CLT and Climate Change
Real Effects on People
“Climate Change” can sound like an abstract concept: the province of scientists and politicians. But there are very real effects caused by weather and climate that bear on real people. Water is the supreme example. Floods and droughts can be so disastrous that we use the term “of biblical proportions” to describe the worst cases. Billions of people live in areas that can, and very possibly will, be terribly affected by either flood or drought as local climatic conditions change. Over-development, aggressive irrigation, deforestation, and land reclamation at or near sea level are all problematic if natural systems do not bend to man’s will. They rarely, if ever, do. Related to drought is the threat of fire. Worldwide, ecosystems that supply water to billions of people are vulnerable to climate-related matters, such as hot, dry conditions spurring fires of biblical proportions. More than 60% of the water supply for the world’s 100 largest cities originates in fire-prone watersheds — and countless smaller communities also rely on surface water in vulnerable areas. Billions of individual humans, real people, at risk. If water supplies are severely disrupted, millions of people can sicken and die in a short time. Shifting coastlines, along which a very large percentage of humans live, require massive programs and expense in response. Such overwhelming changes at the societal level produce stresses that likely will lead to national and international conflicts. People “immediately link [water woes] to climate change,” … but economic and population growth “are the biggest drivers,” says Rutger Hofste, a data scientist at the Washington, D.C.–based World Resources Institute. Water use to support human populations has increased by 150 percent, from 1,888.7 cubic kilometers in 1961 to 4,720.8 cubic kilometers in 2014, an analysis found.
Some point out that changes wrought by climate fluctuations are a natural phenomenon, and they are correct. The earth and its ecosystems are quite adaptable. In thousands or millions of years, change is absorbed. But, on the human scale, such timeframes are not relevant. The above metric illustrating the people problem took fifty-four years, not a thousand years. The earth will adapt, but how will humanity fare?