It’s not a shot of cold water in the face…more like a blast of super-heated steam. Yeah, this article on our prospects for global climate change is the most terrifying thing I’ve read in ages.
The present tense of climate change — the destruction we’ve already baked into our future — is horrifying enough. Most people talk as if Miami and Bangladesh still have a chance of surviving; most of the scientists I spoke with assume we’ll lose them within the century, even if we stop burning fossil fuel in the next decade. Two degrees of warming used to be considered the threshold of catastrophe: tens of millions of climate refugees unleashed upon an unprepared world. Now two degrees is our goal, per the Paris climate accords, and experts give us only slim odds of hitting it. The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issues serial reports, often called the “gold standard” of climate research; the most recent one projects us to hit four degrees of warming by the beginning of the next century, should we stay the present course. But that’s just a median projection. The upper end of the probability curve runs as high as eight degrees — and the authors still haven’t figured out how to deal with that permafrost melt. The IPCC reports also don’t fully account for the albedo effect (less ice means less reflected and more absorbed sunlight, hence more warming); more cloud cover (which traps heat); or the dieback of forests and other flora (which extract carbon from the atmosphere). Each of these promises to accelerate warming, and the history of the planet shows that temperature can shift as much as five degrees Celsius within thirteen years. The last time the planet was even four degrees warmer, Peter Brannen points out in The Ends of the World, his new history of the planet’s major extinction events, the oceans were hundreds of feet higher.
It gets worse from there. Much worse.
Future generations — I mean, the current generation — will look back on this time and regard all those Republican climate change deniers as monsters committing crimes against humanity, and the rest of us as lazy good-for-nothings who couldn’t get off our butts to arrest the liars and frauds and greedy, corrupt short-term thinkers who are busily wrecking the planet for our species.
But wait, you say, didn’t Trump recently bring on a science advisor, at last? Isn’t he a scientist of some sort? Of some sort, sure — Kelvin Droegemeier is a weather man with no knowledge of climatology, but he has some credentials. If you think he’ll be a voice of reason in the White House, watch this and be disillusioned.
That was a truly masterful demonstration of cowardice and evasion — he’s got no spine at all. If he doesn’t die of natural causes first, our descendants are going to have his wobbly, worthless head on a pike, and he’ll deserve it.
Arielle Duhaime-Ross, the interviewer, is good and persistent, though, not letting him off the hook at all. I wish more journalists would do that.