This is a simple explanation of Climate Change, based on an article in the New York Times. The average temperature on the surface of the planet has already increased 1.7 degrees Fahrenheit since 1880, which may not seem like much, but think about it this way, the heat from human emissions is roughly equal to 400,000 Hiroshima atomic bombs exploding across the planet every single day.
Future generations are in big trouble, but for now it will continue to get warmer and storms will grow more intense, with longer periods of drought in between. But longer-term, if emissions continue to rise unchecked, the climate disasters will be so severe they will destabilize entire nations, send millions of refugees across borders, cause widespread extinction of most species on Earth, and melt the polar ice caps, leaving most of the world’s coastal cities several feet underwater.
CLIMATE CHANGE: HOW LONG WOULD IT TAKE?
All this could take centuries, but something like the sudden collapse of agriculture would trigger immediate chaos in society. Best case is we get our act together and begin to rapidly bring emission levels down; meanwhile, Earth turns out to be less sensitive to greenhouse gases than we currently believe, plants and animals adapt quickly, and major technological breakthroughs help society limit emissions and adjust to climate change.
CLIMATE CHANGE: WHAT WE CAN CONTROL
But, these are all the opposite of what we’re actually seeing, so the only thing in our control is to limit emissions using all available tools and best behaviors currently at our disposal. Worst case, the collapse of food production causes spiraling prices and — as our capitalist utopia breaks down — billions starve as our world gets violent and messy real quick–kind of like a zombie apocalypse, but with extreme hunger spreading chaos instead.
So, yeah, still just like a zombie apocalypse. This would be coupled with the melting of the Antarctic ice sheet, leading to rapidly rising seas that would force us to abandon many of our greatest cities and all of the social and scientific progress that we were making within them.
Adding insult to injury is the fact that many of the emissions were emitted while building these now abandoned, underwater metropolises. If emissions continue unchecked, we’re looking at a total rise of between 80 to 160 feet, which would occur if all the ice in the polls melted. So the oceans will rise, the real question is how fast?
CLIMATE CHANGE: SCIENTISTS PREDICTIONS
Scientists only have Earth’s history to base their predictions on, which suggests that the rate has occasionally hit 1 foot per decade…so we’ll have to adapt to an altered coastline sooner or later, but probably much sooner than later. Because… Computer forecasts only give us a range of future possibilities, the most important evidence comes from the study of past climate conditions which clearly show that every time the amount of carbon dioxide in the air rises, the Earth warms up, ice melts, and the ocean rises.
What’s important to remember here is that we are in uncharted territory–humans are pumping carbon dioxide into the air far faster than nature ever has before us. Scientists have been publishing strong evidence that warming is making drought and heat waves more frequent, causing heavier rainstorms, and more severe coastal flooding. But while the Internet has made us all more aware of weather disasters in distant countries, it’s hard to prove these are all directly made worse by climate change, although they probably are.
Canada and Russia both have vast, frozen lands, and could see some economic benefits from a warmer climate. Putin and the Russians, therefore, have been reluctant to make ambitious climate commitments. But expect that to change as these countries realize they will be swamped by millions of refugees from less fortunate nations. Libertarians and other political conservatives do not like the policies proposed to fight climate change and have chosen to try and block them by actively undermining the science.
This effort has been funded by the oil and coal industry, who favor making money above all else. As more resources are devoted to solving the problem, our chances at big technological breakthroughs are improving, but we still should be spending about three-times as much money as we currently are on these efforts according to several in-depth reports.
You can reduce your carbon footprint by doing things like plugging leaks in your home insulation, installing a smart thermostat, taking public transit, taking less airplane trips, buying an electric car, and putting solar panels on your roof.
A big one is eating less meat. But what’s really needed is for you to speak up and exercise your rights as a citizen, because strong, collective action through state and national policies is how we’ll make the most impact. Considering that we’ve been ignoring scientists’ warnings since the 80’s to limit emissions, we’re pretty late in the game. But we’ve finally reached a moment where nearly every country in the world agrees this is a huge problem, and seem ready to commit to taking at least some kind of action.
Leading corporations will continue to make bold promises to do their part, low-emission technologies will improve, and many states and cities will go much further than any goals set by their national governments.
The United States, the world’s biggest economy, is finally starting to move aggressively, and China, the world’s largest emitter, is beginning to recognize that it needs to do the same, as many of its megacities cities will be underwater if the seas rise too high. But it’s up to us, the ordinary citizens, to continue demanding our political leaders tackle climate change, the hardest problem that humanity has ever faced.
Share this article to help it spread. A special thanks to Justin Gillis of the New York Times for putting together the original article, which is linked in the more info section below.
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