21 July 2021   Leave a comment

When I was teaching World Politics, I always had a section of the course on global environmental issues. In that section, I referenced the work of Dennis and Donella Meadows who were among the first to attempt to model the global environment. Their work, entitled The Limits to Growth, was incredibly controversial for two reasons. First, they used computer simulations which relied upon techniques and processes with which most people were unfamiliar, and many challenged the data and assumptions that underpinned the analysis. Second, the books suggested that the world would suffer a catastrophic crisis in the mid-21st century because economic activity, and the political; and social institutions that supported that activity, were unsustainable. and many found that conclusion far too pessimistic given how humans have managed through similar crises in the past.

The discussions on the topic were always intense and difficult, particularly as the global debate on climate change became more visible to a larger audience. But the evidence continues to mount that the predictions of the Limits to Growth were not at all far-fetched. The recent floods in Europe, the wildfires in the US West and Northwest, the floods in central China (note that the Global Times article does not mention climate change), and the extraordinary heat waves in various parts of the world all suggest that the Limits to Growth was on target.

Climate change is happening now, but it is inevitable that it will get worse. The New York Times ran an article that forecasts what the climate will likely be in 2090.

“What does the future hold?

“It’s a simple and deadly formula: The greater our emissions of heat-trapping gases, the higher the temperature rise and the greater the health risks. Claudia Tebaldi, an earth scientist and climate modeler at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, told The Times this month that as a general rule, for every one-degree increase in global average temperature, extreme temperatures will rise by up to twice as much.

“Last year was the warmest on record, effectively tying with 2016, with the past seven years the hottest years ever recorded. And that has created conditions that have made extreme summer heat more frequent. Among other things, it is weakening the jet stream and causing weather patterns, like the recent heat dome that sat over the Pacific Northwest, to remain stuck in place for days.

“About 12,000 Americans die from heat-related deaths each year. Under a climate scenario in which heat-trapping gas emissions continue to rise, that number would increase by 97,000 deaths in the United States by the year 2100, according to a recent study. If only modest progress is made in constraining emissions, those deaths are projected to rise by 36,000. With aggressive emissions reductions, deaths would go up by 14,000.”

The Times has some really shocking graphics about what is possible if efforts to control greenhouse gas emissions do not become stronger and more robust.

Posted July 21, 2021 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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