21 June 2016

How will we live in a different world?

Long time readers of this blog will know that energy drives climate change, which arrives via the water cycle. It is therefore useful to talk about energy and mitigation but water and adaptation. (The basic science explains that greater warming requires faster air and water circulation to dissipate the heat, which translates into a faster and stronger hydrological cycle.)

The sad news is that we (humans) have been slow -- even negligent -- in taking action to mitigate climate change. Countries cannot agree on who should cut how much. Governments subsidize fossil fuel use. Regulations are designed to obscure, rather than highlight the "negative externalities" of fossil fuel pollution (see this and this on carbon taxes vs cap and trade).

I have therefore put more energy into understanding and explaining how we can adapt to a climate-changed world, via posts on this blog as well as discussions in my books. I put those efforts into overdrive in recent months after reading two papers. In the first, Hansen et al. talk about 6-9m of sea level rise by 2100, far above an IPCC "consensus" figure of one meter due to IPCC's overly conservative methods. In the second, Weitzman explains how economists have really underestimated the danger from "fat tailed" outcomes in a climate changed world.

Those papers, together, provide a frightening vision of what we might (and probably will) face: massive storms, flooding of coastal cities and "record-breaking" variations in weather that will cost billions in damages, drive millions to migrate and destabilize the ecosystems and food chains we all depend on. Even worse, those problems are not going to arrive in the distant future, with years of warning. We are already experiencing predicted impacts (the "record" El Niño, floods in Paris, drought, crop failures in India and Africa, etc.), and those impacts may get radically worse if major ocean currents slow and melting glaciers increase sea levels by "3-4 meters in a few years."

Few people want to think about a grim, rather than ever-better, future (I have for awhile now), but preparation offers more protection than hope. That's why I have started a new project, Life Plus 2 Meters, that will give authors and readers the chance to explore many possible visions of life in a different world. As it says on the project's website:
These visions may bring optimistic, pessimistic, social, technical, macro, and/or micro perspectives to the discussion. There is no right way to engage this complex topic.
I invite you -- and anyone you know -- to contribute your vision to this project. It's only by exploring the numerous facets of life in a different world that we might understand what's at stake as we change our world and how we will learn to live with it.

I will be posting updates here occasionally, but I recommend that you access the site directly and/or follow the project on facebook or twitter if you want to contribute a vision or follow the discussion when I start posting contributions in September. I am hoping to get over 100 contributions from a variety of people with different training, perspectives and cultures.

Here's the page for authors and the scientific background page. Here's my sample post on flying the not-so-friendly skies.

Bottom Line: The best way to understand ourselves is to engage in a broad discussion of how humans, in all their diversity, will live in a different world.

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