The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

Surviving Climate Change

The news is all bad. You may have seen this graphic already, but it’s worth meditating on.

Climate Trend from NASA

Yes, this year has been breaking records. Every single month has been the hottest on record.

There is a chance we’ve “broken out” from the trend, and will now see full operation of the vicious cycle.

I am going to suggest that readers start taking this into account in their personal lives. Figure out how climate change is likely to effect where you live. It isn’t always obvious or linear (for example, there’s a chance that Europe could enter a cold-free if the Gulf Stream shuts off, and it’s already lost one-third of its strength).

Effects will also include movements of people from the worst affected areas. Is where you are, or are going to be, one of the places they will flee to? Are you in a “global city” where the richer citizens may want an “insurance property” driving up real-estate prices even more?

What do you want to do about this for yourself, your family, your nation, and/or the world?  The answer can be “little to nothing,” but it’s worth thinking on. Pushing for residence requirements for real-estate ownership could save your house or condo, as increased prices will increase taxes. It could also make it possible for your children or other young people to live in the nicer cities where the good jobs are.

Where are the refugee camps going to be set up? Does your country have any realistic possibility of settling refugees fairly rather than in camps?

Are you, conversely, in a place from which people are going to have to flee?

Move before you are required to flee. Really. Take the hit necessary and get out, unless you’re old and without dependents.

Is your area going to run out of water? I recently visited San Antonio, and that city will probably run out of water in a couple decades. It might be able to import enough, but it might not. Water is going to be in short supply all through the south.

As shortages hit, violence will increase. Are you on good terms with the local violent authorities, whoever they are? Dean Ing, the science fiction writer and survivalist, moved to a small town and then made sure to become friends with the police chief and the local base commander.

Are you considering how to get, at least partially, off the grid? Could you eat or drink for a few weeks if there were disruptions? What about alternate heating or cooling arrangements? Do you have a “bugout bag” and a “bugout plan” if you have to leave suddenly? The very basics can be cheaper than one might think.

Some of this may be overblown: yet. But it’s worth thinking this stuff through and making what precautions you can. And remember the rule of surviving bad times and disasters.

Friends and neighbours. Make sure you have friends, locally, and that your neighbours know and like you. People who are well-liked by a lot of people are far more likely to survive bad times than those who aren’t. And having really good friends wherever you may have to flee to, if it comes to that, is wise.

Start cultivating.

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  1. BDBlue

    I have found that it’s very difficult in getting any kind of reliable information about how climate change will affect various areas of the U.S., at least the ones I’ve looked at. We have a small farm in the midwest and when I look up studies about how climate change will affect crops there, it’s just “happy” news – like farming should still be okay with lots of caveats about the possible need for GMOs (which doesn’t sound like it will be okay to me). This was a study funded by the state.

    Do others have difficulty in getting this kind of local info or am I just particularly bad at finding it (very possible)?

  2. Synoia

    There are approximately 160 sewage plants near the coast in the United States. The one in Orange County, CA serves 2.5 million people, about 600,000 homes, and is near the beach in Huntington Beach.

    The first law of plumbing is that shit goes downhill.

    There is no way to relocate those sewage plants, first no land, second how many times will it need to be moved, third where’s the reconstruction money going to come from – collapsing property tax revenues?

    If each plant serves 50,000 people we are looking at potentially 80 to 100 million displaced in the US – to where?

    At 4 people per household that’s 25 Million new homes to be built, for climate refugees with few assets and no jobs, in a country with a dogma of self-sufficiency.

    Northern Europe will become a frozen wasteland (gulf stream failure) and an archipelago. The stream of refugees from Northern Europe will collide with the current stream of refugees from North Africa. The result will be bloody, Europeans are good at blood letting.

    The events are coming in a relentless series of catastrophes. Eventually the rate of occurrence will destroy any civil society, and probably leave 6 Billion or more humans dead. Why this number?

