Snowball Effect: Climate Change in the 21st Century


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…


  1. Pierce R. Butler says

    … we should be seizing assets from those who have enriched themselves while effectively creating the crisis we face, but clearly that’s crazy talk…

    Y’know, under the present regime, it is.

    Not to say that the Repubs don’t have the skills for seizing assets, but pls note the stickiness of stubby fingers.

  2. says

    To be honest, I think it’s been “crazy talk” since long before I was born. The seeming impossibility has become more concrete in the last decade or so, but it’s not like it seemed possible before…

  3. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    I’m firmly convinced that the biggest impediment to fixing these problems are the so-called environmentalists. The only serious plans thus far put forward to fix these issues with existing technologies all rely extensively on conventional nuclear power, and the so-called environmentalist block is the biggest political enemy of nuclear power. Their resistance to nuclear power is practically a religious dogma. It’s based almost entirely on lies and pseudoscience.

  4. says

    So you have said, E.L., but assuming the environmental movement had gotten behind conventional fission power in the 1980s, that would have become the target of the fossil fuel industry’s PR campaign instead.

    As to the resistance to nuclear power, your assertion that it’s based on “lies and psuedoscience” does not make that the case.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *