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Climate Change and LGBT Politics

Thu 10 Dec 2009 In: Comment View at Wayback View at NDHA

In November's Attitude magazine, Johann Hari asks some disturbing questions about why LGBT community members aren't more concerned about climate change. For the last three centuries, humanity has been pumping excessive amounts of burnt oil, gas and coal into the atmosphere, ramping up the levels of greenhouse gases past the planet's ability to comfortably assimilate it. We have now dangerously overheated the globe. What does this have to do with us? In the 12th Century, Western Europe experienced the onset of a "Little Ice Age." Crops failed, starvation levels increased and Europe experienced the onset of a devastating new disease pandemic as rat habitats shifted. In 1348, the Black Death killed thousands of Europeans. Not only that, but anti-Semitism, witchcraft and heretic incinerations and homophobic persecution all thrived in the economic, social and environmental turmoil. The lessons are clear. Climate change leads to resurgent religious fundamentalism and authoritarian societies. With that in mind, what tangible effects might climate change wreak on our lives? Attitude cites the work of Mark Lynas, author of Six Degrees (2008). I've summarised and adapted it for a New Zealand context. As little as a one degree global temperature rise could turn much of the rural midwestern United States into a dustbowl, and cause Andean glacier loss to provoke water shortages in Peru. In Australia, warming sea levels will destroy the Great Barrier Reef, followed by other coral atolls. At two degrees, the Arctic Ocean will become ice-free in summer. Polar bears, walruses and ringed seals will become extinct. California will enter drought as the Sierra Nevada glaciers lose their ice. South Africa will face turmoil as the Kalahari desert grows apace. Greenland goes into meltdown and loses its ice cover. Phytoplankton loss starts to impact on marine ecologies in an increasingly acidic ocean. New Zealand faces an influx of Southwestern Pacific refugees. At three degrees, the Amazon rainforest becomes tinder dry. It only takes a single lightning strike to ignite it, adding to further global warming. Heatwaves and droughts devastate Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Malaysia, Thailand, Chile and Argentina. Australia's agricultural infrastructure collapses. In New Zealand, Canterbury and Wairarapa are succumbing to desert growth. From this point on, consequences become irreversible if nothing has been done to stop their development beforehand. At four degrees, Siberia's permafrost starts to melt, as do Himalayan glaciers. Widespread drought, famine and social and economic disruption occur in India, Bangladesh, Burma and Pakistan. New Zealand experiences severe temperature fluctuations that range from 45 C in summer to destructive winter flood activity. At this stage, far right political parties may grow here, opposed to refugee influxes from devastated regions elsewhere. At five degrees, the Western Antarctica ice cap begins to disintegrate. Eastern India, Bangladesh and Burma now face torrential monsoons, as does much of South East Asia. Increasingly violent storms cause massive loss of life. New Zealand and Western Europe either descend into anarchy or totalitarian government, ravaged by desert growth, agricultural failure, winter flooding and widespread population movements. At six degrees, sub-ocean methane residues desublimate. The ozone layer is ravaged by hydrogen sulphide gases, turning oceans toxic. New Zealand has been abandoned and the remnants of humanity now cluster around the poles. Massive species extinctions have occurred, last seen at the close of the Permian era 250 million years ago in terms of ecological severity. As climate and environmental degradation accelerates, New Zealand's culture, economy and society will be threatened. Is New Zealand society strong enough not to succumb to hatemongers if we ignore the lessons of yesterday and contemporary warning signs? I am relieved that Mr Key has seen sense and headed off to Copenhagen. As for the climate change deniers, they are reminiscent of our own opponents. Indeed, many of them are the same people. Recommended: Johann Hari: "Emergency on Planet Earth" Attitude 185 (November 2009): 65-67 Mark Lynas: "Burning Up" Attitude 185 (November 2009): 69. Craig Young - 10th December 2009    

Credit: Craig Young

First published: Thursday, 10th December 2009 - 10:01am

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