Wednesday, January 01, 2020

Jennifer Christie: "It's More Than Weather"


A few days ago I asked Indiana progressive candidate Jennifer Christie if she was up for commenting on a post I was working on about the Republican war against science. Was she ever! In fact she has so much to say about it-- and even sent us a homemade video!-- that I decided to run it as a stand alone post.

Why Climate Change is an Existential Threat

-by Jennifer Christie

It’s more than weather

The Earth’s climate has been extraordinarily stable which is partially why humans have done so well. A stable climate has enabled the development of agriculture and the advancement of civilizations around the world. Life on Earth has enjoyed relative stability for millennia due to the thin layer of gasses that are trapped by Earth’s gravity, our atmosphere. Scientists have measured Carbon Dioxide (CO2) levels from ice cores and have data going back 800,000 years. The level of CO2 has been relatively stable, even through multiple ice ages and warm periods.  CO2 concentrations did not go over 300 ppm in 800,000 years UNTIL NOW.  CO2 levels began rising dramatically with the use of fossil fuels and reached 407 ppm in 2018. In other words, we now have more CO2 in our atmosphere than in the last 800,000 years (at least). And as a result, the global mean temperature (which had been stable for all those years) is rising fast! That means processes such as wind and ocean currents, seasonal temperatures, and precipitation patterns, are also changing so rapidly that life on Earth cannot adapt quickly enough. This disruption essentially removes the stability that most living organisms, including people, need to live.

Mass Extinction

Adaptation takes time, lots of it. That is why evolution is such a slow process. Over the last 4.5 billion years, the composition of our atmosphere has changed. Roughly 3 billion years ago, cyanobacteria produced Oxygen and began changing our atmosphere. Plants showed up about 700 million years ago followed by the first animals roughly 550 million years ago. Notice we are talking about millions and billions of years for changes to occur. Life on Earth adapts through genetic variation as a result of environmental interaction and natural selection; it takes a long long time. There are species that are so specifically evolved that they can be found in only one place on Earth, such as the Golden Toad of Costa Rica’s cloud forests. Even widely dispersed species, like the Monarch Butterfly, have intricately adapted life cycles that depend on environmental stability of their habitats.  One significant change could wipe them out. Imagine if the overwintering habitat of the Monarch disappeared one year due to climate change or if a reef system that was spawning habitat for fish was gone….an entire species could be wiped out very quickly. That is beginning to happen now. As a biologist, this makes me deeply sad.  As a mother, I worry about my children’s future. As an Earthling, I begin to feel the weight of the gravest sin. While an insect or amphibian might seem irrelevant to some, they are intricately connected to us in a complicated web of life. Plants and insects have intricate relationships as do herbivores and plants as do predators and prey… remove one and the system begins to collapse even if you don’t see it immediately. Life will strive to survive until it can’t. Our own food sources depend on pollinators and healthy ecosystems.

Droughts and Floods cause Economic and Security Disasters

Both. Local weather and precipitation will change as the climate changes. Some places will become desert while others will flood.  As a result, people will migrate and crops will fail. If all the ice in Greenland melts, ocean levels will rise 25 feet and coastal cities will be under water. The economic implications are enormous. The US already spends over 35 Billion on climate-related disasters each year. That is minuscule compared to what it will cost when entire populations and industries are forced to relocate. The Department of Defense already recognizes Climate Change as a top threat to national security. As wells dry up and entire communities become unlivable, borders and boundaries will be tested. It was a hot day that sparked the war between Shakespeare’s Montagues and Capulets in Romeo and Juliet.   We already see climate refugees around the world; if we do not solve climate change what we will be is almost unthinkable.

Racing Against Time

Scientists in the Journal of Nature recently called for urgent actions as they identified nine climate tipping points that are at high risk of collapse (Arctic Sea Ice, Greenland Ice Sheet, Boreal Forests, Permafrost, Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation, Amazon Rainforest, Warm-Water Corals, West Antarctic Ice Sheet, Parts of East Antarctic Ice Sheet). These tipping points, once gone are irreversible and threaten human civilization and life on Earth. Sadly, these and other tipping points can serve as feedback loops which can amplify warming. For example, the loss of the Amazon Rainforest would mean losing the greatest carbon-capture system in the world. The melting of the ice sheets put water into the atmosphere (also a greenhouse gas) and reduce reflection of solar radiation thereby causing even more heat to be trapped by the atmosphere. We are running out of time.

Back to the Question: Is Climate Change an Existential Threat?

Indeed, it is the only existential threat that modern humans have ever faced.  Whether disrupting food sources, destroying ecosystems to be unlivable, or fueling wars, Climate Change is the greatest challenge we have ever seen. It is our biggest test. And we did it to ourselves. The good news is that there is still a little bit of time, and we can transform our economy and our future if we take real action. We have the ability to solve it, but will we? This will require new thinking and rearranging priorities and old ways. We will need to be selfless and courageous and innovative. We will need new leaders who understand and prioritize Climate Action, and this is why elections are so important especially in the U.S. America is best positioned to take real leadership on solving the Climate Crisis. We have the innovation, academic and technical institutions, and the wealth to do it. Our campaign has released a Climate Agenda (, and we are ready to fight for a Green New Deal and legislation, such as a Carbon Fee and Dividend, that will bring us to zero emissions to save the planet.  This is a critical moment in human history. Our great-grandchildren and the world are counting on us.
Goal ThermometerJennifer is running for an open seat just north of Indianapolis, IN-05. Trump beat Hillary there, 53.1-41.3%, more because they didn’t like Hillary than because they liked Trump. And they like him less now. It’s an uphill battle-- and the DCCC is running a status quo candidate against Jennifer-- but this is a winnable race for someone spending more energy on a ground-game, as she is, than raising money for a flood of TV ads in a market that will be saturated with political ads by next summer and fall. If you agree with what Jennifer had to say about handling the Climate Crisis, please consider contributing to her campaign by clicking on a special Blue America page thermometer on the right: Congress Needs More Progressive Women.

Labels: , , , , , ,


At 10:48 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

'"When the last living thing Has died on account of us, How poetical it would be If Earth could say, In a voice floating up Perhaps From the floor Of the Grand Canyon, "It is done." People did not like it here."'
― Kurt Vonnegut

At 2:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jennifer might get it. Says the right things anyway.

But as a democrap in the house, once Pelosi (or any of the next 200 in line) is re-installed as speaker, every single nano-erg of influence she might have is flushed (only takes one). Once Pelosi grips the gavel, GND will remain DOA in the USA.

For perspective, consider all the meaningful change that AOC has catalyzed. (answer: none).

A climate-advocating democrap... contradiction of terms. The end result is zero (as in change).


Post a Comment

<< Home