Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Our goose is cooked

One of the three geese in our freezer is now cooked, and it was tasty--more like roast beef than chicken--but leathery. There is a real learning curve to cooking wild game. But I'm glad to be getting my kids used to tough, gamey meat because barring a radical, geopolitical shift, it looks like our collective goose is cooked. It is entirely possible that someday they may have to rely on hunting to feed themselves.

I used to think my future grand kids
would be the ones really grappling with the effects of climate change. Now I worry about preparing my children for a life of privation and woe. I'm scared enough that I'm feeding them raw milk (despite the risks) and not making them wash their hands very often. One of the few ways I can prepare them for lack of medical care is to build their immune systems as much as possible while we have access to world class health care. Aaron is buying the kids surplus military frame packs so they can carry enough gear to walk hundreds of miles. That way they can someday head north if they need to. Do we sound a little crazy? I certainly hope we are. This is infinitely preferable to what I fear is the case.

There are two primary reasons I've gotten so scared and sad about our prospects.

1. Two degrees of global warming--the default target for emission reductions--may not be as manageable and tolerable as previously predicted. The bottom line is protecting food production, but it's looking like 2°C of change will start to disrupt agriculture on a large scale. This from RealClimate a blog by climate scientists:
We feel compelled to note that even a “moderate” warming of 2°C stands a strong chance of provoking drought and storm responses that could challenge civilized society, leading potentially to the conflict and suffering that go with failed states and mass migrations. Global warming of 2°C would leave the Earth warmer than it has been in millions of years, a disruption of climate conditions that have been stable for longer than the history of human agriculture
Failed states? Mass migrations? Just imagine the food prices at that point. And how about the recessionary effect of all that on our economy (not to mention all the death and suffering).

And this from Kevin Anderson:

2. But a 2°C change may well be a better scenario than we can hope for. According to Price Waterhouse, if nothing changes, we are on track for 6°C of warming by the end of the century.
Here's the outlook for 4°C of warming from Kevin Anderson again:
The above quote is from an article entitled "Climate change going beyond dangerous: Brutal numbers and tenuous hope" that argues while long-term emissions goals are politically and economically expedient, ultimately they will lead to global disaster. We need to have turned off the lights yesterday to have any hope of keeping global warming to a mere 2°C change. No more driving. No more flying. Starting now.
The "tenuous hope" he refers to in his title is that we haven't actually passed the point of no return. Therefore, if we were to start a global effort, right now, we could save ourselves. And it is possible in a theoretical sense. Look at the rationing and economic reorganization that we managed in response to World War II.
But what are the odds of such a change happening within the next few years?
Please tell me I'm overreacting. Please point out where I've gotten it all wrong. (But before you mention technological advances and/or carbon sequestration, please read Anderson's article.) And if you have kids, I'd love to know about the ways in which you hope to prepare them for such an uncertain, unknowable future.


  1. I'm impressed with the practical, albeit scary, ways in which you're preparing your kids for the possibility of a future radically different from our present. Your comment about previously thinking it would be your grandkids who would really grapple with the effects of climate change hit me hard. It's easier to hide your (my) head in the sand when you're thinking of something off in the future, happening to as-yet-unknown people, even though they'll be children of my child. But thinking about it being Andrew grappling with such radical changes is devastating.

    1. Yes, I have really felt that difference in a huge way. Theoretical people (grandkids that may never exist) vs. our very own living breathing children have quite a different emotional impact when I think about their life trajectory. I would agree with "devastating." I would also add "heartbroken."

      (btw, you going to be in Camb for xmas?)

  2. I took A's class to geological museum. The class had had two weeks of climate change info prior to this (museum just happened after that). Since the coast of Finland is still rising due to the pressure of iceage, one of the kids asked the guide: 'which one is dominating: the rise of seawater due to climate change or the rise of Finnish coast?' The Geologist replayed: 'the climate change-it's such nonsense. There has always been changes in the global atmosphere and this is just fluctuation!'. You should have seen the faces of the students and the poor teacher :)

    1. I suppose geologists take the loooong view. The climate certainly has fluctuated over time. Too bad s/he is wrong on this one.