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CoastLine: Orrin Pilkey on surviving climate change catastrophes

Climate change is coming for life on earth – in the form of floods, more severe and destructive storms, drought, ocean acidification, marine and terrestrial heat waves, water supply problems, air pollution.  The list goes on, but humans can adapt, mitigate, and maybe even survive.

That's the focus of Dr. Orrin Pilkey's newest book, Escaping Nature: How to Survive Global Climate Change.

“Humanity has entered a nasty, brutish Hobbesian world where rising seas will drown the world’s coastal communities, parts of the Earth will become too hot for humans to live, and millions of climate change refugees will pour into the United States, Canada, and Europe, straining food, water, and energy supplies as well as human compassion.”

And so begins Orrin Pilkey’s newest book, Escaping Nature: How to Survive Global Climate Change. Pilkey, along with half a dozen co-authors, lay out the coming catastrophes, floods, drought, heat – both marine and terrestrial, more frequent and severe storms, air pollution, sea level rise, ocean acidification.

Dire warnings about the impact of climate change have become ubiquitous. The New York Times reports that “Demand for electricity, which has stayed largely flat for two decades, has begun to surge…”

“To meet spiking demand, utilities,” including in North Carolina, “are proposing to build dozens of power plants over the next 15 years that would burn natural gas.” If these plans go forward, the Biden Administration will fail to meet its 2035 goal of a carbon pollution-free power sector.

According to CBS News, “nearly half of all U.S. homes are threatened by extreme weather conditions.” These are the conditions Orrin Pilkey writes about in Escaping Nature: flooding, high winds, wildfires, heat, and poor air quality.

Mongabay is reporting that both white and black African Rhinos are threatened by climate change. As their habitat becomes hotter and drier, scientists say rhinos will seek relief in areas inhabited by humans, forcing more confrontations and potentially, more threats from poachers.

Climate change is even affecting ice fishing and maple syrup season.

Even air pollution makes being outdoors a riskier prospect, as particulate matter exacerbates heart and lung issues and makes us “stupider”, according to Pilkey.

Pilkey’s 2024 book, Escaping Nature, would be a bleak read, indeed, if not for the resources helpfully labeled, “what to do.” On this edition of CoastLine, we learn strategies for adapting, mitigating, and educating ourselves. We hear about promising research that scientists are working on for global adaptation.

Dr. Orrin Pilkey is Emeritus James B. Duke Professor of Earth and Ocean Sciences at Duke University and author of more than 45 books.