Saving what's left
Climate change is a business. Green energy companies, politicians, scientists: They all profit from the evolving environment. As with any industry, we should understand a little something about the real why’s of the thing.
So here’s the history: People like you and me have been stumbling across our globe for 25,000 years. Real modern humans like you and me. The only thing we have over stone-age man is our collective knowledge and television.
About 18,000 years ago, Earth was at glacial maximum. The ice sheet topping our hemisphere was as big as it ever got. In fact, the arctic cap went all the way through northern Virginia, Illinois, Oregon – and so on around the world.
When we combine the two, we realize that people have seen melting poles from Jump Street—and it’s been affecting us the whole time. Eden was a likely a real place with real people; and now it’s lost beneath the Persian Gulf. And since we humans tend to build near the coast there’s probably more than one Atlantis floating around – a soggy, mythical club which will soon count New Orleans and Venice as members.
But compared with what our ancestors saw, the worst is behind us. Since Old Testament times (14,000 B.C.,) sea level has risen 600 feet. This means 30 percent of the land that cave men roamed is currently underwater. The Outer Banks were 100 miles inland, you could walk from Russia to Alaska, and the Mediterranean was a nice-sized lake.
Now we’re faced with the prospect of still-rising seas and, if the worst happens, levels will gain another 30 feet in the next 500 years. That sounds really bad until you do the math. Thirty feet is just five percent of the rise we’ve already survived. We had move our tents to keep our feet dry, but we survived nonetheless. That’s good news.
The real problem long-term isn’t the ocean rising—we’ll live through it, don’t worry—it’s that as the ice goes away there’s less sunlight reflected and air temperatures go up. More heat will alter the crops we can grow and the places we can live; just like it did for our ancestors.
The continuing polar meltdown will inevitably mean change: probably in the sustainable population and definitely in real estate prices. What it won’t mean is that we’ve destroyed the earth. Anthropogenic (human-caused) warming is real and we can slow the rate, but this calamity of degrees would have come whether we owned a car or not. Our carbon burning may add heat, but it certainly didn’t start it.
The scariest part of global warming seems to be that we’ll lose some nice beaches, a few cities and the polar bears. Well, without burning oil, we wouldn’t have the types of property that we can’t stand losing. Without burning oil, we wouldn’t have the free time it takes to measure the oceans and contemplate impending doom.
We’d all be working 20 hour days raising enough food to survive the winter. And there would be no polar bears left, either. We’d have eaten them all years ago - right after we finished off the mammoths, the deer and the baby seals.
Humans have done a lot to change the environment, but we also have the ability to save some of what’s left.
What we should be doing is coming up with a plan to salvage what we can and to keep ourselves from descending into a Mad-Maxian world of scarcity and want. We need a plan for GM crops that are more heat resistant, and others that can put up with floods.
We need a plan to let some animals fend for themselves (I’m looking at you, polar bears) while we help others to survive. We have it in our power to adapt - and we should plan on it. Because unless there’s another ice age pretty soon, sea level will continue to rise no matter how many times you ride your bike to work.
Global warming is real, and we are partly to blame. We should start companies which capitalize on the future environment, but the businesses that rely on fear are doing a disservice to humanity.