Global Warming – Climate Change
Perils of Humanity
By: Ted Folkert
It hasn’t been that long ago that the term “global warming” was not considered alarming. It never was a subject or a topic when I was growing up – not in the public schools or universities. How rapidly things can change, especially negative things. A few decades ago the word “carbon” wasn’t even much a part of our vocabulary. It was something used for production or fuel for vehicles. Now it is the culprit that may kill us all.
“Climate change,” another prevalent term now, has become alarming “faster than a speeding bullet,” like they used to say about the Lone Ranger, the famous cowboy of yesteryear. Global warming isn’t a term which induces us to enjoy the out-of-doors. No, if we are paying attention to the threats to humanity we realize that it does just the opposite. It induces concern for the threat to all life forms, especially humanity.
In February of this year the city of Petropolis, Brazil suffered mudslides in their mountainous hillside city which buried hundreds of people. Torrents of floodwaters and mudslides dragged cars and houses through the streets during the most intense rainfall in decades. Petropolis has been a refuge for people of Rio de Janeiro to escape the heat of summer. The rains were declared to be the worst in the area since 1932. A similar incident occurred in 2011 with 900 deaths. Although a plan to reduce the risks of landslides was conceived several years ago, thus far it lacks implementation.
Brazil seems a long ways away so is easy to lack concern for U.S. residents. However, Alex Wigglesworth and Ruben Vives of the Los Angeles Times bring it closer to home with their article in February, “Energy Forecast: More days with no power for AC.” They tell us that Californians could lose air conditioning for one week each summer due to the demand exceeding of the capacity of the power grid. This prediction is based on global average temperatures being predicted to rise 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. This would obviously be a burden on communities of older, poorer, and nonwhite people and more prevalent in states such as Missouri and Illinois.
The threat is exemplified further in Western Europe in February with a brutal storm of harsh winds which toppled trees and damaged buildings from the United Kingdom the Germany causing power failures for more than 400,000 people. It was named Storm Eunice by the British and Storm Zeynep in Germany. Gusts of 122 mph were recorded. Transport was severely disrupted.
The Associated Press tells us that climate change will mean that more land will burn scorching large parts of the globe in coming decades causing smoke pollution and other problems which governments are ill prepared to confront. More blazes are already occurring in the Western U.S., Siberia, India, and Australia with incidents predicted to increase by one-third by 2050 and fifty percent by 2100. The report by Glynis Humphrey and U.N. researchers tells us that land changes make the fires worse as logging leaves behind debris that easily burns and forests that are ignited to clear land for farming. Fires degrade water quality, destroy crops, and reduce land available for food production.
In the United States a $50 billion effort has been unveiled to reduce fire risks but funding thus far has only included $3 billion over five years. Imagine that, the most pressing and endangering potential for a demise of humanity lacks adequate funding but we have funds for paying all of our fearless leaders who seem to ignore reality. Go figure!
In March this year a U.N. report declares that the coral ecosystem is in crisis and suffering grave impacts from climate change, as expressed by Kristen Gelinbeau, Associated Press, in her article “A ‘degraded’ Great Barrier Reef.” (L.A Times March 1, 2022)
The Great Barrier Reef is said to be the largest living structure on the planet – the only living thing on Earth visible from space. It stretches 1,400 miles and is home of more than 1,500 species of tropical fish, dolphins, whales, birds, and giant clams. It is said to create $4.6 billion to the economy every year and supports about 64,000 jobs. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) states that the reef is in crisis and suffering grave impacts from climate change, with frequent and severe coral bleaching caused by warming ocean temperatures. Even if the global community achieves the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius it won’t be sufficient to prevent mass bleaching. The report predicts that ocean warming and marine heat waves will cause the loss and degradation of coral reef ecosystems. Such bleaching has been likened to a wildfire under the ocean. If it persists, the IPCC estimates the 10,000 jobs will be lost and about $727 million in revenue would be lost every year from declines in tourism.
About a billion people worldwide rely on coral reefs for their everyday living, says Scott Heron, physics professor at James Cook University. (That represents about 15% of humanity.) He says that failure to urgently reduce greenhouse emissions could have devastating effects for humanity. (“A ‘degraded’ Great Barrier Reef” (L.A Times March 1, 2022))
The Associated Press reported in an article in March this year that in Brisbane. Australia 31 inches of rain fell in six days causing tens of thousands of people to evacuate their homes and hundreds of thousands were told to prepare to flee as parts of Australia’s southeast coast is inundated by the worst flooding in more than a decade.
Martin Zavan, with Greenpeace Australia Pacific stated that the coral reef bleaching “is a sure sign that climate change caused by burning coal, oil and gas is threatening the very existence of our reef.”
