The results of the climate crisis for 2021


While COVID-19 was 2021’s most significant scientific history, it may not have had the most significant long-term consequences. This is not to say that the pandemic has not been continually traumatic and tragic; on the contrary. But 50,000 years from now, as the effects of this century’s industrial pollution still affect Earth’s climate, the coronavirus pandemic will be just a small historical incident compared to the long-term ramifications of greenhouse gas emissions. Greenhouse.

This is why climate change has remained a hot topic in 2021 – even if, if you based your conclusions on the behavior of key political leaders, you might not have recognized it. Worryingly, disasters related to climate change are becoming more and more intense year after year. While this is unlikely, one can only hope that Earth does not give off as many warning signs in 2022 as it did in 2021.

The “Doomsday Glacier” sends out a big red flag.

There is a glacier in West Antarctica that is as large as the state of Florida. Known as the Thwaites Glacier, it goes by the nickname “Doomsday Glacier” because its melting could directly raise sea levels around the world. For example, if an eastern ice shelf that contains a drainage basin filled with ice and water were to collapse, that development alone would increase the height of Earth’s oceans by more than two feet.

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

Imagine how a glass window develops cracks if there are structural issues near its base, with the cobwebs of growing and crisscrossing fractures eventually causing the entire pane to break. This could be the scenario facing the eastern sea ice. As scientists have pointed out, warming ocean water has loosened the Thwaites Glacier’s grip on an adjacent land mass. Observers have already identified surface fractures that only develop when temperatures continue to rise.

“This is an important step on the way to the collapse of the Antarctic ice sheet and major flooding of our coasts,” said Dr Michael E. Mann, distinguished professor of atmospheric science at Penn State University, at Salon by email. “A disturbing sign that really underscores the urgency of climate action.”

A vital series of ocean currents are about to shake things up.

We tend to think that waves and currents don’t change, and to some extent that’s true.

Take AMOC, or the Atlantic Reversal Meridional Circulation. It has been around for thousands of years, so much so that countless species have gotten used to it, although it is often compared to a treadmill system. The main “belt” flows north with warm water until it reaches the North Atlantic Ocean, where it cools and evaporates. By the time this is done, the water in this area has become so salty that its temperature drops and it is flowing, flowing south to create an additional current. This pair of “belts” are connected by a number of other oceanic features in the North Sea, Labrador Sea, and Southern Ocean.

Unfortunately, a report published in August in the journal Nature Climate Change described how global warming has led to “an almost complete loss of stability over the past century” within these currents. The good news is that the study remains controversial; the bad news is that, if this turns out to be true, mankind may be considering a radical and permanent change in their way of life. Any disturbance to AMOC is likely to cause sea level rise along the east coast of North America, lower temperatures and increased frequency of storms in Europe, as well as new conditions. weather leading to 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 thwarted by partisan politics.

It was never going to be easy for Democrats to pass sweeping climate change reform – any meaningful bill had to be expensive and involve sweeping regulations that alienated powerful interest groups – but, because Biden came to the power with a Senate split exactly in half, and Republicans determined to obstruct by acting as a unit, there was literally no margin for error.

In the case of saving the world from global warming, Biden’s margin of error name has been spelled “Joe Manchin”. The powerful West Virginia senator with financial ties to the coal industry has nipped in the bud any chance of developing an electricity sector that would be entirely carbon-free by 2035, which was the one of the new president’s signing objectives. Soon, however, it became clear that Manchin was dissatisfied with every increasingly watered-down substitute Democrats came up with in place of the original ambitious goal. As Amanda Marcotte de Salon recently observed, Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona (her Democratic partner in the Senate throughout the year) never negotiated in good faith. It now remains to be seen whether Biden will be able to do anything meaningful to protect the planet from climate change before his term ends.

The supply chain crisis foreshadowed how much climate change will destroy our economy.

While economists often spoke about the 2021 supply chain crisis in terms of supply and demand, product shortages have also given Americans a glimpse of another way climate change will alter their futures.

“A variety of dangerous events can disrupt food supply chains by affecting production and access to food,” Christa Court, assistant professor of regional economics at the University of Florida. As infrastructure is destroyed by climate change, it will be more difficult for food to get to markets far from where it is produced. Fluctuating conditions in temperature, hydration, and other weather factors will damage countless agricultural crops. Problems of water quality and soil degradation will further limit current food production needs. Take oranges, for example.

“A major drought in California or freezing temperatures in Florida can put a damper on this market,” said Dr. Ariel Ortiz-Bobea, associate professor of applied economics at Cornell University in August. “These events can drastically reduce the supply of oranges to these regions. Although oranges can be produced in other regions (eg Brazil), their acquisition is much more expensive, especially if the supply chains are not not already established and prepared in larger volumes. “

There was good news from Glasgow.

It would be a mistake to end this on a negative note, as there were positive signs for Earth in 2021.

The main ray of hope came from the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, better known as COP26 (because it was the 26th such conference). Although China and India may have weakened an initiative that would have eliminated fossil fuel and coal-fired subsidies, the Glasgow Climate Pact was still the first climate deal that explicitly called for reducing the use of coal. by humanity. In addition, different nations have made increasingly ambitious carbon commitments that, if fulfilled, would keep the world at just 1.8 degrees Celsius of warming. This would put the world on the right track to meet the goals of the Paris climate agreement.

“We arrived in Glasgow on the way to disaster (2.7 ° C)”, Johan Rockström, environmental specialist and director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, wrote on Twitter. “We are leaving Glasgow on the danger lane (just below 2 ° C).”

2021, in retrospect:


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