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Climate Change or My Last Cup of Coffee

The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is out with an unimposing nonthreatening title: Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability.

I realise if they had gone with The End of the World as We know It, or perhaps, If the Methane is released We are All Going to Die, or even, Does Anyone Realise we Don’t have Another Planet to Go To? the climate change deniers would have a field day. (Climate Change Deniers are angry that we call them Deniers and are demanding we stop it right now because it sounds too much like Holocaust Deniers and implies that we’re comparing them to Nazis. I’m with Nick Cohen when he wrote: “The evidence for man-made global warming is as final as the evidence of Auschwitz. No other word will do.” Or as I put it more crudely: “Fuck them.” 

I bet this IPCC report will have the same impact on politicians and us as the last one: little or no impact at all.  

I doubt there is a leading politician alive that is willing to sacrifice his or her career and reputation to force through the changes that are needed, with the possible exceptions of the Chinese. Given their one party autocratic government they have more of a chance of making improvements, but it’s climate changes vs. making money and you know how that goes. If a U.S. president were to become a convert to climate change with the passion and intelligence that, say, Mikhail Gorbachev brought to transforming the Soviet Union, he or she would never have the power to get past the climate change denying baboons in Congress (my sincere apologies to all baboons, but I’m not too worried since they will become extinct somewhere down the road). In the meantime, we in the West are getting pretty damn good at recycling but still love to drive big gas guzzling 4X4’s in the city (4X4’s are important vehicles for the cities – you never know when you might run into an unexpected mountain to climb or a raging river to forge).

I suspect a lot of people read the news about the latest IPCC reports like I do: we take the reports seriously and then get depressed. We renew our recycling, watch the energy we consume, buy that hybrid or electric, but know full well that our political leaders have no intention of pursing the matter. Here in the UK our fearless leader David Cameron, who once said “Vote Blue and go Green” now says he’s sick of all that “Green Crap” (and his policies sure say the same). And even if our leaders did present a strategy that would actually save us, we would vote them out of office at our first opportunity.

Here’s a little list of big problems:

  • The climate change deniers have big, no huge, money behind them.
  • Politicians like their jobs (also read status, power, importance, wealth generating potential).
  • It’s taking too long. We’re a short-term species. Getting through the night without getting eaten by some beast is about the best we can do in the forward planning area. If only climate change hit us like a brick and kept hitting us. We’re even going to run out of food too slowly.
  • The poor will be the first to suffer while the rich will not suffer the consequence until nearer the end. This is a really really bad thing (and makes you think there actually might be a devil in charge).

From the IPCC report:

Differences in vulnerability and exposure arise from non-climatic factors and from multidimensional inequalities often produced by uneven development processes (very high confidence). These differences shape differential risks from climate change. (See Figure SPM.1)
People who are socially, economically, culturally, politically, institutionally, or otherwise marginalized are especially vulnerable to climate change and also to some adaptation and mitigation responses (medium evidence, high agreement). This heightened vulnerability is rarely due to a single cause. Rather, it is the product of intersecting social processes that result in inequalities in socioeconomic status and income, as well as in exposure. Such social processes include, for example, discrimination on the basis of gender, class, ethnicity, age, and (dis)ability.

Here is Figure SPM1:

And with a little more detail:


The people and countries who are most responsible will be protected from the consequences of their decisions, ideologies, theologies, and behaviour the most. This alone dooms us. I doubt the people of America, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, China, for example, will really give a damn when the Pacific Islands are gone any more than the 1% give a damn that larger and larger sections of our societies are being left to live an almost sci fi dystopian existence.  

There is one area of small, indeed tiny, hope. Climate change is devastating the coffee industry. Middle class and rich people in all countries will have to contend with at first soaring prices and later very limited availability before they have to say good-bye to New York, London and Shanghai. Perhaps being denied coffee will move millions to demand action from their governments. Perhaps companies like Starbucks will take over governments and make the changes. Not likely, but it seems the only hope we have.

Good luck everyone (though you do realise it is already too late to save our major coastal cities, right?).

And in the meantime here are a few tables from Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability that might depress you more.


Copyright © 2014 Dale Rominger
(Sorry for the downer!)

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