We Are Running Out Of Time To Save
Humanity And The Biosphere
By Dr Gideon Polya
20 November, 2009
Humanity and the Biosphere (the ecosystems and species of the Planet) are acutely threatened by man-made global warming. However ignorant or corporate-funded climate denialism, the effective climate denialism of insufficiently responsive First World politicians and the growing enormity of what needs to be done lead scientists to say that it is probably too late to stop a climate catastrophe.
I have been teaching science students at a good Australian university for 4 decades and my fellow practising or retired scientific colleagues and also my fellow climate activists are privately telling me that they are overwhelmingly deeply pessimistic about whether it will be possible to avert climate catastrophe involving the destruction of much of Humanity and the Biosphere. Many commentators (including major political players) are adumbrating failure at the forthcoming Copenhagen Climate Change Conference.
However we climate activists are resolved that as long as there is life there is hope and we continue to try to inform the public, media and politicians about the worsening climate emergency, notwithstanding the prevailing might-is-right, greed, racism and unresponsiveness of the First World.
In a 1946 essay entitled “Neither Victims nor Executioners”, 1957 Literature Nobel Laureate Albert Camus expressed a fundamental case for the commitment of decent folk to Humanity and for what may be a lost cause: “Over the expanse of five continents throughout the coming years an endless struggle is going to be pursued between violence and friendly persuasion, a struggle in which, granted, the former has a thousand times the chances of success than that of the latter. But I have always held that, if he who bases his hopes on human nature is a fool, he who gives up in the face of circumstances is a coward. And henceforth, the only honorable course will be to stake everything on a formidable gamble: that words are more powerful than munitions.”
Below are some quotations and political responses that justify the deep pessimism of my scientific and climate activist colleagues.
1. Professor Kevin Anderson and Dr Alice Bows (UK climate scientists, Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, University of Manchester) have recently estimated that an annual 6-8% DECREASE in greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution is required to stabilize atmospheric CO2-e (carbon dioxide equivalent) at a still catastrophic 450 ppm (parts per million): “According to the analysis conducted in this paper, stabilizing at 450 ppmv [carbon dioxide equivalent = CO2-e, atmospheric concentration of all major GHGs measured in parts per million of CO2-equivalent] requires, at least, global energy related emissions to peak by 2015, rapidly decline at 6-8% per year between 2020 and 2040, and for full decarbonization sometime soon after 2050 …Unless economic growth can be reconciled with unprecedented rates of decarbonization (in excess of 6% per year), it is difficult to envisage anything other than a planned economic recession being compatible with stabilization at or below 650 ppmv CO2-e [climate catastrophe]... Ultimately, the latest scientific understanding of climate change allied with current emissions trends and a commitment to “limiting average global temperature increases to below 4oC above pre-industrial levels”, demands a radical reframing of both the climate change agenda, and the economic characterization of contemporary society” .
Unfortunately the best on offer is DECREASING GHG pollution by 2% per annum (e.g. by the US and the UK) and world leading annual per capita GHG polluter, climate criminal Apartheid Australia is effectively committed to INCREASING its Domestic plus Exported GHG pollution by 2% per annum.
2. Dr Samuel Fankhauser (economist and climate change specialist at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, London School of Economics; member of the UK Committee on Climate Change, a government watchdog that monitors UK climate change policy; former Deputy Chief Economist at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD); served on the 1995, 2001 and 2007 assessments of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)), was reported by IPS (2009) thus: “A future global climate change treaty must limit the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to 350 parts per million (ppm), and not 450 ppm, the currently proposed level, Samuel Fankhauser told a Forum of pro-environment legislators from the eight most industrialised countries and emerging economies here [Copenhagen] …A British economist and researcher on climate change, Fankhauser said the limit he is urging is the only way to avoid the irreversible bleaching of coral in coastal areas, with all that this implies for people's livelihoods and the environment.”. Dr Fankhauser was directly quoted thus : “"Action against climate change might cost up to three percent of the world's GDP during the next 40 years," Fankhauser told IPS. "But this price is still cheaper than doing nothing about it…The global climate change sector is already booming. Revenues generated by measures against climate change have surpassed 500 billion dollars in 2008, and could be worth some two trillion dollars by 2020…[500 million people] live within 100 kilometres of reef ecosystems, and benefit from these services…Another important service provided by coral reefs and healthy seashore ecosystems is climate regulation and coastal protection, through carbon sequestration, waste treatment, and protection against hurricanes and the like.”
