Brenda Cooper

Climate Change Predictions for 2009

I recently posted both my predictions from last year, and how they came out.  So here we go for this year.  Most of these predictions shouldn’t feel like surprises; very few are wild cards.

First, what we’ll see as far as physical manifestations includes:

  • More wild weather in the form of more extremes for local areas.  More drought, more snow, more rain, more cold, more heat – expect surprises.  Climate change is chaotic.  It’s not going to feel gentle.
  • Bellweather losses (species, ice, ground at sea level,) and indicators (methane release, dead zones in the sea) will, once again, happen faster than predicted.  We will start changing the models, so by the end of the year, we may have some pretty dire predictions to deal with.
  • Resource wars will intensify (primarily oil and water and food, but there may be surprise shortages, if not in 2009, then in the next few years after that).  That’s worldwide, but we’ll see it here as well, even though the battleground in the US may largely be the courts in ’09.

That’s dismal sounding, but that’s reaping what we’ve sown over the past decade or so.  But even though some people will cling to the idea of climate change as myth, I see some real accountability gain on our part:

  • We’ll finally begin really acknowledging the cost of our oil dependence.  Because the economy will lurch forward and back some for most of the year, we won’t make as much progress as we’d like, but more people will actually start changing behavior in meaningful ways.  Examples include reduced one-driver gas car commutes, a tendency to buy and waste less, which will be supported by the economy anyway, and new buying patterns that seek sustainable products.
  • Climate change will feel more immediate to a lot more people – because the physical manifestations will keep mounting and so its affect on us and our immediate children will become clearer.
  • In the US and other first-world countries, there will be more social stigma about conspicuous consumption.   We already feel embarrassed for people who drive Hummers, but that will expand to include out-sized housing and other excesses.

A less-hopeful expectation is that as some people really get the magnitude of the change needed, they’ll become despondent.  There will be some who adopt a “who cares” attitude because the problem is so big they can’t see their part in fixing it. 

And on the political front, there is a lot to like:

  • Barack Obama and his team get this.  They will find a way for the United States to begin taking the world leadership position that it should.  This will include media-driven leadership, reaching out worldwide to others who care and offering both humility and hope, and it will include a real clean-tech program in the economic stimulus.  Yes, there are other priorities, too, but this one will not be forgotten any more.  Obama’s children. like ours, need a world to grow up in. 

What does this mean for each of us in America?  The three most important things that come to mind are:

  1. Be prepared.  Have emergency kits and savings. 
  2. Be generous.  There are a lot of people needing food and shelter and other help right now.  These numbers will stay high at least through the middle of 09, and maybe longer.  Help out.  Even if you also need help, give help where you can.
  3. Be active.  Climate change, and more importantly, mitigation matter.  Be the change.  Ride your bike to work.  Buy energy efficient appliances.  Read and research and understand. 

What do you think you should do?  Leave a comment.