Y2K and the Climate Change Deadline

Threats without deadlines don't mean much to some people.

by Eric Holdeman / April 17, 2019

Why do something today, that can be put off until tomorrow, or next year, or next decade? Slow-onset disasters are not motivational for the majority of people living today. If you are thinking about next week, you might be called a futurist!

It was what I loved about Y2K and the threat to our information telecommunications systems. There was an absolute deadline. I imagine it played out something like this (and I lived through it). A senior manager or CEO reads an article or watches a television show on the topic that outlines the problem. The next day, s/he asks their technology department if the company or government agency might have this problem? The answer is, "Well, yes." Then the question is, "What do we need to do to fix it, and how much will it cost?" "Gee, that seems like a lot of money, is there any other way around the issue? No, OK, then fix it — if it is going to be that bad." Thus, Y2K was fixed via the actions of tens of thousands of different organizations all taking action individually and collectively. 

Fast-forward to 2019 and we have these warnings about the impacts of global warning to our natural and human-built worlds. See this podcast, How Climate Change Threatens Humanity. These warnings come with some "deadlines" that we must act by 2030 "or else" we will have lost the battle to save humanity and the planet. The problem is that there are counter-messages out there, most coming from the Republican Party, which has become a party of climate change deniers. 

See this To the Point podcast, The ‘Smoking Gun’ of climate change in the Arctic, which highlights how what happens in the Arctic impacts more than polar bears. There is also the history of how the Republican Party became the home of anti-science climate deniers. It is pointed out in both of the linked podcasts that even the oil industry acknowledges climate change and the carbon link to it. In fact, they understood the climate risks, and the profit risks that they face because of climate change. 

The deadlines that are being drawn up today can feel a bit arbitrary to me and many others. We don't have the definitive date of 1999 upon which there was hard undeniable facts upon which to make decisions. There are facts, there are studies, there are trends, there are disasters, there are forecasts, but impacts are not as "in your face" as Y2K was. 

Thus we will muddle along, much like the city of Miami, making half-hearted efforts to stem the immediate impacts of coastal flooding on sunny days, while ignoring the longer-term forecasts and allowing the continued construction in areas that will be within one lifetime uninhabitable.

There is a Bible verse that is often misquoted. People will say, "Money is the root of all evil," which is not an accurate quote. The actual verse says, "The love of money is the root of all evil," and I'll add, today it is the cause of all the evil associated with climate deniers. Let's not let facts and the future get in the way of making a buck today!

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