Last week I met a man.
He was average sized, average looking and in his early sixties. Yet he had the confidence and poise of a man in his later years who has travelled the world, talked with eminent people and experienced both joy and despair. A natural warmth and friendliness emanated when he spoke. I wondered whether he ever relaxed with his feet up on an old stool whilst reading the newspaper, sipping tea and glancing at Match of the Day; a man comfortable in his retirement.
But I doubt it, because I saw fear in his eyes.
His name is Paul Brown and he worries for the existence of the human race.
Paul has spent his life working as a journalist in the UK. For the last sixteen years he worked as the environment correspondent for The Guardian one of the most respected newspapers in the country. He has talked with politicians and scientists the world over, he has read and written article after article all indicating one thing; the human race is on the edge of a major disaster, possibly even extinction. Not today, not tomorrow but sometime soon the earth will be plunged in irreversible climate change that will cause chaos, starvation, death and destruction.
The climate is already changing. Have you noticed? Maybe you haven’t. Maybe you thought that the freak hurricanes like Katrina, the droughts in Africa and even here in the UK the increased flooding and flash floods were just isolated natural incidents in our long history.
The evidence suggests that they are not.
This is just the beginning of a changing world which if we don’t act fast will change irreversibly, forever.
Paul was giving a talk to a local society; he lives in the same area as I do. We’re lucky we live in central England, far from the seas and with a temperate climate. This is still our Green and Pleasant land. Here, in our little oasis the impact of global warming will take longer to reach but reach it will for this is not a disaster that will only affect only the Third World it will affect us all. Its grasping fingers will reach to the core of civilizations with an ever tightening, ever destructive hold.
Paul explained that there is a 30 year delay in the accumulation of greenhouse gases so that in 2038 we will still be suffering from increasing temperatures caused by present omissions. The effect of this will be continued melting of the ice caps and rising sea levels. At the same time, the decreasing land masses will be affected by aridity and expansion of the deserts. Extreme weather will cause immense flooding. Climatic chaos will reign.
These huge environmental disasters will in turn trigger economic difficulties affecting each and every one of us. Power and food supplies will be threatened. There will be economic migration as whole towns and cities are forced to move as their homes and livelihoods become victims of the elements. Low lying islands and even some great cities will fall prey to increasing sea levels. Whole civilizations and cultures will either be displaced or die.
It is not the first time civilizations have died. We know that; history is awash with societies that have been wiped out. But this time round it maybe on a much grander scale. For whatever we choose to believe we are now a global community. We have abused our resources, our ecosystem and our planet and now we will suffer the consequences of our actions as a global community.
For those of us, like me, for whom the impact will come later the changes will also pose serious moral questions. Where will the homeless go? Will neighbours who have fought over land, religion and seemingly irreconcilable differences suddenly change? Or will we all fight over food and resources? Will we as a society perpetuate the very selfishness that has brought us to the very point or will we work together as a global community to save our world?
Your guess is as good as mine.
Have I scared you? Good. Because it is time we all woke up and worked towards to preserving the future not just for children or our children’s children but for us. Right here, right now. There is still time to change our ways and change we must. For time IS running out.
The good news is that all over the world scientists and engineers are working on numerous projects to help counteract the effects of warming. Realistically, Paul believes there is a 10 year window of opportunity for society to stabilize greenhouse emissions. Whilst temperatures will still continue to rise for the next thirty years we can limit the impact beyond that if we act quickly. We can, if we put our minds to it and act as a global community, put into place some of these ideas and inventions. We can make a difference to our future. We can bring about change.
If we want to.
If we care enough.
If we stop being selfish.
This means that Governments all over the world will have to choose between human survival and short term political expediency. The British Government is already working upon a new Climate Change Bill. However, Paul suggests that The Bill and indeed the actions of politicians and governments the world over do not go far enough. It is now the responsibility of every individual to conserve resources and pressurize politicians into making more fundamental changes.
Each one of us must think about our daily lives and what we can do to alter the fate that awaits us. Have we done as much as we could? I know I haven’t. I’ve been recycling for a number of years but yes there’s been times when I couldn’t be bothered to clean a dirty tin and I’ve put it in the normal household waste. I’ve driven a car that consumed too much petrol. I’ve left lights unnecessarily on because I couldn’t be bothered to check whether the children had switched them off.
But not any more because my conscience will not let me.
Maybe there is something more you can do too. Maybe you could recycle more, walk when you could drive, replace your car, invest in green technology or lobby politicians. The list is endless.
Let your conscience lead you too. Maybe together we can make a difference.
Paul has published a book called Global Warning; The Last Chance for Change which has already been a bestseller in the United States. If you only get the chance to buy one book this year, this should be the one; read it and learn what the future holds.
The time has come to act and act we must.
Before it is too late.
Copyright Jane Turley 2008