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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 4/10/19

Glaciers and Arctic ice are vanishing. Time to get radical before it's too late

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From The Guardian

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No one should be annoyed when schoolkids start leaving class en masse or surprised that Green New Deal advocates call for dramatic overhaul of American society. We should be grateful

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
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Forget "early warning signs" and "canaries in coalmines" we're now well into the middle of the climate change era, with its epic reshaping of our home planet. Monday's news, from two separate studies, made it clear that the frozen portions of the Earth are now in violent and dramatic flux.

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The first, led by the veteran Greenland glaciologist Jason Box, looked across the Arctic at everything from "increased tundra biomass" to deepening thaw of the permafrost layer. Their conclusion: "the Arctic biophysical system is now clearly trending away from its 20th century state and into an unprecedented state, with implications not only within but beyond the Arctic." To invent a word, the north is rapidly slushifying, with more rainfall and fewer days of hard freeze; the latest data shows that after a month of record temperatures in the Bering Sea, ocean ice in the Arctic is at an all-time record low for the date, crushing the record set ... last April.

The other study looked at the great mountain ranges of the planet, and found that their glaciers were melting much faster than scientists had expected. By the end of the century many of those alpine glaciers would be gone entirely; the Alps may lose 90% of their ice. From the Caucasus to the South Island of New Zealand, mountains are losing more than 1% of their ice each year now: "At the current glacier loss rate, the glaciers will not survive the century," said Michael Zemp, who runs the World Glacier Monitoring Service from his office at the University of Zurich.

One could list the "consequences" of these changes in great detail. They range from the catastrophic (Andean cities with no obvious source of water supply once the glaciers have melted) to the merely bitter (no one is going to die from a lack of skiing, but to lose the season when friction disappears will make many lives sadder). For the moment, though, don't worry about the "effects," just focus on what it means that some of the largest systems on Earth are now in seismic shift.

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What it means, I think, is that no one should be shocked when Extinction Rebellion activists engage in mass civil disobedience. No one should be annoyed when school kids start leaving class en masse. No one should be surprised that Green New Deal advocates are now calling for dramatic overhaul of American society. In fact we should be deeply grateful: these activists, and the scientists producing these reports, are the only people on the planet who seem to understand the scale of the problem.

Not our political leaders. Obviously not Trump, but even most of the theoretically engaged premiers and presidents let themselves constantly be distracted by much smaller questions. (Brexit would seem like a silly charade at the best of times; at the moment it seems actively obscene). Not our business leaders, who make occasional green-washing noises but continue passively belonging to organizations like the Chamber of Commerce that continues to fight serious change. Not those pension fund trustees still clinging to fossil fuel stocks even as they lose money.

The respectable have punted; so now it's up to the scruffy, the young, the marginal, the angry to do the necessary work. Their discipline and good humor and profound nonviolence are remarkable, from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to Greta Thunberg. They are what's left of our fighting chance.

The biggest physical features on the planet are now changing in ways they haven't since long before the dawn of human history. On the most distant poles, and on the highest peaks, we see almost unfathomable shifts. The only question is whether a similar shift is possible in our politics. Planet Earth is miles outside its comfort zone; how many of us will go beyond ours?

 

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Bill McKibben is the author of a dozen books, including The End of Nature and Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future. A former staff writer for The New Yorker, he writes regularly for Harper's, The Atlantic Monthly, and The (more...)
 
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4 people are discussing this page, with 6 comments  Post Comment


Ceric

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Time to get radical -- elect Bill McKibben president and give him dictatorial powers. I am serious.

Submitted on Thursday, Apr 11, 2019 at 3:32:42 AM

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Lou Pintada

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Reply to Ceric:   New Content

Time to get radical -- dump Bill McKibben and his ilk that have been very vocal for half measures and apologetics for decades. I am serious.


McKibben found it very easy to make a ton of money by getting donations from both environmentalists and from industry while writing silly little articles and books that minimized the change needed. Please don't imagine that he is not a major part of the problem.

Submitted on Thursday, Apr 11, 2019 at 5:59:48 PM

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Ceric

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Reply to Lou Pintada:   New Content

By people like you, I see that I did not go too far by including dictatorial powers as well as presidency.

Climate change is a bigger threat to the US that the Axis in WWII. Look at the damage already: Midwest flooding, fires in California and Hurricanes in Puerto Rico and South Carolina. Extreme weather patterns will continue and get worse. The US will have to make very well coordinated efforts to bring get a sustainable lifestyle.

Submitted on Friday, Apr 12, 2019 at 1:08:27 AM

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Get real, folks. Instead of immersing yourselves in catastrophism, check the actual records. After several years with no US landfalling Cat 3 or greater hurricanes, it's ludicrous to claim an increase -- from any cause, and especially not from the really hard-to-see global warming. We have good reason to be skeptical of people like McKibben, but apparently they're getting desperate to reclaim some of their past glory among those prophesying all manner of doom. But we're a long way from the "danger" of less ice in the Arctic, which is scary only to some who don't live or work there. For example, Midsummer tankers get Ice-trapped.

Maybe McKibben can find a new sideline in writing horror fiction. Oops, he's already done that.

If this is what "progressive" has come to mean, count me out. I'm a believer in honesty and scientific integrity, not alarm. We're getting suckered by dogmatic delusion.

Submitted on Friday, Apr 12, 2019 at 2:13:39 AM

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Ceric

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Wow

Submitted on Friday, Apr 12, 2019 at 2:33:24 AM

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BFalcon

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Bill McKibben does not accept messages here.

That is enough not to elect him to anything.

He is right as far as the problem goes but we don't need an arrogant dictator to impose solutions.

Submitted on Wednesday, Apr 17, 2019 at 2:32:17 PM

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