Saturday, February 17, 2007
I'm For and Against Nothing
My title above - " I'm For and Against Nothing"-a famous quote I heard somewhere, sort of describes what is not happening down here in the tropics. Instead, the air is rife with civil strife and we may soon be facing difficulties with our internet host server as the union workers at the telephone company have given their employers 21 days notice of strike action. What this means is that I may not be able to log on to blogger in a short while. I will miss communicating with you via this medium. So for now, I am taking the opportunity to reproduce below an article from the ICSA's Chartered Secretary magazine issue of January 2007 which is both startling, enlightening and applicable to all of us--
Apocalypse now-ish (Part One) written by Kevin Eddy (assistant Editor)
Imagine an earth much like our own, but different in fundamental ways. Across the planet, human settlements are battered by a combination of storms, droughts, soaring temperatures and flooding; long-distance travel becomes a risky (even luxury) business; famine is on the rise as crops increasingly fail; energy costs are so high, entire communities sustain themselves on only the most basic supplies of electricity; economies are nosediving as spiraling insurance costs and rising sea levels threaten major financial centres like London and New York; and once familiar species of animal and plant life go the way of the dodo. Just a little bit too sci-fi to be credible? Well, perhaps, but these are just some of the possible outcomes scientists are predicting we may see as a result of climate change.
For awhile, climate change was one of those issues which everyone knew about and most people had an opinion on, but which never seemed to catch the imagination of governments and regulators. Over the last 12 to 18 months, though, things have started to change. Weather patterns and increasing average temperatures have supported theories of global warming. Television pictures of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina have brought home once again the economic hardship caused by extreme weather; and, even the British newspaper The Sun has been running features on how to 'go green'. At the end of October 2006, the publication of a new report took the debate on climate change to a new level. The final report from the Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change is widely acknowledged as being the most comprehensive review ever carried out on the economics of climate change. The Review is the work of a team led by leading economist Sir Nicholas Stern on behalf of HM Treasury.
It delivers a damning indictment. Climate change is 'the greatest and widest-ranging market failure ever seen'. If left unchecked, its effects could 'create risks of major disruption to economic and social activity later in this century and into the next, on a scale similar to those associated with the great wars and economic depression of the first half of the 20th century. And 'it will be difficult or impossible to reverse these changes'.
Terrifying - The 700-page report arrives at its conclusions via a frankly terrifying series of deductions. It estimates that, at present, the stock of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is around 430 parts per million (ppm), which compares with a level of 280 ppm before the industrial revolution. Even if the annual flow of emissions remain at today's level, the stock will increase to 550 ppm by 2050, which will almost certainly lead to an increase in global average temperatures of 2 degrees centigrade. This could result in lower crop yields, irreversible melting of ice sheets and concurrent increases in sea level; and, increasing incidences of extreme weather conditions such as storms, heat waves and flooding.
The damage from that cannot be underestimated. One study projects that even a small increase in hurricane intensity could lead to a doubling of damage costs in the US - a prediction already foreshadowed by the destruction wreaked by Hurricane Katrina in the Mississippi region last year. To repeat, that prediction assumes that emissions will stay at their current levels. Emissions, though, are not static. The rapid growth of emerging markets, along with increasing demand for energy and transport worldwide, means that levels are rising and the 550 ppm benchmark could be reached within 30 years. If that trend continues, greenhouse gas levels could treble by the end of the century - resulting in a 50% risk that global temperatures will rise by as much as five degrees centigrade.
The effects of a rise of that sort cannot be accurately predicted, but projections suggest that it would lead to abrupt, large-scale shifts in the climate system. The Gulf Stream would be disrupted and the West Antartic ice sheets would collapse. The result would be species extinction on a massive scale and sea level rises which would threaten major world cities including London, New York, Tokyo and Hong Kong. The change in global temperature would be equivalent to that between the last Ice Age and today. The Stern Review indicates that the total cost of the effects of climate changes over the next two centuries could be 5% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). However, if direct impacts on the environment and human health, possible environmental feedback loops and weighting of the potential impact between developed and developing regions are taken into account, this figure rises to around 20% of GDP. In other words, if we continue down our current path, we are headed for ecological and economic disaster.
Next week, conditions permitting, I will be providing part two of the Stern Review. A must read as far as I'm concerned. The time is late and I will sign off for now. Take care y'all, stay positive and think of ways in which you can assist in making the environment more healthier in your community.