Maquina Lectora

Notes of a curious mind

Tag: climate change (Page 1 of 3)

The Sea and the Summer by George Turner

“Nothing can save this crumbling planet except the elimination of three quarters of it’s people.  And we know that can happen.”

A few months ago I discovered George Turner. For someone who loves science- fiction, not to know George Turner is frankly embarrassing. My only excuse is that The Sea and the Summer does not feel like a science-fiction.  It is so closely based on extrapolation of proven scientific facts that it is difficult to describe it as science fiction at all. The plot is not great but the structure of the story is interesting and complex. There is an intense human feeling throughout the book; the novel is character-driven rather than plot-driven.

Born in 1916, George Turner was already an accomplished novelist before he started writing science- fiction in the late ’70s. The Sea and the Summer first published 30 years ago, in 1987, but it still holds remarkably well. The story sets in mid-21st century Melbourne; global warming, rising temperatures and sea-levels (from the greenhouse effect) combined with automation and economic collapse has created a caste line system between those with jobs “the Sweet”, and the unemployed welfare takers “the Swill”. The Swill (90% of the total population) live in big towers, in enclosed overpopulated enclaves at the edges of the cities, with just enough to survive on. It is a vertical slum in the Greenhouse Years.

There are also the people who live in “the Fringe”, a place between the two camps where the people who lose their jobs end up before being absorbed by “the Swill”. It is there, in the Fringe where the two brothers, Teddy and Francis Conway, end up after the death of their father.  They react differently in this change; Teddy passes a special exam to join a special police force, and Francis uses his talent for numbers to join the back market working for a Sweet wealthy businesswoman.

George Turner examines several issues in this novel. Overpopulation, environmental destruction, economic collapse, and the inability of our societies to distribute resources and opportunities in a fair and equitable manner. There is also a second shorter story with the main story, that takes place in the distant future. Humanity has survived the Greenhouse Years, and is preparing to face another Ice Age

The Sea and Summer is not an entertaining story. It is a vivid, remarkable and uncomfortable account of life on the edge.

The novel won the second Arthur C. Clarke Award in 1988.

New York’s magazine climate story the most-read article in magazine’s history

The New York Magazine published the annotated edition of its controversial climate story and it is now the most-read article in New York’s magazine history, despite some imprecise science which has been discussed and analysed extensively here .

The fact that so many people have read the 7,000-word story, gives me some hope that we can engage large audience on climate. People want to learn and despite the bleak picture by overstating some of the science it is clear that ongoing warming of the global climate would eventually have very severe consequences.

The climate journalists have an important role to play in fighting climate change. By raising awareness, by informing and educating, by making the public part of the story.  I hope they will continue to try to find and publish the stories, all these weird things – mega storms, heat waves, droughts, floods – that climate change could cause and make the world more dangerous.

Climate Change, Chokepoints and Vulnerabilities in Global Food Trade

One more reason why climate change is the most pressing issues of our time.

A new report from Chatham House called “Chokepoints and vulnerabilities in global food trade” identifies 14 chokepoints around the world that are critical to global food  security. It includes maritime, coastal and inland chokepoints like  the Panama Canal, the Turkish Straits, the US rail network and the Black Sea ports and rail network.

The combination of extreme weather and weak and aging infrastructure together with  rising trade volumes, underinvestment and  weak governance, make chokepoint disruptions – both small-scale and large-scale – increasingly likely. A serious interruption at one or more of these chokepoints could lead to supply shortfalls and price spikes, with systemic consequences that could reach beyond food markets, threatening the lives and livelihoods of millions of people.

Climate change, especially, will have a multiplying effect on security and political hazards affecting the infrastructural backbone of international trade. Just think a hurricane landfall in the Gulf of Mexico, or a flood induced by sea-level rise in a lower latitude region.

Systemic problems require systemic solutions. The report proposes five areas for action and requires governments to anticipate the future and act at both national and international levels. Work must begin now for the necessary measures to be in place before climate change becomes a major source of disruption and instability.

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You may think that it is just harmless science – fiction. Well, maybe. – New York 2140

It could be more relevant. The waters have risen 50ft (about 15 metres). New York is the New Venice, its streets have become canals, and its skyscrapers are linked with sky bridges and boat taxis.  The year is 2140, and humanity did little to slow down climate change.

You may think that it is just harmless science – fiction. Well, maybe.

But temperature is rising,  sea level is rising at an increasing rate. In the United States, almost 40 percent of the population lives in relatively high-population-density coastal areas, where sea level plays a role in flooding, shoreline erosion, and hazards from storms.

Earth and life will survive. But will we?

I don’t believe that leaders alone can change things. It’s us that we choose them.  And our choice tells the world a lot about us.  Each one of us can make a difference, starting by making a conscious effort to think differently. Educate ourselves.

Climate Change is the greatest threat facing our world today. There is no bigger challenge.

New York 2140 is an impressively ambitious and broad in scope novel. The structure is unconventional, and intriguingly complex. The characters, a diverse and disparate group of people that reside in the same building, Manhattan’s MetLife Tower, appeared unrelated, only to be connected when disaster stuck.

Kim Stanley Robinson explores a some great and challenging ideas. Influenced by by the 2008 financial meltdown, he links climate change to today’s highly destructive economic and political reality and explores the social and economic impact of climate change.

This changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate by Naomi Klein

“You have been negotiating all my life.” said the Canadian college student Anjali Appadurai, addressing the assembled government negotiators at the 2011 United Nations climate conference in Durban, South Africa. In 2011, Anjali was twenty-one years old.

The international response to climate change was launched in 1992, at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, with the signing of the United Nations Framework on Climate Change (UNFCCC).  The Earth Summit convention committed countries to stabilise “greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system”. It set a voluntary goal of reducing emissions from developed countries to 1990 by 2000, a goal the most countries did not met. Our governments wasted years fudging numbers and squabbling over start dates, perpetually trying to get extensions.  In the meantime, the emissions form fossil fuels, instead of reducing, have significantly increased. The history of climate change policy is full of missed targets and broken promises.

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Climate Histories: The engineer and the artificial production of carbon dioxide

Almost 80 years ago, on April 1938, an English steam and combustion engineer and  amateur weather-watcher, published a paper in the Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society. His name was Guy Stuart Callendar and his paper, titled “The artificial Production of Carbon Dioxide and its Influence on Temperature”, was going to be one of the most influential papers on climate change science.

Born in Canada in 1898, Callendar earned a certificate in Mechanics and Mathematics in 1922 at City & Guilds College and at the time he published his seminal paper was employed as a steam technologist by the British Electrical and Allied Industries Research Association. A keen meteorologist, interested in climate, Calendar spent his spare time gathering temperature and weather data from around the world. He made all the calculations by hand in his home, in West Sussex, England, and his measurements were so accurate that “they were used to correct the official temperature records of central England”.

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