written by Evelina Tancheva
On 22nd of April 2016 the world’s first comprehensive climate agreement was signed in Paris, thinking we had time, thinking that humanity could reverse the negative impact its progress had on the planet. However, on the 1st of June 2017 USA’s president shamelessly announces his country’s withdrawal from said agreement, add to that when one then thinks about all the amount of CO2 that recent fires have emitted into the atmosphere and the constant rising sea levels one can’t help but wonder… did we run out of time to repair the damage? And we know things are reaching critical point when even the Siberian tundra stars burning uncontrollably, a total of 13.1 million hectares have burned, including 4.3 million hectares of taiga forest. (1)
For the sake of briefness, we’ll only examine the facts from the past decade and delve into some important details that might have escaped our attention. At first, I would start with one of the most infamous tweets in history and explaining why Mr. Trump is either greatly misinformed or just dangerously ignorant.
Climate change is not just a modern trend but has deep roots in science, the term “global warming” itself was recorded for the first time in 1957 by Roger Revelle, an all-American scientist and scholar, in a report he published in The Hammond Times newspaper. Revelle focused his research into the effects of increasing human-caused CO2 emissions on the greenhouse effect: “a large-scale global warming, with radical climate changes may result”. (2)
A while later, due to the increasing heatwaves and drought problems in the summer of 1988, James Hansen decisively stated: “Global warming has reached a level such that we can ascribe with a high degree of confidence a cause and effect relationship between the greenhouse effect and the observed warming.” (3)
Unfortunately, President Trump isn’t the only example of a powerful man who displays unparallel ignorance when it comes to topics like climate change, global warming and the role that humanity plays in both these. Another scary fact that comes in play here is that there are people in his office that actively support his ignorance, people like Tom Coburn (yes, the man that voted NO to protecting ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes ecosystems in 2013) (4) is one of those that openly calls global warming science “crap” and admits, with a rather ridiculous amount of pride, of being “a global warming denier” as well. Coincidentally, both of these gentlemen are representatives of the stereotypical white male, affiliated with the Republican party of the USA and from the generation for which the infamous “ok boomer” joke was invented.
The world is also well familiarized with President Trump’s drawing skills from when he decided to “warn” people in Alabama that hurricane Dorian would hit them (5). However, going over the recent experiences the US has had with tornados and hurricanes perhaps the President should stop spreading unnecessary panic amongst his nation, especially when people were still recovering from the raging fires in California.
Global warming also increases water vapor in the atmosphere, which can result in heavier rains, snowstorms and a change in temperature. This, in turn, can also cause the escalation of the category of a tropical storm or a tsunami. Warmer ocean temperatures and higher sea levels are expected to intensify the impact of hurricanes such as Sandy, Harvey and Michael.
Even though fires in California are not uncommon events, in 2019, the burned land was estimated to be 259,823 acres with only 5 dead and 22 injured and an unknown number of killed animals.
But apparently, these evidences, which were presented by numerous scientists all around the globe, are still inconclusive for the president of the USA because he tweeted again mocking global warming.
One would expect the President of one of the most powerful nations to have basic knowledge of the difference between climate and weather but that is definitely not the case with Trump. In addition, we’ll see what his team should have briefed him on before he took it upon him to mock one of the most serious issues mankind is facing:
« Climate is defined as the average weather patterns in a region over a long period of time. It’s the difference between Europe’s temperate and Mediterranean zones versus the harsh cold conditions of the Arctic tundra. Each of these climate regions experiences day-to-day fluctuations in temperature, precipitation, air pressure, and so on—daily variations known as weather. » (6)6 https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/2019/01/climate-change-colder-winters-global-warming-polar-vortex/
While it is true that at the beginning the term “global warming” was used to explain the phenomenon of greenhouse gases trapping heat in the atmosphere and warming the average temperature of the planet, this has not been the case for decades. Scientists also discovered that the atmosphere changed by rising levels of gases like carbon and methane lead to unexpected climate changes and not simple warming. In fact, this saturation of gasses causes extreme weather, with disastrous consequence. While North America suffered the effects of the polar vortex bringing cold, Arctic air, the rest of the world was abnormally hot (7).
It is only fair to note that the USA is not the only country with a leadership problem at the moment. The far-right Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, won the elections of his country by vowing to loosen up protections for forested areas inhabited by indigenous people in favor of the country’s powerful agribusiness industry (8). Alongside other debatable policies, Bolsonaro’s choice of environment minister, Ricardo Salles, threw the country into a frenzy. Salles was not only found guilty of administrative improprieties for having altered a map to benefit mining companies just a year earlier (9) but he also exemplifies the radical and even violent anti-environmentalism policies imposed on the Amazon rainforest. Even though most of the recent fires were started by men, which in turn were permitted by the law to do so, it is impossible to deny the drought conditions that helped the flames spread.
