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Ecological and Evolutionary Responses to Climate Change (July 2017): Humans

By Diane P. Genereux and David A. Lovejoy


Humans have the capacity for what is perhaps the most extreme form of plasticity: the ability to make conscious decisions to shift behavior to mitigate the effects of external factors. With this in mind, several authors have considered climate change from a more pragmatic perspective—how can humans, both as a species and as individuals, secure homes and livelihoods in a changing climate? In Climate Change: What Everyone Needs to Know, Joseph Romm embraces the goal to “buy time,” and provides practical predictions as to how climate change will impact the value of coastal properties. In turn, Naomi Klein argues in This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate that capitalism has rendered our species unequipped to undertake the infrastructural changes needed to slow climate change, and that the very future of humanity will be determined by whether or not humans are able to move quickly toward an alternate economic structure. Those more interested in considering climate change and its impacts at a local scale may be interested in Stephen Nash’s Virginia Climate Fever: How Global Warming Will Transform Our Cities, Shorelines, and Forest.

Those willing to consider the term evolution as encompassing shifts in social norms may also be interested in Stephen M. Wheeler’s Climate Change and Social Ecology: A New Perspective on the Climate Challenge, which argues that a problem so large and complex as climate change will require fundamentally new approaches for incentivizing conservation and embracing the concept of Earth as a shared, finite resource.