Plan Z

Thomas Homer-Dixon’s Op-Ed in the NYT, reads like a dystopic novel about potential climate shocks. Famines! Floods! Mudslides! Droughts! Pandemics! War!

He is also very sanguine about the political reality and social resistance to changing behavior in the face of incremental danger – humans are just plain stubborn creatures that just don’t like to change.

Policy makers need to accept that societies won’t make drastic changes to address climate change until such a crisis hits. But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing for them to do in the meantime. When a crisis does occur, the societies with response plans on the shelf will be far better off than those that are blindsided. The task for national and regional leaders, then, is to develop a set of contingency plans for possible climate shocks — what we might call, collectively, Plan Z.

So what is our Plan Z?

…Plan Z would address many critical questions: How fast could carbon emissions from automobiles and energy production be ramped down, and what would be the economic, political and social consequences of different rates of reduction? Where would we find the vast amounts of money needed to overhaul existing energy systems? How quickly could different economic sectors and social groups adapt to different kinds of climate impacts? And if geoengineering to alter earth’s climate — for example, injecting sulfates into the high atmosphere — is to be an option, who would make the decision and undertake the operation?

The one existing ‘Plan Z’ that Homer-Dixon cites is from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, “Responding to Threat of Climate Change Mega-Catastrophes.” I’ll try to post my thoughts about that report once I’ve read it.

Lester Brown’s Plan B 4.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization [PDF] is one attempt at creating a roadmap towards a future where we won’t need a Plan Z…


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