27 Sep. 2007

Changing The Climate On Climate Change Discussion

Here's former Czech president Vaclav Havel, from the New York Times:
Maybe we should start considering our sojourn on earth as a loan. There can be no doubt that for the past hundred years at least, Europe and the United States have been running up a debt, and now other parts of the world are following their example. Nature is issuing warnings that we must not only stop the debt from growing but start to pay it back. There is little point in asking whether we have borrowed too much or what would happen if we postponed the repayments. Anyone with a mortgage or a bank loan can easily imagine the answer...

Whenever I reflect on the problems of today’s world, whether they concern the economy, society, culture, security, ecology or civilization in general, I always end up confronting the moral question: what action is responsible or acceptable? The moral order, our conscience and human rights — these are the most important issues at the beginning of the third millennium.

We must return again and again to the roots of human existence and consider our prospects in centuries to come. We must analyze everything open-mindedly, soberly, unideologically and unobsessively, and project our knowledge into practical policies. Maybe it is no longer a matter of simply promoting energy-saving technologies, but chiefly of introducing ecologically clean technologies, of diversifying resources and of not relying on just one invention as a panacea.

I’m skeptical that a problem as complex as climate change can be solved by any single branch of science. Technological measures and regulations are important, but equally important is support for education, ecological training and ethics — a consciousness of the commonality of all living beings and an emphasis on shared responsibility.

Either we will achieve an awareness of our place in the living and life-giving organism of our planet, or we will face the threat that our evolutionary journey may be set back thousands or even millions of years. That is why we must see this issue as a challenge to behave responsibly and not as a harbinger of the end of the world.
I think this "consciousness of the commonality of all living beings" already exists among billions of decent, ordinary people on the planet. It is our leaders who are letting us down by failing to appeal to this basic human impulse towards altruism, hope, and a better tomorrow.

The former head of the CSIRO's Climate Impacts Group today released some frightening data about how a 3 degree change could affect Australia's climate:
Under that scenario, heat-related deaths would triple, people would be displaced en masse from the coast and national icons like the Great Barrier Reef would almost certainly be lost, according to the analysis by the former head of the CSIRO's Climate Impacts Group.

The frequency of bushfires would double and there would be major extinctions of animal and plant life, Dr Barrie Pittock says in the report commissioned by WWF Australia.

“On an even more serious note, such a rise in temperature would almost certainly trigger an unstoppable climate tipping point - which may occur with a global warming of two to three degrees Celsius,” Dr Pittock said.

“If warming reaches three to four degrees Celsius then the thresholds for irreversible change will almost certainly be crossed.”
But Brendan Nelson insists that men with beards are a bigger problem for the coming decade. And Bush is handing the problem over to the UN, asking them to debate it for another 15 months, until he has left office. Little wonder that US citizens' faith in their government is now worse than Watergate:
A new Gallup poll reveals that, as the organization puts it, Americans now "express less trust in the federal government than at any point in the past decade, and trust in many federal government institutions is now lower than it was during the Watergate era, generally recognized as the low point in American history for trust in government."

Among the findings: Barely half trust the government to handle international problems, the lowest number ever. And less than half express faith in the government handling domestic issues, the lowest findings since 1976.

Faith in the executive branch has fallen to 43% -- only 3% higher than it was just before President Nixon's resignation in 1974. At the same time, trust in Congress, at 50%, is its lowest ever.