Friday, 12 September 2008

Climate change and global warming: The real issues

Climate change is certain and perfectly normal. Every adult can remember cold and warm winters and wet and dry summers. Geology provides ‘rock’ solid, and ice-cores provide ‘chilling’, evidence of historical climate change. The Earth is in a state of perpetual climate change. What makes this moment in time interesting is the accumulation of evidence that mankind’s actions since the industrial revolution have probably exacerbated natural climatic trends.
With modern computers and a greater number of scientists available to do research, our knowledge about how the climate works has been greatly increased. We are still some way from knowing all the answers, but there is general scientific acceptance that our climate in the near future will be showing some very negative aspects, including rising sea level, global warming and regional weather extremes. There is also an allied possibility that this trend will have negative biological consequences for our food chain.
Even if the most benign prediction formulated by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) becomes a reality our grandchildren will experience weather conditions quite unlike those we are used to. In addition to the problems created by flooding and migrating tropical boundaries, an additional 3 or 4 billion people will be using resources and demanding a reasonable standard of living by 2050. Most of this population increase will be in areas of religious intolerance, political instability, educational inadequacy, medical insufficiency and coincidently lie geographically in the most vulnerable places in the face of climate change. Although the present political and religious leadership of currently aggressive countries will die relatively soon, the likelihood in a deteriorating environmental and economic situation would be for ever more radical successors to take their place. Given historical precedent it is likely that territorial expansion and war will be the result. In this scenario global warming pales into insignificance and ‘developed’ nations with nuclear defence capabilities would be well advised to maintain, and be prepared to use, them.
The threat posed by climate change can be met if politicians make funding available in advance of catastrophes for the administrative and infrastructure measures necessary on a global scale. For rich countries this means making long-term cheap loans to poorer ones and even making substantial donations to develop coastal dykes etc. and facilitate evacuation preparedness. Although democratic processes usually have an election horizon, a medium term commitment of twenty to thirty years will be imperative if radical forces are to be neutralised and replaced by responsible and rational leaders in those countries, particularly those without a secular constitution, which may find themselves in a worsening environmental situation.
Global funding for regional investment to ameliorate climate change is perhaps the best and cheapest option to avoid a global Armageddon.

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