I am working by the light of my computer screen, which is on battery power. The lights went out about an hour ago.
What a difference having power, especially at night, is from not having it.
So much of modern life is totally ignored so long as it works.
That may be the best of all reasons for being such a pessimist as I am when it comes to climate change. Or maybe I am confusing the urgency of a threat and how extremely we react to them on an immediate timescale with our tendency to ignore intellectual (as currently perceived) threats.
One thing is sure, though, the effects of climate change will be far more numerous and widely influential than widely imagined. Loss of power grids will hardly be noticed.
Take sea level rises, for instance. Rise in sea level will be accompanied by refugee crises which will dwarf the current crisis in Europe. Not only will there be worldwide flooding, many of the refugees will be armed, and most of them angry. If you doubt this, think about the facts that the oceans border all landmasses and the southern states are included. When the sea rises people all around the world will be displaced. The Maldives, the Marshalls and several other low lying nations are even expected to disappear entirely.
The good news is that this is not expected in the immediate future. But how soon it is likely to happen is not so clear-cut; the ice shelves in Antarctica and Greenland are already showing dangerous degradation. Imagine a world full of people displaced from their homes. If there is not time to relocate these people into unpopulated places, the rest of us will have to deal with them. Do not assume living at elevation will be an insulation from this effect, for the natural place for the refugee camps will be at elevation. Oh, and don’t forget, many of these people will carry weapons.
Or consider fresh (as opposed to salt) water. Drought and floods are predicted to increase as climate changes. One of the accompanying phenomena to go with this is the natural side effect of everyone buying bottled water. No sympathy for the poor. If you can’t afford it, eat cake and wash it down with red wine! This is already being played out in what is rarely thought of as a climate change issue in Flint, MI.
I miss the days when scientists were seen as our friends. In the old days we were optimistic. We believed scientists would continue to provide solutions to the many problems we constantly confronted. But these days, when you pick up a scientifically oriented magazine, all you see is warnings about the evils which await us as the inevitable effects of climate change. Scientists have virtually no good news for us anymore–not if you believe their climate change predictions.
Fifty years ago President Johnson got an official warning about climate change’s impacts from a national committee of scientists. If he had acted then most of what we now face could have been avoided. According to the overwhelming majority of modern scientists that option is now moot. What we do today, though, is not. We may not be able to avoid most of the ill effects of climate change, but we can begin to act again as if science were the area where we might find solutions. To do so, though, we must again view scientists as our fiends.
I’m at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) in San Francisco this week (Dec 14-18). For those who might not know, this is my second trip to the AGU annual meeting and the third time I have reported on it. The big lesson I will personally take away this year seems to be mainly about my own limitations. As many of you probably do know, I have M.S. and am no longer cut out for going to meetings, especially large ones like this.
Not only is the handicap now so severe that it is simply incompatible with large gatherings, but I know I got more information last year from web access than I’m getting now. The only real advantage seems to lie with connections I make here with real people. I am seriously considering an abort. Tonight, at the end of the meeting, I found myself on the streets of San Francisco without a jacket and unable to find the garage in which I had parked. I had help that night from my friends Jim and JoAnn, and they rescued me, but my presence here is questionable at best. The web site is http://fallmeeting.agu.org/2015/welcome/ and there is no reason you can’t access it directly yourself. I urge you to do so.
The way in which I think science may provide solutions is not embraced, currently, by the AGU (They, basically, are a cautious group.), but it seems to me to be the logical place to go, if the warnings scientists now seem to be spouting are accurate. Let’s stop regarding the space program as one of exploration, but instead as a potential avenue of salvation. To serve this purpose, though, the change will have to take place soon, for the only hope is if we begin the process soon: solutions will take very long to effect.