Friday, May 6, 2011

Global Warming: Prevention and Adaptation

Problems caused by climate change are inseparable from the problems of empire, militarism, and wars.  We are fighting five illegal wars now, one of them ten years of waste and killing, another eight, with some nine hundred military bases around the world, creating deficit and debt in the trillions of dollars annually, paid for on credit from China and Japan.   Read Barry Sanders' The Green Zone: The Environmental Costs of Militarism for what imperialism costs.    Then read one of these books on climate change, and reflect upon the trillions of dollars to be needed if we are to survive that too.   The only reasonable conclusion is for us all to cry out for the cessation of  of empire and the preparation for warming.  Dick

April 30, 2011
Contact Dick Bennett 442-4600


OMNI BOOK FORUMS Presents a Forum on Climate Change:
Friday, May 20, 2011, 6:30, at OMNI,
3274 Lee Ave.
(between Liquor World and Office Depot).  

The infant children today will grow up under the climate change of global warming for the rest of their lives.  As they get older, they must cope with knowing that the climate around them will become increasingly hostile.   And the conditions will worsen for their children, our grandchildren.   Every child on earth will face a similar fate.   The books discussed at this Forum explain this global crisis and put forth ways we might prevent (reduce C02), mitigate (flood walls), and adapt to (moving inland) the worst effects.   The authors have tried to prevent warming.   Scientists have been warning the world for as far back as the 1980s.   Now their vision is turning to reducing harms.    Their hope is that finally the nations and the people of the world will join together to prevent the worst for all people.

Barbara Fitzpatrick:   Peter Ward, The Flooded Earth: Our Future in a World without Ice Caps.   2010
Art Hobson:  James Hansen,  Storms of My Grandchildren: The Truth about the Coming Climate Catastrophe and Our Last Chance to Save Humanity.  Bloomsbury, 2009.   And:   Bryan Lovell, Challenged by Carbon: the Oil Industry and Climate Change.  Cambridge UP, 2010.  
Steve Boss:  Mark Hertsgaard, Hot: Living Through the Next Fifty Years on Earth.  Houghton Mifflin, 2011.
Joanna Pollock: Heather Rogers, Green Gone Wrong: How Our Economy Is Undermining the Environmental Revolution. Scribner, 2010

Here’s my short list of recent books (2009-2011) (except for Climate Refugees, originally published in 2007, because it is unique as far as I know). 

--Archer, David.  The Long Thaw: How Humans Are Changing the Next 100,000 Years of Earth’s Climate.  Princeton UP, 2009.
--Collectif Argos.  Climate Refugees.  MIT, 2010.  (Orig. Fr. Ed. 2007).
--Gore, Al.  Our Choice: A Plan to Solve the Climate Crisis.  Melcher, Rodale, 2009.
X--Hansen, James.  Storms of My Grandchildren: The Truth about the Coming Climate Catastrophe and Our Last Chance to Save Humanity.  Bloomsbury, 2009.  (Art Hobson)
X--Hertsgaard, Mark.  Hot: Living Through the Next Fifty Years on Earth.  Houghton Mifflin, 2011.  (Steve Boss)
X—Lovell, Bryan.  Challenged by Carbon: the Oil Industry and Climate Change.  Cambridge UP, 2010.   (Art Hobson)
--Lovelock, James.  The Vanishing Face of Gaia.  Basic Books, 2009.  
--Paskal, Cleo.  Global Warring: How Environmental, Economic, and Political Crises Will Redraw the World Map.  Palgrave, 2010.
--Pollack, Henry.  A World Without Ice.  Avery/Penguin, 2009
X--Rogers, Heather.  Green Gone Wrong: How Our Economy Is Undermining the Environmental Revolution.  Scribner, 2010.  (Joanna Pollock)
X--Roston,  Eric.   The Carbon Age.  (Robert McAfee)
--Schweiger, Larry.  Last Chance: Preserving Life on Earth.  Fulcrum, 2009.
--Stager, Curt.  Deep Future: The Next 100,000 Years of Life on Earth.  St. Martin’s, 2011.
 X--Ward, Peter.  The Flooded Earth; Our Future in a World without Ice Caps.   2010.  (Barbara Fitzpatrick)


     Many articles begin with a concrete example of what is to follow.  I might tell you about my granddaughter, as James Hansen does in Storms of my Grandchildren, or about my daughter, as does Mark Hertsgaard in Hot. It’s concrete, affecting, memorable.  But in this instance, I’ll do the opposite, and place discussion in the largest context.    Mark Lynas does this in Six Degrees, in which chapter by chapter he darkens the future as it is imagined growing hotter (Our Future on a Hotter Planet).   But an even larger context. 
      Our Inter-glacial Anthropocene Warming
      Curt Stager’s Deep Future  is sub-titled: The Next 100,000 Years of Life on Earth.   I will conclude with this “deep future,” but first let’s see what he shares with the authors of the books of our Forum.   He would understand “the ways in which our actions today may influence the long-term future of the world.”  No better epitome for these books might be stated.   Stager simply expands the time scale from hundreds to thousands to hundreds of thousands of years. 
      For the “present,” that is, for the next thousands of years--the Anthropocene, the Age of Humans--, long-term, human-made warming will continue to produce increasing heat and sea-level rise, weather extremes, and other catastrophes to thousands of species.  The carbon crisis is already upon us; enormous environmental changes are inevitable.
     Preventing the Worst 
     But humans still have considerable control over the extent to which the warming will play out.   We can choose to produce more or less heat and disasters; we can limit the extent of warming, as all of these writers explain, depending on how much fossil fuel we have chosen to burn in the past (and that harm is done), and will choose to burn during the next hundreds and even thousands of years.   We can make life for future, or at least for distant, generations better than had we done nothing now to reduce C02.
       Mark Lynas is somewhat hopeful that we can contain C02 to 400ppm, which would hold temperature to a 2 degrees rise.   His final chapter is entitled, “Choosing Our Future.”  
        Much less optimistic but still focused on controlling C02 is The Flooded Earth by Peter Ward.  Even though Ward discusses more than one kind of catastrophic flood (“more than any other factor, the ever-increasing number of humans causes the seas to rise”), finally, he imagines, governments responded, and in time  prevented the worst by severe restrictions and massive new technology, enforced emission reduction, and geoengineering—until in 3200 CE carbon dioxide was capped at 550ppm.  This human achievement is “the best we can hope for.”  But it required—it will require--enormous changes in human behavior and technology.  And he ends the book with specific strategies that, “if successfully employed, could indeed give us hope that the ice sheets will not uncontrollably melt and that the seas will not catastrophically rise.”    If we do not change our attitudes and behavior, however, the earth will grow “so warmed that not only do we lose the ice caps but we also ensure a mass extinction.”
         All of the authors make the same argument:  we are heading for a warming, flooding, drying, extreme-weather, over-populated world unless we choose to stop how we live and develop extraordinary technologies.   But they are not confident we have the will to do what is necessary.  Consequently, some of the authors turn to adaptation—to what we can do to prevent the worst effects of warming.
           Mark Hertsgarrd in Hot  recounts the history of adaption--that is, in addition to trying to prevent excessive warming we must also plan for its consequences, including rising seas and weather extremes.  The idea is new.   Not until 2007, for example, did the European Union “begin discussing adaptation.”   And the idea has been opposed.  TheBush administration denied the idea just as it had denied warming.  For example, his administration killed a key adaptation tool, the National Climate Assessment of the vulnerabilities of various regions of the U.S. (hurricanes, rising sea levels) and plans for coping with them.   Many climatologists opposed the concept because they believed it would distract leaders from focusing on the prevention of warming.   
        But Hertsgaard observes that adaptation is commanding more attention “as the impacts of climate change become increasingly obvious and disruptive,” and he cites recent recognition of adaptation by Al Gore, Ban Ki-Moon, the Copenhagen climate summit, and many more influential individuals and agencies.  
        The one book of which I am aware that is focused entirely on adaptation is Climate Refugees, published four years ago.   The authors accept the warming the scientists are reporting and grapple with the consequences that millions of warming-caused migrants will face—some 50 million by 2010 and 200 million by the end of the century.  The suffering will be incalculable, and relief requiring enormous amounts of transportation, medical care, housing, and settlements.   Inadequate planning will lead surely to violence.   Countries less affected by warming will have to accept a new definition of refugee as one who has fled his or her homeland to escape danger; countries will have to open their borders to asylum for persons displaced by warming.   Or expect global chaos.
        The chapters of the book focus on countries already endangered and the methods necessary for helping them:   Bangladesh (much submerged), Chad (lakes drying), Maldives and Tuvalu (being submerged), China (desertification), Nepal (glaciers disappearing) we have perhaps already known about, but probably few of us would have thought our own country would be included in such a book (Alaska, Gulf Coast).  The warming future is already drowning or drying us, and we are called to a global Manhattan Project to care for the victims.
              And the longest future?   Stager knows what these authors know, agrees with their predictions, similarly suggests various palliatives.   We can prevent the worst heat to prevent the worst consequences thousands of years from now.  If we choose.   But ironically the heat has the advantage of delaying the eventual glacial return, and the sequestered coal (if we choose) could be used to lessen the severity of the cold.    What distinguishes him from the others, that is, is his extraordinarily long-term view (Hertsgaard's subtitle is: Living Through the Next Fifty Years on Earth).   Eventually, he explains, “many millennia” in the future, C02 concentrations will return to their normal ranges, bringing down greenhouse temperatures.   But the process will occur extremely slowly.  “A full return to preindustrial conditions will take tens of thousands—perhaps even hundreds of thousands—of years.” 
      And then?   Our human-caused inter-glacial warming period, Anthropocene, will be followed by another much longer, much worse glacial period.  His conclusion is monumentally ironical:  “in this immensely long tale…climate change will mostly come to mean global cooling.”  

1 comment:

what is global warming said...

Thanks for the heads up on the panel. Looks like a pretty great group. I think I just missed it. Do you happen to know if a video was posted anywhere?