Party Now, Apocalypse Later: The Last Days on Earth According to the UN’s climate change report

(IPCC) released a report on the state of the earth’s future and the impact of climate change on the world’s natural resources. To say the least, the report is incredibly damning, painting a world in which the effects of global warming has touched every person on this planet. It is a world where the divisions between rich and poor will be based on natural resources instead of personal wealth, and mass migration causes the obsolescence of state borders. Given the fact we are not going to change our ways anytime soon then we may as well party on while the liquor has not run out at this party yet.

Image courtesy of Nadine Barclay, ©2007, some rights reserved
Image courtesy of Nadine Barclay, ©2007, some rights reserved

The true extent of man0made pollution and commercial activities on the earth’s atmosphere has been noted and documented by environmentalists for decades who while they have been adamant that this growth was unsustainable and something would have to give. From the threshold of a rise in temperatures of 2 degrees during the next century has been dwarfed by new estimates of an increase of potentially 6-8 degrees, which consequently means the panel’s results will have to be adjusted by predicting consequences on an even greater larger and calamitous scale. In this vein, the 772 scientists on the IPCC add further proof to the pile, although the essence of the report moves away from the “tree hugging” language of the previous generation of environmentalists to that of pragmatism. Rather than setting emissions targets that will be blatantly ignored and belittled by industrial nations in order to prevent irreversible damage, the report claims we now need to look at survival methods for climate change. In the near-to-distant future, the adaption to these new climate patterns will offer a form of a coping mechanism to deal with challenges on both the international and local front.

At Sussex University, Dr Tol assesses the report as the words of “the four horsemen of the apocalypse”[1].

The IPCC report is not just the longest suicide note ever written for the planet, it also offers some contrastive tailored advice for the governments of each continent. For instance, Europe is increasingly more at risk of flooding and wildfires just like in North America; therefore, the correct response ought to include the introduction of new agriculture resistant to dramatic changes in the environment. In Africa, the changes in climate will lead to famine from lack of basic foods and water to the spread of possibly pandemic disease, as airborne insects start to migrate across greater spans whereas Asia will have to develop new means of early detection of natural disasters when tsunamis and hurricanes become the norm. The advice given to Australians specifically can be summed up by “relocation”, or in other words, finding alternative forms of housing, far removed from the beachfront. This last recommendation is a daunting prospect for an island nation even more so since this warning can be globally applicable for all other states with coastal shores and the possibility of seeing them permanently submerged and lost.

The article highlights some of the change that has already started to take place in the US where adaptations to future change in the climate have already been installed. The devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina in the state of New Orleans served as a tocsin for this new security threat America would have to face. Some states, the article applauds; trees are being planted in cities to ease the high temperatures in cities called the “urban heat island effect”[2] yet local policies such as these are largely insignificant in the face of the serious threat of climate change on a global scale. Such small-minded politicians with equally small-minded policies just appear to be playing the fiddle, on an admittedly cooler roof thanks to the reduced “urban heat”, while the blaze engulfs the city. Even global endeavours to mitigate climate change range from being misguided to being right embarrassments like the limpid carbon credit scheme where states can purchase the right to emit carbon dioxide or an equivalent. However, there are problems associated with the international regulation such an innovative business model and there are not any legal obligations to join meaning nations with high greenhouse emissions and flourishing trade have little incentive to undertake any reforms that could threaten economic growth. Making a business out of climate change is tricky work since the very notion of clean energy doesn’t exist and has never really ever existed beyond the realm of good PR work. Fuel is dirty. It is filthy. It is the reason we can drive our cars faster yet soon enough the petrol will be cheaper than the water needed for the car’s radiator.

Basically the old saying “we do not inherit the planet from our parents, we borrow it from our children” will become a reality when we reach the last stop of the generational line.

The inhabitants of Easter Island formed part of a prosperous community and built the now famous statues although the history o this remote island is now seen as a tale of precaution for modern societies. The statues are like an odd growth formation on the otherwise bare island that is devoid of any vegetation and are thus a testimony to island’s great past while similarly pointing to the bleak future its population faced. The statues mark the golden age for the inhabitants during a time of prosperity yet they were the cause of the demise when the every single tree was cut down in order to build the monuments at the cost of being able to build fishing boats or further dwellings. In the 21st century, we face the same challenges where the consequences of climate change are accepted truths instead of scare tactics. Like the Easter Islanders before us, we are figuratively and literally cutting down the last tree so we will have to live with the consequences of decisions made in the present in the future.



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