Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Did Anyone Bother to Save Noah's Blueprints?

Like all mothers confronting errant, defiant children, Earth is punishing us.  And the worst is yet to come.

Here in southern New Mexico, we've gone more than 100 days without rain.  The winds came earlier, blew harder and are hanging around longer than any year in memory of most locals.

"Our respiratory systems weren't made to breathe dirt," a doctor friend said the other day when gusts over 40 mph called off our tennis session. 

"Wait till 'monsoon season,'" I replied.  "We're going to get a 200-year-rain and it'll wash everything, including us, down the arroyo to the Rio Grande."  I was only half-joking.

Five years ago we had a "100-year rain."  Lots of flood damage.  The next year we had another, worse rain.  We spent $20,000 repairing the damage to our own house and grounds.

Yet Nature is treating us kindly in comparison with other parts of the world. An epic wave of deadly tornadoes in the central United States.  Wildfires in New Mexico, Texas, California and Oklahoma.  Massive flooding in the Mississippi River valley, in Australia, in New Zealand, China and Pakistan. 

Extreme weather.  "Freak" weather?  No: it's exactly what all the climate science models predicted: a proliferation of extreme weather events.  Climate chaos.  The third law of thermodynamics -- entropy -- on steroids.

We're killing the food in the oceans.  We're melting the polar ice caps.  Grain harvests have failed in Russia, China, Australia and Texas.  Farmers in the midwest can't plant grain because their flood-ravaged fields are too wet.  This in a world where a fifth of the population already couldn't afford adequate nutrition.

Just a run of bad luck? No, all these bad things are happening because greenhouse gas emissions increased by a record amount last year, to the highest carbon output in history, according to the International Energy Agency.  The planet has already warmed by one degree celsius; if it warms by more than another degree, scientists say it will be difficult to sustain human life on most of the globe. Coastal cities, islands, perhaps even entire small countries will be submerged.  Massive human migrations will take place.  "It is becoming extremely challenging to remain below 2 degrees," Faith Birol, chief economist for the IEA, told the Guardian UK. "The prospect is getting bleaker.  That is what the numbers say."

Bill McKibben, one of the first prophets of climate change, says the killer second degree of warming is "already in the pipeline."  The year of record carbon emissions just ended, heaped on the emissions in the years immediately preceding it, means that warming energy temporarily stored in the oceans soon will escape to warm the entire envelope of life-sustaining atmosphere around the planet.

This is happening much faster than even the most dire climate change scenarios predicted.

Our government, our political leaders, and particularly our most profitable corporations, have sneered at climate change.  In fact, the planet-raping profiteers have financed a massive fog of pseudoscientific nonsense to persuade us that we can adapt to whatever is happening.

Somebody build an Ark. Quickly.

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