The Implications of our Action and Inaction

Mankind’s emissions are causing big impacts on earth’s climate and while many of us are focused on what we can do to prevent the situation from getting worse, it is highly like that nothing will be done and severe climate and biologic impacts will continue to reverberate around the world for centuries to come.  Our abject failure to focus on the long-term is the central thesis and mission of the The Long Now Foundation, an educational non-profit established by Stewart Brand. We will post links here to studies, articles and discussions that we find about the long-term implications of mankind’s likely inability to adequately address climate change.

Title, Authors and Summary

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2017 U.S. billion-dollar weather and climate disasters: a historic year in context

By Adam B. Smith, published January 8, 2018 at‘s “Beyond the Data” new feature.

NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) tracks U.S. weather and climate events that have great economic and societal impacts ( Since 1980, the U.S. has sustained 219 weather and climate disasters where the overall damage costs reached or exceeded $1 billion (including adjustments based on the Consumer Price Index, as of December 2017). The cumulative costs for these 219 events exceed $1.5 trillion (emphasis added).

During 2017, the U.S. experienced a historic year of weather and climate disasters.  In total, the U.S. was impacted by 16 separate billion-dollar disaster events including: three tropical cyclones, eight severe storms, two inland floods, a crop freeze, drought and wildfire.

2017 ties 2011 for the highest number of billion-dollar disasters for a single year. 2017 arguably has more events than 2011 given that our analysis traditionally counts all U.S. billion-dollar wildfires, as regional-scale, seasonal events, not as multiple isolated events. In 2017, the U.S. experienced several wildfire episodes that each exceeded $1 billion in losses in central and southern California (i.e., the Tubbs, Atlas and Thomas Fires). The only other year – again, since 1980 – in which the U.S. experienced multiple, separate billion-dollar wildfires was 2003: the Cedar and Old Fires, also in California. [Continue reading this article here.]

Unchecked climate change is going to be stupendously expensive

By Ryan Cooper, published January 15, 2018 in The Week.

“Climate change is first and foremost a threat to human society.  That fact has been somewhat obscured in regular discourse, in favor of a false dichotomy portraying climate policy as an upper-middle-class noblesse oblige idea for anxious birders and other environmentalist types, and hardheaded economists who think building up yet more wealth is more important. In reality, one obvious way that threat to humanity is going to be expressed is through economic damage. In other words, unchecked climate change is going to be terrifically expensive.  But we can say the damage is going to be very large — indeed, it’s already quite bad. NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information estimates that 2017 was America’s most expensive year for climate disasters of all time, with 16 disasters costing over $1 billion (more than three times the 1980-2017 average, after accounting for inflation) and a total cost of over $300 billion. That’s about 1.5 percent of total GDP — or enough to pay for a $300 per month child allowance for every parent in America, with some left over.  [Continue reading this article here.]

Consequences of twenty-first-century policy for multi-millennial climate and sea-level change

By Peter U. Clark, Jeremy D. Shakun, Shaun A. Marcott, Alan C. Mix, Michael Eby, Scott Kulp, Anders Levermann, Glenn A. Milne, Patrik L. P ster, Benjamin D. Santer, Daniel P. Schrag, Susan Solomon, Thomas F. Stocker, Benjamin H. Strauss, Andrew J. Weaver, Ricarda Winkelmann, David Archer, Edouard Bard, Aaron Goldner, Kurt Lambeck, Raymond T. Pierrehumbert and Gian-Kasper Plattner, published February 8, 2016 in “Perspective: Nature: Climate Change.”

Most of the policy debate surrounding the actions needed to mitigate and adapt to anthropogenic climate change has been framed by observations of the past 150 years as well as climate and sea-level projections for the twenty-first century. The focus on this 250-year window, however, obscures some of the most profound problems associated with climate change. Here, we argue that the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, a period during which the overwhelming majority of human-caused carbon emissions are likely to occur, need to be placed into a long-term context that includes the past 20 millennia, when the last Ice Age ended and human civilization developed, and the next ten millennia, over which time the projected impacts of anthropogenic climate change will grow and persist. This long-term perspective illustrates that policy decisions made in the next few years to decades will have profound impacts on global climate, ecosystems and human societies — not just for this century, but for the next ten millennia and beyond.