Tuesday, July 11, 2017

New York Magazine: The Uninhabitable Earth, Famine, economic collapse, a sun that cooks us: What climate change could wreak — sooner than you think. By David Wallace-Wells

New York Magazine published a well-written, upsetting report on changes in store for the planet, as a result of global warming. We've done our part at EOM trying to warn readers and leaders about what's ahead. New York Magazine's "The Uninhabitable Earth" takes it a few steps further.

The article has generated criticism from some scientists, along the line that alarmism is unhelpful to the effort to persuade those who are still in climate change denial. I disagree, based on my experience of being branded a "Chicken Little" on the Everglades and Florida Bay and the eventual outcomes, over a 30 year period.

Back in the late 1980's, when I was calling the algae blooms wrecking Florida Bay habitat a "canary in the coal mine" for the greater Everglades ecosystem, the forces that arrayed against this point of view -- namely Big Sugar and the real estate and construction related supply chain -- accused me, too, of being an alarmist. Although it didn't stop me from writing and speaking critically about the Great Destroyers, the invective and vitriol had the collateral effect of throttling the voice of mainstream environmental groups like The Nature Conservancy and Audubon of Florida who were leading land acquisition and preservation efforts in the Keys, at the time.

With the perspective of history --  of Everglades and Florida Bay decline in the intervening decades --, I was right to stick to my guns.

Climate change IS the ultimate disaster. It also accounts for the generalized anxiety that is pressing economic elites to consolidate their gains today, before the pressure on economic growth inflicts pervasive and ubiquitous financial pain.

There is a stark choice for American voters in the years ahead: either vote for candidates who are committee to fairness and equity in the allocation of costs, resources, and debits to our current accounts of stability, or, vote for demagogues who will further empower economic elites, softening the blow to them while inflicting greater and greater hardships on the 99 percent.

The latter is sadly represented by the GOP -- favoring tax cuts for the rich wherever possible -- and clinging to the myth of trickle down benefits of a fossil-fuel based economy. The former emerged as a coherent, populist voice through the campaign of Bernie Sanders for the Democratic nomination in the 2016 presidential race, but not yet within the mainstream party that wants to frame climate change as the great economic opportunity of our time.

The history of Florida's inability to solve Everglades and Florida Bay decline, despite an abundance of scientific evidence that the mis-management of Florida water infrastructure is to blame, illuminates  the problem. Floridians love their Everglades and public lands, yet continue to elect state legislators and governors -- notably a Republican majority -- who spend billions of taxpayer dollars against the interests of those who elected them to office.

It has always been the case that "restoration of the Everglades is a test. If we pass, we may get to keep the planet."

For a small minority -- who based their views on science and not exclusively on faith -- the outlines of the outcome are shockingly clear. That's not alarmism. Thanks to New York Magazine writer David Wallace-Wells for making the case.

You don’t worry much about dengue or malaria if you are living in Maine or France. But as the tropics creep northward and mosquitoes migrate with them, you will. You didn’t much worry about Zika a couple of years ago, either.

As it happens, Zika may also be a good model of the second worrying effect — disease mutation. One reason you hadn’t heard about Zika until recently is that it had been trapped in Uganda; another is that it did not, until recently, appear to cause birth defects. Scientists still don’t entirely understand what happened, or what they missed. But there are things we do know for sure about how climate affects some diseases: Malaria, for instance, thrives in hotter regions not just because the mosquitoes that carry it do, too, but because for every degree increase in temperature, the parasite reproduces ten times faster. Which is one reason that the World Bank estimates that by 2050, 5.2 billion people will be reckoning with it.
... and more ...
The scale of (that) economic devastation is hard to comprehend, but you can start by imagining what the world would look like today with an economy half as big, which would produce only half as much value, generating only half as much to offer the workers of the world. It makes the grounding of flights out of heat-stricken Phoenix last month seem like pathetically small economic potatoes. And, among other things, it makes the idea of postponing government action on reducing emissions and relying solely on growth and technology to solve the problem an absurd business calculation.
Every round-trip ticket on flights from New York to London, keep in mind, costs the Arctic three more square meters of ice.

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