That headline is not clickbait. Scientists are urging legislators and corporations to quit dragging their feet over climate change and call a spade a spade: this is a climate emergency, the biggest existential threat to human life in recorded history.
“We are living a global cataclysm.” Reads an open letter signed by 200 scientists and numerous others, published by France’s biggest news publication Le Monde. “Global warming, drastic decrease of living spaces, collapse of biodiversity, deep pollution of soil, water and air, rapid deforestation: all the indicators are alarming. At the current rate, in a few decades, there will be almost nothing left. Humans and most living species are in a critical situation.”
While politicians bicker and citizens live their lives, scientists are getting increasingly scared, and depressed, over what the data is telling them about our immediate future. They say our ecosystems face collapse, and civilization with it.
“We probably shouldn’t be surprised that some climate scientists are a little spooked by the radical implications of their own research. Most of them were quietly measuring ice cores, running global climate models, and studying ocean acidification, only to discover, as Australian climate expert and author Clive Hamilton puts it, that in breaking the news of the depth of our collective climate failure, they were ‘unwittingly destabilizing the political and social order.’”Naomi Klein
Despite this, many still (somehow) question climate change. How can the ice caps be melting if it still snows every winter? Perhaps this warming trend is just part of the Earth’s naturally fluctuating temperature. However, at this point the data and evidence are undeniable. The Earth is heating, and far faster than was anticipated even just a few years ago. Not even the best climate skeptic theories stand up to scrutiny, and today nearly 99% of scientists around the globe are in agreement on the climate crisis. These are not natural fluctuations, and here’s why:
Last spring, for example, a number of media outlets and websites reported on a story that looked at data acquired from NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) Surface Temperature Analysis (GISTEMP), which estimates changes in global surface temperature. The article discussed a short-term cooling period that showed up in the data in 2017 and 2018 and correctly stated that short-term cooling cycles are “statistical noise compared to the long-term trend.”
Afterward, we received some queries from readers who wanted to know if this finding meant a significant period of global cooling either could be or already was under way.
The answer is no. This story is a great example of why focusing on just a short period of time – say, one, two or even several years — doesn’t tell you what’s really going on with the long-term trends. In fact, it’s likely to be misleading.Alan Buis, NASA Global Climate Change
What of that other bit in the headline, the one about it being hotter than any year since Christ walked the Earth? The latest studies say it’s true. From the Roman Empire, the Middle Ages, the sweltering city streets of the Industrial Revolution, this year was hotter than any of those, by a long shot.
One of the three new research publications specifies: “This [research] provides strong evidence that anthropogenic (human induced) global warming is not only unparalleled in terms of absolute temperatures but also unprecedented in spatial consistency within the context of the past 2,000 years.”
We don’t want to leave this on a high note. This is worse than the nuclear threat of the Cold War, worse than 9/11, worse than fears of alien invasions or asteroid impacts. The climate emergency is real, and we’ve already locked in damage that will devastate the planet for your entire life, and far beyond that. There is hope to mitigate the worst case scenarios, but that is our reality now; mitigation instead of prevention.