Saturday, March 14, 2009

Melting news

This week's meeting in Copenhagen gathered 2000 researchers to discuss climate change prior to the UN-sponsored global encounter this coming December also in Copenhagen. It has revealed new, solid and consistent scientific evidence that the polar caps are melting twice as fast as it had been thought only two years ago. Now the worst-case scenarios (WCS) appear to be grimmer, or the same WCS from 2007 may occur sooner than expected.

This is not only causing a raise in the sea levels, but it is also releasing great amounts of methane gas that has been trapped within the polar ice caps since last Ice Age, around 9000 years ago.

The issue is not whether the planet is heating up or cooling down. Hence, the term "global warming," although related to the increase of the average temperature of the planet, is less accurate than "climate change," which refers to the impact this oscillation in temperature is having on micro and macro ecosystems which the human species is only a tiny part of. Recession or not, dozens of animal and plant species are becoming extinct every 24 hours, nonstop.

I see no reason to get scared. We should have gotten scared 30 years ago. Now we are too late for that. Put in more proactive terms, fear is not going to help us be more effective dealing with this situation. Right now, there are two lines of action to follow: adaptation and mitigation.

It is also too late to expect that mitigation efforts -or tackling the causes of climate change- will prevent humanity from adapting to an unknown and rapidly changing environment. Therefore, we need to assess vulnerabilities worldwide and start helping those most in need in their efforts of changing permanently the way they have been living until now, however comfortably or uncomfortably.

On the other hand, it is preposterous to believe, as some do, that adaptation will be enough, that we can burn all the fossil fuels we want, deforest all we pretend, and contaminate our aquifers further. We can still improve the quality of the Earth's environment for those of us that are still to come. So let's do it.

Perhaps the G-20 gathering early next month in London can be a good setting for the twenty political leaders of the 20 most responsible countries for climate change to do something considerably effective about it. In fact, it could be the last setting in which the 20 suspects of the largest global crime will have a chance to right their environmental wrongs under the delicate state of social cohesion that the world is still in. The recession is only starting, and every new unemployed person is a family without income to support itself. The Economist's dire forecast of today, Friday 13th of March, 2009, is that unemployment by the end of 2010 could reach 10% in developed countries. If we reach that scenario, the "poorest billion", as the same newspaper quotes today, will suffer famine and disease like globalization never expected.

Let's hope then that the G-20 finds leadership within to conduct the group towards virtue, instead of yet another photo opportunity to boost their public relations and opinion polls -well, at least for those leaders whose countries elected them democratically.

Meanwhile, rivers of water that had been frozen for millennia is running free around the clock, as we speak.

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