Adapting to climate change

“Global Warming”.

The term creates an image of the entire planet heating up until all life is destroyed, as if we were on a collision course with the sun.

Some parts of our planet are, indeed, warming. As this occurs, climactic patterns are changing that will result in a cooling of other parts of our planet. Climate change, whether caused by us or just another natural cycle, is coming – like it or not. The Earth is not doomed, but our way of life may be.

In the US, the Midwest has always been the “breadbasket” – the place where most of our food is grown. The climactic changes that seem inevitable will make that part of the world barren, but Canada may become better suited for agriculture. Africa will be uninhabitable, but Iceland and Greenland will be far more pleasant than they have ever been in recorded history.

The climate is changing. There will be regional warming – and regional cooling. Much of Europe will see a decline in average temperatures. Those living there may want to migrate south.

We can adapt. It won’t be easy, but it can and will happen. And it will be further complicated by the geopolitical structures that exist today. We are not all one nation. The population of the US can’t just move to Canada. (The Canadians may have something to say about that). The population of Africa is so mired in poverty that it is doubtful they will have the means to migrate anywhere. No, it won’t be easy. Unless we suddenly discover a way to get along with all our neighbors on this rock, there will be wars over territory. There have always been such battles, but this will be worse. Many people will perish; some will survive. The political maps will be re-drawn.

It is important to remember that our civilizations have been residing on this planet for a short period of time relative to the lifespan of the planet itself. The major climactic changes we will experience are new to us, but not new to Earth. More species of life have gone extinct during this planet’s life than have existed during the brief time Man has recorded. Extinctions are nothing new. It is the evolutionary process in action. Those that adapt, survive. Those that don’t adapt….. Change is inevitable.

What concerns us is the possibility of our own species becoming extinct. That is not inevitable. We can adapt. What we cannot do is avoid change.

We will have to surrender our nostalgic grip on the status quo. Hurricane Katrina gave us an example – a test that we failed. There is no sense in rebuilding a city in an area not conducive to safety. If we can’t bring ourselves to abandon an historic site like New Orleans when living there is clearly impractical, what will we do when most of our favorite cities become uninhabitable? The answer to that question will determine how well we survive.

A while ago, I read a compilation called “The Water of Life” published by Scientific American. It is a series of articles by various scientists – people who know a lot more than I do. From it I learned:

1. Most of the world’s water is too salty to drink, and much of the fresh water is frozen. One of many problems facing third-world countries is a lack of fresh water for drinking, sanitation and agriculture. The world is running out of fresh water! We are going to die of thirst!

2. Most of the world’s coastal cities are in danger, because of Global Warming. The oceans will rise as a result of the rapid increase in glacial melting. We are all going to drown!

Too bad these people aren’t listening to each other.

When you have a surplus of anything, you store the excess until it is needed. We call that “putting it on ice”. Our planet has more fresh water than mankind has needed so far, and has conveniently stored the excess “on ice”. Now that our population has increased and we need more water, the ice is melting.

Instead of wringing our collective hands, dreading the disasters that these occurrences could bring, perhaps we should seek ways to capture the runoff, and transport it to where it is in demand. Doing so would not only save millions of lives, but would also prevent the predicted rise in ocean levels and temperatures!

Ironically, there is another article in here about a group of scientists who have been developing inexpensive ways of transporting water in giant plastic bags that can be dragged through the oceans. There are already two companies with competing designs, both of which have already been used to bring much needed water to populations in arid areas.

Let’s include them in that much-needed conversation with the other two groups.

Am I the only one who sees all this not as separate problems, but as one solution waiting to be utilized?