Indigenous people developed deep knowledge about their environment that they built through relationships with land and with place over hundreds and often thousands of years. They have learned how to live off the gifts of the earth and take care of them so that they will be healthy for many generations to come. This knowledge offers another way of seeing and understanding the world, one that is necessary to address climate change. Now scientists, governments and communities are finally recognizing that taking action to adapt to climate change is urgent and an increasing number of people are looking to indigenous knowledge for insight. If you live in a place where indigenous knowledge has been buried under centuries of colonial culture, the idea that you could use it to adapt to climate change may feel vague.
So what does this new paper say? Well, in essence, some very similar things to our report What Lies Beneath: The underestimation of existential climate risks, written with my Breakthrough colleague Ian Dunlop. When that report was first published in 2017, and then expanded in 2018 with a foreword by Prof Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, it had a significant impact, especially in Europe, with German and Slovenian translations, and a front-cover interview with the German energy magazine, Energiewende Magazin (translation here). It was a key document in the successful campaign to have the Club of Rome adopt a climate emergency position, and its subsequent advocacy which morphed into its Planetary Emergency campaign.
Scientists have long warned that time is of the essence to stop emitting greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Now, in a new international report released on Monday, they argue the clock is also ticking on efforts to adapt to the devastating consequences of climate change. Rising seas, scorching wildfires, and devastating droughts already jeopardize billions of people worldwide — these, and other climate impacts, are expected to get much worse over the coming decades. “Any further delay” in global action, the report says, “will miss a brief and rapidly closing window of opportunity to secure a liveable and sustainable future for all.” The new report is the second of three parts of the latest global assessment by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC, a body of leading climate experts from around the world.
During the month of December 2021 two warnings of impending sea level rise were issued by highly respected groups of climate scientists. These are professional scientists who do not deal in hyperbole. Rather, they are archetypical conservative serious-minded scientists who follow the facts. The most recent warning on December 30th is of deteriorating conditions at the Arctic and Greenland. The second warning is the threatening collapse in Antarctica of one of the largest glaciers in the world. As these events unfortunately coincide so close together, one at the top of the world, the other at the bottom, should coastal cities plan to build sea walls? The scale of time and material and costs to build seawalls is nearly overwhelming. In fact, it is overwhelming.