The catastrophic floods in the Midwest now are exactly what scientists have predicted would happen with greater frequency as the planet warms. It’s not that there have never been floods before. It’s that there will be more of them, and they will be worse, in the present and future.
As you longtime readers know, I am a conservative who believes that anthropogenic climate change is real. I hope I’m wrong, but from what I can tell, the scientific case is overwhelming.
I also believe, however, along with the environmentalist Paul Kingsnorth of the Dark Mountain Project, that humankind is not going to take the necessary measures to arrest the coming apocalypse. The best we can do is to try to adapt, while hoping that somehow science pulls a technological solution out of the hat. That’s not a lot to hope with, but I think it’s the only realistic alternative.
If you think that this is merely a matter of mustering political will, consider the Yellow Vests protests in France, which are a serious threat to the political order. They started out as a protest by rural motorists against President Macron’s proposed gasoline tax to incentivize less consumption. The burden of that tax would have fallen harder on rural people, who use more gasoline to go about their daily lives. After protest, Macron withdrew the tax.
The point is this: to do what is necessary to stop global warming would require staggering changes to the lives of countless people around the world — not just in the West, but everywhere. It’s just not going to happen.
I have come to think about global warming as being analogous to slavery in the US. The South knew that its entire economic and political order depended on slavery. It was impossible for them to think about ending slavery, because to have done what it took to end slavery would have meant the end of an entire way of life.
Eventually that wasn’t enough. A cataclysmic war ended slavery.
The limits of this analogy should be obvious, but the gist of it is this: Our way of life, especially the global economy, depends on something that cannot be sustained indefinitely. Nature herself is going to be the overwhelming force that destroys this unsustainable way of life. Whatever cannot go on forever, won’t.
UPDATE: I’ve been away from the keys most of the day, so I have a lot of comments to approve. Here’s what I’m not going to do: approve comments that are nothing more than reflexive remarks saying “global warming is a hoax” or “we would have this all sorted if not for the Republicans.” I would actually like to hear what people on both sides have to say about this post of mine, but I’m going to have to keep the white noise level down.