Bad news about climate change was reported early last week. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued a 2,000-page report — based on 12,000 peer-reviewed, scientific studies — which said that the realities and risks which we face due to global warming are worse than originally thought.
Authors of the reports said, “Things are worse than predicted in 2007, and we are going to see more and more impacts, faster and sooner than we anticipated,” and that risk levels are now “very high” as compared to “high” in the 2007 report.
In northern Indiana we can feel somewhat insulated from this climate change talk. We’re insulated partly because of culture and largely because of geography. We’re far away from the ocean coasts, where some of the most immediate and dramatic global warming effects can be felt already. But as this new report suggests, we are not immune. Climate change modeling for Indiana suggests that extreme weather incidents will become increasingly frequent.
The reports goes on to say that climate change will exacerbate many of the problems that human society already faces, including poverty, disease, violence and displacement. It will “increase gaps between rich and poor, healthy and sick, young and old, men and women,” said one of the authors, Maarten van Aalst. That’s a pretty sobering prediction given that here in the United States we’ve already seen unprecedented consolidation of wealth over the past 20 years. I wonder how we will deal with further stratification.
And it’s not hard to imagine in a vague way how this might happen. People in coastal regions (about 44 percent globally, 39 percent in the United States) will need to move. They’ll leave secure homes and jobs, in hopes of finding new ones. At the same time, unpredictable weather could cause water shortages (as we’ve seen in the Southeast, and currently in California), and disrupt food production. Even minimal displacement and water and food shortage events can have a large ripple effect in our society.