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Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Rising Seas and Powerful Storms Threaten Global Security

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Janet Larsen

Standing before the United Nations General Assembly in October 1987, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, President of the Maldives, made an appeal representing “an endangered nation.” That year for the first time, “unusual high waves” in the Indian Ocean inundated a quarter of the urban area on the capital island of Male’, flooded farms, and washed away reclaimed land. Gayoom cited scientific evidence that human activities were releasing greenhouse gases that warm the planet, ultimately raising global sea level as glaciers melt and warmer water expands. The trouble extended beyond small islands; studies showed that rising seas would wreak havoc on the U.S. Gulf Coast, the Netherlands, and the river deltas of Egypt and Bangladesh.

Fast-forward through two decades of swelling seas and more powerful storms and the call has moved from the need to study global warming to the necessity of dramatic action to stabilize climate. With small island nations in peril, these days President Gayoom evokes the vision of a United Nations where “name plates are gone; seats are empty.” He does not speak alone: this fall, some 50 countries, including a number of small island nations along with Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the European Union, are planning to put a resolution before the U.N. General Assembly requesting that the U.N. Security Council address “the threat posed by climate change to international peace and security.” As Ambassador Stuart Beck of Palau has asked, “Would any nation facing an invading army not do the same?”

I cannot understand the mindset that turns its back on a problem like this. We have known about this problem for at least twenty years, yet have done nothing about it. And currently, we are so obsessed with the way that financial markets are falling apart, we are more worried about our RRSP statements than the loss of entire countries.

one out of every 10 people on the planet lives in a coastal zone less than 33 feet above sea level.

As one of those people – indeed I think I probably live below high tide level most of the time – I regard this issue as a very pressing problem. But not just because it could impact me – and my distrust of the smugness of our local politicians on this issue. It is a clear and present danger to all of us.

In fact, reducing emissions will not now be enough, as it might have been 20 years ago, simply becuase our production of ghg is now exceeding the planet’s capacity to absorb it. And no this is not a statement based on my “belief ” – it is well documented.

In BC we live in a fault line in a geologically active area “overdue for the big one”. Yet we still educate our children in old schools that have not been seismically upgraded. Becuase our government cares more about cutting taxes. So denial of the inevitable is not exactly new or different. And this morning both the Globe and Mail and the Vancouver Sun are telling their readers to vote for the one man on the international stage who has been standing in the way of an effective agreement on ghg emissions. On the grounds that he is supposed to be the “steady hand on the tiller” even though it was his ideaology that created the financial situation we are now in. He himself would have supported Phil Gram and the “less government” mantra that lead to the inevitable crash. Quite how this makes him qualified for anything other than a quiet retirement and sympathetic therapy is beyond me.

Written by Stephen Rees

October 10, 2008 at 12:03 pm

Posted in Environment, politics

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