Eaarth:Making a Life on a Tough New Planet with me on vacation because it's not exactly beach reading. McKibben points out quite cogently that we've already passed the tipping point, climate change isn't something that future generations will have to figure out how to prevent -- it's already happening, and what we need to be doing now is figuring out how to live with the consequences and maybe, if we're incredibly smart and lucky, managing to reverse some of the damage.
Personally, and I hate to be such a pessimist, I'm thinking more and more that the only thing that could cause a significant reversal would be a major plague. The biggest problem for the planet and the other lifeforms we share it with is too many people and not enough resources to go around: not enough food, not enough water, not enough "green" energy. I was watching the news the other day, and Al Jazeera had an interesting report on the food crisis in Mexico: prices are climbing, and it's putting a real squeeze on the populace. Mexico's economy isn't exactly booming -- if it was, we wouldn't have undocumented Mexican immigrants picking onions in Georgia or hanging drywall in Omaha -- so people have become economic refugees. Now multiply Mexico's problem by multiple countries: for example, what got the Egyptians so fired up about getting rid of Mubarek? Rising food prices. The news media made a big deal about huddled masses yearning to breathe free, but the on-the-ground reality was a crap economy and the high price of bread. Desperate hungry people do desperate things.
And why are food prices rising? Climate change. Droughts, floods, and other weirdness. Wheat crops get wiped out in Australia, prices on the global market climb, and people go hungry in countries half a planet away and riot in Cairo.
I've never understood the people who want to argue climate change. What is the downside of behaving as though all those scientists who say it's happening are right? We're stuck with a cleaner, more livable world? We end up with cities that make sense and have decent public transit? We become less dependent on foreign oil?