November 29, 2011
Let’s make it simple. Everyone understands that the climate change is bad, but the majority of the citizens do not understand its seriousness for our civilization. It’s because they don’t have the right data. Let’s have look at 2 good simple data about climate change. Ignorance makes climate change ‘one subject among others’ in medias and political discourses, while it must urgently become the central subject of any political or societal daily discourse.
We already increased the average temperature of the planet by 0.7°C, and at the planet Earth’s scale, this is already enormous: According to a report by the Global Humanitarian Forum, leaded by Kofi Annan (1), this causes already 300,000 dead annually and millions of displaced persons per year. (Examples: largest storms in Bangladesh brings sea water inland and make fertile fields become salty, and in Africa climate change accelerates desertification, people are struggling to feed their families, and must go live elsewhere.)
If we suppose a theoretical average of 3 million displaced persons per year (average probably optimistic because this report of GHF (2) ) is a little old and the temperature continues to rise), then it is 30 million people to relocate each decade. We are 1 billion rich people, mainly in Europe and North America, to be responsible for most of the greenhouse gas emissions, so it would be logically to us to find a way to accommodate them in a way or another. To make it more concrete, let’s imagine that we welcome these people in our own buildings: 30 million for 1 billion, this means that in your building of about 70 people for example, we should accommodate 2 new climate refugees in every decade. If you count the last 15 years and the next 30 years, we now have a dozen refugees in your building of 70 people. Unfortunately the planetary troubles will not be proportional to the global warming but exponential: If your body temperature increases by 0.7°C, you may feel a little tiredness but it will be ok. If it increases by 3ºC you have a huge fever and are not operational. For the ecosystems it’s the same, 3°C is absolutely huge. Instead of 3 million refugees per year, we will probably need to plan on a minimum of 15 or 50 million… So finally in 20 or 30 years in your building of 70 people you will rather probably need to welcome between 30 and 80 climate refugees. You will probably need to add an individual bed in your room, if not a double bed.
This is not gonna fucking work. Way before than totalitarian laws will require you to accommodate forever a family of refugees in your home, peace in the world will have time to explode several times. And there will be no walls high enough in the case we would choose to isolate ourselves. In the context of today we sometimes fear religious or political extremism. But these extremists are not cause of chaos, they are the consequence (3) of the chaos. (4) In his book “Climate Wars” (5), Harald Welzer explain, for example about the 1 million people genocide in Rwanda, how racist ideas were born due to a too big stress on resources and the difficulty for the population to feed her children. We can sing “Imagine” by John Lennon as much as we will like, no humanist philosophy can resist hunger. When a region of the world will start to lack fossil fuels (6), well, we will probably need to gradually ‘deindustrialize’ the very energy intensive agriculture, to reinvent smaller types of agricultures like permaculture, requiring more labor. Labour is not the biggest problem. But if at the same time the climate change too fast? What would happen if large countries possessing nuclear weapons started to be hungry? Would they let us in peace behind our walls?
In the past, the Earth’s climate repeatedly changed, as well before and after the emergence of hominids. But today the change we trigger is 50 times faster than others: Several degrees in less than a century. Already, some scientists cry publicly speaking of possible feedback loops of the climate, like for example the Permafrost which seems to melt in the cold regions freeing some colossal amounts of methane. Yes, the atmospheric methane is degraded within a few years by the action of the Sun, but a 10-year-old child can understand that if a very large amount is released 50 times faster than during the past climatic cycles of our planet, then a very strong mystery hangs over the real increase in temperatures in the coming decades. Do current political discussions on the number of degrees more that we would decide, in function of the number of ppm of CO2 in the atmosphere that we would emit, really have the meaning that we give them? Of course we must try to predict the future in some way, but we must also understand that we have a very vague idea of what it will be made of, in terms of rapid migration of ecosystems (7), climate refugees, climate wars and feedback loops either natural or linked to these wars. Aren’t those famous reports seeking to quantify financially the future damages of climate change absurd and indecent?
In 2009 in Copenhagen we have ‘decided’ to keep global warming below 2°C. This involve slowing down our emissions by 900 million tCO2e each year. (to achieve a division by 3 of global emissions by 2050) However since 2009, we continue to speed up by 700 million tCO2e annually. We are moving away, each year a little faster, from the goal to reach. (See diagrams: (8)) James Hansen, ex-head of a NASA institute, explains: « The longer we wait, the more difficult it becomes. If we’d started in 2005, It would have required the emissions reductions of 3% per year to (…) stabilize climate this century. If we’d start next year, it is 6% per year. If we wait 10 years, we will have to decrease by 15% per year. Extremely difficult and expensive, perhaps impossible [in a world at peace]. But we aren’t even starting. » (9)
If you live in a rather fragile house knowing there are 5% of chance that it collapses, you will probably have trouble sleeping and make a lot of nightmare at night. It isn’t of terrorists that we should have nightmares, but of climate change. (10) Depending on the beliefs of the scientific or political expert speaking, we may eventually have between 1% and 50% chance that our world completely collapses. (11)
If an architect build a house explaining that there are 10% of chance that it will totally collapse, nobody will buy this house. But it is – exactly – the world we are building for our children and our future years.
The Arab springs (partly at the origin of the war in Syria) have been initiated by a very high price on cereals in 2011 because of very poor harvests due to climate change.
HARALD WELZER “Climate Wars. What People Will Be Killed For in the 21st Century” – http://www.amazon.de/Climate-Wars-People-Killed-Century/dp/0745651453
we sometimes think that technology will save us, but there is a big difference between technology and energy. While technology has made miraculous and exponential progress, energy has made relatively little progress since prehistory: Early humans used fire and today we are still using the combustion of carbon, coal gas, oil, and even wood, for 80% of our global energy production… Renewable energy will never replace, across the planet, our fossil fuels, at our current consumption level. (Unless a improbable and miraculous scientific discovery tomorrow permitting to very efficiently store huge amounts of electricity and using very few resources in materials
“James Hansen: Why I must speak out about climate change” : https://www.ted.com/talks/james_hansen_why_i_must_speak_out_about_climate_change#t-1020648