Climate Change is here. Mitigate, Adapt, or Suffer.

October 12, 2019

Above, worth a review.

I spoke to Glacier specialists Lonnie Thompson and Konrad Steffen,
one a specialist in tropical glaciers, another in the arctic.
Worthwhile thumbnail of climate science history, and prospect for the future.

Below, former New York Times climate reporter (now opinion writer) Justin Gillis takes stock of our current avalanche of climate karma.

New York Times:

SAN FRANCISCO — Now we suffer the consequences.

In Northern California, power was cut to more than a million people this week. Near Houston, houses that flooded only two years ago just succumbed again. The South endured record-shattering fall heat waves. In Miami, salt water bubbled through street drains yet again as the rising ocean mounted a fresh assault.

All of it was predicted, in general outline, decades ago. We did not listen. Ideologues and paid shills cajoled us to ignore the warnings. Politicians cashed their checks from the fossil fuel lobbyists and slithered away.

Today, we act surprised as the climate emergency descends upon us in all its ferocity.

The scientists knew long ago, and told us, that the sea would invade the coasts. They knew a hotter atmosphere would send heavier rains to inundate our cities and farms. They knew the landscape of California, which always becomes desiccated in the late summer and early fall, would dry out more in a hotter climate.

But even the scientists did not quite foresee the way that bone-dry vegetation would turn into a firebomb waiting for a spark. California is the state that has done the most to battle the climate crisis, but that has not saved it from recent fires so ferocious they burned people alive.

In high winds, ill-maintained power lines strung across aging poles are often the source of the spark. The largest utility in the state, Pacific Gas & Electric, has already been propelled into bankruptcy by fire liabilities it calculates at $30 billion. Now PG&E, far behind in basic tasks meant to make its system safer, is pre-emptively shutting down power lines on windy days to try to prevent more death and destruction.

If there is any fix for the fire situation, it will not be cheap or easy. True, the people who were running the power company deserve some blame — but not all of it. We now know that power rates in California, high as they may have seemed, were a false economy. The public was not paying enough to harden the electric grid against rising climate risks.

Nationwide, you can say the same about the fossil fuels we burned so heedlessly these last decades. They seemed cheap and convenient at the time. Only now are we learning the true cost.

As tempting as it is to blame the politicians and the fossil fuel executives for the fix we find ourselves in, that is too easy. At any time in these last three decades, we could have woken up. We could have heeded the warnings of scientists like James E. Hansen of NASA, who told Congress in 1988 that the planet was warming sharply and would continue to do so if we persisted in burning fossil fuels. We could have voted James Inhofe, the climate-denying senator from Oklahoma, out of office. Had we been aroused and angry, we could have wielded our democratic power to bring the fossil fuel companies to heel.

I remember sitting with Dr. Hansen in his NASA office the week he retired, in 2013, wondering along with him when the public revolt over the climate crisis would finally begin.

Now we have our answer. Under the unlikely leadership of a brave 16-year-old schoolgirl from Sweden, Greta Thunberg, we are marching in the streets now by the millions. We are making demands. We are angry, and should be, but let’s spare a moment to be angry at ourselves for waiting so long.

People keep asking: Is it too late?

Yes, in some sense it is. What the events in California and Miami and Houston tell us is that we are living through the risks of an altered climate now, not a hundred years from now. Expect the situation to keep getting worse for the rest of your life. The ocean will keep rising for centuries, probably much faster than today. We will lose our great coastal cities.

But here is the thing people must understand: The crisis is still manageable, barely. If we do not move far more aggressively, it could spiral entirely out of control. At a global scale, we have yet to turn the corner and start cutting emissions. If we let them keep rising, today’s wildfires and floods will seem like child’s play soon enough. In a world of ever-rising temperatures, mass starvation is but one of the risks.

The most urgent imperative now is to turn our fear and frustration into votes.

The climate troglodytes must be thrown out of office, starting with Donald J. Trump. We need laws with teeth to propel the clean energy transition: hard targets, bans, taxes, mandates. We cannot stand back for another presidential election in which the Republican Party lies about this issue while the Democratic Party hides from it.

