Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Climate change: This is our future

Last week, typhoon Haiyan swept over the Philippines, killing an estimated 10,000 people. Haiyan was the strongest storm on record, and the Philippines government has been quite clear: its strength and the devastation it caused are due to climate change:

The Philippines government has firmly connected the super typhoon Haiyan with climate change, and urged governments meeting in Poland on Monday to take emergency action to resolve the deadlocked climate talks.

"We cannot sit and stay helpless staring at this international climate stalemate. It is now time to take action. We need an emergency climate pathway," said Yeb Sano, head of the government's delegation to the UN climate talks, in an article for the Guardian, in which he challenged climate sceptics to "get off their ivory towers" to see the impacts of climate change firsthand.


"What my country is going through as a result of this extreme climate event is madness," he told delagates from 190 countries, as UN climate negotiations get underway for a fortnight today in Warsaw. "The climate crisis is madness. We can stop this madness. Right here in Warsaw. Typhoons such as Haiyan and its impacts represent a sobering reminder to the international community that we cannot afford to procrastinate on climate action..

"Science tells us that simply, climate change will mean more intense tropical storms. As the Earth warms up, that would include the oceans. The energy that is stored in the waters off the Philippines will increase the intensity of typhoons and the trend we now see is that more destructive storms will be the new norm.".

I'd like to think that this disaster and its pile of corpses will cause the rich countries of the world to change their policies, accept responsibility, and start seriously reducing their emissions. But I doubt it. The American government doesn't care how many Filipinos die. Hell, judging by their response to Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy they don't care how many Americans die either. They're elected by and for the rich, and deaths are just an externality (if not an opportunity) to them.

Meanwhile, National Geographic has a dramatic visualisation of the world we're making, with a map of what the world would look like if all the ice melted. It's horrifying, promising disruption on a mass scale. Whole countries would cease to exist, a billion people would be displaced, and vast areas of farmland would be inundated. in New Zealand, it would mean all our major cities would be underwater, along with much of the Waikato, Canterbury Plains, and Manawatu. We're having enough trouble dealing with the Christchurch earthquakes, let alone that.

This is our future, the world our inaction is making. We can change it. But first, we need to change our politicians. People young enough to realise that they will be personally affected would be a start.