Global Warming: Asia-Pacific’s Catastrophe in the Making

The issue

Global warming is on course to become the most important issue facing the countries of the Asia Pacific region this century. The effects of unprecedented rapid climatic warming – are already a serious regional problem.

Take these statistics about the current effects of global warming between the 1960s and 1990s:

  • Number of weather related disasters = 4.5 times higher
  • Economic losses = 7.9 times higher
  • Non-weather related disasters = 1.5 times higher
  • Insurance losses = 13.6 times higher
  • 1950-2000 average sea level rise = just under 10 cm.
  • the Artic ice shelf has contracted 25 percent since the mid 1970s

If no action is taken financially debilitating economic costs and acute social disruption is a longer term probability globally and for the Asia-Pacific region according to an overwhelming consensus of the world’s scientists and climatologists.

The phenomenon is not new: as far back as 1988 the international Conference on the Changing Atmosphere noted:

“Humanity is conducting an unintended, uncontrolled, globally pervasive experiment whose ultimate consequences could be second only to a global nuclear war. The earth’s atmosphere is being changed at an unprecedented rate by pollutants resulting from human activities, inefficient and wasteful fossil fuel use and the effects of rapid population growth in many regions. These change represent a major threat to international security and are already having harmful consequences over many parts of the globe.”

By 2003 these trends and concerns were being confirmed and reinforced. Nobel Laureat Paul Crutzen and Will Steffen Executive director of the International Geosphere-Biosphere Program jointly stated:

“In terms of key environmental parameters the earth system has recently moved well outside the range of natural variability exhibited over the last half million years. The nature of changes now occurring simultaneously in the Earth System, their magnitude and rates of change are unprecedented and unsustainable.”

Key to the understanding of global warming is the utter uniqueness of its consequences. There is a parallel with the AIDS epidemic’s perverse delayed time bomb effect. Scientists are warning that there is a global warming ‘tipping point’ when further climate change may become irreversible. If we reach this point – that is, if temperatures rise to the higher end of the probabilities – 5 degrees by 2001 – catastrophic consequences are in the offing.

An eminent Australian climatologist Barrie Pittock warns in his book “Climate Change –Turning up the heat”:

“..evidence from the past climate changes of similar magnitude (to that projected in 21 st Century) point to major impacts which, if humans had been present in numbers like today, would have been disastrous.”

Finally while the direct effects of global warming will fall unevenly on countries of the Asia-Pacific their economies’ high level of dependence on trade and investment will mean the global effect of global warming will be directly transmitted to the region.

The Blog

Is all this alarmist and exaggerated? EWC alumni are invited to join the blog and debate the issues. For the uninitiated a blog is simply an online forum where anyone can contribute to an open debate by emailing their views and having it displayed on the blog site. To start the ball rolling you are invited to:

  1. Comment on the issues. That is:
    • How serious is climate change?
    • How severe is it likely to be in the future?
    • Who is to blame? Is it a developed world problem?
    • Is the cost of controlling global warming too much?
    • How are we going to avoid the consequences?

    Your country and global warming

  2. Secondly, Alumni are also invited to provide a profile of how climate change is affecting their own country. That is:
  • What are the visible/verifiable signs of global warming (or lack of)?
  • For example does weather data show marked changes and variability over time? Are droughts/floods/typhoons becoming more severe? Are rainfall levels changing are snow lines and glaciers glaciers retreating? Is biodiversity being threatened?

  • What are the likely future consequences?
  • What are your government’s policies on climate changes both
  • regarding the domestic agenda and the international agenda?

  • What is your countries’ energy and COs emission profile?

Contribution: Jeremy Webb, EWC Alumni Chapter Brisbane, Australia.

Learn more: Climate Change .doc

7 thoughts on “Global Warming: Asia-Pacific’s Catastrophe in the Making

  1. Are the Bushes turning green?

    There is some hot news from down under on climate changes which I dug up from an Australian on-line news and comment daily which claims George bush is about to do a u turn on global warming. Have any US almuni heard of this rumour. IF so please push it onto the blog!

