Lately, I have taken to saying, “let’s get real” in our discussions of “climate change”—a distinctly mild term, considering the extremely disruptive changes in climate we have already begun to experience. I prefer terms like climate chaos and climate emergency. They are simply much more realistic.
We are at least three decades past the time for “debate” with climate deniers. The latest report of the IPPC reveals the urgency of the global climate crisis already upon us. Greta Thunberg’s speech to the UN on 23 September 2019 was way ahead of the report, both in the facts she presented and the emotional expression of outrage at the indifference of global elites, corporate, governmental, and financial alike.
The moral imperative expressed by Greta Thunberg’s admonitions is both extremely powerful and undeniable. Climate action is the morally imperative decision governments, corporations, communities, and all people who participate in the global industrial-consumer society, have failed to take. Actions taken so far are mostly symbolic posturing from which no concrete actions have resulted.
Accelerated Earth System Degradation
The latest IPPC report portends accelerating global climate chaos and dire impacts on human life even in the next decade. Major climate disturbances, way outside the range of severity of events of the last two centuries of industrialization are accelerating in frequency and severity. Their impacts on ecosystems, food security, and economic systems have become directly visible in various locations around the world. The UN report makes clear that only by drastic action can humanity hope to minimize the damage to our future. Stating carbon-emissions reduction “goals” is entirely meaningless in this context.
These are not debatable matters. The factual basis of our climate emergency is undeniable to anyone who actually considers the evidence. While Trump tries to wind back the paltry efforts by the Obama administration (out of racial hatred as much as anything) other more enlightened political leaders around the world take cautious half-steps that involve little actual direct actions to radically reduce carbon emissions. They continue to focus on abstractions and relative responsibilities of industrial vs less-developed nations.
Tipping Points Cause Extreme Emergency
Recent findings reported in Nature reveal that we are rapidly approaching multiple tipping points beyond which climate action cannot control the collapse of diverse components of the climate system, portend climate chaos beyond our imagination. Even more important, these tipping points interact.
To take the short path to understand the gravity of the situation, read the Washington Post article summarizing the IPCC technical report. Also, read the tipping-points article in Nature cited above. The rate of ice melt and sea rise are not matters of opinion. Their causally correlated trajectories are simply matters of fact with vast complex consequences. These trends force the inevitable conclusion in the UN’s IPCC report, that “drastic action is only way to avoid worst effects of climate change.” Those worst effects include the annihilation of most of the world’s coastal cities, extreme drought and superstorms, and mass starvation. The time for equivocating is over. Taking extreme climate action will at least mitigate some of the most extreme effects of the climate chaos produced especially in the last decades of the waning industrial era.
We can genuinely exclaim, “Happy Thanksgiving!” when we find ourselves grateful that extreme climate action is being taken.