    North America was stable with a relatively small number of Hunter Gatherers (The Indians) for millennia. That’s what sustainability looks like. Similar numbers apply to other parts of the world.

    The appears to be no plan to cope with the coming events, credible or not.

    Trump v Hilary? Hollow laughter.

  3. Synoia

    The straight line projection is not correct. Natural system change based on exponential growth curves, never straight lines.

    It is very optimistic.

  4. S Brennan

    Though I have already moved to such a place and breaking ground on a small house, but I doubt I’ll live to see the apocalypse…and anyways, I need to figure a way to stop the dear from eating my newly planted orchard if I do…when you have a slope of 45 degrees, perimeter fences are not up to the task…sprays…forget about it.

    What the graph below shows is that the heat content of the Oceans is rising, but takes a hiatus in short spurts as it transfers it’s heat to lower levels. Clearly, at some point it will lose this capacity. The ocean trend is clear and the implications? Brutal.

  5. anonone

    Multiple melt-downs of nuclear power plants causing the total contamination of the planet with DNA-toxic levels of radioactivity will ensure the end of all surface life on the planet for a few million years, at least.

    DNA cannot survive constant bombardment of radioactivity, and without intact DNA, long-term stable reproductivity is not possible.

    Have a nice day!

  6. S Brennan

    “there is no argument scientific of otherwise that would change the Greenpeace mind-set about nuclear energy, because it’s not about facts, it’s about keeping the donations rolling in…they have terrorized people into thinking that they will all be glowing in the dark.

    …last year the National Wildlife Federation received a grant from the pro-coal industry Joyce Foundation. The purpose of the $122,000 grant is “to build support in Indiana and Michigan for coal gasification as an alternative to conventional coal-burning power plants

    …National Resources Defense Council is another recipient of Joyce Foundation largess. It has received “a $437,500 grant from the Joyce Foundation to promote carbon sequestration on coal industry’s behalf.”

  7. SumiDreamer

    Another of you A number one postings, Ian.

    Really is time for people to get real while anticipating the unexpected.

  8. kj1313

    Seems like some Texans are taking climate change seriously.

  9. Ian Welsh

    Yes, I’m not expecting straight-line and have been saying I expect “take off” to happen at some point. Mind you, there’s a plateau somewhere, but I have no idea where.

  10. Mischief Girl

    My husband and I recently moved to a place where we are hoping we can live for the next 40 years in relative peace, in exact anticipation of this type of scenario. We moved to a lake, so we will have access to fresh water, we have 20 acres of land (lots of wood for fuel), we’re getting solar panels put on the roof, and are cultivating relationships with the neighbors for friendship and mutual support. In fact, we are breaking ground with one of them in a shared vegetable plot.

    Getting ready for advanced climate change isn’t fun, but we thought it was time to take action, and we’re so glad we did.

  11. different clue

    As Yogi Berra once said: “Prediction is difficult, especially about the future”. All one can do is try to imagine several possible trends going forward, and what trends those trends will lead to.

    For example, if the Gulf Stream shuts down ( according to a Greenland Ice-Melt current-capoff hypothesis describes), then parts of Atlantic Coastal AmeriCanada will get just as cold as Northern Atlantic Europe. And all that heat building up in the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico which can’t escape anymore if the Gulf Stream doesn’t flow anymore won’t disappear from existence. It will build up in the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico itself. Such hotter ocean water will be able to gas off more and hotter water vapor into the air just above it . . . feeding bigger better hurricanes. Or if such hotter wetter air moves over continental Mid-AmeriCanada and meets colder high latitude air head-on, it will breed bigger better thunder superstorms and bigger better tornados. So people living in Hurricane Heaven and Tornado Alley should prepare to withstand bigger better tornadoes, hurricanes and super-flood rain-dump events.
    Weather agencies could help the cause of public awareness and understanding by changing their system for rating tornados and hurricanes at the upper end. Since every interval from “one” to “five” is an equal-length interval . . . but then “five” is simply open ended, the agencies should start adding higher numbers of category by the same interval sizes as between “one” to “five”. We need the language to be able to start speaking of F6 , F7, Fetc. tornados and Cat 6, Cat 7, Cat etc. hurricanes of the future.

