The report from the UN’s intergovernmental panel on climate change concluded that climate change was already having effects in real time – melting sea ice and thawing permafrost in the Arctic, killing off coral reefs in the oceans, and leading to heat waves, heavy rains and mega-disasters.
And the worst was yet to come. Climate change posed a threat to global food stocks, and to human security, the blockbuster report said.
“Nobody on this planet is going to be untouched by the impacts of climate change,” said Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the IPCC.
Those of us who have been following the reports and the news on climate change cannot be surprised by the IPCC latest report – IPCC 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability (accessed in full here). And for those who continue to deny that the climate is changing and that we – we humans – are to blame, they seem to have lost their ability to read.
I wonder though: How can one adapt to such massive changes? Adaptation also cannot happen everywhere; what about the lands that will be drowned? And what form would this adaptation be?
George Monbiot discusses this point when he writes:
If a small, rich, well-organised nation cannot protect its people from a winter of exceptional rainfall – which might have been caused by less than one degree of global warming – what hope do other nations have, when faced with four degrees or more?
When our environment secretary, Owen Paterson, assures us that climate change “is something we can adapt to over time” or Simon Jenkins, in the Guardian today, says that we should move towards “thinking intelligently about how the world should adapt to what is already happening“, what do they envisage? Cities relocated to higher ground? Roads and railways shifted inland? Rivers diverted? Arable land abandoned? Regions depopulated? Have they any clue about what this would cost? Of what the impacts would be on the people breezily being told to live with it?
My guess is that they don’t envisage anything: they have no idea what they mean when they say adaptation. If they’ve thought about it at all, they probably picture a steady rise in temperatures, followed by a steady rise in impacts, to which we steadily adjust. But that, as we should know from our own recent experience, is not how it happens. Climate breakdown proceeds in fits and starts, sudden changes of state against which, as we discovered on a small scale in January, preparations cannot easily be made.
I would have loved to have been surprised by the report – I would have loved to read that the IPCC is demanding environmental justice, protection for the environmental refugees (already here and millions to come), and a new economy. Adaptation? Not enough. Revolution? Yes.
Dr. Brad Werner earlier said that – our entire economic paradigm is a threat to ecological stability. And indeed that challenging this economic paradigm – through mass-movement counter-pressure – is humanity’s best shot at avoiding catastrophe.”