Climate change is coming like a runaway freight train,
bringing with it the triple blows of starvation, mass
migration and war.
And Canadian journalist Gwynne Dyer fears the seemingly
overwhelming impact is likely to be felt sooner than first
Speaking to 500 people at the University of Otago in Dunedin
last night, Mr Dyer pointed to the increasingly rapid melting
of Arctic ocean ice as one example.
Forecasts had projected a complete loss of ocean ice during
summer months by 2040, but evidence now suggested that could
happened as soon as 2013.
"There's a sense of suppressed panic in the relevant
scientific community now. Things are moving considerably
faster than their models predicted," he said.
The implications for global order were likely to be
catastrophic, ranging from dwindling food supplies as the
world's food-producing regions turned to deserts, to mass
starvation, migration and war.
Already there was increasingly hostile rhetoric between
Canada and Russia over rival claims to resource-rich Arctic
territory, and the threat of conflict between nuclear rivals
India and Pakistan over dwindling water supplies.
Mr Dyer believed international efforts to cut emissions were
unlikely to succeed in time to prevent average temperatures
increasing by 2degC - a threshhold beyond which climate
change could spiral out of control.
That left seemingly unpalatable geo-engineering initiatives
as the only options to buy time, such as releasing sulphur
dioxide into the atmosphere to block sunlight and control
warming while emissions cuts continued.
Mr Dyer, whose columns on international affairs are published
by more than 175 papers in 45 countries, has spent 18 months
researching his new book Climate Wars.