This article is part of a long ongoing series of my thoughts on the role of climate change in history, which interfaces with the collapse of American democracy. Other articles in this series:
Do you really know what is likely to happen in our future as a result of climate change and global warming? Do you? I’m not talking about dry statistics involving degrees Celsius of temperature change by 2100, although those numbers are undeniably relevant, and I’m not talking about icebergs the size of [fill in the small U.S. state of your choice] calving off Antarctica, which happens all the time now. I’m talking about what’s really going to happen on the ground in the next 5, 10, 15 or 25 years, in terms of economy, politics and life. I’m talking about the history of the 21st century as it unfolds. Scientific and economic experts have given us some glimpses, but it takes an appreciation of history to put them into real perspective. In this article I’m going to lay it out for you in as concise, no-bullshit terms as I can manage. It has been my experience that very few people, even those very well engaged on climate change issues, rarely think through the implications of what the many predictions on climate effects truly mean.
Before I launch into it, let me get a few things out of the way. First, I’m not making this crap up. The basis of what I’m going to be saying here—temperature predictions, crop yields, cascading effects as studied by economists, etc.—comes right out of the recent (September 2021) climate risk assessment report by Chatham House, a century-old think tank analyzing international relations. The report is extremely thorough, but very statistic-heavy, and they show their sources exhaustively—so this is not idle chatter. Second, to those who will invariably denounce me as an “alarmist,” let me pose a question: when, at any time in the history of the study of global warming and its effects, has any serious, data-backed estimate of climate effects overestimated reality? The disingenuous talking points of oil company shills or fascist global warming deniers aside, a climate scientist has never in the history of the world looked at a climate change impact and said, “Gee, that wasn’t as bad as I expected.” A general rule of thumb in dealing with climate predictions is this: when you see one, assume the reality will be twice as bad and occur in half the time. That said, my own projections hew closely to the Chatham House estimates (meaning I have not taken the liberty of accelerating or exaggerating them).
Now, here’s the meat of the matter. Global warming is already triggering a host of systemic changes across the world, and these changes, as they ripple outwards, will undoubtedly grow worse. I’m going to show you, below, a flow chart of the systemic, cascading effects of climate change as studied by 70 multidisciplinary experts brought together by Chatham House, but first I’ll quote a phrase that the Chatham report repeats several times, including in the executive summary:
For the rest of the story, please visit: The future of climate: do you have any idea what’s really coming? – by Sean Munger – Sean Munger’s History and Culture Dispatches