Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Illuminating our darkest hour
I wouldn't buy real estate in New Orleans or Miami if I were you, or Richmond BC near where I live, or Amsterdam or Shanghai, for that matter. They are all doomed. It is inevitable. Their decades are numbered.
The ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica, and the 2000+ glaciers of the Himalayas, are all melting, due of course to , and at an accelerating rate which astounds even experts. The sea level will rise by 1 meter (3.3 ft) within decades. When (not if) that happens, the above-named cities and more, many more, will be on the seaward side of new coastlines around the world. Even if we stopped and biofuels yesterday, this will still happen. If, on the other hand, we carry on "business as usual", even worse will descend upon the world, much much worse.
If/when Greenland's ice-sheet melts off, this alone will raise the sea level by 7 m (23 ft). Some argue that it would take Greenland some time to lose all its ice, but since ice is melting all over the world, it does not take a complete meltdown of the Greenland ice-sheet to raise the sea level by that amount. And when that happens, Boston, Providence, New Haven, New York City, Newark, Trenton, Camden, Philadelphia, Wilmington, Baltimore, Norfolk, the Outer Banks, Charleston, Savannah, Ft. Lauderdale, Baton Rouge, Lafayette, Lake Charles and Beaumont, to name just the cities in the U.S. east and southeast, will follow Miami and New Orleans, in whole or part, into the sea.
Way before then, however, global warming will have accelerated into runaway global heating due to massive release of methane from Arctic/subArctic permafrost thaw and oceanic methane clathrate degassing, which will drive all ice on Earth inexorably towards global meltdown, raising the sea level by 70 m (230 ft). This will eliminate not only cities but entire states, including New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, and eastern Texas - in the U.S. alone. Asia and Europe will suffer even greater losses. Australia will be reduced to a few islands. Hundreds of millions of people will be displaced worldwide, but to where?
By then, with methane generating its own devastating feedback loop, the global temperature will have risen upwards of 10oC/16oF. All these calamities, huge as they may be, will be relatively minor compared to the global loss of habitat and species. Canada may become wetter for a while, but what will be left of the U.S. will have little agricultural value, where famine will devour the ex-beef-guzzlers. The great will have become the great Amazon Desert, all 7 million species down the drain. The Sahara may become greener, but sub-Sahara Africa will dry out even more, all its magnificent wildlife a mere memory. The six rivers fed by the Himalayan glaciers, upon which 2 billion people depend, will dwindle to seasonal rain-driven flash floods at best. The oceans will have become so hot and acidic that over 90% of all marine species will have disappeared. The only "better" outcome would be an energy-oriented WW3, where quick death replaces prolonged agony.
Some with deficiencies in knowledge or foresight or altruism or conscience, or all of the above, whether or not they have children of their own, are often heard to say, "Even if all this will happen, it won't do so for decades and centuries, and certainly not in my lifetime, so why should I be concerned? What does it have to do with me today?"
I say to them, as bluntly as I can, that if we have one chance in a thousand at all to prevent this from happening, the time to take it is now. We have a window of opportunity no wider than 8 years (100 months), or two political terms, to set a new course for humanity. We have neither the time, nor the political terms, to waste. What this coming new presidency will do or won't do will determine the entire future of humankind, the survival of millions of species, and life on Earth itself.
And what do the candidates have in store for us that we can see? More of the same, or, given the likes of the despicable Sarah Palin, probably much worse. None of them, regardless of party, has a long term comprehensive plan that can take us out of the enormous hole we have dug for ourselves, but instead will likely allow the criminals against nature to drag the rest of us into even lower depths. Their populist approach makes them cowardly followers of the lowest common denominator of ignorance and greed, not visionary leaders by the knowledge and wisdom of our best and brightest.
Before this window of opportunity closes and shuts out our future forever, our best and brightest must shine for what they are worth to illuminate our only viable path in this our darkest hour.
Anthony Marr, founder and president
Heal Our Planet Earth (HOPE)