Wednesday, November 23, 2005


Global Warming and the Individual

Global Warming is an odd topic. Most people find it both boring and upsetting. The former because it's complex and attracts the obsessive attentions of the self righteous Green brigade and the latter because it makes people feel guilty they are not doing enough to 'save the planet'. My brief study for my weekly class -see full handout at companion site via link in lefthand margin-makes me realise it reallyn is essential for everyone to attend to the problem. In a UK poll last June less than half of respondents-40%- saw it as a 'threat'; over 80% saw it as a responsibility of governments and wanted Blair to challenge Bush on it at the upcoming G8 summit; but over 60% were opposed to a tax on air travel even though this is a highly greenhouse gas emitting form of transport. Only a quarter had 'done a lot' to adress the problem while a fifth had done nothing at all.

The consequences of Global warming are potentially worse for mankind than terrorism was a recent comment by Sir David King, Chief Scientific Adviser to the government. They lie in terms of what raised temperatures will do to the planet's delicate ecosystems. Briefly this is what will happen if something is not done, according to the best scientific knowledge.
a) Once the Greenland icecap melts sea level will increase by 23 feet flooding low lying areas worldwide including: The Maldives, the east coast of USA, Bangladesh, London, Holland and many other areas in Asia and America.
b) Mosquitoes will breed in over half the world causing a pandemic of malaria and other diseases.
c) By the middle of the century it will be impossible to grow the crops needed to feed the world.
d) Tropical storms of the hurricane strength will possibly double in regularity.
e) Melting glaciers will cause scores of lakes in high ground to overflow, sweeping away villages and communities in Tibet, India and China.
f) fishing stocks will further deplete as oxygen in sea water is reduced.

Taken altogether doing nothing will lead to the slow death of the planet which our grandchildren will inherit. The USA needs to awake to the danger and there is some evidence that, apart from Bush and his oil lobbyist cronies, the US public is awakening to what needs to be done. But much can be done by individuals to reduce their 'carbon footprints'.

Some of this is again boringly obvious: reducing central heating settings, walking and not using cars, using the train instead of planes or cars, wearing warmer clothing in the house, acquiring a lower energy using car, recycling as much and as often as one can. It reads like a awful nannyish list of dos and don'ts but if we care about the future inheritance of our children we will pay more attention to a problem which has become worse and threatens to become critical before the middle of the century.

Most people think it is up to the governments to stop the progress of climate change and global warming. In one hand they are correct but on the other hand it is up to ourselves to help the planet and our civilization. If we don't do it singly then we will fail our future children and grandchildren who will have the unknown forced upon them. Governments and energy companies have started the ball rolling. We are seeing a large increase in renewable energy sources here in the UK. My local energy supplier has been taken over by a larger firm - SSE - who specialize in supplying cheap gas and electric" through hydro projects, cheaper cleaner and greener. If we all work as one we will be able to make a difference. The question is how much of a difference can we make.
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