Donald Trump is the Republican nominee, Prince may have had a drug problem and a record-breaking 88,000 people have been evacuated from Fort McMurray, Canada.
If you’ve turned on a corporate 24-hour news network in the last couple of days, those are three things that you have definitely heard about.
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But what you didn’t hear from the mainstream media is that the wildfires in Alberta, and in Alaska, are directly related to climate change.
The media and the fossil fuel industry’s shills won’t tell you this, but there is no doubt about the fact that we are witnessing one of the most rapid periods of climate disruption in Earth’s history.
The deniers will continue to sow the seeds of doubt. They’ll say that the modeling is imperfect, that the science is imprecise and that there is still disagreement in the scientific community.
But the fact is, there is now universal agreement in the real scientific community about the fact that the climate is changing, and that it’s cause by human activity.
And as we learn more about the nitty-gritty of the Earth’s climate, as we study everything from how different types of clouds reflect sunlight to how quickly rivers will evaporate as the planet warms, one thing is becoming clearer and clearer.
The people who have been making the most extreme predictions about climate change, the so-called “alarmists,” have been right all along, and in many cases, even have been too conservative in their predictions.
And for millennials, their children and the generation of teens living today: It’s past time to be alarmed.
Unless we start treating this like the planetary emergency that it is, here’s what’s going to happen in the lifetime of a baby named “Baby Blue,” if “Baby Blue” were born earlier today.
We’re already seeing the loss of oxygen from our planet’s oceans, and by the time “Baby Blue” turns 14 in 2030, reports show that large parts of the Earth’s oceans will be depleted of oxygen, disrupting marine food chains and threatening marine ecosystems.
The World Wildlife Fund estimates that our ocean’s assets are worth at least $24 trillion, and that goods and services from coastal and marine environments create about $2.5 trillion each year, meaning that trillions of dollars of marine life would be lost by the time that “Baby Blue” turned 24 in 2040.
And then there’s the “Arctic Death Spiral,” which according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will likely lead to ice-free summers in the Arctic by the time “Baby Blue” is 24.
As the Arctic melts and reflective white ice recedes and reveals the dark ocean below, less sunlight is reflected from the Earth’s surface and more heat is absorbed, which speeds up the rate of warming in a feedback loop that’s called “Arctic Amplification.”
A study published at the end of April connected Arctic sea ice melt and surface melting of the Greenland ice sheet to extreme weather events in North America, like the unusually hot and dry air that is feeding the wildfires in Alberta and Alaska.
Professor Jennifer Francis, who coauthored the study, described the findings to Climate Progress’ Joe Romm: “[A]mplified Arctic warming and sea-ice loss favor the formation of blocking high pressure features in the North Atlantic. These blocks can cause all sorts of trouble. Including […] persistent weather patterns both [in North America] and [in Europe]. Persistent weather can result in extreme events, such as prolonged heat waves.”
What’s going on in Alberta and Alaska is directly related to those “blocking patterns,” which also contribute to the breakdown of the jetstream.
And if you think it’s jarring that Canada just evacuated a record-breaking 88,000 people from the wildfires in Alberta, you better brace yourself.
In a new volume of “Future of Children,” a report put together by Princeton University and the Brookings Institution, the scientists/authors estimate that we could see up to 200 million climate refugees by the year 2050, when “Baby Blue” would be only 34 years old, and just about ready to start a family of his or her own.
By that same year, temperatures of around 114 degrees Fahrenheit will be five times as common in the Middle East and Africa as they were when George W. Bush took office in the year 2000, which will force many of the 500 million people who live in those regions to try to relocate, according to a study from the Max Planck Society.
Right now, record numbers of people are being evacuated due to unusually hot weather in the North; fisheries are under serious threat because our warming oceans aren’t absorbing oxygen like they used to; and, the current rate of Arctic melting is threatening to release 2 trillion metric tons of methane into the atmosphere within the next century, which would all but guarantee a sixth mass-extinction event.
If “Baby Blue” were born today, he or she wouldn’t see any of the warning signs of runaway global climate change.
Because it’s already happening.
This is no longer about saving the planet for future generations way down the line.
This is about preserving the planet so that the babies being born today have healthy oceans to fish and arable lands to farm, and so they don’t have to deal with the hundreds of millions of refugees fleeing regions that have been made uninhabitable because of our fossil fuel addiction.
This is about preserving the planet so that the leaders who are being born today can focus on feeding the hungry and lifting people out of poverty as adults, instead of trying to avert a mass-extinction event.
It’s past time to raise the alarms, and soon it’s going to be past time to put on the brakes.
We need a carbon tax NOW. We need a massive green investment program to go 100 percent renewable and bring our energy system into the 21st century, and we need to hold the fossil fuel giants accountable for knowingly robbing our children of their future.