Turn Up the Heat on Climate Change

It is really not that complicated: We are burning out the planet, or more appropriately we are burning out our ability to continue to exist upon it. Let there be no doubt, the planet will survive but whether we as a species will survive is another matter entirely.
07/19/2015 12:51 pm ET Updated Jul 19, 2016
sun explosion abstract in the...
sun explosion abstract in the...

Well there you go again you wacky scientists spinning their wild tales of impending disaster and doom all to advance their ultra-liberal social agenda which includes abolition of capitalism as we know it, forcing people to actually interact with one another by living close to one another, and instituting mass transportation regimes which once again force people to interact with one another, oh the humanity, the horror! Damn you who conspire to destroy this happy little piece of paradise that we have worked so hard to secure for ourselves. Don't worry about the climate. Weather changes all the time. We will be just fine.

Denial in the face of incontrovertible evidence to the contrary is either devious or insane. It is simply unfathomable for many people with no intellectual investment in or appreciation for science to be compelled to entertain even the slightest notions that neither God nor nature nor human-driven technological inventions are appropriate strategies for saving us from ourselves. Oh ye of little faith, just close your eyes and cover your ears and repeat after me, "nah, nah, nah, nah, nay, nay, nay, nay, nay, boggety, boggety, boo" over and over again until eventually those perpetrating this cruel hoax called climate change tire and leave us to simply go about living the good life. Somehow, some way, it will work itself out; after all it always has before, right?

The mad scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and other well-respected research institutions worldwide continue to churn out reports that document long-term trends that serve to alert us to ominous consequences for those who will outlive us: namely, our children and grandchildren. Yet collectively we remain hesitant if not defiant in the face of such warnings to demand that our leaders actually lead by telling us things we don't necessarily want to hear. We reward our leaders for pandering rather than leading and the appearance of a dispute when in actuality there is no dispute as to what is happening is a security blanket that many wish to pull over their own eyes.

Climate deniers have taken residence in one of the major political parties, spoiler alert the one that controls Congress, and even more enlightened individuals in the other party, i.e. the one that does not control Congress, hedge their bets by insisting we have plenty of time to deal with the problem and thus reject the urgency to act forcefully to prepare for major changes to the business as usual model that provides a comfort level we are accustomed to.

Just close your eyes and when you wake up tomorrow the sun will rise, the bills will come in the mail, the world will keep spinning, weather and seasons will change, and the moon will rise and we will do it all over again. We will adapt, we will persevere, and we will survive.

Crisis has taken on a new definition in the contemporary political context in which climate change is discussed: unless it smacks us in the face we refuse to believe it. Even if it is staring at us at point blank range we simply must be assaulted before we react. And that is a key point for it seems we have reached a point in our intellectual development where we cannot bring ourselves to act but only react. Of course, I can only speak in terms of what I see happening in this country but since we have played an oversized and leading role in creating the climatic disaster that has placed the human species in peril our inability to play a leading role in addressing it places the onus for decisive action squarely upon us. And if we do not seize the mantle of leadership on arresting the adverse consequences of climate change no one else will.

So does this place me in the Blame America first crowd? Well, if the shoe fits I guess it does. The latest report by the National Centers for Environmental Information at NOAA contains a treasure trove of scientific data that portrays a planet and hence its inhabitants under siege. I once worked at NOAA and can assure you that it is not populated by mad scientists out to conquer the world. It is a place where smart public servants strive to do their jobs to the best of their abilities. So here we are with another damaging scientific report that simply cannot be ignored. And here is what it says:

• The year 2014 was the warmest year across global land and ocean surfaces since records began in 1880.

• This marks the 38th consecutive year that the yearly global temperature was above average.

• Nine of the 10 warmest years in the 135-year period of record have occurred in the 21st century. 1998 ranks as the fourth warmest year on record.

• Nineteen of the 20 warmest years on record have occurred in the past 20 years.

• The 2014 global average ocean temperature was also record high.

• This is the first time since 1990 the high temperature record was broken in the absence of El Nino conditions at any time during the year in the central and eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean.

• Overall, the global annual temperature has increased at an average rate of .11 degrees Fahrenheit per decade since 1880 and at an average rate of .28 degrees Fahrenheit per decade since 1970.

• Much of the record warmth for the globe can be attributed to record warmth in the global oceans, with three all-time new monthly high lobal ocean temperature records set in a single calendar year.

• Most areas of the world experienced above-average annual temperatures... record warmth was observed over various regions of the world's land surfaces, including Far East Russia into Western Alaska, the western United States, parts of interior South America, most of Europe stretching into northern Africa, and parts of both eastern and western coastal Australia.

• Nineteen European countries were expected to observe their hottest year on record.

• 2014 was the warmest year on record for the United Kingdom since records began in 1910.

• The Arctic is warming at more than twice the rate compared with lower latitudes.

It is really not that complicated: We are burning out the planet, or more appropriately we are burning out our ability to continue to exist upon it. Let there be no doubt, the planet will survive but whether we as a species will survive is another matter entirely.

Overall, the world's oceans are warmer now than at any point in the last 50 years. The change is most obvious in the top layer of the ocean, which has grown much warmer since the late 1800s. This top layer is now getting warmer at a rate of 0.2°F per decade. Oceans are expected to continue getting warmer -- both in the top layer and in deeper waters. Even if people stop adding extra greenhouse gases to the atmosphere now, oceans will continue to get warmer for many years as they slowly absorb extra heat from the atmosphere. Warmer oceans affect weather patterns, cause more powerful tropical storms, and can impact many kinds of sea life, such as corals and fish. Warmer oceans are also one of the main causes of rising sea level.

If this alarms you it is intended to do just that. We have been ignoring the warning signs for decades and it has not only caught up with us but surpassed our ability to mitigate the disastrous consequences of seemingly blissful ignorance. But my greatest fears as well should be your greatest fears are for those who will inherit the mess we leave behind. The cruelest irony is that it is not my generation who will suffer but rather our progeny. And as seems to always be the case those in greatest need, the most vulnerable in our world, will pay the steepest price and be impacted first and worst.

Our reliance upon a fossil-fuel-driven economic paradigm must be not only scaled back but replaced entirely. The tipping point for extreme correction has been crossed and we are now in a phase that will require serious adaptation. The extent to which we are committed to and capable of adapting to the new climate realities depends upon the rapidity with which we seriously take actions to eliminate greenhouse gasses in our atmosphere and our oceans.

We have forfeited the luxury of a gradual transition and are now in crisis. If you know a climate denier, educate him or her. If you are represented by one, replace him or her. Burn them before they burn us. Scientific data do not constitute a conspiracy but willfully conspiring to perpetuate a system that is suicidal, if not genocidal, is criminal. And as it stands now it will be the crime of the century.