The Situation


The Situation
Simply put, the Earth has warmed by 1.36oC over the past 140 years. Until recently the major cause has been increase in carbon dioxide, or C02, which is measured in parts per million (ppm). The earth normally cools by reflecting the heat that comes from the sun back into space, but with industrialisation the increasing C02 has become a blanket that prevents heat from escaping. For 450 million years the concentration of C02 has never been more than 280 ppm, but we have now pushed it up to the extraordinary level of well over 400 ppm. The ultimate cause, of course, is our ceaseless desire for things.

As most of it has ended up in the oceans we have not felt the full impact of this heating. But as the temperature differences in the oceans drive the weather, there have been more violent storms, more droughts and more climatic instability. As more C02 is still being pumped into the air the weather will become even more chaotic. The global movements of the trade winds and the Gulf Stream have been badly affected.

The consequences affect every other system on the planet, as when the warmed oceans flow into the Arctic and help disintegrate the great ice polar sheets. Soon the poles will be ice-free and already parts are collapsing with no hope of recovery. As we continue to dump C02 glacial collapse will continue. When all the ice has melted sea levels would rise by some 70 metres.

The continued heating of the oceans and the surrounding land has now begun to release huge reserves of methane that had been locked away. Methane is twenty times more powerful than C02, and this is further boosting the heating of the planet. There is now no stopping it.

The entwined complexity ensures that many forces will impact on each other to push the heating upwards. We have passed a number of tipping points in the last couple of years. Were we to stop all further dumping of C02, temperatures would continue to skyrocket. The methane augments the size of wildfires, the collapsing ice sheets dampen the Gulf Stream, the extra heat disturbs high altitude winds, and together turn the oceans more acid, bleach the coral, kill the fish and reduce the earth’s ability to heal itself. The speed of change has now so accelerated that even were the Paris accord to be carried out, we should expect to reach 3.4oC over the next 20 years.

This means that many-metre sea level rise is inevitable, possibly within a decade or so.

The consequences across the world will be momentous, and tragic. The Netherlands, Bangladesh, northern China, Vietnam and all other low-lying areas will be drowned. Many hundreds of millions will become refugees. Where will they go in search of food and shelter? Who will welcome so many? Wars will be fought between nations that have nuclear weapons.

With the docks flooded what happens to trade? Do we still get oil and petrol, tyres and spare parts, food and drugs? With the rest of the world in strife can we find a way to survive on our own? We are an island nation with most of our manufacturing overseas, and we will have our own refugees from the flooding, well over a million of them.

We can create an Ark in the South. We have a space of calm right now. Everything we need is still available. We can make electric trucks and buses, and so dispense with petrol. We can seek local alternatives to many medicines. We can learn to grow food and set up alternatives when there is nothing in the supermarkets. We can plan how to deal with the rising seas with new roads and raised sewage systems. We have the time to install cooling systems with solar panels. We can build individual resilience and strengthen essential services. We have the skills, the finance and the right sort of community that could make this possible, but we do have to start now.

We are not only doing this for ourselves, but for our children and for their children. We can prepare, for their sakes and our own, knowing that in the meantime every change we make now provides present benefits in health and wealth.

If we fail, there will be panic and mayhem, an impoverished government ruling by decree, lack of all necessities and the terror of local bandit gangs.

A few of the issues are listed on the next page. It is our hope that from this meeting we can start to build the leadership and assemble the skills to bring this region into the best future that is possible. I know of no other place in the world that could do this, from the strength of your community and your willingness to help one another.

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