March 1, 2014
The weatherman told us we’d have a small storm, yesterday – some freezing rain, possibly snow. As it was, we had a little rain as the system moved through. We didn’t even get that, at this end of town.
We’ve been told for a week that a storm will be moving in this evening through Sunday – rain, freezing rain, sleet and snow, with highs below freezing and lows in the teens and single digits over the next two or three days. Our temperature here reached fifty-one degrees this afternoon. The sun was shining, earlier, though it’s overcast right now. So far, other than the cloudiness, there’s no sign of it. I guess I could take that to mean the weather forecasters lied to us.
But, I don’t. I’ve seen the weather maps and I know the storm is moving closer. So, I’m as prepared as I can be without knowing the amounts of each we we’ll receive over the coming hours. Right now, there’s little more I can do, but I’d be foolish not to heed the warnings we’ve gotten over the last few days.
Something similar is going on with the big three – climate change, peak oil and economic instability. We’ve been told a storm was headed our way since “The Limits to Growth” was published in 1972. And we’ve had a few storms predicted, over the years, that didn’t amount to what we’d been warned was coming.
For a long time, the storms were relatively minor, at least, in the wealthier economies. Some short recessions here, a little weird weather there, conventional oil peaking in the US, but mostly sunny and warm. We made the switch from a production to a consumer economy; new sources of unconventional oil were found; the weird weather didn’t do too much damage. Easy to hear the warnings and dismiss them as lies.
But the big storm is moving in. Conventional oil peaked worldwide around 2005; unconventional oil is barely keeping up with worldwide demand. The consumer economy got the wind knocked out of it in the Great Recession and with oil prices staying around $100 a barrel of necessity, will never fully regain that wind. The widening effects of climate change reduced the global GDP by 1.2 trillion dollars in 2012 in addition to loss of biodiversity and the costs of sea level rise. In the two fiscal years from 2011 to 2013, the US government spent $136 billion on disaster relief. What the cost of this year’s winter storms and the California drought will be, in terms of lost food and energy production and business losses, we don’t yet know.
We can go on kidding ourselves that the forecasters are lying, that we can have constant growth without consequences, burn fossil fuels without limits and destroy the environment and its biodiversity without cost. But I’ve seen the weather maps. The storms are growing in intensity. We don’t fully know, yet, how these storms will play out, but the potential for catastrophe is real. We were foolish, as a nation and as a world, not to heed the warnings we’ve gotten over the last few years and do everything we could to prepare. Now, all we can do as a country is to adapt, but we can and must prepare as individuals. The time is short. The storm is here. The storm is now.