Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Anyone For a Habitable Planet?

by Gavin from The Greening of Gavin

I don't often get political or promote environmental activism on the Simple Green Frugal Co-op, and usually leave my opinions to my own blog, The Greening of Gavin.  However as the UN Climate Change talks at Copenhagen are now only 44 days away, and it is my belief that these talks may be humanity's last chance to come to a global binding agreement to reduce green house gasses, I thought I had to speak up and reach as wide an audience as I could.  I am an IT Risk Manager by occupation and therefore assess risk for a living.  In this post I will drop the emotional debate, and approach climate change from a risk management perspective.


Whether you believe that human activities are causing the climate to change from the norm we have experience during the last 20,000 years or not, the argument is really about mitigating risk.  I will give you four risk scenarios for you to assess;

Scenario A
Lets just say that climate change is real and human induced, and we choose to do nothing or don't reach agreement at Copenhagen and do a half hearted effort.  Well, the science says that we will have global temperature rises and polar ice melting that equates to sea level rises.  These rising oceans will displace hundreds of millions of people from their homes and countries and they will become climate refugees.  Other countries will have to take these populations on adding to their already strained resources due to other affects of climate change, like food shortages because monsoons or seasonal rains don't happen when they are supposed to over the food bowls of Asia, Australia, or the Americas.  Or that the glacier fed rivers that run throughout the world run out of feed water because it has all melted at the source.  These are only are few of the things that could happen.  So that would be bad, right?  This should be assessed as an Extreme risk scenario.

Scenario B. 
Lets suppose it is not man made and the few climate sceptics are right and we do nothing.  That would mean that the last century is an anomaly and the climate will stabilise at a level that humans and other species can survive at.  But here is the rub.  Our planet would soon run out of resources anyway because of overpopulation, and the air would still be polluted due to our continued fossil fuel use, as would the oceans, seas and rivers.  Sounds like a pretty sad place to living in and this should be assessed as a High risk scenario.

Scenario C.
Lets suppose that it is not man made and the few climate sceptics are right again.  However, we make a commitment at Copenhagen and do all the work to reduce consumption and green house emissions because we err on the side of caution and take positive action.  We will have resources for generations to come, and we will have clean air because we chose to change our energy supply to renewable technologies and stopped using fossil fuels.  Not so bad, and good honest work never hurt anyone.  We would have a cleaner place to live, and be able to live in harmony with the planet we occupy.  This is a Low risk scenario.

Scenario D.
Lets assume that we believe that the science is right and we achieve the CO2 target that the climatologists  propose of 350 parts per million.  Climate will stabilise, weather pattens will normalise, but probably will not be quite the same, however we will be able to easily adapt, as will all other species on Earth.  Because we took positive action as recommended, we will have resources for hundreds of generations to come, we will have clean air because we chose to change our energy supply to renewable technologies and stopped using fossil fuels.  We would have also adopted the cradle to cradle approach to manufacturing with zero waste, just like it occurs in nature, and we might even learn to live in peace and harmony at least with the planet.  This scenario, as in scenario C is Low risk.  The result is the same either way you look at it.

So from a risk management point of view, which is the best action to take?  Is it A and B (Extreme and High risk), and put our heads in the sand and do nothing, or will it be C and D (Low risk) and we do take affirmative action, reach a global agreement and lower our fossil fuel usage, lower consumption and reach the CO2 atmospheric targets that the majority of climatologists recommend. 

By taking the emotion out of the climate change argument, and taking a risk management approach, it looks to me that C and D are the best scenarios, and so whatever you believe about climate change lets make these two Low risk scenarios happen. 

So what next?  Here are a few suggestions;
  • Raise awareness in your local community, 
  • have a look at the 350.org site for more science facts and join the global campaign on October 24th 2009.
  • Look around you for other things that you can do to lower your carbon footprint, do a bit of research.
  • Have a look for the newly published "Suzuki's Green Guide" by David Suzuki and David R. Boyd.  It is full of great tips and sound information and starts on a high by describing all the great things humans have done so far to take action against climate change.  This is just one book that will help you, and there are many others.
  • The Simple Green Frugal Co-op and their personal blogs are full of low carbon and simple solutions to living a sustainable lifestyle and the low risk scenarios.
Al Gore once said, "changing light bulbs is useful, but it's more important to change laws."  Copenhagen is the law changing event. 

Now for a bit of the emotional stuff.  I am personally convinced of human induced climate change and so is my family.  You just have to read my blog and the climate change posts to understand how firm that belief is.  I am not fanatical, nor confrontational, however I try my best to set an example of how to live a sustainable lifestyle so that others may become inspired and try a few of the things that our family have achieved. 

I have even gone so far as founding the Melton Sustainable Living Group Inc., which is a merry band of eco-warriors who just want to make a difference in our local community.  We have 11 members and many concerned friends who help out with various educational programs for our community, to help spread tips on how to save money by lowering their personal and family carbon footprints.  So far we have had encouraging success since we became a non-profit group in May 2009.  We are taking baby steps, mainly because that is the only way I know how to convince people that living simply and as sustainably as you can will make a difference and if more people went from just being concerned about climate change and started taking personal action, then the groundswell would be gigantic and solving the problem would be a cinch!  Changing laws are a quicker way to achieve these goals, so my hopes lay with the negotiations at Copenhagen.

I am doing my best to adopt the low risk scenarios of C and D.  How about you?  What do you think of my risk based approach to climate change?