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Planet Earth Under Threat

Raining Hell on Earth - The Chant of Certainty

  • Julian Hector
  • 3 Nov 06, 09:32 AM

stern-report.jpg

On Thursday 31st October Sir Nicholas Stern published his report on The Economics of Climate Change. This review is a bitter pill to swallow but I suspect no surprise to you if you have kept up with this blog. But climate change isn't the only thing effecting the ability of our earth to support life. We're killing forests, poisoning our rivers, fishing out the seas - the entirety of which is raining hell on Earth.

I met someone for dinner the other night who lives in Wales (UK) who told me an enchanting story. He rides home on a bike 8 miles each night through tranquil and soft green Wales countryside. Last May he saw a fledgling sparrow in the middle of the road, which he picked up and tried to put back on the verge. The sparrow wouldn't let go and actually ran up his arm and sat perched on his shoulder for the rest of the ride. Ade blogged about this on his company blog and got loads of response. This tale told me that we must hang on to our real encounters with the natural world and really treasure the moments life around us can give. Our radio and TV audiences love stories that relate to people and wildlife - And these things matter in our life. The small, gentle things that give us insight into mother nature, and dare I say - our human condition too.

So the Stern Review. 40% of the worlds species gone in the next 50 years if the world increases by 2 degrees C. 200 million people at risk of losing their homes through flooding or drought. Africa will basically be a continental desert if temperatures go up by 3 degrees. 4 billion people could suffer from water shortages if temperatures rises by 2 degrees. 60 million more Africans could be exposed to malaria if temperatures rise by 2 degrees. And, by the end of 2100, if temperatures have gone up by 6 degrees we will be on a path to total extinction - to match any extinction event in Earths story over 4 billion years. There's a strong degree of certainty about this.

The human race are felling trees as if there's no tomorrow. We're fishing unsustainably over the worlds oceans - knocking out the top predators in the process. We're polluting the ground and fresh waterways in a way that no one knows what the long term toxicological effects will be. And we're turning wilderness into farmland and losing top soil to the sea at an alarming rate. There's a strong degree of certainty about this too.

It's funny, as people we like certainty. We all strive towards it. We want stable homes, food to eat, water to drink - an income. We look for reassurance at work and in our relationships - And in our religions. A quest for certainty motivates much of what we do. Even radicalism is rooted in a quest for certainty.

I had a fascinating conversation with a colleague who said, since the last ice age, people emerged as unhappy people. The ice age brain was basically an unhappy one - and we're the desendants. They were pre-wired to deal with adversity (presumably their ancestros who survived the ice age had to deal with huge climatic challenges to survive). And we are too - predisposed to deal with challenges. We go out and look for them. The reasoning being, that we actually want problems to solve - we don't have a sense of contentment without a need in our midst...we no longer live in Eden and are really only approaching happiness when we have adversity to conquer.

That lovely little story of Ade and his sparrow shows us, I think, where our sense of comfort comes from. Connection with Nature. Religion recognises this too. Listen to Gardens of Faith on BBC Radio 4 this Sunday.

But we seek certainty and we like to face challenges as people.

Well, we have the mother of all challenges on our door step, and it has all the hallmarks of certainty attached to it. We're raining hell on the earth and we can hear the chant of certainty. We're trashing the Earth and it's getting into a critical downward sprial. The challenge is here and I sense the penny is dropping.

One of the great things out of the Stern report is a recognition to build the cost of externalities into economic models. Just as we have written about on the PEuT blog and EO Wilson has talked about: The free ecosystem services amounting to 10's of trillion $ have to be paid for in the global economy - these are externalities, currently free and up for grabs in economic thinking. 1% of the global GDP will help with fighting climate change - paying for these free services provided by the earth.. A one-off payment first.

Go on, how do we do it? How do we live the dream for everyone on Earth to re-connect with Nature and make friends with that little sparrow like Ade did. Can you hear the chant of certainty and a sense there's the biggest challenge to face humanity on our door step?

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I do not want to repeat it but we are also converting our Earth into another Venus.

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  • 2.
  • At 09:29 PM on 04 Nov 2006,
  • Julian Hector wrote:

The penny is dropping I think. There's a growing call to action across many fields, walks of life and people. I think injecting ecology into economic models will be a darn good start.

