What have you done today to lower your impact?

We are washing away the foundations of our existence on every front. It is high time we move from crashing about on the planet like a bull in china shop and find a way to go forward with intent. We must find systems of living based on sustainability. The systems and tools exist, it is up to each of us to adopt them.

Blog Archive

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Is it too late?

When I heard that massive plumes of methane were bubbling up from the sea bottom in the southern hemisphere, not to mention from the bottom of Arctic lakes, I almost gave up. "That's it", I thought. "We're doomed."

After a few days of a gloomy funk I decided that even so, I have a responsibility to future generations to limit the extent of the damage by continuing to work towards sustainability in my own life and to promote sustainability wherever I can.

That combination is key. As I improve my own carbon footprint in my own life I will choose methods that increase my resiliency and help me adapt to the warming world. At the same time, I increase my resiliency by helping others to do the same, as no man is an island. Resiliency depends on community.

But what about the governments of the countries I live in? The US, the UK, and Bermuda are all successful developed countries. What are they doing? What should they be doing?
As I am not as informed as George Monbiot on this topic I suggest you read this essay by Mr. Monbiot over at the Guardian.

If we behave as if it's too late, then our prophecy is bound to come true

However unlikely success might be, we can't afford to abandon efforts to cut emissions - we just don't have any better option

Here is an excerpt;

"Until recently, scientists spoke of carbon concentrations - and temperatures - peaking and then falling back. But a recent paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows that "climate change ... is largely irreversible for 1,000 years after emissions stop". Even if we were to cut carbon emissions to zero today, by the year 3000 our contribution to atmospheric concentrations would decline by just 40%. High temperatures would remain more or less constant until then. If we produce it, we're stuck with it.

In the rich nations we will muddle through, for a few generations, and spend nearly everything we have on coping. But where the money is needed most there will be nothing. The ecological debt the rich world owes to the poor will never be discharged, just as it has never accepted that it should offer reparations for the slave trade and for the pillage of gold, silver, rubber, sugar and all the other commodities taken without due payment from its colonies. Finding the political will for crash cuts in carbon production is improbable. But finding the political will - when the disasters have already begun - to spend adaptation money on poor nations rather than on ourselves will be impossible.

The world won't adapt and can't adapt: the only adaptive response to a global shortage of food is starvation. Of the two strategies it is mitigation, not adaptation, which turns out to be the most feasible option, even if this stretches the concept of feasibility to the limits. As Dieter Helm points out, the action required today is unlikely but "not impossible. It is a matter ultimately of human wellbeing and ethics".

Yes, it might already be too late - even if we reduced emissions to zero tomorrow - to prevent more than 2C of warming; but we cannot behave as if it is, for in doing so we make the prediction come true. Tough as this fight may be, improbable as success might seem, we cannot afford to surrender."

No comments: