Learning to Love Climate ‘Adaptation’

March 31, 2008 • Climate Change & Mitigation, News

Two words: airport runways. As scientists and policy types figure out what changes will be necessary to cope with global warming, it’s obvious that massive sea walls will be required to hold back rising oceans, that enormous new reservoirs will be needed to cope with the alternating droughts and deluges that many regions will suffer and that a crash program to develop heat- and drought-resistant crops would be a good idea if people are to keep eating.

But it’s the less-obvious yet no-less-necessary adaptations to climate change that are likely to wreak havoc. So, runways: hotter air, which we’ll have more of in a greenhouse world, is less-dense air (hence, hot air rises). In less-dense air, says Bernoulli’s principle, for planes to gain lift and stay aloft they need to take off faster. Ergo, airport runways will need to be longer to give planes the requisite ground speed before they’re wheels up. Will someone please tell O’Hare?

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