Although political campaigns can be informative and possibly even entertaining, they can also be a frightening distraction. While it appears the entirety of the media, mainstream and independent alike, was focused on Donald Trump’s latest rants on social media and machinations that allowed him to avoid paying income taxes, there was something that just wasn’t covered in any news outlet because on some level it is of no consequence to the media. However, while there was plenty of reporting on Trump’s late-night tweets there was nothing about what Vice President Joe Biden would say is a very “big f*cking deal” if he wasn’t caught up in the current Trump outrage du jour.
One thing is certain, in some distant future human beings will reflect back negatively on the autumn of 2016 and the waning months of summer, but it will not be because of anything happening in America’s bizarre political landscape. It will be because the Earth’s climate exceeded the “tipping point” never to return to normal in any currently living human being’s lifetime. In fact, according to climate scientists, what was considered “safe” and normal may never return and the dreadful tipping point signals a permanent condition in human terms.
Scientists have carefully monitored atmospheric carbon dioxide for decades and the overriding consensus has always been that exceeding 400 parts per million (ppm) is the tipping point of no return for Earth’s climate. What designates the autumn of 2016 as a serious milestone is that typically atmospheric carbon dioxide is at its lowest point in the fall; this year the value failed to drop below 400 parts per million.
According to Scientific American and a report from the Scripps Institute of Oceanography, “the concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere has stayed above the 400 ppm throughout the entire year up to this point. That all ensures that 2016 will be the year that carbon dioxide officially passed the symbolic 400 ppm mark, never to return below it in our lifetimes.”
This alarming fact should have been the lead story on every news outlet in the nation and yet there was nothing. This is in spite of scientists’ warnings that the climate-ending concentration of C02 in Earth’s atmosphere will stay above 400 ppm forever, “at least in human terms.”
To give some perspective on the existential threat to life, the last time CO2 concentrations were at the current level human beings in their current form did not exist on planet Earth. Also, according to the preponderance of climate scientists, the current over-400 ppm concentration already exceeds the “safe level” of CO2 by over 50 ppm and it is getting worse due to humans burning fossil fuels.
The scientist in charge of the Scripps Institute for Oceanography, Ralf Keeling, said that it is “almost impossible” that October or any remaining month in 2016 will ever again dip below the 400 ppm tipping point. Mr. Keeling is in charge of the organization’s CO2 monitoring program and wrote that, “Brief excursions toward lower values are still possible, but it already seems safe to conclude that we won’t be seeing a monthly value below 400 ppm this year – or ever again for the indefinite future.”
Republicans are on a tear to continue promoting dirty fossil fuels to sate the greed of their oil and coal industry donors as well as fight any attempts to rein in emissions. However, according to NASA’s chief climate scientist, Gavin Schmidt, even if the world stopped all carbon dioxide emissions tomorrow, what has already been put and stored in the atmosphere will linger for many decades to come. Still, all this bad news should not deter efforts to drastically reduce the use of dirty, carbon emitting fossil fuels. In fact, every effort should be made to limit the damage.
“At best (in that scenario), one might expect a balance in the near term and so CO2 levels probably wouldn’t change much — but would start to fall off in a decade or so. In my opinion, we won’t ever see a month below 400 ppm.”
Scientists also say that if, and that is a giant if, world governments can limit emissions immediately, the CO2 concentration is too much to limit global warming sufficiently to avoid the impending “doom for low-lying small island states” and will have “serious repercussions around the world.” What that means is more extreme heat waves, wildfires, crop losses, severe storm events, extreme droughts, coastal flooding and the extinction of many coral reefs.
It seems that nearly everyone on the planet is beginning to comprehend the danger man has wrought on themselves due to burning fossil fuels except Republicans. Vice presidential candidate Mike Pence pledges that if elected he and Trump will put an immediate end to what he calls the “war on coal;” the climate be damned. Of course Pence, like the majority of Republicans sit in the Koch brothers’ hip pockets and happily do the heavy lifting of blocking attempts to limit carbon emissions.
There are remedies to at least make a dent in carbon emissions, such as taking advantage of the cost of clean renewables falling a whopping 40 and 75 percent since 2008 according to the Department of Energy. But even if renewables were free, Republicans will oppose them because the Koch brothers and fossil fuel industry cannot profit off of them.
Americans may as well get accustomed to more severe weather, higher food prices, threats to national security, and rising sea levels because in their lifetimes it is only going to get worse. Of all the threats to Americans’ existence, it is curious indeed that the only thing media, all media, seems to really care about are Donald Trump’s tweets. Otherwise, there would have been a flood of stories on every news media outlet announcing that the world just surpassed the tipping point for the climate that no American alive today will ever witness improving.