    I have repeated the comment below.

    And just to make sure you are aware that Australia is also in the global warming firing line I have posted a further comment on entrepreneur Richard Branson’s extradordinary offer to invest up to $3.9 billion into global warming technology. Here are the two brief articles:

    Is President Bush turning green?

    Rumours are swirling that an announcement from the Bush administration signalling a profound departure from past climate policy may be days away.

    Will it be enough to send fossil fuel lobbyists in DC scrambling to update their résumés? Speculation ranges from the sort of middling policy that will succeed only in annoying just about everybody, to a radical program of emissions reduction that would draw a cautious smile from the sulkiest environmentalists and simultaneous howls of betrayal from conservatives. Time will tell.

    It’s difficult to imagine a genuine conversion – if there’s an epiphany to be had, it will be a political rather than an environmental one. The governator’s siding with the Democrats on a bill to slash California’s emissions hasn’t helped matters – there’ll be no Christmas card from the misunderestimated Texan this year, unless it reads something like, “Hey Arnold – you sucked in Junior! How much you sellin’ that Humvee for?”

    So is the policy shift a knee-jerk response to the inconvenient Gore juggernaut? No doubt the film has hit a chord of concern amongst a surprising proportion of the public, but there is bound to be renewed speculation about those scrupulously structured answers from Mr Gore to questions concerning his plans. Two years ago climate change would have seemed an unwise platform for a run at the presidency. Will this still be the case two years hence? Maybe it all hinges on the next hurricane season.

    Not generally known for his outspoken criticism of Bush administration policy, it will be interesting to see the position John Howard takes. This will of course depend on the substance of the proposal, but it’s hard to imagine Australia will be entirely taken by surprise. Bush may simply follow a similar “virtue of necessity” tack to Howard’s in using his climate change ground shift as leverage on the nuclear issue. If so, the lobbyists will know who to post their résumés to.

    Still, unlikely as it may seem, there is talk of a Bush proposal to hold atmospheric CO2 concentrations to 450ppm, an extremely ambitious, some would say impossible, task. Though the devil is in the policy implementation details, this would be a historic announcement, one bound to win Bush a very different set of friends and enemies.

    Australia in the firing line

    Australia’s policy on global warming gets a serve
    The irrationality, stupidity and stubbornness over global warming by the Austraalian and American governments just got a lot more embarrassing. Entrepreneur Richard Branson this morning pledged $3.9 billion from the profits of his airline and rail companies over the next ten years (or from other sources if their profits are not enough) to combat global warming.
    $3.9 billion. From one businessman. To combat global warming. That amount contrasts with the $2 billion invested by the Australian government in climate change measures across all sectors of the economy since the creation of the Australian Greenhouse Office in 1998. And with the current US Budget measures of around $5 billion in tax incentives to encourage the use of clean, renewable energy and energy-efficient technologies to improve the environmental performance of coal power plants.
    When it comes to acting like a leader on what is now the zeitgeist issue of the current era, John Howard is looking more like a goose by the day. Dear Squatters,
    The headline last week promised exciting news: “Geniuses ‘less prone to hangovers’.” Could it be that the same brain chemistry responsible for intelligence also mitigates the effects of heavy drinking?
    Alas, no, or at least not from this study. There was no scientific experiment, just a survey asking about people’s drinking habits. Although “a higher IQ score was associated with a lower prevalence of hangovers”, the researchers suggest that more intelligent people “respond better to advice not to binge drink.” Who would have thought it?
    Such blindingly obvious results are reported as news because ethical concerns prevent researchers from doing proper research on human subjects – force-feeding people alcohol in the interests of science is clearly problematic.
    So researchers just conduct surveys instead. But surveys are generally unable to distinguish causation from simple correlation, not that this stops the media from happily publishing the absurd “news”. There were two prime examples just last month. One claimed that listening to explicit music made people more likely to have sex; another said that watching wrestling leads teenagers to fight more with their dates. Neither correlation is surprising, but neither is evidence in itself for a causal link.
    Then yesterday up pops another one: a Reason Foundation study reported on an Age blog, showing that those who drink in moderation earn higher incomes than those who don’t drink at all, particularly if they drink socially. The researchers hypothesise that this might be due to the positive social capital effects of networking over a few drinks. It might. But did it not occur to them that people who earn more can also afford to drink more, and to do so in bars rather than at home?
    If you don’t ask tricky questions, it’s much easier to get the answers you’re looking for.

