A common man marvels at uncommon things. A wise man marvels at the commonplace. CONFUCIUS

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Warming Up

There's been a lot of talk recently in blogs and in the media about the weird weather we're having at the moment. But, whatever the immediate, complex reasons for this unpredictable pattern of  meteorological extremes, one thing is blindingly clear: the world is warming up. And it's warming up faster than we think.

John Vidal, the Guardian's environmental editor, travelled last month with Oxfam through the Andean mountains of Peru and Ecuador. He found retreating glaciers, shrinking rivers, expanding deserts and rampaging diseases. And, as usual, it's the poor who suffer first and worst.

He writes: Climate change has fallen off the political agenda in rich countries since the shambles of the Copenhagen summit last year, and the headlines have been dominated by global recession. But while politicians fail to act, the phenomenon continues unabated. In the past week, the three major institutes that calculate global warming have said 2010 will at least tie for the hottest year yet recorded, and it is widely expected that global carbon dioxide emissions will hit record levels.
This year summer temperatures in Russia and central Asia were 7.8 degrees C above average for a whole month, the Pakistan floods affected more than 20 million people, and temperature records were set in 17 countries from Finland to Iraq, Burma and Columbia. Again, there was a near-record melting of Arctic sea ice and the UN has recorded more than 700 extreme-weather related disasters.

Yet most of the world has never heard the phrase 'climate change' and does not understand the science behind man-induced climate change. Hundreds of millions of people are having to adapt without help to the major changes which they can see are taking place, and for which they are not responsible.

We're now in the middle of the latest round of climate change talks in Cancún, Mexico. 193 governments are taking part. Half-way through - and only 170 words out of a 1300 word key text remain undisputed. Will there be more progress than in Copenhagen last year? Don't hold your breath.


George said...

The scientific evidence of global warming is indisputable. In my country, however, every significant reform effort meets the resistance of conservatives who assert that the warming is part of natural cycles, rather than the result of human activity. This is part and parcel of the arrogant and disgusting argument in favor of "American exceptionalsim," the notion that the United States can do no wrong because of its ideals, its heritage, and its vision.

Beyond the problems in my own country, there is, of course, China, which plans to use coal generated electricity to fuel the expansion of its enormous economy. We should not give up, however. All progress originates with minorities. We must avoid the temptation of cynicism and continue to press these issues in all available venues, including these blogs. Glad to see that you wrote about this, and let us hope that you have a little warming over your way.

The Solitary Walker said...

Yes, I agree with you, George - two enormous problems are the US Republicans' anti-climate science stance, and the Chinese commitment to cheap coal.

Just been reading an interview with Bill McKibben whose new book is either just out or just about to be published. He predicted all this many years ago but, of course, nobody would listen...

Laura said...

Thank you for this post. Do you mind if I put it on my Facebook page for others to read?

The Solitary Walker said...

Of course not, Laura - be my guest!

Friko said...

I certainly won't hold my breath.
Did you see what the Guardian had to say about Cancun at the weekend?
I wish I could be as upbeat as George, but I can't see much hope that vested commercial interests won't prevail.

All the same, let's plod on and do our own bit, at the very least.

Ruth said...

I am continually amazed at the heads in the sand about climate change. It IS good that you and others keep writing about this, even though others seem to ignore it. We can address climate change even while we address global recession.

The Solitary Walker said...

Yes, I read that piece in Saturday's Guardian, Friko. As everyone squabbles and looks to their own interests, the temperature is rising inexorably.

Ruth, I agree - I think it's hugely important it's kept on the agenda.

Raph G. Neckmann said...

It is baffling that leaders do not take action against the gradual destruction of the planet that is their home.