The repercussions (so far with an unknown official number of human victims) of this reckless domain of power are:
· Over 7,200 square miles (10) (18648 squared km) of the Brazilian rainforest burned to ashes.
· Economic damage between $957 billion and $3.59 trillion over 30 years (11)
· Around 2.3 million animals dead
Usually people say “third time is the charm” but this third person in the list is anything but that, in fact, he is one of the ardent deniers of climate change even though his country has just lived the most devastating catastrophe in its history. Australia’s Prime Minister, Scott Morrison claimed that there was no “direct link” between the fires and the climate change (12) and we’re just focusing on the bushfires from 2019/2020 period.
Just like the previous two names in the article, Morrison has his army of delusional supporters in his party, such as the science minister, Craig Kelly, that denies any and all possible links between the drought as a consequence of climate change and main cause of the recent fires (13). It is baffling how men with power chose to ignore a topic only because they are too stubborn to admit they are wrong, but oh well we do live in times when some people even argue that Earth is flat…
One of the biggest problems of the past decade was the bleaching and subsequent death of the Great Barrier Reef that is the world’s largest coral reef system. Fortunately for us. not all is lost on that front, but its cause is undeniable: the global warming is responsible for melting ice and elevating the oceans temperature which in turn affects every living thing under the surface of water.
Going back to the issue at hand, it was estimated that around 13% of the fires were started deliberately, and 37% are suspicious (14) but the environmental conditions didn’t help either. Australia faced its hottest year in history, with 1.52 °C above average, the record-breaking heat paired with the drought and lighting strikes caused the still ongoing crisis (as of 24th of January 2020).
And some people even tried to put the ongoing catastrophe into perspective:
Up to this moment, the damages of the bushfires are disastrous:
- 24 human lives lost and more than 2,000 homes destroyed.
- 17.1 million hectares burned (more than two-thirds the size of the United Kingdom) (15).
- Over half a billion animals dead: over 500,000,000 animal bodies violently reduced to nothing but scorched shells because mankind is actively destroying the environment and some of the biggest culprits still deny that there even is a problem.
There are certain, more graphic, photos that are on the Internet of a burned to charcoal kangaroo joey for example, gripping tightly with its small paws the metallic wire of a fence or a koala hugging a burning tree, literally holding on for dear life, a life that is nearing its end, a life that ran out of time to be lived… perhaps one of these could’ve captured the attention of a certain global warming deniers. Nevertheless, this article does not have the purpose of converting the recent devastating losses in click bait material.
The increase in temperatures is one of the worst sides of climate change and it is not a mild inconvenience, it doesn’t go away when we turn on the air conditioning. The global temperature of the planet has increased by about 0.8° Celsius (1.4° Fahrenheit) since 1880 and NASA explains why this is not a minor issue:
«A one-degree global change is significant because it takes a vast amount of heat to warm all the oceans, atmosphere, and land by that much. In the past, a one- to two-degree drop was all it took to plunge the Earth into the Little Ice Age. A five-degree drop was enough to bury a large part of North America under a towering mass of ice 20,000 years ago.» (16)16 https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/world-of-change/DecadalTemp
Even countries such as Spain are beginning to experience the effects of this extreme weather phenomena with the most recent passing of the storm called Gloria and because of the constant rise of temperature of the Mediterranean Sea the following storms will only intensify in strength.
Gloria’s rainfall set new records of 580l/m2 in 24h in Alicante and 567 l/m2 in Valencia (17), waves up to 14 meters in height in Baleares, several bridges carried away by the overflowing rivers in Catalonia and winds up to 133km/h in Asturias (18). The storm claimed nine human lives, four missing people and just like all the previous disasters on the list, millions and millions worth of damages.
While ignorant and bigoted Presidents, mainly represented by Donald J. Trump, waste their time making fun of a teenager who tries to raise awareness on the issue, different corners of the planet Earth are burning to ashes and others are drowning in storms…
Are those the leaders we trust with our lives and well-being? Is the stance of a man that has the speaking level of an 8 – year – old (19) more valid than that of 97% of the world’s scientists? And above all… what measures can we take to stop this future climate crisis before it’s too late or… did we already run out of time to make amends?
written by Evelina Tancheva
3 U.S. Senate, Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, 100th Cong. 1st sess. (23 June 1988). Greenhouse Effect and Global Climate Change: hearing before the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, part 2. /U.S. Senate, Hearings 1988, p. 44.