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Planet Earth Under Threat

"We must work with Nature - Not against it"

  • Julian Hector
  • 10 Jan 07, 02:40 PM

There has been a lot in the news today about the EU's plans to combat the causes of climate change in Europe. There are some dire futures predicted for many Euro countries. For PEuT, in the early summer of 2006, we interviewed the European Environment Agency's Executive Director, Professor Jacquie McGlade. Here are some notes I took from that i/v.

* Most of the CAP not written with cc in mind.
* Growing season in Europe has increased by 10 days in places - maybe 2 seasons in 1. Europe has to see its landscapes [that it's so fond of] in different ways. CC is more than the simple practice of farming.
* Many in Europe are seeing small changes - but these together generate a wake up call. Important that our planners [ for cities etc] understand that relatively small decisions now can have big implictions. We have "built" our selves into a corner and although 10% of Europes surface area is protected for wildlife, in the future these might not be in the right place.
* We have to mitigate now to give Europe time to adapt, so that meaningful adaptation and changes can occur within individual cultures. Speed of cc is the worry, slowing it down by imediate action will give Europeans time to adapt within their culture.
* Netherlands with a highly urbanised population might have to accept it will lose a lot of land to the sea anbd move its population away from the coast.
* Switzerland, France, Austria, Italy - all losing glaciers in the mountains and forecasting problems with their winter tourist industry.
* Spain, the weather bell of Europe, will get hotter and drier. If this continues with the pressure on farmers to produce tomatoes etc..it [Spain] will fragment and lose its resilience.
* Some of the future economic development of Scandinavia is based on building on firm perma frost..which is melting.
* French vine yards have applications in with the EEA to grow grapes in Southern Sweden.

To combat these [cc] effects, we must "Work with nature, not against it....We must move with the world [roll with the punches]. The earth is "a heartless and restless planet - it doesn't care about us [we] - must re-connect with nature and see the signs of nature and the weather.

London is vulnerable - "those who work on the Thames barrier will tell you so"

"We must be more realistic with the futures we can expect"

Comments  Post your comment

Julian,

Very well put. Not much to add to that.

Vaya con Gaia
ed
10/01/2007 at 19:29:11 GMT

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  • 2.
  • At 10:54 PM on 10 Jan 2007,
  • Mark wrote:

The EU was supposed to meet an 8% reduction target of GHG below their 1990 levels by 2010. It is now projected that they will be lucky to make 2.5%. How will they reduce by 20% by 2020? China and India were exempt. Russia's target was 0%. You can set all of the targets you want but if you don't meet them, what good are they? And what good are they if you meet them by buying carbon credits from poor nations which don't meet those promised commitements either. What are you going to do as a consequence, punish people who are struggling just to survive as it is? This is just one more big Eurofarce.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kyoto_Protocol

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  • 3.
  • At 01:05 PM on 11 Jan 2007,
  • Mark wrote:

Why haven't the world's scientists spread the alarm, made this their number one priority, pressured every government and industry in the world to take drastic action immeditately? Because they know it is already too late and there is no point in needlessly frightening a doomed population. Just my opinion, don't lose any sleep over it, go back to what you were doing.

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Mark - some scientists have been trying for decades, but you are constantly up against the human interest factor. There was a time when the population of the culure flask was still sufficiently low that technology could provide some of the answers. The options for breaking the inevitable progression of lag log stationary death are as follows:
1. War
2. Toxic poisoning incl AGW
3. Starvation
4. Disease
5. Divine intervention (no comment unless you include natural disasters)
6. Fertility drop
7. A mix of the above

Whether or not you like or agree with the initial steps - atleast there is some action on energy and waste - albeit ineffective / too little / too late.
So the only other practical thing we can possibly address is fertility (i.e. Cobbly's 800lb gorilla). Because if we don't ...

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Just for fun!

