundation, why climate change is natural and not man-made. It is dis-information, however, created to confuse the public. Reader, beware.

1) There is “no real scientific proof” that the current warming is caused by the rise of greenhouse gases from man’s activity.

2) Man-made carbon dioxide emissions throughout human history constitute less than 0.00022 percent of the total naturally emitted from the mantle of the earth during geological history.

3) Warmer periods of the Earth’s history came around 800 years before rises in CO2 levels.

4) After World War II, there was a huge surge in recorded CO2 emissions but global temperatures fell for four decades after 1940.

5) Throughout the Earth’s history, temperatures have often been warmer than now and CO2 levels have often been higher – more than ten times as high.

6) Significant changes in climate have continually occurred throughout geologic time.

7) The 0.7C increase in the average global temperature over the last hundred years is entirely consistent with well-established, long-term, natural climate trends.

8) The IPCC theory is driven by just 60 scientists and favourable reviewers not the 4,000 usually cited.

9) Leaked e-mails from British climate scientists – in a scandal known as “Climate-gate” - suggest that that has been manipulated to exaggerate global warming

10) A large body of scientific research suggests that the sun is responsible for the greater share of climate change during the past hundred years.

11) Politicians and activiists claim rising sea levels are a direct cause of global warming but sea levels rates have been increasing steadily since the last ice age 10,000 ago

12) Philip Stott, Emeritus Professor of Biogeography at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London says climate change is too complicated to be caused by just one factor, whether CO2 or clouds

13) Peter Lilley MP said last month that “fewer people in Britain than in any other country believe in the importance of global warming. That is despite the fact that our Government and our political class—predominantly—are more committed to it than their counterparts in any other country in the world”.

14) In pursuit of the global warming rhetoric, wind farms will do very little to nothing to reduce CO2 emissions

15) Professor Plimer, Professor of Geology and Earth Sciences at the University of Adelaide, stated that the idea of taking a single trace gas in the atmosphere, accusing it and finding it guilty of total responsibility for climate change, is an “absurdity”

16) A Harvard University astrophysicist and geophysicist, Willie Soon, said he is “embarrassed and puzzled” by the shallow science in papers that support the proposition that the earth faces a climate crisis caused by global warming.

17) The science of what determines the earth’s temperature is in fact far from settled or understood.

18) Despite activist concerns over CO2 levels, CO2 is a minor greenhouse gas, unlike water vapour which is tied to climate concerns, and which we can’t even pretend to control

19) A petition by scientists trying to tell the world that the political and media portrayal of global warming is false was put forward in the Heidelberg Appeal in 1992. Today, more than 4,000 signatories, including 72 Nobel Prize winners, from 106 countries have signed it.

20) It is claimed the average global temperature increased at a dangerously fast rate in the 20th century but the recent rate of average global temperature rise has been between 1 and 2 degrees C per century - within natural rates

Anonymous said...

90) Politicians and climate activists make claims to rising sea levels but certain members in the IPCC chose an area to measure in Hong Kong that is subsiding. They used the record reading of 2.3 mm per year rise of sea level.

91) The accepted global average temperature statistics used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change show that no ground-based warming has occurred since 1998.

92) If one factors in non-greenhouse influences such as El Nino events and large volcanic eruptions, lower atmosphere satellite-based temperature measurements show little, if any, global warming since 1979, a period over which atmospheric CO2 has increased by 55 ppm (17 per cent).

93) US President Barack Obama pledged to cut emissions by 2050 to equal those of 1910 when there were 92 million Americans. In 2050, there will be 420 million Americans, so Obama’s promise means that emissions per head will be approximately what they were in 1875. It simply will not happen.

94) The European Union has already agreed to cut emissions by 20 percent to 2020, compared with 1990 levels, and is willing to increase the target to 30 percent. However, these are unachievable and the EU has already massively failed with its Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), as EU emissions actually rose by 0.8 percent from 2005 to 2006 and are known to be well above the Kyoto goal.

