As we approach the end of another year, one fraught with difficulties, bad decisions and indecision, it is worth looking at what might lie ahead. In the US we are facing the so-called “fiscal cliff” which is less of a cliff than a return to the Clinton years (in which the US ran a surplus). Despite all the tearing of hair and cries of imminent disaster the economy is likely to muddle through. So that’s not good, but not-so-bad news.
Then there is the brontosaurus in the corner: climate change. The deniers to the contrary, climate change is not only meeting but exceeding the dire predictions of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. In mid-December this year’s negotiations on expanding the Kyoto treaty on climate change basically came to nothing. Outside the discussion chambers in Doha news came that the Arctic ice pack was melting even faster than last year; the glaciers in Greenland and West Antarctica also were accelerating their rate of melt; the oceans are rising faster than forecast in the 1990s, they are growing more acid because of the increases in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and they are likely to cause the demise in the next few decades of much of the world’s coral reefs. But all these supposed dangers are remote, right? Why should we worry?