A small increase of 2 oC when living in the freezing northern hemisphere might seem like a blessing, but it is no laughing matter. According to Stern, carbon emissions have already pushed up global temperatures by half a degree. If no action is taken, there is a 75% chance that global temperatures will rise by between 2 oC and 3 oC over the next 50 years. There is a 50% chance they could rise 5 oC.
Credit CIAT / CC BY-SA
Of course, scientists have known all this for some time, but, typically, humans only take notice of something when it bashes down their own door. Even when this happens, we spend much time thinking of someone else to blame. Rich countries like to argue that it is poor, developing countries that are poisoning the atmosphere with their drive toward development and less sophisticated technologies. Developing countries, in turn, argue that it is the industrialised countries that are to blame, with their mass consumption and production. And you and I do little because we suffer from the delusion that our own consumption of fuels or recycling of waste is a drop in the proverbially acidifying ocean. So the cycle continues.
Stern is unequivocal that all are at fault and all have a role to play in averting catastrophe. Consumer demand for heavily polluting goods and services must be curtailed, global energy supply needs to be more efficient and reduced, deforestation reversed, and cleaner energy and transport technology promoted. These might sound like grand ideas beyond individual reach and the responsibility of governments, but charity, or, in this case, saving the planet, starts at home. So here comes the lecture: ditch the petrol-guzzling car and try walking somewhere, for a change, splash out a few extra bucks on energy-efficient appliances, recycle your waste, turn off lights and do not leave electrical appliances on standby, shower instead of bath and, while you're at it, get one of those little wind-up chargers for your cellphone and get winding. Being an ecowarrior is no longer the preserve of a few nutters on the fringe; it is a necessity.
*To download the Stern Report click here.
This article by Brandon Hamber was published on Polity and in the Engineering News on 6 December 2006 as part of the column "Look South". Copyright Brandon Hamber.