The Next 100 Years: Climate Change

The facts of climate change, one of the two great challenges to humanity over the next 100 years external to governance, supports a pessimistic prognosis.

The scientific view:

Decreasing CO2 was the main cause of a cooling trend that began 50 million years ago, the planet being nearly ice-free until CO2 fell to 450 ± 100 ppm; barring prompt policy changes, that critical level will be passed, in the opposite direction, within decades. If humanity wishes to  preserve a planet similar to that on which civilization developed and to which life on Earth is adapted, paleoclimate evidence and ongoing climate change suggest that CO2 will need to be reduced from its current 385 ppm to at most 350 ppm, but likely less than that. The largest uncertainty in the target arises from possible changes of non-CO2 forcings. An initial 350 ppm CO2 target may be achievable by phasing out coal use except where CO2 is captured and adopting
agricultural and forestry practices that sequester carbon. If the present overshoot of this target CO2 is not brief, there is a possibility of seeding irreversible catastrophic effects.
[Hansen, et al, “Target Atmospheric CO2…”.]

Current level – 388 ppm []


The Next 100 Years

Beyond the unavoidable climatic and demographic challenges of the next 100 years lies the real threat: government incompetence.

What We Know

  • climate change is occurring, with sufficient warming to change disease patterns, forest cover, storm magnitude, patterns of desertification in the U.S. Southwest, availability of water being predictable over the coming generation
  • overpopulation will intensify dangerously over the coming generation regardless of how many mothers choose not to reproduce

What We Should Plan For

  • unaffordable rise in oil prices forcing a change in the wasteful, mobile American lifestyle
  • high food prices
  • taking local initiative to survive
  • a more challenging environment, making decision-making tougher, provoking society to push closer to the unknown limits, causing more failures

What Current Behavior Teaches Us We Can Expect

  • government short-sightedness and elite resistance to sharing in the U.S. that will make matters far worse than necessary (judging from behavior during the Occupy Wall St. campaign, the financial crisis, in response to global warming, and after Katrina)
  • spreading police brutality against victims and all advocating change
  • demonization of science and thinkers
  • hardline, rigid, top-down, control-oriented policies
  • popular rage worldwide against the rich West and domestically against a corrupt elite
  • extreme instability in terms of society, climate, availability of resources and services
  • extreme geographic variability in conditions

Faced with the dual, independent but positively reinforcing challenges of climate change and overpopulation, the elite can be expected to exploit rather than lead, both domestically and internationally. As the natural and social environments both worsen, the big question is whether or not we can shift political behavior from constituting a net minus to constituting a net plus.

Realists Denying Reality

The politicians in Washington who so love to brag about their “realism” are in deep denial, to the point of threatening U.S. and all human security. Realism is not about acting like a tough guy; realism is about facing the truth and planning for the future.

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Some politicians present themselves as realists, i.e., as hard-headed, long-range thinkers who can be trusted to defend U.S. national security. The more extreme of these demand the submission of the rest of the world as they pursue their realist imperial policies in a world they perceive as being a zero-sum, tooth-and-claw environment. In order to scrape together the resources for their expensive foreign adventures, they further demand that the American people accept low wages, bad health care, and superficial democracy. Such, they say, is the price of freedom. Lets take them at their word, for a moment, and consider how their policies might in fact serve U.S. national interestsover the long run.
For most Americans, the long run is not even in their vocabulary. It requires an unconventional way of thinking to plan for a time whenwell, shall we say, when your children are grown? Thats not too far down the road, is it?
When your children are grown (and you expect to be settling down for a comfortable retirement), Southern Californiawhere all your winter fruits and vegetables come frommay be a dust bowl.
In the Southwestern U.S. the tipping point has probably already been passed. The scientists now predict that levels of aridity last seen in the 1930s Dust Bowl will have become the norm by mid-century. [Allianz.]
The original report, Major Tipping Points in the Earths Climate System, on which the above conclusion was based spells out why reality is even worse than would be inferred from the above comparison to the Dust Bowl:
Here, comparison has already been made with conditions seen in the 1950s multiyear drought or the 1930s Dust Bowl. However, it is important to note that, while conditions are similar, the future intensified aridity in the Southwest predicted by Seager et al. (4) is caused by different processes and expected drying is “unlike any climate state we have seen in the instrumental record”. [73]
On the drowning East Coast, it may be hard to take seriously the potential collapse of southern Californias invaluable farmland as the Sierra snowpack disappears, but consider:

Global warming is intensifying the water cycle the process of precipitation, infiltration, and evaporation. In the future, the wet will get wetter and the dry will become drier.
Every system requires energy: the more energy, the more vigorous the system. The sun powers the life-giving system that is the water cycle and thanks to greenhouse gases, there is more energy, or simply heat, in the system. [Allianz.]

It is hard to imagine any portion of the U.S. more central to the American way of life and American power than the lush fruit and vegetable lands of southern California. A true realist would deem the protection of this treasure a realistic thing to do. This video, featuring California state environmental scientists, explains what is happening to the crucial Sierra snowpack and the immediate impact of nonaction, including two current trends of rising lightning, dying forests, and—as a result—more and hotter forest fires.

If you are still troubled by the true meaning of realism, watch the first two minutes of this five-minute video.
How are the realists with their Mideast wars, their health care system that leaves 30 million Americans behind, their financial system that coddles billionaires and puts 20 million Americans into the unemployment lines, their sneering at the warnings of the worlds scientists about global warming preparing the U.S. for the loss of Southern California?
  • Are the realists conserving global hydrocarbon supplies?
  • Are the realists developing a healthy green industrial base to provide clean energy?
  • Are the realists promoting small, local farms to ensure food supplies as Southern California runs out of water?
  • Are the realists implementing a plan to combat the rise in atmospheric carbon dioxide that is threatening our childrens way of life?
Call them realists, empire-builders,  neo-cons, or just elitists (of both major parties), they are doing no such thing. They are not planning for the long-run survival of our way of life. They are not thinking about how your children will live when they grow up or how you will live when you get to what you imagine will be your retirement age.
Realism today is not about brute force; realism is about facing the truth and taking action to protect human security.