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Global Warming

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The threat

Overwhelming evidence shows that the earth is getting warmer, almost certainly caused by a combination of several factors. One of the major factors is the carbon dioxide produced by burning fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas to provide almost all of our energy needs for industry, transport and our homes. Another is the methane produced by the huge numbers of cattle and other farm animals now being kept.

The result of this global warming can be seen already in many ways. Glaciers are retreating throughout the world. Spring is arriving earlier and winter later. Polar ice-caps are melting. The Gulf Stream is slowing down as the Greenland glaciers which drive it change their behaviour. Major storms, such as Katrina in 2005, are becoming more frequent and more violent. Sea levels are rising, and will rise much more, drowning not only small island groups like the Maldives but also, just a little later, most of the world's major cities - not just New Orleans but London, New York, Hong Kong, Shanghai and many more are destined for total annihilation unless quite drastic action is taken very soon.

The greatest danger, which our politicians and most of the press and TV are choosing to ignore, is from enormous quantities of methane held in arctic, "permanently" frozen, peat bogs, especially in Siberia, and hydrated methane under the oceans. As temperatures rise, the peat bogs will melt and the hydrated methane will also be released. When this happens, the runaway greenhouse effect which will result will be completely out of control, with most of the earth becoming uninhabitable. This process has already begun - the peat bogs of the Siberian permafrost have already begun to thaw.

The action needed

We must bring about a drastic and rapid reduction in the burning of fossil fuels, using all available methods, and a reduction in the numbers of cattle by switching to greater consumption of grains and other vegetable products and less meat. This will inevitably mean a significant reduction in standard of living for those of us in developed countries such as western Europe, north America, etc., and an acceptance from growing economies such as India and China that they can never reach the excessive levels of affluence we now, temporarily, enjoy. This will be uncomfortable, but the alternative is the complete obliteration of the human race and most other life on this planet. There really is no other choice - it's change our ways or perish. We must just hope that it is not already too late. It is also absolutely necessary to reduce the already excessive and still growing human population, both of the world as a whole and of developed countries in particular (because they are the greatest per head consumers of resources and producers of greenhouse gases).

Our leading politicians

President George Bush and Prime Minster Tony Blair presented a united front in their devastation of Iraq and Afghanistan, and in their destruction of democracy and civil liberties in their own countries on the pretext of fighting terrorism, but on the topic of global warming they said quite different things. Bush seemed to oscillate between pretending it isn't happening and pretending it is the result of natural causes and that we neither need nor can do anything about it (as instructed by his paymasters in the oil, logging and other industries), while Blair made statesmanlike calls for action by other countries and insisted on encouraging ever more burning of fossil fuels at home by expanding airports and building new roads.

They were like two bus drivers, each with a full load of helpless passengers (us and our children) heading for a precipice. Bush sometimes said it it was just a mirage invented by enemies of the people, and sometimes that it was there, but there's nothing he can do about it so just carry on and it will probably go away. Blair on the other hand shouted loudly that we must slow down while keeping his foot hard down on the accelerator.

Blair's successor Gordon Brown delivered more of the same, while his successors David Cameron and Nick Clegg have yet to show their (joint) hand. Obama seems to be trying to do at least some of the right things, but is hamstrung by Congress obeying its paymasters in resisting all major reforms.

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