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  • 3.
  • At 02:00 AM on 06 Nov 2006,
  • Tom Wilson wrote:

You are right that weaving the lives of our animal neighbours into the human conversation will be increasingly important in the coming years. My friend Peter Adams is a sculptor and environmentalist in Tasmania, Australia, who does just that. For example, read his recent blog: http://www.windgrove.com/ee/index.php
Things are bad, but Martin Luther King didn't say I HAVE A NIGHTMARE on that fateful day did he? If you want to inspire people keep that secret weapon on the go: optimism. I try to in my blog:
http://www.tmwilson.org/blog

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  • 4.
  • At 08:20 PM on 07 Nov 2006,
  • john cooknell wrote:

Why do I feel uncomfortable with this report,

Professor Stern worked for the World Bank, he would understand about human degradation the policies and theory's practiced by the world bank have, arguably, been responsible for more debt, abject poverty and resultant deaths that large parts of the developed world have had to endure. Hardly a recommendation.

Environmentalists want to restrict the way we act and behave, we should always be suspicious of anyone who wishes to restrict our freedoms, however well intentioned they may appear, "the road to hell is paved with good intentions"

Politicians invariably pick the wrong course of action, trying to reduce CO2 levels they are already responsible for us being dependent on Russian Gas for our survival, rather than British Coal, (will our children thank us for that!)

Climate Scientists cannot even accurately predict the weather next week, let alone 50 years into the future.

I can understand our desire to "save the planet" and our interest in all things Low Carbon, we believe if we live our lives a little better, then all will be well, this is our nature, every human civilisation has worshipped the gods of the planet, it appears we are no different.

Unfortunately the planet doesn't care, we cannot engineer the planets climate, it is futile to try, but it makes us feel better if we try. What strange creatures we are!

John Cooknell

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Why don't these people get their priorities right. You can't have an economy without a planet.

Sir Nicholas Stern is right though about catastrophic changes but we don't need climate models to know what they are because it's all in The Bible in plain simple english.

The Global Meltown Domino Effect is supported by both science and scripture and can be seen by following this link.

http://www.redsky.uk.net/global.cfm

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  • 6.
  • At 02:06 PM on 08 Nov 2006,
  • Paul O'Rourke wrote:

John Cooknell is right. Only politicians and scientists with an agenda have the arrogance to believe that they can change the inevitable. Global warming and global cooling will always continue to happen despite mankind not because of it.

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  • 7.
  • At 11:17 PM on 08 Nov 2006,
  • john cooknell wrote:

A thought for all climate catastrophe believers.

If industrial human civilisation had developed 12000 years earlier than it did, around about the end of the last glacial period.

At this time the whole ice cap across the Northern Hemisphere melted in 100 years with a 10 degree temp rise.

It is certain that humankind would have thought that this melting was due to things they had done, when in fact it was natural.

Climate Scientists do not know the cause of this meltdown, even though it happened a relatively short time ago.

In early human civilisations future climate (weather) was predicted by delving through the entrails of a sacrificed goat, I contend that the climate computer models are probably not any more accurate.

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Last night, The World Tonight (Radio 4, 2006-11-08 at 10pm) broadcast a humorous item about one of their reporters who is trying to reduce his carbon emissions. See "Help Gabriel Go Greener" at
www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/news/worldtonight/comments.shtml

I didn't manage to get my response onto the Have Your Say page. However, it was published on the Radio 4 Message Board, 'The Choice Is Yours'. Please see thread number 3663838 dated 2006-11-09, if you are interested.

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It is terrible to see the destruction we are doing to this planet and yet we care more about oil or terrorism than the future of where the whole of the human race lives. The best we can do - and we must do something - is recycle and encourage others to. We should pressure the Government into lowering pollution. Then we could pressure the US and China to sign up to Kyoto and force them to lower emissions to the right levels. It will be a lot easier to get the US to sign up to it now because they have a Democratic House and senate. I recycle, and even though I should recycle everything, at least I and others are doing something. I would encourage others on this blog to as well for the sake of the planet.

