George Monbiot, writing in the Guardian last week said we are on the cusp of a global climate disaster. His piece, On The Cusp, is a must read.
“If there’s one thing we know about climate breakdown, it’s that it will not be linear, smooth or gradual,” he writes. “Just as one continental plate might push beneath another in sudden fits and starts, causing periodic earthquakes and tsunamis, our atmospheric systems will absorb the stress for a while, then suddenly shift. Yet everywhere, the programmes designed to avert it are linear, smooth and gradual.”
A few excerpts:
Current plans to avoid catastrophe would work in a simple system like a washbasin, in which you can close the tap until the inflow is less than the outflow. But they’re less likely to work in complex systems, such as the atmosphere, oceans and biosphere. Complex systems seek equilibrium. When they are pushed too far out of one equilibrium state, they can flip suddenly into another. A common property of complex systems is that it’s much easier to push them past a tipping point than to push them back. Once a transition has happened, it cannot realistically be reversed.
The old assumption that the Earth’s tipping points are a long way off is beginning to look unsafe. A recent paper warns that the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation – the system that distributes heat around the world and drives the Gulf Stream – may now be “close to a critical transition”. This circulation has flipped between “on” and “off” states several times in prehistory, plunging northern Europe and eastern North America into unbearable cold, heating the tropics, disrupting monsoons.
A common sign that complex systems are approaching tipping points is rising volatility: they start to flicker. The extreme weather in 2021 – the heat domes, droughts, fires, floods and cyclones – is, frankly, terrifying. If Earth systems tip as a result of global heating, there will be little difference between taking inadequate action and taking no action at all. A miss is as good as a mile.
Read it and then mark your calendars for September 22 when a group of artists and celebrities will be kicking off a huge social media action campaign to demand Congress pass powerful climate provisions in the “Build Back Better” legislation. The legislation, which calls for the country to attain 80% clean energy by 2030, is expected to come before Congress on the 27th.
Members of the campaign include Billie Eilish, Finneas, Maroon 5, Mark Ruffalo, Jon Batiste, Brittany Howard, Leonardo DiCaprio, Chuck D, Dave Matthews Band, and Jane Fonda.
They will post a compelling graphic showing a giant red exclamation point, alternating with scenes of extreme weather, with alternating hashtags #CodeRedClimate and #CodeRedCongress. This will link to a landing page, where constituents can email their representatives pressing for the largest climate protection bill in American history.
The legislation calls for major tax incentives for “solar, wind, energy-efficiency, a smart grid, electric cars, charging stations, geothermal and batteries, while cutting subsidies for fossil fuels. It will also drive major investment into communities hardest hit by environmental injustice.”
This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.