Well, it seems as if we are finally starting that “national conversation” about global warming that so many thought would never start.
As we near the end of this gobsmacking year of punishing heat domes, catastrophic fires, golf ball sized hail, super-charged hurricanes, Biblical floods, and the mind bending horrors of Derna and Lahaina, an actual frank discussion seems to be tentatively bubbling up in the MSM, in which these disasters are sometimes even correctly attributed to the climate crisis. Online, the internet is lit up with traffic focusing on methane clathrates and the Thwaites glacier and mass die-offs of penguin chicks, and a new word has jumped from Twitter and the other socials to the mainstream: doomer.
“By 2100,” we read in serious MSM reporting, sea levels will have risen “by 0.2 meters to 2.0 meters (0.66 to 6.6 feet).”
“Miami,” we are told, “a city of 430,000 people, could disappear within the century if the worst climate-change predictions come true.”
And I see the following snip from the EPA quoted all over, now, as it is finally apparently gospel: “by 2100, the average U.S. temperature is projected to increase by about 3°F to 12°F, depending on emissions scenario and climate model.”
“Scary,” we think. “Wow. That’s – whoof. That’s bad. Could the temperature actually rise twelve degrees? Is next summer really going to be worse than 2023? Will I be able to visit Italy next August, or will it be too hot? Jeepers – who is crazy enough to live in Phoenix?”
Yet even now, even after all of the climate change super-charged weather horrors of 2023, and even after we (more or less seriously) pose ourselves those questions, most of us just… move on.
We recoil in shock at the latest mass shooting. We cluck with concern over the rise of private prisons. We fume about the latest deadlock in Congress. We furrow our brows with the news that parents are still refusing to get their kids vaccinated. We look up what Donald Trump is Truth Socialing today, and are incensed that he’s still lurking at Mar-a-Lago, and not in jail awaiting trial.
Or we find a balm in something uplifting – a story about a plucky hometown hero, or a little girl who saved her lemonade stand money and bought groceries for the elderly. We click the link to a video of otters swimming about, cruising on their backs holding hands, charming and serene.
Climate change recedes from center stage and is replaced by a vague and (we think probably rational) notion that there’s time – surely there’s time. And “people” are “doing things!”
We’ll take back the House. We’ll get a stronger majority in the Senate. Biden/Harris will be reelected and the GOP will be foiled in their Snidely Whiplash attempt to implement Project 2025.
And isn’t the wind industry doing well these days? They’re doing amazing things in Denmark with wind. And we’re barely using coal here anymore. That’s progress, right?
Mitigation is possible. We can build seawalls. Someone in Florida must be working on that. Businesses are getting worried, so the insurance industry must be lobbying for stricter emissions controls, right? We can handle whatever needs to be handled.
And anyway, the real damage isn’t going to happen for a long time. The predictions always refer us out to 2100. That’s when we’ll really start to feel the change, isn’t it?
No. No, it’s not.
The climate is changing every hour of every day. The globe is getting warmer, inexorably, year-over-year. Bit by bit, inch by inch, we are moving past the point when we have the luxury of waiting for someone to come and save us. Every rainfall that’s “heavier than normal” (whatever “normal” is any more), every summer that’s “drier than normal,” every stretch of “unexpectedly severe” drought that strains the capacity of the reservoirs, every “surprisingly large” fire that burns out a subdivision, every “unexpected” deluge that floods a downtown… they’ll add up. The effects will be cumulative. We won’t bounce back and be the same again.
This is not getting better. And we aren’t doing nearly enough.
Things fall apart. The edges fray. The space of time between events will get narrower. There will be less time to regroup, regrow, rebuild. Resources, too, will become scarcer. Time – money – building materials – hands to do the work.
Maybe it won’t be this year, and maybe it won’t be next, but there will come a point – soon – when we are overtaken by the scale of what we must mitigate. We’ll be battered and bruised, chivvied from pillar to post, scrounging for money, for assistance, for federal funding, for volunteers, for sandbags, for water trucks, for firefighting equipment, for rent money because our job just blew away, for the energy to go on.
Low-lying towns will become uninhabitable, long-term. We won’t be able to just pick ourselves up, wait for the waters to recede, and start over in situ. The land will be boggier, the rivers higher, the storm surges unmanageable. The drains will overflow, and the muck will stink and the mold will grow black and thick on the windowsills.
Coastline will crumble, and crumble some more, the sea gnawing back the land it once gave up through sedimentation and uplift. Foundations will split, houses wash out to sea. Moving a mile or two inland might make sense, but what if the river rises? What if the bridge washes out?
