By JOHN BUTERBAUGH
This may be the single most defeatist post I’ve ever written, but in many ways, I feel relieved. After watching a Season 3 episode from The Newsroom, I was strangely relieved to hear that any action on climate change would be pointless. We have passed multiple tipping points: the ice sheets of Antarctica and Greenland are melting, and we have already arrived at 400 parts per million of CO2. For many years, political inaction and climate change denial had irked me to no end. Knowing that no action could result in reversing climate change eliminated this frustration.
I could instead refocus my energy on studying climate change adaptation strategies. We think that we have beaten natural selection through our intellectual prowess. We are the species that invented clothing, medical cures, and agriculture, to name a few. However, our invention of industry has presented a paradox of progress. Sure, productivity and standards of living have risen. Still, industrialization has introduced pollution that causes health issues and global warming. Yes, we do have to live with the cost of our capacity and the price of our progress.
Sea levels will rise. We don’t know exactly by how much. The forecasts vary, but we’re already seeing island nations such as The Maldives in big trouble. Some areas will experience floods or hurricanes; others droughts. Some animal and plant species will become extinct or severely endangered. Other species will adapt by mutating or migrating to new homes.
Human beings will need to adapt as well. Farmers may have to grow different crops, especially in developing countries near the Equator. Persian Gulf states will eventually become uninhabitable, and this will result in mass migration and social unrest. Already the drought in Syria has sparked rebellion against Assad’s regime, possibly leading to the rise of ISIS.
Because we have not accepted preventative strategies, we must accept the new reality: constantly having to adapt to a global problem. We will have to manage even scarcer resources lest we want billions of us rising up and taking drastic measures just to survive. If we cannot prepare to reduce our impact on the climate, we must prepare ourselves to survive the impact of future climates.