12 February 2012

Nowhere to Run - Drought and Floods

Martha and the Vandellas said it best:
Nowhere to run to, baby
Nowhere to hide
Got nowhere to run to, baby
Nowhere to hide
Between increasing droughts, too much precipitation, and more heat waves and cold snaps, there is nowhere to run to anymore. Check out these maps, developed by NCAR scientist Aiguo Dai. A fellow climate scientist, Richard Seager of Columbia University's Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory, remarked "The term 'global warming' does not do justice to the climatic changes the world will experience in coming decades. Some of the worst disruptions we face will involve water, not just temperature."

Dai's 2010 study also found that "drought risk can be expected to decrease this century across much of Northern Europe, Russia, Canada, and Alaska, as well as some areas in the Southern Hemisphere. However, the globe's land areas should be drier overall."

So, the areas where increased wetness is expected tend to be areas that aren't our greatest agricultural regions. Can we grow food in the boreal region? And can we grow food in an area with increased rainfall, which means decreased sunshine?

If you were to look for a new place to live right now (for any reason, but especially to escape the impacts of climate change), where would you go? It seems there is no place left to run to. So imagine what life is going to be like for people without the means to migrate anywhere.

(Not that migrating is going to be easy in these political times. Look at what happened to the democratically elected president of the Maldives. He's one of the few world leaders who has spoken up about the climate crisis and the need to start moving his people. Suddenly he's ousted by gunpoint during a coup, and the American envoy is meeting with the "new president" in less than a week. Anyone else smell, well, you can't say that "c" word on the internet anymore, can you? Or perhaps lack of sleep getting to me again. I feel particularly responsible for the fate of the Maldive Islands. Back in my younger days, before I knew anything about global warming, I made a childhood dream come true by travelling around the world. When my ticket got screwed up and I had to skip my trip to the Maldives, I phoned home and told my loved one, "Well, not to worry. The Maldives aren't going anywhere, so we can come back to visit anytime." I did not touch wood.)

My greatest fear in life is drowning. My second greatest fear is great thirst. I'm a water person, obviously. But besides getting into the water cistern business, what can we do? Doesn't it seem like we're heading into a very dangerous place? A world of not enough water and too much water? Dying of thirst happens so fast. For those who can still eke out a little water, drought then leads to crop failures, famine and starvation (often with food riots and violence in between).

When will world leaders pay attention? There soon won't be anywhere for them to run to, either.

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I would appreciate hearing your thoughts or questions on this post or anything else you've read here. What is your take on courage and compassion being an important part of the solution to the climate change emergency?