March 6, 2013. Last week at Yale Law School Andrew Guzman spoke about his new book “Overheated: The Human Cost of Climate Change”. Guzman is an economist and lawyer at Berkeley Law School (University of California). He talked about what will happen if we let global warming screw up the climate and his predictions were, shall we say, grim. He said changes in the world’s climates will “kill hundreds of millions of people” and harm the quality of life of “billions”.
He spoke a lot about glaciers. Lots are shrinking or disappearing. Turns out that glaciers are essential parts of the world’s water supply. They are melting at a time of year when the rivers and reservoirs are full, so the water just goes into the sea. Guzman says two to three billion people are facing “water issues” in the next 30 to 40 years.
One of the most threatened places is Bangladesh which relies on glaciers in the Himalayas. Excessive melting in the short run means bigger monsoons. In the long run as the water stays in the sea…drought. Guzman predicts that 17% of the land mass of that low lying country will disappear, making refugees out of 20 million people. He said that there may be ten times that many climate refugees in the world because of climate change and that if every country took in their fair share the U.S. portion would be fifty million, …50,000,000 people! Never gonna happen. Which brought him to the next chapter, the fact that climate catastrophe will cause wars between countries fighting for land and clean water.
As for what should be done Guzman called for a carbon tax to pay for the true cost of fossil fuel use. Unfortunately since the (corporate paid) fossils who run Congress fanatically oppose any taxes the world has real problems. Any realistic proposal on climate has to go a lot further. It ought to include 1) millions of new jobs to replace those that will be eliminated 2) carbon taxes and taxes on the super rich 3) government take-over of the fossil fuel industry, 4) campaigns to reduce travel and the scale of computer data centers. Very extreme? Well, some think “hundreds of millions” of deaths is rather extreme, too.
Footnote. A simple google search came up with this article about Bangladesh where some kids attend school on boats and 500,000 were made refugees on Bangladesh’s biggest island after half of it was “swallowed by rising sea levels”. So the problem is not one “for our grandchildren”.