COP15: Copenhagen or the hypercane

Land ahoy. Flood waters in Madhepura district, Bihar State, India, in 2008. (AFP)
Land ahoy. Flood waters in Madhepura district, Bihar State, India, in 2008. (AFP)
3 December 2009 – The Independent (London)

Either a drastic cut in emissions, or a planet we won’t even recognise. As the Copenhagen summit on climate change opens, Johann Hari, ranging from the Maldives to the Artic and Darfur, argues that this is the stark choice the world faces.

Mohammed Nasheed knows what global warming means, because he sees it every day. He survived years of imprisonment and torture to lead his country – the Maldives – to democracy. But now, as its President, he is being forced to watch as his homeland is wiped from the map. With each year that passes,the rising sea claims more land, and at the current rate it will claim everything. He knows why. We know why. It is because we have released massive amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, and we aren't stopping. Unless we turn around – fast – the Maldives will be gone. Today, he has a final plea. President Nasheed says: "Copenhagen can be one of two things. It can be an historic event where the world unites against carbon pollution in a collective spirit of co-operation and collaboration, or Copenhagen can be a suicide pact. The choice is that stark."

If we fail, the story of the Maldives will become our story. A ream of scientific studies now suggest we could be on course for 6°C of global warming this century. It doesn't sound like much at first. But the last time the world warmed by six degrees so fast was at the end of the Permian period, 251 million years ago. The result? Almost everything on earth died. The only survivors were a few shelled creatures in the oceans, and a pig-like creature that had the land to itself for millions of years. The earth was racked by "hypercanes" – hurricanes so strong they even left their mark on the ocean floor. Oxygen levels in the atmosphere plunged to 15 per cent; low enough to leave any fast-moving animal gasping for breath. These six degrees of separation stand between us and a planet we do not recognise and cannot live on. Read full article in the Independent...

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