A story from the LA Times Friday about a new paper in the journal Nature should be yet another clarion call regarding the coming climate change disaster. But will it be? For more than two decades, ever since the last earth summit in Rio de Janeiro, scientists have warned of what was coming. The science wasn't perfect. It couldn't say exactly when climate change would hit the absolute tipping point or how it would affect each spot on earth, but many climate scientists believed the effects would be devastating to world economies. Fast forward 20 years and little has changed in addressing the causes of climate change. The climate debate is lost in bitter politics and naysayers who figure it is perfectly fine to gamble with our future by saying everything is fine, humans aren't causing the problem, and let's just carry on with business as usual.
I figure any leader worth their salt, and my vote, is one who weighs the risks versus the benefits for the long haul, not short term gain. They also follow the precautionary principle. What do you lose by systimatically converting your economy to one that doesn't rely on a finite resource such as oil and gas? It takes time and planning, but it can be done. Imagine where NM would be economically and in terms of energy independence if we had started down that path even ten years ago. What do you lose by erring on the side of caution and moving your energy supplies to ones that are less dirty (note I am not calling solar and wind "clean"; every single energy source has its environmental drawbacks). A smart state would be promoting solar, wind and geothermal as heavily as it promotes oil and gas.
A wise leader of a community, a county, a state or a country would be thinking of ways to make their economies and people resilient in the face of large unknowns. They would prepare for all sorts of scenarios. Too often in the last two decades, change has been driven not by our leaders, but the people in the trenches, the scientists, the inventors, the people who understand there is too much to lose by making the wrong decision, and smart business people who see there's still money to be made in the world to come. (The rise of the organic market was driven by a consumers and farmers' markets grassroots movement. If we can do it with food, can we do it with the rest of our economy and energy sources?)
But beyond this is a question: if the tipping point is already here, as scientists note in the Nature paper, then what? It will come down to each of us to figure out how to help our families and our communities be resilient in hard times ahead. In his book, "12 x 12", former Pojoaque teacher and international economic development program director William Powers talks about rethinking the way we view work, development, environmentalism, basically everything. He does it while living for a time in an off-grid, one-room 12 x 12 house, not in Africa or South America where he worked for years, but in North Carolina. It is a fascinating little read and I recommend it to you all.
I don't know what the answers are to what is coming. But I believe huge changes are ahead. Whether they are good or bad, will depend on our attitudes, ability to adapt and our ability to build community.