Humans may be climate change's most potent weapon

Wednesday 08th Sep 2010 by theWeather Club

The most damaging effects of climate change on the environment, may not be caused by environmental change, but human reaction to it, a new report has concluded. The paper called 'Climate change: helping nature survive the human response' is funded by Climate International, a private organisation studying societies reaction to extreme weather events. It has found that in many cases our reaction to these events can do more long term environmental damage then the events themselves. Dr Will Turner leader of the project said "There are numerous studies looking at the impacts of climate change on biodiversity, but very little time has been taken to consider what our responses to climate change might do to the planet."

Of particular concern are tropical forests regions that lie within 50km of population centres at risk of being displaced by sea level rise of 1m - a total of 20% of all tropical forests. These forests would make obvious sources of food, fuel and building materials for a displaced population desperate for food and shelter. Dr Turner cites the 2004 Tsunami as an illustration of what can happen. "While the Tsunami in 2004 was not a climate event, many of the responses that it stimulated are comparable with how people will react to extreme weather events - The damage that the response to the Tsunami did to many of Aceh province's important ecosystems as a result of extraction of timber and other building materials, and poor choices of locations for building, should be a lesson to us all."

The study insists that while the challenge of keeping biodiversity central to climate change management in the face of pressing human requirements may seem daunting, it can and indeed must be met. "Climate change mitigation and adaptation are essential. We have to ensure that these responses do not compromise the biodiversity and ecosystem services upon which societies ultimately depend." Dr. Turner continued. "We have to reduce emissions, we have to ensure the stability of food supplies jeopardised by climate change, we have to help people survive severe weather events - but we must plan these things so that we don't destroy life-sustaining forests, wetlands, and oceans in the process."