The Weather Makers by Tim Flannery is a scary, sobering book.
For those of us who understand ascribe to the Yamas, such a book should immediately resonate. For those of us interested in human culture and its effects upon other species, this book is also of interest. The book is about human effects on climate and the biosphere. Of course, this book aims to highlight the effects of global warming and call for change, but there are other human-derived changes discussed in it as well, such as acid rain.
Here’s some stark points raised by the book:
- A rise in temperature of only .8 to 1.7 degrees will result in extinctions of 18% of all species
- A rise of 1.8 to 2 degrees, and a quarter of all species will become extinct
- Over 2 degrees will result in one-third of all species becoming extinct
These models are conservatively based on the assumption that as climates warm, species will migrate. Ultimately, this causes problems for species adapted to alpine and arctic climates … they simply can’t migrate any higher than the existing land forms/latitude permit. However – and think about this seriously- the fragmentation of habitat caused by 6 billion humans means that many other species which, during similar times of climate change in the past would have been able to migrate, cannot migrate. Their habitats no longer exist because there are fields and cities, or are so small, that viable populations cannot be supported.
What comprises a genetically viable animal population? About 500 individuals.
In cases where habitats are fragmented (think about it – it’s a lot of the earth) – in the case of a temperature rise of 2 degrees up to 50% of all species will become extinct.
The biggest polluters: coal-fired electricity stations. The world’s dirtiest power station, I discovered, is not in China or Russia … but in East Gippsland, Victoria, Australia!
I think about another book I read recently (Bill Bryson’s Notes from a Big Country) and his too-scary description of Americans who use their cars to move between shops less than 10 metres apart. Before you laugh, take note: Australians are just as bad. We turn on air conditioners and jump into cars for tiny errands without thinking. Inner city Sydney is clogged with massive 4WDs (that never go off road and ARE NOT safer than a family sedan). Then, we buy things we don’t even use – which have placed tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere during their production. Think about that. Everywhere is excess – you can never have too much of … anything and anything you buy has already created an effect that will last for 100s of years in the atmosphere.
This is all scary. But if it’s still not scary enough (or relevant to you) that a possible 50% of all other life forms on this planet might disappear, then think on this: it the Arctic and Antarctic ice sheets completely melt, sea levels will rise.
That might not be particularly worrying for you, but think about the main source of global trade: sea trade and port infrastructure. If sea levels rise, then the main infrastructure of global trade, the sea ports -the very thing that allows us as a species to congregate in large cities- will become unusable.
Think about that. Cities do not produce enough food to meet the demands of their inhabitants. They rely on external trade to supply their needs. If the ports are inundated with a quick sea level rise, then if you live in a city one major source of food will be -for a time- cut off from you. Flannery suggests that civilisation as we know it will collapse. Humans will be left to congregate in rural areas. There might be wars over food and water.
Is that scary enough?