Clearly, the climate crisis is upon us

This summer's sizzling t...

Posted: Jul 31, 2018 3:19 PM
Updated: Jul 31, 2018 3:19 PM

This summer's sizzling temperatures, savage droughts, raging wildfires, floods and acute water shortages -- from Japan to the Arctic Circle, California to Greece -- are surely evidence beyond any reasonable doubt that the climate crisis is upon us now.

This is the new normal -- until it gets worse.

We, the entire global community, the residents of this planet, must finally grasp the urgency at hand and undertake dramatic, meaningful measures -- initiatives beyond the modest goals of 2015 Paris climate accord -- to stave off nothing less than the destruction of civilization as we know it.

This may sound hyperbolic, but it's mainstream opinion among serious scientists worldwide: Climate change, unchecked, will eventually wipe out our race -- and man-made greenhouse gas emissions are still rising.

An open letter signed by 15,000 international scientists last year read in part: "Soon it will be too late to shift course away from our failing trajectory, and time is running out. We must recognize, in our day-to-day lives and in our governing institutions, that Earth with all its life is our only home," the letter warns.

"Since 1992, carbon emissions have increased 62 percent," said William Ripple of Oregon State University's College of Forestry, who initiated the letter. "And the global average temperature change has paralleled that. Also since 1992, we have two billion more people on Earth, which is a 35 percent increase."

In his epic tome "Collapse," the American physicist Jared Diamond attributes the decline and extinction of several historical civilizations, among them the Maya and the Inca, to climate change, overpopulation and incompetent resource management.

The book's telling subtitle is "How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed." It was resolute stubbornness and bad management that killed off the great Latin American peoples, Diamond argued.

Today, though, an entire world civilization, not just a regional people, has neglected and defiled the very resource base from which it sustains itself.

Yet the headlines still read "When The Weather Is Extreme, Is Climate Change To Blame?"

We've got to move past the false, stubborn debate about whether global warming is happening or not. Obviously it is, plentiful research has underscored this for years, and with the natural disasters everywhere we're feeling it now. Those who still don't get it may have stuck their heads in the sand -- or perhaps they're lying to themselves.

But either way we can't lose more time trying to convince them. And those who are slowly coming around -- including US Republicans, notorious former skeptics -- have to catch up on the learning curve very quickly.

Resignation or fatalism -- that it's a tragedy, the destruction of life as we know it, but alas we can't affect it -- is as self-defeating as denial, and lazy too. I've seen one too many dystopian, post-apocalyptic thrillers recently based on worst-case, extreme-weather scenarios, but too few about saving mankind from these fates.

In the 1980s, the international community's response to the ozone's thinning and the scourge of acid rain illustrate what mankind can do when it puts its mind to changing human and above all industrial behavior. In the form of the 1987 Montreal Protocol and 1985 Helsinki Protocol respectively, treaties were put in place that halted the destructive menace of the pollutants responsible for those blights. They're success stories.

Admittedly, these afflictions were more contained than the entire planet's warming, but they show that human beings can at least constrain the folly that they've set in motion.

So the battle against climate change is in our hands. Despite the meager political action to date, we're not starting at square one.

Our scientists, in a feat of global cooperation orchestrated through the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), have enabled us to understand climate change as the consequence of two centuries' intensive burning of petroleum-based fuel, and what it portends -- namely a future in which human beings and other inhabitants of the planet will find it increasingly difficult, and eventually impossible, to live as we have.

Another product of science is the technology that can replace fossil fuels. It's already there, and in use in small quantities almost everywhere in the world. The clean tech that we have today -- solar power, wind energy, battery-propelled transportation, smart grids, and more -- is enough for us to go completely green in the near future.

Advances are made and costs come down on this technology every six months, but we don't have to wait. Germany, for example, turned 40% of its electricity renewable in just 15 years. Today that could happen twice as fast.

A number of diverse, evidence-based studies show that a global transition to 100% renewable electricity, or close to that, isn't utopian dreaming at all but feasible, and in the near future. A massive roll out of renewables, not including nuclear energy, could cover the globe's energy needs by 2050, even with the world's population growing. All investment in fossil fuel production would have to be switched to renewables.

One recent study, the product of a Finnish university and German think tank, envisions a global renewable energy mix comprising 69% solar power, 18% wind energy, 8% hydropower, and 2% bioenergy.

A full decarbonization of the electricity system by 2050 is possible based on available technology, according to Christian Breyer, a renewable energy expert and lead author of the study. "Energy transition is no longer a question of technical feasibility or economic viability, but of political will," says Breyer -- and he's not alone in asserting this. A 2017 study from Stanford University came to similar conclusions.

But just as global warming today is something we can feel, so too can we see renewable energy at work.

