Climate Disaster Is Upon Us - Now
By Michael McCarthy
15 September 2006
years ago, when the world was groping its way towards the signing of
the 1997 Kyoto protocol, the sense that the issue needed to be tackled
urgently was largely based on one thing only: computer programs.
Predictions from supercomputer
models of the earth's atmosphere, about how global warming would progress,
were the main drivers of that heroic effort to agree international reductions
in the greenhouse gases which cause it.
These immense mathematical
structures looked forward a full century (and still do) at the rise
in carbon dioxide in the earth's atmosphere, and how that would worsen
the greenhouse effect; and their predictions were enough to get the
Kyoto protocol signed (but not, thanks to George Bush, enough to make
Yet what was almost completely
missing from the climate debate a decade ago was observation: evidence
of actual effects that the warming was having. This absence contributed
to the sense, still widespread, that global warming is a distant problem,
its consequences a century away.
Things have changed. Since
the turn of the millennium, observations of the concrete effects of
rising temperatures have started to mount up: the unprecedented European
heatwave of 2003, which killed more than 30,000 people; the UK's record
temperature topping 100F for the first time in that year; the record
US hurricane seasons of 2004 and 2005, culminating in Katrina; and most
of all, the melting ice.
The great ice masses are
now shrinking rapidly everywhere; almost every mountain glacier, the
great Greenland ice sheet, the great ice sheets of Antarctica, the legendary
African snow on the top of Mt Kilimanjaro, and the ice of the Arctic,
whose rate of disappearance, we now learn, has increased explosively.
It means two things: firstly,
you can't deny it any more. Last week, we had the remarkable spectacle
of The Economist magazine, climate change sceptic-in-chief, cheerleader
to the American business community, coughing, shuffling, looking at
its feet and admitting gruffly, well, perhaps there is something in
this global warming stuff, after all.
Secondly, it's coming, to
you. Doesn't matter you're not bothered about it. Doesn't matter you're
thinking about your next holiday, or the state of your marriage or the
next Big Brother. This vast phenomenon that is going to change the world
unthinkably is coming right to your doorstep. A lot sooner than you
© 2006 Independent News
and Media Limited