A draft copy of the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, obtained by The Observer, shows the frequency of devastating storms -like the ones that battered Britain last week - will increase dramatically. Sea levels will rise over the century by around half a metre; snow will disappear from all but the highest mountains; deserts will spread; oceans become acidic, leading to the destruction of coral reefs and atolls; and deadly heatwaves will become more prevalent.
The impact will be catastrophic, forcing hundreds of millions of people to flee their devastated homelands, particularly in tropical, low-lying areas, while creating waves of immigrants whose movements will strain the economies of even the most affluent countries.
'The really chilling thing about the IPCC report is that it is the work of several thousand climate experts who have widely differing views about how greenhouse gases will have their effect. Some think they will have a major impact, others a lesser role. Each paragraph of this report was therefore argued over and scrutinised intensely. Only points that were considered indisputable survived this process. This is a very conservative document - that's what makes it so scary,' said one senior UK climate expert.
My goodness! As Bush still mulls over whether or not to believe that climate change is real, to the point where even the business lobby is begging him to recognize scientific fact, nothing is being done about it. As we continue to ignore the existence of this problem, the oncoming crisis only worsens.
So of course, as Washington fails to act, this will only continue to haunt us.
Although the final wording of the report is still being worked on, the draft indicates that scientists now have their clearest idea so far about future climate changes, as well as about recent events. It points out that:
· 12 of the past 13 years were the warmest since records began;
· ocean temperatures have risen at least three kilometres beneath the surface;
· glaciers, snow cover and permafrost have decreased in both hemispheres;
· sea levels are rising at the rate of almost 2mm a year;
· cold days, nights and frost have become rarer while hot days, hot nights and heatwaves have become more frequent.
And the cause is clear, say the authors: 'It is very likely that [man-made] greenhouse gas increases caused most of the average temperature increases since the mid-20th century,' says the report.
To date, these changes have caused global temperatures to rise by 0.6C. The most likely outcome of continuing rises in greenhouses gases will be to make the planet a further 3C hotter by 2100, although the report acknowledges that rises of 4.5C to 5C could be experienced. Ice-cap melting, rises in sea levels, flooding, cyclones and storms will be an inevitable consequence.
So are we ready for entire islands to disappear? Are we ready for more Hurricane Katrinas? Are we ready for more bizarre heatwaves in the midst of winter? Are we ready for entire climate patterns to be turned on their heads? Are we ready for mass human displacement? Are we ready for an instant refugee crisis?
Are we ready for the greatest global catastrophe in recent human history?
And must we make this our ultimate fate?
I am still hopeful that this does not have to be our ultimate fate. There are many things that we can do NOW to halt this oncoming catastrophe. We have the technology to make our automobiles more fuel-efficient. Heck, the plans are already being drawn! We have the technology to power our homes and our lives with clean, renewable energy. Heck, Congress just made the first step in the right direction by voting to redirect federal funds into investing in a sustainable energy future! We have the capabilities to be more energy efficient, and to power our planet with clean, renewable energy.
I just hope that we see more action. Obviously, climate change is the greatest environmental crisis facing us today. However, it is not just an environmental crisis. As it may cause a loss of many of our natural resources, as well as population shifts throughout the world, it may very well be the greatest global security crisis of the 21st century. This will alter how natural resources are distributed throughout the planet, so expect strife. Expect bloody warfare. Expect humanitarian crises...
Unless you are ready to take action and solve this problem.
(Cross-posted at Daily Kos, at My Left Wing, and at NION)