Vaya con Gaia
ed
11/01/2007 at 18:26:00 GMT

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  • 6.
  • At 06:43 PM on 11 Jan 2007,
  • Mark wrote:

Bob Davidson #4
You may get #1 sooner than you think. All the ominous signs are there. Iran's president says repeatedly that Israel should be wiped off the map. He also says the United States should not exist. Iran is believed to be desperately working to develop nuclear weapons. Iran openly supports terrorist groups including Hezbollah and Hamas which are very clever at smuggling weapons to their civilian targets and detonating them. Isreal is believed to have about 600 nuclear weapons including fusion boosted or even full thermonuclear warheads. The US is known to have about 10,000. Will either country stand idly by and allow itself to face the risk of a nuclear attack? If the US is attacked by anyone with a nuclear weapon how would it react? My guess is that it will retaliate by immediately completely destroying any and all possible attackers it considers might be responsible. Anyone remember what happened when Saddam Hussein ignited 900 oil well fires in Kuwait? How many years worth of CO2 did that evolve before they were extinguished. If Iran's oil fields go up in flames, it would probably make Kuwait's fires look like a small candle and nobody will ever put them out. Right now my best case scenario, the US executes a pre-emptive conventional strike to eliminate the threat. Worst case, Israel attacks with nuclear weapons and sets all of Iran ablaze. This is not decades away, it may be a matter of a few years, some months, or only weeks in the future. I find the prospect very frightening, the worst ecological disaster in human history. It would likely be the end of the world for all of us, there will be no escaping the consequences. Why would anyone take such irrational actions? Nuclear weapons have their own logic.

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Sooner than we think? have you forgotten the presently active two?

BTW, Mad Dinner Jacket said Israel would eventually be wiped off the map of history, unless you understand Farsi better. A lot of difference between would and should. Meanwhile we are desperate to prevent Iran from obtaining the weapons she insists she isn't seeking, while accepting Israel's possession of the weapons she declines to admit (but we all know) she has.

She is even planning to use them.

Sooner than we think?

xx
ed
Thursday January 11, 2007 at 19:46:34 GMT


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Mark - I need little convincing. As a boy I remember watching the entire Russian fleet sail past our beach in Cyprus en-route to the last Egyptian / Israel crisis. It is well documented that that incident was about to escalate in the extreme.

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  • 9.
  • At 08:58 PM on 11 Jan 2007,
  • Mark wrote:

In 1973 I was in France at the outbreak of the Yom Kippur war. The Israelis were losing and running out of supplies. The US appeared almost indifferent until suddenly from seemingly out of nowhere, it began to ship massive amounts of armaments and supplies to Israel. Why would President Nixon have done that? I can only think of one answer and that is that the Israelis warned him that they were about to go nuclear. The US put its entire armed forces all over the world on its highest alert. I don't know if Americans were aware of what was happening but based on what I was hearing on shortwave and seeing in France, the whole world was very frightened.

In October 1962, the world was litterally within hours, even minutes of worldwide thermonuclear war between the US and USSR. Kennedy discovered during the height of the crisis that the US at that time had only one nuclear war fighting strategy, burn down everything from the Danube River to the Pacific Ocean and that untimately, he had no control over what his generals would do. Had the blockade not worked, none of us would be alive here today. It's interesting to note that at the time, the USSR was estimated to have only 4 deliverable nuclear weapons and only 2 were expected to make it through to their targets in the US. America had 175. Both the US and USSR wanted to keep the weakness of the Soviet's nuclear forces secret for different reasons. Shortly after, the USSR began a massive effort to catch up to the US (which ultimately bankrupted them.) We now know that 75 is all it would likely take to create a nuclear winter. Much of the world has no concept of how close the end of all human life almost came. We may be revisiting that again soon.

The concept of nuclear weapons has been reduced to a triteness in the popular press. The three simple letters WMD seem almost insignificant. But to those whose governments have them and understand them, their implications are the life and death of entire nations. The possibility of people who are more concerned about the next world than this one getting their hands on them one way or another is one every person who values human life should be very worried about. Cavalier platitudes about what is fair or unfair about who has a right to have nuclear weapons is ludicrous and have no meaning. One mistake and we will have trouble like never before.

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It might help to solve the population problem, though...
Houb Salaam
ed
11/01/2007 at 22:00:59 GMT

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An interesting perspective?

Vaya con Gaia
ed
11/01/2007 at 23:01:14 GMT

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  • 12.
  • At 12:45 AM on 12 Jan 2007,
  • Mark wrote:

An interesting perspective? No actual history.

In 1962 I was in high school. We saw the entire crisis blow up from out of nowhere. Senator Kenneth Keating of New York State announced to the press that the Kennedy administration had secret U-2 spy plane photos showing that the USSR was installing missiles with nuclear warheads in Cuba. Kennedy was forced to admit in public that it was true. The threat was unacceptable. The missles could land on the US without any warning at all. I saw the confrontation at the Security Council between Adlai Stevenson and Andre Gromiko as it happened live on TV. Every day during the height of the crisis, it was mostly what we talked about. We were all very frightened. New York City was virtually certain to be a target of a Russian thermonuclear weapon. We didn't know if any of us would live to see the end of the day alive. Classroom work became a diversion to get our minds off it. You don't ever want to live that experience and neither do I again but we may be in for it.

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Not history - the present.
xx
ed
Friday January 12, 2007 at 10:46:45 GMT

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  • 14.
  • At 05:47 PM on 12 Jan 2007,
  • Mark wrote:

Signs today are increasingly ominous. The US has launched air attacks on Al Qaeda terrorists in Somalia, may launch more, and may have men on the ground there if it doesn't already. There are US warships right off the coast including an air craft carrier.

CNN's analyst says some people consider President Bush's speech Wednesday night a de facto declaration of war against Iran. A second aircraft carrier and patriot anti missile missiles are being sent to the area. Russia is about to ship fuel to Iran's nuclear reactor and Iran is expected to have 3000 centrifuges operational by the end of February, both events described as "red lines" by the American government. Should Russia interfere with an American military intervention to thwart Iran, America still has thousands of nuclear warheads aimed at Russia. Would the US blow up the world to destroy a looming nuclear threat from Iran? It almost did with Cuba 45 years ago, I see no reason why it wouldn't be ready to do it again. Newt Gingrich said we are in World War III (or IV) already. He may not have been exaggerating.

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  • 15.
  • At 04:37 AM on 14 Jan 2007,
  • Russell Briggs wrote:

I have just finished watching the wonderful Planet Earth series on DVD and have nothing but praise and admiration for those involved in putting together such an astonishing documentary on the state of the planet.

The follow-up programmes are full of well-intentioned comments from the world's leading conservationists.

My own concern is that we really have left it all too late. Species are disappearing at an alarming rate, we are destroying habitats faster than at any time in history, and the resulting instability in the affected ecosystems is leading to a free-fall into disaster from which it will be almost impossible to recover.

I wonder how many conservationists truly believe that we can recover from the incredible damage we have done to our planet and its precious species of life. Of course, we have to be optimistic, but I was very disappointed to view scientists talking about populating other planets with earth species. If we have learnt anything, it is that a carefully balanced ecosystem takes thousands, if not millions, of years to emerge. The concept of taking earth species to a foreign environment would be nothing short of disastrous, not only for the destination, but for the species themselves.

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  • 16.
  • At 12:11 AM on 16 Jan 2007,
  • Paul Kirkley wrote:

The good news is that there is a way out of the mess that is leading to runaway global warming. The bad news is that it is unpleasant. The worse news is that the massive inertia built into all parts of human activity will ensure that too little can be done in time. The worst news is that there will be suffering for human beings and many other species on a scale that is simply unimaginable. When even concerned environmentalists talk about "working to prevent problems for our children" (without realising that having children contributes to the problem) and accepting that "developing solutions to global warming will be good for economic growth" (without accepting that economic growth IS the problem) then we know for certain that human civilisation is doomed.

It has been clear to me for over 10 years that energy use is at the root of the problem, and that the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics makes it clear that it is impossible to spend our way out of this crisis. We cannot use economic growth to solve the problem, because the economy can only grow with a cheap source of energy. We have used, and continue to use it, by extracting gigatonnnes of carbon sequestered millions of years ago and dumping it into the atmosphere. We now have no alternative. Every child born brings its own energy demand to the equation. Use of nuclear energy could supplant this for a while, as long as supplies of Uranium hold out, but in the medium term the only solution to global warming is a massive reduction in the human population. For that to take effect, we need to start NOW. When people ask "what can we do" the only civilised response possible is "have fewer babies". No technological, biological, political or economic fix is possible unless the human population is reduced.

