Of climate change and human survival

The number of people who aren’t actively involved in the discourse about climate change is depressingly high. And the number that chooses to vote for leaders who lack the conviction to do something about it also remains high. But there are those who have gone on to respond to the consequent ecological disruption; and this group includes scientists, artists, captains of industry, and those who are actually charged with dealing with the myriad problems involved. They all seem to be coming to the same conclusion: humans would rather stay at home and adapt rather than move to safer territory. Not exactly the most draw-dropping of findings, I know. But how realistic is it?

Let’s go back to the basic and see what global warming is. It is this hot-button topic in the geopolitical landscape that is cited as the reason for climate change, glaciers melting, the increase in ocean temperature, the degradation of coral reefs, the increase in storm severity, and the rise in sea levels.

The fundamental causes are both man-made and natural. Humans are mostly to blame here for their activities that cause a direct blow to nature, beauty, and

equilibrium. Carbon dioxide increases global temperatures and there are two sources of this gas: one, man-made carbon emissions, and two, the natural and anthropogenic causes.

Anthropogenic causes consist of carbon emissions from energy generation units, manufacturing industries, agricultural sources like ethanol and fertilizer production among others. Electricity generation grabs a major chunk of the pie with a good 72%. Human and animal respiration contributes to this overall, but the statistics are more or less negligible if we do not consider the alarming rate of population increase.

While there are other sources of greenhouse gases like methane and water vapor, they are not easy to be regulated. But carbon dioxide can be controlled. Natural causes and things like respiration are out of the prevention equation unless we develop strategies for population control. But the most straightforward thing to do is to control carbon emissions. Cleaner sources of energy generation, unfortunately, are not very cost-effective. But money in the right hands of power can get the work done. Here’s where the political game begins.

Another energy source can be from nuclear units, but this creates new problems like what must be done with the nuclear wastes. Technology and innovation are advancing and there are better solutions today but it is doubtful if we can ever catch up to prevent a crisis.

In that case, the option of adaptation appears. We are homebodies after all and we need to come up with good adaptation strategies. If the seas were understood to keep rising, the strategies to adapt to a modest 20 or 40 cm rise would mean raising homes on stilts ad walkways on stones. This may be doable in the face of one-change-at-a-time. But we’re actually going to be dealing with a rise by multiple meters by the end of the century. Migration might be the next try.

 

Some of the cli-fi that revolves around such a doomsday event is are New York 2140 and Stephen Baxter’s Flood. Which are improbable. But all bets are off if the worst-case scenarios start coming true. In the far future, the sun will only get hotter and brighter. Ultimately, humans will have to find a new home and relocate. Or we die.

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