What does climate disaster look like? Daytime temperature in India is 140C or more. In California, 1,000-year-old Sequoias are burned like matchsticks. Flash flood …well, just about anywhere you can think of. Massive droughts deprive hundreds of millions of people of access to fresh water. Another day on the late great planet Earth.
We hear rumblings on the Internet that climate scientists are reluctant to share their private concerns with the public for fear of causing widespread panic. But William McGuire, emeritus professor of geophysics and climate hazards at University College London, is not so reluctant. In his latest book, Greenhouse Earth: The Climate Crisis and the Importance of Carbon Neutralityhe makes no effort to sugar coat things.
Guardian The book says that we humans have ignored clear warnings that rising carbon emissions are dangerously warming the Earth. Now we will pay for our complacency in the form of storms, floods, droughts and heat waves that will easily surpass current extremes.
The bottom line, he says, is that we now have no chance of avoiding dangerous, all-out climate disruption. We have passed the point of no return and can expect a future where deadly heat waves and temperatures in excess of 50C (120F) are common in the tropics; where summers in temperate latitudes will always be hot and our oceans will be warm and acidic. “A child born in 2020 will face a more hostile world than their grandparents,” insists McGuire.
For those who say we can still get science out of this situation, McGuire has some sobering news. “I know a lot of people in climate science who say one thing in public but say very different things in private. Confidently, they all fear more about the future we face, but won’t admit it in public. I call it climate appeasement, and I believe it only makes things worse. Before starting to fight the crisis, the world needs to know how things will get worse.” The challenge of writing a book about climate change today is like writing about computer chips in the 1990s. “By the time it’s published, it’s already out of date. Things are going so fast.”
“Who would have thought that a village on the outskirts of London would be almost destroyed by bushfires in 2022,” McGuire said. Guardian this week. “If this country needs a wake-up call, this is it. As we move forward to 2022, there is already a different world out there. Soon it will be unrecognizable to any of us. Just look at what happens in a world heated by more than one degree. It turns out that the climate is deteriorating faster than predicted by early climate models. This is something that was never expected.”
McGuire blames “a conspiracy of ignorance, inertia, poor governance and confusion, and the lies of climate change deniers, which have ensured that we fall asleep less than half a degree from the dangerous 1.5 C climate change buffer zone. Barring some sort of miracle soon, we will destroy it.” UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres puts it a little differently. He calls it “a criminal abdication of leadership.”
Is there hope? Can be. McGuire emphasizes that if carbon emissions can be significantly reduced in the near future and we start adapting to a warmer world today, a truly catastrophic and unsustainable future can be avoided. The days ahead will be more dire, but not catastrophic. We may not be able to survive climate collapse, but we can avoid a climate cataclysm bad enough to threaten the survival of human civilization.
“It’s a call to arms, so if you feel the need to stick yourself to the highway or blockade an oil refinery, do it. Drive an electric car or better yet, use public transport, walk or cycle. Transition to green energy tariff; eat less meat. Stop flying. Lobby your elected representatives both locally and nationally. Use your vote wisely to bring a government to power that negotiates the climate emergency.”
Shine a Light on Climate Disaster
But something about people. They can find humor even in the darkest of times. In today’s edition Bloomberg Green, Laura Millan hastily offers a collection of climate solutions that can help prevent, if not completely avoid, disaster. Perhaps my favorite, curmudgeon that I am, comes from Eduardo Gold of Peru. In 2009, he noted that when glaciers in the Andes melted, they left behind dark soil and rocks that absorbed solar energy instead of returning it to space, like glaciers.
His solution? Paint the stones white. As an added bonus, the scheme would entitle Gold to issue lucrative carbon credits. He received a $200,000 grant from the World Bank to make his dream a reality, and his plan has been featured in local and international media, including BBC. But since then, Millan notes, Gold’s website — Glaciers Peru — blacked out and no updates on the evolution of the project or the whereabouts of the $200,000.
Mark Twain once observed that man is the only animal that blushes – or needs to. Gold’s escape proves Twain’s wisdom.
