When Is It Time to Retreat from Climate Change?

When Is It Time to Retreat from Climate Change?

Will communities try to hold back the waters or move people away?

Are citizens and scientists and politicians underestimating climate change’s potential existential threat?

From the very first time we become aware of the concept of surviving and playing to win, parents and mentors coach us to “never underestimate the competition,” and become seduced by overconfidence and complacency. As we gain experience, we learn (sometimes the hard way) this simple maxim is true. We know that:

  • smart business professionals never underestimate their competition
  • smart military leaders never underestimate their enemies
  • smart coaches never underestimate the other team
  • smart politicians never underestimate the other candidate

So, a smart scientist should never underestimate the randomness and power of planet earth and the potential existential threats that can arise, such as climate change. History shows, we do so at our peril!

The Geography of Risk: Epic Storms, Rising Seas, and the Cost of America’s Coasts
by Gilbert M. Gaul

So the BIG QUESTION is, when is it time to retreat from climate change?


  • climate change is getting too big and complicated to reliably model and solve
  • climate change is going to create a cumulative disaster recovery bill that we cannot realistically afford
  • only a few Americans believe nations can solve the problem together in time, and
  • most Americans are unwilling to change their behavior in any event; then,

Are we better off to

  • focus our support, energies, and money on a long-term strategy to adapt to the inevitable warming of Planet Earth, while also
  • mitigating the destructive sources of climate change?


Big Picture

Big Picture / Earth / Envelope / Weather / Climate: the aggregate of weather / Climate change / Retreat


Existential Risk Does Not Touch Us

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