In 2004, I was in a small intimate workshop with the founder of the field of Conservation Biology Michael Soule. To this day, I remember something he calmly announced. It went something like this:
Shit it is going to hit the fan due to global change. Not climate change explicitly but large-scale change that is also happening demographically, politically, and economically. Everything, everywhere on the planet is going to be intensively managed. This includes areas often thought as wild and frontier, like the boreal forests of the northern latitudes. The boreal forests are being rapidly exploited by the Canadians and Russians. Anything and everything that can be done to make a buck or a rubble is happening. Every piece of ground around the globe will be intensively managed to produce fiber, food, and other raw materials. Until the crash. Now we don't know what the crash will be; we have some guesses, it will probably be a combination of economic dislocations, pandemics, and global climate change. But it will happen by the end of this century. It cannot be avoided, if for no other reason that the world will be three degrees warmer by the end of the century. Just about all the models are now converging on this number. So the shit will hit the fan - by the middle to end of this century.
As Haiti got hammered by yet another hurricane, I am increasingly convinced that the shit is already hitting the fan. Lots of science is linking the frequency and intensity of hurricances to climate change (see the Union of Concerned Scientists website for a synopsis and references). In his book Collapse, Jared Diamond eloquently compared and contrasted Haiti and the Dominican Republic as a case study in the rise of fall of societies. Hurricane Ike and its recent damage to Haiti adds yet another level of complexity to the situation. As the death toll rises into the hundreds, I was left wondering as I drove down Parley's Canyon on I-80 to Salt Lake City from Park City to rent a tuxedo for a NYC event: Americans, including me, almost certainly contributed to those deaths and destruction.
Who's going to stand up for the new wave of climate change victims? Perhaps a good question for the presidential candidates...
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It's hard not to look at recent hurricanes and think, "OMG this climate disaster shit is coming down hard yo". But I think taking any single event and saying "we did that" goes even further than the "global warming caused this" anecdotes that we try to avoid.
Sure, hurricanes are driven by warm water and warming of the oceans likely increases their strength. But hurricanes have been around a long time, and the tragedy of them is that even if we weren't pumping CO2 into the atmosphere at the rate we are, hurricanes would still kill a lot of people.
It's been aannounced lately that the level of dust coming off of the Sahara controlls much of the hurrican activity in the Atlantic. If someone halts desertification in North Africa, like though a UN Program to improve agricultural techniques in Chad, should they be held liable if that proves to be true?
I share people's desire to do the right thing, but I think we do that best when we do that colletively and voluntarily based on the best understanding we have.
All the badness of impending environmental disruption will be accelerated by the looming global sociopolitical crisis resulting from the ongoing US economic collapse. Those that hold our debt can only prop us up so long before they have to cut their losses and compete on their own terms, which gets easier and easier with increased inflation of the USD. Yese ain't seen nuthin yet.
I think Josh is right and Nathan is wrong. Maybe if we took global warming a little bit to heart we wouldn't be such procrastinators when it comes to doing something about it. We need to start doing things, and the first thing to do is to be open. If that means taking some responsibility for events I think that's a good thing.
Nathan, I think you're closed.
Yes Thats is a good idea
Thanks a lot.