4 Degrees

“We begin to have to talk about ordered retreat from some areas of Britain because it becomes impossible to defend,” he said. “There’s no choice here between adaptation and mitigation, we have to do both.” That’s what Professor Bob Watson, UK chief adviser to the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs told the Guardian today.

He was hoping to look at scenarios closer to a rise of 2 degrees celsius, but realize that this was an unrealistically optimistic projection. In fact, the rise of 4 degrees would likely lead to a cascade of other factors and subsequent further increases. But even a modest rise of 4 degrees in the near future yields hundreds of millions of deaths and requires major movements of people, the abandonment of coastal cities, and more.

Once you start looking at the adaptation scenarios, adjusting the impact of a 4-degree increase starts to appear inhumane. Can we just write off such large segments of humanity and play ‘triage’ with the food supply? It may seem heartless, but without such planning, the casualties will be far worse. Does planning in this way amount to admission of defeat? Perhaps. So while a small number of government officials and private sector workers attend to the task of setting up our administrative capabilities for climate change disasters, the rest of us can work on containing it as best as possible.