Sunday, June 04, 2006

Global warming worse than 9/11 terror attacks

In what is bound to raise controversy, Australian actor Jack Thompson claims that global warming is a far greater atrocity than the September 11 terror attacks and the nuclear bombings of Nagasaki and Hiroshima combined. :::[Sunday Telegraph].

Thompson, who will today address a Melbourne rally on the eve of World Environment Day, said measurably more people were affected by global warming than by the three catastrophic events.

"That is not to diminish what happened on 9/11. That is probably the most awful and spectacular incident in my life since Nagasaki and Hiroshima," he said.

"But Hiroshima, Nagasaki and 9/11 all together, when you look at the meltdown of the Greenland ice-cap and the flow-on of that alone, the numbers of people affected, it is measurably more."

The death toll from Nagasaki and Hiroshima was probably more than 100,000, possibly exceeding 200,000 within five years of the World War II bombings. An estimated 3,000 people died as a result of the attacks on September 11, 2001.

Put that way you can see at a glance he is spot on with his observation. In a single event the global warming grim reaper has already harvested 50,000 souls in the European heat wave of 2003. That's 9/11's death toll knocked out of contention right there although some say that Hurricane Katrina did that job with 6,600 people missing or presumed dead. A US study
by Dr Laurence Kalkstein is currently underway to explore what would happen if a similar pattern of an abnormal heatwave occurs in the US. :::[Climate Change Action].

This project is currently still in its early stages but one thing is clear, the death toll, without investment in preparation, could be similarly large.

The first projections for NYC showed that temperatures would reach up to 116F (a blistering 46.6 degrees celcius) and continue for 11 days with little respite at night. It is not hard to believe that an anthropogenic American heatwave may be imminent (on a geologic timescale) and, if the US doesn't learn from the European 2003 tragedy (which is unlikely given its current leadership's response to the predicted and anticipated Hurricane Katrina) it is not hard to believe that similar numbers of people will die.

There goes Nagasaki.

Europe 2006, and US 200? are both examples of first world heatwave scenarios. The European heatwave also resulted in massive crop failures: :::[Wikipedia]

The following shortfalls in wheat harvest occurred as a result of the long drought.

  • France - 20%
  • Italy - 13%
  • United Kingdom - 12%
  • Ukraine - 75%
  • Moldova - 80%

Many other countries had shortfalls of 5-10%, and the EU total production was down by 10 million tonnes, or 10%.

If similarly caused and equivalent crop failures had happened in a third world subsistence region one can imagine that tens of hundreds of thousands of people would die. Without evasive action, it is just a matter of time; a ticking bomb.

There goes Hiroshima.

Like Jack Thompson I don't mean to trivialise 9/11 or the dropping of the atomic bombs. I've been to Hiroshima, seen the epicentre wireframe of the only building left standing and was very much moved by the visit (as I imagine I would be visiting the 9/11 site). But, consider the fact that the European heatwave of 2003 was a consequence of greenhouse gasses of 40 to 50 years ago, and that we still have another 40 to 50 years of mankind emitted carbon dioxide left in our atmospheric pipeline to get through even if we stopped all emissions now. And consider that I have only used deaths attributable to heatwaves for my speculation, and not the millions of deaths that are predicted for the next 20 years in a secret study by the Pentagon. Not the deaths from the spread of malaria, Denge river fever, and the Nile virus as tropical diseases increase their ranges into heavily populated areas. Not the deaths from the resource wars as we all fight for the last remaining oil, coal,uranium and water. Not from the mega-droughts, famine and world widespread rioting the Pentagon predicts in its report.

While Thompson's reference to 9/11, Nagasaki and Hiroshima initially generated surprise for me, thinking it through I can see that his is a fair call. If global warming continues unabated much longer then 9/11, Nagasaki and Hiroshima will just be foothill base camps in the Everest of man-made catastrophes.

Other blogs on: , , , , , , , , ,


Vincenze said...

I caught that article also, and I think it goes to the fact that strong leadership is needed on an issue that is often snubbed by governments and big business.

Actors have high profiles and can certainly use their postion to influence for the greater good.

Good on him. :)

Wadard said...

I think Al Gore is showing leadership where it counts now. But it is not only top down leadership we need, where we live in democracies voters need to to tell potential leaders what sort of leadership we want on this issue. It needs a grass roots drive.

For example Prim Minister Howard finally seems to be coming around to the idea that global warming is dangerous, but his proposal to combat GHG's is nuclear. If we the people don't make another Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric stand, it will end taking 15 years to build the NP plants we need to generate the electricity Oz needs - and in order to have the economic momentum to do this we will need to keep on exploiting those cheap polluting fossil fuels. Howard will have shown leadership, yet we will be deeper in the poo.

You are right about the need for actors and other high profile media celebs taking a leadership stance.