It's not uncommon that discussions here about Global warming and the changing Ayrshire weather patterns are followed by the quip "aye bring it on - we could do with some warmer weather". But beneath such surface light heartedness lies an increasing concern about just what all this will mean for our future and for the future of our children. The Stern report set out some of the economic arguments for action to reduce man made global warming and the latest IPCC report further builds on the evidence of future global warming impacts.
IPCC Forecasts disastrous warming consequences
The latest IPCC report spells out some dark messages about where we are heading with Global Warming. The report makes some stark forecasts;
- By 2080 between 1.1 billion and 3.2 billion facing water shortages
- 200 million to 600 million facing extreme hunger
- Flood waters possibly claiming 2 to 7 million victims in Tokyo and New York alone by 2080.
- Temp rise of between 1 to 2 c wiping out one third of Earths species.
- By 2020 75 to 250 million in Africa exposed to water shortages
- Yields from rain fed agriculture falling 50 in some African countries over the same period.
- Glacial retreat in the Himalayas disrupting water supplies to India, China, Nepal and Bhutan.
IPCC - scare mongering or real concerns?
There are those who continue to dismiss all this as scare mongering and who try to refute the science behind such predictions. It is tempting for us all, particularly in the west with our comfortable lives, to want to shut our ears to this fearing the changes to our life styles that will be required if we are to tackle Global Warming.
But the IPCC is not some wacky body of fringe scientists, and the process of producing the IPCC reports has seen successful attempts by some countries to water down some even starker predictions. The IPCC reports represent therefore not the extreme views of the scientific community but the standard and uncontroversial views of mainstream science. They are all the more concerning for that.
Why should Global Warming concern us?
The IPCC predictions forecast that the worst obvious effects will be in Africa and other regions far from Ayrshire. Why should we worry that there are predictions about dust bowl conditions returning to the USA on a permanent basis? (and here) - We don't live there. Why should we worry about drought and starvation in Africa, about failure of water supplies around the world? None of this effects us directly. Our winters get milder, our summers warmer and that'll do us nicely thank you very much. There are those who deny that there is any evidence that such changes are really occurring but even this week a BBC climate change survey of people around the world indicated that climate changes are already occuring.
There is of course the issue of conscience and common humanity. Many in the west still claim to be Christian- a faith that if it means anything must be founded on concern for other men. Even without such faith we can feel the hurt for our brother and sister humans suffering in other countries. But are such issues of conscience and humanity enough to get us to really act?
Self Interest and the need to act on Climate change
If the predictions being made by the IPCC do indeed come to pass then one thing is clear - we will also be effected in major ways by such changes. We will face changes to our life styles that we have not chosen but which are forced on us by the changes in other parts of the world.
Water and food shortages are likely to lead to an increase in military conflict around the world and such instability will of course lead to severe problems in the global economy - with impacts on us all. Illegal migration pressures which have been a concern already in Western countries are likely to increase beyond all recognition. Instability in areas where we source our commodities and basic materials will have direct consequences for our patterns of life.
Although most species loss is likely to occur in other regions of the world we should not believe that we will be immune to the effects of this. It does not take the loss of many species or the introduction and survival of more than a few alien species to severely disrupt an Eco-system (check the march of the cane toad in Australia for an example - although this was human introduced).
Already even in Ayrshire there is some indication that the milder winters may be leading to greater survival rates for potential pest insect species. ( 1. 2. 3. 4. ) There are concerns about the survival of fish species due to temperature rise in Loch Doon. Just this week there were published reports that Fungi are now fruiting twice each year rather than the normal once. Loss of fish stocks in the North Sea while largely due to over fishing may increasingly be further effected by the displacement of marine species northward .
These may not seem major issues - yet. But it only takes the loss of one key local species or the abnormal survival of some normally low level species to have unforeseen consequences.
So should we in Ayrshire be concerned about the IPCC findings and predictions? You bet we should. Every year that we wait and fail to start taking serious action to reduce emmissions simply makes the problem more intractable and harder to tackle.
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