The greatest threat to humanity
I am very committed to living sustainably, and this commitment arises from my deep concern about the future of humanity in the face of accelerating climate change. To put it simply, there is no greater threat to humanity. Mainstream media and even the better web sources that report responsibly on climate change are not covering the rapidly changing news. It is quite clear to me that humanity has already passed the tipping point this summer when CO2 in the atmosphere exceeded 400 ppm and that global climate change is accelerating, and will continue to do so at a very rapid rate. Yes, I mean that the rate of change is increasing. Climate scientist's predictions are generally conservative, but there are a few who have been sounding the alarm in recent years.
I have been following the blogs of several climate science researchers (see below) who have written posts about how the warming planet is melting the Arctic ice caps and causing accelerated feedbacks resulting in massive releases of methane (known as the Methane Time Bomb) from the Arctic Ocean and tundra. Methane is 30 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than CO2. But now new science has discovered that as the Arctic soil warms, microbes in the soil are now beginning to release massive amounts of CO2 creating yet another feedback that accelerates global warming. This has been an unanticipated source of CO2 not used in calculations and climate change models to date.
Bloggers are suggesting that agriculture throughout the world could crash within 20 years due to extreme drought and other effects thus beginning the start of a huge human die off. Even if these guys are off by 20 or even 40 years, the situation is dire, humanity may well be on a path to extinction. And it's not just us: since 1900, birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians and fish died 72 times faster than normal.
Species ExtinctionNearly half the species on the planet are failing to cope with global warming the world has already experienced, according to an alarming new study that suggests the sixth mass extinction of animal life in the Earth’s history could take place in as little as 50 years.
Knowledge is powerMany of us older folks (I'm 61 as I write this in 2016) will not live long enough to see the worst outcome of this crisis, but future generations will. So I feel it is important for us to be aware and knowledgeable about the situation so that we can advise those who come after us and suggest that they now begin preparing for the worst. Anyone alive now who is less than 40 years old may be living in a vastly changed world in which food will eventually become extremely expensive and/or largely unavailable. Life as we know it will be fundamentally changed.
Ocean level rise
Consider for example that most climate scientists agree that the ocean levels will rise by at least 6 feet by the end of the century. As our understanding of climate feedbacks increases this estimate may be considered quite conservative. This is sufficient to completely submerge much of Bangladesh to the point where it becomes uninhabitable. And of course many coastal cities and island nations will need to be abandoned and that point. This will affect millions of people and force them to being climate refugees. For example more than 1 million Syrians are now refugees due to drought triggered by climate change and these large droughts are going to get bigger and worse in the future. Thousands of people are already dying as a direct result of climate change.
What can we do?
Well, some of us are already doing the best we can by living sustainably, modeling the change we want to see in the world, and acting socially and politically to raise awareness and affect change. It is important not to be paralyzed by this concern and to continue to do as much as we can - especially in the face of the current political climate. Addressing climate change needs to be part of our daily dialogue. I recall a bumper sticker from the 1970s that said: "If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem". Everything that we can do today no matter how large or small will have an impact on the future. I have heard that Native Americans always made major decisions with a view to seven subsequent generations. I hope that humanity has the luxury to survive for another seven generations. I am an irrepressible optimist and certainly hope that we will figure this out, but it will take the concerted action of all of humanity to wake up and affect change as soon as possible. We cannot continue with business as usual. If I were a young person today, I would be giving very serious thought about whether it would be wise to bring a child into this changing world. Population is a big contributor to the problem.
ReferencesArctic News blog
This one is written by Sam Carana in plain easy-to-read language with beautifully prepared graphics that explain everything very clearly. I urge you to sit and take the time to read through this blog and share it with others. Sam ends every blog post with this line: "The situation is dire and calls for comprehensive and effective action as described in the Climate Plan."
Robert's Scribblers blog
Robert quotes a number of climate scientists who are all saying that we have passed the point of no return. He goes on to explain in considerable detail in clear easy-to-read language what is going on. The final line in his most recent blog is: "In other words, even the optimists at this time think that we are on the cusp of runaway catastrophic global warming. That the time to urgently act is now."
Arctic Sea Ice Collapse
Blog post on Weather Underground summarizing the issue and predicting a complete loss of all Arctic sea ice in the foreseeable future. The impacts of losing the polar icecap are truly frightening.