First-world climate change problems


One of the cruelest ironies of global warming is that a problem largely caused by wealthy countries will be predominantly felt by the world’s poorest. Whether it’s coastal flooding in Bangladesh or deserts expanding across Africa, these consequences can seem distant to those lucky enough to enjoy the air-conditioned automobiles and factory-farmed meat of the global north. But 1 percenters won’t go completely unscathed. Here are five ways climate change will affect the lifestyles of the rich and comfortable in coming years.

1. Bumpier flights: A study recently published in Nature Climate Change finds that “climate change will lead to bumpier trans-Atlantic flights by the middle of this century.” In addition to spilled drinks and white knuckles, the effect is likely to increase the number of flight delays and — to make matters worse — increase emissions from airlines. Buckle your seat belts.

2. Bad breaks: Researchers looking at potential impacts on Australia’s famed surfer’s paradise, the Gold Coast, found that under the worst-case scenario — a 16-foot sea-level rise over the next century — no “amount of planning would enable the city to survive as a coastal resort.” Even a three-foot rise would cause “periodic crises, growing uncertainty and public unease.” Surf’s up — forever.

3. Slippery slopes: A study by Canadian geographers Jackie Dawson and Daniel Scott predicts that more than half the 103 ski resorts in the northeastern United States might not have enough snow to sustain a 100-day season by 2039. The outlook isn’t much better in the Rockies. But it’s not all bad news for rich sporty types: In a 2006 study, Scott and colleague Brenda Jones predicted that global warming could lengthen the golf season at some Canadian courses by up to seven weeks by the 2020s.

4. Pricier pinot: Few industries are as sensitive to weather changes as winemaking. A study in the journal of the National Academy of Sciences predicts that some wine regions could see the amount of land suitable for viticulture decrease up to 73 percent by 2050 due to global warming. But maybe that’s OK: By then, the Arctic could have the climate of Bordeaux. Cote de Sibrie, anyone?

5. Caviar killer: A 2012 heat wave, likely associated with climate change, killed some 40,000 shovelnose sturgeon in Iowa in a single week. With their eggs highly sought after for caviar, the dead fish represented a loss to the Iowan economy of nearly $10 million. Of course, the truly well-heeled would never stoop to eating Midwestern caviar, but with a U.S. import ban on Black Sea beluga due to overfishing, they might have to: It’s getting harder and harder to find the good stuff.

Joshua E. Keating writes the War of Ideas blog for Foreign Policy, where he is associate editor.

© 2013, Foreign Policy

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