Contributing Monkie G Living Staff Monkies
Published on December 14, 2008
The UN Report on climate change released last month – just in time for the Bali Conference – provides more details about the threat of a warming climate. The report synthesizes 3 reports released earlier in the year, cross referencing various data that would not otherwise be linked. In short, this is the seminal, holistic document on climate change. And the prognosis is poor.
One big problem is that the computer models showing the effect of melting ice sheets cannot compute numbers that are actually being measured on the ground. Originally data showed that the earth could warm by 1 to 4 degrees by the end of the century. Data crunching from recent numbers estimates that global temperature could rise by as much as 6 degrees by 2030, resulting in catastrophic sea level rise.
Perhaps the biggest problem is that it takes 4-5 years to compile all the data into one synthesized report. Unfortunately, climate change mimics the trajectory of computer change; what was cutting-edge knowledge 4 years ago is outdated and often invalid today. The unprecedented growth in India and China over the last 5 years (and subsequent thirst for energy) has thrown off all the computer models, and as the world thrusts headlong into “growth”, this trend will continue elsewhere.
Who’s most at risk? Nearly 1/3 of the earth’s population lives in the shadow of even modest sea level rises, and of those roughly 2 billion people, many live in poverty. They simply could not tolerate a rapid environmental change (think of what happened with the 2004 tsunami). There are consequences for plants and animals, too. A change of 1 to 3 degrees could cause mass extinctions, again with unknown consequences.
So, pay attention to what’s happening in Bali. It may be several more years before world leaders again make such important policy decisions on global warming.