While leaders of 100+ countries and some 40,000 support staff meet in Paris to discuss curbing global warming, reports (including here, and here) are describing how seriously rising sea levels are impacting widely-dispersed areas around the world. One of them is the world’s largest naval base, at Norfolk, VA., which some experts say will be so swamped by sea water that it will be nearly or completely inoperable in a mere twenty to fifty years. Another is the Marshall Islands in the South Pacific, already being frequently subjected to serious flooding at high tide. [Note: The video imbedded in that NY Times story gives you a graphic idea of the ease with which the sea will overwhelm the Marshalls.]
Then there’s Greenland, where the ice pack is shrinking at an alarming rate, contributing to rising-water issues in a broad swath of places.
Sadly, the first attempt at an agreement among those working in Paris has been described as “a 54-page draft of mind-wrenching complexity – a textual labyrinth where gremlins and booby traps lurk in every dark corner.”
If I didn’t really not believe this, I’d strongly suspect that people who could do something about reducing greenhouse gases and all the rest are taking a ‘What, me worry’ attitude about that and other climate change issues.
So what if the Marshall Islands, parts of Virginia and numerous other low-lying areas around this country will be under the rising sea in 20 or more years – but probably not sooner? “I’ll be gone, then or soon thereafter,” they think, reckoning it’s OK to kick the issue down the sea-covered road for ‘a few more years’.
So, while many of those decision-makers and planners are at an age where global warming and climate change is likely to little affect them personally, the rest of us are looking to them to not kick the issues down the road, but to act, now, toward solutions.
Some of the same ‘involved’ people and others or their ilk are more concerned about how their nations would be affected by plans or rules requiring reductions in ‘carbon foot prints’ than they are about long-term impacts of their countries’ inaction in this area.
Sadly, for the future of the world as we know it, many of those planners and decision-makers are light-skinned – meaning, in effect, they reside in the Northern Hemisphere, commonly in areas not likely to be dramatically affected by rising sea levels, etc., in the foreseeable future.
A report earlier this year from a daily online version of Science magazine notes that, “Europeans today [and emigrants from Europe] are a mix of the blending of at least three ancient populations of hunter-gatherers and farmers who moved into Europe in separate migrations over the past 8000 years.” Some of those people had darker skin – harking back to human’s origins deep in Africa. As they mixed with people with lighter-shaded skin, the end result was the so-called ‘white’ people of today.
(Interesting side note: People who migrated over time from Africa to Europe ordinarily did not venture west, toward today’s South America. The reason is simple: They had no north star to navigate by. There are several references on this page that begin to address that issue, but none of them fully does, other than to note that birds migrate from the north to the south and back but not to and from warmer climes to the east or west. ‘Not quite the same issue, but the explanation is the same: Traveling between north and south, they could – and do – navigate both by the north pole and, as interestingly, by the gravitational field of the earth.)
Much of Bangladesh, a nation of brown-skinned people, is among the lowest-lying occupied land in the world. A sea water rise of one meter (3.28 feet) would affect “two thirds of the total population of 150 million people, more than half of whom subsist on less than a dollar a day; In addition, 10% of fertile land will be ruined . . .” says a fascinating report called ‘Sea Level Rise and the Vulnerability of Coastal Peoples’. It was produced by the United Nations University/ Institute for Environment and Human Security.
‘Ever heard of something called the Small Island Developing States, or SIDS? That encompasses the such Pacific islands as Tuvalu, Kiribati, and, among others, the Carteret Islands. “From the point of view of exposure, there would seem to be few places on earth more exposed to sea level rise,” that report says.
Another report, from the United Nations Environment Programme recently declared that, “Climate change-induced sea-level rise in the world’s 52 smallest island nations [is] estimated to be four times the global average.
One would hope that at least some of the people involved in putting together a plan to reduce global warming and climate change would have read some (if not all) of the reports behind these links before heading for Paris. Had they done so, the results of their conference no doubt would be better for the world than what we can expect from them: More talk, not much more action.