Saturday, 13 October 2007
An Inconvenient Truth
(notes by a volunteer reporter)
Paper presented at the
11TH CONFERENCE OF THE INTERNATIONAL ENVIRONMENT FORUM
Saturday, 13 October 2007
Mike is the CEO of the Delphi Group, an Ottawa environmental consulting company, and one of 20 Canadians who have been trained by Al Gore in giving this presentation on the causes, effects and solutions to global climate change.
The situation was clear early in Mike’s presentation – the majority of attendees had already seen An Inconvenient Truth presented. It’s the wider reach of this message that is the biggest challenge.
“We don’t inherit the earth. We borrow it from our children and grandchildren.” Mike, father of two, began in this vein. And this one, by Mark Twain long ago: “What gets us into trouble is not what we know; it’s what we know for sure that just ain’t so.”
The scientist Roger Revelle was the first to begin tracking the presence
of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, and he was ignored for a long time.
The correlation between the accumulation of so-called “greenhouse gases”
and increasing global temperatures are now clear; the 10 hottest years on
record have ALL occurred in the last 14 years. It’s happening everywhere:
regional heat waves, typhoons and hurricanes are increasing in record
numbers and in intensity, including the first-ever Atlantic hurricane in
the southern hemisphere off Brazil. In 2007, the first studies to
establish a correlation between extreme weather events and global climate
change were published.
Mr. Gerbis presented stunning visuals showing the retreat of the glaciers world-wide; those that claim that some glaciers are actually advancing are right, except that only three of the 1000 or so glaciers in the world have this characteristic, while most of the rest are in dramatic retreat. The Inuit, of course, see this at first hand in their hunting and living grounds.
We’ve lost 20% of the world’s coral reefs, and much more is desperately
Gerbis is a businessman, who finds the countervailing economic arguments – we can’t afford to take these environmental measures, we’ll go out of business! – very short-sighted and limiting. (Many were convinced that the introduction of automobiles would devastate the horse-and-buggy industry, or that computers would derange the economy and result in unemployment of clerical workers…) There are major economic opportunities out there, which his own company is based upon.
Australia has had five “hundred-year droughts” – only supposed to occur once a century – in the last ten years. There are enormous economic impacts from this, from the spreading infestation of pine beetles that are devastating forests across more and more of North America, to the destruction caused by rising seas and extreme weather, to name only a couple. And all this “freakiness”, as Mike’s kids refer to it, is increasing exponentially, not in a linear pattern. It is accelerating.
One polar scientist says that he lectured two years ago that the northern polar ice could be gone by 2100; now he estimates that this effect could be produced by 2030. We are seeing the accelerating effects of “positive feedback loops” – vicious circles – in which each individual aspect contributes to the acceleration of all other factors. This is most dramatically seen, perhaps, in the rapid melting of the Greenland and Antarctic ice shelves, and is beginning to be seen in low-lying territories. Storm surges, in the Thames river estuary, for one example, are becoming more and more frequent and more powerful.
And why shouldn’t these effects be exponential? Look at human population’s soaring growth, which on a graph is absolutely vertical. So is the rate of growth/improvement in science (and of course, many of these effects are wonderful, but then there are nuclear weapons and plastic and clear-cutting…). But perhaps the biggest problem is our way of thinking: our denial, our unwillingness to sacrifice privilege and comfort and the apparently urgent imperatives of economic growth.
And get this straight, says Mr. Gerbis: there is NO lack of scientific consensus; there has never been anything about which practising scientists (as opposed to industry lobbyists) have been more in agreement. In the last ten years, there have been 928 major scientific studies, of which NONE have discredited the climate change consensus. However, the popular press contains articles, many by people on corporate payrolls, over 50% of which express some doubt, uncertainty or outright opposition to what genuine science, in the peer-reviewed journals that none of us read, universally proclaims.
It is a sobering picture, but there is much that is positive in the presentation. There are many examples of the scientific and technical prowess to make dramatic changes, but the ethical impetus is still lacking, as is the leadership by corporations and especially by governments who are deeply inside the box…
There are lots of off-the-shelf technologies and personal changes of
habit, from low-flow shower-heads to better insulation to municipal
transit to organic foods or green power or fluorescent light bulbs. A
little research reveals many possibilities. But the main place of change
is in people’s hearts. Gerbis concluded with these words of Martin Luther
King, given in a different context but applicable to this global
It is our moral obligation to do everything we can to give the planet
back to our children in such a way that it will benefit them; the earth
will be fine, it’s not going anywhere, but will it be a liveable place for
those that follow us?
“It’s never the mountain in front of us that discourages us from climbing, it’s the piece of gravel in our shoe.”
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