Blog for October 2007

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Blog Action Day: The Price of Doing Nothing about Climate Change

For those of you who haven’t seen the news over the last couple of years, it would appear that our planet is heating up. It’s not just that the overall temperature of the planet is increasing, it’s increasing at an alarming rate. That temperature change of 1 or 2 degrees average doesn’t seem like much, but that average is global. Temperatures closer to the equator haven’t changed all that much, but the temperatures at the poles has more than made up for that lack of change elsewhere.

The temperature changes in the Arctic and Antarctic regions have been so large that the permafrost is starting to melt. That’s right the permafrost, a contraction of two words meaning permanent and frozen, is no longer permanent or frozen. Those people who live in the big cities and temperate climates don’t really notice stuff like Global Warming. The people who live in the communities far to the North notice it on a daily basis. Record levels of ice free ocean leaving the Northwest Passage open to shipping for the first time in recorded history. The northern ecosystem is in real danger of collapse with the change in temperature causing changes in animal behaviour and migration patterns.

Changes in the Northern climate have caused changes in economic and military policy toward the Arctic. Canada now must patrol the islands in the north in order to retain our Arctic sovereignty. Other countries who view the Arctic ocean as international waters are now staking claim on the resources found on the ocean floor.

Those people who claim Climate Change is not an important issue have not thought of  the extended consequences of that change. We are seeing changes around the world because of climate change. We see stronger ocean storms and more of them. These storms when they make landfall are causing more damage and human displacement. Those who say that doing something about Climate Change will ruin or drastically damage national economies, should take a look around.

Reconstruction and Human care costs due to weather disasters are placing strain on these national economies already. If something isn’t done now to try to curb climate change, the amount of money used to deal with weather disasters will continue to increase. After Hurricane Katrina in 2005 an entire U.S. city had to be rebuilt, not to mention all of the surrounding communities who suffered just as much if not more. Cost estimates range in the hundreds of billions of dollars for the clean up and reconstruction from Katrina. This is the cost for the most powerful country in the world. Imagine what it is like for Mexico where this year they have been hit by at least 3 hurricanes one of which was Hurricane Dean which was a category 5 that struck the resort area of the Yucatan peninsula.

The typhoon which hit Shanghai China in September displaced close to 2 million people. So far this year China has been hit by 16 typhoons. The economic cost is already substantial, and it will likely get worse before it gets better if we start doing something about climate change now. If we don’t do anything, it will get worse economically. The displacement of people leads to pressure sociologically. The balance that is struck by a population is massively disrupted when a displaced population is forced to balloon an existing population. The ballooned population places more pressure on the available resources, sometimes to a breaking point. If it is to a breaking point we see economic instability, violence, and poverty.

Sometimes mentioned is the consequence of the rising of ocean levels. What would result from a rise of 1metre in ocean levels? Some people are under the impression that beaches around the world would be smaller. Yes, they would, but what people don’t seem to understand is that the beach itself would be further inland. A 1 metre rise in ocean levels would mean the Maldives islands would be completely submerged. The entire U.S. eastern seaboard would be devastated.

Densely populated areas like the Nile Delta and parts of Bangladesh would become uninhabitable, potentially driving hundreds of millions of people from their land.

A one-meter sea level rise would wreak particular havoc on the Gulf Coast and eastern seaboard of the United States.

"No one will be free from this," said Overpeck, whose maps show that every U.S. East Coast city from Boston to Miami would be swamped. A one-meter sea rise in New Orleans, Overpeck said, would mean "no more Mardi Gras."
Source: National Geographic

A massive displacement of people would result in socioeconomic pressure in the places where these displaced people would then settle. Overcrowding of these areas would result in unsustainable pressure on the resources. Pressure on the resources will result in shortages resulting in poverty and unsanitary conditions. These issues then in turn result in disease and frustration within the population. Frustration leads to anger which leads to violence. Governments will then have to deal with an overcrowded population in one of two ways. One is to come down hard militarily against your own population. The other is to find space for the people. To find space is to apply pressure internationally which can result in international conflict. Disease, Famine, Poverty and War. Granted this is a worst case scenario, but this is what could result by doing nothing about Climate change.

To put it into the simplest of terms, if we make changes on the small personal scale as well as on the national and international level, we may see some economic strain. If we do nothing, we will likely see war, poverty, famine, and disease on a biblical scale.

The price of doing nothing is far greater in the end.

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tehn with two fifty six from tehn on Vimeo.