I have been writing about the dangers of climate change since I published Nature’s End with Jim Kunetka in 1985. It was considered overstated. When Art and I published Superstorm, it was considered overstated. It turns out that neither book was overstated. In fact, both were understated. Climate change is happening much faster than we imagined possible. In addition, the Climate Watch section on this website has offered accurate predictions based on the knowledge of climate I have acquired over the years, and the theories that I apply.
We are at present in an exceedingly serious situation. It is far more serious than people realize and are being led to believe. The most significant problems, as far as I can see, are as follows:
1. The West Coast of the Americas from Alaska to Central America is likely to experience an indefinitely continuing drought. To save the cities, it will be necessary to curtail more and more farming in the region, but in the end, within five years if there is no intermittent drought relief, and longer if there are occasional winters that replenish the snow pack, even the cities will run out of water.
2. The Gulf Stream is slowing much more rapidly than expected, and this is causing serious disturbance in the jet stream. There is a profound synergy between ocean and air currents, with the result that the jet stream has become unstable and slowed down. One result was that Boston had a hundred inches of snow this winter while there was so little snow in Alaska that the Iditarod could be run only with difficulty. Additionally, Paris briefly became the most polluted city in the world due to a lack of air circulation. From now on, irregularities in air circulation will increase, especially in the northern hemisphere where the ocean currents are presently most damaged. Once again, this will not ‘regularize.’
3. Persistent drought across South America is likely to continue, although this is more uncertain at the present time because the southern hemisphere has not yet experienced the dramatic changes taking place in the north. The reason for this is that the Antarctic is a larger geologic feature, but as it is also melting, and change will unfold there as well. There is a popular fiction that ‘Antarctic ice is increasing.’ Sea ice coverage is increasing because increased winds caused by atmospheric warming are spreading it. It is, at the same time, thinning, and Antarctic glaciers are melting more and more rapidly.
4. As the upper atmosphere warms, there will be fewer localized storms, but at the same time, when they do take place they will increasingly develop into unusually violent events, such as the storm that probably caused AirAsia Flight 8501 to go out of control and crash and the powerful supertyphoons that appeared in the eastern Pacific this year.
5. Increasing amounts of methane will outgas across the arctic this year, with unknown consequences. As methane is flammable, there could be extremely unusual atmospheric events, such as methane ignition in the atmosphere caused by lighting discharges. This is most likely to take place over the Siberian land mass where most of the methane release is taking place during times when atmospheric circulation is low. The release of methane hydrates now frozen on the ocean floor is already beginning, and will continue to spread, vastly adding to the atmosphere’s methane load and dramatically increasing all warming trends, probably well beyond those predicted by global warming models.
For many years, China, India and the American Republican Party have ignored the problem. Last year, however, strenuous efforts on the part of China caused the country’s carbon dioxide emissions to remain stable, with the result that, for the first time, CO2 emission worldwide did not rise. At the same time, however, the prime minister of India pointedly refused to do anything about air pollution and initiated economic reforms designed to spur growth, which is likely to negate Chinese efforts over the next few years. These are years we do not have.
The Republican Party bears a grave moral responsibility for fomenting a fallacious debate in the United States that has stifled and prevented urgently needed reforms for the past half century. But now its position is being undermined not only by events but by the greater moral authority of the Catholic Pope. This summer, Pope Francis will promulgate an encyclical that will call global warming "a reality with dire moral implications–especially for the poor and vulnerable, who are at the heart of Catholic social teaching." He has said in the past "a Christian who does not protect creation is a Christian who does not care about the work of God."
His statements, combined with the fact that the science has been in place, and largely borne out by events, for many years, illustrate the moral bankruptcy of the anti-climate change position. They must change it, and fast, and accept that all human beings have got to do all they can on an individual, local, regional, national and international basis to save our planet and ourselves. There is no time left, and we are going to experience many horrible effects of climate change. But we can begin planning and acting right now to make an effort to build the foundations of survival for future generations. If we don’t, many millions of us are going to die, and this is going to escalate continually. As it does, chaos will spread and what abilities we have to save the situation will be degraded further and further until we sink into an irrecoverable maelstrom of war, revolution and anarchy.
While I do not generally take political positions, at this juncture, I must say that the Republican Party and the wealthy interests who have been and are supporting politicians who make false claims that climate change is not happening and use scientific fallacy to support this absurd and immoral position have a great deal to answer for. They, and the government and people of India and the other countries who are ignoring the problem, must join the rest of the mankind in recognizing our peril at once and doing what we can to save what we can of our dying world.
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