3 News: Scientists warn of future shock

Dan Satherly writes for 3 News about the recent Transitions to Sustainability conference, and some of the major themes at the conference.

One of these was that the changes which society needs to make in the coming decades, aren’t going to be easy, as climate change and resource constrains begin to have ever greater effects.

An excerpt: (read in full here)

“According to Prof Lowe, technology alone won’t be able to overcome ecological and population pressures because natural systems – such as the environment and climate – have “critical limits”, or thresholds.

“”If you push natural systems beyond those critical limits, they can change rapidly and irreversibly, into a state that would be much less suitable for human civilisation,” he says.

“An obvious example is climate change, a major focus of the conference. Mr Lowe explains that as the world’s temperature creeps up, melting Arctic ice releases methane, a greenhouse gas – causing more warming. As the ice caps get smaller and more of the world’s surface becomes ocean, less solar radiation is reflected back into space, and more of it is absorbed – causing further warming, and so on.

“Sir Peter likened the situation not to ice, but perhaps more appropriately, to fire.

“”Governments have the responsibility of protecting their citizens, and just like it would be irresponsible for a person to own a house and not have insurance against fire… it would be irresponsible for governments not to be considering how to respond to a challenge which the bulk of the world’s climate models suggest will lead to unsustainable levels of global warming within a generation or so.”