The Heat Is On!

“It is 2050. Beyond the emissions reductions registered in 2015, no further efforts were made to control emissions. We are heading for a world that will be more than 3 degrees warmer by 2100. The first thing that hits you is the air.”

                                                ~ Christiana Figueres and Tom Rivett-Carnac

The Earth is getting hotter because we’re ignoring climate change to our peril. Many of us could just retreat into our air conditioning and set the sprinklers to water longer and more often, but most of the world, both the developed and natural parts, will struggle to survive without change. Heat-enhanced air pollution will make breathing for animals, plants and humans harder. Warming oceans will impact sea life and complicate air pollution. Habitats will change, imperiling food supplies. Populations will be forced to migrate, disrupting societies and fostering violence. Pandemics may be devastating to all populations.

In the U.S., we’ve been through extreme droughts before. Michael D’estries, writing for Treehugger, discussed the dust bowl of the 1930’s, “They were called “black blizzards” and “black rollers,” towering billows of dust rising thousands of feet high that became ominous symbols of the catastrophic Dust Bowl that hit the United States during the 1930s … While overgrazing and intensive farming practices laid the foundation for the ecological disaster, record-setting heatwaves in 1934 and 1936 — with the latter still the hottest ever recorded — provided the critical tipping point.”

He continues, “According to a study just published in the journal Nature Climate Change, a Dust Bowl-like heat wave is now more than twice as likely to happen in the U.S. each century due to climate change.” There’s more, “… with vast regions of the western U.S. already locked in what’s described as the first human-caused megadrought, it’s likely only a matter of time before the luck that has kept us sheltered from another Dust Bowl runs out.” He quotes scientistGabi Hegerl, “With summer heat extremes expected to intensify over the US throughout this century, it is likely that the 1930s records will be broken in the near-future.”

In other words, climate change isn’t something that’s just happening in other places to other people, it’s on our front door step. Figueres and Rivett-Carnac, co-authors of The Future We Choose: Surviving the Climate Crisis, speculate, “we suffered from too much consumption, competition, and greedy self-interest. Our commitment to these values and our drive for profit and status had led us to steamroll our environment. As a species we were out of control, and the result was the near-collapse of our world. We could no longer avoid seeing on a tangible, geophysical level that when you spurn regeneration, collaboration, and community, the consequence is impending devastation.”

But is it really too late? Maybe as individuals we cannot stop air pollution or prevent “too much consumption, competition, and greedy self-interest,” but we can take small steps. Environmentalists used to say, “reduce, reuse, recycle” and “plant a tree.” That advice still applies.

Figueres and Rivett-Carnac are hopeful. We can mitigate “the climate crisis as more mature members of the community of life, capable of not only restoring ecosystems but also of unfolding our dormant potentials of human strength and discernment. Humanity was only ever as doomed as it believed itself to be. Vanquishing that belief was our true legacy.”

You have trees to thank for that. They are everywhere.”

Additional information:

Christiana Figueres and Tom Rivett-Carnac, The Future We Choose: Surviving the Climate Crisis, Knopf, February 2020

Michael D’estries, The Heat Waves That Powered the Dust Bowl Are Now More Than Twice as Likely to Happen Again, May 27, 2020, Treehugger.com 

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