Friday, September 14, 2012

Climate Change : Unrest

Climate change is already wreaking havoc, and experts predict it stands to get worse.

     Climatology and depression are sure to come hand in hand these days - with governments lacking the motivation to make significant changes to clean energy policies and carbon emissions reduction while overwhelming evidence continues to accumulate to our gravest expectations. 

     The world is, according to several groups of researchers, approaching a point of social turmoil. Studies are beginning to indicate a correlation between food prices and rioting. Complex systems theorists from Cambridge claim that periods of unrest are very strongly correlated with high food prices, as dictated in the graph below:

          This fact in combination with the increasing speed of communications means more uprisings. Groups can band together easily over cyberspace, spread an ideal. This has been evidenced in the  Middle East. Oxfam released a report detailing the impact of climate change on global food systems and found "climate change is making extreme weather – like droughts, floods and heat waves – much more likely." The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports that as the world has been warming, "both maximum and minimum daily temperatures have increased on a global scale due to the increase of greenhouse gases.” This also means larger, more powerful storms - the likes of which wrought further destruction to the polar ice caps, where  "temperatures are  rising twice as fast as the global average." New Scientist also reports that the ice thickness of the Arctic has  been rapidly reduced:  "From 1979 to 2000, the average volume of  Arctic ice  in  September  was  12, 000 cubic kilometers. This year, it is less than 3000." On the fifth of August, a large cyclone made its way into the Arctic Circle. Prof. Ziangdong Zhang at the University of Alaska Fairbanks said in an interview with New Scientist that "Such events used to be rare, but are now more frequent, stronger, and last longer than before." That cyclone tore large pieces from the already dwindling ice cap. Clearly there's a feedback process at work in our global weather system. I would expect to see the rate of heating increase over time. An ominous thought, especially for those who are living in coastal cities.

            Throw in some religious zeal, some nuclear pissing contests, and an argument over a piece of land 2000 years old, and you start to teeter in your boots. If you're feeling anxious, don't be alarmed, right? Because they're all the way across (the now radiated) Ocean!

          So let's go ahead and hit a little closer to home, my southerly neighbor, America! The irony of a drought in Texas due to global warming is not lost on me.  There are reports that extreme weather has damaged crops; "corn futures have averaged about $6.895 this year, more than twice the annual average of the past decade, and are heading for the costliest year on record;" livestock, and infrastructure (not to mention natural ecosystems) with drought and massive dust storms, which researchers said, can be filled with particles of pesticides, fecal runoff from farms and heavy metals. These can lead to respiratory infections and other health hazards.  

           Let's not forget the economic turmoil. According to Reuters, they have experienced "the worst U.S. drought in 56 years," which "decimated the corn crop." Analysts estimate prices at a record high last month. Now add in a pissed off and piss-poor population. Add in a scapegoat. The financial system is to blame, they'll say. Indeed, it's partly true. Special interest groups have made their claim to history but are too short-sighted for the job - four year planners, presidents. The system demands corruption by its very nature, maximization of profit as Nirvana, the responsibility to the shareholders.  Let's draw a few historical parallels shall we?  Taxation without representation was the foundation of the civil war that gave birth to America. Now we're faced with the modern Boston Tea Party (not the bullshit idiots) - the 99% - as the campaign goes. Surely one could argue that we are being taxed by these corporations:

- Environmental damage:

        According to New Scientist, we are experiencing the most dramatic reduction in polar ice in 3 millions years.  Forest fires spread farther and are more frequent because of the heat. There are a myriad of consequences associated with global warming that need not be listed here. 

        Toxicity in the oceans and air is growing daily. A paper published in nature with the aim of quantifying the influence of CO2 on the acidity of the ocean found "that oceanic absorption of CO2 from fossil fuels may result in larger pH changes over the next several centuries than any inferred from the geological record of the past 300 million years."

- Economic damage:

       The corrupt financial system, in collusion with the US government during the Clinton and Bush administrations caused a cascade effect of economic destruction which is difficult to quantify, yet some have tried. In a report released by Better Markets entitled "The Cost of the Wall Street-Caused Financial Collapse and Ongoing Economic Crisis Is More Than $12.8 Trillion," the report details the spectrum of damage the collapse caused in the US alone.

- Cultural damage:

       The dilution of  art and culture is obvious from the corporate perspective. The Lorax, by Dr. Seuss, had 70 advertising partners. Pop music is churned out for the masses like pudding - amorphous and easy to swallow. The "MAC" generation, the iPhone cult, the Nike jock, the PC user, or Firefox, or chrome - or what-the-fuck-ever smartphone someone is using at a given time. Consumerism makes us democratic in our spending, and we become associated with those things - they're part of us. Ingest enough McDonald's and you'll know what I mean. There could be textbooks written on this stuff, so I digress.

The point of all this is to highlight how fragile our infrastructure really is. We live in trying times, and require spectacular vision and motivation from humanity to get out of this one.

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