The Pencil Guy: Hourann's illogical blog

Why we should be worried about global warming

[A fish named 'Daisy' on the Great Barrier Reef]
One of the many ecosystems in danger; photo by Laurence Grayson

The resilience of many ecosystems is likely to be exceeded this century by an unprecedented combination of climate change, associated disturbances (e.g., flooding, drought, wildfire, insects, ocean acidification), and other global change drivers (e.g., land use change, pollution, over-exploitation of resources).

Earlier today, the second working group of the IPCC released their report into the probable effects of global warming. So far only the summary for policy makers is available online, but even that is quite terrifying reading.

Many millions more people are projected to be flooded every year due to sea-level rise by the 2080s. Those densely-populated and low-lying areas where adaptive capacity is relatively low, and which already face other challenges such as tropical storms or local coastal subsidence, are especially at risk. The numbers affected will be largest in the mega-deltas of Asia and Africa while small islands are especially vulnerable.

(This is the second of three reports in this year’s “fourth assessment”; the first asked whether climate change is real and whether it’s caused by humans, this one asks what the effects of climate change will be, and the third will suggest things that can be done.)

Although the report is basically a glorified literature review, and very much the work of a bureaucracy, it isn’t the sort of document that can be dismissed as easily as what the Prime Minister seems to think. There are hundreds of authors, all of them highly distinguished (such as the director of our own Bureau of Meteorology), and while they might all be wrong, it’s not something I’d put money on.

  1. [...] Working Group II report on climate change, called Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability , while the Pencil Guy also covers the [...]

  2. I do find it slightly strange that the two questions “the first asked whether climate change is real and whether it’s caused by humans” were combined together. If it’s real – which the cumulative evidence and scientific opinion seems to now indicate very strongly – then isn’t it irrelevant whether “we all” caused it or not? An old aphorism comes to mind in this case – “it’s not my fault, but it’s my problem”…frequently used when one has inherited “problems” in a new job from a predecessor, but could equally well be applied to the climate issue.

    I’ve long been a Liberal voter – and I don’t think Labor has got it right on climate issues as yet either – but I can see this becoming a pivotal election issue…if anyone has the politcal cojones to make it one, they may just get my vote regardless of economic and/or social credentials – because in the long term, economics (and relative capacity for social reform) is going to be dictated by how we handle the climate issue.

    $0.02 just spent…

  3. One of the arguments used by people saying that global warming isn’t a problem is to say that any climate changes we’re now observing are just part of the planet’s natural cycles, and therefore no reason to impose limits on polluters.

    But also, my description is likely inaccurate, so a quote may be in order.

    The Working Group I contribution to the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report describes progress in understanding of the human and natural drivers of climate change, observed climate change, climate processes and attribution, and estimates of projected future climate change.

  4. I take your point (or “their” point in fact) – nevertheless, we are a point in our planet’s history where technological and ecological awareness have (for the first time possibly) provided us with the ability to take action to adjust/repair our global climate. So the debate has shifted from “if” it’s real, to “who/what” caused it? Regardless, global warming is going to be deleterious to not only humans, but fauna and flora across the planet. Just following the “logic” a little further:
    * If you believe that global warming is a “natural cycle” of the planet, then the fact that we don’t have evidence for climate change in the last several centuries indicate that the timescales involved for a “natural planetary climate cycle” are approximately centuries in length: improvement of conditions given current trends (before we run out of water and arable land for food) requires technological intervention. That is just simple mathematics.
    * If you believe that global warming is man-made in the first instance – again, improvement of conditions (before we run out of water and arable land for food) requires technological intervention to fix the problems caused by previous (mis)use of technology and resources.
    Either way, the “cause” is moot – intervention (call it interference if it helps you sleep better) is required. So the question is – who’s going to be first to step up to the plate and say “hey – this is a problem”?

    Some companies do it now – why can’t we have triple-bottom line federal and state budgets? Y’know – lead from the front?

    [Damn, when did I turn into a global warming apologist? :-)]


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