Monday, August 24, 2009

What we should be saying about climate change

Some end of summer thoughts. Consider these the three new themes of Maribo:

1. Climate change is not an "environmental" problem. The non-linear, multi-factorial and time-varying dynamics of the climate system make the problem of climate change radically different from most classic "environmental" problems. As such, we can learn more about how to address climate change from studying other grand societal challenges, like poverty or racism, than other environmental problems.

2. In general, we have a very poor understanding the effect of climate variability, climate events or "shocks", and climate change on our lives. In the western world, this comes in part from being largely isolated from the everyday reality of weather and climate. It is also comes from wrongly placing different types of climate change impacts (precipitation, sea level rise) and climate change impacts of different regions (droughts in the prairies, droughts in sub-saharan Africa) into separate mental boxes. In an interconnected, globalized world, the rain doesn't have to stop falling in your neighbourhood for you to be affected.

3. Adapting to climate change is far more difficult and far more expensive than most people and most supposed experts assume. This comes from spending too much time and effort estimating the costs of mitigation here in the developed world, and too little looking the efficacy of local development and especially international development projects. More on this later.

I plan to return to these three themes, especially #3, again and again.

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