The world is going to have huge difficulty coping with the crises of the 21st century.
Covid-19 has already shown that.
More frequent future pandemics, the looming climate catastrophe, environmental collapse, the ongoing Sixth Mass Extinction with increasingly rapid loss of species, water wars, overpopulation, human mass migration – all these await mankind.
Climate change, just to take the most obvious example, is a vastly more immense, much more complicated problem that requires navigation of complex scientific analysis and the imposition of painful policies internationally to ensure collective survival.
More extreme weather events, unbearable heat waves, hurricanes, floods, droughts, desertification, more numerous and bigger wildfires all await mankind.
Covid-19 didn’t require much more than for leaders to listen to basic medical advice.
They couldn’t even do that very well.
Covid-19 is like a little pop quiz before the big final exam, and it revealed that significant portions of the elite and those in power do not care about mass death in their country and, to put it in the most naked terms, have no capacity to impose policy or respond collectively to events.
The worry is that our response to the climate crisis will look eerily similar to our response to COVID:
– Initial denialism and delay about the severity of the looming crisis.
– Double down on individual liberty rhetoric.
– Obsession with economic impacts of mitigating measures.
– Tentative, slow, incremental measures, playing whack-a-mole to tackle the crisis.
– Desensitization to mass death.
The Earth’s climate warms faster near the poles.
Canada’s refrigerator, the Arctic, is warming faster than the rest of the world.
The reasons include positive feedback cycles that occur when the permafrost thaws, when snow and ice melt to reveal darker, warmer surfaces below, and when more energy in the air and water currents are transported to the high latitudes.
Also, land warms faster than oceans, and Canada has a huge land area that is away from the oceans.
Canada is warming at an average rate twice as fast as the rest of the world, and three times faster than the United States, leading to more winter snowfall and more intense summer heat waves.
This has led to a 1.7°C increase in mean annual temperature across the country since 1948, with more pronounced warming in northern Canada of 2.3°C.
To put this into perspective, the United States has warmed approximately 0.56°C and the world, globally, 0.8°C, since 1948, according to NASA.
Canada will be impacted more than average by climate change but some Canadians have bought into the selfish and false talking point that we will not be terribly adversely impacted by this crisis, that it could even be a good thing for us, with warmer winters and longer summers and growing seasons.
But, like smokers who won’t quit till they get cancer, some people seem unwilling to do anything until they personally experience a climate disaster.
The amount of global warming that is already baked-in, from carbon pollution already in the air, is already enough to blow past international agreed upon goals to limit climate change.
For decades, scientists have talked about “committed warming” or the increase in future temperature based on past carbon dioxide emissions that stay in the atmosphere for well over a century.
It’s like the distance a speeding car travels after the brakes are applied.
Last month’s study in the journal Nature Climate Change calculates that the carbon pollution already put in the air will push global temperatures to about 2.3 degrees Celsius (4.1 degrees Fahrenheit) of warming since pre-industrial times.
International climate agreements set goals of limiting warming to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) since pre-industrial times, with the more ambitious goal of limiting it to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) added in Paris in 2015.
The world has already warmed about 1.1 degrees Celsius (2 degrees Fahrenheit).
“You’ve got some … global warming inertia that’s going to cause the climate system to keep warming, and that’s essentially what we’re calculating,” said the study co-author, a climate scientist at Texas A&M University.
“Think about the climate system like the Titanic. It’s hard to turn the ship when you see the iceberg.”
The ship of mankind and human civilization is steaming inexorably ahead, what with a world population that will reach 11 billion by 2100 pressing ahead with the mindless, unsustainable imperative for perpetual economic growth and development.
The next 50-100 years will be a critical existential test for our children and grandchildren.