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 Will Climate Crush Society? 
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Joined: Mon Sep 13, 2010 1:47 pm
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Post Will Climate Crush Society?
by: Stephen Ewings




What affect will climate change have on our society as we know it? This question poses considerable analytical problems for governments around the world. We all watched the events of Hurricane Katrina unfold on our TV screens as the storm developed over the Gulf of Mexico. We saw how this storm intensified and struck the coast of the USA with the ferocity unparalleled in recorded memory. These events unfolded before our eyes and we were shocked at the aftermath, where we saw civil society breakdown into what some called total anarchy. Now imagine the same event only 10 times worse, that is what the world could be facing if the trends in climate change continue.

We are increasingly a coastal species, 44% of the world's population lives within 150 km (approx 100 miles) of the coast. This is more people than inhabited the entire planet in 1950. Mass migration to the coasts will continue in the decades ahead. Most of this population growth is concentrated in large coastal cities. As coastal population grows, along with the activities that accompany this growth, the coastlines are radically altered. Clearing, land reclamation, and channelling for flood and tidal waters destroy coastal wetlands. Port development, road building, coastal construction, tourist resorts and the mining of beach sand for construction material obliterate shorelines. These activities often increase coastal erosion and damage habitats, for example, seagrass beds are destroyed by boat propellers and coral reefs poisoned, often away from the development site.

Much of our scientific research has focussed on trying to understand the way that Climate Change and Global Warming affects the planet. Recently, we are also turning our attention to the human cost that these changes are having on our society. One area of research that has attracted considerable attention has been what effect weather has on crime and social disorder.

If the predictions of Global Warming and Climate Change are correct then society will have to develop adaptation and mitigation strategies to combat these dramatic changes. Hurricane Katrina provides us with a window into the aftermath of extreme weather events and allows us to look other social problems such as crime, health, and mental health enabling us address these issues.

Let us look at crime for example. After the Katrina destroyed most of New Orleans some residents of New Orleans who remained in the city began looting stores and competing for the scares resources available. This also happened in Mississippi were residents looted their local stores and casinos. Many looters were in search of food and water that were not available to them through any other means.

The world saw a city of carjacking, murders, thefts, and rapes that flooded the news. The response of the governments in the USA to the social disorder and crime was to send in thousands of National Guard and federal troops along with numbers of local law enforcement agents from across the country by the state to bring law and order back to the city and to prevent any further social disorder. "They have M16s and are locked and loaded. These troops know how to shoot and kill and I expect they will," Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco said. A number of arrests were made throughout the affected area, including near the New Orleans Convention Center. A temporary jail was constructed of chain link cages in the city train station. On the face of it, how society deals with climate change and crime are just as important as the other massive challenges that face governments.

In terms of health, climatic changes over recent decades have already affected some health outcomes. The World Health Organisation estimated, in its "World Health Report 2002", that climate change was estimated to be responsible in 2000 for approximately 2.4% of worldwide diarrhoea, and 6% of malaria in some middle-income countries. Warmer average temperatures combined with increased climatic variability alter the pattern of exposure to thermal extremes and resultant health impacts, in both summer and winter. People’s mental health and related behaviour, is positively or negatively influenced by both external social and climate factors. According to the World Health Organisation, mental health problems are set to increase significantly by the year 2020, and will be the second greatest cause of illness after heart disease by 2050 if present trends continue.

The effect of the weather on anti-social behaviour has received a lot of attention in recent times. It has been argued that there are always motives for this type of behaviour. It could be personal enmity, hatred or a hundred other reasons why people commit these offensive acts. Police collect every minute detail during the investigation for possible clues to identify the culprit and the motivation for the offence. However, did you know there is also research that suggests there may be other reasons why people commit offences? This research has suggested that the weather may have an affect on the way people behave in society.

Various weather conditions such as Heatwaves , high humidity, wind, pollution of the air and water along with overcrowded living conditions can greatly influence the numbers of incidences that occur. A number of weather-related crime studies in France, the UK and US have suggested that assaults, particularly domestic violence, murder, robbery and suicide were high following high temperature associated with the combination of other meteorological parameters.

If the results of these studies on weather and crime are correct then police, instead of responding after an offence is committed, can greatly help to prevent the crime. This also highlights the role of criminologists, environmentalists, geographers and meteorologists apart from the other sciences now have in helping combat the social conditions that we may find ourselves living under. Many have argued that we have to take proactive measures with cooperation from the police to minimise the occurrence of all offences in vulnerable areas by implementing various community-based development programmes and other eco-friendly practices like creation of green belts in the high temperature areas, enforcing tougher laws for industrial discharge (air and water), restriction on density of human settlement, etc. Such initiatives will greatly improve living conditions and hopefully improve our environment and lives.


About The Author
Steve Ewings is the founder of www.global-greenhouse-warming.com and during the "daylight hours", manages a range of renewable energy programs, focusing on proof of concept, technology development and early commercialisation. Before the sun rises, and after it sets he continues to develop and maintain the Global Greenhouse Warming web site (and teach an online climate change course). The science of the site draws on the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports and leans towards renewable, or at least very low emissions technology in seeking to answer the anthropogenic causes of global warming.

Since early childhood and growing up in the Great Victoria Desert of Australia Steve has had an interest in what is now often referred to as ‘sustainability’. This fascination continued in his undergraduate degree in archaeology and palaeoanthropology, gravitating towards exploring Indigenous colonisation patterns of Australia’s arid inland.

Steve said, "The idea that people sustained themselves for tens of thousands of years in an arid country leads me to believe that a particular philosophy underpins sustainable living. As a manager at Uluru Kata National Park for three years I had the pleasure of working with Anangu, (the traditional Indigenous land owners) and the same Pitjantjatjara speaking people I grew up amongst in the desert. This provided an opportunity to have a hands on role in managing one of Australia’s iconic landscapes and learning from the Traditional Owners.

My journey continues both in providing opportunities to learn from, and to apply past lessons in looking for solutions to global warming."




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Mon Nov 09, 2009 9:52 am
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