Everyone knows that cows are responsible for methane emissions, not fossil fuel companies. Apparently, camels are just as bad as cows, and where do you think there are a lot of camels? Middle East? No, Australia. A few years ago, the Australian government proposed a new way to solve the camel methane problem. Hunt 1.2 million camels roaming the Outback with rifles from helicopters! Hunters would be rewarded with a carbon credit for each camel killed. Win-win, baby!
Science to the Rescue
Here are a few climate charts made by actual scientists. Arizona State University astrophysics professor Steven Desch proposed in 2017 that we could reverse ice loss in the Arctic by using wind power to pump water to the surface where it would freeze more quickly. With appropriate instrumentation—and an investment of $5 trillion over ten years—assuming Arctic temperatures remain where they have been for the past thousand years or more, ice thickness will increase by about 1 meter during the Arctic winter. Unfortunately, average temperatures at the poles are rising faster than anywhere else on Earth, and today there is precious little freezing.
John Latham, a former British physicist, proposed launching ships that would spray seawater into the atmosphere to help cool the Earth. Others dreamed of artificially recreating the 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo, which lowered global temperatures by about 0.5 degrees the following year. If the madman in the Kremlin has his way, it doesn’t take a genius to see that a nice little nuclear war could cool the planet down nicely in about a decade. If Putin doesn’t have the stones to fix it, maybe it will be Xi Jinping who sets off a few nukes. Duck and cover, boys and girls!
Philosopher Matthew Liao, director of New York University’s Center for Bioethics, has an idea. He suggests that geoengineering is too risky and other solutions too slow. He proposes reducing humanity’s carbon footprint by making newborns meat-intolerant or smaller in size. In another strange twist, he adds that human engineering would be voluntary but could be encouraged with incentives such as tax breaks or sponsored health care.
A Climate Proposal That Actually Makes Sense
Malala Yousafzai is a Pakistani woman who won the Nobel Prize after being shot and nearly killed by the Taliban. She founded the Malala Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping every young girl learn to read so she can become a full member of her community. Her group’s research shows that countries that invest in the education of young girls have experienced fewer deaths from droughts and floods than countries with lower levels of education for young girls. It says that if girls can exercise their reproductive rights and use modern contraception, total fossil fuel emissions could be reduced by up to 40% by the end of the century.
This is consistent with what Harry Belafonte told me after a speech he gave at the Kennedy Library outside Boston during the reign of terror against Iraqis orchestrated by George W. Bush and his criminal neocon advisers. I asked Mr. Belafonte if there was anything to be hopeful about for the future. “Yes,” he told me. “Women’s Empowerment.”
It may seem laughable at a time when the Supreme Court and reactionaries are determined to shove their weaponized version of Christianity down every American’s throat, but his words are as true today as they were 20 years ago.
It reminds me of a statement by Dr. Benjamin Spock, who was regarded as an authority on child rearing at a time when America was a kinder, gentler place. “Man may be the kindest and most selfless of creatures, but he is potentially more cruel than any other. He is the only man who can convince millions whom he has never met to hate his tribe and kill as many as he can lay hands on in the name of his tribe or God.’
The good doctor wasn’t very politically correct when he said that, but maybe he was more accurate than he thought. Men are almost always in favor of mass murder, violence, bigger, badder, bolder weapons and win at all costs. Women are more cooperative and seek the most fair and reasonable solutions.
Maybe women’s empowerment only what will save humanity from a tumultuous climate cataclysm. If so, the United States is headed in the wrong direction, and all the books, studies, and scientific theories won’t make a difference. In the end, it may not be carbon dioxide that is our undoing, but an excess of testosterone.
Make them laugh
Not to be outdone, here’s a video of a Monty Python skit that’s meant to be satirical, but could be gospel for the God Squad who want to rule America today. Still, it’s worth a smile. Nothing like a little temperance to bring the pompous practices of the New Puritanism back down to Earth. These hypocrites are unlikely to suspect that these little bits of Python silliness are an expression of their own over-indulgence.
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