March 20, 2022 L.A. Times article: “Extreme heat found at both poles.” Earth’s poles are undergoing simultaneous extreme heat, with parts of Antarctica more than 70 degrees warmer than average and the Artic more than 50 degrees warmer than average. Ice scientist Walt Meier stated that “the poles are opposite seasons. You don’t see the North and South poles both melting at the same time.” “It’s definitely an unusual occurrence.” University of Colorado Ice scientist Ted Scambos stated: “Wow, I have never seen anything like this in the Antarctic.” University of Wisconsin meteorologist Matthew Lazzara stated: “not a good sign when you see that sort of thing happen.” “That’s a temperature that you should see in January, not March. January is summer there. That’s dramatic.”
For the occasional observer of catastrophic events in can be confusing. Is the problem too much water or not enough? Well, apparently, it is both depending upon your situation at a given time and place.
Simultaneously with the devastation caused by too much water too fast we have a perhaps worse problem of not enough water in the right places at the right times. Jacques Leslie discusses this in “Forget 2021’s snowstorms; deal with intensifying drought.” He makes the case for recycling and conserving water instead of diverting water to the greatest demand. He declares that billions spent on bad projects such as tunnels and reservoirs should be replaced by conservation of existing resources. (L.A.Times, 2-22-22)
Jay Lemery, professor of emergency medicine at University of Colorado School of Medicine, tells us the “The climate crisis will wreck our health” in his March 2022 article in the L.A. Times. He states that we need specially trained doctors to treat the harm to people caused by a heating planet. He states that “the data from decades of climate science reinforces the overwhelming conclusion that our ecosystems are under such stress that wide-scale human suffering is all but certain.” The report indicates that we have “a brief and rapidly closing window of opportunity to secure a livable and sustainable future for all.” More optimistically he states that the window is not yet closed. He states that humans can expect more widespread sickness, injuries, and disease from a changing climate.
Lemery believes that “we should start today training our medical students about basic connections between climate and health and we should scale up professional development programs for practicing clinicians to gain the confidence and skills to dive into the fray now.”
- A. Times article: “Ice shelf collapse in East Antarctica, raising alarm.” An ice shelf the size of New York City has collapsed in East Antarctica, an area long thought to be stable and not affected much by climate change. It marked the first time in human history that the region had an ice collapse. Temperatures had soared more than 70 degrees warmer than normal in East Antarctica. The ice shelf was square miles wide. Catherine Walker of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute said that scientists have never seen this happen in this part of the continent, making it worrisome.
University of Minnesota ice scientist Peter Neff stated that “the Glenzer Conger ice shelf had been there for thousands of years, and it’s not ever going to be there again.”
L.A Times 3/26/22 – “Climate activists rally around world” “They want bolder measures to fight global warming, and some speak out on the war in Ukraine.” Scientists staged a 10th series of worldwide protests Friday to demand that leaders take stronger action against global warming, with some linking their environmental message to calls for an end to the war in Ukraine. The Fridays for Future movement, inspired by activist Greta Thunberg, saw demonstrations in Indonesia, Europe and the United States. Some held banners placards demanding “system change, not climate change.” Others held a banner saying “G-20, stop funding our extinction.”
This is just one example of the young protesting worldwide for an end to violence and endangerment of our environment. Sophia Geiger, 19, and activist with Fridays for Future, said she wants President Biden to declare a national emergency – a repeated demand by environmental groups since Biden took office.
The voices are many and rapidly multiplying – save the planet, stop global warming, save vital resources,
Laura J, Martin, Erie C. Ellis and Agustin Fruentes tell us in their L.A Times article: “Is humanity doomed? That depends on us.” Elon Musk repeated on old alarm that declining births are one of the biggest risks to civilization. If people don’t have more children, civilization is going to crumble.”
On the other side of the subject Paleontologist Henry Gee tells us that our species is destined for extinction due to declining fertility and habitat degradation.
Stanford biologist Paul Erlich predicted that population growth would outpace food production in the 1970s, leaving hundreds of millions to starve to death. Other scientists and environmentalists fear that humans will exceed the planet’s carrying capacity and destroy themselves.
Luke Kemp of the University of Cambridge’s Center for the Study of Existential Risk, states that “scholars of catastrophic risk point to climate change, nuclear weapons, bioweapons, autonomous weapons and mass surveillance as humanities greatest threats. Climate change is a clear example of how a small number of powerful humans drive environmental degradation and that the richest 1%, about 63 million people, is responsible for more than twice as much greenhouse gas emissions as 3.1 billion people who make up the poorest half of humanity – that they cause habitat degradation, income inequality and widespread injustice that already threaten the lives of countless people and other beings on the planet.”
Just today, April 21, 2022, the Associated Press tells us that “Last summer was Europe’s hottest yet.” The article stated that scientists say that temperatures were 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit higher than the average for the three previous decades.
The examples are never-ending. The Associated Press tells us this month that: “Horn of Africa braces for punishing drought.” This is their fourth consecutive year that agricultural workers are preparing for their most severe drought in 40 years. The International Authority on Development said rains would be lacking for a fourth consecutive year, triggering increased case of malnutrition and threats to livelihood for 29 million people.
Now, more locally, yet another dispute over water sources comes about with the huge Mono Lake in Northern California facing drought conditions forcing cuts in exports of water to various cities due to a three year drought which causes a 72% reduction in water diverted for Los Angeles which serves more than 100,000 residents.
