“This is the moment when people start to realize that global warming is not a problem for future generations, but for us now.”
– Johan Rockström, Stockholm Resilience Center
You may have missed the incredible amount of recent headlines on climate change. The sheer volume of climate-change related stories that “crossed our desk” within a 48-hour time period was stunning (to put it mildly). This news, however, that will have dramatic impact on our planet and the very existence of life as we know it, appears to be unable to break through the non-stop Orwellian speak that emanates from just about everywhere these days. To coin an old phrase, it appears we are fiddling while we literally are burning.
The one story that has penetrated the news cycle to some degree has been the reports on the wild fires in California, which are still causing havoc across the state. But California is not alone. Wild fires in the arctic circle, Canada, and the Pacific Northwest; Japan under sweltering heat; Europe recording temperatures never seen before. And anecdotal stories from friends and family about rain storms that stall causing downpours that dump 8-10 inches of rain at a time.
We were so astonished at the never-ending climate change stories in a two-day period that we thought we would share a digest of some of the headlines we saw…ICYMI.
Wildfire Smoke Is Smothering the US—Even Where You Don’t Expect It: “America is on fire … again. More than a million and a half acres are burning in 15 states, from Arizona to Alaska. More than 3,000 firefighters are working to contain the Mendocino Complex Fire 100 miles north of San Francisco, now the largest in California history, and over the weekend, lightning strikes sparked dozens of new wildfires across the state of Washington…
“…While wildfires are geographically limited by nearby fuel sources, wildfire smoke goes wherever the wind takes it. Carried on eastward-flowing air currents, dangerous particulate matter from wildfires is increasingly smothering large swathes of the US, causing health scares wherever these air pollution spikes hit. Welcome to the United States of Smoke.
“…But other scientists have found evidence that the wildfire smoke public health problem is only going to get worse as the west gets hotter and drier. A 2016 study predicts that climate change will drive almost 60 percent more “smoke waves”—or multiple days of high particulate pollution from wildfires—across much of the US by 2050.”
National Geographic reports: Exclusive: Some Arctic Ground No Longer Freezing—Even in Winter: “Every winter across the Arctic, the top few inches or feet of soil and rich plant matter freezes up before thawing again in summer. Beneath this active layer of ground extending hundreds of feet deeper sits continuously frozen earth called permafrost, which, in places, has stayed frozen for millennia.
“But in a region where temperatures can dip to 40 degrees below zero Fahrenheit, unusually high snowfall this year worked like a blanket, trapping excess heat in the ground. They found sections 30 inches deep—soils that typically freeze before Christmas—that had stayed damp and mushy all winter. For the first time in memory, ground that insulates deep Arctic permafrost simply did not freeze in winter…some Arctic experts are weighing a troubling question: Could a thaw of permafrost begin decades sooner than many people expect in some of the Arctic’s coldest, most carbon-rich regions, releasing trapped greenhouse gases that could accelerate human-caused climate change?”
Common Dreams provides information on the report: What Lies Beneath: The Understatement of Existential Climate Risk: In it, the report released Monday… argues that the reticence of the world’s scientific community—trapped in otherwise healthy habits of caution and due diligence—to downplay the potentially irreversible and cataclysmic impacts of climate change is itself a threat that should no longer be tolerated if humanity is to be motivated to make the rapid and far-reaching transition away from fossil fuels and other emissions-generating industries.
In the new report—titled What Lies Beneath: The Understatement of Existential Climate Risk authors David Splatt and Ian Dunlop, researchers with the National Centre for Climate Restoration (Breakthrough), an independent think tank based in Australia, argue that the existential threats posed by the climate crisis have still not penetrated the collective psyche of humanity and that world leaders, even those demanding aggressive action, have not shown the kind of urgency or imagination that the scale of the pending catastrophe presents.
Common Dreams also carried ‘Hothouse Earth’ Co-Author Says ‘People Will Look Back on 2018 as the Year When Climate Reality Hit’ in which meteorologist Eric Holthaus said: “Yes, the prospect of runaway climate change is terrifying. But this dead world is not our destiny. It’s entirely avoidable…As the authors of the paper have argued in response to the coverage, implying otherwise is the same as giving up just as the fight gets tough.”
The Washington Post reports on Sea level rise is eroding home value, and owners might not even know it. On a broad scale, the effect is subtle, the studies show. The sea has risen about eight inches since 1900, and the pace is accelerating, with three inches accumulating since 1993, according to a comprehensive federal climate report released last year. Scientists predict the oceans will rise an additional three to seven inches by 2030, and as much as 4.3 feet by 2100.
Meanwhile, mapping has become increasingly precise, providing near-exact elevations that let researchers predict when individual properties could be underwater.
And the pièce de résistance from Chris Hedges. Saying Goodbye to Planet Earth “This tiny span of time on a planet that is 4.5 billion years old is known as the Holocene Age. It now appears to be coming to an end with the refusal of our species to significantly curb the carbon emissions and pollutants that might cause human extinction.”
And this is but a handful of the stories. Climate change – the story we want to ignore and, in some cases, deny. And who can blame anyone for that? But denial and avoidance – in the end – will not make the science of climate change go away. Yes, we can all do our individual tasks to help as we can. But the crisis we face demands large-scale, global, governmental intervention. It’s what government was designed to do and in decades past did. It’s up to all of us to demand of every political candidate – from local to national elections – that climate action be a part of their top priorities.
We leave you with a quote we’ve used before from social psychologist Diarmuid O’Murchu, whose book Catching Up with Jesus: A Gospel Story for Our Time presents a unique way of looking at the interconnectedness of all living things. In it, he presents a Jesus of Nazareth who carries on a conversation directed at us in the 21st century. O’Murchu ends the book with wisdom and a future vision as articulated by this Jesus.
“Everything lives on in a creative universe like ours…And energy carries information, the cumulative wisdom of the ages…My friends as you emerge from the oppressive power that has entrapped you, you will discover once more what intuitively you knew so well for thousands of years. This is a wise universe; ours is a wise earth…So, why are you humans behaving in this strangely stubborn and unenlightened way…Look around you and contemplate the wonder of all that exists in creation. Everything works in cooperative fashion as it is designed to do; and within that cooperative endeavor is a great deal of freedom and choice.
“If you choose to destroy yourselves, I am not going to play the rescuing parent. You have got to grow up and become adults. There is no space for childish power games in my relational matrix…Get into your hearts and see with the eyes of deeper vision. That is what will give you hope and meaning. And thereby you’ll access the wisdom that will enable you to live differently…Keep your attention on learning to relate rightly: with the cosmos, with the earth, with all creatures inhabiting creation, and all will be well.
“It just annoys me that it is taking you so long to grow up and become cosmic, planetary adults. Meanwhile, I and my relational matrix will forgive you for being such pests – not to me, but to the earth and to your own kind! So come on folks, time is running short and Mother Earth is getting weary of all this adolescent belligerence. The hour is fast approaching when you will have to choose between life and extinction. The choice is yours.”