10 Flavors of the Apocalypse: Climate Change (Threat Level Tangerine)
Wren and I are both of the opinion that climate change most certainly exists and could pose a very imminent threat to the world as we know it. As discussed in an earlier post, scientists have now determined that climate change is indeed behind some of the bizarre and extreme weather witnessed across the globe in recent years.
What’s even more scary is that we’re closing in on the tipping point, where the climate will fully shift into another state. This is worrying because once the tipping point has been reached the damage is irreversible (at least until the next ice age and we don’t have much control over that). Thus, a 2 degree increase in the plant’s temperature could become the new normal, and ecosystems and weather patterns everywhere will have to shift to adjust.
The major reason to think that this form of apocalypse could occur is that it already has, on a small and localized scale. Just think about the Texas drought of 2011 or the current drought in the Mid-West. While these events occurred in the past, they’re becoming much more frequent and more severe. Any further increase in the global temperature will only contribute to more bizarre weather events across the globe.
The second reason Wren and I consider climate change to be a severe threat is that it’s an example of a tragedy of the commons. This is econ-speak for what happens when an issue effects most or all of the planet, but politicians can’t get their act together to address it because they’re too concerned with short-term goals like getting re-elected. If the recent summit in Rio is anything to go by, it will be up to NGOs, private corporations, and private citizens to make any kind of lasting change. And sadly these efforts will have a limited impact so long as heavy industry, resource extraction, and farming continue to with their current business models.
However, we’ve opted for a rating of tangerine over our top ranking of rust because there are too many unknowns about climate change’s impacts. Some parts of the world will probably get hotter, others colder; some will get wetter as sea levels rise, others will get drier. What remains unknown is which parts will be most severely impacted (beyond the low-lying Pacific islands, which we can all agree are in trouble). It also remains to be seen if the extremes and severity of current weather patterns are part of the transition to a new climate state. It is possible that the weather will settle down once a new average has been reached and the climate has adapted to its new state.
So to summarize: climate change is happening and will in all likelihood continue to happen for quite a while. But we can’t say this will be the apocalypse because there are simply too many unknowns in the equation. Time to watch and wait.