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even more to the thought of what may happen to the Earth. Perhaps the
greatest help to our narcissism in the face of global warming is the air
conditioner: evidently, as long as we are assured we'll be able to live in
a relatively comfortable indoor temperature in perpetuity, we sense that
there is nothing much to worry about.
This version of the near future may seem surprisingly plausible.
Perhaps even if the seas rise, the planet warms, and vast portions of the
Earth are devastated by climate change, wealthy people living in some
places will live in circumstances not entirely different from what they are
used to. If they wish, they might well ignore the bad news arriving from
around the country and the world—at least for a while. They might even
dismiss the changes to the climate of their region, the dying forests on
nearby mountains, the shrinking local rivers, and the new vulnerability of
many plants, birds, and animals that live in their vicinity. But eventually
they will find it difficult to ignore the dust storms that may result from
the drying of vast regions; the dwindling water supply; the much harsher
snowstorms, rainstorms, tornadoes, hurricanes, or windstorms; the occa-
sional severe floods (surprising, no doubt, given the general drying of the
landscape); or the landslides and avalanches in nearby terrain.
But natural disasters will only be part of the story. The slow devasta-
tion of ecosystems around the world will eventually take its toll. We are
not likely to welcome the consequences of stress to agricultural regions,
leading to rising food prices; nor of stress to the local water cycle, result-
ing in a lower water supply and perhaps water rationing; nor of global
warming itself, causing occasional summer days with brutally high tem-
peratures. We will not be happy that climate change will cause long-term
difficulty for many industries, including fishing, forestry, tourism, and
outdoor recreation, and will impose immense costs on regions recover-
ing from natural disasters. Nor will we be pleased when climate change
begins to eat away at the nation's economic growth rate—or more likely,
cause a perpetual negative growth rate, forcing us into a permanent and
devastating Climate Change Depression. It will be especially challenging
to deal with these and other difficulties while also helping an increasing
number of retirees meet their monthly expenses and pay for their medi-
cal care. Moreover, the consequences of international chaos on ordi-
nary lives might be painful as well. When nations begin to enter severe
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