If the concept of a meter — about three feet — of sea-level rise over the next 100 years is something people have trouble wrapping their minds around …
If “It’s hard to get people excited about that … 100 years is not something that’s on most people’s radar screen …”
Then go up by a factor of three. And give some thought to the possibility of a meter of sea-level rise over 30 years. That prospect is “quite possible, very do-able in the paleo record, and something that the West Antarctic Ice Sheet could do,” says James White, professor of geological sciences at the University of Colorado.
Thirty years. “That’s a mortgage,” says White in explaining the notion of abrupt climate change.
“People can understand that. You buy a place on the beach, and before you get that thing paid off, it’s useless. You can’t insure it, you can’t sell it, you’ve lost your money.”
White explains in a new two-minute Yale Forum video interview that he was approached by a supplier of major air conditioning systems for companies on the scale of Microsoft and Google with the question, “What’s the average high temperatures going to be 40 years from now.”
He explained that customers want to write-off such capital investments over four decades, but if they build for average high temperatures reached over a shorter period … trouble city.
“They need to buy oversized for today so they can adapt to tomorrow.”
Independent videographer Peter Sinclair recorded White, along with a number of other climate scientists during the December meeting of the American Geographical Union in San Francisco, Ca. White was the chair of a recent National Research Council report on abrupt climate change.