The stories and facts go on and on as the inevitable becomes a reality. Yet, the evidence and warnings of planetary demise and living conditions become ever more perilous. As I peer from my sliding door at the sunshine and gentle breeze it seems that there is no problem and that life is good. So, what will I do? Shall I ponder about the plight of humanity and seek something I can do to help to placate disaster for future generations? What can I do? I can skip that unnecessary trip to the market for a couple of things. I can leave off the heat and air conditioning which is monitored to maintain comfort to the nth degree. But, what little will all that do to resolve this festering and worsening problem of global warming. What I can personally do to alleviate the reality would not even be measureable against the challenge of planetary destruction which we have committed the planet to suffer, not for me to experience, but for the billions of humans who will follow when I am finished enjoying the comforts and pleasures bestowed upon us by this lovely planet.
I know. We don’t like to talk about this. We all prefer to ignore the subject because we assume we can’t make much contribution to resolving the reality and we are unconvinced of the warnings of our environmental scientists.
Those of us who do care either don’t have enough concern for future humanity or we realize that there isn’t much we can do resolve it. It seems to become more evident as we pursue the challenge that voluntary compliance with life-sustaining practices is not going to happen soon enough or vastly enough to manage the inevitable. We realize that it must be accomplished by mandatory measures by all inhabitants of Planet Earth.
So, the question is: how can we accomplish the measures to eliminate of lessen this potential disaster?
We used to something like this the “64 million dollar question” but due inflation it is now a “64 trillion dollar question” – and then some. It seems that the only way to get any compliance will require hitting everyone on the planet in the pocket book. That is the only way to get compliance. It will never be done voluntarily. We must fund the cost of every environmental issue through mandatory taxation on a widespread scale. It will have to be burden on every inhabitant of the planet and will have to be scaled upward by income and wealth to make it equally felt by all. And it must be done now, not a few decades or years from now, but now. I must be taxed adequately enough to restrict my spending on unnecessary trips to the market or to visit friends or to partake of entertainment facilities. It must be done now for me and for you and for everyone.
Will our elected leaders do the job? Of course not! It might have a negative effect on their reelection as they wallow in the public trough. If they don’t get reelected how can they continue to make life so great for everyone? Maintaining their position of recognition and privilege is much more important than assuring continuity of the planer for human habitation. It is a simple as that!
I am rambling on this subject because we all need to ramble on this subject until everyone is convinced that action is imminently necessary. Without a continuity of rambling on this subject, action will never transpire. You and I may be okay but future generations will not. We have a duty to consider the welfare of those who follow.
We must listen to the voices of the experts in science who know and can measure what is happening and guide us in placating or resolving the imminent danger of the demise of humanity. This is the opposite of “Greed Disease” which I wrote about recently. This is about assisting the cause of assuring a continuity of humanity, a cause which is heading in the wrong direction and gaining ground with each generation of comfort and pleasure seekers who disregard the apparent outcome and cherish personal self-aggrandizement over the continuity of humanity.
It’s like what Mary McNamara asks in her recent article in the Los Angeles Times: “Quit fiddling while Earth burns:” “Why are we talking about anything but climate change?” This is the question she asks herself “every time scientists release one of their consistently alarming reports on the projected countdown to doomsday.” She defines doomsday as “the moment when the ability to lower the atmospheric temperature has slipped from our control – the moment when we are irrevocably at the mercy of hurricanes, tornadoes, fires, drought, food shortages, rising sea levels, and political carnage that will accompany same – the moment that by the latest estimates is less than 10 years away.”
Another compelling article in the Los Angeles Times “Little time left to save Earth” sounds the alarm again with no holds barred. It states that “If we don’t act now to go beyond current pledges and cut fossil fuel emissions in half by 2030, it will be impossible to keep the heating of the Earth below a crucial 2.7-degree Fahrenheit limit and avoid increasingly severe devastation and suffering.” The IPCC clearly states that what is blocking the replacement of dangerous fossil fuels with clean renewable energy is not technology, but politics. Politicians, and the self-interested fossil fuel interests they serve, are the reason we are spiraling toward calamity.
The article states that: “this kind of climate action may seem unlikely or even laughably ambitious, given the dysfunction in Congress, its failure to respond to decades of escalating warnings from scientists and the stranglehold of polluting industries. But if there ever were a time to press hard and go big to save our planet from the worst ravages of climate change, it is now.”
I suppose the answer to the question of sanity taking precedence over politics in this time of crisis is a silly question, as always. Will those few who stand to prosper short term by instilling permanent damage on our living conditions with fossil fuels again prevail to the demise of the future Earth inhabitants?
Nicholas Goldberg states the case and warns of the urgency of action in his recent article in the Los Angeles Times: “The end of the world is coming, one more time.” We should all read it and take heed to the reality which it implies for humanity. It isn’t good news but should invoke our awareness one more time.
I don’t want to read about it or think about it any longer. I’m sure everyone feels the same way, but we must, life depends on it.