Deep Adaptation to Climate Change

cherry tree in my parent’s backyard

Last Sunday I met with a new friend, Bnaya, to talk about Jem Bendell’s paper »Deep Adaptation: A Map for Navigating Climate Tragedy” (link to PDF with my highlights). I want to share here what I took away from that because it inspired thought for me and I would like to hear what you all are thinking about this.

Jem Bennett is making the argument that not enough people in the sustainability field are discussing the possibility that it is too late to avert environmental catastrophe. He is calling for the immediate start of preparations for society’s adaptation to a post climate collapse world and setting requirements for how such adaptation could be successful.

He shows how research from the past five years is indicating that actual observations in climate data are missing estimates made in the 90s on the bad side:

Seventeen of the 18 warmest years in the 136-year record all have occurred since 2001, and global temperatures have increased by 0.9°C since 1880 (NASA/GISS, 2018).

The warming Arctic has led to dramatic loss in sea ice, the average September extent of which has been decreasing at a rate of 13.2% per decade since 1980, so that over two thirds of the ice cover has gone.

Given a reduction in the reflection of the Sun’s rays from the surface of white ice, an ice-free Arctic is predicted to increase warming globally by a substantial degree. Writing in 2014, scientists calculated this change is already equivalent to 25% of the direct forcing of temperature increase from CO2 during the past 30 years

One of the most eminent climate scientists in the world, Peter Wadhams, believes an ice-free Arctic will occur one summer in the next few years and that it will likely increase by 50% the warming caused by the CO2 produced by human activity (Wadhams, 2016).

The resulting changes are much greater than what was predicted in previous climate models. The impact of these changes is already felt today in increased frequency and strength of storm, drought and floods.

Climate change has reduced growth in crop yields by 1–2 percent per decade over the past century

Changes in oceanic climate has caused half of all coral reef’s to have died in the past 30 years. While these are particularly delicate, global fish populations are also at risk. At this point an impact on human nutrition will be caused.

[Models] predict a decline of normal agriculture, including the compromising of mass production of grains in the northern hemisphere and intermittent disruption to rice production in the tropics. That includes predicted declines in the yields of rice, wheat, and corn in China by 36.25%, 18.26%, and 45.10%, respectively, by the end of this century.

About half of all plants and animal species in the world’s most biodiverse places are at risk of extinction due to climate change (WWF, 2018).

Bendell goes on to describe how attempts at slowing or preventing the worsening of these changes will probably not be effective enough while there is a certain chance for other events, such as the large scale release of methane from as of yet frozen regions that would accelerate global warming significantly.

But the evidence is mounting that the impacts will be catastrophic to our livelihoods and the societies that we live within. Our norms of behaviour, that we call our “civilisation,” may also degrade. When we contemplate this possibility, it can seem abstract. The words I ended the previous paragraph with may seem, subconsciously at least, to be describing a situation to feel sorry about as we witness scenes on TV or online. But when I say starvation, destruction, migration, disease and war, I mean in your own life. With the power down, soon you wouldn’t have water coming out of your tap.

What should we make of such a horrendous possibility? Bendell is calling for radical hope towards our ability to adapt to situations and problems that we don’t even know yet.

He is asking for:

I am also writing about this on Scuttlebuttw because I feel that offline-first p2p software is the only technological paradigm that would be adaptable to persistently unreliable and potentially fractured infrastructure.

Questions that have arisen for me after thinking about this text and imagining a world in which global infrastructure and virtually infiniwte supply of consumer goods is not a given anymore: