Planning for Our Climate Future

Today I listened to a report on the impact of climate change on allergies in adults and children as a result of increased temperatures, changing moisture patterns, and accelerated growth and distribution of pollen to generate the symptoms of allergic reactions never before experienced. I am an example myself, this year for the first time, suffering from runny eyes, nose, and sneezing fits that can only be explained by unusual extreme climate phenomenon.

I have resolved to waste no more time trying to counter the indifference of climate deniers whose blind biases are forever revealed as uninformed and or otherwise motivated by a self-interest that disables them from dealing with these very real changes in our environment and how, as a result, we must live. Climate is, as President Obama affirmed in his recent visit to Alaska and the Arctic, "the defining issue of our time."

"Climate impacts and imperils on human and ecosystem health, food systems, energy production, the economy, geopolitics, and the future of storms, floods, droughts, wildfires, and other extreme events." So writes Dr. Paul Andrew Mayewski, Director of the Climate Change Institute at the University of Maine as an introduction to an innovative framework for climate futures planning, "a transformative mechanism and platform for assessing and quantifying climate change, vulnerability, impacts, and opportunities that transcend models and predictions to take form as locale-specific, plausible scenarios that go beyond standard linear predictions."

Dr. Mayewski knows whereof he speaks: he built the Climate Change Institute around deep ice cores and other samples extracted from the Arctic, Antarctic, glacial mountain ranges, lake sediments, and human artifacts, augmented by environmental monitoring systems, and analyzed in the lab to reveal their chemical make-up and the relative volume and speed at which over time the atmosphere has changed and revealed evidence of emissions and deposits that are singular proof of accelerated change, especially in the last one hundred years, now become manifest in everything we see around us from parched fields to empty streams to drinking water shortages to a sudden increase in ragweed pollen and allergic reactions.

But the Institute has gone beyond the simple collection of data to create a powerful software that relates inputs and products to applications and communications, overlaying analyses of physical climate, air quality, and boundary conditions to assess impact, magnitude, and rates of change and to relate them to plausible scenarios, plans, and case histories that meet the immediate responsive needs of organizations and communities of any scale.

The breadth of the data and its analytical potential can be applied to problems in "climate reconstruction, changing human impacts, prediction, monitoring, advances in technology and cyber-infrastructure, applied information transfer, adaptation and sustainability, and natural climate impacts on humans and ecosystems," writes Dr. Mayewski. The point here is that the information derived from research and comparative study can be put to practical application in the planning of specific response to specific circumstance and the invention of new technical methods, new organizational structures, new political and economic management, and new social applications that will make a significant difference in our successful adaptation to the problems we now face.

If we deny a complicated problem, then it is quite easy to ignore a complicated solution. We can deny the science, but it is precisely the alternative inquiry that has led us to the achievements that have characterized the beneficial growth of the modern age. But when the science tells us the old ways have reached a level where their consequence corrupts their benefit, then we should capitalize on that evidence to plan what will take us to an alternative, continuing or greater achievement. If climate is the defining issue of our time, how can we ignore or stand outside its definition? If ignorance is the rejection of meaning, then why would we choose meaningless as a certain way toward collapse and failure? The application of good science is the only way forward; the Climate Change Institute and the many other scientists and projects directed toward understanding, planning, and the application of knowledge are more than our best hope forward.

Let's deny the deniers, use science to guide us, and get on with the future.