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Six Degrees

At one degree the western plains 
of the US will be starved of rain,
Bankrupted farmers will pack up and flee
as desert restakes its claim.
There'll be no ice cap on the Arctic,
we'll lose the rivers of Kilimanjaro,
and frost that keeps the Alps secure 
won't do it any more.
The Barrier Reef will bleach and die,
mountain animals will reach the sky
chasing the cool, and those that can't fly
will join the dinosaurs.
Tropical storms expand their domain
to bludgeon new regions - Brazil, Spain -
and hope is lost for those islanders who
look fearfully out on the rising sea,
like the ten thousand residents of Tuvalu.
This flows from warming of only one degree,
and we can't prevent it now.
We aim to stop at two.

At two degrees the North Chinese
will suffer the uttermost drought.
The rising acidity of the seas
will wreck the phytoplankton
(you don't know much about
these microscopic plants - but take my word - they sanction
most of the life in the ocean.)
Low marine pH will spell
a different biochemistry
and shellfish unable to make a shell.
Heat will kill, every summer in North Europe;
around the Mediterranean forests will burn.
As Greenland melts we'll battle to shore up
our coastal defence as the seas rise in turn.
India's swamped under monster monsoons,
Peruvian cities like Lima will die
as glaciers thaw and rivers run dry.
California's water will peter out soon,
and across the world crop yields plummet.
If we choose not to act at the Paris climate summit
our planet will come to resemble the moon,
the biggest challenge will be a billion refugees
we stabilise the climate at two degrees.

At three degrees most of Southern Africa 
succumbs to the sand dunes that lurk beneath the soil.
A permanent El Niño brings floods to California
and the Amazon burns like a chip pan full of oil.
Drought, fire and salt will devastate Australia,
in Central America prolonged rainfall failure
triggers mass migration.
While India sustains unprecedented floods 
its neighbour Pakistan is a wasteland of baked mud,
their juxtaposition mirroring the fate
of the eastern and western United States 
where the eastern seaboard gets swamped by mega storms 
but the country is dry as a straw bale in the west;
they abstract all the water as the continent warms
till the Colorado River is a channel of dust.
The Sahara jumps the Mediterranean,
Africa falls to the scourge of malaria.
There's mass extinctions, mass starvation, mass migration:
it couldn't get worse, but it does...

At four degrees we've lost control
there's melting ice at both the poles,
superstorms, high seas, erosion,
the whole of the tropics hot as an oven
and fight as we might we've already lost
as methane exudes from thawed permafrost

pushing us up to five...

Where the Amazon's a desert.
The sea's devoured the land.
Southern Europe's pleasant
countryside is sand.
But the ocean sediments hold the REAL trouble.
Think it's bad?  Now it gets dire
when methane hydrates start to bubble
belching catastrophic eruptions of gas,
shooting the temperature higher and higher
till human populations are dying en masse
and we get to six degrees.

Dead seas.
Unbearable heat.
No wildlife, no trees.
Nothing to eat.

All of us can make a thousand lifestyle changes 
to stop emitting carbon;  cut back and conserve,
but most of it's in vain when world finance arranges
to sink humongous stakes in the search for more reserves.
Examine the statistics - it's staggering to learn
our two degree target means we can't afford to burn
a fifth of what already has been found.

Foment unrest!
- the aggregated evidence attests
our only hope's to keep it in the ground.

We got no choice but keep it in the ground.
We got no choice but keep it in the ground.


climate changeglobal warmingParis climate summitEnvironmentEarthFuture

◄ God The Banana

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Tim Ellis

Sat 17th Oct 2015 13:36

I wrote this performance poem in the lead up to the Paris climate summit in December 2015. It is part of my pamphlet "Speak The Unspeakable: Cool words for an overheating world", which you can buy at If anybody is putting on a climate related event and wants an angry performance poet to come and give them a rant, please get in touch!

This poem is my best attempt to sum up in verse the book "Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet" by Mark Lynas, which is the most comprehensive guide I've found to what the world has in store for us if we fail to deal with the crisis.

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