Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Prof Flannery, climate change and our trip North from Vancouver

I hate the cold. Despite the smile in this picture, I like to be warm.

But James Huitson, Regional Director for Pareto Fundraising based in Hong Kong, loves the cold north of the world. He told us we really need to visit Whistler, north of Vancouver. So we did.

This trip was a day off, no work, no charities to meet, no world to save.

No big issue stuff, just relaxing.

We had a great time, saw lots of beautiful nature, a bear, eagles and fabulous forests. The bear was just ambling along a ski-run (with no snow) quite content being so close to humans.
Very exciting for us, and with no threat to either because we were 30ft above him on a chair lift.

As we went further up the mountain, we saw lots more and with occasional snow on the slopes but with the sun out we were really quite relaxed.

However, I began to notice more and more sick trees. They seemed to look really bad and began to disturb me.

This photo shows such a sick tree.

These sick trees seemed to be everywhere. I asked Christine, the bus driver on a stretch of mountain why there were so many sick trees.

"Oh, that is the Pine Beetle. It is having a devastating impact on our trees."

We continued to have a nice day, and got back to Vancouver on a great train journey, tired but happy. I'll come back to the Pine Beetle in a bit.

Anyway, this morning, I was walking to the office listening to one of my favourite shows - ABC's Science Show (7 June 08) I recommend listening to it. In this particular one, Prof Tim Flannery author of the great book The Weather Makers (please read it), talked about the growing urgency of the need for action against climate change. No news there, but the one thing that was new for me was his call for last minute emergency action including 'injecting sulphur into the atmosphere'.

For those who know me well, you may have heard me mention this before - but I grew up in the 80s when the biggest threat we were told about was the impending nuclear catastrophe. A terrifying movie, Threads, scared me to death as it was set in a local town, Sheffield, in England. The plot is basically Sheffield gets nuked.

Following the nukes, the survivors suffer a Nuclear winter. The soot and ash that is ejected into the atmosphere causes temperatures worldwide to drop.

A crazy idea, but with such a learned bloke as Tim Flannery suggesting we need to do something radical the question is raised - how far do we need to go? In that particular edition of The Science Show they are talking about how we need to cut carbon emissions by not 30% or 40% but 100%. Which would be the least devastating?

The answer does not rest on individuals cutting their emissions - though this is important - the key is going to be industry and, therefore, legislation.

Back to the Pine Beetle. According to The Science Show, the milder winters experienced in British Columbia are not killing them off like they are meant to, and with greater populations surviving more trees and destroyed. And in another of those feedback loops of devastation, this causes the release of more carbon...

Click on the poll to vote for for or against my version of a nuclear solution to climate change.

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