We are drowning – literally and figuratively. We are figuratively drowning in a vapid and censored cesspool of omission and outright lies regarding the role of climate change in the ever-growing list of natural disasters and extreme weather. Although 2017 has been dubbed “the year climate change began to spin out of control,” a recent study published by Public Citizen shows that in 2017 corporate media STILL failed to draw the link between climate change and these extreme weather events.
By severing effect from cause, we are not only dangerously cut off from understanding the gravity of these events, but we are also blind to climate change events that (so far) haven’t resulted in world-wide disasters. For example, the fact that we are literally drowning due to sea level rise is perhaps something you’ve heard peripherally on some depressing Facebook post over your morning cup of coffee. The reality, however, is that sea level rise is not only an issue that carries with it catastrophic consequences greater than what we’ve already seen, but it’s happening faster than previously predicted. In November of last year, NASA’s Oceans Melting Greenland (OMG) mission warned that due to temperatures as high as 54º above normal, the Greenland ice sheet is “far more unstable than we realized.” To put it another way, an ice sheet that could precipitate a 20 foot global sea level rise if it melts is only slightly more stable than Donald Trump.
In similar news from the other pole, the glaciers in the eastern Antarctic “are not nearly as stable as scientists had believed” and could, on their own, cause a global sea level rise of nearly 15 feet which would be enough to submerge most coastal cities. As temperatures rise causing warmer winters and more tumultuous weather in the Arctic, ice reforms at stunted rates if at all. And as Climate Scientist Paul Beckwith put it, this “preconditions the ice to melt that much faster” meaning that there is no smooth or steady ramp up to climate catastrophe. Indeed, a recent study found that “one section of the Greenland ice sheet began melting 80 percent faster between 2003-2014 compared to the 26-year period beforehand.”
Beyond the issue of impending doom via drowning, the other very serious issue regarding melting ice is what that ice is covering up. Inside the permafrost or frozen soil beneath the ice, carbon lies dormant. As current ice melts, that stored carbon is released as CO2 or Methane, aka warming greenhouse gases. This not only speeds up the melting process of the ice but opens up the Pandora’s box associated with dumping tons of heat-trapping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. How many tons? Well, the Arctic permafrost alone seals in roughly double the amount of CO2 currently in Earth’s atmosphere!
That’s bad news – for several reasons. Yes, that means that life here on land will be hotter and dirtier but the bigger question is whether it will be at all. “Life can not exist on the land if there’s no life in the ocean,” Climate Scientist Paul Beckwith asserted. As more greenhouse gases are released into the atmosphere, ocean water absorbs it. From there, chemical reactions reduce seawater pH in a process known as ocean acidification. The reason that matters to you and me is that below a certain pH level, many marine creatures will not be able to form their (calcium carbonate) shells, thereby causing massive die-offs and wreaking havoc in the marine food web. To give you an idea of how fast this is happening, consider that for roughly 40 million years, the pH levels in the oceans were stable. “What we’ve done is drop that