There is a very real statistical possibility that every human being reading this article will be dead in the next ten years. This means you. That statistic also applies to your friends, your children, your loved ones both human and not, and every person you know casually or well – even the ones who are not reading this article.
Do I have your attention? Good. Pay strict attention, because our lives may depend on it, and I am not joking. This is not a drill.
The extreme hot temperatures we are witnessing this summer may very well be part of a trend. While that may sound harmless, I assure you it is not. By “trend” I mean a statistical variation in an overall monotonically increase of global temperatures. Before I go further with that, let me give you a concrete example from our immediate past to show you what I mean.
Between the years 2002 and 2012 the earth experienced a slightly lower rate of global warming than climate scientists expected. Climate science denialists seized on this as “proof” that global warming is a hoax. What in fact was happening was a simple statistical trend. Readers who are fond of Las Vegas and its simulacrums may know this as a “streak.” It’s an entirely meaningless statistical anomaly, but you’ll never convince a gambler of that. These streaks will happen over the natural course of an overall rise in global temperature and they are the rule, not the exception.
If you wish to continue with the gambling analogy, you can think of the years 2002 to 2012 as a “lucky streak.” Now imagine that the year 2019 is the beginning of an unlucky streak. How long this unlucky streak will last and how bad it will get is not predictable. Local weather predictions are deep in the science of fluid dynamics and are governed by the mathematics of Chaos Theory, where two apparently identical initial conditions can yield wildly differing results. That is why the hapless local weatherman isn’t incompetent, he’s just impeded by a difficult task.
“But wait a minute,” you might ask, “didn’t somebody say that global climate change won’t cause us any real problems until the year 2100?” If by that you mean that we’re all just fine until December 31, 2099, I hope you’re kidding. That proposed drop dead date is the horrible end of a very horrible trend, without, presumably, any unlucky streaks. The worst possible scenario could in fact come much sooner than anyone is willing to admit, and quite possibly in our immediate futures. The focus on the year 2100 is made popular by people who don’t want to face this truth just now.
It just might happen that next Summer will be far worse than this one. Here in Britain we came within one degree of the hottest temperature on record. Next Summer we may smash it, who knows? The Summer after may be worse still. And it may keep getting worse until something truly awful happens. The awful thing that happens could be the result of extreme weather, or it could be a nuclear war. The position of climate science denialism among Republicans, of course, remains intransigent, and it probably won’t change much by then, either. Until it’s too late, of course.
You’ve probably heard (until you’re no doubt bored to death of hearing it) that 97% of climate scientists support the findings that global warming is caused by humans. I’m having a real problem confirming that. You see, I cannot find a single major scientific organization in the world that doubts the findings of most climate scientists. In other words, I have looked for the 3% who say otherwise in vain. It looks to me more like 100% of all climate scientists support the findings of anthropogenic climate change. So does OPEC. So do oil company scientists. So does everyone except people like Donald Trump and his idiot, brain dead followers, and they’re not smart enough to found or underwrite or belong to any scientific organization.
To Donald Trump, who thinks that climate change “may be a hoax” but he’s not sure, you know, because he’s heard there may be nothing to it, is just the kind of reassuring certainty only an insane idiot would want to gamble his or her life on, or the lives of their family. But that’s exactly where Trump and his putrid little vassals stand. Meanwhile the White House has removed all references to global warming from its website. Trump doesn’t want to upset his friends in the oil business who are making billions off of the status quo.
Of course, some talent-free cretins on the Internet, who don’t know how to spell “you’re,” may tell you that hundreds of thousands of scientists are mistaken and you’re (note spelling, deniers) a bunch of “sheeple” for believing otherwise. Who can resist such logic? And it is for this reason that the mainstream media continues to insist that climate change remains a “controversy” in certain quarters. It is not. It is a measurable, tangible fact. The only people who think otherwise are fools and they don’t count. It’s time for the adults in the room to do the thinking.
If 2019 is the beginning of an unlucky streak of sufficient magnitude, then we may be finished and there’s nothing we can do about it. The solution to too much cold is low tech, but the solution to too much heat requires fans and air conditioners that burn fossil fuels, which leads to the need for more use of fans and air conditioners. And so on. That is just one example of a loop back mechanism that can get out of control very quickly. Extreme hotspots worldwide will also contribute to extreme storms of staggering size and destructive power. Catastrophes will lead to panic, which will lead to massive incursions of refugees everywhere, which can and probably will lead to war. Then there are other domino-effect consequences that we simply aren’t smart enough to predict, so we have the horror of the unknown to worry about as well.
So we can only hope that we are okay for long enough to fix this mess. If 2019 is the start of one of those unlucky streaks then we very well may be too late. The good news is, it probably isn’t. But then, Donald Trump probably wasn’t supposed to be the president of the United States, either. Are you willing to bet your life that an unlucky streak won’t come along sooner rather than later? Or your children’s lives? How much longer are you willing to put up with this? When is everybody going to wake the hell up? What more needs to happen to get our politicians to take this problem seriously, beyond the global luke-warming threshold we see so much of?
So, what can you do? You can start by making global climate change your number one talking point, and make sure your elected officials know how you feel. Yes, the injustices of the Trump administration need to be addressed, and will be. We can multitask. But always in the back of our minds we need to understand, on a fundamental level, that everything tracks back to global climate change. Otherwise we may wake up one day and see ice on the deck of the Titanic. If that day ever comes, my friends, nothing will matter any longer.
Robert Harrington is an American expat living in Britain. He is a portrait painter.