Recent extreme weather events, and Monday’s hot day in London, got me thinking about Climate change and risk in a new and scary way.
We might think risk is a simple measure, we have low risk, medium risk and high risk. But that hides an awful lot of reality. Let’s use gambling as an example. I can place a relatively low risk bet on black or red on the roulette wheel. I could make it even lower risk by betting on red and black, leaving The House to win only if zero comes up. But if I bet my life savings then it all feels so much more scary. At the other end I can place a small amount of money on just, say, lucky number 7, so it is high risk of losing money but low risk on losing a lot.
I think I have had this kind of risk assessment on climate change:
1. A high risk of rapid deterioration of climate conditions if we do nothing.
2. A medium risk of severe deterioration if we take measures as recommended by scientists.
3 A low risk of rapid change if we take current planned measures to avert disaster.
I could go on, my sense of risk is complex, it would be hard to put on a chart and if I did I might keep changing my mind.
But yesterday I suddenly thought about recent severe weather events and wondered if severe change is happening right now. That the predicted time scales of when we need to act and by how much are way too conservative. What if next year we see twice as many severe climate events, and the year after twice as many again?
The list of bad events in the last 12 months is pretty long, even if you discount volcanoes and earthquakes! Europe has had severe floods and heat waves, North America has had severe repeat floods combined with wild fires from drought conditions and seems to be having a near yearly increase in tornadoes. China has had massive floods as has Pakistan and South East Asia, and Australia. A lot of these have happened this June! And these are not small. Queensland had 3/4s declared a state of emergency, Pakistan had 20 million homeless. And Africa of course, a continent which has enough wars to keep everyone busy right now, and a clear risk of rapidly increased flooding.
Nepal is sitting on massive glaciers which pose severe flood risk to India, and we could go on.
It has sometimes been said that maybe we just know more now, maybe these things always happened and with global news we just hear more about them. Now that is partially true, but so many severe weather events all around the globe seem to be too many and too big to have gone unnoticed before. We only have so many tents, we only have so much food in store.
Is it climate change?? Well, some people seem to think so. What worries me as well is that if Government scientists start to think this is the start of a big downturn in security of any kind of life style then they, with strong nudging from the politicians, will want to play it down.
Standing back from all this I don’t think I fully believe this is more than a significant risk. But if we get another year of these kinds of events then we will all be wondering if Climate Change has started on a much bigger scale than anticipated. I sincerely hope plan B is available!
POSTSCRIPT: I closed this off and sat thinking maybe I was being pessimistic. Then I viewed this.
Don’t panic, Things are going to be bad enough. But maybe right now everyone of us should forget about doing ‘what we can’ and starting to ‘do what is necessary’, which might mean getting rid of the car, building a self sustaining grow your own garden commune with neighbours and learning how to teach our children when the Internet gets switched off. Climate change may not be a 2050 or even a 2030 or even 2020 issue, it is a 2012 issue, at the latest!