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primary challenges, and Dancing with the Stars, our planet is galloping one day closer to real-life Waterworld.

Yesterday on my local listener-supported radio, I heard a powerful & terrifying interview with the author of a book I am now afraid to read.

"The Flooded Earth" by University of Washington professor Peter D. Ward, paints a detailed picture of where we are headed in the not-distant future. If mankind does not change its ways, and quick, the reality of what our planet will look like is not pretty, to put it very mildly.

Hearing the facts about climate change, it is hard for me to watch our current discourse about minor day-to-day trifles when it is so clearly this one, singular issue which will supersede all else unless we turn our full attention to it right now.

The Exploration interview, expertly conducted by Dr. Michio Kaku, was tremendous. If you want to be shaken up a bit, fasten your seat belt and set aside the 38+ minutes it requires (It begins at 21:45 mark).

I can't find a transcript yet, but I did find another interview with Ward done by Thomas Rogers of, who also heaps praise on the book.

Here are a couple tiny snippits from that one.

Why is the rise in sea level really such a huge deal?

There are three big reasons. There are the economics, because sea level rise is going to cost us a whole lot of money. And then there's food, because sea level rise is going to wipe out an unbelievably high percentage of the agricultural areas that we're extremely dependent upon, deltas in particular -- they are, by definition, at sea level and they produce the majority of the rice on the planet.

And then the third thing is people. A 3-foot sea level rise will cause a large part of Bangladesh, for example, to either disappear or be unfarmable, so you're displacing millions of people physically. This becomes way worse when you couple it with the food part of the equation. The number of people on the planet is expected to be 9 billion by 2050 and steadying out at 9.5 or 10 billion by 2100, so you've got one-third more people and maybe 20 percent less food. You do the numbers.

In the book, you argue that some cities, like Venice, are going to have to be abandoned because it will become too costly to keep them dry. What about American cities?

At 3 feet, 4 feet, or 5 feet, you can save New York. But what the city planners never thought about is that so much of their infrastructure is below the ground and none of them have planned for salt water. Salt water is a completely different engineering hurdle.

Some of the very low-lying cities in the San Francisco Bay aren't savable. San Francisco's got high ground, but a lot of Oakland is really low ground and the entire San Jose region is hugely threatened. You can kiss Miami and Galveston goodbye, and those low-lying areas around Houston. All the Gulf cities. New Orleans, of course, is among the most endangered. I think by 2200 each of those will be in the throes of being abandoned, if not already abandoned.

I grew up in S.F. I don't like hearing that it is going to be washed away. I guess after the '89 quake, I have always thought it would persevere against the odds. Such a shame that such beauty will be lost. We'll always have YouTube though:

Market Street will be just have to be renamed Market Stream.

How do you cope with doing this incredibly depressing research? Do you despair?

Here's what I've lately decided: I'm the little kid in "The Sixth Sense" who sees the dead people. I'm getting really sick of being this Cassandra. I mean, it's kind of miserable. I've got a 13-year-old boy and you go through these scenarios like you as I have done and it's pretty upsetting. But on the other hand I try to instill in him that wherever there's challenges, there are opportunities. I tell my kid right now what you can do to save America is to get the best possible education he can and get political.

If I had kids right now, I'm sure my thoughts would be much closer to despair than they are now. Is it selfish of me? I know that by the time I am a crusty old geezer, the results of our current inaction will be painfully obvious to all. And yet, I'll be so close to death it won't make much difference to me.

So I suppose that means it is really up to those with kids. Or those who really care about leaving them a world that can afford them a reasonably comfortable existence.

I find it sad and enraging that the GOP's favorite talking point is about burdening our children with debt. But when the kids of the future will have grow gills, or to learn how to walk on water, their interests are not a big deal.

I'm wondering when places like Daily Kos will begin to truly focus on climate change. How many here have paid attention to the conference going on in Cancun? They are literally deciding the fate of the world right now as you read this.

Sure, every pet issue is important. But unless we deal with this one, all the others are just a drop in the rising ocean tide.

Originally posted to The Laughing Planet on Wed Dec 08, 2010 at 11:49 AM PST.

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