Need Some Cheering Up About The State Of The World Tonight? Don’t Read This.

Why, why, why do I read depressing things after sunset? From Vice, which at some point apparently assembled a collection of interesting writers (Greg Palast?!?!), comes this jolly confection:

Recent data seems to suggest that we may have already tripped several irrevocable, non-linear, positive feedback loops (melting of permafrost, methane hydrates, and arctic sea ice) that make an average global temperature increase of only 2°C by 2100 seem like a fairy tale. Instead, we’re talking 4°C, 6°C, 10°C, 16°C (????????) here. The link between rapid climate change and human extinction is basically this: the planet becomes uninhabitable by humans if the average temperature goes up by 4-6°C. It doesn’t sound like a lot because we’re used to the temperature changing 15°C overnight, but the thing that is not mentioned enough is that even a 2-3°C average increase would give us temperatures that regularly surpass 40°C (104°F) in North America and Europe, and soar even higher near the equator. Human bodies start to break down after six hours at a wet-bulb (100% humidity) temperature of 35°C (95°F). This makes the 2003 heat wave in Europe that killed over 70,000 people seem like not a very big deal. Factoring in the increase we’re already seeing in heat waves, droughts, wildfires, massive storms, food and water shortages, deforestation, ocean acidification, and sea level rise some are seeing the writing on the wall:

We’re all gonna die!

The article’s called “Some Credible Scientists Believe Humanity Is Verrrrrry Close To Destruction”. And this horrible, awful, terrifying piece reminded me of a couple of other stories I’ve read in the last few years.

First, “The War This Time“, by Dan Savage:

Colorado state climatologist Nolan Doesken […] knows what’s behind the “weirding” of Colorado’s weather: man-made climate change. But Doesken is reluctant to level with Colorado’s ranchers about why their world is burning down around them […] “Taking a stand can be dangerous,” Drapkin pointed out in her report. “In recent years, climatologists in four states have lost their positions because of what they said publicly about climate change — Oregon, Virginia, Delaware, and Georgia. Democratic governors got rid of climatologists who didn’t embrace climate change, and a Republican fired two who did.”

Then, “It’s Time to Freak Out About Climate Change“, by Jonathan Golub:

There is no rational basis for wavering. The scientific models we use to see the future of our climate generally come to strong agreement: We’re screwed if we continue to do nothing about climate change. And let’s be honest, we’re basically doing nothing. The Kyoto Protocol? A failure. In fact, most of what we’ve done politically in the last decade has made the burning of fossil fuels easier. […] If we continue to do nothing, and if we continue to burn every scrap of fossil fuel we can find, then by the end of this century there is less than a one per cent chance of manageable levels of warming (less than three degrees). Most likely, if we continue to do nothing, our average global temperatures will increase by about five degrees. There is also a roughly 1 in 10 chance of devastating, humanity-ending warming (seven degrees or more). Sure, there is some uncertainty about these outcomes — but it’s uncertainty between dire and deadly. Yet we still ignore it.


Both of those pieces ran in The Stranger, my favourite alt-weekly. I dunno, guys. Prairie Dog has covered the global warming crisis a LOT during my 14 years here. Do more than a few of our readers care? When we put climate change on the cover, our pick-up goes down. We run David Suzuki every issue. How many people read Science Matters? Dunno — if we’ve received more than five letters on his column in my 14 years here I’d be surprised.

We DO get letters about our occasional climate negativity so that’s good (I guess). But we’re not Gormleys who can toodle around with the blinkers on thinking things are okally-dokilly. And sometimes, we have sadzes. Because we like the world and don’t want it to end.

Political leaders should’ve gone hard after climate change a decade ago. Instead, the U.S. went a-bombin’ in Iraq and Afghanistan, Europe plunged into bankruptcy, Russia veered into xenophobic dictatorship and in Canada, we repeatedly voted in a government in that finds facts and science scary  and incomprehensible. (Hmmm. We spend a lot of time calling Conservatives assholes but maybe they’re just certifiably insane?)

Meanwhile, the old billionaires who aren’t going to be here when this shit really hits the fan in another decade or so (if we’re lucky) don’t care — they just want to make their money and get out, and they do everything in their power to block action on climate change because it would mean moving away from fossil fuels and the profits that come with them. So we’re probably screwed.

Jeez that’s dour. Sorry. I’m just grumpy tonight. Everything’s fine. Have some kittens!

(The kittens continue here.)

Author: Stephen Whitworth

Prairie Dog editor Stephen Whitworth will never, ever pass up a chance to make a Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo pun.