However a poll of the 120 global MPs at the Copenhagen Forum by Forum chair British MP Barry Gardiner, asked the MPs whether they believed limiting CO2 concentration to 350 ppm by 2050 was practicable. Only two MPs said yes. A dismayed Barry Gardiner MP told the meeting: "We should be terrified. If you of all people do not believe that an ambitious goal is realistic, then we are lost." .
3. Drs Robert Goodland and Jeff Anhang (environmental specialists from the World Bank Group) have recently re-assessed the estimate by the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) that livestock (major methane polluters) contributed 18% of annual man-made GHG pollution. They have found that (a) annual man-made GHG pollution is 63,695 tons, rather than the FAO estimate of 41,756 tons (i.e. the problem is 50% bigger than hitherto thought) and (b) that correcting for unaccounted and misallocated GHGs in current GHG inventories yields total GHGs attributable to livestock products of more than 32,564 tons (or more than 51% of the revised total of 63,695 tons). .
The US is one of the world’s biggest meat consumers yet in the Waxman-Markey Bill of the Obama Administration agricultural pollution is excluded from the Cap (maximum permitted GHG pollution) of the proposed Cap-and-Trade Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS). In climate criminal Australia (a world leader in annual per capita GHG pollution) the Rudd Labor Government’s initial ETS proposal excluded agriculture for several years and the Labor Government has now compromised with the ultra-conservative Liberal-National Party Opposition and agreed to permanently exclude agriculture completely i.e. to permanently exclude any action over 50% of the GHG pollution problem.
4. Dr James Lovelock FRS (top UK climate scientist, Fellow of the prestigious Royal Society, famous for his Gaia Hypothesis and atmospheric research): “If we can keep civilization alive through this century perhaps there is a chance that our descendants will one day serve Gaia and assist her in the fine-tuned self-regulation of the climate and composition of our planet. We have enjoyed 12,000 years of climate peace since the last shift from a glacial age to an interglacial one. Before long, we may face planet-wide devastation worse even than unrestricted nuclear war between superpowers. The climate war could kill nearly all of us and leave the few survivors living a Stone Age existence. But in several places in the world, including the U.K., we have a chance of surviving and even of living well. For that to be possible, we have to make our lifeboats seaworthy now.” .
From earlier estimates from top UK climate scientist Dr James Lovelock FRS that fewer than 1 billion people will survive global warming this century due to unaddressed, man-made climate change, one can estimate that such a prospective climate genocide will kill 10 billion non-Europeans including 6 billion infants, 3 billion Muslims, 2 billion Indians, 0.5 billion Bengalis, 0.3 billion Pakistanis, and 0.3 billion Bangladeshis. .
5. Dr Clive Hamilton (Charles Sturt Professor of Public Ethics, Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia; author of forthcoming book “Requiem for a Species”): “This paper lays out the latest scientific understanding of the task humanity faces to avoid catastrophic climate change. One of the most striking features of the global warming debate has been how, with each advance in climate science, the news keeps getting worse … In sum, the most important assumptions on which international negotiations and national policies are founded – that we can stabilise the climate at some level, that overshooting and returning to a lower target is feasible, and that we can accommodate 2 or more degrees of warming by adapting to it – have no foundation in the way the Earth’s climate system actually behaves. When one understands these facts, the state of political debate around the world takes on an air of unreality. Rich country policies … are so at odds with the scale and urgency of the emissions cuts demanded by the science as to be almost laughable. The reflect a child-like belief that climate change can be averted by ignoring the truth and hoping for the best, a form of wishful thinking whose costs will prove incalculable.” .
In summary, the politicians are grossly failing us. Copenhagen is shaping up to be a climate policy disaster. Indeed I commented thus on the precursor failure of the G8 meeting in L’Aquila, Italy earlier this year: “The grossly inadequate response of the G8 nations is effectively a statement of climate racism and a declaration of prospective climate genocide… prospective climate genocide that will kill 10 billion non-Europeans including 6 billion infants, 3 billion Muslims, 2 billion Indians and 0.3 billion Bangladeshis.” .
While top climate scientists demand DECREASING atmospheric CO2 from the current 390 ppm (and increasing at 2.5 ppm per year) to 300-350 ppm, world governments (and especially those of the climate criminal First World) are all committed to INCREASING GHG pollution.