Granted, “Curtail future damage!” is not an inspiring battle cry. “To the Bastille!” it is not. Yet millions of young people have begun to understand the stakes, their fears given voice by that young lady from Sweden, with her moral intelligence and her capacity to wield the truth like a rapier.

Look again at that picture of her, a lone student picketing Sweden’s Parliament with a homemade sign, and let yourself marvel at the birth of a global movement. Older people forced the youth into this situation by our dereliction, and now we must not let them carry the battle alone.

Example impacts:

San Jose Mercury News:

Concerned that rising waves will flood runways and buildings in the coming years, officials at San Francisco International Airport are moving ahead with a $587 million plan to build a major new sea wall around the entire airport.

The plan, the latest example of the growing cost of climate change in California, involves driving steel pilings — sheets with interlocking edges — into the mud and also constructing concrete walls in some places around all of the airport’s 10-mile perimeter.

“This is something we’ve been looking at for many years,” said Doug Yakel, a spokesman for the airport. “What’s changed is the level of protection that is needed.”

The airport, built in 1927 in a cow pasture at the edge of San Francisco Bay, serves 55 million passengers a year, making it the nation’s seventh busiest. But its runways sit only about 10 feet above sea level.

Bloomberg:

The Great Climate Retreat is beginning with tiny steps, like taxpayer buyouts for homeowners in flood-prone areas from Staten Island, New York, to Houston and New Orleans — and now Rittel’s Marathon Key. Florida, the state with the most people and real estate at risk, is just starting to buy homes, wrecked or not, and bulldoze them to clear a path for swelling seas before whole neighborhoods get wiped off the map.

By the end of the century, 13 million Americans will need to move just because of rising sea levels, at a cost of $1 million each, according to Florida State University demographer Mathew Haeur, who studies climate migration. Even in a “managed retreat,” coordinated and funded at the federal level, the economic disruption could resemble the housing crash of 2008.

 

10 Responses to “Climate Change is here. Mitigate, Adapt, or Suffer.”

  1. Brent Jensen-Schmidt Says:

    The future will be Bad (certainly), terrible or catastrophic. Thank the gods for the next generation of adults.
    Yesterday, in conversation with a normal person, mentioned GW in reference to the coming summer. Response was, “That’s stupid, it’s hot during the day but still gets cold at night” Well FM.
    Once more unto the breach dear friends!

    • redskylite Says:

      I’m not looking forward to the next summer with an especially strong El Niño, but talking about it doesn’t go down in conversation with my peers. One of them just visited Europe and saw a field of wind turbines on his travels – he pointedly told me (and only me) about his sighting, as I used to share monthly graphics from JMA/NASA global temps & NOAA CO2 readings on FB – hoping people would get the simple connection, without going into Fourier, Tyndall, Arrhenius , Paleoclimatology, vibrating molecules, USAF anti aircraft missile development and black body radiation.

      Younger people just seem take it all in their stride.

    • rhymeswithgoalie Says:

      That’s just it: Nights are getting warmer, too.

  2. dumboldguy Says:

    ZZZZZzzzzzz……..!!

    Wake me up when we actually DO something that actually reduces GHG emissions.

    • Lionel Smith Says:

      “ZZZZZzzzzzz”

      If you still have Word for Windows 6 on something, unlikely I know, try entering that string and see what the spellcheck suggests.

    • redskylite Says:

      ‘Mitigate” is a word I rarely use
      Without thinkin’, mm hmm

      Lets “eradicate” greenhouse gas emissions from our industrial efforts instead, and as fast as we possibly can, then we can all wake up.

  3. Ron Benenati Says:

    I’d change one word in the title.

    Mitigate, Adapt, “and” Suffer

    • Kiwiiano Says:

      People in Japan, California and elsewhere are suffering already. Sure it might be argued that the storms and heatwaves could have been that bad anyway, but if you add more blankets on your bed on a warm summer night, you’re gonna get hotter!

    • dumboldguy Says:

      Since facts are supposed to matter, let’s knock off the wishful thinking and change ALL of the words in the title—–to “Deny, Delay, and Suffer”.


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