Futurcide: is the story of how humanity now faces the stark reality of our evolutionary success. Our future is now what we make it. We now control all life on the planet, including our own. Will we choose a safe, just and sustainable future or collapse like all the great civilizations before us?
Our differences are small and inconsequential. For our entire history we have been explorers and one people on a lonely spaceship hurtling through the void of space and time. The laws of the universe are strict and sometimes difficult to understand. Those laws are unforgiving and non-negotiable. If we look hard enough and use them wisely our species has no limits. Our future rests entirely in our own hands. But first we must learn that we are one people seeking truth, justice, equality, and a sustainable future on the one place we all call home.
Will we collectively choose a path of prosperity, social inclusion, and environmental sustainability or will we choose the existential collapse of civilization and mass extinction? The choice is immediate and absolute.
Our future survival is at stake. "We're the first generation to feel the impact of climate change and the last generation that can do something about it." Governor Jay Inslee, Washington State
Global warming causes the climate to change. The crisis humanity faces is not only global warming and subsequent changes in the climate — the synergy between those forces are driving a cascading collapse of security in multiple spheres. Unprecedented extremes pose a threat multiplier on many fronts. The root threat may be environmental but inaction is social. These are not different names for the same thing. Climate change is not what you see outside today. It is a multiple decade trend over the entire planet. While it may be a freezing December in Fargo, North Dakota; it may be over 49℃ (120.2℉) in Adelaide, Australia. In 2019, warming is accelerating rather than declining. The pace and consequences are far worse than the vast majority of us realize.
The worst case models are proving to be more accurate, but contemporary empirical measurements indicate even greater rates of warming. We are approaching the limits of Earth's resilience to human insult. On a business as usual (BAU) pathway, there is a better than even chance that two in seven living today will die prematurely by mid-century. We have dithered away our chance for an inexpensive, safe transition to sustainable development. The United Nations warns that there is a less than 5% chance that humanity will be able to cut emissions enough to stay below 2℃ (3.6℉) of warming before the end of this century. With a BAU scenario, there is a 10 % chance warming could exceed 6℃ (10.8℉). The stark reality is that the chances of the virtual extinction of the human species is greater than simply the threat to civilization.
"Earth's climate is now changing faster than at any point in the history of civilization, primarily as a result of human activities. The impacts of global climate change are already being felt in the United States and are projected to intensify in the future — but the severity of future impacts will depend largely on actions taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to adapt to the changes that will occur." (2018, Fourth National Climate Assessment, Volume II; Impacts, Risks, and Adaptation in the United States)
These truly are the best of times. How can things be so good and the future so promising, yet be on the verge of total collapse? Our global civilization stands on the edge of a precipice. We are feasting on the last helpings of Earth's banquet. Our habitat now encompasses the entire surface of Earth. Civilization lives like a spider at the center of a vast interconnected web of planetary goods and services. Strand by strand that web has been compromised. To survive, humanity must live within the bio-geochemical boundaries that make our habitat livable.
"Climate change affects the natural, built, and social systems we rely on individually and through their connections to one another. These interconnected systems are increasingly vulnerable to cascading impacts that are often difficult to predict, threatening essential services within and beyond the Nations's borders." (2018, Fourth National Climate Assessment, Volume II; Impacts, Risks, and Adaptation in the United States)
Failure to address climate change has become the single greatest threat multiplier in human history. At least two billion remain on the edge of calamity. Nearly a billion do not have enough safe water for basic needs. Ground water is being depleted faster than it is replenished. Arable soil loss is increasing while the demand for food production is increasing. As stressors increase it will become more difficult to maintain prosperity for rich nations; and impossible for poorer nations. A sustainable future will soon be impossible. We have no more than 6 to 10 years before our options end.
Two hundred years of investigation and overwhelming evidence only increases the resolution of scientific assertion. Still, there are those who seek to create doubt in the public's mind and sway government policy.
Isn't it true that there are thousands of scientists that dispute that global warming is evening happening? Some even say increased CO2 will only make the planet greener.
The claims in the paragraph above are a corporate sponsored, pre-meditated lie designed to create distrust in government and disbelief in solid empirical science. There are not thousands or even dozens of actual climate scientists that dispute global warming. The extraordinary warming we are witnessing today is not caused by the orbit of the earth, volcanoes, the way the planet wobbles on it's axis or sun spots. There has not been a single alternative hypothesis that disputes human induced global warming. The data has only become clearer in recent decades and there IS NO CREDIBLE EVIDENCE contradicting fossil fuel emissions of CO2 as the major cause of current warming. That horse is dead and we need to stop whipping it and move on.
THE OCEAN CRISIS:
Approximately 71.2% of the Earth's surface is covered by water. Without it we could not exist; yet we waste it, poison it, pollute it and acidify it with little regard. The 4th U.S. National Climate Assessment puts it this way:
"The Nation's valuable ocean ecosystems are being disrupted by increasing global temperatures through the loss of iconic and highly valued habitats and changes in species composition and food web structure. Ecosystem disruption will intensify as ocean warming, acidification, deoxygenation, and other aspects of climate change increase. In the absence of significant reductions in carbon emissions, transformative impacts on ocean ecosystems cannot be avoided."
Roughly 16% of our food protein comes from fish — most of that comes from marine sources. Marine fisheries and fishing communities are at extremely high risk as climate driven changes alter the distribution, timing and productivity of fishery related species. The ocean absorbs over 90% of the energy striking Earth and circulates massive amounts of that energy by ocean currents. Those circulation systems determine wind patterns, precipitation distribution, and the climate over Earth’s continents.
For every one degree centigrade of warming approximately 5% to 7% more moisture is evaporated into the atmosphere. Because water vapor is also a GHG this creates a closed loop of more water vapor causing more warming and so on.
Warming is greatest in the tropics, constantly pushing toward the poles. As warm moist tropical air rises, it cools, condenses and falls as precipitation. The remaining dry air then descends, compresses and becomes warmer. This pattern of moist warm air rising, precipitation, and the remaining warm dry air descending creates arid and wet bands that appear at specific latitudes around the planet. These bands are called Hadley cells. Hadley cells expand as the ocean absorbs more energy. The wet bands tend to become wetter and the hot dry bands tend to become drier. The tropical latitudes are experiencing more intensive rain and heat than usual. They are also experiencing unpredictable changes in monsoon patterns critical to agriculture. Moderately dry areas like the Mediterranean countries of Spain, Italy, Greece, and North Africa are experiencing heat waves and droughts that are predicted to intensify.