Today, I find myself sitting in my room on this early November day. I have the window open and I am sweating. The area where I am right now has been hit with a warm front. It is currently 16 degrees outside (that’s Celsius, for all you Americans). Not that I am complaining, mind you. It just highlights my current concerns for what we have been doing to the planet.
The sad thing is that we have known about climate change for 40 years now. Scientists first recognized climate change as a concern back in 1980. At the time, correcting the problem would have involved minor changes to the way we live. Unfortunately, politicians lacked the will to do anything, a trend that continues to this day. No one wanted to have to deliver the bad news. That has now resulted in a coming crisis that we can no longer even avoid, only mitigate.
Let’s be perfectly clear about one thing. There is NO debate about climate change, at least amongst those who study climate. The only people who still disagree are those working for the petrochemical industry. The only current disagreement is to how fast we will see the changes that are coming. Back in the eighties, it was predicted that climate change would mostly affect our grandchildren, then our children. Now, it is likely that the first cataclysms will occur within MY lifetime.
Consider this for a minute and you will see just how far reaching the effects of climate change may be. Over half of the worlds population relies on a single source for drinking water. High in the Himalayas, the ice fields feed every river in East Asia. Those ice fields are shrinking, some at an alarming rate. Within the not too distant future, China, India, Pakistan, Vietnam, etc. could face drought. That’s 3.5 billion thirsty mouths that will be effected. Three of those countries are nuclear powers, and I imagine that they will not hesitate to use them if it means survival for their people.
I also can’t help but think of what might happen as arctic ice continues to melt. Yes, there will be major flooding, but that point has been talked about for years, so I will leave it be. Instead, I want to talk about viruses. Over the last year, the world has been locked down as a result of ONE virus. Now, imagine what will happen once viruses frozen for millions of years are once again released upon the world. These are viruses which humans have never been exposed to, and so will possess no immunity. Billions would die. The rest of us could end up with a covid reality indefinitely.
One of the scariest facts about climate change is that it may soon become a self-sustaining phenomenon. Locked away in the perma-frost of the tundra are vast amounts of methane and carbon dioxide gas. That perma-frost has now started to thaw. Methane is 80 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, and there is an estimated 1,400,000,000,000,000 tons of it frozen in the tundra. The process of releasing that gas has already begun, a process that will vastly accelerate climate change, melt more perma-frost, and thus release more gas.
And it’s not just heat we need to worry about. The record cold snap that North America experienced two years ago was a by-product of climate change as well. High above Canada there exists an air current called the gulf stream. This stable air current helps to trap arctic air to the north, keeping our winters from becoming too cold. Warmer air severely weakened that air current two years ago. Warmer air over the North Pole then pushed colder arctic air south. With no barrier to contain it, it spilled out across North America and plunged temperatures to record lows.
Last, and perhaps most devastating of all is the effects we are seeing on agriculture. We have all seen the effects on California in recent years, and California is a huge source of fruits and vegetables for the world. Now, that same warm dry air is being seen across the central US and Canada. The prairies. This area contributes to about 20% of world grain production. It also accounts for a large percentage of grain exports as most other countries eat all of the grain that they grow. Without the prairies, much of the world could starve. Scientists are now seeing evidence of desertification across the prairies, which could severely restrict future grain production across the region.
In short, climate change is not just about rising sea levels. It is a global catastrophe that will affect us in every aspect of our lives. It will be nothing short of an extinction level event.