Neighborhoods burned out by fire won’t come back. The insurance costs will be too high – the risk too great – the fear too raw and recent.
Summers are getting hotter, and that won’t stop. Most folks enjoy a little heat in the summer – the feel of the sun on their necks, warming their muscles, chasing off the chill. But week after week of temperatures over 95 or even 105 degrees? Week after week of punishing heat, and drought? Days when planes can’t take off, the pavement buckles, and it’s dangerous just to go outside?
We’re facing a calamity the likes of which our species has never seen. We’re facing the biggest challenge in human history. That’s not an over-statement.
And we have a choice. We can leave this to happenstance, or we can act.
So far, we humans are behaving as though we’re just going to leave the outcome of the climate crisis to happenstance. We haven’t proven ourselves to be that terrific at worrying, in a sustained and action-oriented way, about something in the future. We frequently fail to plan ahead ahead for some disaster that’s down past a bend in the road we can’t precisely predict. We tend to react in the aftermath, even when we’ve been presented with overwhelming evidence that we really ought to have seen it coming.
Humans are very good at some things. We’re excellent, for example, at picking ourselves up and dusting ourselves off after a natural disaster. We roll up our sleeves and dig into the work with gusto. We form Cajun Navies! We pile sandbags! We shovel monstrous piles of waterlogged garbage into landfills. We bring hot soup, fresh water, clean shoes, and comforting hugs to people who are reeling from shock. We’re pretty magnificent that way.
We’re also experts at deflecting. We excel in thinking about something else until the bad thing we *were* thinking about fades away, and we can safely ignore it. In this small way, each of us is a little bit Scarlett O’Hara, who famously said,
“I can't think about that right now. If I do, I'll go crazy. I'll think about it tomorrow.”
I’ve read a lot of comments on recent climate stories here at DailyKos, and have heard loud and clear that some of the DK audience is worn out by the climate crisis. You’ve done your bit — you dread reading the latest story about crumbling sea ice — you can’t bear to concentrate on the fate of the oceans — your heart breaks contemplating what might befall us if nothing substantive is done. And I hear you. I do.
I know it’s tempting to think about something else. I know that Pakalolo, Meteor Blades, boatsie, FishOutofWater and so many other contributors here are surfacing facts that are terrifying – depressing – almost overwhelming.
But however difficult and painful it is, we need to push through the ennui or the fear or whatever is stopping us, and THINK ABOUT IT, then do whatever we can.
We just don’t have the luxury of looking away any longer. It’s our responsibility to the coming generations. Maybe it’s why we’re here: to get fierce, get organized, and meet this challenge.
How do we do that? Hearteningly, a lot of the stuff in this list is stuff you are probably already doing!
- Elect Democrats – that goes without saying – but not just any Democrats. Let’s vote for Democrats who put climate change on the front burner. No more pussyfooting around. No more not prioritizing it. No more Joe Manchins.
- Everyone who can join a climate march, please consider doing that!
- Anyone who can carpool or take the bus to work instead of drive – yes, please!
- Go vegan, maybe?
- Install solar panels!
- Call/write/relentlessly tweet your local congress human.
- Grow a garden.
- Plant trees.
- Eschew fast fashion: shop thrift stores, form a closet swap meeting, learn to sew, or if you have the dosh, invest in fewer more expensive pieces from sustainable brands.
- Engage here! Recommend and tip, then share climate stories with family and friends and colleagues and strangers and members of your neighborhood BBQ committee.
And there’s also harder work to do, for those of us who can. Those of us who can occupy, protest, sit in, and get arrested should consider joining a group that takes those actions. While everything counts, if you only have the time and energy for one mass action this year, please consider making it a direct action — NVDA, of course — at a seat of government or the HQ of a fossil fuel corporation, or something similar.
This isn’t quick. It isn’t easy. It’s admittedly tiring work. Organizing, making life changes, demonstrating, voting, calling, tweeting, planting, occupying, getting arrested – none of that stuff is more fun than cracking a brew with a friend or taking in a movie or going to the dentist or paying bills or just living life without bloody thinking about it!
But we do the work — or we reap the whirlwind.
As always, thanks for reading!
@KiraOnClimate (yes, I am still on that dratted X-Twitter platform)
Substack: Climate Revolution Now
Things fall apart; the center cannot hold; / Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, / The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere / The ceremony of innocence is drowned; / The best lack all conviction, while the worst / Are full of passionate intensity. — WB Yeats
Adapted from a diary published Wednesday, September 06, 2017, which received a grand total of 2 tips and 3 recs.