Walk outside and it’s likely something feels different. It might be hard to identify what exactly is going on, but if you’re in the U.S., there is one clear message – welcome to a new world of hotter weather. While some debate the viability and accuracy of climate, I read something on Rolling Stone that really got me thinking about the magnitude the world is facing –literally.
In the opening paragraph of “Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math,” authored by Bill McKibben, these numbers stuck out:
June broke or tied 3,215 high-temperature records across the United States. That followed the warmest May on record for the Northern Hemisphere – the 327th consecutive month in which the temperature of the entire globe exceeded the 20th-century average, the odds of which occurring by simple chance were 3.7 x 10-99, a number considerably larger than the number of stars in the universe.
If these numbers don’t cause at least a moment of contemplation, then maybe this will: Food is about to go up in price. Why? According to the New York Times, nearly 1,300 counties across 29 states have been declared federal disaster areas.
No matter how much I love music, no song will matter if the world reaches a point where life as we know it can’t sustain itself. We haven’t reached that point – yet.
The Rolling Stone article points out some facts that can’t be disputed. 2 degrees, 565 and 2,795 are the three numbers that matter most in the months ahead.
- 2 degrees represents the amount of average temperature increase that global leaders consider acceptable.
- 565 gigatons is the maximum amount of carbon dioxide the can be released into the atmosphere with a relatively good chance of keeping the change in climate to within the 2 degree acceptable climate increase
- 2,795 gigatons in carbon dioxide emissions is the amount of oil, coal and gas energy companies have in reserve
Review these numbers a little more closely, and it all adds up to a scary revelation. To put in laymen’s terms:
If you burned everything in the inventories of Russia’s Lukoil and America’s ExxonMobil, for instance, which lead the list of oil and gas companies, each would release more than 40 gigatons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
Which is exactly why this new number, 2,795 gigatons, is such a big deal. Think of two degrees Celsius as the legal drinking limit – equivalent to the 0.08 blood-alcohol level below which you might get away with driving home. The 565 gigatons is how many drinks you could have and still stay below that limit – the six beers, say, you might consume in an evening. And the 2,795 gigatons? That’s the three 12-packs the fossil-fuel industry has on the table, already opened and ready to pour.
Doing a little more research, I came across an article that described the island nation of Kiribati approved a planto purchase to a section of a Fiji island in preparation to evacuate all 102 thousand people. Crazy. We’ve reach a point where nations, entire cultures, are having to plan to move away in order to survive.
We’re on the slow, steady path to our own demise. This isn’t science fiction. This is unfortunately reality. A reality that affects everyone, literally – democrat, conservative, libertarian, Russian, South African American – everyone. Slice it up however you wish, the global village we have is at risk.
Typically, I don’t write about climate change, but after reading this article on Rolling Stone, I was intrigued that a music magazine had the tenacity to publish this piece as opposed to any other mainstream media. Perhaps it’s because there are some things more important than music.
Maybe our goal should be to ensure we can continue to hear the music we love. That would symbolize the continuation of humanity.