The recent historic flooding in the midwest is the latest reminder that our climate is already changing in ways that could be catastrophic. Farmers in the affected regions remain unable to plant a large fraction of their crops which could spell disaster for corn an soybean production later this year. And beyond the massive amounts of rainfall, there were a hundred recorded tornadoes in the span of about a week, another unprecedented statistic for the month of May.
This post isn’t meant to be melodramatic or hyperbolic. But it is meant to be alarmist. Because we should all be alarmed at the state of our planet’s ecology. There’s good reason why climate change is the Number One issue for many voters going into the 2020 election–the scientific indicators have been moving swiftly from bad to worse. If you’re not horrified, you haven’t been paying attention.
It was reported last week that Alaska and the northern hemisphere had record breaking heat in the month of March. Alaska was, on average, around 20 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than usual. And the arctic saw the greatest historical differential, around 40 degrees F warmer than usual. These are staggeringly bad numbers, and they’re in line with climate change predictions that temperatures at the polls will rise much more than temps at the equator. Reporting from Smithsonian:
Carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuel is trapping heat, but now a warming Alaska will melt the permafrost, which is where a vast amount of Methane is stored–and Methane is ten-times as powerful a heat trapping gas as Carbon Dioxide.
At the other end of the globe, the giant ice cap in Antarctica is now melting faster than anyone predicted, and this also has scientists horrified. Imagery from space has revealed the the ice cap is not as thick or as stable as was previously thought. It’s adding more snow to its top layer thanks to more moisture in the air–another byproduct of a warming climate. But below the surface the ice is being melted by sea water that is also rapidly warming.
Which brings us to the oceans. For years, scientists couldn’t explain why air temperatures weren’t warmer that observed based on the amount Carbon Dioxide in the air. Climate skeptics and deniers claimed that the discrepancy was proof climate change was a hoax. But scientists eventually discovered that our oceans were storing the excess heat, which, along with acidification, was destroying coral reefs around the world and altering for the worse the ocean’s food cycle. Plankton need cold, dark water to grow, and as the winter ice formation in the Arctic continues to go down, the backbone of the food chain, Plankton, becomes more scarce. Here’s a report from Pacific Standard Magazine:
When you combine this with overfishing on a global, industrial scale, you arrive at our current situation. The oceans are on the verge of collapse. Fish stocks have been wiped out in many regions of the globe, and the larger mammals at the top of the food chain are now in trouble. Orcas in the Pacific are starving to death. Certain whale species are no longer reproducing because there isn’t enough food, and others are dying from starvation. And the animals that survive are poisoned by plastic and mercury. Article in Smithsonian on dying whales:
It was reported a month ago by the United Nations that one million species are facing extinction because of the activity of humans, much of it climate related. Some scientists say we are facing the largest extinction event in human history. Here’s reporting from the Washington Post on the UN report:
There are many dimensions to climate change, and any one of them would be alarming. But together they form a terrifying picture of looming risk. We are currently at 405 ppm of Carbon Dioxide in our air, a figure that matches what Exxon scientists secretly calculated and predicted decades ago as they were preparing to spend billions lying to the world about the risks of burning fossil fuels. And we are set to continue to raise that number far past the 400 ppm tipping point that many hoped we would avoid a decade or so ago. This paints a grim picture for our future. But we’re no longer talking about our grandchildren’s future. We’re now talking about our immediate future.
Every prediction about the pace of climate change our scientists made ten or twenty years ago has proven to be too conservative. Things keep worsening at an accelerating pace, in part because there are self-reinforcing and compounding effects that scientists couldn’t have grasped or predicted years ago. For example, glacier ice should melt at a certain, predictable pace. But scientists discovered that it tends to melt faster than predicted because it often traps soot that concentrates on the surface as the ice melts, giving the ice a darker surface which then warms and melts more quickly.
So now scientists are concerned that we could see massive global effects of climate change in the next thirty years–or sooner. Like weather patterns so disruptive that they cause a major crop failure. Or rising oceans that cause millions of refugees. An article was recently published by two experts, a former fossil fuel executive and the former head of Australia’s military, describing a worst-case scenario that predicted the end of human civilization by 2050 because the Earth and its systems could no longer be able to support human life. These authors aren’t on the lunatic fringe, they are serious people with a lot of experience:
Anyone who looks at the science and the evidence can only come away horrified. There is no way to sugar coat it and no more time to be polite. We have to face the grim reality of climate change now or we may not get a second chance. It’s easy to look away and pretend it will all work out. But it won’t. We have to push like hell for a solution. And as Americans, our next step is to run the Republican party and their corporate enablers out of office and support Democrats who will tell the truth and make the hard decisions that we surely face. There’s no other viable alternative.
Keep resisting and keep working to “vote his ass out of office.”