Thursday, December 11, 2008

World, panic, now!

Jonathan Porritt is a well-known British environmentalist. Naturally he appears on Anglican Down Under because his great-grandfather was once Vicar of Kaikoura in our Diocese!! But every blog site in the world should be concerned about the world and its future health. Posting in the Guardian Jonathan Porritt makes these observations in respect of a major conference coming up at Poznan:

"And that's the problem. A lot has been going on out there in the natural world since 2005. There is three years' worth of published peer-reviewed evidence, a lot of it from the frontline of the eco-systems most directly affected by climate change. Those whose job it is to take account of all that new evidence (universities, thinktanks, government departments and so on) have a common message to pass on: the vast majority of those studies tell us incontrovertibly that the impact of climate change is more severe and materialising much more rapidly than anything reflected in the fourth assessment report. It's much worse out there, and it's getting even worse even faster.

This presents a paradoxical challenge for national delegations in Poznan. Even if they wanted to draw on that new evidence base to justify more progressive policy positions, they would technically be out of order.

This is particularly surreal in terms of all the evidence coming in from the Arctic, which has seen a 4°C rise in average temperatures over the past few decades. Arctic sea ice reached an all-time low in 2007, the Greenland ice cap is undergoing accelerated melting, and there are growing worries about the melting of the Siberian permafrost, which has the potential to release huge volumes of extra greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

It's this kind of evidence that has persuaded Nick Stern that his own 2006 report on the economics of climate change got it wrong ("We underestimated the damage associated with temperature increases, and we underestimated the probability of temperature increases"), and has led Jim Hansen, the US's pre-eminent climatologist, to warn that the current target for stabilisation of CO2 at 450 parts per million in the atmosphere is woefully inadequate. There is a growing school of thought that 350ppm represents a far more realistic safe upper limit - which is more than a little problematic, given that the concentration is already 384ppm."

One does not need to be an expert in climate change to understand the implications.

World, panic, NOW!

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