Monday, November 17, 2008

Gwynne Dyer in Brantford

I saw a sign along Brant Street a week or so ago advertising the fact that Gwynne Dyer was speaking at W Ross MacDonald School, it was part of an annual lecture series in honour of W. Ross MacDonald. The topic was to be on "Climate Change" and was a lecture he was doing based upon his latest book; "Climate Wars".

I've been a fan of Mr. Dyer since I watched his series "War" which was a series he did for the CBC, BBC and PBS. It was a fascinating study of the history of war and its impact upon our society. I also try to read his column when it appears in the local paper.

He appeared dressed in his usual outfit of khaki, fatigues and a leather jacket.

He began by stating he had heard the Pentagon had began to study "Climate Change" and its' potential impact upon society and the US. He reminded us this started during the Bush Administration in which you simply did not mention "Climate Change". So this was an interesting act of either rebellion or it was something they suddenly became aware of possible ramification. Mr. Dyer also said the British, Russian and probably the Chinese military as well was studying this topic and developing strategy. The reason for the stategy was due the potential of global crisis, such as huge number of climate refugees, failed states and wars based upon resources such as food or water, ie climate wars.

After his information, he said his study and his information led him to four conclusions:

1) Climate Change is happening faster then the public is aware. This fact is frightening the scientific community. All their models are becoming correct and they are moving faster then they had assumed. It used to be thought that the Arctic would be ice free by the year 2040, however there are some who believe this will occur by the year 2013. The 4th Report from the Intergovernment Panel on Climate Change states:
Observed decreases in snow and ice extent are also consistent
with warming (Figure 1.1). Satellite data since 1978 show that annual
average Arctic sea ice extent has shrunk by 2.7 [2.1 to 3.3]%
per decade, with larger decreases in summer of 7.4 [5.0 to 9.8]%
per decade. Mountain glaciers and snow cover on average have
declined in both hemispheres. The maximum areal extent of seasonally
frozen ground has decreased by about 7% in the Northern
Hemisphere since 1900, with decreases in spring of up to 15%.
Temperatures at the top of the permafrost layer have generally increased
since the 1980s in the Arctic by up to 3°C. {WGI 3.2, 4.5, 4.6,
4.7, 4.8, 5.5, SPM}

By the way, with all this, Climate Change Deniers are now in full retreat.

2) The Generals are right. He stated that even a modest change will lead to unreast and wars. These wars will not be limited in the poor nations or the southern hemisphere, but will impact the North. The main problem is food. It seems we have reached the end of the a long period of food growth. In 1998, all that had been used to grow more food have been exhausted. The solutions simply are not working any more. There is now a grain storage reserve, worldwide of 45 days, this is down from 180 days. As the temperature increases, this will only get worse since a lot of grain is sensitive to extremes of temperature. Couple this with the fact that the desert areas of the world are expanding, a classic example right now is Australia which is in the middle of a seven year drought. In fact, many in Australia are now considering this to be the new normal. So Australia is being transformed from an exporter of grain to a nation that grows enough for its own population. With this happening the danger to the developed world is a influx of climate refugees, and not just in the US, but in Europe they are concerned.

Developed nations are beginning to suffer, in particular the US west of the Mississippi is in danger of drought and desertification.

3) We are going to break the limit we don't dare break. The limit is 2 degrees increase in temperature since 1990. Why 2 degrees? Above that amount things happen in the environment in which we cannot control. Right now we can still control climate change, we possess the technology to get us off the carbon diet right now, things such as renewable energy, nuclear energy and geothermal energy can wean us off carbon right now. It will be a bit more expensive. But if we don't, then we cross the line and that is when things become very nasty. One example is Permafrost. The permafrost of the world stores a great deal of CO2 and methane. Both are greenhouse gases and when this happens all bets are off.

What is needed is to understand the gravity of the situation. The West, which has been producing greenhouse gas since the Industrial Revolution must Gwynne stated must decide here and now to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 95% and help the developing world to impliment green technology. We must fight from cross the line.

4) There is some temporary solutions. They are referred to as geoengineering. These solutions seem part science-fiction, part scam, but they will buy us some time. These are not permanent, but temporary until we can impliment the changes that will bring our global temperature back to 1990 levels or cooler.

He spoke for over 90 minutes with notes. It was a fascinating lecture.

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