Opinion, Berkeley Blogs

Climate fatigue

By Dan Farber

I gather that people are tired of hearing about climate change. I'm tired of hearing about climate change, too. Sadly, Nature just doesn’t care that much about entertaining us. It's going to be climate change this year, climate change next year, climate change the year after that . . .

But don't worry, it won't be as boring as it sounds. To begin with, although the global trends are reasonably predictable, there's more uncertainty about exactly how things will play out on the local level. So there are probably going to be some surprises.

And next, did I mention extreme weather events? Many of the major impacts of climate change will take the form of more intense or more frequent droughts, heat waves, and so on. But you never know exactly when one of those is going to hit, so that's something to break the monotony right there.

And next, climate change isn't a one-shot deal. The climate will change from now to 2050, and then it will change some more from 2050 to 2075, and then even more after that. And who knows, we might hit some kind of tipping point, leading to some highly dramatic rise in sea level or uncontrolled fires in the Amazon or something. LOTS to look forward to!

But don't think that the talk is just going to be about the weather. There's also adaptation to climate change. So you'll get to read about businesses moving their operations or making a bundle by designing new crops that tolerate heat or making a killing on the catastrophe bond market. (That’s a real thing, not something I made up.)

And there will be the real estate issues, as coastal property values crumble, heat and water become increasingly problematic in much of the Sun Belt, and many people pick up and move to Canada. And on the political side, of course there will be the fights over rights to the Arctic, water in dry areas, and immigrants fleeing impacted areas like the Sahel in Africa.

And of course, when that gets old, folks can always talk about the fools back at the beginning of the century who let the whole thing happen.

Cross-posted from the environmental law and policy blog Legal Planet.