The IPCC report on climate change was released last week and the takeaway is that we are clearly on track for an unlivable planet. Mass extinction, climate disasters, economic and food security crises have already begun. Is that sobering? Does it make you sit up and pay attention? Scary enough to change behavior? I’m not so sure. Behavior change is a tough nut to crack. Consider Covid mask requirements over the past 3 years – incentivizing the population to take some action for the common good. Take this minor action – wear a mask – to protect your fellow citizens and “flatten the curve” so that we can exit this pandemic. People resisted, it became an argument for individual rights. Masks were referred to as “muzzles” by those whose rights were seemingly being infringed.
I finished Ministry for the Future (Kim Stanley Robinson) yesterday and one thing that stands out to me is that there aren’t (m)any bad actors in the book. There isn’t any evil. A lot of focus on finance (carbon coin) and how incentives can work for Big Oil, but no one deliberately trying to ruin the planet.. only to get rich capitalizing on resource extraction. People are motivated by petty things – the antagonist (if there is one) is apathy. And maybe that’s what we can’t escape when starring down the barrel of climate extinction – apathy. Behavior change is hard.
I won’t want to write a book review, but for a solid “cli-sci” book Ministry of the Future is hard to beat. The solutions and vignettes are creative and eye-opening. I won’t give away one of the major premises of the book – but it involves a heat event not unlike the heat dome we saw in the PNW last June. Temperatures to 47C – people died.
I’ve been on a bender of climate emergency reading lately. The other I recommend is Termination Shock by Neal Stephenson. This is more of a hard science fiction account of geo-engineering to mitigate climate change. Both books are set in the very near future – think 10 years out. Nothing futuristic about the ideas presented in the books.
So what to do? Ride your bike. Buy a heat pump. Go solar. Stop eating meat. “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without”, as the old New England saying goes.
Adapt or die.