It’s too late to STOP climate change.
It’s not too late to ADAPT to it.
I have been sounding the global warming fire bell for about 18 years now, first through the site CatastropheMap.com and now via an updated platform called RapidClimateChange.org. As the evidence has become undeniable, I increasingly find myself on the receiving end of well-intentioned scoldings (which I differentiate from trolling). These comments come from those who are securely on board the global warming train1and I take them seriously. That is why I am clarifying my standpoint here.
The criticism is: I am scaring people to the point that they will give up. I should soften the message so that people don’t lose hope. To me, this is like saying “Alaric and the Visigoths are just outside the gates with swords and pikes, but don’t worry they’ll probably just stop by the see the Colosseum.”
There isn’t much I can do about the way people react to info about the climate catastrophe. Furthermore I’m not sure what level of alarm is optimum in the face of a planetary crisis more threatening than nuclear war. From outright deniers and fossil fuel operatives to doomsday prophets, everyone has a different position. The best I can do is report as accurately as possible, which is no mean feat as the plundering classes continue to put out billions of dollars’ worth of misinformation2, as they have for at least four decades.
I will continue to argue that no one is going to do anything unless they understand that we have already been in the boiling water for several years now3. Indeed, climate science has been remarkably accurate in its predictions, with the caveat that most models have been too conservative in terms of speed and scale. It’s considerably worse than most people understand, even those who “believe” it.
Which leads to the key question: what is it that we should be doing as individuals to meet the greatest challenge this species have ever faced.4
The strategies fall into two categories: Adaptation and Mitigation.
Adaptation means preparing for a whole new world in which the quality of your life (if not your literal survival) will depend on what you do now.
Mitigation means taking steps to “stop climate change.”
These solutions are not mutually exclusive, but they do operate within different mindsets.
Our mitigation efforts today may slow the rate of warming in the mid-term and forestall an existential global catastrophe later in the century, but they will not halt what is already baked into the planetary climate systems. In the meantime we have to live. That’s why I strongly favor Adaptation over Mitigation as a priority for most humans.
Now, before you put me in the Iron Chair (or worse, stop reading), please note this important disclaimer:
I am not remotely suggesting that anyone with the means and MOTIVATION should not do everything they can do to reduce the quantities of CO2 (and now CH4) into the atmosphere.
In my opinion you should be doing these things anyway. Most of them make economic sense, certainly long term, and I think most people already know what they are.
And the simple fact is: we as humans can’t continue plundering the planet the way we are now and expect to survive in any scenario that resembles “civilization.”
For most citizens of Earth, taking steps now to prepare for the crisis will yield a better ROI than “fighting climate change.”5 We have entered a stage of deceptive normalcy in which we have lots of options to moderate and cushion the EFFECTS of climate breakdown; we need to get down to business. Depending on your location, age and resourcefulness, many of the worst short term consequences of climate change may be averted, deflected or accommodated in your personal world.
The lynchpin of this unpopular position is that a catastrophic degree of climate collapse is already locked into the planetary weather systems. In spite of growing global awareness – especially among the young – the needle of progress has barely moved. CO2 emissions have increased rather than decreased and CH4 has skyrocketed.6
It’s going to keep on getting hotter and weather is going to keep on getting more violent. There will be more unprecedented droughts and floods until the very term “unprecedented” is no longer meaningful.
The addendum to that statement is that the fossil fuel industries and the government officials they own are not going to take the colossal and immediate actions required to stop this global emergency. As they continue to shift their position, the new strategy is “delayism.” Oil, gas and coal cabals will flog fake green messaging even while blowing coal smoke up our collective butts. Eventually, grass roots action may bring this empire down, but we are outgunned for the moment. If the global authoritarian trend continues, the delay will be even longer.
For every time you shut off your car engine waiting picking up the kids from school, a half million pickup truck assholes have disabled the emissions controls on their big boy trucks.
