WE THOUGHT WE HAD CENTURIES. WE HAVE 12 YEARS.
The time to act isn’t today or tomorrow. It was years ago. Today, the world’s climate continues to accelerate as governments cave to public pressure at a trickle, passing piecemeal legislation that only scratches the surface of what needs to be done to mitigate the worst case predictions for the climate emergency. When once we thought we had centuries, we now know there are only 12 years left.
One factor frustrating the issue is that the people who contribute most to the worsening climate are not the same people suffering from its effects. “Compare it to the map above. It’s not the same people at all. In economics this is called a ‘negative externality’. Some people get the benefits, other people get the bill.” says writer Indi Samarajiva, “America, Europe, Russia, and China get the benefits of pollution and fossil fuels. Which is perhaps why they are pretending the problem doesn’t exist. Or asking for timid solutions. Because they’re making money off it, and someone else is paying.” He links to a “more robust map” here.
The effects of climate change have been worsening for decades. In the beginning it was easy to write these off as flukes or natural fluctuations in climate. Today, it’s undeniable, with over 99% of scientists in agreement. Europe, a traditionally cool continent is trapped in the worst heatwave its ever seen, with never-before-seen 114 degree days in temperate France, and Swiss glaciers melting. We have entered the Anthropocene epoch, the first geologic era influenced by humanity. The sixth mass extinction the Earth has seen in its 4 billion years of existence, the Holocene Extinction Event. Previous named extinction events killed up to 83% of all life on Earth. The last recorded mass extinction event was the K-Pg Event, precipitated by the asteroid impact in part responsible for the extinction of the dinosaurs.
Already we see niche species struggling to survive, as ecological ‘surprises’ make generalist species more prone to stability. A paper by multiple scientists recently published to PNAS reads” Anthropogenic climate change is now adding strong trends on top of existing natural variability. These trends elevate the frequency of “surprises”—conditions that are unexpected based on recent history. Here, we show that the frequency of surprising ocean temperatures has increased even faster than expected based on recent temperature trends. Using a simple model of human adaptation, we show that these surprises will increasingly challenge natural modes of adaptation that rely on historical experience.”
Popular ocean-side vacation destinations are already seeing changes. In this instance, Amazonian deforestation at that hands of the notoriously corrupt Brazilian government are to blame. Most recently Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro threatened to fire an official over damning data on deforestation under his administration. The cutting down of forests, increased wild fires, and fossil fuel use drastically increases the CO2 content of our atmosphere, which is predicted to damage food supplies and even cognitive function.
“I don’t know what’s going on but it’s really not a good sight to see, you know what I’m saying? We’re tourists,” said Sed Walker, 48, who was visiting from Los Angeles.Phys.org
A study published in July by the University of South Florida in the journal Science concluded that the seaweed problem, which started in 2001 and showed peaks in 2015 and 2018, is here to stay.
Satellite imagery shows blooms of sargassum form at the mouth of the Amazon. From there it spreads across the Atlantic, from the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico to Africa.
And those are tropical regions. The rapidly worsening climate emergency is now affecting our arctic regions at alarming rates that we didn’t think were possible for another lifetime. In Alaska, sea ice has entirely melted away for the first time; a region that even in warm summers retained some of its ice. “I’m losing the ability to communicate the magnitude [of change],” exclaimed Jeremy Mathis, an Arctic researcher and board director at the National Academies of Sciences in an interview with Mashable, “I’m running out of adjectives to describe the scope of change we’re seeing.”
Progressive government officials in the United States are slowly signing on to the Green New Deal, a sweeping and drastic mobilization of US resources on the scale of World War II to combat the climate emergency. Private organizations like the Sunrise Movement are also pushing for its extreme measures. If we do not act now, many fear that it’s not that our great-grand children will suffer, it’s that they won’t ever be born.