August 26, 2008
Scientists have been warning us for the past 20 years about the consequences of rising temperatures for the earth’s biosphere, forecasting increasing loss of biodiversity, more frequent epidemics, hurricanes and droughts.
So far with little avail! Humanity continues business as usual, brushing aside local or regional disasters as the unavoidable by-effects of “economic development” that continues to be the overriding priority for business and policy makers across the globe.
As long as disasters remain isolated events, not related to long-term climate change, the human species will march on, little impressed with what is happening somewhere on the planet.
It is therefore laudable that prestigious international media like the International Herald Tribune or the Economist do focus on the sometimes dramatic, though not massively visible changes that are taking place.
Here are two examples taken at random, the explosion of jelly fish in the seas and the advance of the pine beetle in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. Both phenomena are linked to rising – sea or air – temperatures, though other man-made factors also intervene like over-fishing, which offers jelly fish more plankton to feed on and therefore higher chances of survival.
The trouble is that European vacationers on the Mediterranean coast do not realise that Australian, African or Russian tourists sea bathers are also stung by them. They ignore that the average temperature of the Mediterranean has risen by two centigrade during the past 30 years, a terrifying pace of change. Only when jelly fish will invade most MED beaches might people realise that tourism, their major livelihood is in serious danger. By then the damage may have become irreparable.
The pine beetle in the Rocky Mountains has devastated an area greater Britain, advancing steadily and first hardly noticed to ever new parts of the immense forest lands, a consequence of milder winters, which enhance the chances of the larva to survive the winter.
We need to listen to many similar stories about rising numbers of tornadoes in the Middle West, hurricanes in the Florida Keys and the Caribbean, persistent drought in Cyprus and Israel or the dying of coral riffs in the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean, before world leaders will finally wake up and take effective action against climate ever rising C02 emissions.
Hopefully, the dramatic changes taking place around us– from jelly fish explosion to rampant pine beetles and massive deforestation of tropical forests – will at last motivate world leaders to take draconian action at the World Climate Conference in December 2009, at Copenhagen. So far the odds are not in favour of an effective global climate strategy. If we miss the boat, our children and grandchildren will never pardon the present generation!