The IPCC report shows there will be no 'getting back to normal' with climate change: economist
The phrase "getting back to normal" is often used in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic, which rages on after having already killed more than 4.3 million people worldwide (according to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore). And it is also a phrase that is heard a lot when people are recovering from climate change-related disasters. But Mark Blyth, a political economist at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, warns that there will be no "getting back to normal" with climate change — and the new IPCC report, Blyth stresses in an article published by The Guardian this week, bears that out.
According to a report by the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the world can expect a lot more floods, heatwaves, hurricanes, tornadoes and droughts if climate change is not aggressively dealt with sooner rather than later. Indeed, the 2021 summer has brought an abundance of disasters, from record flooding in Germany to droughts and wildfires in the western United States to a European heatwave that included a temperature of 119F/47C in Sicily.
The IPCC report, Blyth warns, shows that climate change will require a lot more than minor "green" adjustments.
"Instead of telling us that we need to truly transform the way we live and organize society," Blyth explains, "we will be told that we can still carry on as we were, except perhaps with our fossil fuels and one-use goods replaced with green energy and recyclables. Maybe a bit less air travel, but still 'back to normal' with green edges. This way of thinking is perhaps as dangerous as the climate crisis itself."
The "getting back to normal" rhetoric, Bluth notes, is used with everything from pandemics to recessions. But while pandemics and economic downturns eventually end, Blyth writes, climate change isn't going away.
In other words, COVID-19 will eventually end just as the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918, the Great Depression and the Great Recession ended. But climate change will cause misery for years to come, and pretending that it doesn't exist will only make it worse.
"As well as accepting the facts, it's time to give up on getting back to normal and face the fact that there is no normal to return to," Blyth warns. "As the IPCC report makes clear, there are now only unknown and unfamiliar alternative futures that we can choose from. Embracing that uncertainty, rather than denying it, is the first step to choosing the right one."
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