Society: How Hobbits will survive 6°C climate change

damien hobbit

Guest post by Damien Clarkson

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I recently watched the film ‘The Hobbit’ and the thought struck me that it might be nice to live in their fictional home ‘The Shire’. Don’t get me wrong, I love a stroll through London Fields or a trip to Chatsworth market as much as the next East London dude. But despite the organic veg projects and love of cycling, it isn’t quite competing with the beautiful meadows and the gorgeous streams of the Hobbits fictional home. And I am sure after some very disapproving looks they would get the hang of making flat whites and find some far-flung American thrift shop to import bundles of plaid.

Well today looks like my fictional whim may actually become a reality thanks to horrific impacts of climate change. If our carbon emissions keep rising at the rate they are currently; the leading authority of climate science the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) believe we could experience 6 degrees increase in the earths average temperature in as little as 200 years. And alarmingly I have recently seen some predications of 6 degrees climate change in the next 100 years especially if Chinese emissions continue to rise at their current alarming rate.

The study has revealed that the result of a 6 degrees warming will be mass extinction for the survivors, humans, animals and insects, there will be a scramble to eat a diminishing and less nutritious food supply. This is addition to lower levels of fresh water and lower plant nutrition is caused by higher atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations, rather than temperature itself. Plant growth experiments have shown that concentrations of both nitrogen and the protein Rubisco, which regulates carbon dioxide fixation, decrease under higher CO2 conditions, making many plant tissues less nutritious. So even us vegetarians wouldn’t be safe.

The good news is that if we evolve into hobbits we will have a better chance of survival according to 30 scientists looking at the vast fossil deposits in rock strata in Wyoming in the US, charting the period 55 million years ago when the Earth’s temperature rose suddenly – as it is expected to do this century.

Back then over a period of 10,000 years different species survived by evolving into dwarfs which scientists yet again believe is expected to be a successful strategy for the survivors, enabling humans, animals and insects to mature earlier with less food and so reproduce before they starve.

Dr Phillip Jardine, one of the scientists involved in the study, is a research fellow at the School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences at Birmingham University. Was asked on the release of this data what effect a 6°C increase would have on the planet currently if not enough action to curb emissions is taken and he said; “For me this just shows how pervasive the impacts of altering the global carbon balance really are”, he said. “Even if future climate change isn’t a convincing enough argument to decrease carbon emissions, increasing atmospheric CO2 concentrations has a very real possibility of reducing the viability of our own food supplies, by compromising the base of the food chain for ourselves and the animals that we farm and eat.

“If we acknowledge the presence of increasing temperatures then we have an additional factor that we would expect to decrease further the size of our farmed animals, and thus the amount of food that we can take from them. I would say that the impacts of this on a large and growing human population could be catastrophic, especially in the developing world and when changes in other resources, for example water, are factored in as well.” not enough action to curb emissions is taken.

So this doesn’t sound quite like ‘the shire’ lifestyle I was dreaming of but more like an episode of ‘The Walking Dead’ with extreme weather. So what are our options? I would suggest firstly we get George Osborne to stop buddying up with to the fossil fuel industry in his reckless pursuit of shale gas and coal bed methane. A study released last week showed that methane leakage levels during fracking could higher than previously thought. Not to mention the air pollution, contamination of drinking water. Another great starting point would to be keeping the worlds most destructive oil company Shell out of the Arctic (see the Greenpeace ‘Save the Arctic Campaign’ just last week a drilling rig crashed on the rocks in the Arctic and had to be evacuated.

The lesson to take from all of this is either let’s start trying to find a way to become hobbits or get down to making politicians and businesses tackle climate change. The choice is ours.