    Houses of the future in Hurricane Heaven and Tornado Alley should be made of poured concrete over rebar and metal mesh forms in the shape of low domes or low eggs or whatever . . . with no sharp corners for the wind to be able to grab and dig in.

  12. markfromireland

    Is your area going to run out of water?


    As shortages hit, violence will increase. Are you on good terms with the local violent authorities, whoever they are?

    Yup. I’m on superbly good terms with them.

    Are you considering how to get, at least partially, off the grid?

    Yes – done it.

    Could you eat or drink for a few weeks if there were disruptions?

    Three years. Don’t forget to include medicines and first-aid kit.

    What about alternate heating or cooling arrangements?

    Geo thermal. Backed up by stoves. 3 years wood supply of cured wood already in a barn. If you know how to salt meat or how to smoke it your need for cooling goes right down but is not eliminated. Knowing how to preserve fruit and veg is also essential.

    Do you have a “bugout bag” and a “bugout plan” if you have to leave suddenly?

    Yes to both having them isn’t enough you need to practice them so that if you need to you can implement them almost as routine.

    Friends and neighbours. Make sure you have friends, locally, and that your neighbours know and like you. People who are well-liked by a lot of people are far more likely to survive bad times than those who aren’t. And having really good friends wherever you may have to flee to, if it comes to that, is wise.

    Got all of that see above re: local law

    You also need a good cache of weaponry and now is when you need to train your children and grandchildren in how to use them.

    They also need to know how for example to build and set a simple snare.

    How many people here know how to skin and gut a rabbit? Or a fish? How many know how to make a fire using a flint?

    Depending on where you are it might be a very good idea if they knew how to ride.

    While we’re at it depending on the scale of collapse – work horses something that can do the sort of work that a shire horse can do are likely to be rather more useful, valuable, and rare than horses that are just good for riding.

    I could go on and on – one thing though is that it’s not actually all that expensive. At the very least have a few weeks dried and canned food AND a method of decontaminating water. AND a cooker with enough fuel for whatever period you’re comfortable with.

  13. Ian Welsh

    Hell, I have almost none of this! 🙂 Although I do have a bit more skill living in the wild/rough than most folks.

    But as my finances improve I do expect to take some steps.

  14. Shallel

    You will not survive. Meltdowns and fires at over 400 nuclear plants will occur without water and electricity. If you want to be prepared, store barbiturates and beer.

  15. different clue

    I have no preparations for bugout or several weeks without water/fuel/power. I may already be one of Darwin’s Discards in that respect.

    I do have friends and neighbors in the co-op I live in. I have a garden which I am learning to do more in. I do have lots of canned food of some kinds to share with friends and neighbors in a short-term mutual-survival food-pooling effort . . . if it only has to last a few weeks. One of my friend-neighbors is friends with people in the local police department. Trickle-down safety?

    If I are/were ever in a position to get a real house with a real yard around it, I would/will think of these things when thinking where to get it/ where to live. In which case, I would want to be above the Five Thousand Year Flood level of any river I might be too close to. Same for any lake. Wherever my house is, I would like it designed and armored and yardscaped to withstand a global-warming super-junk rain-dump event. Something like 40 inches of rain in two days. Such rains will happen here and there but hard to say where and when. If I am going to live anywhere in mid-continental AmeriCanada, I would want my house built to withstand 150 mph thunderstorm winds and soccer-ball-sized hail boulders. I would remove any trees growing near enough to my house to fall on it and I would shade the sun-exposed side of the house with wind-tolerant bamboo instead. I would have waterless compost-toilet for waterless pee-poo handling. I would also want locally-socially-acceptable way to deal with the compoo. If neighbors demanded it be incinerated down to mineral ash before putting it on gardens, demonstrate to neighbors that I am doing that. Roofwater harvesting systems able to capture and store thousands of gallons of water every year. More than the personal household use of anyone inside the house. The surplus able to go on the garden. That’s the kind of long range preparations and approaches I would think about for the coming age of Climate D’Chaos Decay setting in.

