It’s easy to Feel pessimistic when scientists around the world warn that climate change has advanced so far that it is now inevitable that societies will transform or be transformed. But like two of the authors of a recent international climate report, we also see reason for optimism.
The latest reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change look at the changes ahead, but also outline how existing solutions can reduce greenhouse gas emissions and help people adapt to climate change impacts that cannot be avoided. avoid.
The problem is that these solutions are not implemented fast enough. In addition to industry rejection, people’s fear of change has helped maintain the status quo.
To slow climate change and adapt to the damage that is already underway, the world will have to change the way it generates and uses energy, transports people and goods, designs buildings, and grows food. That starts with embracing innovation and change.
fear of change
From the industrial revolution to the rise of social media, societies have undergone fundamental changes in the way people live and understand their place in the world.
Some transformations are generally considered bad, including many related to climate change. For example, about half of the world’s coral reef ecosystems have perished due to increased ocean heat and acidity. Island nations like Kiribati and coastal communities including Louisiana and Alaska are losing land to rising sea levels.
Residents of the Pacific island nation of Kiribati describe the changes they are experiencing as sea levels rise.
Other transformations have had good and bad effects. The industrial revolution greatly raised the standard of living for many people, but it brought about inequality, social disruption, and environmental destruction.
People often resist transformation because their fear of losing what they have is more powerful than knowing they can gain something better. Wanting to keep things the way they are, known as the status quo bias, explains all sorts of individual decisions, from sticking with incumbent politicians to not signing up for retirement or health plans, even when the alternatives may be rationally better.
This effect can be even more pronounced for larger changes. In the past, delaying inevitable change has led to transformations that are unnecessarily harsh, such as the collapse of some 13th century civilizations in what is now the southwestern US as more people experience the harms of climate change. firsthand, they can begin to realize that transformation is inevitable and embrace new solutions.
A mix of good and bad
The IPCC reports make it clear that the future inevitably involves more and greater climate-related transformations. The question is what will be the mix of good and bad in those transformations.
If countries allow greenhouse gas emissions to continue at a high rate and communities only gradually adapt to the resulting climate change, the transformations will be mostly forced and mostly bad.
For example, a riverside city might raise its levees as spring flooding worsens. At some point, as the scale of flooding increases, such adaptation reaches its limit. The dams needed to contain the water may become too expensive or so intrusive that they undermine any benefits of living near the river. The community can wither.
The riparian community could also take a more deliberate and anticipatory approach to transformation. It could move to higher ground, turn the riverfront into a park while developing affordable housing for people displaced by the project, and collaborate with upstream communities to expand landscapes that capture flood waters. Simultaneously, the community can switch to renewable energy and electrified transportation to help slow global warming.
Optimism lies in deliberate action.
The IPCC reports include numerous examples that can help guide such a positive transformation.
For example, renewable energy is now generally less expensive than fossil fuels, so a switch to clean energy can often save money. Communities can also be redesigned to better survive natural hazards through such steps as maintaining natural firebreaks and building homes so they are less susceptible to burns.
Land use and infrastructure design, such as roads and bridges, can be based on prospective climate information. Corporate weather risk and insurance pricing disclosures can help the public recognize the dangers in the products they buy and the companies they support as investors.
No one group can enact these changes alone. Everyone needs to be involved, including governments who can demand and incentivize change, businesses that often control decisions about greenhouse gas emissions, and citizens who can increase pressure on both.
transformation is inevitable
Efforts to adapt to and mitigate climate change have advanced substantially in the last five years, but not fast enough to prevent the transformations that are already underway.
Doing more to disrupt the status quo with proven solutions can help smooth these transformations and create a better future in the process.
This article was originally published on The conversation for Robert Lempert at Pardee RAND Graduate School and Elisabeth Gilmore in carleton university. Read the original article here.