We Are Choosing To Be Doomed By Climate Change
“It may seem impossible to imagine that a technologically advanced society could choose, in essence, to destroy itself,” as Elizabeth Kolbert wrote way back in 2005 in a New Yorker series every bit as alarming as the NY Magazine piece, “but that is what we are now in the process of doing.”
We have been choosing to destroy ourselves for quite some time now. Climate silence and climate ignorance are literally destroying us.
Compounding the tragedy is that now a host of core climate solutions are affordable, practical, and scalable. If there is one critique of the NY Magazine piece that sticks, it is that Wallace-Wells fails to explain clearly that we are not doomed. We are simply choosing to be doomed.
So, to be clear, we are not doomed. If the nation and the world were to adopt a WWII-scale effort, we could certainly keep total global warming “well below 2°C” (3.6°F), which scientists — and the nations of the world — recognize as the threshold beyond which climate change rapidly moves from dangerous to catastrophic.
Imagine a severe megadrought lasting decades hitting both the California breadbasket and the Midwest breadbasket at the same time. That’s getting closer to a worst-case scenario in terms of drought for just this country.
Also, much of the population of Mexico and Central America — likely over 100 million people (Mexico alone is projected to have a population of 150 million in 2050) — will be trying to find a place to live that isn’t anywhere near as hot and dry, that has enough fresh water and food to go around. They aren’t going to be looking south.
In 2010, the Royal Society devoted a special issue of Philosophical Transactions A to look at this 4°C (7°F) scenario. It notes that “in such a 4°C world, the limits for human adaptation are likely to be exceeded in many parts of the world, while the limits for adaptation for natural systems would largely be exceeded throughout the world.” The UK’s Guardian notes “A 4°C rise in the planet’s temperature would see severe droughts across the world and millions of migrants seeking refuge as their food supplies collapse.”
Again, this 4°C world is not the plausible worst-case, it is close to the expected outcome of our current emissions pathway.
The very worst-case scenario for climate change is unimaginably horrific. The plausible worst-case scenario is imaginably horrific — and it’s not much different from the world we end up with if the climate policies of Trump and the GOP leadership continue to prevail in this country past 2020.
Global warming of more than 6°C (11°F) eliminates all labor capacity in the hottest months in many areas, including the lower Mississippi Valley, and exposes most of the U.S. east of the Rockies to heat stress beyond anything experienced in the world today. In this scenario, heat stress in NYC exceeds present day Bahrain, and Bahrain heat stress would induce hyperthermia in even sleeping humans.