Gwynne Dyer: The Climate Horizon
2017, Climate + Environment
When you talk to the people at the sharp end of the climate business, there is an air of suppressed panic in many of the conversations. We are not going to get through this without taking a lot of casualties, if we get through it at all.
Every country in the world has pledged never to allow the rise in the average global temperature to exceed two degrees Celsius, but we are probably going to pass right through the two-degree limit. 450 parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will give us +2C, and we are already at 400 ppm.
Plus 2 degrees is the point of no return, because that will trigger the “feedbacks”, irreversible natural processes that will also cause global warming: an ice-free Arctic Ocean, the melting of the permafrost, and immense releases of carbon dioxide from the warming oceans. After that, we could cut our own greenhouse gas emissions to zero and find that the warming was still heading for plus five or six degrees Celsius. That would mean mass death.
The professional military everywhere have grasped that the first and biggest impact of global warming, for human beings, is on the food supply, and that countries in the tropics and the sub-tropics will suffer more and earlier than others. Even before +2C, that will generate huge numbers of refugees, of “failed states”, and of wars between countries that must share river systems. There will be lots of jobs for the military.
But there may be a way to cheat. Scientists have proposed various geo-engineering techniques that would artificially hold the temperature below +2 degrees even if we go through 450 ppm. They are only stop-gap measures, but if they worked they might win us enough extra time to get our emissions down without triggering the feedbacks.
This is the biggest crisis human beings have ever faced, and overcoming it will require an unprecedented level of global cooperation. But there may be a way through it.
Moderated by Charlie Smith, editor of The Georgia Straight.
7:00 p.m. (PT)
Djavad Mowafaghian Cinema
Goldcorp Centre for the Arts
149 West Hastings St.
Gwynne Dyer has worked as a freelance journalist, columnist, broadcaster and lecturer on international affairs for more than 20 years, but he was originally trained as an historian. He received degrees from Canadian, American and British universities, finishing with a Ph.D. in Military and Middle Eastern History from the University of London. He served in three navies and held academic appointments at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst and Oxford University before launching his twice-weekly column on international affairs, which is published by over 175 papers in some 45 countries.
His first television series, the seven-part documentary 'War', was aired in 45 countries in the mid-80's. One episode, 'The Profession of Arms', was nominated for an Academy Award. His more recent television works include the 1994 series 'The Human Race.
Dyer's books include ‘War’ (1983), ‘Ignorant Armies: Sliding into War in Iraq’ (2003), ‘Future: Tense’ (2005) and ‘The Mess They Made: The Middle East After Iraq’ (2007).
His more recent works include ‘Climate Wars’, which has been translated into French, German, Russian, Italian, Spanish, Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Korean and a number of other languages. His new book, ‘Don’t Panic: Islamic State, Terrorism and the Middle East’, came out in October 2016 and has already been translated into Arabic and Turkish. He lives in London.
In 2010, Dr. Dyer was made an officer of the Order of Canada.