Requiem for a Species

I’ve just read a book called Requiem for a Species by Clive Hamilton, an Australian researcher and commentator. It’s a good, if rather scary read, as the picture it paints of our current climate change trajectory is not a pretty one. What the author argues is that, while governments around the world make half-hearted efforts to set and reach a ‘safe’ target of CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere, in reality we have already exceeded that ‘safe’ target, and that even if all CO2 emissions were to immediately halt worldwide the earth would continue to warm for centuries to come.

There’s a lot of hysteria and self-interest surrounding the subject of climate change action, particularly in Australia where our Opposition party and industry groups have obstructed carbon pricing at every step. Therefore it’s important to acknowledge that the research behind this book is based on current, peer-reviewed, evidence based science: as the author says, if anything the figures are likely to err on the conservative side.

What is really nuts is that the economic cost of avoiding dangerous levels of climate change (ie, above 450ppm greenhouse gases in the atmosphere) is only 1-5% (Hamilton thinks the realistic estimate is 2%) of GDP to the year 2050. This amounts to waiting an extra 3 years for total incomes to double. Sounds like a pretty small price to pay to avoid catastrophic climate change to me, but politicians and industry groups all around the world are calling it ‘unrealistic’.

I bought a couple of home decorating magazines last week, with the idea of getting some inspiration for my yet-to-be-built house. Apparently the latest and greatest in kitchen these days is coloured appliances like ovens. And I thought – who needs a blue oven? Or an orange one? All these manufactured desires take from the earth’s precious resources, and our precious time and effort to pay for them. When will we stop creating artificial needs for ourselves that are literally costing the earth?

A while back I went to see Greens Senator Bob Brown speak, and he began his speech with a sentence that sent chills down my spine:

‘We are a herd of 7 billion mammals, and we go forward together or not at all.’

Humanity needs to envision a new world order, based on respect and fairness for nature and each other. As books like Requiem for a Species show us, time is fast running out to avoid catastrophic climate change. It’s a statement worth repeating: we go forward together or not at all.

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