I had the privilege to be invited for a Learning Journey to Greenland in May 2009, organized by the Tällberg Foundation. We stayed at Illulisat, one of the places where the Icefjord Glacier comes into the ocean. We learned and observed how the glacier withdrew 60 kilometres since the beginning of the industrial revolution in the second half of the 19th century. In the last year, not less than 15 kilometres were added to it! This large and alarming withdrawal is just one of the indications that the rise of the average world temperature, the melting of the ice at the North Pole, the size of the dark blue deserts in the oceans, and the increase in CO2 concentration in the atmosphere are larger than predicted in the computer simulations that are the basis of the IPCC reports. These alarming empirical data about climate change and its effects were the starting points for the Greenland journey presentations of the cli-matologists Dorthe Dahl-Jensen (University of Copenhagen, Denmark) and Johan Rockström (Stockholm Environment Institute). One of the explanations is the fact that the IPCC models do not include interaction effects between different environmental effects of climate change and consequently predict a rather linear increase of temperature with increased CO2 emissions and a gradual decrease in temperature when we reduce CO2 emissions. This results in too positive predictions in the near future and the false belief that a large increase in temperature can be corrected by simply reducing CO2 emissions. Instead, we will experience much larger, shock wise increases of temperatures in the near future, resulting in for us and other living organisms very unfavourable new equilibrium that may well remain stable for 100,000 years, as Lovelock predicts in his fascinating book The Vanishing Face of Gaia. A last Warning (London: Penguin Books 2009).
Starting from the same premise that climate change will be quicker and more dramatic, the present book has four great merits. First, it shows in a very concrete way how climate change will affect almost all aspects of our physical and social environment, and as a consequence, of human life. Second, starting from the adaptation approaches of several countries, it shows that still a long path has to be followed before the adaptation strategies can be implemented into spatial planning, in spatial projects, programmes and plans. Third, the book shows that we have to eliminate sectoral thinking in order to come to proactive and integrative solutions for the challenges we face. As Lovelock arrived at his conclusions by bridging disciplinary boundaries between Earth and Life sciences, thise book shows how solutions can and should bridge different disciplines and sectors. We all have separate departments for Economic Affairs, Agriculture, Environmental Affairs, Social Affairs etc, but living in harmony with each other and with nature requires integrated solutions that are simultaneously sustainable, economically, ecologically, and socially. Sustainable wellbeing is only created if economic and financial goals are instrumental to and serve sustainable environmental and social solutions, rather than are focused on our welfare wealth as a goal in itself. Fourth, the book shows that integrative cross-sectoral creative thinking is at least as important in the planning stage as in the strategy phase, but even more difficult to realize as diverging interests will strongly defend their vested interests.
This book, and consequently also the author, deserves a very large audience. We really have to act now and this book really helps to translate ambitious plans into concrete spatial actions!
University of Groningen and c8Foundation Frans N. Stokman
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