95) Australia has stated it wants to slash greenhouse emissions by up to 25 percent below 2000 levels by 2020, but the pledges were so unpopular that the country’s Senate has voted against the carbon trading Bill, and the Opposition’s Party leader has now been ousted by a climate change sceptic.

96) Canada plans to reduce emissions by 20 percent compared with 2006 levels by 2020, representing approximately a 3 percent cut from 1990 levels but it simultaneously defends its Alberta tar sands emissions and its record as one of the world’s highest per-capita emissions setters.

97) India plans to reduce the ratio of emissions to production by 20-25 percent compared with 2005 levels by 2020, but all Government officials insist that since India has to grow for its development and poverty alleviation, it has to emit, because the economy is driven by carbon.

98) The Leipzig Declaration in 1996, was signed by 110 scientists who said: “We – along with many of our fellow citizens – are apprehensive about the climate treaty conference scheduled for Kyoto, Japan, in December 1997” and “based on all the evidence available to us, we cannot subscribe to the politically inspired world view that envisages climate catastrophes and calls for hasty actions.”

99) A US Oregon Petition Project stated “We urge the United States government to reject the global warming agreement that was written in Kyoto, Japan in December, 1997, and any other similar proposals. The proposed limits on greenhouse gases would harm the environment, hinder the advance of science and technology, and damage the health and welfare of mankind. There is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of CO2, methane, or other greenhouse gasses is causing or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth’s atmosphere and disruption of the Earth’s climate.”

100) A report by the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change concluded “We find no support for the IPCC’s claim that climate observations during the twentieth century are either unprecedented or provide evidence of an anthropogenic effect on climate.”

Anonymous said...

How do you imagine the year 2500 to be?

I think that there will be traffic lights in the air.. your bed will be a robot that will wake you up in thw morning and lts of robots.. everywhere... guys and girls will hook up through a system that catches heart beats and operations that make you look like angelina jolie overnight will be possible..


We won't be here any more. By that time all of the war and fighting in the world would have ruined it. Check out the classic book ''On the Beach'', gives you a real tangilble idea about how this world will cause it's own end.

It will be a year of peace just like the years preceding it and following. War will be long forgotten. There will be no evil. I will have a new body as will a lot of people. Night will be a thing of the past. No worries. No jealosy. No heartache. No dishonesty. Only peace.

Amazing to say the least. Wow! I hope they come up with a life longevity pill so I could see it. In the year 2525, if man is still alive. Who knows, maybe Woody Allens movie Sleeper will become reality.

In my opinion, the Earth will be a disaster by the year 2500. With all of the pollution of cars and trucks today. Then global warming which is partially our fault. The reason I say partially is because part of it is hurricanes. Yes, hurricanes are part of Global Warming. However, as we all should know, we have absolutely no control over hurricanes so that is part of what's not our fault. But most of it is us, polluting and littering the atmosphere. For example when we take a leisurely drive in our Hummer, that right there is ruining the Earth. Obviously a gas guzzling Hummer is far worse than a fuel saving hybrid. That's why they should come out with Hybrid Hummers. So basically, the bottom line is that we are trying to kill ourselves. Because without a clean atmosphere we cannot live. And that's what we are doing is polluting the air around us which gives us life. This is just ones opinion of what the year 2500 will look like.

Anonymous said...

the world in 2500?

Hmmmmm.......well 500 years into the future huh? Astounding it will be to picture the year 2500 when Man as we know it would have advanced in every area of development across the Planet.....we finally achieved inner-planetary travel to the outer reaches of our Galaxy and we even have harnessed the tremendous powers of the Earths oceans and Magna Core as well .....we have underwater cities and have excelled to unlimited natural resources and we travel from city to city within seconds via new transport methods of human transfer capacities and we have eliminated all wars, disease , and goverments.....we are One Planet Complete!! We have no monetary system or crime......We are explorers and we are kinda like the StarTrek series ...going where no man has gone before........

