What do you do when the boy has cried wolf and all the ostriches are digging their heads in the sand? You keep going.
The very words “climate change” make eyes glaze over. Greenwashing, eco fake-newsing, the bulldozering power of consumption etc have rendered the topic numbing. And just as we hit the apocalypse, too. Would you believe it?!
Right now, we are frogs in the proverbial pot of water on the stove. The water’s been warming slowly but now it’s about to boil. Those of us who are still intensely and passionately alive to the topic are jumping up and down, frustrated, scared, screaming out for all the other frogs to get it. And so we should be. There is no other way to be but so blunt. As David Suzuki says:
In the past few weeks, the erstwhile moderate and ameliorating climate scientists have hit the panic button. They are using the words genocide, apocalypse and dire. They. Are. Freaking. The F*ck. Out. We need to, too.
I’ve been sharing some of the emergency signals over the past fortnights since the United Nations’ scientific advisory board, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), issued their “dire” warning. The report is based on more than 6000 cited studies, written by 91 authors from 40 countries and is a collective scream, never heard before from such a body. I’m sorely tempted to inject hyperbole and exclamation points. But we’re numb to such things. Aren’t we.
Today, I thought it could be good give a bit a digestible rundown of this shit sandwich to enable us all to share the word with a bit more ease over water coolers or whatever.. I’ll help you cheat further – the Intelligencer piece a third of the way down is the long-form read you should choose if short on time. I’m not an expert. I just read a lot and I’m sharing what the algorithms might have buried in your news feed. Please do share any other links or helpful through-lines in the comments.
My Freak Out Climate Change Cheat Sheet
I’ve simply put in some links to good reads with salient points highlighted should you not get around to (reading).
That 1.5 C temperature increase goal that the scientists are trying to get everyone to agree to? Yeah, well, to have even a vague chance of hitting it, the whole world will have to halve emissions by the time said toddlers hit high school (2030) and be reduced to zero CO2 emissions by 2050. Alarmed? It gets worse. All the scenarios that the IPCC could come up with to limit warming to 1.5 C rely on some kind of “carbon-dioxide removal”, essentially, technologies to suck CO2 out of the air (while we cut back on the emissions). Oh. But. This technology doesn’t exist. And is decades from coming to fruition. Shit.
I like this quote, summing up the ambivalence of humanity as we let governments actually wind back climate change policies:'Come the apocalypse, it seems, we’ll all want to be driving S.U.V.s.'Click To Tweet
Just a teaser:
- Ten million (conservative figure) people will be living in permanent inundation. That is, they’ll be under water. Think Rio de Janeiro, Miami, Osaka.
- 99% of coral reefs will be dead, including the Great Barrier Reef
It then makes this observation (brace yourself):
“Even if every country met the commitment it made in the Paris Agreement, the temperature would still increase to 3 degrees above pre-industrial levels by the end of the century.”
Oh, but it gets even worserer:
“If the world continues burning fossil fuels and emitting greenhouse gases at the current rate, it could rise by 4 degrees—a fact that the Trump Administration, which withdrew the United States from the Paris Agreement, in June, 2017, (has) acknowledged.”
And points out that “civilisation is at stake.” It stresses that the consensus is a 4 degree increase is most likely and breaks down how the pot will hit boiling point.
At 2 degrees
- the melting of ice sheets will pass a tipping point of collapse, flooding dozens of the world’s major cities this century.
- Global GDP, per capita, will be cut by 13 percent.
- 400 million more people will suffer from water scarcity, and even in the northern latitudes heat waves will kill thousands each summer. It will be worse in the planet’s equatorial band. There would be 32 times as many extreme heat waves, each lasting five times as long and exposing, in total, 93 times more people.
At 3 degrees
- Southern Europe will be in permanent drought. The average drought in Central America would last 19 months and in the Caribbean 21 months. In northern Africa, the figure is 60 months — five years.
- The areas burned each year by wildfires would double in the Mediterranean and sextuple in the United States.
- Sea-level rising will swallow Miami Beach to Jakarta
At 4 degrees, the most likely scenario
- there would be 8 million cases of dengue fever each year in Latin America alone.
- Global grain yields could fall by as much as 50 percent, producing annual or close-to-annual food crises.
- The global economy will be more than 30 % smaller, and we would see at least half again as much conflict and warfare as we do today. Possibly more.
This bit made me weep and stare at my screen wide-eyed:
What the scientists are saying is, “you now have permission to freak out.”Click To Tweet
“If you are alarmed by those sentences, you should be — they are horrifying. But it is, actually, worse than that — considerably worse. That is because the new report’s worst-case scenario is, actually, a best case. In fact, it is a beyond-best-case scenario. What has been called a genocidal level of warming is already our inevitable future. The question is how much worse than that it will get.”
The changes that need to be made must happen in two, or possibly three, decades. The article talks to a climate scientist about New York going under water. There’s already talk of building a wall. But, “Even if we began building today, he said, the barrier would not be finished in time to save Howard Beach and other parts of southern Queens and Brooklyn.”
This op-ed points out that climate change denial is ludicrous. To date, the warnings regarding warming rates have been accurate. I particularly like this observation:
“Coal-fired power plants have become so uncompetitive that the Trump administration wants to subsidize them at the expense of cleaner energy.”
provides a heartening rally call. It acknowledges (let’s not forget)
“Solving climate is going to be harder, and more improbable, than winning World War II, achieving civil rights, defeating bacterial infection and sending a man to the moon all together.”
But it goes on to argue humans have solved gargantuan problems before. We have done through hard-core practice.”The world would need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions faster than has ever been achieved, and do it everywhere, for 50 years. We’d need to spread the world’s best climate practices globally — like electric cars in Norway, energy efficiency in California, land protection in Costa Rica, solar and wind power in China, vegetarianism in India, bicycle use in the Netherlands.” We must do the individual stuff, but also fight governments. How? “We must realize that real progress comes from voting, running for office, marching in protest, writing letters, and uncomfortable but respectful conversations with fathers-in-law. This work must be habitual.”
I loved this:
“The climate struggle embodies the essence of what it means to be human, which is that we strive for the divine. Perhaps the rewards of solving climate change are so compelling, so nurturing and so natural a piece of the human soul that we can’t help but do it.”
Eco-consumerism may expiate your guilt. But it’s only mass movements that have the power to alter the trajectory of the climate crisis. This requires of us first a resolute mental break from the spell cast by neoliberalism: to stop thinking like individuals.
It’s now or never.
Yes, it’s heavy. Yes, it’s fact. Yes, this is brazenly a post imploring everyone here to get informed. Action, I guarantee, will necessarily follow. The question now is do you want to stay in the pot? Discuss..