Thursday, August 04, 2016

Climate change: Welcome to dystopia

In the Guardian, George Monbiot summarises the state of the world:

This, on current trends, will be the hottest year ever measured. The previous record was set in 2015; the one before in 2014. Fifteen of the 16 warmest years have occurred in the 21st century. Each of the past 14 months has beaten the global monthly temperature record. But you can still hear people repeating the old claim, first proposed by fossil fuel lobbyists, that global warming stopped in 1998.

Arctic sea ice covered a smaller area last winter than in any winter since records began. In Siberia, an anthrax outbreak is raging through the human and reindeer populations because infected corpses locked in permafrost since the last epidemic in 1941 have thawed. India has been hammered by cycles of drought and flood, as withering heat parches the soil and torches glaciers in the Himalayas. Southern and eastern Africa have been pitched into humanitarian emergencies by drought. Wildfires storm across America; coral reefs around the world are bleaching and dying.

Reading this, its like the opening chapter of a dystopian novel, the one that tells you that everything is different and broken. And we're now living in it. The government still acts as if climate change is a distant threat, the impacts of which will start to be felt thirty years from now - but it is happening today (see here for a local example). And with such severe effects on New Zealand's export farming - basicly what's happening in Canterbury is the new normal for the entire East coast - you'd expect them to show some urgency about it.

(What does that dystopia look like? I've recently been reading Paolo Bacigalupi's The Water Knife, which scrolls it forward 30 - 50 years to paint a picture of an American southwest which has become a classic cyberpunk dystopia, with cities collapsing and mass waves of refugees living in squalor as present-day water-wars go hot. New Zealand shouldn't end up that bad - we're not Americans, and we don't have an instability-exporting narco-state as a next-door neighbour - but as Australia burns down and dries up we might see Australian boat people. Which would be kindof ironic, given the horror with which Australia has reacted to far smaller influxes of refugees).