Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Eaarth: A first look at our new planet

There's a reason Bill McKibben's book 'eaarth' has an extra 'a' in the title.(*)  He wants to vividly demonstrate that climate change has already happened. He's saying that we now live on a new planet,  Eaarth: a planet that looks superficially similar to the Earth we grew up on but one that's becoming an increasingly hostile place to support human life.

(*) McKibbon is the founder of 350.org, which advocates 
that the safe level of carbon in the Earth's atmosphere
 is 350 parts per million (ppm). Above that level, 
and the effects of global warming become more 
and more likely to be activated.(**)

(**) Our atmosphere's already at 391 ppm.

McKibben wants to make the point that "the planet on which our civilisation evolved no longer exists", and that we've travelled to our new planet propelled by a huge burst of fossil fuels and carbon dioxide. McKibben spend the first chapter of his book demonstrating the increasingly hostile environment of our new planet by quoting news article after news article. I've reproduced three of the ones that hit home hardest with me, here:

Maldives May Relocate Due to Global Warming: "Mohamed Nasheed, the island nation’s new president, has announced a plan to buy a new homeland, just in case his sinking country completely disappears."

Kiribati Islanders Seek Land to Buy as Rising Seas Threaten - Bloomberg: "Kiribati, a Pacific island-nation in danger of being submerged because of global warming, may purchase land elsewhere to relocate its people, President Anote Tong said"

No more drought: it's a 'permanent dry' - Climate Watch - theage.com.au: "DROUGHT will become a redundant term as Australia plans for a permanently drier future, according to the nation's urban water industries chief.

And climate experts yesterday predicted the present drought would continue, signalling a cruel summer for farmers and sparking fears of higher food prices.

'The urban water industry has decided the inflows of the past will never return,' Water Services Association of Australia executive director Ross Young said. 'We are trying to avoid the term 'drought' and saying this is the new reality.'"

Even the IMF is starting to get peak oil « The Standard: "Like the warning from the American military — by 2015 there are likely to be “serious shortages” in oil supply. Like the warnings from the German military, Lloyds of London, the IEA and others (reviewed in a report from our own Parliamentary library). Now we can add the IMF to the list:

WSJ: IMF: “Increased Scarcity” Ahead For Oil Markets

Governments should brace for “increased scarcity” in global oil markets and the risk of additional sharp price spikes in the coming years, the International Monetary Fund warned Thursday. …"

It's fascinating stuff, and I'm looking forward to reading and digging into this more. Next up, McKibben's going to examine the various ways in which we've exceeded the limitations of our planet, and then he's going to talk about a new economic model.

You might want to check out this really excellent (20 minute) talk by Naomi Klein, too. She takes the BP Gulf of Mexico oil spill as her starting point, and discusses how and why people can fail to make wise long-term decisions.

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