Risks Of Climate Change
By John James
24 February, 2007
many scenarios based on recent research there is an approximate ten
percent risk that we will pass an irreversible tipping point in the
next five years. While debate circles around the costs of climate change,
the risks of sudden and catastrophic change grow.
Do we dare take that risk?
Let's put this another way:
if your house had a ten percent chance of being burnt down, if every
time your child rode a bicycle there was a one-in-ten possibility of
her being run over, or if every time you flew your plane every tenth
flight crashed, what would you do? Nothing? Complain? Or start getting
This is where we are. The
wonders of human civilisation could be lost and most of us killed before
our time as temperatures near 4 C, unless...
So what should be our next
step? Cut down our private consumption mercilessly and instead of waiting
in vain for some technological fix done by others, and start seriously
looking into our own lifestyle to change it. For suggestions see here.
However, while all individual
efforts to reduce emissions are laudable and should be encouraged, they
unfortunately are not enough. We have to get political, for this problem
cannot be tackled only on an individual level. Mandatory government
policies will have to be the driving force. Harass every politician
you know until they start looking after the children of us who vote
Quantifying the risks from
We are now entering a region
of extremely high risk, nationally as well as personally. The probability
of being forced into a massive lifestyle revolution is really close:
certainly at the present rate less than a dozen years off.
Lord Stern's report has been
confirmed by the recent IPCC figures. Greenhouse-gas concentrations
in the atmosphere now stand at around 430ppm CO2-e, compared with only
280ppm before the Industrial Revolution. In 2000 the world emitted around
42Gts total greenhouse gases were.
Calculated in a different
manner, our industrial life-style has added 2,300 Bts over 200 years,
each year at increasing rates. The Stern rep[ort shows that, with business
as usual, output in 2050 will be around 87 Bts (billion tons). A simple
calculation shows the total CO2-e in the atmosphere will then have accumulated
to 5,300± Bts, which is over twice today's amount.
A lot earlier, around 2020,
emission concentrations will have risen from 430ppm today to almost
500ppm. By then it will be increasing at almost 4ppm per year, and still
accelerating. That will jettison the world to well over 800ppm by the
end of the century.
At 500ppm we reach extremely
high risk territory. We do not know the impact this will have, except
to say it spells dark times for most of us. Potential 3 C average temperature
rise means at least three times that in the Arctic, and the melt-down
of Greenland ice and heat-up of the methane-rich Siberian permafrost.
All this then under way in
less than 12 years from now.
How old will you be then?
How old your children?
In any assessment of risk
management, the potential for disaster is set against its cost. The
cost is now our lives and our civilisation. Jobs, mortgages and comforts
pale to insignificance compared to this.
Even if the probability were
low, the risk is not worth the cost, especially when we add to these
figures the growing emissions from the tipping points discussed in the
As developing countries will
account for over three quarters of the increased energy-related emissions
to 2030, it is up to us to help them achieve their goals with the most
efficient and sustainable equipment, even if we have to subsidise it.
Over this period some greenhouse
gasses will decompose and return to earth, particularly the short-lived
gasses such as methane. This will reduce temperature. This will be offset
by lessening of global dimming as we reduce pollution, by the return
of carbon to the air from soil and seas, and the unreleased amounts
in various sinks referred to as tipping points.
Lets not forget that up to
now oceans have masked the true long-term effect by absorbing a high
proportion of the greenhouse gasses. They will refund this as temperatures
rise. In addition the amount of water vapour in the air will increase
with heat, and in spite of the larger tropical cloud cover, will add
further to the heat, especially in the Arctic.
It is narrow to protect one
industry at the cost of others, and present plans to spend money on
coal sequestion rather than solar and wind puts coal in charge of the
Current policies put money
before reason and survival. For more infromation refer to www.planetextinction.com
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