  16. different clue

    Perhaps Canada should start thinking about building a Beautiful Wall for when millions of hungry thirsty angry Americans try to enter Canada.

  17. markfromireland

    Oh damn, Different Clue beat me to it! Ian, once you’ve got the wall built you can get started on the Canadian Winterfell.

  18. EmilianoZ

    If Trump becomes president that’s gonna be called the “Canschluss”.

  19. markfromireland

    @ EmilianoZ May 16, 2016

    Doesn’t matter who’ll be president the Americans are already casting their eyes on all that water and have been for quite a while.

  20. markfromireland


    EmilianoZ’s comment reminded me. The B.C. “Water Sustainability Act” WTF? I mean really WTF? And that’s before we get into selling water for fracking that comes under WTF²

  21. highrpm

    when beliefs go irrational, the imagination has gone off the rails.

    * jesus christ died for my sins
    * suicide is selfish
    * …

    what are some cases when “throwing in the towel” is a rational alternative?

  22. Dallas Galvin

    Wonderful graph, good article. However, both the article and the comments — and let’s suppose that by some stroke of good fortune, none of the nuclear arsenal, the nuclear power plants, the biological warfare labs, etc. blows either up or out — are predicated on the notion that plant and animal life will continue as before and only we humans will be affected, ergo, we must acquire hunter-gatherer and prime agriculturalist skills while befriending our neighbors. In reality, wild plants, animals, trees, and waterways will be equally affected. They, poor dears, will neither know why these horrors are occurring nor how to regroup to protect themselves and their progeny. Even if they could for a generation or two, the consequences the graph projects increase exponentially. What food supply then? Moreover, ours is a highly industrialized domestic ag. base. That seed and animal stock requires sophisticated fertilizers, pesticides, etc. In other words, I found this a great eye-opener and the comments enlightening, too (thank you, all), but this sounds as childish as the EU’s austerity plans for Greece: a sop here, a finger in the dam there. We are individually responsible for this mess and must individually acquire bugout (glorious term) bags. Larger point though for a world of seven billion is a) this needs not to happen and b) the correctives must be considerably more far reaching than learning how to skin and gut animals.

  23. Steve Gunderson

    I lived in San Antonio over a decade ago. Back then they were all very well aware that continuing to draw water from the Edwards Aquifer was not sustainable. At the same time, attempts to build a water reservoir for the city was defeated in an election because nobody wanted higher taxes.

  24. Ian Welsh


    Canada is run by neo-liberals and has been for a long time. Like since 84 or so. Of that bunch, only Chretien and Martin (together) weren’t short-sighted and fundamentally a bit stupid.

  25. AlanSmithee

    Oh FFS! First – find a transition town, move there and get involved. Here\’s a list of them:

    Second – vote Green you idiots!

  26. Shallel

    Venus is your plateau. The rulers of this world do not care if the world is radioactive and temperate, since they are not human. It is the only logical deduction.

  27. Tagio

    Re: the questions above about how climate change will affect where you are and where are the best places likely to be, the most informative article i have ever read on the topic is by Australian cardiologist and prepper Geoffrey Chia, titled “Location, location, location” published on the Doomstead Diner blog. Chia provides enough info about the various factors that will come into play, including superstorms, that you will have some basis for drawing your own conclusions. That said, i am not a climate scientist and can’t independently vouch for his conclusions. All i can say is that it is a serious effort and the best thing i have found so far. Link:

  28. bob mcmanus

    From doomdsteaddiner above, not having finished the article

    “In general terms, the likely temporal sequence for global collapse is: financial/economic collapse first, resource/oil constraints next and climate issues last.”

    I think he missed the “wars” part in there somewhere.

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