“Anyone who believes in indefinite growth on a physically finite planet is either mad or an economist” — Sir David Attenborough
JAKARTA, the capital of Indonesia, which has a population of 10m, is sinking into the sea at a rate of 25cm a year. Venice is, comparatively, sinking at a glacial 2mm. Four million people in Jakarta live up to four metres below sea level. A local solution has been costed at $40bn, but catastrophe seems likely. The only issue is when.
Bolivia has just declared a state of emergency because of the worst drought in 25 years. Peru, especially Lima, which also has a population edging towards 10m, faces similar problems. Closer to home, Spitsbergen, in Norway, has been up to 6C warmer this year. The Barents Sea and much of the Kara Sea are still without ice cover. The US National Snow and Ice Data Center has, since 1979, measured ice in the Arctic and Antarctic. This year, the ice-cover off Norway is nearly 4m square kilometres below the record low. In recent days, the US Forest Service has published a survey of California’s forests. It shows that six years of drought have killed 102m trees across 7.7m acres. Last May, India recorded its highest-ever temperature, when Phalodi, in Rajasthan, endured a burning 51C. These conditions are incompatible with human survival.
The litany of our environmental vandalism is ever- lengthening and culminates in the warning from the World Meteorological Organisation that 2016 will be the warmest year on record — 15 of the 16 warmest years have occurred since 2000. Yet, despite this evidence, we imagine that climate change is something we can deal with when everything else has been fixed — but only if the necessary measures do not clash with the economic model to which we seem so happy to subjugate all of our needs, fears, and hopes.
Ireland’s Food Harvest 2020 is an example of this cognitive dissonance. Under that plan, a 50% increase in milk production has been targetted by 2020. Those ambitions are, in environmental terms, a real and present danger. This was confirmed by the recent EPA report, which identified agriculture as the primary player in the destruction of our rivers. That report named local authorities as Public Enemy No 2, so we are all to blame.
However, all of those pieces of the jigsaw are nothing compared to promises made by the US’s president-elect, Donald Trump. He has, despite plans to spend millions to protect his Doonbeg golf course from a rising sea, declared climate change a hoax generated by China to “steal American jobs”.
One of the psychological heartbeats that makes life bearable is the hope that things might be better for our children and grandchildren. Unless the world, including millions of Americans, unites to block Mr Trump’s plans to ditch climate control plans, all of his other excesses will seem irrelevant. As another passing demagogue, Margaret Thatcher, used to say, “TINA!” — There Is No Alternative but to get Mr Trump to change his position on this do-or-die issue.
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