We have woken giants

“We have woken giants” says Dorthe Dahl-Jensen of the Centre for Ice and Climate at the University of Copenhagen.

Out of all the things I have read coming out from the climate conference in Copenhagen so far, it’s this simple statement that probably best summarizes where our planet is at. Big changes are occurring and will begin occurring at a more frightening rate.

Dahl-Jensen has suggested that previous projections and predictions from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in relation to sea level rises were likely too conservative.

The IPCC average forecast was for global sea levels to rise by 0.35m over the next hundred years, but the most recent data suggest that a one-metre rise (around 3 feet) was entirely possible, of which 20 per cent would come from the Greenland ice sheet.

According to an article on National Geographic from 2004, a sea level rise of 3 feet would be devastating to the Maldives, which would be entirely submerged.

The Nile Delta and parts of Bangladesh would become uninhabitable, generating hundreds of millions of climate refugees.

Developed countries wouldn’t be safe either, every U.S. East Coast city from Boston to Miami would be swamped.

Given the antics in Copenhagen so far, I don’t feel we are any closer to a solution to help avoid such a disaster, particularly if countries such as Australia have indeed been “cooking the carbon books“. Even before that recent nasty revelation, we were already among the worst emitters per capita of any significantly sized country and now it seems our carbon emissions have grown between 1990 and 2007 by a staggering 82 per cent.

It’s not as though we really have an option of thinking “oh well, if not today, tomorrow or next decade we’ll do something solid about it all”. Even if we cut emissions drastically today, it wouldn’t return atmospheric carbon dioxide levels back to pre-industrial levels tomorrow.. or even in ten years. We are committed, to some degree, of feeling the wrath of nature due to our excesses.

However, that doesn’t mean we can’t stop even worse things from happening.

But if we can’t, thankfully green living is also somewhat about preparing for the worst while hoping for the best. It’s about learning to be a little more independent, more resourceful and making more of what you have. It’s about listening a little more to what nature has to say and acting on those warnings.

When I was a commercial fisherman, if we saw a black line on the horizon, we knew that to stay put would be risky. We pulled up our lines and skedaddled back to port. We had fair warning then as we have now.


Those climate change emails