Essay by Eric Worrall
“… Unable to adapt to increasingly extreme conditions, millions – or even billions – of people will need to move. …”
BBC: “Is the world ready for mass migration due to climate change?”
By Gaia Vince 18th November 2022
With up to three billion people expected to be displaced by the effects of global warming by the end of the century, should it lead to a shift in the way we think about national borders, asks Gaia Vince?
Borders define our fate, our life expectancy, our identity, and so much more. Yet they are an invention just like the maps I used to draw. Our borders don’t exist as immutable facets of the landscape, they are not natural parts of our planet, and were invented relatively recently.
It can be argued, however, that most of these imaginary lines are not fit for the world of the 21st Century with its soaring population, dramatic climate change and resource scarcity. Indeed, the idea of keeping foreign people out using borders is relatively recent. States used to be far more concerned about stopping people from leaving than preventing their arrival. They needed their labour and taxes, and emigration still poses a headache for many states.
There are, however, true human borders set not by politics or hereditary sovereigns, but by the physical properties of our planet. These planetary borders for our mammal species are defined by geography and climate. Humans cannot live in large numbers in Antarctica or in the Sahara Desert, for instance. As global temperatures increase, causing climate change, sea level rise and extreme weather over the coming decades, large parts of the world that are home to some of the biggest populations will become increasingly hard to live in. Coastlines, island states and major cities in the tropics will be among the hardest hit, according to predictions by climate scientists.
Unable to adapt to increasingly extreme conditions, millions – or even billions – of people will need to move.
My favourite example to refute this nonsense claim is the British colonisation of Australia.
Leaving aside very real issues regarding the mistreatment of Australian Aborigines, consider what the colonisation of Australia represented in terms of the climate change experienced by the colonists.
The colonists, mostly from Britain and Ireland, which experiences an average high temperature 9C to 23C (in the London area), were transported to Sydney Australia, which experiences an average high temperature ranging from 17C (62F) to 26C (78F).
The colonists brought their crops and farm animals with them.
After a few false starts, like planting wheat in Fall, because the people in charge were too ignorant and uneducated to understand that the seasons are opposite in the Southern Hemisphere, the colony prospered. Within a few years Australian colonists were raising the crops and cattle they used to raise in Britain, but in a much warmer climate.
There was one change. As colonists spread North, to even warmer climates, they discovered they had to change their sowing times. For example, if you want to grow Maine potatoes in subtropical Bundaberg, you have to plant them in Fall. Cold tolerant Maine potatoes have no problem thriving in the mild conditions Bundaberg residents call winter, and are ready to harvest in Spring, before the Summer heat arrives.
My point is, global warming is no threat to people living in warm countries. All they have to do if warming occurs, is adapt a little, like the British colonists easily adapted to much warmer conditions in Australia.
What about arguments that global warming is somehow different to moving home? The claim that global warming could bring unsurvivable wet bulb temperatures. Could global warming somehow bring less benign conditions, than the change experienced by people who move house to a warmer country?
The evidence says no. My evidence for this assertion is the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum, which occurred around 55 million years ago. The PETM was a relatively rapid natural warming event, which peaked with temperatures around 5-8C higher than today.
Guess what thrived during the thermal maximum of 55 million years ago? Monkeys. “… True primates appeared suddenly on all three northern continents during the 100,000-yr-duration Paleocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum at the beginning of the Eocene, ≈55.5 mya. …” according to Rapid Asia–Europe–North America geographic dispersal of earliest Eocene primate Teilhardina during the Paleocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum. Much of the world was covered with tropical forests – perfect conditions for tree dwelling monkeys.
Fish also became more abundant during this extreme warm period, contrary to all the alarmism you hear these days about the impact of global warming on fish.
Given how well our monkey ancestors did during the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum, there is no plausible level of global warming which could make significant regions of the planet uninhabitable for tropical species like humans. Temperatures during the extreme PETM warming event of 55 million years ago were within the range of tolerance for our monkey ancestors, so we humans would be able to tolerate a warming event of similar magnitude. If anything, humans are even more heat adapted than our primate ancestors – Teilhardina marmosets were covered in fur.
If a bunch of monkey ancestors with brains the size of a sewing thimble could adapt to the abrupt extreme warmth of the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum, and thrive in a much warmer world than their ancestors experienced, we humans could manage any level of global warming our species is ever likely to encounter.
via Watts Up With That?
November 19, 2022 at 08:52PM