As if things weren’t bad enough, we now have droughts on the scale of the Dust Bowl era to contend with:
In other climate news, Texas and 13 other states stretching from Arizona to Florida continue to face one of the worst U.S. droughts on record. Some say the drought c
ould rival the Dust Bowl Days. In Texas, the U.S. Department of Agriculture recently designated all 254 counties in the state natural disaster areas.
While impossible to assert with any degree of certainty, there is a strong likelihood that the current bout of severe drought is related to human-induced climate change. All over the world, weather patterns have been shifting to such a large degree that even the most skeptical climate change deniers have noticed the difference. Brutal winters, searing summers, massive storms, widespread flooding – all occurring with greater and greater frequency, in locales that historically have rarely or never experienced such events.
Unfortunately, things are going to get much worse. Climate change is a poorly understood concept, with a depth of complexity beyond the grasp of even the most intricate computer simulations and the cleverest and best informed of our scientists. But at least two things are apparent: (1) the climate is changing, and (2) human activity is undoubtedly the cause. The scientific community has been in agreement on these two major points for at least the last thirty years, in spite of a concerted campaign of misinformation from the corporate media outlets.
The scariest aspect of climate change, enhanced by the sheer volume of unknowns, is the existence of feedback cycles. Seemingly minute changes are amplified exponentially, which means that minor disturbances in one aspect of the climate can result in cataclysmic variations elsewhere. The reduction of ice at the North Pole, for example, has created a startling downward spiral, where the decrease in ice each year leads to greater warming of the seas in summer, which in turn results in still less ice each winter. Melting ice in Greenland sinks to the bottom of massive glacial flows, which in turn amplifies the rate of its flow into the seas – a development which could potentially plunge much of Europe and North American into another ice age by shutting down the warming influence of the Gulf Stream.
A terrifying possibility is that what we are now observing in throughout the United States could be yet another feedback cycle in the making: widespread droughts can lead to desertification, a prospect which seems all too real given the vast deserts that already comprise much of the American southwest.
We are, in all likelihood, entering an extremely turbulent era in the history of humankind. Already on the brink of collapse due to our military, social and economic foibles, we now face the specter of environmental devastation on a massive scale. It seems doubtful that our crippled society can ever hope to cope with such daunting challenges, given our inability to thrive during more prosperous climes.
It is important to bear in mind that all of the obstacles we face were created by our own hands. But unlike in the cases of military conflict, class inequality and corporate corruption, the dangers of climate change are likely already beyond the tipping point. There is no turning back.