Opinion: Climate change puts these readers’ rural towns at risk. Why they want to rebuild: It’s time.
On October 5, 2014, the world’s top climate scientists said that, based on their predictions of global warming, there are three and a half years to avoid catastrophic levels of warming. That sounds pretty ambitious.
But here’s the catch: Scientists also say we’ve got just two and a half years to prevent runaway climate change—that is, a temperature rise of six to nine degrees Celsius (12-16° Fahrenheit) over pre-industrial temperatures. (The latter is within the range that scientists believe we can achieve if we rapidly reduce our carbon emissions.) To achieve that, we need to keep reducing carbon pollution over the coming decades, and this, too, is a formidable challenge.
The global average surface temperature has already risen by between 0.8 and 1.4 degrees Celsius since the mid-19th century, and many climate experts anticipate it will continue to climb, reaching between 3.5 degrees and 5.5 degrees Celsius in the next century.
Climate change, which includes the increasingly common phenomenon of sea-level rise and the associated impact of storm surge, is the second largest challenge facing American business after the country’s crumbling infrastructure, according to a survey released earlier this week by the National Center for Climate Change Adaptation at Columbia University.
The impact on the economy can be dire: in the next two decades, climate scientists predict that costs in the US for adaptation to the effects of sea-level rise will be more than $16 trillion.
“Businesses of different sizes and types will face a number of challenges,” says the National Center for Climate Change Adaptation. “The first [challenge] is to figure out how to adapt to the effects of climate change, as well as to what will be the effects of sea-level rise. The second is to plan for the inevitable changes in the types of businesses they plan to open, the infrastructure they plan to build, the products they will produce, and the customers they will serve in order