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  • 10.
  • At 08:52 PM on 18 Nov 2006,
  • Chris Richards wrote:

I strongly disagree with chemical polloution which is clearly Mans' doing. However the "shock- horror"
brigade do not help the situation by causing panic people who do not have the resources to research and verify what these panic-mongers spread.

Like Mr Wooler, I recycle as much as I am able: bottles, glass, paper etc. However I often wonder how much it actually costs to recylce all these products in terms of energy used to do so. ( In any case if I remember my Physics lessons, I was told that energy could neither be made or destroyed- just transferred- look at photosenthysis-converting CO2 in to O2 and Energy and Sugar for future energy.)

I accept the argument about items which cannot decay, such as plastic bottles need to be reused but to actually clean and refill such items will probably as enviromentally expensive as creating them.

With reference to the Global Warming aspect, I too and sceptical about the words of doom and gloom that the media like to belch out. I seem to recall in the 1960 & 70's every one was talking about the planet going in to the next ice-age; 30 years later there is paranoia about the whole world in melt down.

Has anyone ever studied Geology to any level? Just to take this Country as an example, we can show that over the miilions of years this planet has been in existence, the weather conditions have ranged from sub tropical to ice-age and back again. One only has to look at East Anglia to see that at one stage the Wash was a far greater area than now, also parts of the Norfolk Broads were infact under water.
The same can be said about Dudley West Midlands.

The interesting thing about Dudley's Geology is that we can show that in the Creatious (sorry about spelling) Age the whole area was under the best part of a Mile of water and from the fossils of the plants and sea inhabitants, Trilobites in particular, which are only capable of living in great depths of water and need sub-tropical conditions in which the flora which feeds them can survive. There is also evidence of Molluscs which also needed cooler water to survive.

Meanwhile back in East Anglia, there is evidence of Flora and Fauna which are also found in other parts of the country. Animals and plants do become extinct, we know that because we haven't seen a dinosaur for some time ( some would argue about the Political scene but...) and certain plants are no longer seen either.

The World is an ever changing place, it has been around for a hell of a long time, and the human race will become extinct long before the world explodes in to the sun. The problem with humans we have no grasp of geological time. Most people have difficulty handling 100 years as a concept, let alone a couple million years.

Yes there is one certainty, we will all die- but can we just cut the shock-horror mellow-dramatics. If its any consolation to the merchants of doom and gloom, in a couple of trillion years time, upon its current trajectory the Planet Mercuary will crash in to the sun, a few trillion years later, Earth and Mars will follow: now that will be global warming !


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  • 11.
  • At 08:13 PM on 30 Nov 2006,
  • J.Gordon wrote:

Couldn't agree more with everything that Julian Hector writes in his piece 'raining hell on earth'. From an objective point of view, looking at the human race as an 'outsider', I would say that we became too successful for our own good, - no natural predators, we bred until the natural world could no longer sustain us and took over the planet to the detriment of every other living thing around us = extinction. (comparable to animals that become a pest ? e.g. vermin).

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  • 12.
  • At 10:26 PM on 02 Dec 2006,
  • nigel deacon wrote:

the stern report was commissioned by h.m. treasury.

impartial and objective?

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  • 13.
  • At 02:44 PM on 03 Dec 2006,
  • Nic Cote wrote:

What bizarre comments I've just read. Something about how the Earth is going to crash into the sun in several trillion years, so why worry about the end of the world, the human race and other species now?!!
Does this mean that at 29 years old, that if I catch some life threatening disease, I shouldn't bother seeing the doctor, and just wait to die, therefore forfeiting the remainder of my promising life? As for comment number 7, I understand that no scientific evidence exists to disprove the idea that we are the cause of this current temperature change, despite large amounts of money going into studies from conglomerates who would benefit from proving this idea. Instead there are many papers supporting the idea that we are to blame. The current temperature change is far beyond those of history and natural cycles. There is no doubt that global warming does also occur by natural means, but why compound the problem? The previous rise in temperatures appear to correlate with raised naturally occurring carbon levels. Now we are artificially creating this effect which is clearly avoidable. Anyhow, shouldn't we assume that we are the culprits whether we are or not? If there's ANY potential solution to the issue, should we not consider and try it? The world's population has never been what it is now. Is it not obvious that that will have an impact? Strange ideas from some people, and I have no idea what the motivation behind them are, other than denial or stupidity.

