Since this blog is mainly a place for me to express my views, I thought I would try explain something that bothers, and confuses, me about the whole climate change issue. Maybe others feel the same as I do, maybe some can help to clarify my thinking, or explain where I’m going wrong, or – as is maybe most likely – I’ll remain bothered and confused.
So, what do I think is the most likely outcome? I expect that – for various reasons – we will avoid a high emissions pathway. We probably won’t stay below 1.5oC, or even 2oC, but may stay below 3oC, or close. I think that those in the developed world, in particular the wealthy, will find ways to adapt, and deal with this. However, I do expect that some regions, and the people in these regions, will suffer, potentially quite substantially. This will probably mostly be in regions that contributed least to anthropogenically-driven climate change. I also think that there will be quite a lot of ecological damage (ocean acidification, for example). I should stress that this is what I think is likely; it could be much worse or, potentially, somewhat better (although I do think the latter is less likely than the former).
What I expect we will do is to normalise this outcome in some way. In fact, some economic models suggest that warming of around 3oC is the optimal pathway. This is what bothers me; I think we will simply accept, and normalise, substantial harm to some people in the world because many people were simply not willing to make sacrifices of their own in order to avoid this. I find this morally repugnant.
So, you might say that we should simply do more, but this is where I get confused. If we really want to do enough to keep warming at close to 2oC, rather than around 3oC, how do we do so in ways that don’t end up adversely affecting those who might be most significantly impacted by climate change anyway? How do we do so without imposing constraints on those least able to manage these changes? Essentially, how do we do so without doing more harm than good?
I’m sure there must be ways to address climate change in ways that are both effective and take into account how doing so might affect those who are least able to deal with the changes (both economic and climatic). I’m also aware that many people do indeed think about exactly this. Maybe there are straightforward, and politically feasible, ways to both address climate change and avoid negatively impacting those who are least able to cope, but I don’t have a good sense of what these are.
Maybe I’ve mostly demonstrated my ignorance, but it certainly bothers me that I think we’re heading towards an outcome that will be severely negative for a large number of people and we don’t seem to be willing to do much to avoid this. However, I’m also confused about how we deal with this in ways that don’t also negatively impact those who are less able to cope with what is required to avoid this outcome. You might think that after writing about this topic for almost 6 years I’d have a better grasp of this, but – embarassingly, maybe – I don’t. I’ll stop here. If anyone has any thoughts, I’d be happy to hear them.