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30 oktober 2007

De aarde: een prognose

By Amy Goodman, Democracy Now! / Alternet, October 30, 2007

One of the world's leading scientists on global warming talks about the future of the planet, its species and our energy future.

A group of scientists in Britain are warning global warming could wipe out more than half the earth's species in the next few centuries. That finding appears in a new study published by researchers at the University of York. Scientists examined the relationship between climate and extinction rates over the past 500 million years. They determined that rising temperatures caused three of the earth's four biggest periods of mass extinction.

Today, we're going to spend the hour with one of the world's leading scientists studying climate change. His name: Tim Flannery. He's an Australian mammologist and palaeontologist. As a field zoologist, he has discovered and named more than sixty species. He has been described as being in league with the all-time great explorers like Dr. David Livingstone.

Here in this country, Tim Flannery might be best known as author of the bestselling book The Weather Makers: The History and Future Impact of Climate Change. Earlier this year, he was named the 2007 Australian of the Year. He was awarded the prize by the Australian Prime Minister John Howard. He joins us today in Santa Fe, New Mexico for the hour.

Let op: Flannery noemt als de vier gevaarlijkste positieve feedbackloops:
- het stoppen van de Golfstroom;
- het sterven van de regenwouden;
- het vrijkomen van methaan uit de oceaanbodems;
- het smelten van het noordpoolijs.

Wonderlijk: de Gouden kikker (of pad) is volgens Flannery de eerste gedocumenteerde diersoort die is verdwenen door de opwarming van de aarde:

Well, look, that animal was really, I think, the first well documented victim of this global climate change that we're about -- or that is looming on our horizon. It was a beautiful animal found just up in the mossy forests, and the American Indians had wonderful stories about it. They didn't see it very often, because it only came out a couple of weeks a year. And it was golden, of course, a wonderful animal. They believed if you ever found one, you would find great happiness. And they tell stories of one person who found such a toad and didn't know what happiness was. Another one just couldn't bear the happiness that he had found. And a bit like us humans, really, we don't recognize the beauty and wonder of the world that we have, and we seem willing to trade it for such short-term benefits.

Flannery blijkt grote verwachtingen te hebben van geothermische energie (in centraal-Australië is een hittegebied ontdekt op slechts vier kilometer onder het aardoppervlak) en blijkt in het algemeen nog optimistisch te zijn over het vermogen van de mensheid de economie op een andere (energie-)leest te schoeien:

AMY GOODMAN: You have painted such a dismal scenario of what can happen with global climate change, global warming. And yet, you remain hopeful; why?

TIM FLANNERY: Because the solutions are actually within our grasp, you know? When you see the changes that humanity has performed in the past, you know, whether it was World War II, where we went from having a sort of very primitive sort of technology to having rocketry and nuclear weapons, which are not a great thing, but they're an amazing technical triumph, you know, radar and so forth, we know we can take these technologies that are now in nascent form and scale them up and produce a cleaner and greener world.

And the other thing, if I could say to you, is that I'm confident because I can see that this is going to be the great project of the twenty-first century. This is what will enthuse people. This is what will make people wealthy. It's a bit like in the nineteenth century, you know, the emphasis was on slavery and universal suffrage, and all of those things that we benefit from so much today, those changes. The twenty-first century is going to be about sustainability. It will be the great energizing project, and none of us can afford to be left behind.

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