Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Sea Level Rise: High Tide On Main Street

I'm always bombarded with requests to review stuff, and recently I got an offer to review “High tide on Main Street” by John Englander. Okay, a free climate change read, so I requested a copy. Sure, I am late with my review, but, better late than never, right?

Years ago, when I read The Skeptical Environmentalist, by Bjorn Lomborg, I actually ran out of ink marking up his ignorance. Whenever economists try science, it gets messy. The linear math charts in excel were entertaining, but when Bjorn asserted that climate change will provide record-low food prices, I could only think of the business lemmings listening to his funded anti-science fundamentalism. Seems our planet needs a Department of Fact Checking, or an Ignorance Tax.

Some may see climate change as a political conspiracy, some think it will make earth warmer, but in a complex world, the science says otherwise. As I like to tweet: #DoTheMath: Complexity is a science and is being used to reflect our natural systems and model them. There are many impacts that humanity will face from climate change. Which are the “biggies”?

 Oh, when I say “complex world”, please don't confuse the scientific term with the English one. Our planet can be modeled as a complex mathematical system. In simplistic terms, our “old math” used to be focused on much more linear analysis that rendered, in many cases, singular “yes / no” conclusions. Of course those tools were used for simpler problems. Nature, by nature, is not simple, each element has many connections. Complexity math helps us understand the bigger connections and dependencies and help identify the smaller connections, as well, so, welcome to 2013! The new math has arrived and it's all complex.

“Big Data” + big computers + big ideas = bigger challenges aka – bigger problems. Climate change will impact all living and many non-living systems on our planet. Migrations of animals and critters will change, our oceans will heat up and absorb more carbon dioxide, severe weather, severe drought, severe flooding, increased air conditioning costs, increased heating costs, food security, species extinction, ocean acidification, coral reef destruction, micro-climate destruction, glacial lake and river stagnation, ocean and lake dead zones, mass methane releases, mass extinctions, increased unsafe knock-off Chinese suntan lotion, etc. Has “the 100 year event” now become “the 1000 year event”?

Is the biggest problem is sea level rise? When we look at the impacts of sea level rise on the global economy, the results are grim. Sea level change will impact majority of our major infrastructure for global commerce. The US Navy recently made note that a minor change in sea level will result in hundreds of billions in upgrades for national and global security alone.

Do I enjoy the ultimate irony of Koch losing their family estate on Martha's Vineyard? No. Of course, sea level change is also exacerbated by severe weather. A small increase in sea level can multiply the damage of tsunami and storm surge levels of destruction.

Aside from the complexity-impacts on our global economy and security, most people can identify with the loss of property: hotels, beach homes, tourist attractions, marinas, bridges, and other things like islands. This loss of property will displace over 50% of the world population.

Of course, the Canadian conservative plan is to firmly stick their heads in the tarsands. So, when will sea level rise physically force their heads out to avoid self-drowning? Seems the rule of "government by crisis" is far more profitable than government by responsibility and intelligence. Will Stephen Harper be remembered for the Prime Minister that lost the most coastline? It's no surprise that the ever-selfish Stephen Harper is currently authoring out planning for climate refugees. Do you think the insurance companies are freaking out over nothing? Will the consumer have to continue to bail out industry?

How much will the oceans rise? How fast? Who is responsible? Is government morally capable of managing it? Will the fossil fuel industry will try to sue the customer for loss of customers?

High Tide On Main Street read well and unlike Bjorns' truthiness, no red ink, just personal notes. Nice work, this is a book that makes the risks of sea level rise easy to understand. John Englander is a courteous writer and provides many footnotes and further reading. I would certainly recommend this book to everyone, since it will impact everyone on earth.

I hope that your real estate is above 80 meters above sea level!


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