I came away with two main lessons:
- Whatever public event, project, or happening I may be looking at, I need to ask how does the fact of climate change/global warming play out in relation to it. As the former Kings County Executive (Seattle) Ron Sims put it, I've learned to
- How successfully our species (and many other species) get through this radical change from our past environment will depend on whether our political institutions can achieve a good enough balance between wide citizen buy-in to adaptation and scientific and technical understanding and invention. We can survive what we have made and we will, but how catastrophic the consequences of climate change become will depend significantly on whether we can make political systems designed for other challenges work for this one.
There's a conversation that's hard to imagine anywhere in the United States. We just don't trust that governments are our own creations, working for the general welfare.
I couldn't help thinking about this comparison as I read current reports about Mississippi River flooding, about the Corps of Engineers opening the Morganza spillway to spare Baton Rouge and New Orleans by inundating vast swathes of Cajun country. I don't know whether this "100 year flood" should be considered a consequence of climate change or just a fluke. I do know that a lot of people found themselves involuntarily leaving their homes and the commerce of this entire region profoundly disrupted. This flood may or may not be directly attributable to global warming, but the poor preparation of our governments to deal with it seems a portent of worse things to come.
Floods waters from Mississippi River inundated Tunica Cutout, MS on Sunday, May 15. 2011. The entire population was relocated nearby to the protected side of the levee. USDA photo by Lance Cheung.