Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, (Not published in The Hamilton Spectator) – Friday November 19, 2021
Capitalism is killing the planet
There is a myth about human beings that withstands all evidence. It’s that we always put our survival first. This is true of other species. When confronted by an impending threat, such as winter, they invest great resources into avoiding or withstanding it: migrating or hibernating, for example. Humans are a different matter.
When faced with an impending or chronic threat, such as climate or ecological breakdown, we seem to go out of our way to compromise our survival. We convince ourselves that it’s not so serious, or even that it isn’t happening. We double down on destruction, swapping our ordinary cars for SUVs, jetting to Oblivia on a long-haul flight, burning it all up in a final frenzy. In the back of our minds, there’s a voice whispering, “If it were really so serious, someone would stop us.” If we attend to these issues at all, we do so in ways that are petty, tokenistic, comically ill-matched to the scale of our predicament. It is impossible to discern, in our response to what we know, the primacy of our survival instinct.
Here is what we know. We know that our lives are entirely dependent on complex natural systems: the atmosphere, ocean currents, the soil, the planet’s webs of life. People who study complex systems have discovered that they behave in consistent ways. It doesn’t matter whether the system is a banking network, a nation state, a rainforest or an Antarctic ice shelf; its behaviour follows certain mathematical rules. In normal conditions, the system regulates itself, maintaining a state of equilibrium. It can absorb stress up to a certain point. But then it suddenly flips. It passes a tipping point, then falls into a new state of equilibrium, which is often impossible to reverse.
Human civilisation relies on current equilibrium states. But, all over the world, crucial systems appear to be approaching their tipping points. If one system crashes, it is likely to drag others down, triggering a cascade of chaos known as systemic environmental collapse. This is what happened during previous mass extinctions. (Continued: The Guardian)
Atmospheric rivers of the kind that flooded British Columbia and renched California in recent weeks will become larger — and possibly more destructive — because of climate change, scientists said.
Columns in the atmosphere hundreds of miles long carry water vapour over oceans from the tropics to more temperate regions in amounts more than double the flow of the Amazon River, according to the American Meteorological Society.
These “rivers in the sky” are relatively common, with about 11 present on Earth at any time, according to NASA.
But warming air and seas around the globe causes conditions that scientists said will make them hold more moisture, causing extreme precipitation when they make landfall, often on the west coasts of North America, South America and Western Europe.
Because of climate change, atmospheric rivers are projected to become slightly less frequent, but more intense, according to a 2018 study led by researchers from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
“There may be fewer, but they are going to be lasting longer, and more intense,” Vicky Espinoza, an author of the NASA study who is now a graduate student at the University of California Merced, said.
Atmospheric rivers will become about 10% less frequent by the end of this century, but about 25% longer and wider, the study found. That will lead to nearly double the frequency of the most intense atmospheric river storms. (Continued: CTV)