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The signs of catastrophic climate change are increasingly undeniable all across the globe. While it’s been a relatively cool and wet summer here in northern Minnesota, don’t think we’re going to escape from the inevitable consequences of the changes the planet is experiencing.
Across the western U.S., water restrictions have been put in effect to try to head off the disappearance of Lake Powell and Lake Mead, the Colorado River reservoirs upon which so much of the southwest depends.
In much of Europe, astonishing heat and drought have dried up rivers and are devastating agriculture. It’s even worse in China, which some climatologists are arguing is experiencing the worst combination of extraordinary heat and drought in human history. The mighty Yangtze River has virtually dried up in places, affecting the hydropower on which so much of China depends for electricity. The country’s rice crop is severely threatened as well
Back in the U.S., the Plains states have been experiencing widespread drought and punishing heat that is expected to reduce crop yields by as much as a third.
Any one of these climate disasters would have significant consequences. Combined, they threaten to create critical shortages of basic food commodities, like rice, corn, and wheat, which feed so much of the world. Here in the U.S., water restrictions in the southwest will create shortages of much of the produce that we rely on during the winter months. Food prices are already going up in expectation of shortage.
The situation in China is further fueling inflation as factories are forced to shutter due to lack of hydropower and shipping along the country’s major rivers has nearly ground to a halt. That’s all contributing to the ongoing supply chain shortages being experienced globally, which have fueled the inflationary spiral now affecting the globe. While COVID’s shutdowns sparked the initial shortages, catastrophic climate change is making it far worse.
And there is no reason to think that the situation will get better. Indeed, we’re only beginning to feel the effects of the climate disaster we’ve created through our emissions of greenhouse gases.
Climate change isn’t just affecting life here in the U.S. The impacts are far greater in poorer, developing countries and as life in those places becomes increasingly untenable due to higher temperatures and food shortages sparked by drought or intense flooding, humans will inevitably migrate to places better positioned to cope with the changing climate— including the United States. The immigration crisis at the border today is a mere whisper of the flood of humanity that countries in the north are going to increasingly experience in the years ahead. Desperate humans, faced with starvation, disease, or the growing violence that inevitably erupts where scarcity exists, will leave those circumstances in search of opportunities for survival. We know that because humans have done so for millennia. Neither borders nor walls will stop them.
We are facing global upheaval on a scale unmatched in human history. Food shortages, massive wildfires, unimaginable flooding, and extreme heat and drought are no longer consequences we can ignore, or pretend they are something with which only future generations will have to contend. We are increasingly staring the hard realities of climate change in the face, and it is not a hopeful sight.
Far from making progress away from the consumption of fossil fuels, we continue to burn carbon-based fuels at a near-record pace and the percentage of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has continued to rise unabated. Prior to the industrial revolution, the level of CO2 in the atmosphere was approximately 280 parts per million (ppm). Today, it’s 416 ppm, and that’s far above the 350-ppm threshold above which scientists believe the worst effects of climate change could have been avoided. Even as some countries, including the U.S. endeavor to make the shift away from fossil fuels, progress is far too slow, and time is running out.
The bottom line is, we won’t avoid the effects of catastrophic climate change, even here in northern Minnesota. We’re paying much more for food and that reality isn’t going to change in our lifetimes because food shortages are going to be a fact of human existence moving forward.
In forested regions, like ours, wildfires are going to be a growing risk. Last summer was simply a prelude of what’s to come.
If this all sounds dystopian, recall that climate scientists have been warning us of exactly this for almost half a century and their warnings have been largely ignored by the public and politicians.
At a time when we need strong leadership and a global commitment to change, we have entire political parties in countries around the world that are willing to foreclose the future of humanity for cheap political advantage. We are going to be living with the consequences of their cowardice for generations to come.
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A segment of the population doesn't care about the future. Very sad. To many, the paper dollar and convenience is all that counts-now.
Thursday, September 8, 2022 Report this
We actually may not be living with the consequences of their cowardice for generations to come, but dying; climate change is accelerating, and with it the risk of catastrophic disease and famine, as well as fundamental changes in the chemistry of the oceans and our atmosphere that potentially threaten the ability to breathe properly. Atmospheric oxygen concentrations are now dropping as a result.
Cutting fossil fuel use any way you can -- insulating homes to lower both heating and air conditioning costs, solar panels, growing your own vegetables, reducing meat and dairy consumption, driving more slowly, riding a bike, planting shade trees and windbreaks, switching to a smaller and more efficient vehicle and simply renting a bigger vehicle or getting delivery when you need to move a bigger item, deferring purchases of electronics, buying fewer but better quality clothes -- all helps substantially (and saves on utility bills and is good for your health), but even the way manufacturing works and the way we farm has to change, and fast. In the big picture all that personal use I listed out is at best half the problem, and the other half is senior leadership in business and politics, especially on the political right, trying to protect their bonuses and dividends (not ours, by the way) with cheap, nasty, short-term obsolete processes and business practices. This fails to get taken care of? Societal collapse beckons and it might not even be possible to reprise the life of cavemen because there won't be anything left to hunt.
Friday, September 16, 2022 Report this