Can we afford to be surprised? - "Hot, hot, hot"

2023-01-14 Personal Environment Politics Thoughts

6 years ago I wrote a blog post to express that my wife loves me for a lot of different reasons and that there is no reason to be surprised about the climate change that we are experiencing.

Note: If you do not know, why there is a picture of a microwave here, you need to read the first blog post.

I am compelled to write about it again.

Mainly because it did not get better. It got worse. And I do not mean the climate change. That was to be expected (at least by some of us).

No, I mean the level and extend of surprise that people express when they talk to me about the weather.

I think this is dangerous, because every time somebody comes to me and says (for instance) Wow, last week it was so windy (every day and every night) I could hardly sleep there are a couple of implicit suggestions expressed.

First, it is suggested that this is surprising.

Second, it is suggested that there is nothing that you can do about it.

And third, it is suggested that this will not get worse.

With this, people end up in a head space, where they feel that they are helpless and that they are victims of the circumstance and that they had nothing to do with creating the problem in the first place and therefore are also not on the hook to deal with the consequences.

It also creates a/the risk that people will get really frustrated when this gets worse (and it will) and will start to affect them personally (e.g. properties loosing value (because they are in exposed/risky areas (wind, water, wildfire, …)), climate migration becoming a reality, …).

Personally I am actually encourage by a shift in the climate change debate that I have observed in the last 6 years. Yes, we are still talking about all the things that we need to do to stop climate change from getting worse in the next ~30 years (and to ultimately stop it). But on top of that we have now started a very meaningful, realistic, not head-in-the-sand conversation about how to live with the every day consequences of climate change while we are working to stop it (or maybe sooner or later even reverse/fix it; side note: Let’s not believe that we cannot stop/reverse/fix it. I know at least one example that shows that we can stop/reverse/fix things like this).

The corresponding field of research is called Climate Change Adaptation. It researches all the technologies and all the politics and all the laws we want and need to put ourselves into a position to survive the consequences of climate change while we are working to stop it. The aim is to go through this phase with the smallest loss of life possible (e.g. how do we build and run and finance (air-conditioned) climate shelters for the elderly in southern European countries so that they can survive the hottest weeks of the summer(s)).

For me that means that I have now two options available to me: I can either get engaged with the effort to stop climate change in 30 years from now or (if this is just too frustrating and not tangible enough) I can start to learn about all the things that we can and need to do to live (as good as we can) with the consequences of climate change.

There are lots of good/encouraging examples for things that are happening right now that will help us to live better with the consequences of climate change. Some of them are small, maybe more technical in nature. Some of them are big and global and maybe more political in nature.

One good, first step here was to recognize (at COP27) that it is not good/right that the countries that are affected by the consequences of climate change the most have to cover/carry all the cost of these consequences by themselves (e.g. it is not the fault of Pakistan that their country is drowning and all the crops are lost).

One other good example/thing (in my opinion) that is happening right now is that we are getting close(r) to formalizing the status of climate refugees. So … for instances: Today we find solutions for all the refugees that have to leave the Ukraine because of the war. And these refugees have rights. I predict (and hope) that in 5 years from now finding solutions for climate refugees will be as normal as it is today for war refugees. And I hope that they will get/have rights too.

I think my ask is: If you cannot get engaged with the effort to stop climate change (because you feel it is too big and too far away and you cannot make a difference anyway), then get engaged and involved in the effort to help us live with it as good as we can.

One way to get started is to educate yourself about what is going to happen in the next 5-10 years and prepare yourself so that at least yourself will not be surprised (and get frustrated).

And no, we cannot afford to be surprised. Surprise creates in-action and frustration, because it leaves you with a felling of not knowing and not understanding what is happening and/or why it is happening.

A better place to be in is not only to understand what is happening right now and why it is happening, but also to understand what will happen in the next 5-10 years and to help yourself and others to get ready for it.

Let’s get ready … together.