In Europe, Germany is the most commonly cited example because it is home to one of the world's most advanced industrial economies, which has prospered with the renewables surge. Yet Norway and Iceland already run almost completely on renewable energy, namely hydroelectric and geothermal power respectively.

Denmark plans to convert fully to renewable energy by 2050 by scaling back on energy use and exploiting wind power to meet demand. By 2020, extensive reductions in energy consumption will make it possible for wind power to cover half of the country's electricity consumption. Danish power plants relying on coal will be phased out by 2030. And by 2035, all electricity and heating will be generated using renewable sources.

As individuals, of course we can curb our consumption and make our lifestyles as sustainable as possible. But as citizens we have to mobilize too and force our elected leaders (and unelected leaders in China and elsewhere) to tackle the industrial giants whose fortunes are tied up in petrochemical generation.

Until this summer, many in the developed world probably assumed that global warming would only affect the undeveloped and the far-away. But global warming has hit home for all of us in 2018.

If empathy for others or future generations can't inspire concern, then let pure self-interest dictate action.

Whatever the motive, the time for half measures is past.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 514171

Reported Deaths: 10285
CountyCasesDeaths
Harrison34920557
DeSoto33270432
Hinds32652642
Jackson24876391
Rankin22516404
Lee16366245
Madison14932283
Jones14129247
Forrest13785260
Lauderdale12279324
Lowndes11314193
Lamar10663140
Pearl River9720244
Lafayette8855143
Hancock7839132
Washington7553169
Oktibbeha7216138
Monroe7036179
Pontotoc7003109
Warren6872178
Panola6768135
Neshoba6732210
Marshall6686142
Bolivar6451151
Union640898
Pike5933156
Alcorn5887107
Lincoln5533136
George510380
Prentiss505385
Tippah492783
Itawamba4857107
Scott478199
Adams4771125
Tate4765117
Leflore4736144
Copiah457095
Yazoo456692
Simpson4554117
Wayne443172
Covington434695
Sunflower4315106
Marion4279112
Coahoma4238109
Leake414090
Newton395782
Tishomingo384894
Grenada3777109
Stone365766
Jasper340866
Attala338790
Winston317892
Chickasaw316167
Clay312578
Clarke301295
Calhoun285949
Holmes271889
Smith269452
Yalobusha244247
Tallahatchie232053
Greene224749
Walthall221866
Lawrence219141
Perry213456
Amite209857
Webster206248
Noxubee188743
Montgomery181857
Carroll174941
Jefferson Davis173843
Tunica163339
Benton153139
Kemper145041
Choctaw136727
Claiborne134439
Humphreys132139
Franklin126029
Quitman107628
Wilkinson106139
Jefferson96934
Sharkey65321
Issaquena1957
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 845761

Reported Deaths: 16119
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson1161862004
Mobile742411381
Madison53315732
Shelby38351369
Baldwin38104589
Tuscaloosa36052641
Montgomery34492781
Lee25590263
Calhoun22598518
Morgan22459406
Etowah20026518
Marshall18790316
Houston17741425
St. Clair16904358
Limestone16153219
Cullman16067303
Elmore15912294
Lauderdale14991306
Talladega14209299
DeKalb12985269
Walker12067380
Blount10729192
Autauga10526157
Jackson10170194
Coffee9425192
Colbert9341208
Dale9024192
Tallapoosa7273201
Russell708865
Chilton7042170
Escambia6956143
Covington6943195
Franklin6338108
Chambers5785142
Marion5413130
Dallas5295209
Pike5123109
Clarke484886
Lawrence4831129
Winston4780110
Geneva4643136
Bibb434594
Barbour369980
Butler3439100
Marengo342393
Monroe337466
Randolph334867
Pickens333988
Fayette330085
Henry320766
Hale318489
Cherokee318363
Crenshaw260777
Washington256952
Cleburne254560
Lamar251953
Clay251169
Macon245064
Conecuh193162
Coosa185547
Lowndes178268
Wilcox177638
Bullock152545
Perry141840
Sumter139241
Greene130245
Choctaw93228
Out of AL00
Unassigned00
Tupelo
Partly Cloudy
57° wxIcon
Hi: 70° Lo: 43°
Feels Like: 57°
Columbus
Partly Cloudy
55° wxIcon
Hi: 71° Lo: 40°
Feels Like: 55°
Oxford
Partly Cloudy
52° wxIcon
Hi: 68° Lo: 43°
Feels Like: 52°
Starkville
Mostly Cloudy
48° wxIcon
Hi: 71° Lo: 41°
Feels Like: 48°
High pressure will continue to dominate our weather forecast for the next few days. This will keep our area on the dry side and on the unseasonably warm side for this time of the year. We will see most high temperatures well into the 70s over the next few afternoons.
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather