Lou Quacious

Unseen Outsider Insight....

Saturday, May 12, 2007

The IPCC, You, and Me

Earlier this month the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the first part of its considerable and comprehensive report on global warming with the rest to be released quarterly throughout 2007. The IPCC’s voluminous report, the fourth so far, is full of “robust findings and key uncertainties” and emphasizes the concepts of mitigation and adaptation as being essential in dealing with the problems associated with global warming. Basically we have to mitigate the damage we are doing and adapt to the damage already done. The IPCC also recognizes human beings as the leading cause of and solution to global warming, and seemingly eliminates any debate as to whether it is actually occurring.
The IPCC, a United Nations backed group of over 2,500 experts from around the globe, has looked at the issue of climate change from nearly every angle and with as many considerations as possible as to its impacts on every conceivable strata of society. With their seeming to be a lot of emphasis on cost-benefit, co-benefits, spillover effects and the equity issues between the developing and the developed worlds; money is obviously the biggest issue as it is in nearly everything. The poor and underdeveloped will feel the effects first and ultimately be affected the most in any kind of globally warmed future, “those already marginalized in the economy were likely to suffer the greatest impact,” the report said. It also pointed out how the right investments, made in the right way could have positive and significant results and offset many of the potential disasters. With the proper allocation of resources in infrastructures, stronger efforts at poverty reduction, and more technological transfer and advancement in the developing world, those of us in the developed world could go a long way towards counteracting the various issues leading to uncontrolled CO2 emissions and pollution in general.
And if maintaining the global status quo and wanting everyone to live in a future world much like it is today isn’t enough incentive for the leaders of the developed nations maybe the bottom line is. It’s been theorized global warming and the disruptions it will likely cause could drop the world’s GDP 20% or more, that’s not just recession or depression that’s outright economic disaster. So what can we do? A fundamental change in thinking about the world and our place in it would be a good start. The impact of just living a normal everyday American existence is such a burden on the environment it is staggering and most of us don’t even own a chemical factory or paper mill. An oversized and wasteful house, lawn, and car are enough. There are ways to have your house and heat it too without leaving a Paul Bunyan sized carbon footprint everywhere you go.
Sustainable development as a concept has had a “rapid and complex evolution” since it was introduced in the early 1970s. Especially so in the past decade as it has become abundantly clear, to most, we cannot maintain the current course and pace of human development. Suburban expansion is slowly paving over valuable farm land and other areas of unique biodiversity that once gone, are gone forever. The San Joaquin Valley is home to some of the most fertile, productive farm land anywhere in the world and is effectively the grocery store to the entire nation. Yet hundreds of acres of this irreplaceable land are lost permanently each day to the blitzkrieg of suburban sprawl. There are ways to keep growing without devouring all that surrounds, to integrate neighborhoods with farmlands and green space cohesively and ultimately create a more pleasant world for all the flora and fauna involved including ourselves.
Individually we can have some impact but for any substantial change to occur it will take the power, influence, and wealth of the superpowers of this world. Governments need to lead way and as the most powerful, richest, and advanced country on Earth it’s up to the U.S. to do its part. We have a moral responsibility to use our geopolitical clout and cultural influence to steer the world towards a safer more stable future. Europe is in many ways already on the right path. Our leaders need to implement the regulations necessary to give big business the incentive to go green in this country. And they shouldn’t need much convincing because going green ultimately means frugality across the board which is better for everyone’s bottom line. Sustainability equals self sufficiency and that is always economically advantageous.
The Bush administration is supposed to be overly concerned about national security, so much so we are waging war to maintain that security. Yet the biggest potential danger facing this country is a world completely destabilized by environmental disasters unseen in human history. With economies ruined, refugees and disease everywhere, and resources scarcer then ever, a future decimated by climate change is much scarier to me then any terrorist attack. But what is our President’s policy on the environment? Apparently it’s every man for him self and that includes Mother Earth. They have rolled back over 30 years worth of environmental policy change that was too slow in coming in the first place. And with over 400 measures directly assaulting the environment and the laws protecting it so far and the appointment of officials to seemingly contradictory positions (over 100 representatives from polluting industries oversee the administration’s various environmental policies) they don’t seem to be stopping anytime soon. For a bunch that’s supposed to be making us safer they don’t seem to have the best interests of our future generations in mind, only those of the large corporations paying to get them elected.
One hand washes the other in politics but that won’t be nearly as easy in coming years as fresh clean water becomes a scarcer and scarcer commodity. A crisis is looming and it has nothing to do with terrorism or Iraq. Other then the fact this “war on terror” is causing us throw hundreds of billions into a quagmire of corruption and ineptitude. It’s a shame because that money could be so valuable if properly allocated elsewhere. Bush did at least admit recently the world was under threat from global warming but words are meaningless, action is the only thing that will save us now. The IPCC report is frightening and it is not a group known for hyperbole, their 2001 report’s worst-case scenario numbers turned out to be remarkably accurate, so this isn’t easily dismissed science. Hopefully the wake up call is heard and a new dawn rises before it’s too late because no one want to have to answer to their grandchildren about why we left them the world we did.


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