On a number of occasions I’ve highlighted Kevin Anderson saying
At 4oC most of the scientists I talk to about this, and the social scientists as well, would say it’s incompatible with organised global community.
I don’t know if this is what most scientists, and social scientists, would say, but there is a recent Guardian article that does discuss what would happen if we did warm by something close to 4oC. It does include a scientist who thinks it’s beyond our adaptation capabilities and who says [i]t’s difficult to see how we could accommodate a billion people or even half of that.
However, what I wanted to discuss is an alternative view. Ken Caldeira is quoted as saying
I don’t think that humans as a species or even industrial civilisation is seriously threatened.
His argument seems to be that we already have the technology to deal with the kind of climates we’re likely to experience.
However, there is a very large caveat, and this is where I have a pretty major issue. To successfully adapt to a world that has warmed by 4oC would require
cooperating as never before to radically reorganise our world: decoupling the political map from geography. However unrealistic it sounds, we’d need to look at the world afresh and see it in terms of where the resources are and then plan the population, food and energy production around that.
I just don’t believe we would do this. I can believe that those who have the resources might be able to adapt to a world that has warmed by 4oC. However, I’m not convinced that we would be willing to make the investments, and sacrifices, that would allow the billions who do not have these resources to do so. As Ken Caldeira points out richer people risk a loss to their quality of life, the poorer risk their actual lives.
What’s more, is that those who will may have the resources to adapt to a 4oC world will pre-dominantly be those who’ve contributed most to climate change, while those who will suffer most will probably be those who’ve contributed least. I find this possibility morally repugnant and, in my view, is something we really should be doing our best to avoid.
When I started writing this post, I was intending it to mostly be a prelude to an open thread. I would like to better understand the likely impact of 4oC of warming, so would be interested in what others have to say. As usual I’ve ended up writing more than I intended. To end on a positive note, I do think we’ll get our act together in time to give us a reasonable chance of avoiding ~4oC of warming. If we don’t, I’m not convinced that we’d be willing to really do enough to avoid an awful lot of suffering. I really hope I’m either right about us doing enough to avoid ~4oC of warming, or wrong about what we’d be willing to do if we don’t.
Video of Kevin Anderson’s seminar.
The heat is on over the climate crisis. Only radical measures will work (Guardian article by Gaia Vince).
Twitter thread by Andrew Dessler about what we mean when we ask “will we survive climate change?”