Tell someone the planet is going down the tubes because of climate change, and you might get comments like "it's all a government plot to run our lives" or "it's junk science." A recent Gallup Poll found that "most Americans worry about climate change 'only a little' or 'not at all'about as little as they say they worry about race relations." Some of us, however, worry about it all the time. As Governor Jay Inslee of Washington State has said: "We're the first generation to feel the impact of climate change and the last generation that can do anything about it."
You can't blame folks for avoiding thoughts about rising sea levels flooding coastal population centers, more and worse floods, tsunamis, hurricanes, tornadoes, and droughts disrupting every aspect of life; global conflicts over scarce resources; displaced hordes of people moving across national borders to escape starvation and destitution; and ongoing worldwide living nightmares usually reserved for disaster films. If you're like me, you prefer movies with happy endings.
So what is a global-warming "scaremonger" supposed to do to get people's attention?
Well, as Hippocrates supposedly once said: "Desperate times call for desperate measures." It's time to bring out the heavy artillery and talk turkey. Literally. Here's the scoop: climate change means there is a good chance we are going to pay higher prices, face bigger shortages and maybe even have to do without the food and drinks we have come to regard as true necessities of life.
Listen up, folks. This is serious stuff---worse than the recent collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet. Okay, so why, you ask, are so many of our favorite edibles at such risk? Well, as climate chronicler Bill McKibben has put it: "The planet is melting, drying, acidifying, flooding, and burning in heretofore unseen ways." And all we come up with is "hipster lifestyle choices rather than global game-changers." As the planet's vital signs worsen, the things we enjoy eating and drinking the most will gradually become more difficult and expensive to purchase. Here are some examples:
Coffee: Who among us has not felt the way a famous existentialist philosopher did when he said: "Should I kill myself, or have a cup of coffee?" Sadly, increasing temperatures and pest infestation will cause a reduction in coffee-producing farms. Coffee is going to be scarcer, more expensive and often," a foul-tasting brew."
Chocolate: Most people cannot imagine heaven without chocolate. Unfortunately, we may have to do without it here on earth. As the earth heats up, there won't be enough water during the growing season to produce enough pods needed to make the beloved cocoa bean for "Chocolatida," "our ultimate sweet bounce"! And sugar may go the way of the cocoa bean. What a horrible way to end cavities!
Peanut butter: The average American consumes more than six pounds of peanuts and peanut butter each year. Anticipated increases in temperature will decrease yields of peanuts (as well as, beans, rice, soy andOh, Lordeven popcorn!). So the real questions are: Will the Reese Peanut Butter Cup become a distant memory along with the Hershey Bar, and will the only "Peanuts" with an assured future be a cartoon series?
Pasta: Oh no...pleasenot pasta! If I do not have pasta at least once a week, I freak out. Pasta is made from wheat, which is vulnerable to hot temperatures, and either too much or too little precipitation just like a lot of other crops. Mamma mia! My ultimate nightmare: "The End of Pasta!" Well, I'll just have to drown my sorrow in a glass of good wine.
Wine: %&$#?@! Don't tell menot that, too! Yep. The usual suspects, increasing temperatures and changes in precipitation, will be implicated in diminishing supplies, increased prices, and prospective 'paint-thinner-tasting' vintages. French winemakers are already setting up vineyards in England. Could places like Scandinavia, Germany, Upper New York State and Ontario, Canada replace areas like France, Italy and California as the premier winemaking regions of the world? Yessiree! Swedish Pinot Noir, anyone?
As "Climate Central" has noted, the location of everything vital to human civilization has been determined by the climate we have had over the last 10,000 years. Climate played a crucial role in where we built our cities, grew our food, and got fresh water. The same is true of our ecosystems. "If the climate changes, many of those things-including food and water--- will suddenly find themselves in the wrong place!"
Climate change is a looming threat to just about everything we eat and drink. Our dismal future includes a global threat to grains (read pizza, beer, liquor, televised night football), vegetables (that's French fries, kids), fruit crops (bye-bye, apple pie and strawberry shortcake), livestock and poultry, (Big Macs and left-over Thanksgiving TURKEY sandwiches) and seafood (okay, I'll clam up about the shrimp and the lobsterno pun intendedalthough shortages in that category are threatening us even now).
Considering all this, you may be thinking it's enough to make one want to become a climate change denier. Don't think the thought hasn't crossed my mind. But as astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson has said: "That's the good thing about science: it's true whether or not you believe in it. That's why it works." Well, truth may be good for science, but in this case, certainly not for humanity.
Mannello is a retired former hospital executive and management consultant who resides in Williamsport.