Crisis & Hope

                            Danger Opportunity

There is much complicated scientific evidence that the world’s climate depends on the presence of Greenhouse Gas emissions in the atmosphere. For decades there has also been much argument over whether man’s activites have anything to do with this or whether all the variations are just due to complicated naturally occuring cycles.

The graphs shown on the previous page are a key piece of evidence on the often conflicting statements about climate change that appear in the media. None of the data shown in the graph is disputed by anyone. The implications of the graph are undisputed by more than 98% of the world’s climate scientists.

The graphs show the cyclic variation of the atmospheric content of CO2 and global atmospheric temperature over time. It covers approximately the last 600,000 years to date and shows clearly a cycle where roughly, the low values occur during ice ages and the high figures occur between ice ages. The section of the readings on the right of the graphs show that the current figures are already very much higher than they have ever been during the whole past period covered by the graphs. It is no coincidence that the relatively short period during which this has occured coincides historically with the start of the industrial revolution and its continuation through till today.

The symbol shown above is the Chinese character for the word ‘crisis’. It is a very apt and succinct description of climate change.

The left hand symbol means ‘danger’ and the right hand symbol means ‘opportunity’.

The graphs present the clearest evidence that although there are naturally occuring complicated cyclic reasons for climatic change, it is human activity throughout the globe that is the primary additional source of the change. The steadily increasing atmospheric content of CO2 (and the resulting temperature increases because more of the Sun’s heat is trapped inside), is now a real danger to life on this planet.

There are those that say that this is nothing new – it has all happened before, and they are right. The paleoclimate evidence shows periods in the distant past when CO2 in the atmosphere reached concentrations greater than those present today, and where global warming in the range of 5 to 9 or more degree Celsius occurred. Fossils in the geological record reveal that there have been five mass extinctions during the past five hundred million years – geologically brief periods in which about half or more of the species on Earth disappeared forever. Where do you think all that Coal and Oil came from ?

This time it is us rather than natural causes that is hastening the demise of all living species. One of the main reasons for the increasing rate of species extinction is the fact that the current rate of climate change is much faster than most of the previous known extinction events. Climatic zones are moving poleward ten times faster now than in the PTEM extinction event that occurred about 55 million years ago. When change occurs this rapidly, the vulnerable species can’t naturally migrate fast enough into new locations where they could survive, or there is no place left for them to move to.

There are ways in which this crisis also present opportunities:-

If you accept that it is our current way of living that is driving this change, then it follows that we have an opportunity to modify our behavior in ways that can counteract these adverse effects. Either that or we sleep walk into a similar ending to the dinosaurs.

The next decade presents an unrepeatable opportunity to take practical actions to reduce atmospheric pollutants.

It is an unrepeatable opportunity because the figures on atmospheric pollution are at present always increasing , so it is much easier to do it now ( even though it is very hard), rather than apply business as usual and leave it till later.