I told my nephew the storm might cause the power to go out. The thoughts of not being able to go on youtube for a few hours almost had him in tears.
I told him youtube will be the least of his problems if flooding is bad enough, because then the pirates will come. They’re probably going to sell his mother as a prostitute and drown his little sister in the water. I probably won’t help because I’ll be a pirate too and my pirate crew would be my family in that scenario, making our relationship worthless. His best chance of survival, well, he wasn’t old enough to understand any of that stuff yet. He can figure that out when the situation arises.
I told him it was important to remember there is no God and his existence doesn’t matter. Our relationships and very existences are so fragile and can be altered so dramatically that they are ultimately worthless. We’re all alone in our lives, I told him. Nobody really gives a fuck about him.
My sister kicked me out of her house at this point.
No matter the public policy failures that put many people at risk as well as costing them $billions, there are still good stories of how they cope (adapt!) to the foul weather that disrupts their lives:
The popular perception by then was that Houston suffered under an apocalyptic siege of the heavens. The broadcasts put it like death was on every corner, a spin I hesitated to confirm. The rescues continued, and waters still rose in Beaumont, but as I saw it, the tenor of the city at large rang surprisingly resolute, jovial even. No one I spoke to, for example, had been without a sideways joke about their flood experience. On driveways and in gas stations, anywhere, people were eager to talk to one another about their stake in the event. They shared stories. They lent tools. They checked on relatives and coworkers. In their own ingenious, respectable ways, people were dealing.
This press release says that IPCC will be discussing the impact of climate change on “extreme weather,” but that report will not come out until 2021 (!). In the meantime, here’s the relevant table from the last report (2013) [pdf]. Click to enlarge.
Notes: In reading through that summary, I noticed that they do mention “extra melting” from Greenland and Antarctica, but that estimates of warming are not agreed upon. It is due to this “lack of consensus” that the potential for 6-9m of sea level rise by 2100 (Hansen 2016) is not featured in the report (it estimates 0.2m at most).
The IPCC uses RCPs (Representative Concentration Pathways) of “radiative forcing in year 2100 relative to 1750” to run its models. The “best case” (RCP 2.6) implies a CO2equivalent atmospheric concentration of 475ppm (of which CO2 is 421ppm) by 2100. Those figures are now 489 and 405ppm, respectively. (Hint: that’s bad news for adequate, timely mitigation.)
For now, the best estimates suggest that Antarctica will sweat off enough ice to raise global sea levels by 1.5 to 3.5 feet [0.5-1.1m] by 2100, depending on how quickly humans continue to pump out greenhouse gases. Throw in Greenland and other rapidly melting glaciers around the world, and sea level could plausibly rise three to seven feet [1.0-2.4m] by 2100.
But that’s not the worst case: Sea level won’t stop rising in 2100. Earth’s past offers worrisome clues to what the more distant future might bring. Geologists studying ancient shorelines have concluded that 125,000 years ago, when the Earth was only slightly warmer than today, sea levels were 20 to 30 feet higher [6-9m]. Some three million years ago, the last time atmospheric carbon dioxide was as high as it is today, and the temperature was about what it’s expected to be in 2050, sea levels were up to 70 feet [21m] higher than today. Yet a collapse of the Greenland and West Antarctic Ice Sheets would raise sea level only about 35 feet [10m].
Hurricanes have a way of grabbing American attention, but usually only for a few weeks (Superstorm Sandy? When?), which makes it awfully hard to get Americans to pay attention to bigger, longer-term risks such as those posed by climate change.
Nonetheless, many people have written about the recent hurricanes (Harvey and Irma) in the context of climate change and the need to adapt. Here are a few articles of interest:
- Fake news and Harvey
- How Texans explain the politics of the hurricane
- Blame [American] society for the damage
- Will Houston rebuild to face the new reality of climate change?
- How federal policies worsen river floods