The Conversation No One Knows How To Have

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Interesting to see how abrupt climate change is entering the common discussion without being called what it is. 

Today, my fiance and one of my son's teachers were discussing the flooding disaster here in Nebraska. One of them were talking about how bad it was and that people outside of Nebraska and Iowa just do not understand the significance of the damage to food and agriculture that had occurred from the flooding. 

This seems to be true. And it may be even non-farmers living in this region do not fully appreciate how bad it is (although it's easier to pay attention and know someone who does). But this sh*t is bad. From the mass destruction of infrastructure and private equipment to the losses of grains both stored from last year sitting out and spoiling in polluted water and more rain. And parts of the region may see more snow and rain Friday-Saturday. But the inability to plant this year as well...eroded soils, polluted soils, soil covered in sand from rivers. In many cases, because of melting of the previously frozen soil with the mass melting and runoff, has now turned to muddy mush. And this is literally one part of the world. Let's not forget all the recent and current disasters impacting our world

People who say that "this has happened before" because water happened to rise over the bank of a river which flooded before anger me. "The climate is always changing" others say. "We don't know whether this is climate change". 

There's denial...blaming our increasingly energetic, steroid-juiced destabilizing climate with more and more explosive extremes on "poor infrastructure" or "building in the wrong places" or "variability"...and then there's simply the equivalent of looking at a terminally ill patient straight in the eye and telling them to get over it, take some meds and walk it off. It's to the point of like..."what??" When we call the variability of a cataclysmic sh*tshow right before our very eyes killing our fellow peoples and species normal, we've gone from denial and bargaining to plain absurdity in the face of the climate and ecological destruction monsters we have released.

I'm literally watching the Arctic "roast" itself in temperatures more than 20 C/36 F above normal across vast areas, bringing sea ice to the brink of "extinction" within years (not decades) and no one cares. A destroyed Arctic air mass and sea ice will mean basically unstoppable rapid global warming on timescales meaningful for humans and other species on this planet. Killer heat waves, hurricanes with intensities that shake your bones, rain "bombs" which destroy livelihoods. Freely available info on public government sites. Anyone care?

Perhaps such things shouldn't bother me as I cannot control other feelings and beliefs. Controlling and trying to convince everyone is not my "thing". I'm a scientist and presenter of info, it's your job to be open to accepting it and studying it for yourself. But when we actually get to the point where so-called "fake news" becomes part of the psyche simply terrified of the news...that a civilization and biosphere are facing catastrophic to existential dangers..."everything's fine", "this is hardly new", "this has happened before"...then I know that we as a species are on the brink of implosion from our inability to deal with the extreme changes underway. Not that we could deal with them anyways. Physical laws on the books for 14 billion years are commanding authority over us and our planet. But, being a sentient species who know these laws exist, we could choose to deal with our likely downfall in ways humane to each other and compassionate to other species. But we simply aren't. 

We live in an ocean of air, with dependence upon an ocean of water. Scientists say, we are forcing the climate system to retain the equivalent of 4 Hiroshima bombs worth of energy every second.  But why use Hiroshima, and not the biggest bomb ever detonated by humanity, the Tsar Bomba. Tsar Bomba, tested by the USSR, released 50 megatons of energy. The Earth is forced to retain 104 Tsar Bombas worth of solar heat energy every day. Equivalent to 5200 megatons of TNT or nearly 22 exajoules of heat (22 followed by 18 zeros).

However, instead of 104 actual titanic bombs going off, the extra heat retained from our thermonuclear furnace 93 million miles away is distributed across our planet. 93% in the oceans. So we have instead...the accelerating destruction of 1) ice across the planet, 2) the Greenland and Antarctic Ice Sheets, 3) the Arctic air mass keeping this planet cool, 3) permafrost from land, shallow Arctic seas and alpine zones which will release far far more methane and carbon dioxide to retain more heat, 4) collapsing jet stream and ocean overturning circulations, 5) extreme precipitation events turning agricultural lands into inland seas, 6) blizzards followed by abrupt melting of snow, 6) more violent cyclones, 7) greater heat waves causing wildlife to fall out of trees and the sky or roast coral in the oceans, 8) forests burning to the ground with apocalyptical ferocity or just standing dead, gutted by beetles, ready to burn and release more carbon. 

Oh and there's the 6th mass extinction underway, including of insects.

We are slowly "nuking" our world and we cannot even talk about it amongst ourselves in a realistic manner.

What I know is that things have reached the point on this planet where denial by a rational mind is impossible. Transport someone directly from 1950 to 2018 with no opportunity to normalize what's happening around them and the world will seem alien to them already, beyond the technology. And frightening. We scientists look at these numbers, these temperature graphs, these ice losses, the "superstorms", and the resulting fires, extinctions, etc with an almost grotesque sense of amazement, curiosity and shock. But these events actually mean something. They mean the destruction of the things civilization and human life depend on; we forget how much we've demanded of the natural world to have our industrialized food, cities and fancy tech, including what I'm using to write this article; resources we have abused insanely, with sacrifices only to be forgotten or thrown away (literally) as an afterthought; the death of species we've abused and whom had no part in their own demise; the reshaping and scarring of the landscape...and of course, the weather juiced up on the steroids of so much...heat. 

When one raging cyclone can ravage entire islands, leaving them uninhabitable...others which can turn land into a deep "brown ocean", another can devastate the agricultural activity of a superpower...we know we are facing something...while ignited and exacerbated by humanity...is now well beyond the power of humanity to control. Heat and water...once the thing humans were in search for in a world of widespread continental glaciation, are now becoming our terrifying enemies toward our existence on this planet. 

I do not write this to give hope or give solutions or some magic pill which will make it all better. I write so that maybe a few more people on this planet will realistically digest the realities, grieve over them, show better respect for Earth and fellow humans in any way they feel is possible for them. Be compassionate, show humility and understand just how small and powerless we really are. And there's nothing wrong with that. We are only one puzzle piece in a grand Universe that will continue long after we are gone. 

---Meteorologist Nick Humphrey