The climate emergency is happening much faster than the experts have imagined, in part, due to feedback loops such as methane being released from permafrost due to the rapidly warming arctic.
Many of these feedback loops have not been figured into the computer models and have escalated the speed and severity of this problem. Additionally fossil fuel interests have done everything in their power to purchase politicians, create bogus scientific boards and in general, confuse much of the electorate due to the complexities of the issue.
We are so deeply divided as a nation and sadly, the pseudo-scientific, conspiratorial arguments attract more attention than science-based ones. Fortunately, we have experts from many organizations including NASA that lay the groundwork for understanding why we need to act now before our planet becomes uninhabitable.
The evidence for the climate emergency is overwhelming. According to the NASA website Evidence | Facts – Climate Change: Vital Signs of the Planet “Ice cores drawn from Greenland, Antarctica, and tropical mountain glaciers show that Earth’s climate responds to changes in greenhouse gas levels.”
Ancient evidence can also be found in tree rings, ocean sediments, coral reefs, and layers of sedimentary rocks. This ancient, or paleoclimate, evidence reveals that current warming is occurring roughly 10 times faster than the average rate of warming after an ice age. Carbon dioxide from human activities is increasing about 250 times faster than it did from natural sources after the last Ice Age.
What this means is that we have created so much momentum in the form of greenhouse gases, we will not be able to avoid the climate crisis. The question now is how much we can mitigate if we are able to act.
Four major gases that increase the greenhouse effect are carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). As we increase these gases through practices such as farming, transportation, electrical generation and refrigeration, we are slowing the release of excess heat back into space. This creates a buildup or a “greenhouse effect” slowly accumulating extra energy in the form of heat in our atmosphere, leading to more extreme weather events including droughts, more intense hurricanes, flash flooding and forest fires.
Along with major heat events, we can expect major cold spells in places such as Texas where jet streams have been radically changing from historical norms. These variables create such uncertainty that resilience will need to consider the unpredictable nature of our warming planet.
The solutions to this emergency are many. We need to drastically cut our emissions 100 percent by 2050 across our whole planet if we are to avoid a 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) rise on global average.
Many experts believe that if we are to have any chance to lessen the severity of the emergency, it is absolutely necessary to reach this goal. Along with cutting emissions through alternative energy such as wind and solar, nuclear will need to be part of the solution.
The safety record for the industry is remarkably better compared to traditional fossil fuel industries, especially coal. Small scale nuclear power may have practical solutions if the industry can bring down the cost.
By far the biggest solution towards fixing this problem is through changing minds across the public. The climate emergency generally makes people feel anxious, uncomfortable, angry, and sad. The single most important thing we can do as citizens is talk directly to our politicians. We need them to know there are many of us out here that are sick of the bullshit.
There are scientists getting silenced by powerful interests and are at desperate lengths including conducting hunger strikes and committing civil disobedience. We owe future generations to live with compassion and understanding and stop burying our heads in the sand. Silence will keep each and every one of us on the wrong side of history.
Joseph Hoydilla lives in Middletown.