Climate crisis report card for 2021

While COVID-19 is the most remarkable science story of 2021, it may not be the one with the most significant long-term consequences. This is not to say that pandemics are not constantly painful and tragic; opposite. But in 50,000 years, when the effects of industrial pollution from this century are still affecting Earth’s climate, the coronavirus pandemic will be just a small trace in history compared to the long-term division of Earth. emissions causing the greenhouse effect.

That’s why climate change is still a big news story in 2021 – if you base your conclusions on the behavior of major political leaders, though, you might have didn’t realize it. Worryingly, climate change-related disasters are getting more intense, year after year. While that’s unlikely, one can only hope that Earth doesn’t show as many warning signs in 2022 as it does in 2021.

The “Doomsday Glacier” is flying a large red flag.

There’s a glacier in west Antarctica as big as the state of Florida. Called the Thwaites Glacier, it’s nicknamed the “Doomsday Glacier” because its melting can directly cause sea levels to rise worldwide. For example, if an eastern ice shelf contained a drainage basin full of ice and water collapsing, that single development would raise the height of Earth’s oceans by more than two feet by itself.

Unfortunately, scientists earlier this month at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) revealed that this seems to be starting to happen.

Imagine how a glass window would appear to crack if there were structural problems near its base, with cobwebs growing and criss-crossing cracks eventually causing the entire window to break. That could be the prospect of facing the eastern ice shelf. As scientists have shown, warming ocean waters have loosened the Thwaites Glacier’s grip on an adjacent land mass. Observers have determined that cracks in the surface only grow as temperatures continue to rise.

“It’s an important step along the path of Antarctic ice sheet collapse and severe flooding on our coastlines,” Dr. Michael E. Mann, a distinguished professor of atmospheric science at Penn State University, told Salon by email. “A troubling sign that really underscores the urgency of climate action.”

A series of important ocean currents are about to stir things up.

We tend to think of waves and currents as immutable, and to some extent that is true.

Let’s AMOC, or Circumference Inverting the Atlantic meridian. It has been around for thousands of years, so much so that countless species have become accustomed to it, although it is often compared to a conveyor belt system. The main “belt” flows north with warm water until it reaches the north Atlantic Ocean, where it cools and evaporates. By the time it was completed, the water in that area had become so salty that its temperature dropped and it sank, flowing south to generate an additional current. This pair of “belts” are connected by several other oceanic features in the Nordic Sea, Labrador Sea, and Southern Ocean.

Unfortunately, an August report in the journal Nature Climate Change described how global warming has led to “almost complete destabilization over the last century” in those flows. The good news is that the research is still controversial; The bad news is, if that proves to be true, humanity may be considering a radical and lasting change in its way of life. Any disruption in the AMOC could cause sea levels to rise along the east coast of North America, lower temperatures and increased storm frequency in Europe, and new weather conditions leading to severe weather conditions. Food shortages in India, South America and West Africa.

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President Joe Biden has tried to be a transformative president when it comes to climate change, but has been stymied by partisan politics.

It will never be easy for Democrats to pass sweeping climate change reform – any meaningful bill must be costly and involve sweeping regulations that alienate interest groups. — but, because Biden is in power by exactly half the Senate, and the Republicans are determined to stop it by acting as a unit, he really has no margin for error.

In the case of saving the world from global warming, Biden’s wrong name was spelled out “Joe Manchin.” West Virginia’s powerful senator with financial ties to the coal industry jumped at any opportunity to develop a completely carbon-free electricity sector by 2035, one of his particular goals. of the upcoming president. Soon, however, it became clear that Manchin was not content with every diminishing alternative the Democrats offered to the original ambitious goal. As Salon’s Amanda Marcotte was recently observed, Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona (his Democratic counterpart in the Senate for the past year) have never negotiated in good faith. It remains to be seen whether Biden can do anything meaningful to protect the planet from climate change before the end of his term.

The supply chain crisis heralds how climate change will wreak havoc on our economy.

While economists often talk about the supply-chain crisis of 2021 in terms of supply and demand, the product shortages also show Americans another way climate change will change their future.

“Various hazardous events can disrupt food supply chains by impairing food production and access,” said Christa Court, an assistant professor of regional economics at the University of Florida. ” told Salon via email in August. As infrastructure is destroyed by climate change, it will be harder for food to get to markets far from where it is produced. Fluctuating conditions in temperature, hydration and other weather factors will harm countless agricultural crops. Water quality problems and land degradation will further limit the need for ongoing food production. Take the orange as an example.

Ariel Ortiz-Bobea, an associate professor of applied economics at Cornell University, explained in August: “A major drought in California or freezing temperatures in Florida could hurt this market. . “Those events could significantly reduce the supply of oranges from those regions. Although oranges may be produced in other regions (e.g. Brazil), acquiring them is much more expensive, especially especially if the supply chain is not already established and prepared for larger volumes.”

Got some good news from Glasgow.

It would be a mistake to end this on a small note, as there are already some positive signs for Earth in 2021.

The main ray of hope comes from the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, also known as COP26 (as it is the 26th conference of its kind). Although China and India were able to undermine an initiative that would have eliminated subsidies for fossil fuels and coal power, the Glasgow Climate Compact remains the first climate agreement to call for. explicitly reducing the use of coal by mankind. Moreover, different countries did carbon commitment increasingly ambitious that if maintained would keep the world from warming just 1.8 degrees Celsius. This would put the world on track to meet the goals of the Paris climate accord.

“We arrived in Glasgow on the path to disaster (2.7°C),” said Johan Rockström, an environmental scientist and director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, Written on Twitter. “We left Glasgow on the road to danger (just under 2°C).”

In 2021, in retrospect: Climate crisis report card for 2021

Caroline Bleakley

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