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.
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 increase emissions from airlines. Buckle your seat belts.
Bad breaks: Researchers looking at potential effects on Australia’s famed surfer’s paradise, the Gold Coast, found that under the worst-case scenario 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.
Slippery slopes: A study by Canadian geographers Jackie Dawson and Daniel Scott predicts that more than half of the 103 ski resorts in the northeastern United States might not have enough snow to sustain a 100-day season by 2039. But it’s not all bad news for rich sporty types: Scott predicted global warming could lengthen the golf season at some courses by up to seven weeks by the 2020s.
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 okay: By then, the Arctic could have the climate of Bordeaux.
Caviar killer: A 2012 heat wave killed 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 $10 million. Of course, the truly well-heeled wouldn’t stoop to eating Midwestern caviar, but with a U.S. import ban on Black Sea beluga due to overfishing, they might have to.
(Joshua E. Keating, associate editor of Foreign Policy, writes the War of Ideas blog.)