Tuesday, 13 December 2011

COP 17 - Get Ready for That Ice Age People

For those who don't know (shame on you) the Climate Change Conference being held in Durban, Cop 17, has just finished. It ran a day or so over schedule and according to press achieved "just enough in its dying hours" to make good. The Kyoto Protocol, which holds Developed Nations to emission reducing targets, was extended to 2018. And the Green Climate Fund was agreed on. $100bn a year for developing and least developed nations to help them make change. - What determines what makes a Nation 'developed'?? Good transport? Education? Government in power who don't kill their opposers?

I dunno. A quote I read somewhere springs to mind, something about no big ideas or world changing inventions ever coming as a result of meetings. And my days in the Office Worker World come back to me also, boooooring meetings yada yada yada ...

It comes down to action. I have been feeling greener of late which has much to do with having COP 17 rammed down my throat on TV for the last month or so I'm sure. And it’s cool to see and feel a growing awareness in an already very aware country to green and specifically climate control issues.

But I wonder, can we really make enough of a difference or should our efforts and attention also actually be elsewhere?

The current state of affairs, as much as I understand it, will lead us via warming seas and extreme weather conditions to an Ice Age over most of the Northern Hemisphere and largely inhabitable heat and humidity in the Southern Hemisphere with very little food or water. But then again, I’m simplifying and I may have watched The Day After Tomorrow a few too many times.

Movies aside, are we humans maybe being just a teeny bit too up ourselves to think both that we are the reason for the change in climate and that also, we can affect a big change and somehow reverse or stop it? Not many things bug me, but one that definitely does is the human races tendency to view itself as far more important in the grand scheme of things than we actually are.

We humans are massively cool don’t get me wrong but we are also one of the animals. Part of the chain and part of that circle of life. Not controllers or makers of it.

Two facts that inexplicably to me are often left out of Climate Change discussions are these. And prepare to be possibly shocked. You'd think it was a secret or something.

FACT 1: The greenhouse effect is an entirely natural phenomenon, we humans simply exacerbate it. (Look Mum, I used the word 'exacerbate' in a sentence).

FACT 2: Water vapour is the most abundant and important greenhouse gas in the atmosphere. According to the IPCC (International Panel on Climate Change). Water vapour comes from the sea. Er, what you say? You mean, it wasn’t us and our hairspray in the big hair eighties after all??

If you take a look back in the planets history, you’ll find that this is far from the first major climate change Ma Earth has experienced. Climate change is a cycle that the planet has gone through before and it will do so again and again. With or without our largely insignificant input.

Global warming began 18,000 years ago as the earth started warming its way out of the Pleistocene (I can't pronounce that) Ice Age. At the time most of North America, Europe, and Asia was underneath massive sheets of glacial ice.

Earths climate has been in a permanent state of change, dominated by ice ages and glaciers, for the last several million years. We are currently enjoying a temporary reprieve from the usual state of deep freeze.

Approximately every 100,000 years Earths climate warms up temporarily. These warm periods last approximately 15,000 to 20,000 years before regressing back to the cold ice age climate. We're currently at year 18,000 and counting, so methinks our current holiday from the Ice Age is much nearer to its end than we think. Oh bugger! It only takes a change of sea temperature of a few degrees my friend ....

Yup that’s right, a natural occurrence on our planet is now to us, a pretty massive problem. Ma Earth is doing this to herself people, or rather the Earth is simply following its natural cycle. Who are we to object to natures course? 

We may overuse and recklessly use the planets resources and we may be lacking in true respect for nature and its role in our lives and in our survival, but do we really think we are so big and important a species on this Planet that we are capable of making such big changes to it or that we can stop its natural cycles? Er, I'll help ... 

Humans have built some mighty big dams that change the natural course of water. We've wiped out, or all but wiped out, hundreds of species. We chop down worldwide around 4 billion oxygen giving trees a year (doh!) and we've committed all kinds of atrocities against nature but this is on an entirely different scale. Do we really think we can literally stop the planet? Even Superman isn’t allowed to do that.

As nature intended, we must evolve surely if we are to have a future on Earth. We have a rather pompous concern that we can destroy it when in fact it will simply become more uninhabitable to us and then quite happily carry on without us if we don’t manage to survive. We too are just a species that can become extinct.

Don’t get me wrong, we are on a learning curve and there is nothing but good to be gained surely in readdressing our respect for nature in any way that we can and teaching our children to do the same. Reduce, Re-use and Recycle indeed. But we are talking about huge changes here, climate change is evolution happening before our eyes but still the pace makes it hard to imagine. Will it happen to us? Our children? Grandchildren? Does it matter if we don’t know when?

I think we must monitor and adapt to the natural changes as they come and be prepared for that Ice Age if we want to survive it, whatever lifetime it comes in. Rather than think we can just stand up with a puffed out chest shouting “I AM MAN!” and prevent it from happening somehow. Neanderthal man survived an Ice Age for 250,000 years so surely with all our gained knowledge and technology we are capable now of not just surviving it, but doing so quite comfortably. It could even be fun!

Maybe it’s the British Blitz spirit in me but I love the idea of building an Ice Age bunker under the house, gathering the supplies and the necessary survival kit. Could be fun if you’re properly prepared for the weather, bit like camping really. Now I sound like a bit of a nerd ..... 

Damn it though, Ice Age clothing will be so unflattering. Maybe I should try the Richard Branson route, start saving up to move to the moon or newly discovered Kepler-22B when the time comes. Could always move back when the worst is over. Now these guys are focusing their attention in a more intelligent way it seems to me but we all think they’re looney tunes eh? We’ll see if the space nerds have the last laugh. Not that Space suits strike me as any more sexy than Ice Age gear.