We’re not doing enough to prevent catastrophic climate change. We need, therefore, not just to continue to reduce our carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions, but also to adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change and to enhance our resilience to climate-related shocks.
Climate change will affect different parts of the world in different ways. Here in Somerset, we’re probably more fortunate than most. It’s likely to get warmer in the summer and wetter in the winter, and we’ll probably have more adverse weather events, but fundamentally the place will still be habitable.
Unfortunately, though, sea level rises mean that quite a lot of it will be underwater. This will lead to many of the county’s residents being displaced from the low-lying areas of the ‘levels’ (which are essentially a drained coastal wetland) to the higher-up hilly bits. It will also play havoc with most of our local infrastructure.
My bigger concern, however, is the impact that climate breakdown will have on the national and international infrastructure networks and supply chains upon which we have come to rely. The chance of these surviving intact in a world of two degrees of warming – let alone four or six degrees or more – is remote.
I wrote a little while back about the ‘zones’ within which we can take action to combat climate breakdown: personal, household, community and society. The community zone is the key for me here, because it represents the scale at which we can adapt to climate change and build a resilient local infrastructure for the future.
What does this local infrastructure look like? I’m not quite sure yet, but I think that, as a minimum, it needs to include:
- a way of providing us with safe fresh water and of treating waste water and sewage;
- sufficient mixed agricultural farms, market gardens and other food producers to provide us with enough to eat;
- sustainable sources of fibre and other raw materials to allow us to make clothes, build houses, etc.;
- means of generating energy from renewable sources; and
- a local economy that offers meaningful work for anyone who wants it and allows us to meet our collective needs.
This may mean that we need to think differently about our lives and to do things differently on a day-to-day basis. We may need to value manual labour more than we do currently, for example, and to develop new skills, to use fewer resources and to find joy in the more simple aspects of our existence.
I’m not saying, though, that we need to go back to living like peasants in the Middle Ages. We’ve come a long way since then in terms of our understanding of science and technology. And we can use our skills, knowledge and expertise to create a climate-adapted and climate-resilient future. A techno-peasantry for the twenty-second century, if you will.
We also need to think about the scale at which we do all of this. The small market town in which I live is, in my view, about the right size to be self-sustaining in most respects. But there are some things that it won’t be able to do on its own, like provide complex medical care or undertake scientific research.
For things like this, we’d need to collaborate with other communities. And there are still things that will work best if organised at a national level, like foreign policy and national defence. Other things, like policing, I’m not sure about. I think I’d tend towards a local solution, but with some form of national framework to ensure fairness and consistency.
But all of these things have long lead-in times. Some will take years, some will take decades and some will take generations. Which means we can’t wait until the **** hits the fan before we start thinking about them. We need to take action now to create the strong and resilient communities that we’ll need in the future.
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