Last week’s reports that the Arctic icesheet is the lowest-ever is as important as it is horrifying. The last lowest figure was in 2007 (with a decade’s worth of highest ever temperatures), and with the satellite imagery of the last 35 years the reduction in ice at the North Pole can be accurately tracked and recorded.
The Summer ice has melted so that within 3-5 years experts predict the North Pole will be open ocean. No ice at all. Presumably just a few soggy polar bears.
Already the Northern Sea Route from Tokyo to Europe, across Russia, and the NorthWest Passage across Canada are open to shipping: 34 ships using the former route up from just 4 two years ago.
We’re entering a world unknown to humanity where not just this week’s storms such as Hurricane Isaac in Florida and Haiti, or floods in Burma, Laos and Korea become ever more prevalent and deeper – as less ice means warmer seas increasing heat and rising sea levels even further.
And, aside from storms, the US wheat belt already has 1930’s style Dust Bowls this Summer, sending food prices soaring: cereal prices up 120% and dairy up 107% as 45% of the corn and 35% of the soya crops are destroyed. Cereal prices peaked in 2008 at their highest ever according to the UN - yet another awful record now broken.
Food riots have already destabilised regimes during the Arab Spring: Yemen reports rice prices up by 60%, while bread prices in Egypt and Tunisia sparked riots and revolution – with similar incidents in Ivory Coast and Malawi. Add in reduced fish stocks and political instability in Ghana and Ethiopia and the food crisis looks bleak across Africa and the Middle East.
Kent would be affected not just by more floods and storms – along with sharper winters and much hotter summers that increase potholes, but also economic refugees and humanitarian crises from Africa and the Middle East.
Food riots haven’t broken out in your local Tesco just yet but the world’s refugees from Afghanistan, Somalia, Yemen and Kenya will pitch up on Kent’s doorstep as a the food crisis deepens - and epidemics of cholera, typhoid and tubercolosis break out. Another multi-million pound Kent Police spy drone will be of little use hovering over the Channel filming a bigger and better repeat of the Calais Jungle or Hackney Riots.
So strong are the concerns on the Continent – not separated by the Channel breakwater - that several German and Austrian banks have already removed food products from investment funds to reduce speculation and food hoarding and shortages.
Change for the better
Perhaps opportunities for Kent in the Climate Change Age though are in the likes of Thanet Earth greenhouses on brownfield sites to provide space-age sustenance, reduce air miles, and provide greater protection of farmland for the very real need to feed Britain’s own population.
If the U-Boat blockade in WW2 reduced Britain to grow your own allotments on every patch of land, near starvation levels in just 4 years, and rationing for a further decade, then Climate Change would be more far impactful. Especially as a starving Kansas would take priority over a starving Kent in any future Climate Change Lend-Lease or Marshall Plan.
Greater emphasis on investment in ethical products such as low-embedded water or reduced animal fats would refresh Kent’s farm sector – even reform of rice tariffs with Asia rather than USA, and VAT as an ethical tax linked to a capped interest rate as in Germany.
And investment in the pharma sector for not just Third World vaccines for HIV and malaria, but newer strains of resistant crops and seed banks would expand the Kent economy. Although it’s perhaps ironic when Kent has reduced its orchards by over 90% for empty business parks and retail parks. And carving up its remaining farms into housing estates and barn conversions seems only to have stimulated garden-grabbing tarmac speculation.
With over 1M empty homes in the UK – and many of them built on flood plains the tide may well reverse the tarmac boom of recent years as the construction companies head off to South Sudan and the Sahel for road-building.
And if the Desertec solar farm project in the Sahara could provide all of the world’s electricity needs then there will always be a requirement to stimulate the Kent solar panel industry.
In the chill winds of the Age of Climate Change Kent is looking exposed.
Tim Garbutt is the Managing Director of Sincerity Agency the leading green and ethical advertising agency in East Kent: www.sincerityagency.com and standing for Mayor to “Stop the Pollution, Stop the Corruption, Stop the Construction”: http://timeforchange.blogspot.com
• Manston noise and air monitors and illegal Cargolux overflights: silence and coverup
• Pleasurama tax haven: silence and secret council meetings
• Thor: banned but open: silence and let’s-play-let’s-pretend
• KCC and TDC: $2BN and $60M in tax to do nothing except say there’s no money or nothing can be done as they drive around in chauffeured cars on the rates
• The KCC AGM on 16th October and Police elections in November: the Toxic Three of Carter, King and Wild out, and Police arrests for Infratil, Cargolux and Thor
As Mayor I will increase the Manston bounty to £20,000 for information leading to arrests of the Infratil and Cargolux Directors, and KCC, TDC and EA corporate manslaughter.