After reading that Barack Obama may be forced to delay signing the Copenhagen climate change deal due to the scale of opposition in the US Congress, I can only conclude that ignorance and complacency in our policy makers continues to reign supreme. When will we wake up to the fact that tweaking the business-as-usual approach will do nothing to prevent the catastrophes that loom? Without a directed and massive reorganization of the way we generate energy, we are headed for disaster. Despite this, many policy makers pretend that there are good reasons for delaying action. As George Monbiot reiterates yet again, the cost of doing nothing is far less than the costs that will swamp our societies if climate change continues to run out of control.
Quietly in public, loudly in private, climate scientists everywhere are saying the same thing: it’s over. The years in which more than two degrees of global warming could have been prevented have passed, the opportunities squandered by denial and delay. On current trajectories we’ll be lucky to get away with four degrees. Mitigation (limiting greenhouse gas pollution) has failed; now we must adapt to what nature sends our way. If we can.
This, at any rate, was the repeated whisper at the climate change conference in Copenhagen last week. It’s more or less what Bob Watson, the environment department’s chief scientific adviser, has been telling the British government. It is the obvious if unspoken conclusion of scores of scientific papers. Recent work by scientists at the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, for example, suggests that even global cuts of 3% a year, starting in 2020, could leave us with four degrees of warming by the end of the century. At the moment emissions are heading in the opposite direction at roughly the same rate. If this continues, what does it mean? Six? Eight? Ten degrees? Who knows?
Faced with such figures, I can’t blame anyone for throwing up his hands. But before you succumb to this fatalism, let me talk you through the options. (Read More)