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Climate change: Boiling frog or tipping point panic?


I was just talking with a friend of mine, an expert on climate change issues, about the latest round of environmental flashing red lights. We were discussing the relative likelihood of some sort of tipping point event, that would cause people in the United States and/or other countries to see climate change as a genuine crisis of immediate and existential proportions, as opposed to what it remains, which is something almost everybody continues to ignore for almost all practical purposes (It’s worth recalling that Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump weren’t asked a single question about climate change during the 2016 presidential debates.)

What would such event be like? A category 6 hurricane that kills three million Bangladeshis or three thousand Floridians? A sudden collapse in the real estate market in Miami or Phoenix, driven by the participants in that market’s simultaneous mass epiphany that these places will be largely uninhabitable within the economically relevant future? The discovery that some small island nation is undertaking on its own a geo-engineering project to alter the atmosphere on a worldwide basis, in order to keep from disappearing under the waves in the next decade or two? (This could well be both technologically and economically possible for such a country, which in turn means some nation would be practically certain to try it eventually).

There are lots of possibilities, foreseeable and unforeseeable.

Another possibility, of course, is that nothing sufficiently dramatic to cause some sort of acute social crisis will happen, and the catastrophic event will therefore be precisely this gradual decline into a brave new world, that will therefore seem relatively normal as it arrives.

In the latter scenario, it will seem reasonable to, for example, spend trillions of dollars to protect the real estate investments of well-to-do voters, because after all it’s not their (our) fault that they (we) did nothing to ameliorate a disaster that nobody saw coming, except all of the world’s climate scientists, several decades earlier.

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