I’ve found many ways of pointing the finger to global corporations for the displacement of humans, based mostly on the premise that globalization has shifted human activity to those hubs where it is cheaper. But in the game of crisis-induced migrations, globalization may have found its match: global warming. We should start to consider the demographic changes ahead of us.
Hearing about it all over the news is one thing, but experiencing it first hand is a real wake-up call: I’ve lived in Canada for the past 9 years and during that time I have see the usual cruel winter days, but I’ve also seen some unbelievable days of +10¬∞C right in the middle of the season (when it should be -10¬∞C!). An event like this is hard to forget and they say most people have fond memories of one of such days when nature shared a little smile to keep them going. People remember because this is not supposed to happen more than a few times in a life time. So what do you do when this becomes the norm? In what could’ve been an omen, we celebrated the first day of 2007 by walking in the park in a +12¬∞C sunny day. The most disturbing fact is that according to the official report the average increase in temperature during the last 9 winter seasons has only been 2.1¬∞C.
This gives us a bit of perspective on what a 2.0 – 5.4 ¬∞C likely range of Temperature Change will do this century. This according to the recently released IPCC 4th Assessment Report. Statistics are kind of evil that way: an average can hide a lot of peaks, so don’t be too optimistic about just a few degrees warmer.
What caught my attention in this table was the definition of each scenario (from best to worse):
- B1: a convergent world with rapid change in economic structures towards a service and information economy, with reductions in material intensity and the introduction of clean and resource efficient technologies. The emphasis is on global solutions to economic, social and environmental sustainability, including improved equity, but without additional climate initiatives.
- A1T: a world of very rapid economic growth with rapid introduction of new and more efficient technologies with emphasis on non-fossil energy sources. Major underlying themes are convergence among regions, capacity building and increased cultural and social interactions, with a substantial reduction in regional differences in per capita income.
- B2: a world in which the emphasis is on local solutions to economic, social and environmental sustainability. It is a world with continuously increasing global population, at a rate lower than A2, intermediate levels of economic development, and less rapid and more diverse technological change than in the B1 and A1 storylines. While the scenario is also oriented towards environmental protection and social equity, it focuses on local and regional levels.
- A1B: same as A1T, but with a balance in the various energy sources.
- A2: a very heterogeneous world. The underlying theme is self reliance and preservation of local identities. Fertility patterns across regions converge very slowly, which results in continuously increasing population. Economic development is primarily regionally oriented and per capita economic growth and technological change more fragmented and slower than other storylines.
- A1FI: same as A1T, but with an emphasis on fossil intensive technologies.
Franke James has a visual essay on how deep the impact of Global Warming will be for Canada, elaborating on a quote by Steven Levitt (from Freakonomics) about how “good” it could be. It captures both the frustration of having to deal with the nuisances of changing weather patterns and the disruption they cause to our little traditions; and to live in an apathetic society that will need a LOT MORE than a few warm days to react.
Aside from confirming global warming, the IPCC report concludes that failing to create a global culture that favors social and environmental sustainability and an economy based on service and information technologies is almost as bad as our suicidal race on fossil intensive technologies. A real solution will need a lot more than taxing polluting industries and blaming corporations.
It sounds to me that now more than ever there is a strong case to continue the discussion about a global culture that makes possible the propagation of core principles aimed at the long term goals outlined above. Many of the ideas exist already in privileged circles, but an important degree of participation is required to make those ideas widespread. I’m certain apathy of the general public will be as bad as the negligence of a few bad corporations.