Monday, April 11, 2016

The Future of the Climate Crisis is the Climate Crisis Future

It's finally beginning to sink in.  The future is going to be very different, because of the climate crisis.

Global heating is going to have consequences for the near future, since it is caused by past greenhouse gases pollution.  We should be preparing to address the effects, but apparently we're just starting to understand the breadth and depth of those effects.

From Reuters last week:

Climate change can be expected to boost the number of annual premature U.S. deaths from heat waves in coming decades and to increase mental health problems from extreme weather like hurricanes and floods, a U.S. study said on Monday.

"I don't know that we've seen something like this before, where we have a force that has such a multitude of effects," Surgeon General Vivek Murthy told reporters at the White House about the study. "There's not one single source that we can target with climate change, there are multiple paths that we have to address."

Heat waves were estimated to cause 670 to 1,300 U.S. deaths annually in recent years. Premature U.S. deaths from heat waves can be expected to rise more than 27,000 per year by 2100, from a 1990 baseline, one scenario in the study said. The rise outpaced projected decreases in deaths from extreme cold.

Extreme heat can cause more forest fires and increase pollen counts and the resulting poor air quality threatens people with asthma and other lung conditions. The report said poor air quality will likely lead to hundreds of thousands of premature deaths, hospital visits, and acute respiratory illness each year by 2030.

Climate change also threatens mental health, the study found. Post traumatic stress disorder, depression, and general anxiety can all result in places that suffer extreme weather linked to climate change, such as hurricanes and floods. More study needs to be done on assessing the risks to mental health, it said."

These effects include more widespread disease borne by insects whose warm-weather range is increased, which may include the increasingly worrisome Zika virus.

Science Daily offers more details from this multi-agency, peer reviewed report, particularly about the mental effects.  But it also includes this interesting key to the future:

Emerging evidence also shows those who are actively involved in climate change adaptation, or mitigation, might experience considerable health and well-being benefits, the report adds.

Translated into human, it means that people who work at addressing the causes and effects of the climate crisis  are likely to benefit themselves as well as others.  But doing good--and doing something--may well provide more than better health.  Either gradually or suddenly but pretty certainly eventually, a lot of the economy is going to be devoted to addressing the effects and the causes of the climate crisis.  That means more jobs--and what may well be seen as more vocations, more calls to service--in areas like clean energy, public health and new infrastructure.  (See the efforts for 1 million climate change jobs.)

The barriers to understanding and accepting all this are due partly to the climate inside.  In addition to denial, this commentator suggests dissociative behavior in response to predictions and now the realities of the climate crisis are due to societal trauma going back generations.  (He even uses the authentic version of a widely misquoted Jung quotation.) He suggests this trauma must be recognized and dealt with before society can really face up to the climate crisis future.

That future of dramatic effects may be coming soon.  In addition to last week's news about the possible effects of faster polar melting, there's this new study that suggests the cooling effect of clouds has been overstated. "If the findings are borne out by further research, it suggests that making progress against global warming will be even harder," notes the NY Times.

There is a range of uncertainty in all these figures.  But they can safely be regarded as minimums.  That's only prudent.  While scientists and statisticians do their research, leaders and parents ought to be facing up to the general outline of this future, dominated by the climate crisis and its effects.  People will live and work in this future, and how to do that constructively, to minimize suffering and try to prevent even worse outcomes, is the work of the future that starts now.

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