28 Takeaways on Climate Change right now.
Last night, after my Thanksgiving Dinner, I sat in the living room as we talked and laid around on couches and tapped on our phones and warmed ourselves by the fire…and into that contented scene came the new issue of The New Yorker, which I found atop a table. And as I read an article by Bill McKibben (who I’ve interviewed twice) I sank into shock.
Now, I’m something of an environmental know-it-all. Our twitter feed was voted tops in the US twice, nationally, for #green coverage. I’ve been named an environmental hero by Planet Green, along with other eco awards. But this article jolted me back awake.
- Three main solutions: putting a price on greenhouse gas emissions, which usually means imposing taxes or fees on companies that release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere; establishing government regulations on how much greenhouse pollution can be emitted; and spending public money on clean-energy research. ~ The New York Times
- Our President doesn’t believe in it. “Whatever happened to Global Warming?” Our own government’s report, timed to “release, at 2 p.m. the day after Thanksgiving, appeared designed to minimize its public impact.’
- In our US alone, “climate change could slash up to a tenth of gross domestic product by 2100, more than double the losses of the Great Recession a decade ago.” This does not take into account things getting worse faster, which has been the pattern, or the global economy. “Hurricane Michael, the strongest hurricane ever to hit the Florida Panhandle, inflicted thirty billion dollars’ worth of material damage and killed forty-five people.” ~ The New Yorker
- We have killed 60% of all animals since the 1970s.
- As late at 1988, our environment was a bipartisan affair—Republicans helped to create most of our most important laws and parks.
- Pine beetles, which no longer freeze to death, have killed 100,000s of trees for more than a decade (I first wrote about ’em 10 years ago), mostly affecting conservative voters in rural areas.
- Lyme disease is now a problem just about everywhere, thanks to the spread of ticks who no longer freeze.
- Fire season is now yearround in California. Only two years ago I was in Malibu, surrounded by 4 fires. This year, it’s worse.
- Fires are not an isolated issue: smoke-toxic air affects most of the US, now—it killed half our summer here in Boulder, where we could barely see the mountains and were told to avoid time outdoors.
- “Late in 2017, a United Nations agency announced that the number of chronically malnourished people in the world, after a decade of decline, had started to grow again—by thirty-eight million, to a total of eight hundred and fifteen million, “largely due to the proliferation of violent conflicts and climate-related shocks.” In June, 2018, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the U.N. found that child labor, after years of falling, was growing, “driven in part by an increase in conflicts and climate-induced disasters.” ~ The New Yorker
- The Paris agreement’s goal was to hold climate change to “1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit), with a fallback target of two degrees (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit). …Global warming “is likely to reach 1.5 C between 2030 and 2052 …In Paris, countries’ initial pledges would cut emissions only enough to limit warming to 3.5 degrees Celsius (about 6.3 degrees Fahrenheit) by the end of the century, a scale and pace of change so profound as to call into question whether our current societies could survive it.” And to top all that off, we pulled out of Paris—which would not have been nearly enough—and are heading in the opposite direction, gutting the EPA.
- Brazil’s new president promises to exploit the world’s lungs, the Amazon.
- “…we have found ourselves unable to swim off beaches, because jellyfish, which thrive as warming seas kill off other marine life, have taken over the water.” Insert depressing factoid about die-off of fish (and coral) upon which we all depend for sustenance.
- “There are at least four other episodes in the earth’s half-billion-year history of animal life when CO2 has poured into the atmosphere in greater volumes, but perhaps never at greater speeds. Even at the end of the Permian Age, when huge injections of CO2 from volcanoes burning through coal deposits culminated in “The Great Dying,” the CO2 content of the atmosphere grew at perhaps a tenth of the current pace.”
- “Two centuries ago, the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere was two hundred and seventy-five parts per million; it has now topped four hundred parts per million and is rising more than two parts per million each year. The extra heat that we trap near the planet every day is equivalent to the heat from four hundred thousand bombs the size of the one that was dropped on Hiroshima.”
- Billions of humans depend on glaciers for drinking water. They’re melting—fast. “The melting of ice caps and glaciers and the rising levels of our oceans and seas, initially predicted for the end of the century, have occurred decades early.”
