For the better part of three decades, the vast majority of scientists — including those hired by the petroleum industry — have warned the world that climate change is occurring principally because of carbon emissions from our addiction to fossil fuels for our automobiles, coal power plants, industry, and agricultural production.
They have measured the effects in any number of ways, most especially the shrinkage of the ice sheets at the polar regions that eventually will result, they have said, in a rise in sea levels around the globe.
The also have told us that a warming planet will bring about an increase in ocean temperatures, which in turn will have devastating consequences both for marine life, which cannot exist in warmer waters, and for ourselves, who will feel the impact of ever-more devastating storms.
They have warned that unless we take steps within the next decade to curb the so-called greenhouse gas emissions, the Earth could become irreversibly changed by the end of this century.
However, the scientists have been wrong. Very wrong.
It turns out that the time frame the climate scientists predicted for the dramatic effects of climate change to occur has been grossly underestimated because their models did not take into account the effect of the feedback loops created by our warming planet.
We aren’t scientists, but even we understand what is happening right in front of our eyes.
The ice sheets at the poles are melting faster than even the direst of models had predicted. The extraordinary heat wave across Europe this past summer (U.S. women’s soccer fans will recall the high temperatures in France during the World Cup) resulted in temperatures reaching the 80s in the Arctic Circle — an unheard-of phenomenon.
Environment Canada, the country’s national weather agency, confirmed that Alert, Nunavut, the most-northerly, permanently-inhabited spot on Earth, hit 69.8 degrees Fahrenheit (21 degrees Celsius) on July 14, the highest temperature ever recorded there.
As the ice at the poles shrinks, instead of sunlight being reflected (by the ice) back into outer space, it is absorbed by the earth. When that happens, the permafrost at the Arctic Circle starts to thaw out, releasing carbon dioxide that has been trapped in it for millennia into our atmosphere, thereby warming our planet at an even faster rate.
It now is clear that scientists’ predictions that the effects of climate change were a distant prospect, for which we still had time to take appropriate action, have been vastly underestimated — by a factor of decades.
Climate change is happening today. The devastating succession of hurricanes, wildfires, floods, and droughts of the past few years have wiped the earth clean of civilization wherever they have struck. Yes, in most instances we can rebuild (though the communities in the Florida Panhandle destroyed by Hurricane Michael in 2018 still look like war zones), but only at a huge cost — and only until the next climate change-induced catastrophe strikes.
Greta Thunberg’s future is not being imperiled. Her future is now the present.
It is the end of the world as we know it.
And unless we immediately and dramatically change our ways, we will not be fine (apologies to REM).