What are the images that you associate with climate change? Are they scenes of wildfires or the devastation wrought by a monster hurricane? The thunderous crash of a glacier calving into the sea? Maybe what comes to mind are floodwaters coursing through city streets, or perhaps this classic: a forlorn polar bear atop a shrinking ice floe.
All of the above are real dangers. But global warming poses another peril harder to visualize, more insidious and, ultimately, more threatening to the stability of human societies. The impact of climate change on the ecosystems that support our ability to grow food should concern us most.
Floods, wildfires, superstorms and sea-level rise driven by climate change will continue to degrade the physical infrastructure of human civilization. And out of necessity, societies will respond by diverting enormous amounts of capital that would otherwise be invested or allocated to the consumption of goods and services. Climate change exacts a tax on our quality of life, a reckoning of the costs hidden in our fossil-fueled lifestyles.