The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine
Arctic Permafrost defrosting And the Age of War and Revolution
2017 March 10 | Ian Welsh
For well over a decade I have written that we are past the point of no return on climate change. My reasoning was that hothouse gasses already in the atmosphere or which were for sure going to enter the atmosphere given our lack of action, were enough to trigger massive carbon and methane releases.
We've seen that methane, which accounts for only 14 percent of emissions worldwide, traps up to 100 times more heat than carbon dioxide over a 5-year period. This means that even though carbon dioxide molecules outnumber methane 5 to 1, this comparatively smaller amount of methane is still 19 times greater a problem for climate change over a 5 year period, and 4 times greater over a 100 year period.
It is even more potent in the short run. Meanwhile, the arctic circle was about 30 degrees warmer this year than normal, and permafrost is un-perma-ing.
Huge slabs of Arctic permafrost in northwest Canada are slumping and disintegrating, sending large amounts of carbon-rich mud and silt into streams and rivers. A new study that analyzed nearly a half-million square miles in northwest Canada found that this permafrost decay is affecting 52,000 square miles of that vast stretch of earth—an expanse the size of Alabama…
…Similar large-scale landscape changes are evident across the Arctic including in Alaska, Siberia and Scandinavia
There is no way we are avoiding near worst case scenarios for climate change without aggressive geo-engineering (completely unproven, and requires political willpower). We will see temperature increases in some parts of the world which are currently highly populated make those places uninhabitable outside of air conditioning. We will see changes in rainfall patterns which will cause large areas which are currently agricultural powerhouses to fail; an effect which will be compounded by the fact that we have vastly drained and polluted our groundwater in prime agricultural areas.
Later on we will see vast rises in the ocean level. Virtually every city sitting on the seashore today will be gone in a hundred years, some a lot sooner.
This stuff is baked into the cake. It is essentially unavoidable. It has been effectively, politically, unavoidable for quite some time now.
Do not expect political, economic and social arrangements you favor to survive this. The waves of refugees will be magnitudes larger than those currently shaking the Middle East and Europe. There will be water wars; people will not sit still while they are dying, they will fight. Some of those wars will involve, at the least, the use of tactical nukes.
Capitalism, Democracy, the Chinese Communist Party, etc. … any system and group of people who can reasonably be blamed for this, will likely be on the block. When hundreds of millions to billions start dying, they will not go easy into that long dark night, no, they and those they leave behind will look for people and ideologies and organizations to blame, and they will find them in plenty, because everyone and everything in power has failed to prevent an entirely foreseeable and largely preventable disaster.
Our failure will not be considered acceptable to those who pay the bill, and our "capitalism" and "democracy" and "corporations" and "free trade" and everything else you can think of will be on the block, liable for destruction.
This is coming on faster than many expected. Added to ecosphere collapse, the current cyclical capitalist sclerosis, and vast arsenals, it is going to be immensely damaging.
If you aren't old, or sick, you're going to suffer some of this. If you're young, you're going to suffer a lot of this, assuming you aren't an early casualty.
So it is. So it shall be. We were warned, we chose not to act, because corporations needed profits or something.
So be it.