Richard G. Petty, MD

Earth Day

Today is Earth Day. I am sure that everyone living on the planet is eager to keep it a decent place to live, and the recent flurry of gloomy reports has energized people in a way that I have not seen in decades.

Yes, there are plenty of nay sayers who point to the ice core date and say that there’s not a problem, but that band is shrinking as quickly as the Arctic Ice. Information from the Lake Vostok ice core analysis has provided data going back 420,000 years, during which there have been four temperature peaks before the current one, all comparable to today’s temperature levels. The causes for those peaks are poorly understood, but I am more and more persuaded that something profound is going on with the planet’s weather, and we really have only three choices:

  1. Prevent, which may be too late
  2. Adapt
  3. Mitigate

On April sixth, scientists and officials from more than 100 governments met in Brussels and agreed that Climate change is already under way and the Earth faces water shortages and famines in the poorest countries, plus huge floods and species extinctions if no action is taken to slow it down.

There was an unprecedented consensus on the mounting threat
posed by global warming, and the final report was unanimously approved, even by the United
States, China and Saudi Arabia. The officials from these countries had spent four days and
two nights challenging the more dire predictions line by line.

report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warns that
global warming will hit hardest in the Arctic, sub-Saharan Africa, on
small islands and highly populated river deltas in Asia.

For example it predicts that 600 million more people could suffer from
droughts in Africa and billions will face risks from coastal flooding
by the end of this century.

And if that seems to far away to be of immediate concern, the report also makes a number of remarkably precise near-term predictions. The 21-page
“policymakers summary”
of a full report to be published later this year,
charts the impact of temperature rise over the past 30 years and
calculates the implications of the rise of about 3 degrees Celsius by the end of this
century forecast by another IPCC panel in January.

, the chairman of the panel, said: “It’s the poorest of the
poor in the world, and this includes poor people even in prosperous
societies, who are going to be the worst hit. This does become a global
responsibility in my view.”

Professor Martin Parry, who was co-chair of the panel’s working group on climate change
impacts, said evidence of changes already taking place that could be
attributable to human influence had been found in 29,000 sets of data.

He said, “For the first time we are not just arm-waving with models.”

Parry said actions to adapt to climate change, such as sea defences and
new forms of agriculture, should take priority over efforts to reduce
greenhouse gases, which would take years to have any impact. He went on to say,
“In the near term, adaptation is vital. The sooner we get on with that
the better.” Dr Pachauri revealed that the process had been a “complex

Many scientists objected to what they saw as an unprecedented level of
interference from government officials in arriving at what is meant to
be a scientific summary.

Professor Parry added that: “I don’t think it is the right thing to say the message was watered down.” Though he conceded that the scientific team made some compromises in their final report. As an example he revealed that a graph showing that billions would be at risk of coastal flooding by 2080 was changed to read “millions”.

, who is an American-born professor of environmental science and
engineering at the University of Kassel in Germany, said: “I question why
it needs to be such a difficult fight to get the science out there.
Scientists have to play a role we are not really trained for. It is a
dilemma for us.” Professor Alcamo chaired the working group studying changes
in Europe. He reproted that he had appeared on the podium to confront
skeptical governmental delegations at 2am, after some objected to his use of the term “unprecedented” to describe the heatwave in Europe in 2003 which claimed up to 35,000 lives.

For the first time, the scientists broke down their
predictions into regions, and forecast that climate change will affect
billions of people.

Africa will be hardest hit. By 2020, up to 250 million people are likely to be exposed to water shortages.

According to the report, in some countries, food production could fall by half.

America will experience more severe storms with human and economic
loss, and cultural and social disruptions. It can expect more
hurricanes, floods, droughts, heatwaves and wildfires, it said.
Northern Europe will at first experience some benefits, such as a
reduced demand for heating, but southern Europe will face more
heatwaves and drought, with a reduction in crop productivity.

of Asia are threatened with widespread flooding and avalanches from
melting Himalayan glaciers. Europe also will see its Alpine glaciers

These were the Key Points from the report:

  • There is clear evidence that from all continents that climate change is happening now
  • The key “tipping points” are in the Arctic, small islands, sub-Saharan Africa and Asian “mega-deltas.”
  • Coastal flooding threatens “bilions” of people in low-lying delta regions with high population growth
  • In Asia, climate change could put close to 50 million people at risk of hunger by 2020, with that number rising to 132 million by 2050 and to 266 million by 2080
  • By 2080, between 1.1 billion and 3.2 billion people
    will face water shortages, and between 200 million and 600 million will
    face extreme hunger.
  • Up to 30 per cent of animal species face displacement or extinction with average warming of 2 degrees C.
  • If temperatures rise more than 3C, sea level rise threatens a third of coastal wetlands.
  • Cereal productivity will drop globally with a rise of between 1 degree C and 2 degrees C – which could happen by 2050.
  • Some impacts are already unavoidable due to past emissions

There remain some disagreements:

  • The United States, China, Russia and Saudi Arabia objected to the
    statement that there is “very high confidence” that climate change is
    impacting on “many natural systems, on all continents and in some
  • The United States objected to the statement that North America could suffer “severe economic damage” from warming.
  • The United States
    led objections to the statement that European heatwave of 2003, which
    killed more than 20,000, was “unprecedented” but was routed by
  • Billions affected by sea level rise changed in some places to millions.
  • One
    illustration full of specific numbers – that up to 600 million more
    people in Africa were having difficulty finding water, and that 5,000
    more heat-related deaths in Australia followed a 2 degree C temperature rise –
    was dropped after skeptical governments, including the United States, objected.

The publication of this report coincided with another published in the journal Current Biology
showing that more than half of the tropical coral reefs in the world are being degraded beyond repair. And 30 million people depend entirely on coral reefs for their income and for their food

This report also address the effects of climate change on disease and the threat that it will provoke wars over scarce resources. Those may be dealt with in more detail later in the year.

You may be interested to look at a projected timeline for some of these likely changes.

Despite these gloomy predictions, there is some cause for optimism: even if some were dragged in kicking and screaming, this is the first time that so many countries have agreed about ANYTHING. And secondly, the imminence of these changes hsould stimulate not just conservation and technological innovation, but a greater understanding that we cannot continue to live as we have done in the past: the planet is a great deal more fragile than our economies.

About Richard G. Petty, MD
Dr. Richard G. Petty, MD is a world-renowned authority on the brain, and his revolutionary work on human energy systems has been acclaimed around the globe. He is also an accredited specialist in internal and metabolic medicine, endocrinology, psychiatry, acupuncture and homeopathy. He has been an innovator and leader of the human potential movement for over thirty years and is also an active researcher, teacher, writer, professional speaker and broadcaster. He is the author of five books, including the groundbreaking and best selling CD series Healing, Meaning and Purpose. He has taught in over 45 countries and 48 states in the last ten years, but spends as much time as possible on his horse farm in Georgia.

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