Of course we can try all those other methods - but when it's too late, and they prove to have failed, the human population will be reduced anyway, by less the acceptable means listed in a previous post. It's even possible that human beings will fail to survive at all. We can however be confident that life will go on - at least for most of the population of the Earth - the bacteria. It will be a pity that the Universe will have lost all that Art, Science, literature, architecture, beauty, poetry, music, spirituality and happiness though.

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  • 17.
  • At 09:45 AM on 16 Jan 2007,
  • Paul Hubert wrote:

There's a lot of catastrophism here. I'm as depressed as the next man but I think more critical thinking is required. The runaway nuclear train has come close to the edge of the nuclear precipice but we have not had a thermonuclear war since the one in 1945. The burning of Kuwait's oil wells in 1991 and pollution of the Gulf did not lead to the immediately catastrophic outcomes predicted by many. Starvation has been predicted but despite the enormous increases in the world's human population there is more than enough food to go round - the problem is that it's not going round. You may think that Bush has a policy for war (so do I) but he may well not have the political base to go through with it. And so on - you know all this.
The reason I make these points is that there is a significant danger that overstating the case will not galvanise people into action. If people think it's hopeless the understandable response is 'Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we [may] die!" Some of the stuff about population risks carrying a very unpleasant subtext - in the richest nations which consume most of the resources reproduction is below replacement level and growth is mostly by immigration (overall from the poorer countries). Our fellow citizens will not respond to exhortations to a hairshirt life. What is needed is a political strategy that makes sense to people in the current context and respects everybody - i.e. it must be internationalist, democratic and anti-capitalist. With the discrediting of socialism in its 57 varieties this is a hard call and I'm not optimistic, but in my view it's the only way to go.

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  • 18.
  • At 05:26 PM on 16 Jan 2007,
  • Vukcevic wrote:

Even if we go back to the stone age level of CO2 production we may not be able to alter the Earth’s climate significantly (numerous geological records show higher temperature than those predicted even if we do nothing).
Human contribution may be significant but it is not only one. By far the greatest amount of CO2 is released by the world’s oceans; they are also the largest absorbers. The release of CO2 is not, but its absorption is affected by the Sun. Since 1900 there has been an increase in solar activity.The culprits are UV and gamma radiations reaching the oceans’ surface during periods of high sunspot activity. Increased solar activity results in an increase of the harmful radiation, reducing bio-mass of the oceans’ surface phytoplankton through process of sterilisation by irradiation. Result of this is reduced uptake of CO2 from the atmosphere and rising in the ‘green-house’ effect. There are already quantifiable evaluations of reduction in the efficiency of phytoplankton. Reverse process takes place during reductions in the solar activity causing global cooling end may even trigger onset of ice age (eg. solar activity was at a minimum between 1650-1710 and for decades was considerable cooling known as 'Little Ice Age').
As global temperature rises methane (which is about 20 times more ‘green-house’ effective than CO2) is released from the huge areas of semi-permafrost of North Canada and Siberia (soil is defrosted for longer periods in subsequent years) so its concentration in the atmosphere rises year by year and so on.
Whole process once triggered is self ‘fuelling’ and exponential in nature, this is reason why we now see the temperature changes much more rapid than predicted. We hope, as there are already some indications, that solar activity will be on the wane over next 80-120 or so years, but might take a 2-3 decades for the equilibrium to be established and the process eventually reversed.
Therefore it is more than likely that all our efforts to reduce the CO2 emissions may be pointless as far as arresting of global warming is concerned.


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  • 19.
  • At 02:13 PM on 16 Mar 2007,
  • Debbie Wickham wrote:

It baffles me that these enormous multi national companies are not better targeted - look at the amount of packaging for dog food and cat food for example - all huge companies manufacture this, when cats and dogs are not fed the correct food for their species. My own dogs are fed locally caught rabbits - so are my farm cats. Where is the sense in feeding dogs and cats grain?

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