Officials in the Florida Keys announced what many coastal governments nationwide have long feared, but few have been willing to admit: As seas rise and flooding gets worse, not everyone can be saved … And in some places, it doesn’t even make sense to try.
~ Christopher Flavelle and Patricia Mazzei
In the wake of the recently designated ‘climate emergency’, some focus has shifted from what will cause climate change to what the post-climate-apocalypse looks like. It is assumed that regardless of whether climate change is human-caused or natural and whether we belatedly start trying to prevent it, some of the worst effects are going to happen to us anyway.
Author and journalist Fred Pearce warns, “Some of the most alarming science surrounding climate change is the discovery that it may not happen incrementally — as a steadily rising line on a graph — but in a series of lurches as various “tipping points” are passed. And now comes a new concern: These tipping points can form a cascade, with each one triggering others, creating an irreversible shift to a hotter world.”
So, as we see each effect, we are nearing the climate tipping point where nothing can stop relatively sudden catastrophic change. Pearce reports, “In their new analysis, the researchers conclude that of the 15 potential tipping points they identified in 2008, seven now show signs of being “active,” along with two others they have added to their list.”
Gradual change can be endured and even adapted to. The faster and more radical the change, the harder it is to accommodate. We’ve spent the last several decades arguing about the science and letting politics and big business get in the way of mitigation, and meanwhile the tipping point has steadily approached.
Frank Jacobs has studied what the post-climate change world will look like, and while the far future could be okay for survivors, the transition will be a bitch — “lots of misery and disaster, but also plenty of hope and solutions. Not solutions that will lead us back to the climate of a few decades ago — costly and pointless — but solutions that work for the world as it will be, when it will be much warmer than it is now.” Much of the currently occupied Earth will be “uninhabitable due to floods, drought or extreme weather”, particularly lower elevations and shorelines, creating millions of climate refugees.
If you think that immigration is an issue today, just try to imagine the east coast of the U.S, the southwest, and most of Mexico and Central America uninhabitable. Where will all those people go? Sure, the northern parts of North America — Canada and Alaska — will be warmer and suitable for growing crops, but mass population movements are messy and dangerous.
Archaeologist and wilderness survival instructor Chris Begley offers advice on how to survive the post-climate catastrophe. It’s not like in the movies, where zombies roam the darkness. It’s even scarier — we’ll have to learn to get along with neighbors and strangers. “Any of the plausible scenarios for disaster, like unchecked climate change, will involve billions of survivors. We will find ourselves in large groups, in rapidly changing situations, and we will have to negotiate that. We will not escape the messiness of contemporary society.”
“While the wilderness survival skills certainly can’t hurt, it will be empathy, generosity, and courage that we need to survive. Kindness and fairness will be more valuable than any survival skill. Then as now, social and leadership skills will be valued. We will have to work together.”
Not a problem, you say. Well, think back about how well your extended-family Thanksgiving dinner went. Want to invite in a few thousand more guests?
Chris Begley, I Study Collapsed Civilizations. Here’s My Advice For A Climate Change Apocalypse. September 23, 2019, Lexington Herald Leader
Christopher Flavelle and Patricia Mazzei, Florida Keys Deliver a Hard Message: As Seas Rise, Some Places Can’t Be Saved, Dec. 4, 2019, New York Times
Frank Jacobs, What the World Will Look Like 4°C Warmer. Will Your Grandchildren Live in Cities on Antarctica?, 22 May, 2017, BigThink.com
Fred Pearce, As Climate Change Worsens, A Cascade of Tipping Points Looms, December 5, 2019, Yale Environment360