“Consider this. What if all life on earth could go extinct because of man-made climate change?” — “Last Hours” documentary
There is little, these days, that brings state power in line with the best interests of the public or the planet. Those in power devour Koch money for breakfast and deliver destruction of the planet all day long. Concentrated corporate and special-interest power monetize what was sacred, and have taken over governments, including our own, cannibalizing the planet to exhaustion. This trajectory is accelerating such that this may be the last century of life on this planet. Each of the five former known extinctions eradicated more than half of life on earth. Several of them involved global warming.
Everyone should watch Thom Hartmann’s short “Last Hours“, a preamble to a documentary in the works, covering the projections of how climate change will likely play out. Rather than a meteorite, our greatest threat is “under ground, under water, under the ice, where trillions of tons of carbon lie in wait in the form of frozen methane.” During the Permian extinction, volcanic activity in Siberia raised the temperature of Earth over 6 degrees Celsius. Warming oceans released more methane, which doubled the level of global warming, snuffing out a majority of life on the planet. Methane is as much as 80 times as potent in destructive climate effect as carbon dioxide.
The current level of carbon in the atmosphere is over 400 ppm, the highest since humans showed up, and humans are accelerating carbon pollution faster than ever. As the world heats, breaches in permafrost release more methane, which warms the Earth faster and sets up a heating feedback loop. Researchers found kilometer-wide plumes of methane spewing into the atmosphere — hundreds of them. They extrapolated there must be thousands of them.
The scientific models have been way too conservative. Sea ice loss in 2012 was at the level predicted 90 years hence. The 2007 assessment of the East Siberian Arctic Shelf was that a half-million tons of methane were released. The most recent assessment is 17 million tons of methane released annually. Just in the Arctic.
Some researchers think we could be near a methane tipping point. At the current rate of acceleration of warming, the World Bank 2012 report warns a 5-degree warming by the end of the century is likely unless world governments take drastic action. Six degrees warming was what generated the Permian tipping point to massive extinction. Have you ever known governments to take drastic action to protect anything? Drastic action is taken for destruction — pipelines, wastelands of fracking and tar sands, drilling into deep oceans, extreme eradication of wildlife, genetic modification without safeguards or labeling, corporate personhood, war.
The Union of Concerned Scientists has a page for each state’s possible changes, with worse and best case scenarios. Wisconsin’s climate has already changed with rising temperatures, increased heavy rains and flooding, and more intense winds and storms. Our economy and cost of living are affected by poorer air quality, heat and drought stress on farm animals and crops, more insect infestations, and lowered water levels in the Great Lakes. The most vulnerable, especially wildlife, are disproportionately impacted. If the eight states that comprise the Midwest were a nation, we would be fourth in the world in pollution emissions, with the entire United States, Russia, and China the only countries more toxic.
And we have not yet started Scott Walker’s mining debacle.
Jason Box, a climatologist who surveyed Denmark and Greenland, explains, “Sea level change is a big one, an expensive one to manage, but the methane release … reaches a point where we lose the option of an effective mitigation strategy. … That, unfortunately, is a doomsday scenario our trajectory is pointed to.”
Hartmann continues, “The Arctic ice sheet that keeps carbon stable is melting rapidly. … In July 2013, the Arctic lost 41,000 square miles, an area half the size of Kansas, every single day. … The big danger about tipping points is that you only recognize them when it is too late to do anything about it.”
Hartmann’s partial remedy: “A tax on carbon emissions will unleash a wave of innovation to develop technologies, lower the costs of clean energy, and create jobs as we and other nations develop new energy products and infrastructure.” Wisconsin government is encouraged to facilitate a buyback program, rewarding citizens and businesses that feed renewable energy back to the power grid, imitating various European countries and Canada in expanding renewable energy quickly.
A public fast transit system and vegan diet, shifting agriculture away from slaughterhouse and dairy production to non-GMO healthy fruits and vegetable permaculture, are an inevitable departure from business as usual, to help us transform in this crisis.
A vibrant new love of wildlife and reverence for all life fills out the urgent care prescription.