The $28 Trillion Question: Are We Thankful Enough For Our World to Save it?

Later today, as the majority of Americans break bread with family and friends, we should carefully consider a few things. What, exactly, are we giving thanks for? What, fundamentally, enables the existence of those things? And how much, precisely, are we willing to pay in order for our grandchildren and their grandchildren to be able to give thanks for those same things?

I’m going to skip ahead here and get right to the spoiler. A predictable climate is the root of all prosperity. It is what shapes the seasonal rites of innumerable species, and it is what we’ve built the entirety of human development on. A predictable climate allows us to plant rice in Japan, corn in Iowa, and wheat in Chile, and to expect a harvest some months later. A predictable climate allows us to anticipate storm systems, map ocean currents, maintain trade routes. It informs what we build where, and how. It shapes what we believe; religion and climatology were once the same. Nothing is more central to human culture than a predictable climate.

It is a predictable climate that we should give thanks for today, because without it we most assuredly would not be here. So when you gather ’round the table, hold hands, and thank God or whatever else for blessings big and small, consider the fact that climate change is real. Consider that the cost of past actions is still being tallied, and the check will soon arrive. Consider that the cost will be astronomical no matter how you look at it: either we give up a lot in a hurry or we give up everything down the road. Consider whether you’d like your grandchildren to have anything worth giving thanks for.

I am writing this partially in response to an article posted today on CNN.com and excerpted below. So much research has been done, so many reports released in recent years that agree with the fundamental assertions of the article, that the conclusions it draws are no longer surprising. And yet, still, we keep on keepin’ on. Check out the article, watch the video, and decide for yourself how much the future will cost.

London, England (CNN) — A possible rise in sea levels by 0.5 meters by 2050 could put at risk more than $28 trillion worth of assets in the world’s largest coastal cities, according to a report compiled for the insurance industry.

The value of infrastructure exposed in so-called “port mega-cities,” urban conurbations with more than 10 million people, is just $3 trillion at present.

The rise in potential losses would be a result of expected greater urbanization and increased exposure of this greater population to catastrophic surge events occurring once every 100 years caused by rising sea levels and higher temperatures.

The report, released on Monday by WWF and financial services Allianz, concludes that the world’s diverse regions and ecosystems are close to temperature thresholds — or “tipping points.”

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