The thing that will wake us up will be the thing that will doom us
Science tells us the world is warming, and the cause is greenhouse gas emissions.
But we don’t do anything about it, because the effects, I suppose, still feel far off. And it is warming gradually enough where we get used to rising temperatures, ever so slowly (the boiling frog syndrome).
As the climate shifts to a new state of equilibrium, it will bring terrifying changes to our climate that will threaten the viability of human civilization, and probably the species itself. Even though we resist making changes today, I suspect there will be something that happens in the next 5 to 10 years that will make it abundantly clear to reasonable people that the climate is in a full breakdown.
By then, it will probably be late to do anything effective to stabilize our climate, and preserve our current civilizaiton.
The thing that will wake us up will thus be the thing that signals our demise.
What will that thing be? What event will trigger this doomed awakening?
If I had to venture a guess, it will be something related to the intersection of our aging energy infastructure with more powerful storms, heatwaves and sea levels that are coming with climate change. I am reminded that the Fukushima Daichi catastrophe was caused in large part by a tsunami that overwhelmed the sea wall in place, and which shut down the power systems designed to cool the plant. The rest is history.
Similarly, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill was caused by methane gas rising into the drilling rig, exploding, and ultimately causing a massive oil spill that lasted for 4 months, 4 weeks and 2 days.
Our society has already failed and is continually failing to invest in the critical infrastructure it needs, even without climate change. When you add the fact that that infrastructure is aging and will face greater envrionmental strains than they were ever designed to withstand, it seems likely that we will be facing more Fukushimas and Deepwaters in the future.
And my guess is that one of those incidents will be ugly enough, and terrible enough, to make people realize that we are in a totally new world.
I hope I am wrong. I hope we can wake up well before then, and change our ways. I hope it doesn’t take a catastrophe to make us wake up.
But I am not so certain.