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as a follow-up to my (perhaps) cynical comment - we shouldn't need the planet to overheat to realise that we're consuming too much.

but we need informed comment, not debate driven by politicians.

incidentally - do any members of the cabinet understand the issues? is there a scientist among them? can they tell a kilowatt from a kilogram?


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  • 15.
  • At 10:16 AM on 09 Dec 2006,
  • Joe Jones wrote:

Interesting that Gordon Brown, in his Pre-Budget Report, decided to ignore Sir Nicholas altogether, who then resigned:

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,17129-2493206.html

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  • 16.
  • At 12:16 AM on 12 Dec 2006,
  • William Lee wrote:

How do we us current momentum of Stern etc to precipatate a quick, as opposed to probably inevitably slow, compromise political response? All people must be informed and ideally frightened in to realisation of the Inconvenient Truth - can the film of that name be translated in to all foreign languages, and indeed the excellent Radion 4 programme Earth Under Threat, that quielty draws you to the conclusion we need a revolution now to stand a chance of survival as a species? I owe it to my 5 and 6 year old and their unfortunate children perhaps one day. We led the world in to the fossil fuel age with the Industrial Revolution and wll need to lead it out as a tiny part of it. We need a Churchill - inspiration backed by a nation at common purpose. There will be no room for bleatings about loss of sharehlder value and too much cost up front. I think we should ban avation in say 3 years, and give the generall middle class working people in developed nations all over the world an extra weeks holiday to travel. We similalry set deadlines for all non-efficient buildings, cars etc so industry has target dates to adapt to. All new housing from now, not 2016 needs to be carbon neutral or nearly. We must ban all future oil exploration. Food packaging in plastic will simply be banned, and we will have to return to distribution points for refills etc. A short term inconvenient revoultion indeed, but one we should all acquire purpose in rallying around as in a war, for the greater long term good. Am I too radical? what less can we get away with? Will the silent majority like me to date rise up and tell our friends, the government and the world, backing our scientists, or will we bow to ignorance, poverty of thought, greed, procrastination and head burying in the sand? The prognosis is not good. How do we encourgae each other to believe there is hope when I see little evidence of material action in short shrift? How do we get the world leaders together? This is a potential vote winner!

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  • 17.
  • At 10:22 PM on 14 Dec 2006,
  • Justin wrote:

Watch out for the Great Santorini that the Krakatoa Volcano sits in. All of Nature's abnormalities, unnatural behavior in recent years are all winding down back to the center of the world in a whirlpool of materializing fear that something is very wrong. It is more of a spiritual force than physical, due to its last eruption only being recorded as myth. It is the heart of the world, and our growing unkindness and frustration is giving it fuel for new steam... A New Eruption...

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  • 18.
  • At 11:27 PM on 16 Dec 2006,
  • Arden wrote:

I agree something radical needs to start now, not in 2016 (I think the gesture by Gordon Brown means leave it to someone else therefore proving himself to be far less than a clunking fist ,more a boy in a mans job).How about restricting private car ownership(one car per family ),or being able to use a car one day a week only,encouraging working from home over Broadband ,not closing local Post Offices but encouraging the use of them by locals,start to reverse the domination of supermarkets (and therefore use of cars)by tax breaks to local farms markets and shopkeepers.Ration electricity and gas with meters that trip once daily quota has been reached (it will stop people watching garbage on TV and offspring vegetating on games consoles).Stop globalisation, exporting manufacture to China may be good for shareholders but it does nothing for the world environment and the loss of direcr control of the polution ,........the list is endless.

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  • 19.
  • At 02:48 PM on 30 May 2007,
  • Patrick Kenehan wrote:

I do hope that what I am about to write does not give offence. I beleive that Homo sapiens is an abberation as in the human body, the cancer cell is an abberation. I beleive that we are no more able to help ourselves than is the cancer cell able to cure itself. The cancer cell will destroy it's host body, just follow through with the analogy.
Man cannot change his Nature!

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