By Joe Symons
I don’t have cancer. I hope I don’t ever get cancer. At the same time, we know about cancer. We know that if we want to maximize our chances of survival, we need to discover and treat cancer early.
Really early. Earlier than we could possibly detect that it exists in us. Since cancer is relatively well known, and ugly, billions of dollars have been spent to detect and treat it. We don’t know everything, but we know enough to know we have to nail it soon.
Global warming is like the first case of cancer. No one has seen it before. Even the term is a catchall. It might even sound comforting to someone in Minnesota in January. The term began decades ago when it was discovered that the earth’s temperature was climbing. Slowly. Steadily. No one really understood then what this term meant. Warming seemed a good enough description. It’s not. Because we haven’t had millions of cases of global warming, like we have had millions of cases of cancer, we have no idea what this phenomenon is. The first case of cancer probably killed the person who had it. Maybe the first 1,000 people. Doctors and researchers had to figure out what was going on and try things.
Since they had plenty of people to try things on, they have become way better at detecting and defeating cancer. By contrast, we as a global community have never faced global warming before. We are going to have to try things, but the “things” we are going to try are unpleasant, just like chemo and radiation and surgery.
We know those cancer treatments work, mostly. We don’t know about the treatments for global warming. What will they cost? What if we ignore it? Maybe it will go away?
We just don’t know. That could be a prescription for inaction. Let’s wait to see what happens.
However, we know that if we take that attitude about cancer, it won’t be pretty. Cancer just doesn’t go away. It gets worse and untreated it will generally kill you, often painfully. Scientists are the doctor equivalents for Patient Earth. They may not know exactly how the Patient will do, but they know well enough that untreated, the Patient will alter life forms to adjust to new temperatures.
She’s already doing that.
In that “shift to a new reality,” she will do things in response to the heat. Just like steadily growing heat under a boiling pot will cause the water to boil over and spew scalding water all over the stove, that extra earth heat will take the form of bigger storms, wild fluctuations in weather patterns, floods, droughts, derechos, tornados. Things move much more when they are hot. That’s not anger. That’s physics. That’s the principle behind a bullet and a bomb.
I don’t have the space here to tell you the details. The bottom line is that what the earth doctors are saying about Patient Earth is that she is heating up faster than everyone thought. Since physics rules, that means weather patterns will get worse. Other things happen too, like ocean acidification.
None of this might mean anything to you unless you like to eat and not dodge falling trees on a daily basis. The heat, and you know where it’s coming from, is not the problem. It’s what Patient Earth does in response to it.
Constant and severe weather disruptions affect plants, animals and bugs. As those species die off or don’t function like we want or expect them to, the bounty that they used to provide drops off fast. That bounty isn’t cute Disney Bambi scenes: it is your food, from the sea or the land. It’s not just the food. It’s also the systems.
In the Northwest, we don’t need air conditioning (west of the Cascades). Everywhere else in America we do (even if it didn’t exist 40 years ago). A/C needs power and as a nation we’re maxed out. Power needs water. Since water evaporates faster with a warmer world, water leaves the rivers and becomes airborne. Power plants use humongous quantities of water. They won’t work if there is warmer water or no water.
The very short conclusion is: there is only one question that needs to be asked, regardless of your age or occupation. Whether you are a school teacher or administrator, an employee, a parent or grandparent, a voter, retired or a student, whether you work for a corporation or a non-profit, whether you are religious or an atheist, regardless of the color of your skin or the language you speak or your sexual orientation, whether you are in the military or a civilian, there is only one question: what are you doing to prepare yourself, your workmates, your children, your home/community/city/county for a 4D to 6D habitat?
Huh? The “D” here stands for degree and the degrees are in Centigrade. The terms 4D Scenario (4DS) and 6D Scenario (6DS) reference an average global temperature 4 to 6 degrees C warmer than what the founding fathers experienced.
Dan Kammen gave a crossroads lecture on Orcas a few months ago. He recently said: “while scientists rightly talk about the 2° line, the path the world is currently on, namely 4 – 6°C will be catastrophic.”
The closest way to imagine a 4 -6°C world is to imagine how you would feel if your body temperature were elevated by 4-6° F (permanently). If you’re up a degree, you don’t feel well. Up 2 degrees and you definitely have a fever. Up 3 degrees, (101 something) and you don’t go to work. Up 4 degrees (102 something) and you are calling the doctor. Up 5 degrees and you are flown off the island. This is a rough gauge of how Patient Earth will work. Greater and greater devastating storms. Whole swaths of the American Bread basket toast. Summer temps that are triple digit for weeks or months. Rolling blackouts. More coal fire power plants you say to run those o so needed air conditioners? More CO2 means even hotter temps. And then there is that pesky water problem. Nuclear plants need water too. Kammen isn’t joking. You, and really your currently-living descendants, will be eating catastrophe for breakfast every day.
Unless… you get that Patient Earth health checkup fast and then do the Patient Earth cancer equivalent: major chemo, major surgery, major radiation. Fast. She gets sick: you get sick. Does she care? No.
You want details? Start at NegawattMedia.com A public presentation is being planned this spring on Orcas Island. I hope you will come.