The Extinction Tour, Part One

One-foot sea level rise, 2-feet-9-inches, a whopping 13-feet. How much will sea levels rise by 2100? So is the focus of the United Nations-led Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) third (of three) reports released yesterday. Not that I was expecting these reports. Let me be clear – I’m learning on the hop. And these sea-level-rise scenarios are still only predictions, based largely on climate-warming models – at the moment.

We have had a lot of teenagers railing at us this week. They say they’re not going to forgive us if we screw things up. I’ve heard that one before. Sorry, couldn’t help it – I live on a boat with teenagers! Truth be told, I had to giggle a little when I heard Greta Thunberg say it too.

I’m no climate-change apologist. It’s just my generation has always lived with the idea of the world ending to some degree. As an Eighties kid, the Cold War’s threat of nuclear attack and resulting human extinction felt very real. I remember finding a novel about nuclear attack in the school library when I was about Delph’s age. It was a family who’d survived the immediate nuclear fallout. Well, actually not all of them did. It became brutal. I ate it up – read it over and over again.

Nowadays, the nuclear threat of attack isn’t so much in the news. I’m surmising of course, but perhaps nuclear war hyper-awareness died down when everyone stopped being so ‘cold’. Or maybe the leaders with the nuclear buttons got more mature and stopped thinking about killing us all the time. Ha! Wishful thinking?

Now, thirty years later, humanity’s living with a new threat. It’s just as big, maybe even bigger than nuclear fallout. This time it’s climate change. Sea level rise. Global temperature warming. Our environment’s going to kill us… and this one, people, we caused ourselves. This is the emotional part.

Climate change culpability. Did you cause climate change by not recycling? Hmm? Driving a gas-guzzling car? It stings, no? Or was it up to the manufacturers who sold you the car? Is the company who made the plastic responsible? Personally, I pin it on our evolutionary drive to make our lives easier and more comfortable. Evolution built into our very DNA. The force is strong in you Skywalker – to drive to the store and install air conditioning. Ahhh. Comfy, no? I definitely feel it. Sorry.

Let’s go back to the numbers for now. A one-foot sea level rise by 2100. That’s the best-case scenario based on the IPCC’s report. And that scenario happens only if we quickly lower carbon output. This will be a huge effort, working with a combination of emerging technologies and halting carbon-releasing pollution. Even then we don’t have the exact models. As Greta Thunberg said at the UN Climate Action Summit this week, there are unpredictable factors such as ‘tipping points, most feedback loops, additional warming hidden by toxic air pollution..’. We can’t know yet what will happen when nature’s triggered.

I do know this. If we experience a one-foot sea-level rise by 2100, we’re going to need to build the sea wall higher in my village. As a start – and that’s a best-case scenario. For this reason, I’m in. Not another generation to expect the end – again.

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