When I signed up to Blog Action Day sometime ago 3,500 blogs were a part of the initiative generating a claimed reach of over 3 million people. The concept behind it was gloriously simple – as many blogs posting on one issue (the environment) on one day (today) to raise awareness, create some noise, hopefully make a difference. As I write there are now over 15,000 blogs a part of it, reaching an audience of over 12.5 million people so it’s definitely got some traction. So, as promised:
My first thought about this post was that I wanted to write something positive – something which focused on the small changes that individuals can and are making that (when put together) add up to really meaningful change. Then I read the scariest thing I’ve read in a long time. It was a Gladwell-esque take on the environment. Professor Tim Lenton of the University of East Anglia, a scientist whose research interest lies in understanding the earth as a whole system, was addressing a British Antarctic Survey meeting on complexity in nature. He warned that global warming could trigger tipping points that could cause "runaway warming or catastrophic sea-level rise" and that the risks are far greater than currently forecast. Not only could we be close to some very significant points-of-no-return, we could be closer than is currently predicted. Instead of the Greenland ice sheet taking 1000 years to melt, Lenton believes it could happen in 300. This would raise sea levels by 7 metres and flood hundreds of millions of people out of their homes. "Climate modellers are in a quandary. As models get better and forecasts more alarming, their confidence in the detail of their predictions is evaporating".
Lenton’s group, which includes John Schellnhuber the chief scientist on climate change at the last G8 summit, has identified 8 potential tipping points which could be passed within our lifetimes and those of our children, and worse-still could be linked in a catastrophic chain effect. These include the collapse of the global ocean circulation system (the thermohaline circulation), which in turn could also "switch off" the Asian Monsoon, warm the Southern ocean and destabilise the West Antarctica ice sheet. Similarly, a near permanent El-Nino in the Pacific could hasten a "runaway burning of the Amazon rainforest and its disappearance by mid-century". According to Lenton, already "we are close to being committed to the collapse of the Greenland ice-sheet".
These apocolyptic tipping points could be passed within the next 100 years. That makes it our responsibility to stop this happening. But how? The challenge seems so vast. I can’t help feeling that if it is ever going to be tackled in a meaningful way it needs total and systematic change. The kind of transformation that inhabits every sphere. From real action implemented at governmental level, to a myriad of simple initiatives however small that we can all take. We should discuss it, debate it, but most of all we should take action. For everyone’s sake.