Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

An even more inconvenient truth

Alas, it's time to shift the terms of the discussion about global warming. Yes, there's still an urgent need to try to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but it's really too late. I had to link to The Guardian because we're all too busy over here with OJ and the obnoxious kid who got tasered at the John Kerry blahathon to cover it, but the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has issued its full report on the consequences of global warming and, as David Adams reports:

Martin Parry, a climate scientist with the Met Office, said destructive changes in temperature, rainfall and agriculture were now forecast to occur several decades earlier than thought. He said vulnerable people such as the old and poor would be the worst affected, and that world leaders had not yet accepted their countries would have to adapt to the likely consequences.

Speaking at a meeting to launch the full report on the impacts of global warming by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Professor Parry, co-chairman of the IPCC working group that wrote the report, said: "We are all used to talking about these impacts coming in the lifetimes of our children and grandchildren. Now we know that it's us."

He added politicians had wasted a decade by focusing only on ways to cut emissions, and had only recently woken up to the need to adapt. "Mitigation has got all the attention, but we cannot mitigate out of this problem. We now have a choice between a future with a damaged world or a severely damaged world."


Prof Parry said it was "very unlikely" that average temperature rise could be limited to 2C, as sought by European governments. That would place 2 billion more people at risk of water shortages, and hundreds of millions more will face hunger, the report says.

You can read the IPCC report here, along with their other reports. But it's even worse than the report indicates, because we have learned only very recently of both increasing positive feedbacks and evidence that climate change related phenomena are moving faster than previously known. These include the shrinking of the arctic sea ice, which lowers the albedo (reflectivity of sunlight), and so warms the water during the summer and is therfore self-accelerating; the melting of permafrost and release of trapped carbon and methane; and the erosion of the Greenland ice sheet. This is all happening, and buying a Prius isn't going to do a damn thing about it.

While we bid a sad goodbye to Miami Beach, we really need to refocus the policy debate on responding to the effects of global warming, as well as constraining use of fossil fuels. This is serious, folks.

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