This is how a long article in the New York Times begins. America is now under siege by climate change in ways that scientists have warned about for years. But there is a second part to their admonition: Decades of growing crisis are already locked into the global ecosystem and cannot be reversed.
This means the kinds of cascading disasters occurring today – drought in the West fueling historic wildfires that send smoke all the way to the East Coast, or parades of tropical storms lining up across the Atlantic to march destructively toward North America – are no longer features of some dystopian future. They are the here and now, worsening for the next generation and perhaps longer, depending on humanity’s willingness to take action.
The authors say that for a long time, there has been the arrogant assumption that wealth provides protection and that climate change would affect the vulnerable, like low lying nations or coral reefs. But recent events show that this is not true, as San Francisco, Portland and Seattle have suffered some of the unhealthiest air quality on the planet, beating cities such as Beijing and New Delhi for the title.
How are we reacting? We aren’t. “We’ve often heard the argument that it will be too expensive to cut emissions and it will just be easier to adapt,” said Noah Diffenbaugh, a climate scientist at Stanford University. But we’ve now had decades of warnings, he said, “and we’re not even adapted to the present climate.”
By the 1990s, scientists had a deep understanding of the future risks of a warming world. By the 2010s, researchers could show how the extreme heat waves, droughts and floods now unfolding were influenced by climate change.
The article ends with the following:
And if optimism springs from knowledge, the good news is that scientific research lays out what to do. It’s not a mystery, nor is it beyond the bounds of human ability.
“What’s beautiful about the human species is that we have the free will to decide our own fate,” said Ilona Otto, a climate scientist at the Wegener Center for Climate and Global Change. “We have the agency to take courageous decisions and do what’s needed,” she said. “If we choose.”
NY Times: Climate disruption is now locked in. The next moves will be crucial.