The great tragedy of man-made global warming is that we knew it was coming, and we could have avoided it. Our changing climate is bringing with it a whole suite of other predictable problems that we should probably be preparing for, if we don’t want to screw them up as badly as we screwed up the climate. In particular, we need to be thinking about the second-layer problems – the ones caused by the immediate and obvious changes like sea level rise.
This means preparing for changes in food prices and availability caused by heat waves and floods. It means preparing to deal with farmers whose crops won’t grow, and the people whose local food sources dry up.
And it means preparing for people who seek shelter as their city homes sink beneath the waves.
And how will we respond to climate refugees? Will we close our borders, and leave them to drown or starve? What will we do when, quite naturally, they try to get in illegally, to survive? Will we respond by becoming worse than what they’re fleeing?
That seems to be the solution favored by some elements of the U.S., including many of those in the party currently in control of this country. I don’t know if it’s my aversion to the bible, but it always worries me when someone tells me that the key to dealing with some complex issue can be found in a single work of fiction. In this case, that work of fiction is The Camp of the Saints, favored not only by Steve Bannon, but also Steve King, and I’m quite certain a lot of other people as well. Its recommendations are depressingly predictable, knowing the politics of those two men.
Looking at the distribution of power and resources in the world right now, it’s all to easy to imagine a future in which those nations that are currently wealthy – the ones who are most responsible for what’s happening to our climate – become dark fortresses. Inside is a pretense of happiness and plenty, where the lucky few ignore the wasteland beyond the armed borders. And when the wind changes, and the rotting corpses of those who sought to survive waft their scent over the border, doubtless they will be blamed for fouling the air of the people who killed them.
There are many paths forward from here, and each time we choose a path, we’ll have a chance to choose others. Not choosing isn’t an option, and pretending not to choose, as a society, is how we chose the path we’re on today. There are many paths forward, and we know what waits for us down a number of them. It would be nice, for once, if we could make use of that knowledge, and choose a better way.