Climate Disruption Is Now Locked In. The Next Moves Will Be Crucial. New York Times, 22 September 2020
The Times spoke with two dozen climate experts, including scientists, economists, sociologists and policymakers…
Their most sobering message was that the world still hasn’t seen the worst of it. Gone is the climate of yesteryear, and there’s no going back.
The effects of climate change evident today are the results of choices that countries made decades ago to keep pumping heat-trapping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere at ever-increasing rates despite warnings from scientists about the price to be paid. … That price — more vicious heat waves, longer wildfire seasons, rising sea levels — is now irretrievably baked in. Nations, including the United States, have dithered so long in cutting emissions that progressively more global warming is assured for decades to come, even if efforts to shift away from fossil fuels were accelerated tomorrow.
“What we’re seeing today, this year, is just a small harbinger of what we are likely to get,” said Jonathan Overpeck, a climate scientist at the University of Michigan. Things are on track to get “twice as bad” as they are now, he said, “if not worse.”
“Don’t think of it as the warmest month of August in California in the last century,” [Cristian Proistosescu, an assistant professor at the University of Illinois] wrote. “Think of it as one of the coolest months of August in California in the next century.”
Managing climate change, experts said, will require rethinking virtually every aspect of daily life: how and where homes are built, how power grids are designed, how people plan for the future with the collective good in mind. It will require an epochal shift in politics in a country that has, on the whole, ignored climate change.
For a long time, “there was so much focus on how climate change would affect the most vulnerable, like low-lying island nations or coral reefs — things that don’t dramatically affect the economic powerhouses of the world,” said Katharine Mach, an associate professor at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science. “There’s often been this arrogant assumption that wealth provides protection.” … Recent events, she said, are a vivid reminder that “we’re all in this together.”
First, experts broadly agreed, if we want to stop the planet from relentlessly heating up forever, humanity will quickly need to eliminate its emissions of planet-warming greenhouse gases. That means cleaning up every coal plant in China, every steel mill in Europe, every car and truck in the United States.
But experts also made a point they say is often underappreciated: Even if we start radically slashing emissions today, it could be decades before those changes start to appreciably slow the rate at which Earth is warming. In the meantime, we’ll have to deal with effects that continue to worsen.
Again and again, climate scientists have shown that our choices now range from merely awful to incomprehensibly horrible.
It is not going to go away. It is going to get worse – quickly. The best we can do is slow it.
Next Tuesday, two days from now, is the first Presidential debate. And climate change is not even a topic!