When I did the research for my current book, Truth Over Politics, I was astounded to see how much worse the climate crisis had become since writing my last book in 2016. Despite the brief respite caused by the pandemic, the damage will soon reach a crisis that will endanger us all. Following are but a few of the things we know about the climate crisis:
• 2019 was ranked as the second-hottest year on record, just behind 2016, which had previously replaced 2015 as the hottest year on record.
• 9 of 10 hottest years on record have occurred between 2005 and 2019.
• 2019 was the 43rd consecutive year with global land and ocean temperatures above average.
• The average global temperature in 2019 was 1.71° F (0.95° C) above the 20th century average. (Scientists have warned that an increase of 1° to 2° C over the 20th century average could be a tipping point.)
• In 2019, ocean heat content (the amount of heat stored in the upper levels of the ocean), which can contribute to sea-level rise, was the highest ever recorded.
• Atmospheric carbon dioxide is now 413 parts per million (ppm). (400 ppm has long been considered the climate tipping point and, until the late 1940s, it had never been above 300 ppm for 650,000 years.)
• Arctic sea ice has shrunk about 40 percent since 1979.
• The mass of Antarctic ice sheets has declined at the rate of 145 gigatons per year since 2003.
• The mass of Greenland ice sheets has declined at the rate of 283 gigatons per year.
• The thickness of 30 well-studied glaciers has decreased by more than 60 feet since 1980.
• The sea level has risen by 8-9 inches since 1880. (About one-third of the rise has come in the last 25 years.)
• 33 percent of the world’s coral reefs are threatened by warming oceans. (The reefs are home to more than a quarter of all marine life.)
The consequences of inaction is to invite more floods, more intense storms and hurricanes, more wildfires on the scale of Australia’s, more severe droughts leading to food and water scarcity, more unemployment, and more pandemics.
If all of that isn’t enough to alarm you, consider this: A 2019 report from the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) warned, “Nature is declining globally at rates unprecedented in human history – and the rate of species extinctions is accelerating, with grave impacts on people around the world now likely.” The report went on to state, “The health of ecosystems on which we and all other species depend is deteriorating more rapidly than ever.”
IPBES found that around one million animal and plant species are threatened with extinction – many of them within decades. The cause of the threat? Human activities resulting in (1) changes in land and sea use; (2) direct exploitation of organisms; (3) climate change; (4) pollution and (5) invasive alien species.
The sirens are sounding to warn us that we desperately need to change our relationship with the planet and its other inhabitants. And they’re warning us that we need to change now! The question is: Will we listen?