Saturday, 12 April 2014

We can adapt to the effects of climate change

In the last few days, one of the most important statements in years was made about global environmental health. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the key body providing and commenting on climate change data, supported by nearly all countries in the world, and it has just issued a report which was finalised in Yokohama, Japan. This is the second report in a series of four; the next two are due later this year.

The main message of the report is that we can adapt to the effects of climate change. This marks a significant change in focus which, until now, has been on methods of slowing or preventing climate change. This is not a message of defeatism but rather one of realism within a much broader strategy that still includes mitigation.

In the same week, the ‘grandfather of green’ and author of The Gaia Hypothesis, Dr James Lovelock, suggested that, as nearly 80 percent of the world’s population lives in cities, this is perhaps the best thing we can do to adapt. Living together and in close proximity to others allows us to be more efficient in sharing our energy use, cutting our travel to work, facing natural hazards and alleviating stress on natural environments. In explaining this, he draws a likeness to termite mounds that recycle air and energy and allow huge insect populations to survive harsh conditions.

Lovelock cites Singapore as an example of a human termite mound. This is believable because it is where I am writing this blog, in a hotel that has the largest atrium in Asia and operates very much in the same way. In fact, it looks and is shaped like a hollow termite mound! Indeed, here is a city state that captures and recycles almost all the water that lands on it, controls pollution, recycles, and conserves land.

The IPCC report is designed to identify upcoming risks, such as the increase in vector-borne diseases, rural poverty and species disruption. It also catalogues excellent advances in Africa and Australasia; this includes planning for change. Finally, this report also shows us the immense amount of work that is being done to manage the environment and give us a reasonable chance of holding Gaia together!

David Jackman