The term 'global warming' does not begin to convey the breadth or severity of what we humans face. As the globe warms, many changes will occur :
- Sea levels will rise, leading to coastal flooding and inundation. Much of the population living in coastal areas will be displaced. [see the National Geographic maps of North America, South America, Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia and Antarctica showing earth if all the arctic and antarctic ice were to melt... A 216 ft increase in sea level would result.]
- Heat events will increase in severity and duration, and heat related deaths will increase.
- Deserts will expand, marginal land nearby will be absorbed. Arable land for farming will be reduced, and the geography will change. Crop yields for food crops will decrease, and food supplies will decrease.
- Species will disappear, global diversity will decrease.
- The intensity of weather events will increase, hurricanes and cyclones will be more frequent and more devastating. Storms will form with more energy and be more violent.
- As the ocean warms, coral dies, and reef-based life will decrease. Our food resources from the sea will decrease.
- As the globe warms, tropical diseases will expand into the now temperate portions of the globe. Whole regions of the globe will face medical conditions unseen before.
- The current sources of fresh water we need for survival will change, and water may no longer be available where people currently live.
- As global resources diminish, armed conflict and warfare will increase as we fight for the smaller available food supplies and livable space.
When put in these terms, the cozy sound of 'warming' is blown away by the realities of changing the heat balance on our planet. We have wrapped our world in a blanket that we cannot remove. We are now trapping more energy on earth than is escaping back to space, and the earth will change as a result. We do not know if we can re-establish a balance, or what the conditions will be like on earth if it happens. Certainly if we continue burning fuels, the situation will become more extreme. We have no idea how much impact we have set in motion already, due to the time lag for effects to be realized, but we know carbon dioxide levels are the highest they have been in 700,000 years and emissions continue to increase.
We should be thinking in terms of stopping all use of fossil fuels, not increasing the mileage of our cars. We need to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, not reduce the amount we add. We are foolishly kidding ourselves that this is no big deal.. Those of us alive today may not suffer the full impact, but our descendants will. Can our great great grandchildren survive? We do not know. Worse yet, we cannot say if the changes we cause now will come sooner. It is possible that some tipping point we have not anticipated will occur that accelerates every aspect of the changes to our planet... release of methane from permafrost or from methane hydrate in ocean floor sediments? ( methane is 30 times more active as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide is.) Sudden shifts in ocean currents due to warming of the water? It could be that our children will suffer from our inaction, not just our distant descendants. We are exhibiting a shocking level of arrogant denial and stupidity in not accepting facts and facing the issues we have created. Our leadership should be wisely and urgently moving us all toward the end of fossil-fuel energy, with a war-footing level of resource commitment. As the ostensible leader of the free world, and the most culpable contributor to the problem, the USA should be driving the change for everyone to see and follow. We need the wisdom and foresight to manage and care for our one home in all the universe.
This situation is not an 'issue'. It is not a 'crisis'. It is nothing less than the doorstep to an extinction event that could end human life on this planet as we know it. Nothing is more important. Nothing is more urgent.