The Climate Crisis

Cover of the book ''The End of Ice''

Last December I watched a video of Dahr Jamail. He briefly stopped talking about his new book on the climate crisis. To my surprise, he was weeping. I first thought he had severe PTSD due to his experience in Iraq as a war reporter. He continued to talk, coping with grief. Then, I came to realize the depths of our climate crisis. He was actually dealing with climate PTSD.

Recently I finished reading his book The End of Ice (New York: the New Press, 2019). I read it calmly in the beginning, digesting climate realities, and then suddenly I felt so depressed.

(Reading his book, I thought of our beloved medical doctor, Tetsu Nakamura. He wrote: “In Afghanistan, there is a proverb that says, ‘One can live without money, but not without snow.’” Indeed, he was right about the importance of ice, snow, and water. Similarly, he was interested in insects, which are also vital to our existence.)

Jamail’s book is very interesting and certainly worth a read. In the face of the global climate crisis, we will need this kind of journalist, who can work in a very timely manner, as things are so rapidly unraveling, and it is so hard to keep up with them.

Here are some excerpts from his book for a climate-crisis reality check (since his book was published on January 15, 2019, some may be already out of date!)

Thawing permafrost: snowpack, trees & convulsions of wildfires “One major consequence, therefore, is the loss of alpine diversity. More trees growing at higher elevations in warmer temperatures make fires more likely. The impact further downslope is that larger trees can grow in mid-elevation forest for longer periods of the year, using more of the moisture from the soil and depleting streams. This increases the risk of even larger fires. There is more fuel and less moisture in the soil (p. 42).”

Everything is connected “A 2016 study showed that when large numbers of trees die from drought, heat, deforestation, and insect infestations in North America, it can, for example, negatively affect the climate of forests in Siberia. This is possible because changes in one place can ricochet to shift climate in another place simply because of the fact that everything on Earth is connected via the atmosphere (p. 147).”

Forest degradation & carbon dioxide “And now, due to deforestation and degradation, dead trees around the world are actually contributing 20 percent of total global CO2 emissions as they release previously stored carbon back into the atmosphere (pp. 146-147).”

Carbon dioxide & the Amazon “When a tropical rain forest is healthy, it sequesters CO2 from the atmosphere, but when rain forests are degraded by drought, wildfires, human-caused fires, clear-cutting, and human development, they release most or all of their stored carbon back into the atmosphere. … At some point in the not-so-distant future, the Amazon will regularly emit more carbon than it absorbs, and that will be yet another critical tipping point for the planet (p. 167).”

2°C & the Paris agreement Dr. Thomas Lovejoy who has worked in Brazil’s Amazon since 1965 “wrote, ‘It is abundantly clear that the target of a 2-degree Celsius limit to climate change was mostly derived from what seemed convenient and doable without any reference to what it really means environmentally. Two degrees is actually too much for ecosystems’ (p. 159).”

Carbon dioxide & ocean acidification “To make matters worse, a joint Australian/U.S. research team reported that escalating carbon dioxide emission being absorbed into oceans were already threatening the entire marine food chain. Another report warned that ocean acidification is happening at a rate ten times faster than it had during a major planetary extinction event that occurred 56 million years ago (p. 94).”

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