- Vermont could have no more snow in only two decades, and be a yearround farming state.
- “About a third of the carbon responsible for these changes has come from the United States.”
- “Each year, another twenty-four thousand people abandon Vietnam’s sublimely fertile
- Mekong Delta as crop fields are polluted with salt. As sea ice melts along the Alaskan coast, there is nothing to protect towns, cities, and native villages from the waves.” Same in Florida and… “…Louisiana, where government officials were finalizing a plan to relocate thousands of people threatened by the rising Gulf (“Not everybody is going to live where they are now and continue their way of life, and that is a terrible, and emotional, reality to face,” one state official said); from Hawaii, where, according to a new study, thirty-eight miles of coastal roads will become impassable in the next few decades; and from Jakarta, a city with a population of ten million, where a rising Java Sea had flooded the streets. In the first days of 2018, a nor’easter flooded downtown Boston; dumpsters and cars floated through the financial district. “If anyone wants to question global warming, just see where the flood zones are,” Marty Walsh, the mayor of Boston, told reporters. “Some of those zones did not flood thirty years ago.”
- There are many major threats from climate change (drought, heat, rising sea levels, smoke, food, conflicts, extinction of species). Only one of them is rising sea levels. And “damage caused by rising sea levels [alone] will cost the world as much as fourteen trillion dollars a year by 2100, if the U.N. targets aren’t met.
- “For a couple of days in June, temperatures in cities in Pakistan and Iran peaked at slightly above a hundred and twenty-nine degrees Fahrenheit, the highest reliably recorded temperatures ever measured…In July, a heat wave in Montreal killed more than seventy people, and Death Valley, which often sets American records, registered the hottest month ever seen on our planet. Africa recorded its highest temperature in June, the Korean Peninsula in July, and Europe in August.”
- “By 2070, tropical regions that now get one day of truly oppressive humid heat a year can expect between a hundred and two hundred and fifty days, if the current levels of greenhouse-gas emissions continue. According to Radley Horton, a climate scientist at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, most people would “run into terrible problems” before then. The effects, he added, will be “transformative for all areas of human endeavor—economy, agriculture, military, recreation.”
- “drought and desertification. The early signs are clear: São Paulo came within days of running out of water last year, as did Cape Town this spring. In the fall, a record drought in Germany lowered the level of the Elbe to below twenty inches and reduced the corn harvest by forty per cent. The Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research concluded in a recent study that, as the number of days that reach eighty-six degrees Fahrenheit or higher increases, corn and soybean yields across the U.S. grain belt could fall by between twenty-two and forty-nine per cent. We’ve already overpumped the aquifers that lie beneath most of the world’s breadbaskets; without the means to irrigate, we may encounter a repeat of the nineteen-thirties, when droughts and deep plowing led to the Dust Bowl—this time with no way of fixing the problem. Back then, the Okies fled to California, but California is no longer a green oasis. A hundred million trees died in the record drought that gripped the Golden State for much of this decade. The dead limbs helped spread the waves of fire, as scientists earlier this year warned that they could.
- “Ninety scientists who released a joint report in 2017 concluded that economic losses from a warming Arctic could approach ninety trillion dollars in the course of the century, considerably outweighing whatever savings may have resulted from shorter shipping routes as the Northwest Passage unfreezes.”
- “All this has played out more or less as scientists warned, albeit faster. What has defied expectations is the slowness of the response. The climatologist James Hansen testified before Congress about the dangers of human-caused climate change thirty years ago. Since then, carbon emissions have increased with each year except 2009 (the height of the global recession) and the newest data show that 2018 will set another record. Simple inertia and the human tendency to prioritize short-term gains have played a role, but the fossil-fuel industry’s contribution has been by far the most damaging.”
- “In 2017, polls found that almost ninety per cent of Americans did not know that there was a scientific consensus on global warming.”
- “The movement is growing. Since 2015, when four hundred thousand people marched in the streets of New York before the Paris climate talks, activists—often led by indigenous groups and communities living on the front lines of climate change—have blocked pipelines, forced the cancellation of new coal mines, helped keep the major oil companies out of the American Arctic, and persuaded dozens of cities to commit to one-hundred-per-cent renewable energy.”
From years ago: