Put simply: Climate change poses the threat of global catastrophe. The planet isn’t just getting hotter, it’s destabilizing. Entire ecosystems are at risk. The future of humanity is at stake.
Scientists warn that extreme weather will get worse and huge swaths of coastal cities will be submerged by ever-more-acidic oceans. All of which raises a question: If climate change continues at this pace, is anywhere going to be safe?
“Switzerland would be a good guess,” said James Hansen, the director of climate science at Columbia University’s Earth Institute. Hansen’s latest climate study warns that climate change is actually happening faster than computer models previously predicted. He and more than a dozen co-authors found that sea levels could rise at least 10 feet in the next 50 years. Slate points out that although the study isn’t yet peer-reviewed, Hansen is “known for being alarmist and also right.”
Okay, so. Switzerland might be a desirable place to live—certainly in general, but also as a way to avoid the effects of climate change—for a few reasons: It’s landlocked, which means it’s buffered from rising sea levels. And officials in Switzerland appear to be taking climate-related threats seriously—which is not the case in much of the rest of the world. The country was the first to submit a contribution to the international climate agreement, promising to reduce its greenhouse-gas emissions by 50 percent by 2030 compared with 1990 levels. (In the United States, for comparison, President Barack Obama’s new energy plan would require a 32-percent cut in carbon emissions by 2030 compared with 2005 levels.) But that doesn’t mean Switzerland is impervious to the effects of climate change. Warmer temperatures mean more melting snow—Switzerland has lots of it—which means higher risks of flooding and rockslides.