While a 6-8% annual decrease in GHG is needed just to maintain 450 ppm CO2-equivalent (noting that the atmospheric GHG concentration is currently in excess of this “target” at about 460 ppm CO2-e) the best on offer is an adumbrated 2% annual reduction from the US and the UK.
While a quite conservative scientific assessment is the need for 350 ppm CO2 by 2050, an appalling 118 out of 120 world MPs polled at a recent Copenhagen Forum rejected this as infeasible.
It has now got almost impossibly worse. The annual GHG pollution now appears to be 50% bigger than previously thought, the livestock GHG contribution is over 51% rather than the 18% previously estimated by the FAO and major GHG polluters (notable the US and climate criminal Apartheid Australia) want to ignore agricultural GHG pollution i.e. they want to exclude any action on what amounts to over 50% of the GHG pollution problem.
My scientist and climate activist colleagues may well be correct when they overwhelmingly confide to me that it is probably too late to stop the looming climate catastrophe.
Worse still, the politicians who are betraying the Planet have access to the very best scientific, economic and sociological intelligence i.e. we are being forced to the compelling conclusion that the politically correct racist (PC racist) and Climate Racist First World Establishments are deliberately, knowingly and intentionally setting out to commit Climate Genocide that will destroy 10 billion non-European lives this century.
However, while there is life there is hope. Decent people must act to help save Humanity and the Biosphere of the Planet by (a) informing everyone they can about the worsening Climate Emergency (e.g. see carefully documented articles by the Yarra Valley Climate Action Group  and 300.org ) and by (b) urging and taking individual and collective action by Sanctions, Boycotts, Green Tariffs, Reparations Demands and Prosecutions against people, products, corporations and countries involved in the worsening Global Warming, Climate Injustice and Climate Genocide i.e. holding the climate criminals Accountable for their crimes against Humanity and the Biosphere.
. Kevin Anderson & Alice Bows, “Reframing the climate change challenge in light of post-2000 emission trends”, Proc. Trans. Roy. Soc, A, 2008:
. Julio Godoy, “Climate change target too ambitious, say lawmakers”, IPS, 26 October 2009:
. Robert Goodland and Jeff Anhang, “ Livestock and climate change. What if the key actors in climate change are …cows, pigs and chickens/”, World Watch, November/December 2009:
. James Lovelock, “Climate war could kill nearly all of us, leaving survivors on the Stone Age”, Guardian, 29 June 2009: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/
. Gideon Polya, “Climate Disruption, Climate Emergency, Climate Genocide & Penultimate Bengali Holocaust through Sea Level Rise”, Yarra Valley Climate ActionGroup, 2009: http://sites.google.com/site/yarravalleyclimateactiongroup/
. Clive Hamilton, “Is it too late to prevent catastrophic climate change?”, lecture to the Royal Society of the Arts, Sydney, adapted from Chapter 1 of his forthcoming book “Requiem for a Species”, 2009:
. Gideon Polya, “G8 failure means Climate Genocide for Developing World”, Countercurrents, 29 July 2009:
. Yarra Valley Climate Action Group, carefully documented articles on the worsening Climate Emergency: http://sites.google.com/site/yarravalleyclimateactiongroup/
. 300.org, carefully documented articles on the worsening Climate Emergency:
Dr Gideon Polya published some 130 works in a 4 decade scientific career, most recently a huge pharmacological reference text "Biochemical Targets of Plant Bioactive Compounds" (CRC Press/Taylor & Francis, New York & London, 2003: http://www.amazon.com/Biochemical-
Targets-Plant-Bioactive-Compounds/dp/0415308291 ). He has recently published “Body Count. Global avoidable mortality since 1950” (G.M. Polya, Melbourne, 2007: http://globalbodycount.blogspot.com/ and http://mwcnews.net/Gideon-Polya) and an updated 2008 version of his 1998 book “Jane Austen and the Black Hole of British History, Colonial rapacity, holocaust denial and the crisis in biological sustainability” (G.M. Polya, Melbourne, 2008: http://janeaustenand.blogspot.com/ ). He is currently teaching Biochemistry theory and practical courses to second year university agricultural science students at a very good Australian university. Words having failed, he also paints huge Paintings for Peace, Planet, Mother and Child: http://sites.google.com/site/artforpeaceplanetmotherchild/ (anyone is free to reproduce these images with attribution in the interests of Humanity).