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On Removing My Tweed Jacket at the Start of Lecture...

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A word about this peculiar costume—the closest thing you can get to goretex if all you have is a sheep—that I am now taking off...

Because of central heating, these male formal and semi-formal clothes aren't comfortable these days even in Oxford and Cambridge, England, where they were originally developed. They are really only comfortable in Scotland. That is well-and-good if you teach at the University of Edinburgh or in Glasgow—or, perhaps, in Stockholm, Oslo, Helsinki, or maybe in Washington or Oregon.

It used to be that these clothes were comfortable here in Berkeley. But, because of global warming, the climate here these days is a lot like what I remember Santa Barbara being like half a century ago when I was a child. When I got a job here at Berkeley in the mid-1990s, I looked forward to living in a place in which tweed jackets and such were comfortable both inside and out. The fact that these clothes were actually comfortable here was a factor—a small factor, but a factor. Increasingly, however, that is no longer the case. A problem resulting from global warming, albeit a small problem.

In the United States—for the entire Global North, in fact—global warming over the next century essentially means that the climate March is about 3 miles north each year. There are possible catastrophes involving the disappearance of things like the Rocky Mountain, the Sierra Nevada, and the Cascades snowpack. That does not mean less water falling. That does mean it won't store it up nicely during the winter in a place whjere it will have lots of potential energy and hence be easy to transport. It would expensive but doable for the Global North to deal with things like this for the next century.


Elsewhere are 2 billion subsistence farmers living in the six great river valleys of Asia, from the Yellow all the way around to the Indus. These 2 billion subsistence farmers do not have a lot of money. They do not have a lot of skills. They do not have a lot of resources. They would have a very hard time moving elsewhere and making a living other than as farmers in the six great valleys of river valleys of Asia—the six that have supported most of human civilization for the past 5000 years, and which rely on there being enough snow on the Tibetan and other high plateaus of Asia and that snow melting at the right time at the right speed so that the rivers neither extravagantly and catastrophically flood nor extravagant and catastrophically dry up. That they will do one of these two is, I fear, the big medium-term threat from global warming. What is going to happen to those 2 billion people?

And then there is the short-term threat: a global warming-enhanced typhoon in the bay of Bengal, roaring north with a storm surge toward the 250, million people living essentially at sea level in the greater Ganges Delta. How do we prepare for that? How do we deal with that? What should we be doing now? What will we do afterwards?

Things to think about.

At the moment global warming makes the climate of Berkeley somewhat more pleasant for those of us who do not want to wear tweed. But global warming has other, dire consequences outside Berkeley, in all likelihood in my lifetime, and certainly in yours...