It’s one thing when politicians make speeches about climate change, how dire the situation is, and go on to exhort “the people” to do something about it by, for example, stopping littering, using water sparingly, switching off the lights, being kind to animals and all the other guff that politicians habitually spout forth. After all, most sentient adults take what politicians say with a pinch of salt: it’s a lot of hot air, gushing forth from the mouths of hothead who often are pursuing an agenda quite different from what their platitudes and exhortations would suggest. Nobody, after all, trusts a politician much.
But it’s quite another matter when a group of sober-minded scientists apply their not-inconsiderable knowledge and powers of logical deduction to an issue, and then write a serious report, with some detailed scenario planning, the probable outcomes of which are specific, localised, quantified ~ and deeply alarming.
Well, that’s just what happened recently when the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published its rather lengthily-titled “Global Warming of 1.5 °C ~ an IPCC special report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways, in the context of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change, sustainable development, and efforts to eradicate poverty.” You can access the report at http://www.ipcc.ch/report/sr15/.
And it gets specific. For example, in the style of Clem Sunter’s “High Road/Low Road” scenario forecasting of the 1980s the report, among other things, paints a picture of what will happen in close-by Botswana and Namibia if the average temperature were to increase by 2oC or more, specifically its effect on crop and animal production, rainfall, lifestyle etc.
It’s not good reading, not only because these deeply disruptive outcomes are likely in our lifetimes, not on some hypothetical timescale way in the future. You, if you’re young enough, will be affected. As will, most certainly, your children and grandchildren. And, yes, it’s quite possible that the next major world conflict will be fought over access to nothing more precious than water. Forget about Isis, Muslim fundamentalism, fascism, communism, capitalism, racism and all the other “-isms”. When the taps run dry… dan kom daar kak.
And, make no mistake, climate change or not, humankind is facing some major changes. In how we live, work and play, and what we eat and drink. Already, for example, UK brewers are predicting a shortage of beer, because a long, dry summer has adversely affected barley and hop crops.
As temperatures rise to intolerably hot daytime levels, for example, expect working hours to change. The workday will start earlier, and workers will sleep during the hottest midday hours a la the Mediterraneans, and then return at, say 4pm, to work through the evening until 10 or 11pm.
What we eat will change. The heavy “water footprint” (see elsewhere in this edition) of foodstuffs such as red meat will give governments an ideal opportunity to raise a “sin tax” on its consumption, in much the same way as we now pay a carbon tax when we buy a car.
Protein made from insects and algae (already being mooted as a possible foodstuff) will become commonplace, in much the same way that mushroom “flesh” is being used to manufacture vegetarian alternatives to meat.
To compensate for possible commercial crop failures schools will need to start teaching courses in food production, and horticulture, alongside the “three Rs”, computer science, history etc. Alternative energy studies might become another formalised line of school study.
The problem with all of this is that the problem is huge. It’s global, and no one individual ~ or politician ~ is going to stop, or even slow climate change. And certainly not if idiots like Donald Trump are able to pull the most consumptive nation on the planet out of international climate accords.
But, if we all did our little bit? If we all embraced the notion that we are not the owners of our little patches of Highveld, but merely the current custodians for the next generation ? If we all, at home, work and leisure consciously tried to live with the conservation of the planet and its resources in mind? Small starts such as these, collectively, would make a difference.
How, after all, does one eat an elephant? One bite at a time. We all now need to take a little bite. Because if we don’t there’ll be no elephant left to eat.