Failed Empire

Chronicling the collapse of a failed society

Harbingers of Climate Change: Dust Bowl-Size Droughts Spread Through the United States

Texan farmer stands in drought-stricken land

As if things weren’t bad enough, we now have droughts on the scale of the Dust Bowl era to contend with:

Drought Spreading through the United States Rivals Dust Bowl Era

 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.
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2 responses to “Harbingers of Climate Change: Dust Bowl-Size Droughts Spread Through the United States

  1. Gareth Eynon July 14, 2011 at 9:51 am

    Nice blog, nice post. I like your reference to feedback loops; that’s what it’s all about.

  2. Christopher February 1, 2012 at 11:53 pm

    I think it’s just difficult to believe that climate change could “end the world” as we know it (see http://tinyurl.com/3cxdouj & http://tinyurl.com/7yezx26). Reasonable estimates for temp. increase are about 3 C, at the high end, by the end of this century, i.e., 90 years from now, which wouldn’t be good but it’s hardly the end of the world. Same with rising sea levels: reasonable prediction suggest a rise by the end of the century that will be more than manageable.

    More to the point, if you’re really worried about the end of the world, it can easily happen, and not in 90 years but in less than 90 minutes. In 30 minutes in fact.

    20 years after the fall of the U.S.S.R. and the end of the cold war, 1000s of multi-megaton thermonuclear weapons remain on high alert. The chances of an accidental small or all out massive nuclear exchange are far from zero and we’ve had several very close calls w/in the last 50 years, the most serious in 1994 when Yeltsin actually had to open his nuclear football to enter launch release codes before they figured out that the missile their early warning radar was tracking was carrying a weather station into space.

    Today, the U.S. & Russia have a combined strategic nuclear force of about 3000 on each side, not counting reserves after a first strike or retaliation. An attack with just two 1-megaton nuclear warheads would unleash explosive power equivalent to that caused by all the bombs used during World War II. Today, there’s over 6000 multi-megaton weapons on high alert, and most of these weapons are at least 1-2 megton, many are in the 5-10 megaton range (designed to obliterate large cities, e.g., NYC, Chicago, etc., and kill 10 million people in quarter of a second).

    http://www.nucleardarkness.org works through the consequences of even a small exchange. Where as climate change predicts, at worst, a 2-3 C rise in global temp. over the coming century, a small nuclear exchange would drop global temps of at least that w/in 24 hours. An out all exchange would drop temps by up to 10 C. Basically, this will be a man made ice-age, and it would only take a few hours to create it, killing 100s of millions in the process and ending both civilization and history w/in the same time frame. Oh, and radioactive fallout would blanket much of the planet.

    Steven Starr, senior scientist with Physicians for Social Responsibility, said research makes clear the environmental consequences of a U.S.-Russian nuclear war: “If these weapons are detonated in the large cities of either of their nations, they will cause such catastrophic damage to the global environment that the Earth will become virtually uninhabitable for most humans and many other complex forms of life.” And it would only take 24 hours to create these conditions.

    Climate change has nothing on accidental or deliberate nuclear war.

    Why haven’t we had an accidental exchange? We’ve been lucky, many times, but if you keep doing something dangerous, sooner or later, your luck runs out. We need to de-alert these massive weapon systems now. We need serious disarmament now. For those of us old enough to remember the cold war days . . . climate change is a problem but hardly the end of the world . . .

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