As humanity continues to avoid meaningful action on climate change, an unavoidable future of climate catastrophe continues to take shape.
In that regard, it has been morbidly fascinating to sample reactions to reports that the West Antarctic ice sheet is destined to collapse; committing spaceship Earth and all of its passengers to a rise in sea levels of up to four meters from this impact alone.
Some people are receiving this news as an indication of the urgency of climate change. Others are dismissing it as an unstoppable phenomenon, the impacts of which will be felt over a long period of time; seemingly resigned to climate change that is out of our hands and a problem only for future generations. Both such takes are missing the point.
The collapse of this ice sheet was set in motion years ago; perhaps decades — it was predicted in 1978. This event is not an indication of how urgent climate change is today, but rather how urgent climate change was before the collapse was triggered. We cannot “take the temperature” of the climate crisis today according to this news. Today, the crisis is simply much hotter.
Today we are setting other climate catastrophes in motion. The urgency of climate change today is properly measured against the outcomes we can still avoid. The past is out of our hands and we are committed to the inevitable consequences of inaction. We must not commit future generations to the consequences of more inaction.
As long as we wait for catastrophes to inform our environmental awareness, those catastrophes will likely be permanent features of a new normal. By all credible accounts, the impacts of climate change will continuously accelerate and worsen.
The collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet is part of the new normal. What else are we waiting for? Whatever it is, do we really want it?
We certainly do not want to read future reports that the release of methane from thawing permafrost has passed an irreversible tipping point.
Green Majority Contributor