A couple of years ago, a break-all-records heat wave in Europe had moved to Greenland and melted enough ice to add measurably to global sea levels. A drought in India had people saying that forty percent of the country’s population may have no access to drinking water by 2030, and parts of India may get too hot for humans to live there. By the end of the year, Australia was beginning its summer with droughts, record heat waves (pushing 120 Fahrenheit), and bush fires that beggared description. I thought at the time that a great many people were on the verge of a “move or die” moment in history. Fortunately, the projections of when that moment would arrive were in the future. Though not comfortably so—India with no drinking water for almost half its population by 2030? Parts of India—and even Southeast Asia–uninhabitable within a century? (See my book, Destinies: Issues to Shape Our Future, B Cubed Press, 2020.)
I saw such events as harbingers. There is no doubt that global warming (aka global climate change) is real. It is raising temperatures everywhere. It is extending growing seasons in cooler climes but also making summers hotter, melting Arctic ice and permafrost, increasing the number and severity of storms, and more. It’s doing this right now, and the climate scientists tell us that it is going to get worse. Indeed, much, much worse.
In June 2021, “a leaked draft from the Sixth Assessment Report (AR6) by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports that climate change is happening now, is accelerating and posing unprecedented threats to human and natural systems — and that taking fast action can still avoid the worst economic and ecological impacts” (https://thehill.com/opinion/energy-environment/560131-leaked-un-climate-report-underscores-growing-risk-need-for-fast).
Given our responsiveness to the crisis to date, I am not all sure that we are capable of fast action. On the other hand, we are capable of getting our asses in gear once those asses are on fire and surrounded by alligators.
On fire? Well, right now, the Pacific Northwest is suffering under an unprecedented “heat dome,” with temperatures exceeding 110 degrees Fahrenheit. By about 2050, much more of the US will be facing similar heat waves, according to a study from the Union of Concerned Scientists (https://www.ucsusa.org/resources/killer-heat-united-states-0).
Up to our asses in alligators? Color me hyperbolic, but while we are enduring droughts and heat waves in some places, we’re getting floods in others. Some floods are due to rain from tropical storms. Some are already due to rising sea level, which can also seep into building foundations and corrode the rebar in concrete. This, by the way, appears to have contributed to the collapse of that condo tower in Surfside, FL.
And then there’s drought, with major reservoirs in the Southwest so low that there is talk of turning off hydroelectric generation for lack of the hydro (https://www.wsj.com/articles/west-risks-blackouts-as-hydroelectric-power-dries-up-11624008601). That combines so well with heat waves.
Going back to that IPCC leak, it appears that the planet will soon pass “irreversible tipping points.” Warming will get worse and worse, even to the point where people will indeed be moving to other areas, fleeing drought, heat, and floods, hoping to find a more liveable climate.
“Move or Die” is no joke.