New research in climate science indicates that extreme events, such as heat waves, the collapse of major ice sheets, and mass extinctions are becoming dramatically more probable. Though cuts in rising emissions appear unlikely with the stalled 2015 Paris agreement, University of California San Diego scientists argue that new developments present an opportunity to shift the politics around climate change.
For the first time, scientists can make a strong case that no one is exempt from the extreme and immediate risks posed by a warming world.
The findings were recently published in a Foreign Affairs piece led by Veerabhadran Ramanathan, professor of climate and atmospheric sciences at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, and co-authored with David Victor, a professor of political science at UC San Diego’s School of Global Policy and Strategy (GPS) and director of the Laboratory on International Law and Regulation. They collaborated with Pontifical Academy of Sciences and Social Sciences members Msgr. Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, Partha Dasgupta, and Joachim von Braun.
In the article, the authors outline a variety of grim impacts scientists predict climate change will have on human health and food supply in the near future. But this does represent an opportunity: These same consequences from climate change on developing economies may give rise to the political capital needed to make deep cuts in carbon emissions.
Wealthier economies feeling the heat
Scientists long believed that because wealthier societies had the resources to adapt to a warmer world, that poor countries would suffer more, even though the wealthiest one billion people around the world are responsible for more than 50 percent of emissions. However, Ramanathan and Victor point out that new studies show that the rich are far more exposed than anyone realized—especially to deadly heat.
“Massive fires in Sonoma and Napa, the richest wine-growing areas in the United States, may have a larger political impact than distant crises—just as heat waves in Japan and super-fires in Europe are having a political impact there,” the authors noted.