A high level international workshop has just released a report warning that the combination of global warming (with the oceans warming faster than the land now), excess nutrients (from run-off from chemical fertilizers and urban sewerage), overfishing, and acidification is causing the collapse of whole ecosystems and setting us up for marine mass extinction the likes of which we haven’t even imagined yet.
There’s models in the past. The same set of circumstances, probably caused that time by an extreme event like a comet or a huge volcanic eruption or a wobble in the earth’s orbit, magnified by feedback loops, caused the last mass extinction in the Paleocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum period. It’s stunning to think we are living through an event that will go down in geological history, recorded in the rocks of the earth.
And it’s all so easily avoidable. The pricing of carbon is not even designed to make people poorer, just to encourage them to actually look at old habits and decide if they are worth anything. It drives me nuts that anybody would say they are not willing to pay anything to combat global warming.
(I should add that it also drives me nuts that the media reports seem to imply that a lot of people think this way, when in fact it is unfortunately bigger than last survey but still a measly 33% – the vast majority of people believe it is a clear and pressing issue and they’re personally willing to put their hand in their pocket to address it). Check it out. Here’s the original data).
Quite apart from the ethical issue of trashing the earth for future generations, there is the simple self interest involved in “spending a penny to save a pound”. I guess we all know people who make this mistake in lots of ways, who don’t get their car serviced until it breaks down on the highway and has to be towed at ridiculous expense, who are in denial about the need to spend real money at the dentist until it turns into real money. But we don’t hold them up as opinion leaders!
We’ll pay. We’ll pay one way or another. Physics doesn’t take any notice of opinion polls. We’ll get to choose to pay through modifying our wasteful consumption habits, or we’ll pay through increased prices for everything produced from our natural resources (which means everything). As fish species become extinct, what price will a takeaway of fish and chips reach?