Planning for adaptation rather than mitigation of the amount of climate change in store on the current track is a fantasy

January 14th, 2018 by  on Clean Technica

Zachary Shahan is a graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill Planning Dept.  He is the editor of Clean Technica and the Director of Important Media publications 

We had an article last week about the threat to the Florida real estate market that is coming our way from continued heating of the globe, rising sea levels, increased flooding, and stronger storms slamming the coast. Some comments under the article highlighted that such threats persist along vast US coastlines as well as coastlines across the world — it’s not just Florida. The fact of the matter is, humans have long settled close to seas, rivers, oceans, gulfs, and bays — and many of the world’s most populated and economically vital cities and regions will be physically harmed to one degree or another by the effects of climate change.

One commenter highlighted this threat for a rather rich country he’s a resident of, but noted, “I think we will cope but it will sure as hell be costly.”

I’m not sure how much we’ve actually thought about that. I think we tend to look at the potential damage and then our minds are eager to shut off before going further. We may also deeply realize how fragile our economies are and not want to even consider the catastrophic possibilities.

The thing about physical harm is that it reverberates and is amplified beyond the obvious damage from the initial strike. If real estate is flooded or destroyed by a storm, that could well pause an individual’s ability to contribute to the economy, it could take away resources a city was going to put into new infrastructure, and it could stifle socioeconomic or entrepreneurial progress that was being made at the location of the strike.

When you consider that this could happen to one growing and bustling city — Tampa, for example — that’s concerning enough. When you consider that it could happen to large cities and major economic centers of the world essentially all at once (one disaster after another over the course of several years and decades), the future doesn’t just look challenging — it looks like a freakin’ nightmare that will degrade our economies, societies, and quality of life indefinitely.

Let’s take a quick look at some of the cities that are seriously threatened in one way or another by global heating, rising sea levels, more drought, and stronger coastal storms: Tokyo, New York, San Francisco, Osaka, Sao Paulo, Mumbai, Miami, Singapore, Surat, Jakarta, Manila, Bangkok, Abu Dhabi, Muscat, Lebanon, Athens, Barcelona, Malaga, Amsterdam, Naples, Venice, Monaco, Marseille, Rio de Janeiro, Caracas, Tampa, The Bahamas (I know, not a city), San Diego, Los Angeles, Charleston, Norfolk, Washington DC, Philadelphia, Boston, Casablanca, Cape Town, Perth, Melbourne, Adelaide, Sydney, Brisbane, Malmo, Copenhagen, Rotterdam, The Hague, St Petersburg, Gothenburg, Helsinki, Stockholm.

How does more quickly deciding it’s time to electrify transport (we can do it today! and it is more fun and would improve our health!), switch to renewable energy (we can do it today! and it could save us money and would improve our health!), cut meat and dairy consumption (we can do it today! and it could improve our health!), and buy less useless stuff look compared to running into a socioeconomic Armageddon in the coming decades?

If you are 71 or older, you may not feel the direct pang of threat from this encroaching world. In such a case, you may think it sounds so horrible that you don’t want to believe it’s possible, but it’s actually what we’ve ordered. This is indeed what humanity has in store — from Copenhagen to Key Largo, New York City to Monaco, Sydney to Chicago. We are doomed to massive physical, economic, and societal destruction if we don’t change fast.

None of us represent all of society. We can’t act for all of society. We have to act for ourselves. We have to make our own slightly challenging shifts. We have to inspire those around us to do the same. The challenge of human society is that it acts en masse via habits and systems developed over many years. The potential of human society is that we can quickly break down those habits and systems — change them en masse — if we do our own part as dominos in an elaborate socioeconomic domino system.