    Cheers Jeremy Webb

  2. As a horticulturist I want to point out that the increase of CO2 in the environment would do a tremendous help as far as the crops and vegetation is concerned. The crops yield would increase and with the rising population, it would be helpful in providing food for the additional mouths. It would also help an extensive area, which is non productive now especially in North America and Canada, to become productive and be able to grow crops and the people would be able to enjoy the temperature and the greenery around their own homes. What is wrong in it? So the climate change should not be considered as one sided effect. Let us stop bickering about the distinguished president who sees the effect of putting regulations on the businesses in America. CFCs were banned. We are doing our best not to produce them, but China, India snd Mexico are still producing them and selling in USA in the black market. So who are we trying to convince?

  3. This response to Mahmood’s comments are somewhat delayed by holidays in Australia. Apologies.

    His observations may be quite correct in that Climate change is indeed likely to produce differing effects to different regions climatically and some may be highly positive but others highly negative. Its very difficult therefore to work out in a net way what the outcome will be.

    If we are lucky these effects will be gradual so that where regions suffer from much more severe droughts and innundation counter measures can be effected in time. But clearly we need to better understand the probabilities and plan for this.

    Indeed there is some doubt about whether the effects of climate change will be gradual and “linear”. Increasingly, scientists are projecting that if ice cap melting and movement of ice in the Arctic and Antarctic proceed as indicated by some research very serious affects to the world’s ocean currents could be the result. In these situations an exceptionally rapid change in temperature could be proudced (as much as 7-8 degrees over 10 years has ocurred in the past). I will post a recent article on this as soon as I can get it digitised.

    Jeremy Webb (Brisbane Chapter),

  4. The recent lower temperatures all over the United States definitely contradict the claims of many scientists in the recent meetings that the earth is too warm already due to abundance of CO2. I am waiting for the “non-political” scientists (a species which is hard to find) working in the Arctic and Antarctic zones to inform about the replenishment and filling of gaps between the melting icebergs due to the extensive snow fall we had and are still having. In my opinion the planet may be undergoing its own homeostasis process.
    I believe that the industrialists in the United States are complying with the regulations for the emission of CO2, SO2 and are fined extensively for non conformity. I have heard nothing from all the environment conservationists of the planet about the extensive release of CO2 and SO2 from the fires all over the planet. I am positive that the total release from the California in the whole year is sufficient enough to dwarf the total release from the industrial units of USA including cars; which are also regulated regarding the release of these dangerous emissions. Isn’t it funny that I have never read about any contribution being made by all these self proclaimed biocentric organizations (especially Sierra Club) to provide financial help in controlling these fires?

  5. Hello,

    I’m not a alumni member of the EWC. But I would like to say something on global warming in my country’s case. I’m an editor of The UB Post, Mongolia’s independent English weekly newspaper.
    Mongolian identity of traditional way of nomadic life is under threat by severe desertification, which is caused by global warming.
    Al Jazeera did a story on this.

  6. The comments left behind by a reporter on the nomadic way of life suggests that the change is no good and these people should not improve in their life. Planet is changing and it is going to change ecologically, economically, technologically and we have to embrace the changes and accept them. A nomadic life is still the remnant of the life in the climate of hundreds of years ago and climate has changed. The progress of humanity during these years has not changed the planet but has adjusted to the progress and is using the ecological economic in its planning for future development There is no way we can go back. There is no desertification being caused here by man activities but by nature and we have to learn to live with the changing environment. Please read some of the articles on the subject at AAETONLINE.ORG.

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