Monday, 7 September 2009

Scientists warn: 'Tsunamis heading this way'

According to yesterday's Observer newspaper, hundreds of scientists will gather in London this week for a scary conference on the likely increase in natural disasters caused by climate change.

The picture they paint is positively prehistoric - a vision of volcanoes, earthquakes, storms and tsunamis triggered mainly by a reduction in atmospheric pressure and dramatic movements of vast chunks of melting ice and avalanches as glaciers disappear in rising temperatures.

Of course they aren't warning that the earth is about to become uninhabitable tomorrow - but that the number of natural disasters is rising because of climate change, something that has long been suspected by climate scientists but difficult to prove.

Will this trigger an immediate, and serious, response, from policy-makers? I doubt it.

I think the evidence of the harm caused by climate change, how to limit its most devastating impacts and the humanitarian and economic arguments for doing so are all pretty unanimous now.

But maybe I'll be pleasantly surprised - one of the problems with legislating to tackle climate change is the fact that its most serious impacts are felt far-away, in terms of both time and place.

Of course it matters, say the politicians, if crops fail in Africa, and if Pacific Island countries are lost under a rising sea, but solving the problem can hardly be a job for us!

Every time there's another flood in Sussex, or day lost to unseasonal snowfall, for example, this argument gets a little harder to make - and the Government has made a some tortuous progress.

I hope it'll make more by arguing for a fair and ambitious global carbon dioxide reduction programme at the climate change talks due to take place in Copenhagen later this year.

And this latest report might just make that job a little easier - as it warns of tsunamis in Britain and that it's Europe and North America that look set to bear the brunt of any upsurge in disasters.

Perhaps the image of London's skyscrapers being flattened by tornado snaking along the path of a flooding, bank-breaking Thames will focus minds in Whitehall.


  1. There's no solid proof about climate change, scientists still don't agree.

    Fundamentally, we don't know whether the climate would be changing anyway (Ice Age? Medieval warm period?) so I personally would really hate for too much legislation to be pinned on this belief of a certain breed of scientist.

    The effects of any legislation on climate change would be impossible to check the effectiveness of, since there is no control. We have no way of knowing how much the climate would change without humans or industrialisation. In this way the current consensus on climate change represents a return to religious beliefs.

    If there is one thing which can be done to help - TAX ON AIR FUEL

  2. Hi n01d

    There isn't full agreement - but it's pretty unanimous.
    Taxing air fuel really must happen - but it's only a start.
    The Government really must legislate for all the win-wins out there - funding home insulation, for example: it'd create jobs (all those manufacturers and fitters), cut heating bills and have an enormous effect on cutting carbon emissions.