Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Time to Get Ready

Evidence is mounting for future catastrophic effects of climate change and resource depletion. We need to get ready for the coming changes.

To limit the change in global average temperature to 2° C, the world must rapidly reduce and eliminate fossil fuel consumption. In fact, we have waited so long to make meaningful cuts to fossil fuel use that now, the cuts we need must happen so quickly that the effect will be similar to a collapse. But the phase-out of fossil fuels by itself will not achieve the goals of the Paris Accord. We also would need to quickly develop, test and deploy some new technology to remove and sequester carbon from the atmosphere.

Neither major US political party has demonstrated the will to either cut fossil fuel use or to develop and deploy carbon-removing technology. It seems inevitable that global average temperature will shoot past 2° C. Some climate scientists have predicted a change of between 7° and 10° C, changes big enough to endanger the survival of the human race. One "optimistic" scientist has said that change will be limited to 4° C, because civilization will collapse, limiting further greenhouse gas emissions.

Climate change is only one part of the larger, more general problem of overshoot. In 1972, the Limits to Growth predicted collapse due not only to environmental problems, but also the finite availability of resources. The study was largely dismissed, but a recent look at how the predictions from the Limits to Growth have fared has shown that the world is still on track for global collapse. In fact, according to the study, we are in the early stages of collapse.

So it's time--probably past time--that we begin to ready for collapse. There are three broad issues that we should address.

First, we need to prepare to deal with refugees. Millions of people will be fleeing increasing heat in the south and flooding along the coasts. In fact, we already have absorbed Katrina refugees from Louisiana. This problem will accelerate. We need to have a plan in place.

Second, we need to plan for less and less help from outside our area. Federal, regional and even state resources will be stretched to the breaking point. We should assume that we'll be left to our own devices to cope with local problems. Already, the Federal government has proven inadequate to deal with major disasters. We should inventory our strengths, what we have locally that will help us or be available for barter with nearby communities, and we need to account for our weaknesses, needs that will be difficult to meet. Then we should plan ways to mitigate weaknesses and build on strengths. For example, we're fortunate to have a university with a pharmacy college that can synthesize drugs, at least on a small scale--that's a strength. We lack local sources of energy--that's a weakness.

Finally, we need to make plans for an orderly out-migration of the local population, should it come to that. The area may eventually be unable to support its population. We need to identify areas that could accept refugees and develop relationships and assets along potential migration routes.

Unpleasant as the topic is, we need to start talking about collapse now, the sooner, the better.

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