Hi guys. Here are just a few things I’d like you to think about.
The large majority of scientists are aware that the earth is getting warmer quickly.
Scientists, business and government (see ICCP, British Gov. on Energy, most web-pages for large energy companies) are aware that this will have negative effects on human societies abilities to live the way we do currently.
We must do 2 things: MITIGATE (moderate) the effects of climate change and ADAPT to them. This means reducing the things we do that harm the climate (the environmental-atmospheric system that supports life on our planet: think plant life and forests, plant life and oceans, air and weather, glacial/ice covering and desertification + + +). Mitigation (moderation) of carbon-based forms of pollution (gas emissions from factories, vehicles, and energy production) should help slow the process. This will be necessary for survival of our cost-effective living. Adaptation means learning to live with a warmer climate – and the different effects that this will have in the different areas of the world.
It is useful to remember that: the environment is a complex, non-linear system in which change may occur gradually and then hit a critical point and change rapidly. As well, the interconnected nature of the environment and its relationship to human societies creates an extensive plurality of co-existing cause-effect structures such that change in one area may produce different very different effects across a number of other areas. This is the key to understanding WHY CLIMATE CHANGE IS IMPORTANT FOR YOU AND ME!!!
If, for example, the ice sheets in the Arctic melt completely (and they are well on their way), the results are not only a bunch of drowning polar bears – a disaster in itself. We are already seeing increased political/economic interest in this area in terms of resource exploitation and opening of trade routes. In multi-variable systems, this could mean many things from higher average sea-levels around the world (increase cost to protect Italian infra-structure that lies along the coast) to decreased transport cost between northern trade partners, perhaps competing more significantly with Mediterranean trade routes and Mediterranean energy supplies – making these factors of economy more expensive and shifting the logistical pattern of current energy supply much further north.
In other terms, as outlined by the WISE study at the Energy Studies Institute Enrico Mattei, Mediterranean areas (southern Italy) could become constantly hot at Saharan temperatures – creating the need for serious adaptation in methods of living and doing business. In the short term, this will put incredible stress on water and electrical resources as people combat the heat through fluid intake and air-conditioning. Excessive use of these will not solve the problem, however – and we will be forced to change the way we use energy in southern Italy while making water reserves increasingly scarce and raising the overall cost of living. Not only will more Sicilians spend more time at the beach, as the WISE study suggests, but they will spend more time at the beach with higher basic costs.
In central Italy, a small increase of temperature will lead to a serious increase in forest fires. No problem for those who live on the coast – right? Well, burning trees makes the greenhouse gas emissions problem worse, in the short-term making overall air less-breathable at the territorial level and putting the PUBLICLY FUNDED fire-fighting staff under incredible strain – adding to taxes and the cost of living in the more densely populated and industrial areas. In 2005 Italy was one of the few countries in the world where the forest was actually increasing – as people moved from the mountain villages to seek work and study in the towns and cities of the coast and plains. This dynamic will be upset by losing that forest since it will both detract from low-level air quality and increase taxes.
Anyway – I just wanted to illustrate some of the relationships between humans and environment that contribute to making the planet warmer, and suggest that the complexity does not let us ignore these relationships – no matter where we are on the planet. It is IMPORTANT to understand HOW OUR LOCAL AND TERRITORIAL SOCIETIES interact with the wider global environment. It’s a bit ironic that the economic and business systems that drove the increase of greenhouse gas emissions (don’t think just factories – also think mechanised agriculture to feed us all!) have also given us the communications networks that allow us to understand each other better. This means we do have a “blue-eyed hope in hell” (ok – “reasonable”) chance of working together to MITIGATE and ADAPT to climate change in logically coordinated among regions and states. Let’s hope the meeting at Copenhagen this December (2009) to discuss the updating of the Kyoto protocol is productive.
In this context, it is FUNDAMENTALLY IMPORTANT that regional societies (local, territorial, national and internationally regional) understand truly how their social systems function. This requires a great deal of appropriate COMMUNICATION at the cultural level. Here, it is important to understand that CULTURE is the system of learning that generates patterns of thought and behaviour that are shared among members of a group. It is both a learning and a network question. It is at the very foundation of successful communication and therefore at the base of any successful agreement. The fact that both MITIGATION and ADAPTATION are require cultural COOPERATION AND COORDINATION is a great advantage, not a threat. Humans are social animals (literally or metaphorically – it’s not important) and are fundamentally capable of understanding each other – IF THE MESSAGES ARE PRESENTED CLEARLY AND MEANINGFULLY. Being clear is relatively simple, and global English is a functional medium for this (freeing up mental space for learning other languages!). Constructing meaning across cultures BEGINS with constructing meaning about climate change across different internal cultures: business, politics, community, science, education etc. SO FAR THERE IS LITTLE COORDINATION IN THIS RESPECT.
I’m going to stop here, for now. I invite comments on this! Students, colleagues and anyone who reads this. Often, we take on the technical and scientific information and stop, confused perhaps about the data and methodology – and their applicability to our lives. It is time to change the way we think of this question. It is primarily NOT a technical question that WE cannot understand. It is a cultural question that WE LIVE EVERYDAY. We simply have to take some time to think about it!
All the best to everyone!