Plan for the planet?

“I’ve got an idea — let’s play hide and seek!” Mary Travers spoke, as I recall, on the 33-rpm vinyl record by Peter, Paul and Mary called “Peter, Paul and Mommy”, an anthology of some of my favourite children’s songs. Songs I love.

Well, I have an idea: let’s save humanity so that many more generations of children will sing children’s songs. Not an original idea but let’s stay with it.

Dependable science delivers a picture of planet Earth as we pass through the consecutive impacts of changing climate, consequence that may start with ecology but quickly moves through the food chain and the economy into the health and wealth of humanity and the security of civilisation.

This somewhat succinctly embodies the essential message that Gwynne Dyer delivers globally, to all people in government and the smart folk who do “military intelligence”.

Let me review Dyer’s argument from his latest book Climate Wars. Either climate change creates food shortages that create climate refugees that start local international wars that seriously complicate civilisation, or climate change causes food shortages that cause local civil problems within nations that complicate civilisation. Either way, climate change threatens human civilisation as we know it.

A failed state cannot feed its own population. The people of a failed state cannot grow enough food to feed themselves. Neither the people nor the state can buy enough food. Starvation threatens people living in a failed state, partly because in some states only the corrupt can survive.a

After enough climate change, no country in the world will have surplus food to sell: every country will have too little, as “just enough” is not an option, just a tipping-point we swing past. A government that cannot feed its people has run out of credibility. All government is threatened. Rule of law collapses helter-skelter, here, there and everywhere. What a future scenario!

Today’s failed states, Haiti and Zimbabwe, will be the first to go full-speed towards turning their present populations into starving climate refugees. Other states, now nearly failing in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and “Latin” America will follow.

The International Panel on Climate Change, IPCC, suggests that the increase in the average global temperature may pessimistically be expected to reach 6 degrees by the end of the present century. The best science has consistently produced forecasts with a range from unlikely, through likely, and on to unlikely again. Dyer and many are concerned that the most pessimistic forecasts on the unlikely side made from the best science continue to be exceeded with surprising frequency. Global warming is on the increase, and not only the frail are concerned that it threatens to go runaway.

The dominoes can fall pretty quickly; the order matters little. With climate change, those countries nearer the equator suffer more severe food shortages sooner.

Near North America, Mexico and other countries immediately south are headed towards a large food deficit. Much of the desertification there will affect the southern USA as well. As climate changes, many more people will want to cross over the US-Mexican border into the USA. Many more Americans will not want them. A challenged America will eventually ask the American military to begin to “shoot to kill” these climate refugees coming north if necessary, to keep the border more closed than porous ~ of course, in a sincere effort to deal with America’s own increasingly short food supply. The navy will sink the refugees that come north by boat; the air force will eliminate the smart and desperate Spanish speaking refugees that choose to move by kite, balloon or blimp, if the American right in the second amendment does not kill them first.

Similar things happen as climate refugees try to enter Russia from China. All hell breaks loose north of Africa as the Africans and people of the Middle East all want into Europe; the Italians may travel to Norway as Greeks and Turks invade Sweden and Finland. The Northern countries of Europe could go to war with the Mediterranean countries. A local nuclear war over water may erupt between India and Pakistan. Neither military industry nor treaty organisation can police all of this. No one can win. Once the climate wars begin, we never return to the good old days we had on Earth in 2010.

There is a climate-caused tipping point built into human nature: people never go quietly into starvation, Dyer sensibly points out.

A popular rumour reassures us that Earth has lots of food, just a problem to distribute it fairly. This rumour is false; it always was exaggerated.

War will come if we have not acted in time to prevent dire food shortage: humanity must avert global climate catastrophe.

The present international plan, in principle already agreed to, that we must not pass two degrees of average-global-temperature increase, is inadequate. A mere 1.5 degrees of average global warming will bring on climate wars.

There exists this geo-political issue, not yet widely recognised, a societal tipping-point, a point past which we must not press the ability of humanity peacefully to deal with food-shortage. As we lose water for irrigation, as fertile soil blows away, as we lose the productivity of our present supply of arable land, as climate changes and we approach 1.5 degrees of change, humanity runs unavoidably short of food.

At 1.5 degrees of average warming, the ability of the global ocean to provide food begins to collapse and soon collapses catastrophically. Humanity gets far too little food from the ocean and far too little food from the land. Humanity has catastrophically less food than in 2010.

You see, humanity does not have as much time as today’s best scientific estimates allow us. We have to re-calibrate these estimates in view of the condition of the ocean and Dyer’s vision on land.

To avert catastrophe, we should eradicate the global carbon deficit by 2015. Do not argue with this or question the source today: we cannot afford not to err on the side of discretion. There is no time for international brinkmanship as governments change policy.

We have to get the global machinery that will reverse the trend to increase the release of carbon and contain atmospheric carbon dioxide at a safe level. The top bookies in England no longer consider this a good bet.

On spaceship Earth, there are no passengers: all are crew — a good line from Marshall McLuhan.

Everyone in every country must do her best. The intellectual failures that deny climate change will still be active in 2013, so how do we do the trick and get our governments ready for 2015?

Every government must do its part. Good Americans must see that the USA fights carbon emissions at home. Good Europeans must ensure that Europe is on side. The Chinese people must make sure the People’s Republic works to reduce its emissions. Russia must play its role, also Israel, Australia, Brazil and India.

As a Canadian, my job is to help Canada do its part.

No problem here: the solution is clear. We need as many people as possible to vote for the Green Party of Canada. All the other parties that presently hold all the seats in the House of Commons in the Canadian parliamentary system have serious baggage, other traditional items that top their agenda, other items less urgent than avoiding climate catastrophe. Concerned Canadians cannot trust any of the four presently popular political parties, currently out of date and soon to be out of fashion.

Only the Green Party in Canada accepts as its highest priority the need to avert global climate catastrophe and climate war.

The climate wars will be deadly. Humanity has already manufactured and distributed the necessary ordnance. People will make war, not love, when the time comes; and it comes. 

So this is the plan: in Canada, all good people must vote Green, Green because without valuable free-market forces that government must allow, and should encourage but with due caution, humanity is toast. No vote but Green is strong enough. Green is the party of science.

The good people in all countries must take care that their governments are seeing the light, acting in good faith and in good time.

Done! It is this simple. Come on, Canada, each of us must stop watching whether the people in other countries are with us. Each one of us must give each one of us permission to vote Green before the next election. Go Green!

Many Canadians are unhappy with the party they have been supporting with their vote, many of these are not adverse to or uncomfortable with intellectual thought. These people are becoming increasingly comfortable in the knowledge that they can jump safely to solid territory by voting Green. The good they can do this way is greater than the good they have been doing in elections recently past.

Either this is the plan, or soon enough, children everywhere will stop singing the many children’s songs we all loved.

Bob Halstead
2010 April 24

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