And as things fell apart nobody paid much attention.
Perhaps humanity deserves the extinction hurtling toward it. The greedy corporate executives that knowingly poison the planet. They are guilty of murder. Their employees who have sacrificed their grandchildren and ours for a job. They are guilty of manslaughter. The corrupt politicians who know the science but are willingly silenced by energy industry “donations.” They are accessories to murder. The journalists who neglect the truth in favour of faux “objectivity” and “balance,” and the ordinary citizens who would rather watch reality TV than face the reality of impending doom. They are guilty of criminal negligence resulting in massive death.
Romney mocks Obama’s statement about slowing the rise of sea levels. For most of the past 3,000 years, sea levels were stable, but they began rising in the 1950s, at an annual rate of 1.7 millimeters. Over the past 20 years, global sea levels have risen an average of 3.3 millimeters a year. Studies suggest levels may rise several metres by 2100, covering many low-lying islands and swamping coastal cities.
If only a trial of such magnitude could be prepared. Expert witnesses could be chosen from essentially any climatologist in any country in the world, virtually all of whom have for years been warning us of our criminal stupidity. The victims would be in the hundreds of thousands, or more likely the millions.
A fairly conservative report by the World Health Organization says that climate change already causes over 150,000 deaths annually. Another report issued by the independent DARA organization and commissioned by 20 developing countries is much more dramatic: “Climate change and carbon-intensive economies are already responsible for 5 million deaths each year: 400,000 due to climate-aggravated hunger and disease and 4.5 million largely caused by air pollution.” It predicts 100 million people will die from the effects of climate change by 2030. It also says phenomena related to pollution and climate change already costs the world $1.2 trillion per year.
Entire nations could be brought in as witnesses at this trial.
Perhaps Australia would be the first one. Once one of the world’s great food exporters, it now struggles to feed itself as it’s ravaged by fires, drought, and torrential rains. Koala bears are going extinct, farmers are killing themselves in desperation, and the 9,000 year old Great Barrier Reef, the largest structure ever made by living organisms, will soon be dead (it’s already halfway there) from warming and acidic oceans (oceans are now 30 per cent more acidic than in the past).
Toowoomba, Australia on January 10, 2011, when four inches of rain fell in just a few hours
Next to be called to the stand would be the island nations like Tuvalu, Kiribati, and the Maldives, which may have to be evacuated within a decade. This is due to rising ocean levels caused by melting arctic ice.
Maldivian Minister of Fisheries and Agriculture Ibrahim Didi signs a declaration calling on countries to cut down carbon dioxide emissions ahead of a major U.N. climate change conference in December, in the Maldives, October 17, 2009. The Maldivian president and ministers held the world’s first underwater cabinet meeting, in a symbolic cry for help over rising sea levels that threaten the tropical archipelago’s existence.
This year alone, arctic ice shrank an unprecedented 18 per cent. During the summer, ice melted at over 100,000 square kilometres per day. NASA scientists were also shocked to find that 97 per cent of the surface of Greenland was melting over the summer. The complete collapse of arctic sea ice is expected within four years.
Next to the stand would be the Russians. The hottest summer ever recorded in Russia caused drought and wildfires in 2010, killing an estimated 56,000 people and causing wheat and other food crops in Russia, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan to be removed from the global market.
This, in combination with flooding in Australia, caused a record spike in food prices, leading to a food crisis in 2011. Between April 2010 and April 2011 the average world price of grain soared by 71 per cent. This in turn led to food riots in North Africa (high food prices also led to unrest and rioting in 28 countries in 2008). Rises in food prices are a particularly devastating problem for people in the developing world, many of whom spend 40 per cent of their incomes on food.
Perhaps the useful idiots, the so-called “climate deniers,” deserve their own trial, for letting ideology and intellectual laziness shape their opinions and create an atmosphere where any serious initiative on climate change is political suicide. According to polls, 45 per cent of Americans don’t personally worry about climate change, and 34 per cent don’t even “believe” in it, despite the fact that human caused climate change has been accepted as fact by every national academy of science on the planet, every major scientific society related to the study of global warming and 98 percent of climate scientists throughout the world. How can people still be in such denial?
The past decade was the hottest ever measured, despite the fact that half of that decade experienced a “solar minimum” — the low ebb in the natural cycle of solar energy emanating from the sun. 2010 was in fact the warmest year globally since records started being kept in 1850, even though La Niña actually cooled the atmosphere down in the second half of the year.
Bill McKibben, writing in Rolling Stone, outlines some of the most shocking recent developments:
“June broke or tied 3,215 high-temperature records across the United States. That followed the warmest May on record for the Northern Hemisphere – the 327th consecutive month in which the temperature of the entire globe exceeded the 20th-century average, the odds of which occurring by simple chance were 3.7 x 10-99, a number considerably larger than the number of stars in the universe.
Meteorologists reported that this spring was the warmest ever recorded for our nation – in fact, it crushed the old record by so much that it represented the “largest temperature departure from average of any season on record.” The same week, Saudi authorities reported that it had rained in Mecca despite a temperature of 109 degrees, the hottest downpour in the planet’s history.”
This past summer saw torrential rains causing flooding in India, Pakistan, The Philippines, and China. Britain this year had its wettest spring and second wettest summer on record (climate change results in more moisture in the atmosphere and hence more dramatic rainfalls. “The amount of rain falling in intense downpours—the heaviest one percent of rain events—has increased by nearly 20 percent during the past century in the U.S.”).
This past July was America’s hottest month ever. The worst drought in half a century in the U.S. created the highest ever prices for corn and soybeans. Corn and wheat prices have risen nearly 50% on international markets since June, triggered by severe droughts in the US and Russia, and weak monsoon rains in Asia. Farmers in Kentucky reported that corn kernels were “aborting” in the record heat (heat waves are caused by climate change). There was less rain in Texas from October 2010 to September 2011 than in any other 12-month period since record keeping began in 1895. Since 1970, the fire season throughout the American West has increased by 78 days.
All of these events are part of a long-term trend (Munich Re, the reinsurance giant, reports that weather-related disasters have tripled since 1980, and explicitly states this is due to climate change).
Perhaps these people cannot be blamed for their own ignorance.
The number of lobbyists devoted to climate change rose fivefold from 2003 – 2010, numbering almost 3,000 (5 for every member of Congress). They use the same tactics the tobacco industry used after doctors said cigarettes kill people.
As an article in Rolling Stone points out, “the most disturbing achievement of the energy industry in the battle over global warming is its success in lowering our expectations…Despite the near-certainty of a climate catastrophe, there are no crowds marching in the streets to demand action, no prime-time speech from President Obama.”
As horrible as the effects of climate change that we’ve already seen have been, they are nothing compared to the looming destruction that is all but inevitable in the coming decades, the likes of which may end human civilization as we know it.
Part 2 of this series can be found here.