Earth’s climate has changed to a new regime. Extreme fluctuations between drought conditions and flooding rainfall will be a persistent feature in many parts of the world. In other areas, such as much of Africa, the western half of North America, and all regions near the Equator, drought will become a permanent climate feature. Due to the loss of water resources and temperatures rising to or above the limits of habitability, the worst affected parts of these areas will become uninhabitable by any large animals that are not already adapted to such conditions. This will include humans and their food animals. What precise areas will be affected first is unknown, but eventually all of these regions will suffer in this way.
Europe, the eastern half of the North American continent and Asia will all be subject to bouts of extreme weather, specifically dangerous heating and drought followed by monsoonal downpours. In northern Europe and the middle of the North American continent, violent storms are also probable. Southern Europe will share North Africa’s climate regime and is likely to become largely uninhabitable as well.
It is not going to be possible to change this situation before very serious disruptions take place, including food shortages in many areas, an increase in heat-related deaths among both people and their livestock, and forced migration due to water shortages.
In the Southern Hemisphere, the declining strength of ocean currents and increasing heat mean reduced moisture levels in the air over land masses, with subsequent drought conditions becoming potentially catastrophic. In the Northern Hemisphere, drought in the higher latitudes where warming effects are much more pronounced are going to lead to further extension of wildfires during the summer season. Heating of the northern ocean is beginning to lead to release of methane hydrates from the sea floor. This has the potential to increase the intensity of atmospheric heating dramatically.
Like Greenland, the Antarctic glaciation is now under severe pressure, with the Thwaites Glacier most likely to express into the open ocean at some near-future point.
The northern jet stream is in jeopardy due to rising upper atmosphere temperatures. It cannot flow without sufficient temperature differential. As it weakens, it will become more erratic. If and when it stops, a profound and life threatening catastrophe will quickly develop.
Planet Earth is experiencing a climate emergency. Unfortunately leadership in the United States, Russia, China and India, the four largest countries in terms of carbon dioxide emissions, has failed to address the problem. This is also true in most of Asia, South America, the Middle East and some parts of Europe.
There are a few simple acts that could radically improve the future livability of Planet Earth right now. It is time to embrace these good solutions rather than waiting for the perfect ones that might or might not come later:
1. We can increase the reflectivity and heat management of our cities. First, making sure that roofs, concrete and asphalt expanses are reflective rather than dark in color can dramatically reduce their heat signature. Second, emphasis on and expansion of green spaces, insofar as this is possible given water shortages, can help.
2. Just 1,500 of the 29,000 coal-fired power plants worldwide emit 73% of all electrical generation pollutants. They can be converted to natural gas. It is still polluting, but far less so than coal. This single act, not even very expensive, would massively reduce carbon emissions.
3. Oil and gas extraction causes methane leakage. A worldwide effort to fix these leaks can drastically reduce human-caused methane release into the atmosphere. This is important because methane is a vastly more dangerous warming agent than carbon dioxide.
4. There are smaller, less expensive, more efficient and safer nuclear power plant designs available right now. These plants should be built, and even smaller modular reactors considered for the near future.
5. We can get serious, on an international basis, about the plant a trillion trees proposal. If we plant in areas that still have viable ecosystems, we can expand those ecosystems and recover our planet’s lungs.
6. There should be an international consortium devoted to building desalinization plants wherever they will help. This should include loans and grants for countries that cannot afford this technology.
7. A worldwide education campaign should be instituted so that people have all the knowledge tools, from arid farming techniques to heat and other extreme weather survival strategies that they need.
8. Changes in livestock breeding to emphasize the breeding of lower-flatulence animals, and increasing use of plant-based nutrients in diets.
READING THE CLIMATE WATCH INDEX: There is no reason to update the Climate Watch indicators. They are at their extremes. We hope to convert the indicators to fire, drought and storm watch aggregators in fall of 2022.