Monday, July 13, 2009

Facing climate change: collapse or maturity?

The planet's future: Climate change 'will cause civilisation to collapse'

Jonathan Owen, The Independent: An effort on the scale of the Apollo mission that sent men to the Moon is needed if humanity is to have a fighting change of surviving the ravages of climate change. The stakes are high, as, without sustainable growth, 'billions of people will be condemned to poverty and much of civilisation will collapse.' This is the stark warning from the biggest single report to look at the future of the planet...

The global recession has lowered the State of the Future Index for the next 10 years. Half the world could face violence and unrest due to severe unemployment combined with scarce water, food and energy supplies and the cumulative effects of climate change... 'The scope and scale of the future effects of climate change -- ranging from changes in weather patterns to loss of livelihoods and disappearing states -- has unprecedented implications for political and social stability.'

But the authors suggest the threats could also provide the potential for a positive future... 'The good news is that the global financial crisis and climate change planning may be helping humanity to move from its often selfish, self-centred adolescence to a more globally responsible adulthood... Many perceive the current economic disaster as an opportunity to invest in the next generation of greener technologies, to rethink economic and development assumptions, and to put the world on course for a better future.'

Scientific and technological progress continues to accelerate... But technological progress carries its own risks. 'Globalisation and advanced technology allow fewer people to do more damage and in less time.'... The report also praises the Web, which it singles out as 'the most powerful force for globalisation, democratisation, economic growth, and education in history.'...

The immediate problems are rising food and energy prices, shortages of water and increasing migrations 'due to political, environmental and economic conditions' which could plunge half the world into social instability and violence. And organised crime is flourishing, with a global income estimated at $3 trillion -- twice the military budgets of all countries in the world combined.

The effects of climate change are worsening -- by 2025 there could be three billion people without adequate water as the population rises still further. And massive urbanisation, increased encroachment on animal territory, and concentrated livestock production could trigger new pandemics.

Image from animated Climate Time Machine.