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How do you like the latest world news? Seriously, if you watch the news, you feel uneasy, especially after the extreme heat wave that recently hit central Russia. The climate crisis appears to be in full swing: wildfires in Siberia and Karelia, an oil spill that led to a fire in the Gulf of Mexico, and deadly floods in Germany, Belgium and China in just the past few weeks have proven that the world is changing in response to how we changed it.
I will say more - this should not surprise anyone. Scientists have been sounding the alarm about man-made climate change for decades. In fact, back in the 1800s, it was estimated that doubling the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere in 1895 would inevitably lead to a global warming of 5-6 degrees Celsius at average global temperatures. The problem is that it took only about 125 years to increase the share of CO2 in the earth's atmosphere, although this process was predicted to take three thousand years.
The fact that the planet is notably “shaking” scientists unequivocally stated in 2019, having published a statement signed by more than 11 thousand researchers from 150 of the world. Published in the journal BioScience, Alerting World Scientists to a Climate Emergency provides an accurate assessment of what is happening to the planet.
“The climate crisis has arrived and is accelerating faster than most scientists expected. It is more severe than anticipated and threatens natural ecosystems and the fate of humanity,”the researchers write.
Yes, the fate of humanity. Everything is really very, very serious. And if no action is taken, the world can easily plunge into chaos due to increasingly severe climate disasters and temperature changes. Imagine how many people today do not have access to drinking water due to the drought? Another recent study has shown that floods, bankruptcy and famine are already driving people away from their homes.
The situation is such that environmental hazards affect populations across the planet and - under certain conditions - can stimulate migration. So climate refugees are the reality today.
What's going on with the planet?
In many ways, the climate crisis has "moved from an abstract problem to a very real one," says Liz Van Sousteren, an expert on climate and mental health. “This is not a storm that lasts 36 hours. These are not the consequences of a flood. We are being prepared for death,”says Soustern.
The intensification of the climate crisis has already led more and more people to worry about the existential threat it poses. What's more, the mental health consequences of the climate crisis for the people facing it are enormous and varied: anxiety, grief, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are just a few of them.
Jennifer Atkinson, professor of environmental humanities at the University of Washington, agrees with Soustern. “This is no longer some vague anxiety about what will happen in the future, this is the realization that the world is falling apart around us right now. And the losses are piling up every day,”she said.
The extreme uncertainty of the climate crisis is evidenced by the fact that even the best forecasts failed to account for the worst impacts.And this has a depressing effect on all of us. One of the reasons the disasters of recent weeks have been so difficult to predict in the first place is that they are "complex nonlinear processes."
Scientists have to account for hundreds of variables, which means that predictions are often far from perfect. Models of melting ice sheets in the Arctic, for example, are actually more optimistic than what is currently happening in places like Greenland and Antarctica, because these models do not account for other processes that can accelerate melting (water can penetrate under ice sheets, making them slide faster into the ocean, for example).
“The models in this case turned out to be overly conservative, not including some important processes in the real world,” said Michael Mann, a renowned climatologist and director of the Earth Systems Science Center at Pennsylvania State University.
In other words, even when we observe the effects already occurring, we still have to struggle with how they will multiply and aggravate each other. “We still have a lot to learn about the specifics of climate change and how it will affect civilization,” adds Kalmus. “I think there is still a lot we don’t know there.”
In general, today's climate crisis has the severity of a horror movie. Western Europe has experienced the worst floods in centuries, and China, with its state-of-the-art infrastructure, has also been flooded. In such a situation, we must understand that no one is safe and that it is no longer acceptable to say that climate change is someone else's problem.