So I am grieved to report that the small actions individuals take to reduce carbon in the environment will make little difference in the short term. The rate at which we are spewing greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere and oceans combined with relentless climate feedback cycles (loops) are not much affected by the everyday actions of civilians. In spite of global progress in many places, coal is still king.7
How bad it can and will get, of course, is a separate discussion.
I don’t think it’s a contradiction to emphasize that we must deploy what mitigation tactics we can on a smaller, personal scale, even if it’s only making yourself unpopular by talking about global warming at dinner parties.4 The single mitigation measure I fully support is political action. Raise all the hell you can raise until the balance of power changes. Planetary scale solutions won’t happen without a change of ownership. But at the present time, fossil interests and the fossils who pull their strings control most levers of power. Until those levers are in other, more responsible hands, the puppet masters will do as little as possible. Gas lighting is less expensive than emissions controls.
- In actuality, everyone is aboard, whether they know it or not.
- By which I mean “lies.” Billions and billions of dollars worth of lies.
- Or: the excrement is already spinning into the fan blades. Or: the hand on the old Elgin clock on the wall is nearing midnight.
- Grimly fascinating to me that it is impolite to talk about this biggest global crisis ever faced in social situations.
- The term climate change was invented in the early 2000s by Republican operative Frank Luntz, who encouraged it’s substitution for “global warming” because it did not sound as scary. Luntz recanted and apologized in 2019.
- CO2 levels moved past 420 PPM earlier this year and atmospheric Methane levels set new records every year.
- Australia continues to fast track new coal mines.
ADAPTATION AS THE ULTIMATE CHALLENGE (Continued from left column)
On the adaptation side, I believe that humans are infinitely ingenious and flexible. I do not believe we are doomed as a species, but I am convinced that the planetary population is going to take a major hit, and that the cultural amenities we call civilization are going to break down – a process that is actually well underway. But this is not going to happen at the same rate around the world.
Depending on your age, your family situation, your location and your resources, it’s time to think about a future in which climate collapse is the most critical component of daily life. How will you survive, how will you thrive?
Your location will be among the key considerations for the future, which begins now. There are already places on the planet that are on the threshold of unlivable, a frugally acknowledged factor in the escalating global refugee crisis. The Middle East is among the places I would hesitate to relocate, but so is the American Southwest and perhaps even Australia. IMO retiring to Arizona to golf away your golden years is a bad idea, but it’s up to you.
Wherever you live, where do you think your food will be coming from? You may have noticed during and after the pandemic that the supply chain is far more fragile than we like to think about. If folks will fight over toilet paper, what will they do to get Pop Tarts? This winter, I expect shortages of beef, fish, wheat, olive oil and snow crab. If you live in a city, where will the food come from when the shelves begin to empty? In a global monoculture agriculture scenario, a drought 10,000 miles away can cut down on your available calories.
A lot of people are growing their own food, both indoors and out (I am one of them). But I can tell you from experience that there is a tough learning curve, so the sooner you start, the more likely you are to be ready. Once you grow it, you have to store it and protect it.
And then there is water. Mankind has always fought over water, but the scale of these conflicts is ratchetting up around the world. I feel a little better living near a large river and a giant freshwater sea, but when will the western states come for my drinking water?
The thing with water is that it is never where it’s supposed to be. There is either too much or too little. So if you live in a flood plain, or a place that has never been a flood plain before but is flooding now, what are you going to do about that? Massive infrastructure projects to hold back water and collect water are beginning to be funded, but how will they affect you? Adaptations is as much about how public money and resources will be deployed.
It’s a balmy 70° day in Chicago. The kids are back to school and the football team, marching bands and cheerleaders band are practicing. The landscape companies are blowing pollution into the air as the lawns are groomed and greened with chemicals. I don’t consider myself a radical prepper, but I can see where there is an end to this fantasy.
So take another look at the sack of Rome. If there was a chance to get out of Rome, wouldn’t you want to be warned?
As to my alleged obligation to soften the message,
sorry, I don’t think I can.