A dangerous, large-scale feedback loop that promotes wildfires has emerged. Forests, woodlands and grasslands hold much of Earth’s terrestrial carbon. When they burn, more carbon dioxide is released, increasing concentrations in the atmosphere and causing land and sea surface temperatures to rise. This warming increases the likelihood of even more widespread and intense fires and exacerbates the severe weather and sea level rise we are now beginning to experience.
Don J. Melnick, Mary C. Pearl and Mark A. Cochrane. The Earth Ablaze. New York Times. August 8, 2018.
Changes in the greenhouse gas concentrations and other drivers alter the global climate and bring about myriad human health consequences. Environmental consequences of climate change, such as extreme heat waves, rising sea-levels, changes in precipitation resulting in flooding and droughts, intense hurricanes, and degraded air quality, affect directly and indirectly the physical, social, and psychological health of humans. For instance, changes in precipitation are creating changes in the availability and quantity of water, as well as resulting in extreme weather events such as intense hurricanes and flooding. Climate change can be a driver of disease migration, as well as exacerbate health effects resulting from the release of toxic air pollutants in vulnerable populations such as children, the elderly, and those with asthma or cardiovascular disease.
Climate and Human Health, Health Impacts webpage. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. Accessed August 9, 2018.
Humanity’s challenge then is to influence the dynamical properties of the Earth System in such a way that the emerging unstable conditions in the zone between the Holocene and a very hot state become a de facto stable intermediate state (Stabilized Earth) … This requires that humans take deliberate, integral, and adaptive steps to reduce dangerous impacts on the Earth System, effectively monitoring and changing behavior to form feedback loops that stabilize this intermediate state.
Will Steffen, Johan Rockström, et al. Trajectories of the Earth System in the Anthropocene. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, August 6, 2018.
It is now well established that we are increasingly living under the steadily growing power of a climate change dictatorship that we brought into being. The chance to choose a future of greater freedom is gone. This global dictatorship will come to dominate our every waking hour and every aspect of our lives, including our work lives. Our jobs will increasingly be the jobs forced on us by this dictatorship as it works its will on this planet with no concern for any of us.
Note that the “intermediate state” referred to in the Trajectories article is not a restoration to the cooler earth of a century ago. It is a possible state of things that we must work hard to achieve, yet even if we bring this “intermediate state” into being, it will not be benign. It will still inflict much ruin on our lives; it will still force us to create massive numbers of survival jobs that do not create new wealth or enhance our lives. At best these jobs will sustain something close to the level of global human welfare we have now. More likely, given how unwilling humans are to make proactive changes that make life less convenient and comfortable, we will not create the necessary wealth saving jobs fast enough to prevent massive losses of existing wealth.
Across the world, we can expect to see massive shifts in our work lives as the dictatorship of climate change becomes more demanding. Just for starters, we should expect to see many more jobs in these categories of work:
- Monitoring the conditions of the entire earth and initiating counter measures when that “intermediate state” begins to wobble in the wrong way.
- Repairing and replacing wealth that is increasingly lost to the extreme weather events and political upheavals that will necessarily be part of a less hospitable “intermediate state” earth.
- Population control – anger management counselors, psychiatrists and psychologists, prison guards, prosecutors, police officers, soldiers (in regular armed forces, in insurgent armed forces, and in unregulated militias and criminal organizations).
- Medical services – to handle victims of interpersonal violence, political violence, and disease epidemics facilitated by hotter temperatures and more moisture in the atmosphere.
- Construction – to build and maintain sea walls and levies, to reinforce existing structures against more severe stresses, to relocate homes and businesses away from flood zones, and to build border walls to check the flow of desperation driven refugees fleeing from climate change ravaged parts of the world.
- Governmental agencies — to manage and fund the far reaching global responses to climate change crises.
- Manufacturing — to provide equipment and supplies to facilitate all the other workforce changes taking place.
These are some of the most visible global workforce changes coming our way. However, virtually no part of the world economy and no job will be untouched by the increasingly powerful dictatorship of climate change and the demands it is making.