It’s the Food, Stupid

It’s time we faced the facts:

  • The world is overpopulated, near or beyond its long-term carrying capacity for modern humans
  • Resources are being depleted and environmental supports weakened
  • Energy usage is getting tangled in supplies of water and fair weather
  • Economic systems designed for none of the above are misfiring for various reasons including but not limited to the above

We are going to have to think carefully and learn how to decide to make difficult decisions together.

I’m sure today’s grim news from Gallup (hat tip to no less than Mark Morano, whose mail about the surprising result showed up in my inbox this morning) will be a very prominent climate story for a while, but I hope that a blog item provocatively titled Sea level rise a red herring? by James Hrynshin will not be lost in the shuffle. In today’s article, James addresses the very large potential scope of the climate problem.

I’ve been dimly aware of his Island of Doubt, but I’m adding it to the blogroll forthwith. Discovering this site was one of the silver linings of the recent clouds on my horizon.

James gets into a bit of trouble with Stoat over what the sea level rise estimates are currently looking like, and perhaps he is a bitover the top in this regard. But that really isn’t the point of the article at all. The point is that while sea level rise is the sort of thing we can wrap our heads around and have quantitative arguments about, if things go really badly, it likely won’t be the worst of it. The really worst cases involve disruptions sufficient to interrupt the food supply.

Do I think these will occur? Actually, no. Or, really, that depends on how stupid we elect to be as well as how unlucky we are. Unfortunately, severe drouught and severe storms are both on the table. (Some places may literally get too hot for habitation, but I think those are marginal already.) As scientists, we should be working to reduce the scope of the impact tails, and as participants in the world we should be working to avoid testing whether we can get there.

The thing I liked most about this article, though, was the reference to “the still ridiculously sparse coverage afforded to matters of climate change”. Yes, exactly. This feeds back onto today’s above-the-fold question of what the populace thinks. Not only is the coverage ridiculously sparse, but grotesquely avoidant of considering the more severe risks.

On that note, see Revkin’s latest, on the Gallup report. I find his concluding paragraph interesting and encouraging in a silver lining sort of way. (Pity about that cloud.) I can hope this paragraph backhandedly acknowledges that he has a position where what he says matters.