Paul Andersen: Fair Game |

Paul Andersen: Fair Game

Paul Andersen
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO, Colorado

“Climate change will wipe out most life on Earth by the end of this century and mankind is too late to avert catastrophe, a leading British climate scientist said.”

– Reuters

People will either laugh at this prediction or find a place deep inside where they can cope with the possibility. People will either discount such climate science as bunk or take it seriously and come to terms with an unimaginable finality.

Whether you laugh or cry, climate change is no longer a mere inconvenience that’s turning our ski mountains to slush. There’s no cheering an early spring because it saves us the hassle of scraping our windshields. If you’re a thinking person, you must weigh climate change and its impacts seriously.

“James Lovelock, 89, famous for his Gaia theory of the Earth being a kind of living organism, said higher temperatures will turn parts of the world into desert and raise sea levels, flooding other regions. His apocalyptic theory foresees crop failures, drought and death on an unprecedented scale. The population of this hot, barren world could shrink from about seven billion to one billion by 2100 as people compete for ever-scarcer resources.”

Few are willing to give credence to Lovelock’s words. There exists an unspoken prohibition on doom and gloom, even if it accurately forecasts the most dire threat known to man since nuclear winter. Instead we busy ourselves with things more immediate, more personal, more banal than this pressing global issue.

Why care? Because according to Lovelock, “It will be death on a grand scale from famine and lack of water.” He’s not the only one sounding the alarm. The European Union also is on the alert.

In the 12 years since Kyoto, little has happened to stem climate-changing emissions, but an upcoming climate conference in Copenhagen could be a turning point for the western world. EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas told a climate conference in Budapest recently: “Having an agreement in Copenhagen is not only possible, it is imperative.”

The EU is relieved that the Obama administration seems poised to address climate change, especially after the United States lost eight years of action due to the malfeasance of the Bush administration. Unfortunately, tipping points may already have passed.

According to Lovelock, attempts to cut emissions of planet-warming gases in hopes of reducing the risks are probably doomed to failure. Even if the world found a way to cut emissions to zero, it is too late to reverse the warming trend. “It is a bit like a supertanker,” said Lovelock. “You can’t make it stop by just turning the engines off. It will go on for a long, long time. If by some magic you could suddenly bring the C02 down, it wouldn’t suddenly cool off.”

The EU is serious about cutting emissions even while acknowledging that developing countries are struggling to “lift themselves out of poverty” with cheap energy and unclean emissions. Dimas says the western world has a moral obligation to drastically cut emissions, especially after having gained prosperity through environmental recklessness.

In his new book, “The Vanishing Face of Gaia”, Lovelock calls for creating safe havens from climate change, places where people could survive in a warming world. He writes: “We have to stop pretending that there is any possible way of returning to that lush, comfortable and beautiful Earth we left behind some time in the 20th century.”

Could the Roaring Fork Valley become one of Lovelock’s safe havens? Could we grow food, produce renewable energy, become self-sufficient? Perhaps the bigger question is how we and/or our successors will endure the psychic shock that will come if Lovelock is right. Can we validate his prediction now without succumbing to despair and inaction?

Some will laugh at Lovelock’s alarming views. But those people have yet to grasp the potential enormity of mass human migrations driven by climate change toward whatever safe havens have been created by those who are not laughing.

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