Thursday, June 7, 2007

Climate change, man-made or not - we still need to take action, and fast!!!

Apparently scientists are concerned that 300 glaciers in Antarctica have begun to move more quickly into the ocean. They believe that the accelerated movement of glaciers in the Antarctic Peninsula (up 12% on previous years) reveals that rising temperatures are causing glaciers as far apart as Alaska, Greenland and now Antarctica to break up and slip into the ocean at a faster rate than expected. Sea levels are now predicted to rise between 20 and 43 cm over the rest of the century.

I'm not one to point the finger at key allies and the defenders of Western Civilisation, but US manufacturers really need to come to the party on this. However, there are some basic things that we can all do to promote climate change action.

Number one, get out of your cars and use public transport! Imagine it - a 50c per litre tax for personal and business use of motor vehicles, and a 50c per litre subsidy for buses. More buses, more often, more networked to the train ... um ... network.

Number two, boycott anything made in the USA and China.

Not that I have anything against the Americans or the Chinese people per se. Obviously their government is a heartless, godless, communist/capitalist hybrid and secretly I wish I were in charge. (Not to mention China! Just kidding Georgie - you know I'm your biggest fan.) The US is constantly attacked for its environmental record - and Bush is actually trying to do something (although it is nowhere near good enough yet). But according to their recent climate change plan, China's "first and overriding priority" is economic development.

Think about it. According to Greenpeace (which usually tends to inflate figures as a general rule but these happen to be the only figures available from non government sources) China is the world's biggest driver of rainforest destruction, by a long shot. China has the world's largest timber trade, but they are not encouraging sustainable logging - I have no problem with logging as long as you plant 6 trees for every five you cut down. But China's economic development seems to be sucking in more and more of the earth's natural resources, at a time when we are becoming more and more aware of their scarcity. Apparently (according to the International Tropical Timber Organisation) almost five out of every 10 tropical hardwood logs shipped from the world's threatened rainforests are now heading for China. China, heavily dependent upon coal generated power, is about to overtake the USA as the world's leading greenhouse gas emitter - es, and thus become the biggest contributors to global warming and the destabilisation of the climate. If they remain uncontrolled, the growth of China's carbon dioxide emissions over the next 20 years will dwarf any cuts in CO2 that the rest of the world can make.

Second, China already has 1.3 billion people, and an economic growth rate of 8% pa. If current increases continue, by 2031 China's population is likely to be 1.45 billion and the average income will be equivalent to that of the US today. China's grain consumption will be two-thirds of the current grain consumption for the entire world. By 2031, the Chinese will be consuming 99 million barrels a day - and the whole world is currently producing 84 million barrels a day. Twice as much paper as is being produced in the entire world today will be consumed by this future society, if current rates continue. If only every 2nd person has a car (and it is more likely to be closer to three out of every four), the Chinese will have a fleet of 800 million cars - this is how many there are currently in the entire world. To drive them all, they will need more roads - about the same area of land as they currently have planted with rice.

Already, five of the 10 most polluted cities worldwide are in China; acid rain is falling on one-third of the country; half of the water in its seven largest rivers is unusable for any purpose; a quarter of China's citizens lack access to clean drinking water; and one-third of the urban population is breathing polluted air. This will magnify exponentially in the next 25 years.

Now think about this - by 2031 China will have the world's second largest population. India will be larger - and we need to think about boycotting its industry as well, for similar reasons.

Quite frankly, the current Western industrialised model just will not work if the entire world does it - it is not sustainable now, and it only involves less than 1 billion people.

I'm not saying we should all run to the hills, abandon the cities and become peasant farmers (aka the Khmer Rouge model of sustainability). I have faith that our scientists and engineers will come up with something, provided that the reactionary busy bodies let them be.

It is obvious, though, that we need to move away entirely from the fossil-fuel, throw-away consumer economy based on personal automobiles, and towards a more sustainable 'renewable, reuse and recycle' economy based on a diversified public transport system. If we do not, we will be dead. And I'm not talking about next century or even the next generation. I'm talking about us. Right here, right now.

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