Climate chaos: notes on Interesting Stuff

Lifted from notes from David Zetland’s news letter Interesting Stuff:

  • The sustainability challenge is not population as much as consumption. Me in 2009: “A sustainable economy is like a sustainable lifestyle: Minimize your consumption, put something away for a rainy day, and MAKE SURE that you are selling good quality at a good price.” NYT 2022: “By any standard, American lives have become excessive and indulgent, full of large homes, long trips, aisles of choices and app-delivered convenience. If the possibilities of the future are already narrowing to the one being painted by science with increasing lucidity, it strains even the most vivid imagination to picture it widening again without a change in behavior.

Climate chaos

  • This NYT article on water scarcity is not news (you heard it here first!), but it’s well written. It also linked to a fun (and useful) Dutch competition to remove tiles (typically 40cm square, cement) from streets and gardens, as a means of reducing runoff and increasing groundwater recharge. This website (in Dutch) shows how cities are performing (the KPI is TPI, or tegels per inwooner), and I am glad to see Amsterdam outpacing Rotterdam (although I suspect A’dam has a larger supply 😉
  • I named my two collections of “cli-fi” short stories Life Plus 2 Meters to call attention to an aggressive (but reasonable) rise in seal levels before 2100. (The paper that inspired me to start the project in 2016 used a figure of 6–9m by 2100). The official (IPCC) estimate at the time, and now, was +1m. This 2019 paper  (H/T to PB) puts the “business as usual” (reality) scenario at +2m by 2100. I am afraid that this estimate will keep rising as we continue to do nothing (meaningful). The short stories are free to download, so please read them, if you want to start “thinking different.”
  • Related: This 2022 paper on climate tipping points (H/T to PB) indicates that we’re headed (via +1.5C increases in global temperatures) to +12m, as Greenland and the West Antarctic sheets melt and slide into the ocean. It will take as much as 10,000 years or as little as 1,000 years for this to happen. I am thinking — due to the constant revision of estimates based on over-conservative methods, missing data and poorly-interacting global climate flows (all of them totally expected and super hard to fix) that we will get there in less than 1,000 years. If it’s +12m in 500 years, then how much by 2100? +2m? +5m?
  • OTOH, David Wallace-Wells (“The Uninhabitable Earth,” 2017) just released a long essay — “Beyond Catastrophe: A New Climate Reality Is Coming Into View” — that starts off optimistic (we’re only half as worse off as we thought we’d be) but gets back to reality in a sound, balanced way. As you can see from my bullets above, I am not as optimistic on the behavioral change necessary for effective mitigation. Adaptation will be is already necessary!