Today, Americans are facing a number of very real threats to our way of life. We are understandably transfixed by the very real threat to our democracy posed by Trump and his followers, by the theocrats who have taken hold of the court we once believed Supreme, by the still-ongoing pandemic, by the corporate price-gouging which has led to global inflation. But the greatest threat of all seems to have fallen off our radar: Climate change, the human-caused crisis that threatens to destroy our planet.
Having been homebound for much of the pandemic, most Americans have returned to their self-serving, planet-destroying ways.
They are taking long-delayed road trips, climbing aboard aircraft, and fueling-up their many motorized toys all the while bitching about the worldwide rise in gas prices. For many, the changing climate is an issue only future generations will face. For others, it’s little more than an inconvenience that has closed national parks due to flooding or forced them to detour around out-of-control wildfires.
Recent studies have found that only 35 percent of Americans believe they will be directly affected by climate change. And nearly half believe the threat is exaggerated despite warnings that, without an immediate and comprehensive change to our lifestyle, the destruction of our planet as we know it is all but assured.
According to a consensus of the world’s leading scientists, the current increase in devastating wildfires, extreme droughts, hurricanes, tornados, straight-line winds, and large hail are but a mere prelude of what’s to come.
They tell us that, if the climate crisis is not immediately addressed, we will see further thawing of the permafrost which will quickly accelerate the heating of our planet. That will, in turn, lead to a dramatic rise in sea levels making many of the world’s largest cities uninhabitable. Combined with drought-caused crop failures and famine, that will lead to mass migrations. And that’s just the predicted impact on the portion of our planet that is covered by dry land. The rise in global temperatures is having an even greater impact on the oceans that cover more than 70 percent of our planet’s surface. As the oceans warm, coral reefs are bleaching and dying – reefs that support the main source of food for 3.5 billion of the world’s population!
Still not worried? Then maybe you should consider that a United Nations’ review by about 15,000 scientific and government sources from 50 countries warns that, without fundamental change, up to one million species are at risk of becoming extinct within a few decades. Given that our planet is governed by an ecosystem with each species relying on others for sustenance, inevitably that means our own species is vulnerable to extinction.
But don’t take my word for it. Or even that of scientists. Here are the actual numbers:
Change In CO2 Levels
Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, human activities have increased atmospheric concentrations of CO2 by about 50 percent. From 1750 to 2010, CO2 levels increased from 280 to 388.44 parts per million. By the end of 2015, CO2 levels were 402.44 parts per million. (400 ppm had long been considered the tipping point and, until the late 1940s, it had never exceeded 300 ppm for more than 650,000 years.) At the end of 2019, CO2 levels were 412.71 ppm. At the end of 2021, CO2 levels were 417.44 ppm. As of June 2022, the current level of CO2 stands at 421.94 ppm and rising.
Change In Temperatures
Recent global temperatures are the hottest in more than 2,000 years. 2015 was the first year that global temperatures were 1 degree Celsius or more above the temperatures at start of the Industrial Revolution. Since 1910, the average global temperature has risen 1.28 degrees Celsius.
Change In Ice Sheets
Antarctic ice sheets have melted at the rate of 152 billion metric tons per year since 2002. And the Greenland ice sheets are disappearing even more rapidly, having lost 274 billion metric tons per year since 2002. Additionally, Arctic sea ice is declining at the rate of 13 percent per decade.
Changes In Oceans
From 1900 to 2019 sea levels have risen more than 200 mm (7.87 inches) – 3.97 inches just since 1993. In addition, ocean temperatures have climbed dramatically since record-keeping began in 1955. 2021 was the oceans’ warmest recorded year and saw the highest global sea level.
“What can I do?” you may ask. “I’m only one person. Why do I have to change my lifestyle? What about the people of China? What about India?” The answer to those questions is simple. Change has to start somewhere, and it needs to start now! It’s a global crisis. We all share this planet. Each of us can make an impact, no matter how large or small. And since Americans have done more than our share to cause the problem, we should do more than our share to help solve it.
To learn more, visit NASA’s Climate Change website. Or, to follow the destruction of our planet in real time, check out the Climate Clock.