10 September, 2012
Droughts, flooding, rising sea levels, mini ice ages, bigger deserts, melting glaciers… many people struggle to get their heads around this sort of stuff because it seems a little too “doomsday” to believe. In many ways it is the old "it'll never happen to me" way of thinking that prevents these scenarios from feeling real. And, whilst we all see the sense in being more environmentally friendly, how many of us understand the true impact of climate change on the human race?
The difficulty with understanding climatology is that the predicted changes are not immediate. These changes occur over decades and centuries (barely two centuries according to latest predictions). So, rather than guessing where the coastline will be in 96 years time or whether we can grow grapes in the Midlands let's take a fictional country and try to understand what might happen.
The country of "Safee" has a population of 67 million people and enjoys a vibrant fishing industry, 2 harvests a year of cereals, vegetables and fruit and a popular and lucrative wine industry. Over the next 75 years the rise in sea levels spills over into the low lands where 40% of your crops are grown. Your sea defences keep failing due to tropical style storm surges and renders the soil poisoned by salt. A series of droughts has withered the vineyards on the mountain slopes so you no longer make any money from your wine exports (all the related jobs have gone too). Flash flooding keeps washing the remaining good quality top soil into the rivers chocking the fresh water fish. More and more countries are ignoring your fishing territories which is becoming increasingly difficult to police with a navy that you can no longer afford.
Your neighbouring country of "Greedy" is doing very well indeed from climate change. They can grow more crops. Their wines are regarded as some of the best in the world and their navy has no problem chasing off the scavengers. People from "Safee" understandably begin to emigrate to "Greedy". It starts with the highly skilled professionals who are very much in demand. This results in a shortage of skilled jobs at home and the lost revenue begins to affect your own education facilities which becomes a downward spiral. Then the less skilled workers begin to leave for the country next door. Ethnic tensions in "Greedy" begin to rise. Both governments begin to fall out because "Greedy" add additional duties to the foods your import. Political tensions between the neighbouring countries escalate as crime amongst illegal immigrants rises. Where does all this go?
This is an extremely and purely fictional example but listening to the words of the UN's Special Representative on Food, Security and Nutrition and you'll be left feeling like you've had a spanking. More incentives for private companies are needed to encourage the right kind of change if we are to maintain stability in the fair distribution of food across the planet. And the reason they are so adamant about this subject probably has something to do with the fact that we haven’t managed to crack this nut properly yet – and this classes as the good time (from a climate change point of view).
So now you have the "big picture" it's important to ensure that you do your bit for the environment at every single opportunity.
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