you are feeling upbeat about life, I have the medicine: read a copy
of the Stern Report. The report, commissioned by the UK government
and written by Sir Nicholas Stern, former chief economist at the
World Bank, focuses on the potential impact of climate change. It
is gloomy reading. In short, we are destroying the planet and dramatic
climate change is on the way. Stern concludes that the scientific
evidence is now overwhelming: climate change is a serious global
threat, and it demands an urgent global response.
increase of 2 oC when living in the freezing northern hemisphere
might seem like a blessing, but it is no laughing matter. According
to Stern, carbon emissions have already pushed up global temperatures
by half a degree. If no action is taken, there is a 75% chance that
global temperatures will rise by between 2 oC and 3 oC over the
next 50 years. There is a 50% chance they could rise 5 oC.
might be great for sunbathing in some parts of the world, but in
others the consequences will be dire. Climate change will affect
access to water, food production, health and the environment, with
hundreds of millions of people suffering hunger, water shortages
and coastal flooding. Poorer countries will disproportionally feel
these effects. By the middle of the century, 200-million people
may become permanently displaced owing to rising sea levels, floods
and droughts. Melting glaciers could increase the risk of flood
to small islands and cities like Tokyo, New York, Cairo and London.
Around 15% to 40% of species will potentially face extinction after
only 2 oC of warming, not to mention ocean acidification, which
will destroy marine ecosystems and many fish stocks, and so the
report goes on. Stern also weighs up the economic impact. He notes
that extreme weather could reduce global GDP by up to 1%. A 2 oC
to 3 oC rise in temperatures could reduce global economic output
by 3%, and a 5 oC temperature rise could mean up to 10% of global
output being lost. The worse-case scenario is a 20% fall in global
consumption for every person.
course, scientists have known all this for some time, but, typically,
humans only take notice of something when it bashes down their own
door. Even when this happens, we spend much time thinking of someone
else to blame. Rich countries like to argue that it is poor, developing
countries that are poisoning the atmosphere with their drive toward
development and less sophisticated technologies. Developing countries,
in turn, argue that it is the industrialised countries that are
to blame, with their mass consumption and production. And you and
I do little because we suffer from the delusion that our own consumption
of fuels or recycling of waste is a drop in the proverbially acidifying
ocean. So the cycle continues.
is unequivocal that all are at fault and all have a role to play
in averting catastrophe. Consumer demand for heavily polluting goods
and services must be curtailed, global energy supply needs to be
more efficient and reduced, deforestation reversed, and cleaner
energy and transport technology promoted. These might sound like
grand ideas beyond individual reach and the responsibility of governments,
but charity, or, in this case, saving the planet, starts at home.
So here comes the lecture: ditch the petrol-guzzling car and try
walking somewhere, for a change, splash out a few extra bucks on
energy-efficient appliances, recycle your waste, turn off lights
and do not leave electrical appliances on standby, shower instead
of bath and, while you're at it, get one of those little wind-up
chargers for your cellphone and get winding. Being an ecowarrior
is no longer the preserve of a few nutters on the fringe; it is
*To download the Stern Report visit http://tinyurl.com/vgzxv.
Hamber writes the column "Look South": an analysis
of trends in global political, social and cultural life and its
relevance to South Africa on Polity, see http://www.polity.co.za/pol/opinion/brandon/.
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