We recently learned humanity only has eleven years left before busting through the global warming tipping point. Will it be enough, or will we all have to suffer and pay for our complacency?
Most people were stunned and horrified to see the massive destruction wrought by Hurricane Michael when it came crashing ashore as a Category 4 storm overwhelming the small panhandle town of Mexico Beach, Florida, which has a population of 1800. The destruction was reminiscent of the WWII scenes of Hiroshima and Nagasaki after being devastated by atomic bombs.
We also witnessed the chaos that ensued when the sparse population of that region was ordered to evacuate ahead of the storm on less than 36 hours’ notice. Their highways were bumper to bumper along with seemingly endless lines at gas stations and store fronts.
With these images in mind, picture the far more massive impact and chaos had Michael instead made landfall just 200 miles to the southeast in the greater Tampa Bay area with its population of 2.8 million. Can you just imagine a million or more people all trying to get out of the hurricane’s path in less than 36 hours? Where would they all go?
And let’s not forget Hurricane Florence on September 14, which many referred to as the worst hurricane in the last hundred years. That monster flooded vast stretches of North and South Carolina, Georgia and Virginia. Together Florence and Michael were back-to-back disasters that killed many, ruined countless lives and in the end left tens upon tens of billions of dollars of property damage in their wakes.
Both hurricanes were fueled by what are the ever-warming ocean waters of the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean. This warming is in turn the product of the vast amounts of greenhouse gases we daily dump into our atmosphere. The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has just issued a dire report warning that given our current rates of atmosphere temperature rises we have only until 2030 to gain control of these inexorable increases and their underlying carbon emission causes. We must limit those future rises to no more than 1.5 degrees centigrade overall or we will cross an atmospheric Rubicon that will be a catastrophic tipping point in climate change. With the crossing of that mark we can expect hurricanes like Florence and Michael to become yearly occurrences instead of rare calamities.
Without limiting the vast amount of carbon based greenhouse gases we pour into our atmosphere through the burning of fossil fuels and the consequential atmospheric temperature increases they produce, we will then face certain disaster in little more than a decade. Our annual temperature increases will result in monster storms and melting of the world’s glaciers and permafrost. All of this will in turn increase worldwide sea levels over vast areas, world climate change, draught, forest fires and desertification of great swarths of land, plus a host of other climatological disasters. There will be huge numbers of climate refugees fleeing all these calamities and more will follow in the few places where they can seek refuge.
The effort required to limit our worldwide carbon emissions and climbing temperatures will be a Herculean task. But we can’t just throw up our hands believing it can’t be done, because it can be. But only if we all work together to make it happen. Whether individually or collectively, we can no longer just give it lip service and sit back in the hope that others will make the necessary sacrifices to save us.
It’s up to each of us to first learn the true facts of climate change. Then we all must decide what we can do to reduce our human impact on the world’s climate. For starters, we must insure our power plants and factories capture their greenhouse gases. We can drive far more fuel-efficient cars, trucks and buses. We can cut our electrical consumption. I’m sure each of us can think of even more ideas like this that in the long run will make a significant difference.
We have now reached a point and place in time where we all share one future and one fate. And it’s because we all share, and are dependent on, the same world atmosphere that it’s up to all of us to make sure our human civilization and future generations have the opportunity to survive and thrive. We must all be prepared to make the necessary sacrifices, whether material, financial or otherwise, to make that happen.