Saturday, June 2, 2007

Global warming 2

There is no need to blame the G8 leaders. Politicians are a different breed of animals. Owing to the democracy platform, their paradigm is based on public opinion. Public opinion can be manipulated easily serving the interests of the dominant groups, but not necessarily the majority groups. In any case, politicians are balancing various interests on a daily basis and it is quite often a choice of the lesser evil. I would say most of us would do the same if we were in their shoes.

We may have to wait for the time when the public opinion all turn to demanding drastic actions to protect the environment, with much sacrifice. This may not take very long. We could all witness the horrific changes as they would very likely occur within our lifetime.

Last month, the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) issued its fourth assessment report which is on impacts, adaptation and vulnerability. If you do care, you may take a look at the 23-page report. This panel is very controversial and it is actually the battle ground of governments of the world on global warming. So please bear in mind that the observations are compromises: many horror predictions are left out. An intelligent guess is that the situation is at least 50% more severe.

The effects of climate changes included in the report are:
- Virtually certain that there will be warmer days and less cold days/nights
- Very likely more warm spells and heat waves
- Very likely more heavy rain events
- Likely more areas hit by drought
- Likely more intense tropical cyclones
- Likely more extreme sea levels

The key findings of the reports on the impacts are:
- 75-250 million people across Africa could face water shortages by 2020
- Crop yields could increase by 20% in East and Southeast Asia, but decrease by up to 30% in Central and South Asia
- Agriculture fed by rainfall could drop by 50% in some African countries by 2020
- 20-30% of all plant and animal species at increased risk of extinction if temperatures rise between 1.5-2.5C
- Glaciers and snow cover expected to decline, reducing water availability in countries supplied by melt water

We may look at these changes and impacts as a scientific experiment. But the horror will be seen as their effects on the human population emerge. When citizens of the world suffer as a result, there will be sufficient momentum for politicians to take action, although it could be too late by then. The impacts will affect residents of the areas suffering from the climate change. As a result, people will move as climate immigrants and climate refugees. USA and Europe have raised concern on the influx of migrants and refugees. But the situation will be much worse for internal movement within countries where there may not be sufficient protection and aid for the refugees.

We have already seen the situation in Darfur where drought triggered famine and then conflict. We have also seen Katrina causing the entire city of New Orleans to evacuate. Many island countries in the Pacific and Indian Ocean are already losing much land to the sea. Many areas relying on rivers fed by glacial water are having crop failure owing to irregular change of seasons. Many more countries such as Australia and those in the sub-Sahara region already have prolonged drought. The El Nino effect is predicted to be more severe, causing drought in Southern Asia and Polynesia but flooding in South America. We may be looking at a world where all the above are many folds worse in the next twenty to fifty years. Frankly I do not think there is anything we could do but to bite our teeth to adapt and survive.

1 comment:

  1. “The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second best is now.” Chinese proverb.