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Facing the Truth: Why Ignoring Climate Change Puts Us All at Risk

IMPORTANT READS

CLIMATE WATCH - I recently attended a family affair in Upstate NY and was informed that climate change articles, like this one, are too negative, causing close relatives to shutdown and going so far as to ignore articles, too gloomy, too negative, do something more positive. My response: Analyzing the planet’s climate system by studying peer-reviewed scientific publications for over a decade, every year has gotten worse and worse, no letups, more negatives every year… there’s nothing positive about climate change to write about. And people need to know the truth about anthropogenic-led crashing of ecosystems. 

Furthermore, one of the key reasons why many Americans don’t accept climate change as an existential issue is because they have been shielded from the most impactful events of climate change, from the truth as experienced by the rest of the world, e.g., Europe’s five-year average temperature has been running 2.3°C above pre-industrial, a danger zone according t0 the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) which under the 2015 Paris Agreement, nearly 200 countries agreed to limit global warming to no more than 2.0° Celsius by 2100 to avoid significant and potentially catastrophic changes to the planet. Hmm. Ipso facto, 75% of Spain is at risk of desertification, according to the UN Convention to Combat Desertification. 

The USA, uniquely. happens to be located in a “global sweet spot” ideally within latitudes and longitudes that first attracted Europeans to a Garden of Eden setting, For example, during the mid-17th century in the words of William Wood of Boston, circa 1634 (Source: Boston’s Flora and Fauna in the 1630s, Boston Public Library): “For the Country it is as well watered as any land under the Sun, every family, or every two families having a spring of sweet waters betwixt them, which is far different from the waters of England being not so, but of a fatter substance, and of a more jetty colour; it is thought there can be so better water in the world.” 

“The next commodity the land affords, is good store of Woods, & that not only such as may be needful for fuel, but likewise for the building of Ships, and houses, & Mils, and all manner of water-work about which Wood is necessary. The Timber of the Country grows straight and tall, some trees being twenty, some thirty-foot high, before they spread forth their branches…. Of these swamps, some be ten, some twenty, some thirty miles long, being preserved by the wetness of the soils wherein they grow.” 

Today, people in Asia and Europe and Central America do not complain about negative climate articles, rather, they embrace it, believing that more exposure is necessary so people know how to bitch and moan and groan about the failure of political leaders to take heed of top-notch scientists’ warnings for decades that global warming, primarily caused by fossil fuels like CO2, eventually leads to ecosystem collapse and dangerous heatwaves and destructive droughts. Today, unrelenting heatwaves are rampant for all to see but could be only the beginning. 

Regarding the Chomsky and UN warnings, it was June 2022 when the UN issued GAR2022, UN Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction shortly thereafter followed by Noam Chomsky as keynote speaker for the American Solar Energy Society 51st annual conference at the University of New Mexico. 

The UN report, for the first time, brought into focus the challenge: “Escalating synergies of climate disasters, economic vulnerability, and ecosystem failures increasingly headed for a juggernaut of collapse.” 

On the heels of the UN report about an impending “juggernaut of collapse,” Chomsky’s opening statement at the American Solar Energy Society echoed the UN’s statement: “We are at a unique moment in human history. Decisions that must be made right now will determine the course of future history if there is to be any human history, which is very much in doubt. There is a narrow window in which we must implement measures to avert cataclysmic destruction of the environment.” 

Today, there is compelling evidence that both the UN and Chomsky were dead-on correct. But Chomsky’s call for implementing measures to avert cataclysmic destruction of the environment have been mostly ignored. Now, two short years later. killer heat is consuming the lifeblood of megacities in some regions of the planet. 