The same as 700 years ago. By 2250 their will have undoubtedly been numerous catastrophic environmental disasters, destroying most of the problem sources, and people will give up technology then "knowing for sure" that it will go unchecked and cause disaster.


Copenhagen climate summit: Prince Charles warns climate change will drive starvation and terrorism

The world has only seven years before climate change causes a “point of crisis” that will drive food shortages, terrorism and poverty, the Prince of Wales has warned.


By Louise Gray, Environment Correspondent, in Copenhagen

15 Dec 2009


Speaking at the opening ceremony of the ministerial segment of the Copenhagen climate conference, the Prince Charles said the “survival of the species” was in peril.

The talks have been dogged by walk-outs and protests as the poor world becomes increasingly frustrated at the lack of refusal by richer countries to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Yvo de Boer, the head of negotiations, admitted things are moving “too slowly” as pressure grew on the world’s two biggest emitters China and the US to compromise over cutting carbon emissions and committing money to climate change.

Prince Charles said world leaders owe it to “our children and grand children” to make a difference.

“The future of mankind can be assured only if we rediscover ways in which to live as a part of nature, not apart from her,” he said. “The grim reality is that our planet has reached a point of crisis and we have only seven years before we lose the levers of control.”

He pointed out that climate change is a “risk multiplier”.

“Reducing poverty, increasing food production, combating terrorism and sustaining economic development are all vital priorities, but it is increasingly clear how rapid climate change will make them even more difficult to address,” he warned.


The Prince, who flew in by gas-guzling private jet, joined Arnold Schwarzenegger the Governor of California and Al Gore, the former US Senator, who also flew by gas guzzkling jets in to add impetus to the talks.

Gordon Brown, the Prime Minister, is also working hard behind the scenes to “bash heads together” over key issues like the amount of money the rich world is willing to pay poor countries to help them reduce emissions.

Prince Charles, who was invited by the Danish government to make the keynote speech, has been following the talks closely and urged the different nations to forget their differences.

"When it comes to the air we breathe and the water we drink, there are no national boundaries," he said. "We all depend on each other - and, crucially, on each other's actions - for our weather, our food, our water and our energy.

"These are the 'tectonic plates' on which the peace and stability of the international community rest.

"The inescapable conclusion, therefore, is that a partial solution to climate change is no solution at all.

"It must be inclusive and it must be a comprehensive approach - one that strengthens the resilience of our ecosystems.

"Crucially, it must be embraced by the public, private and NGO sectors, as well as by local communities and indigenous people, while also encouraging individual responsibility."

Anonymous said...

The Prince was particularly keen to encourage world leaders to reach an agreement on forests. The scheme would pay poor countries not to chop down trees and even establish pension schemes and other financial bonds that invest in rainforests.

“The simple truth is that without a solution to tropical deforestation, there is no solution to climate change,” he added.

On Friday, about 130 world leaders will attend the summit's final session including President Barrack Obama.

Prince Charles said he appreciated negotiators are “profoundly weary” and world leaders have a huge task ahead but warned it was the last chance for a better future.

“We live in times of great consequence and, therefore, of great opportunity. With issues of such magnitude, it is easy to focus solely on the challenges, the worst-case scenarios, the “what-ifs” of failure,” he said.

“But take a moment to consider the opportunities if we succeed. Imagine a healthier, safer and more sustainable, economically robust world. Because if we share in that vision, we can share the will to action that is now required.”


Prince Charles said world leaders owe it to “our children and grand children” to make a difference.

“The future of mankind can be assured only if we rediscover ways in which to live as a part of nature, not apart from her,” he said. “The grim reality is that our planet has reached a point of crisis and we have only seven years before we lose the levers of control.”

Anonymous said...

Speaking at the opening ceremony of the ministerial segment of the Copenhagen climate conference, the Prince Charles said the “survival of the species” was in peril.