One of the climate scientists I've dealt with in recent years is Camilo Mora, head of the Mora climate lab at the University of Hawaii. Mora's team made the papers in 2014 when it published a paper predicting a climate change phenomenon, "climate departure," would bring an abrupt and dramatic change to how we experienced climate change. It's a point at which you move from an historic climate with plenty of variability into a new climate that has only one setting - "hot."
Most of Canada will pass the climate departure threshold by 2047. We'll be among the last and least impacted. The first areas to feel the sting of climate departure will include some Caribbean and Central American nations and that's expected to start around 2023.
Mora was born and raised in Colombia but received his university degrees in Canada and the United States. It is his Third World upbringing, however, that allows him to give us an understanding of what climate change will mean to less advantaged countries. With any luck we might stop taking this threat seriously and appreciate what we stand to lose through complacency.
From YaleEnvironment 360, July, 2014:
I grew up in a country where there has been a long history of violence. We have been in war for 50 years, and one thing people don’t realize is what it means to be in a place where anyone can get shot at any moment, where people are starved to death, where there is not enough food to feed people. In the first world, people don’t know how rich they are, and they don’t realize what is happening in the rest of the world. And for me that’s a driving force. It’s scary to think about climate change because when we start damaging physical systems and the carrying capacity of physical systems to produce food, people will react to this in a terrible way. I’m telling you, I have seen it in my own country. It’s very negative the way in which people react to hunger. And that’s one of the things that’s most frightening to me with this large-scale analysis — the fact that I know we’re on our way to some very disturbing scenarios if we go down this pathway of damaging physical systems in the ways that we are today.Mora and his team have not been afraid to break an informal taboo among many climate scientists - overpopulation. He published a paper on overpopulation in the journal, Ecology and Society.
Well, it’s paramount because people need food. And the planet is limited in the amount of resources that it can produce. We already have calculated that the planet has on the order of 11 billion hectares that can be harvested in a sustainable manner. Of course we can increase the number by increasing technology, but that’s been happening for the last three decades. The worldwide population is 7 billion people, and we know that to sustain a human being you need on the order of two hectares per person. That means that the world human population every year consumes on the order of 14 billion hectares. The planet only has eleven to give to us. Every year, we consume in excess of three billion hectares. What I’m suggesting is to inform people about the environmental and social costs of having a child. And for governments to allow people those choices. Today we have on the order of 200 million women who want access to family planning that don’t have it. So for me the solution is right there.
It seems amazing, but friends of mine recommended to me not to publish that paper. They said, “This paper is going to be damaging to you. You don’t get it. You don’t need it.” What is remarkable, though, is that after the paper got published, I had multiple people calling me to endorse it.The callers endorsed Mora's paper but not publicly.
No, just to me. This is really the problem. But why we don’t take it on? I have no clue. Because the data are very clear. I guess the problem is that it can backfire. We have seen, historically, situations in which a scientist has taken on an issue and there are people who have been fired, or attacked by interest groups. So I guess the problem is fear of retaliation.We need to heed messages like Mora's. We need to absorb his science in an effective way and start incorporating all of this knowledge in our planning and policy-making. But we don't have time for that. Our leaders are engrossed in the pursuit of perpetual, exponential growth. They boast of what they've done and where they want to take us, heedless of the costs and the risks they will bequeath us in the years to come.
Major climate change will unfold in the course of the 2020s. That has already begun. How will we respond? Will we be grateful it's them and not us? Or will we act like we're grateful we have a little more time and begin restructuring our society to meet reality?