On climate change

We live our comfortable lives in the shadow of a disaster of our own making. That disaster is being brought about by the very things that allow us to live our comfortable lives.

Sir David Attenborough, A Life on Our Planet

In view of the recent unfortunate events in western North America – such as the destruction of the Canadian town of Lytton by a wildfire shortly after registering a record temperature of 49.6℃ (121.28℉) – many people seem to be saying: “Blimey, perhaps there’s something in this climate change malarkey after all.” Some people are calling for something to be done, and even a few politicians are saying that steps ought to be taken. At the very least, there ought to be a committee to set the terms of reference for a steering group.

It is of course far too late to prevent climate change, as well-informed people have been saying for quite a long time now. You can’t prevent something that is already happening. Nor is there much future in blaming the oil companies, space lizards, or the Bilderberg Group. Yes, Exxon and the rest of them sold us hydrocarbons for profit, but equally we bought those hydrocarbons and burned them. You can’t really blame corporations for doing what they are designed to do.

The point is, climate change is not some bogeyman invented by vegans. It’s here, it’s doing a lot of damage (not just to us), and it’s not going away. If we want to fix it, we need to develop time travel, go back at least thirty years, and get mediaeval on capitalism’s collective ass. That is not going to happen, and it makes me want to weep that I even have to point this out. Svante Arrhenius was onto this in 1896, for crying out loud, although being Swedish he thought global warming might be quite nice.

So it’s a given, right up there with death and taxes (and even those are only for the little people). We have to live with it. Many places are going to become hotter and drier, as per the image above. Many other places are going to become much wetter, in that they will be underwater. I don’t like this either, and I live 600m above sea-level (about 2,000 feet), but there it is.

Therefore we are going to have to adapt, both individually and collectively. You and I and everyone else need food, water and shelter. Exactly how you ensure that depends on where you are, and in many cases that is going to involve moving somewhere else. I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest that you might not want to invest in real estate in South Florida. Former US President Barack Obama purchased a beach property in Martha’s Vineyard a little while ago. Former US President Barack Obama will probably live to regret it.

I am not one of those who believe that this is going to wipe us out as a species, although arguably that’s what we deserve. We got through the last Ice Age, after all, and at least some of us will get through this – not eight billion of us, I very much suspect not even one billion, but enough to survive. If that sounds rough, well, it probably will be, but that’s what we’re looking at, realistically. Like rats, cockroaches, and hooded crows, human beings are generalists. We can adapt to a lot of things. Not, granted, a wet bulb temperature in excess of 35℃/95℉, but there will doubtless be some places cooler than that, although tragically Las Vegas may not be one of them.

Once you grasp that this is what’s coming – and not for our children or grandchildren, but for us, which also includes you, dear reader – it concentrates the mind wonderfully. For my part, I have a house designed to stay cool in summer and warm in winter, with its own water supply and enough land to feed me and mine. That could all fail if the prevailing winds were to shift or if the weather patterns here were to change radically for some other reason I haven’t thought of. There are far fewer 100% guarantees than there used to be. Death is still a pretty safe bet; as for taxes, your guess is as good as mine.

The point also needs to be made that the obsession with climate change can tend to obscure the numerous other issues facing industrial civilisation. Even if we were to meet the implausible emissions targets that politicians are so fond of pledging, it wouldn’t somehow magically fix everything. Atmospheric CO2 is a symptom, not the disease. When our descendants – those of them who survive – find some less destructive way of life that can actually be sustained, then most assuredly their CO2 emissions will be dramatically lower than ours. But that is entailed by the premise. If they don’t manage to do that, they won’t survive, after all.

I usually try to end these posts of mine with something uplifting, or at least a call to action. This one, not so much. All I can think of is the good old saying: Sauve qui peut.

Comments are welcome, but I do pre-moderate them to make sure they comply with the house rules.

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