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Drought, wildfires, melting glaciers: welcome to your new reality


Many people think they are in a world that no longer exists. A stable world, with spring, summer, autumn and winter. Calculable, plannable. Unfortunately, this includes large sections of the political elite.

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Melting glaciers, dry soil, burning forests: no longer uncommon

Photo: Sid10 / Panthermedia / IMAGO;

Robert Kalb / IMAGO;

Europe Press News/Getty Images

"We're going on to the last man, every molecule of hydrocarbon is being extracted."

Abdulaziz bin Salman, the Saudi energy minister in 2021 

"We're going to exploit it, we're going to mine it, we're going to sell it, we're going to monetize it."

Didier Budimbu, the DRC's hydrocarbons minister, in 2022 

The catastrophic effects of the climate crisis are now so obvious that it takes tremendous effort to continue ignoring them or to deny their cause (nevertheless, you will be able to observe this in the forum for this column).

Spain and Portugal are drying up, the Rhine and Loire carry so little water that in some places they look like desert or mudflat landscapes, and large parts of Europe groaned for weeks under unprecedented heat.

The drought is causing fires, endangering harvests and driving farmers and foresters to despair.

The German glaciers are melting towards their destruction.

Remember the people who thought Greta Thunberg was "hysterical"?

And that's just the situation in Europe.

In the USA, for example, the gigantic Lake Mead reservoir in Nevada created by the Hoover Dam is drying up and exposing the skeletons of those who were murdered decades ago.

The fill level is currently 27 percent.

In neighboring California, the forest is once again on fire, and has been for weeks.

More than 36 square kilometers of tree land has already been burned. 

Built on sand, literally

Elsewhere there is not too little water, but too much.

In Florida, for example, many houses can hardly or not at all be insured - not only, but also because of the danger from rising sea levels and ever more extreme hurricanes.

Overall, the Union of Concerned Scientists determined in 2018 that at least 300,000 private homes and 18,000 commercial properties in the US are at risk of “permanent flooding” by 2045.

The total value of the literally doomed buildings on the coasts was then estimated at over 130 billion dollars.

Expected hurricane damage is not included.

On the other side of the globe, in Korea for example, there is just too much water.

Seoul has just experienced its heaviest rainfall in 115 years.

At least nine people died.

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol said: "We simply cannot continue to call these extreme weather conditions unusual."

»The New Normal«?

Not even close.

The man is right.

What is happening now is no longer unusual.

But it is also not "the new normal" as is often read or heard in some places.

We are dealing with something completely different.

Many people still do not seem to be aware of the climatically peaceful, extraordinarily people-friendly time in which human civilization emerged.

And that this peaceful, stable time is just ending.

Caused by us, humanity.

More precisely: caused mainly by the current and historical population of the so-called Global North in a really tiny period of a good 200 years in terms of geological history.

The only events that can even remotely compare to the destructive rate of human activity are asteroid impacts.

Like the one that wiped out the dinosaurs 66 million years ago.

It caused the fifth mass extinction in history.

We're creating the sixth right now. 

From cold store to greenhouse in the blink of an eye

The so-called Holocene, with its stable, predictable, people- and civilization-friendly climate, began a little less than 12,000 years ago, at the end of the last ice age.

But we still live, even if most people don't perceive it that way, on what the paleontologist Thomas Halliday calls "cold-storage earth" in his fascinating book "Otherlands", which deals with the change in ecosystems over the course of the earth's history.

A cold store is a world with frozen polar ice caps.

At the other end of the spectrum is a "greenhouse world," devoid of ice, warmer, and of course much wetter.

The earth oscillates, usually very slowly, between these two relatively stable extremes.

The last »greenhouse« phase ended well over 30 million years ago.

Constant instability guaranteed

However, this most recent ice house phase, which also includes our cozy Holocene, is now coming to an abrupt end - from a geological point of view - if we do not finally act decisively and much faster.

A North Pole that is always ice-free for part of the year has long been in sight: A new study from Finland has just shown that the Arctic regions are warming four times, in some places even seven times faster than the rest of the planet.

And the Antarctic sea ice is also melting, as is well known, and also faster than expected.

All of this affects the global weather.

Even now.


Christian Stocker

We are the experiment

Publisher: Karl Blessing

Number of pages: 384

Publisher: Karl Blessing

Number of pages: 384

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Incidentally, this will have consequences that should give right-wing politicians with migration fears food for thought, who often prefer to prevent climate policy.

To quote paleontologist Halliday: "In a dramatically changing environment, mobility is critical to survival.

There will always be a refuge somewhere on the continent.”

We have put the world in a state that guarantees constant instability and thus huge displacement movements.

And for the time being, it will definitely continue to get warmer.

The earth we live on now is different from that of all generations since the beginning of human civilization - but in the minds of many people this fact does not seem to have settled yet.

Unfortunately, this also applies to the minds of many politicians.

Only a few years ago it was finally possible to suppress the climate crisis - and the equally catastrophic extinction of species - to ignore it, to put off consistent action.

Psychological Herculean task

Most people who are currently in government responsibility or who run companies, not only in this country, belong to the generation for which ignoring, repressing and often even denying the approaching catastrophe has become second nature over the years.

Admitting to yourself and others that you have made such a huge, egregious mistake is a psychologically Herculean task.

Especially since the responsibility seems to be spread over so many shoulders.

Why me of all people, why us of all people?

Against this background, the climate law passed by the Biden government in the USA on Friday, bitterly opposed by Republicans, is actually a glimmer of hope.

A nearly 80-year-old president, who for decades has belonged to the political class that is largely responsible for the current disaster, has managed to get things moving.

The law is at least one bright spot - worth hundreds of billions of dollars.

But it also includes all sorts of concessions to the fossil industries, thanks to coal-rich Senator Joe Manchin.

And still no tax and no price for CO₂.

Apocalyptic death cult

Nevertheless, as many experts agree, it will hopefully trigger a movement in various markets towards renewable energies, electric cars and better insulated buildings.

This in turn could trigger increased competition with China, which currently holds a lone world record in terms of expanding renewable energies.

Above all, however, it is a signal that the USA, at least as long as the apocalyptic death cult known as the Republicans does not regain power, will recognize the climate crisis as a real, urgent threat.

But none of this changes the fact that the quiet times of the Holocene are over for the time being.

Life on planet earth will become increasingly unpredictable, dangerous and extreme in the coming decades.

It would be nice if politicians like the Federal Chancellor, the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Transport finally really understood this.

Incremental governance with as little deviation from the status quo as possible is a miserable recipe in a time of tremendous upheaval.

Source: spiegel

All tech articles on 2022-08-14

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