We’re 17 years into the 21st century, and while the measurable effects of climate change are everywhere, most of the United States seems to find them fairly easy to ignore.
That’s not going to last.
Food shortages from droughts, floods, and heat waves will come, of course, but what’s really going to be hard to ignore will be sea level rise. While it has started to affect life in some areas, it has still been slow enough that it can be ignored by a large portion of the population. If the predictions about sea level rise are accurate, then that’s going to change dramatically. By the end of my life (hopefully 50-70 years down the road), I will have seen at least a couple feet of sea level rise. I’m willing to bet that will be enough to have large parts of most coastal cities virtually uninhabitable, with regular flooding due to storm surges.
I suppose it’s possible that with sea walls, pumps, and other water management systems, we’ll be able to keep our cities where they are, rather than relocating them, but it will be expensive. It will also require a dedication to infrastructure maintenance that is currently alien to the United States. The longer we use such barriers to hold back the oceans, the more catastrophic a failure will be.
There is still time to prepare, but after a certain point, we’ll be locked into a state of more or less permanent damage control. As changes accelerate, our resources will be increasingly split between trying to adapt our societies to the new reality, and direct responses to a never-ending chain of disasters caused by our failure to adapt in years past.
The people running the United States seem to be either unaware of what the future holds, or uninterested in doing anything about it. With our crumbling infrastructure, and the funneling of wealth to a tiny number of selfish people, it’s hard to imagine a positive outcome. In such dire circumstances, it’s tempting to think that we should be seizing assets from those who have enriched themselves while effectively creating the crisis we face, but clearly that’s crazy talk…