The lukewarm response to global climate change NOV 06 2013
Elizabeth Kolbert on yet another report which says that the future effects of anthropogenic climate change will be irreversible and catastrophic.
Promoting "preparedness" is doubtless a good idea. As the executive order notes, climate impacts -- which include, but are not limited to, heat waves, heavier downpours, and an increase in the number and intensity of wildfires -- are "already affecting communities, natural resources, ecosystems, economies, and public health across the Nation." However, one of the dangers of this enterprise is that it tends to presuppose, in a Boy Scout-ish sort of way, that "preparedness" is possible.
As we merrily roll along, radically altering the planet, we are, as the leaked I.P.C.C. report makes clear, increasingly in danger of committing ourselves to outcomes that will simply overwhelm societies' ability to adapt. Certainly they will overwhelm the abilities of frogs and trees and birds to adapt. Thus, any genuine "preparedness" strategy must include averting those eventualities for which preparation is impossible. This is not something that the President can do by executive order, but it's something he ought to be pursuing with every other tool.
In linking to the piece, Philip Gourevitch notes:
This is simply the most important & urgent issue in our time & will be for as long as there is a foreseeable future
I wonder... what it's gonna take for the world's governments to lurch into action on this? Or will they ever? Years of iron-clad scientific consensus isn't doing it. Sandy didn't do it. Heat waves, wildfires, and floods seem to have little effect. The melting Arctic, ha! The risk to food and water supplies? Not really. For fun, here's a Guardian piece from six years ago on 2007's IPCC report, the same report Kolbert is referring to above.
Sea levels will rise over the century by around half a metre; snow will disappear from all but the highest mountains; deserts will spread; oceans become acidic, leading to the destruction of coral reefs and atolls; and deadly heatwaves will become more prevalent.
The impact will be catastrophic, forcing hundreds of millions of people to flee their devastated homelands, particularly in tropical, low-lying areas, while creating waves of immigrants whose movements will strain the economies of even the most affluent countries.
'The really chilling thing about the IPCC report is that it is the work of several thousand climate experts who have widely differing views about how greenhouse gases will have their effect. Some think they will have a major impact, others a lesser role. Each paragraph of this report was therefore argued over and scrutinised intensely. Only points that were considered indisputable survived this process. This is a very conservative document -- that's what makes it so scary,' said one senior UK climate expert.
It's the same shit! It's absurd.