It’s here, huffing and puffing and blowing our houses in.
Not to belittle Covid rising or myriad international crises and challenges, but the greater good demands that we stop what we’re doing and confront climate change—here and now.
Wildfires. Heat waves. Tropical storms, hurricanes, tsunamis. Heat waves. Flooding. Draughts. Icebergs. Air Quality. Haze.
All are symptoms — accessories and accomplices — of earth’s painful diseases.
Fuel spills and non-biodegradable plastic are destroying our oceans and their inhabitants. The Amazon is emitting more carbon than it’s absorbing. Flooding in Germany and Belgium defies explanation, as does passengers trapped in waist-high water inside a submerged subway and cars floating through streets, as deadly floods sweep through central China. Record high temperatures – some 50 degrees above normal – suffocate people trying to breathe in western Canada, California, Oregon, and Washington. Dozens of wildfires rage across the Pacific Northwest, with the region experiencing unrelenting draught while smoke stretches all the way to the East coast. Seemingly everywhere, haze obliterates the sky. And, in an ironic twist, smoke from the “bootleg” wildfires is changing the weather.
“There are more than 40 evacuation orders affecting about 5,700 people or almost 2,900 properties in the province,” reports the Canadian Broadcasting System. “There are also 69 evacuation alerts, affecting just under 33,000 people and about 16,000 properties. Three hundred of Canada’s 800 fires at the moment are raging in B.C. (British Columbia).”
Elsewhere, William Brangham reports on PBS from California’s San Joaquim Valley, “The demand for water has threatened the drinking supply for hundreds of thousands of rural residents—including the farmers who grow a significant part of the country’s food supply.”
Here in Portugal, 21 municipalities and districts have been placed at maximum risk of fire. As a Facebook friend put it following days of sweltering heat, “We’re making like lizards and keeping to the shade.”
Plastic pellets escape into the environment during every stage of their lifecycle–from production to transportation and during final product manufacturing. Together with single-use plastics which continue to line supermarket shelves, despite being banned by the government (in Portugal), they absorb toxins such as dioxins from water and transfer them to the marine food web and human diets, increasing the risk of adverse effects to wildlife and people, along with fishing and survival.
The bacteria that make up “red tide,” Karenia brevis, already have killed more than 613 tons of marine life and fish around Tampa, Florida, as sewage stops everyone from bathing at an Algarve (Portugal) beach when a burst pipe causes sewage to be discharged into the sea.
Following his sky shuttle, space cadet Jeff Bezos of Amazon fame and fortune announces the commercial potential of his billionaire joy ride: All that dirty, polluting manufacturing and industrial waste will be moved from earth into outer space, leaving the earth a much more splendid place … even while the universe becomes a more contaminated “dumping ground.”
Already, global warming has become climate chaos. In the future, will it be universal?
Satellite data have shown that the world’s biggest iceberg is no more. Weighing billions of tons and bigger than many cities when it broke away from the Antarctic ice shelf in 2017, the iceberg has completely melted away. Scientists warn that this could be a sign of the quickened pace of global warming.
Greenland has decided to suspend all oil exploration off the world’s largest island, calling it “a natural step,” because the Arctic government “takes the climate crisis seriously.”
I don’t want to sound like Chicken Little, but we used to predict that the devastating effects of climate change and global warming would hit us in twenty to fifty years—worrisome for our children and grandchildren, but not nearly so deadly to us.
Climate scientists for decades have warned that the climate crisis would lead to more extreme weather. They said it would be deadly and it would be more frequent. But many are expressing surprise that heat and rain records are being broken by such large margins.
That’s the difference between prophets and profits.
Limiting global warming to 1.5C will be a “pipe dream,” predicts US climate envoy John Kerry, if China waits as late as 2030 – not even a decade away – for the peak of its emissions.
And the USA? Russia? The UK and EU? Africa and Asia?
Several developed countries, including the US, this year have significantly increased their commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The European Union last week unveiled an ambitious plan to put climate at the center of just about every development and economic initiative it has.
Yet many activists say that their pledges still fall short of the action needed to contain average global temperatures to 1.5 degrees Celsius, which the International Panel for Climate Change says is necessary to avoid even more catastrophic impacts of climate change. They also criticize governments that make ambitious pledges while continuing to approve new fossil fuel projects, including coal mines, and oil and gas facilities.
“When you look at what’s happening in Canada, where they had temperatures of 50 degrees (C), and what’s going on all over the world, it is clear this is the result of climate change,” Niklas Pieters told CNN, as he helped his parents clear the debris from their ravaged home in Schuld, Germany. “I don’t want to have to get used to this.”
Wake up and do something, people: climate change is upon us.
Maybe we all should watch The Day After (again) on Netflix?