Friday, August 20, 2010

Pakistan, Russia and Sasakatchewan

The news just keeps rolling in: 2010 is turning out to be one of the most horrific years for cataclysmic events related to climate change in this decade, surpassing Hurricane Katrina and the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season. There are too many disasters to cover coherently, so I want to focus on just three: Pakistan, Russia, and Saskatchewan.

First Pakistan. What started out looking like a typical monsoon flood of the Indus River has rolled into an unparalleled flood disaster. Twenty million people have been affected by the flood in Paskistan, almost one fifth of the land mass is under water. The UN reports that 4 million are homeless. Floods have ruined an estimated 1.6 million acres of agricultural land. Sixteen hundred people have been killed as a direct result of the flood, while small outbreaks of cholera threaten the region.

UPDATE: DN reports that one million Pakistanis face starvation in Balochistan, southwest Pakistan.
Jane Cocking: "What we have is a single long event, which has the scale of the tsunami, the destruction of Haiti and the complexity of the Middle East. And in twenty years in responding to humanitarian crises, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything quite like this."

Everyone thought there would be climate "winners and losers" due to climate change, even the climate scientists thought so. Northern countries that border the Arctic, such as Russia, Canada and Norway, were thought to be safe from the worst effects of climate change, and might possibly benefit from longer growing seasons and warmer weather.

Right. The conflagration of the peat bogs in Russia, along with record-breaking heat waves that have destroyed one-third of Russia's arable land, have stubbed out that notion like a discarded cigarette butt.

"Analysts said Russia's grain output could fall from 100m tons in 2009 to 65m tons this year. Farmers have already begun to slaughter livestock early because they expect to run out of feed."

Floods in June caused 300 million in damage to Saskatchewan's infrastructure and affected one-fifth of the Province's population. The floods, caused by rainfall that was 70% higher than normally expected in June, rendered 5 million hectares, or 20% of its agricultural lands, unseedable.

"It just rained and rained and rained and wouldn't let up," said Redman. "I've been farming for 23 years and my dad's been farming 20 years longer than that and neither one of us has seen it this bad."

So my point in bringing these three stories together is this:

1) Climate change is happening now;

2) it is terrifying and cataclysmic beyond anything we had ever imagined.

This is not turning colder climates like Canada into fruit-producing Bermudas. This is turning millions of acres of arable land into wasteland and leading to the death, displacement and starvation of millions of people.

3) I don't want to hear anymore about "all we have to do is change our business model to a green-tech non-profit cooperatives and that will solve all our problems."

4) We have to stop working, producing and consuming so much stuff altogether and focus on a localized subsistence way of life, and thereby shrink our entire system of economic production and consumption by at least 60%. We saw that during the economic collapse of 2008, emissions in the West were reduced to well below 1990 levels, far lower than the agreed upon target reductions.

5). We have to get our global carbon emissions down to 350 or below.

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