"Water sources are depleted around the world," according to Victoria Beard, professor of city and regional planning, Cornell University: "Every year, more cities will face 'Day Zero,' with no water in their piped systems." (Source: This Mega-City is Running Out of Water: What Will 22 Million People do When the Taps Run Dry? Phys.org, March 26, 2024) 

For example: Mexico City (22M pop.) could run dry this summer. Bogotá (8M pop.) recently started water rationing. Residents of Johannesburg (6M pop.) line up for municipal truck deliveries. South Delhi (2.7M pop.) announced a rationing plan on May 29th. Several cities of southern Europe have rationing plans on the table. In March 2024 China announced its first-ever National-Level Regulations on Water Conservation, a disguised version of water rationing. Global warming is the key problem as severe droughts clobber reservoirs. And global warming is a product of energy creation from fossil fuel emissions such as CO2. 

According to Chomsky, the “Energy System” is the provocateur of global warming, and it has enormous institutional breadth, including fossil fuel companies, banks, and other financial institutions and a large part of the legal community. Accordingly, the Energy System’s political base is the Republican Party, and it is the main driving force for global warming which, in turn, threatens megacities with “Day Zero” or dry reservoirs. This is becoming prevalent around the globe. 

The fact that the UN Global Assessment Report GAR2022 received little, or no media attention, explains how and why we are in deep trouble; the issue is simply ignored. Yet, it is the first-ever UN flagship global report with findings that current global policies are “accelerating the collapse of human civilization.” It should have been front page news. Importantly, the report does not suggest that collapse is a “done deal.” Rather, without radical change, it’s where the world is headed.

Alas, where is the “radical change” that the UN report said is necessary to prevent collapse? Answer: There is no radical change ongoing, planned, or discussed. Radical change has never been mentioned by any world-recognized authorities.

Celebrated weather historian Maximiliano Herrera, recently commented on global warming’s impact: “Thousands of records are being brutalized all over Asia, which is by far the most extreme event in world climatic history.” (Source: Summer Heat Hits Asia Early, Killing Dozens as one Expert Calls it the ‘Most Extreme Event’ in Climate History, CBS News, May 2, 2024)

“The most extreme event in world climatic history” is a very strong characterization of the impact of climate change and global warming. Dangerous heat waves are sweeping the world like a scythe harvesting wheat and more people are being killed than reported by authorities, especially in India. There’ll never be accurate counts of the dead for public release. Some megacities are currently at knife’s edge of loss of drinking water for millions of residents. They’re not prepared. Water is trucked for firefighting in some megacities and to neighborhoods where residents are parched. This could have been prevented, but it wasn’t.

Of even more immediate concern, an Environmental Emergency has been declared for Brazil’s Pantanal wetlands by Mato Grosso do Sul, the Brazilian state containing most of Pantanal. The emergency has been declared as the number of fires surged by 980%, as of June 5th, well ahead of wildfire season which starts in July/August. This is one of the world’s largest wetlands (10 times Florida’s everglades) which has partially dried out due to ongoing severe drought. (Source: Fires in Brazilian Wetlands Surge 980%, Extreme Drought Expected, Reuters, June 7, 2024)

The Pantanal is the world’s largest freshwater wetland stretching over parts of Brazil, Paraguay and Bolivia offering unseen gifts to a vast swath of South America by regulating the water cycle upon which life depends. Its countless swamps, lagoons and tributaries purify water and help prevent floods and droughts. It stores untold amounts of carbon, helping to stabilize the world’s climate. It is one of the wonders of the world, but large areas are blazing afire because of severe drought; it’s global warming at work.

What to do? There are experienced capable people, such as Roger Hallam, co-founder of Extinction Rebellion, who believe that the failure of world leaders to listen to scientists for decades necessitates a changing of the guard. He’s organizing a worldwide movement. 

In summation, the United Nations claims “radical change” is needed, and as stated by Noam Chomsky: “There is a narrow window in which we must implement measures to avert cataclysmic destruction of the environment.” But nobody is doing this on a radical change basis. 

Meantime, if megacities run dry, what will millions of city residents do? The risks have never been more pronounced.

(Robert Hunziker, MA, economic history DePaul University, awarded membership in Pi Gamma Mu International Academic Honor Society in Social Sciences is a freelance writer and environmental journalist who has over 200 published articles appearing in over 50 journals, magazines, and sites worldwide.)

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