Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Hurray for the Credit Crunch

You might not be happy about reading this headline if your home has been repossessed and you’ve lost your job but let me cheer you up: things could be a lot worst.

The cost of the ecological crisis that would result from global warming is equivalent to all the economic wealth we’ve produced during the industrial age I would estimate. I believe that our government’s estimate of the cost of 2 world wars back to back falls well short of the actual economic cost. At today’s real estate valuations, if we look at a case scenario where the world’s oceans rise by 25 metres, it’s easy to see that the cost could be much greater. Picture the Eastern Coast of the US, China, Japan, London etc under water. We’re not talking about bombarding or destroying a few cities here and there, we’re talking about a large proportion of our land going under water and what’s left of the land would be absolutely useless to grow anything on it. So I think that a ballpark estimate for global warming potential damage is 50 years of economic production, compare that to about a year or three for the Credit crunch; I’m telling you, things could be worst.

The Oceans won’t rise by 25 meters you say? Read 6 degrees I say.

And that’s not in the distant future either. Once we’ve passed 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels of warming, that’s it, “les carottes sont cuites” as the French say (we’re at 0.7 now). What will happen next is a positive feedback loop, runaway global warming or self-fulfilling global warming, call it what you want but in effect, Nature will start competing with us and very successfully may I add at emitting larger and larger amounts of greenhouse gases. In fact, so effective will Nature be at this job that by 2100, only 91 years from now, Nature will be pumping out into the atmosphere the same yearly amount that we emit now. This will warm the Planet even faster.

More carbon in the atmosphere so what you say?

Carbon will cause global temperatures to rise. In a warming world, we will be plighted by flash floods that will erode the land and make it impossible to grow food leading to billions of people dying from famine. Draughts will make this problem even worse and burn what little we have left of forests. This in turn, will reduce oxygen levels in the atmosphere to levels causing us to gasp for air. Billions of people will no longer have access to drinkable water. Sea levels could rise up to 25 meters above their current levels in the long term and 5 meters in the short term. Hurricanes will become far more powerful and destructive than before occurring worldwide and venturing much further into the land. Far worst, billions of buried reserves of methane (23 times worst than carbon) buried under the ice and the oceans will be released into the atmosphere. If lit by lightning, this methane could cause explosions far more powerful and more destructive than any weapons we currently have available. In a warming world, we will have a very large panel of dying options: fry to death, die from starvation or malnutrition, die asphyxiated, die from disease, die from skin cancer, drown, die in the wars caused by social unrest and mass migration... This will happen within our generation, this century; it has already begun. We are at the early stages of the worst mass extinction of all time. So far, nothing too noticeable has happened but once we reach tipping point, the changes will be very large and very noticeable and there will be nothing that can be done about them.

I told you it could be worst than losing your home and losing your job didn’t I? The reason why the credit crunch is such a God send is because when I read the US Economy has contracted by 6% and Chinese exports have fallen by more than 30% in the last quarter: this is fantastic news! It means carbon emissions are coming down and we have a shot at living. In 2007, we had until 2016 to do something before reaching the point of no return. The credit crunch is doing the job for us without us even having to switch to renewable energy right away. I think what we can quite safely say about the credit crunch is that it is buying us some precious time so that we all get a chance to change our lifestyles before it’s too late. Human beings are incredibly slow at getting just how bad that threat is and it’s going to take many more years of press and news coverage for people to get it. But there’s worst factors that are preventing positive change from occurring: everyone’s hooked on consumption. That’s another fantastic side effect of the credit crunch. Everyone’s now realized that you can’t get everything you want right now. This is fantastic. Less greed equals less consumption and the less we consume the less we pollute. Finally, the only viable industry that offers us a way out of this recession is the switch to a green economy as President Obama has understood. When are they going to get it here?