Attack of the planet-killing idiots
Here's a 'major question': Can humanity survive?
There’s a new sci-fi show on Apple TV about the future of climate change called Extrapolations. It sounds terrific — great writing, great effects, great cast (Meryl Streep, Daveed Diggs, Keri Russell, etc). And I can’t bring myself to watch it. I’m too overwhelmed with actual climate change right now.
It is, as you probably know, extremely hot in the U.S. and Europe right now. Heat records are being shattered from Phoenix to Rome, for both duration and intensity. (Bravo to the Italian Meteorological Service for dubbing their heatwave Cerberus, after the ravenous earth-eating three-headed dog from Greek mythology that Dante put guarding the gluttons of the Third Circle of Hell.) Before that, those of us in the Eastern United States had our two major “smoke events” of the year so far, in which the evening skies turned a lovely burnt sienna above my home in Central Virginia, thanks to major, still-ongoing forest fires a thousand miles away. I made the mistake of spending about half an hour outside with my three-year-old at the start of the second one; she woke up wheezing and terrified in the middle of the night and had an unsettlingly wet cough for a week.
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The ocean—the fucking ocean—is too hot as well. U.S. media have paid special attention to the 90-degree(!) water off Florida (“Where Woke and Coral Reefs Go to Die!”). But a full 40 percent of the world’s oceans are dangerously hot right now, most disturbingly the North Sea, as in the water mass surrounding the polar ice caps. We’re even heating the ocean floor. All of this comes just days after European scientists reported that over 61,000 people died in the big continental heatwave last year; with warnings that the toll of heat-related deaths in Europe alone could soon top 100,000 every year.
Oh, and Vermont is underwater.
If you’re catching some exasperation in my tone, yeah, it’s there. In my personal sci-fi vision of climate change, the moment that the effects became undeniable — the moment that the skies turned orange and people started dropping dead from the heat — would be, at the latest, the moment that society was shocked into the realization that the catastrophe scientists had warned about for decades was starting to unfold, and began demanding major action to stop fossil fuel emissions. It would be, I figured, such an easy populist sell, given that just twenty companies — including Chevron, Exxon, BP, Saudi Aramco, and Russia’s Gazprom — are responsible for over a third of global emissions.
How misguided I was. I knew that one U.S. political party — the GOP — had gone all in on public climate change denial. And I knew that the other, the Democrats, had largely been captured by corporations and the financial services industry, which, though they knew (and had long known) about the connection between fossil fuels and global heating, felt incentivized to put the dictates of capitalism ahead of the species. But I figured that, once the urgency of the matter became clear, expediency would eventually kick in. It did not occur to me that this moment, our Great East Coast Climate Change Summer, would come just as the right burrowed even deeper into conspiracism and anti-science idiocy, a Red State Democrat threatened to undo the landmark climate legislation he had helped pass a year earlier if he didn’t get more money for an oil pipeline, and a Supreme Court majority forged by a reality star-turned-criminal president moved us even farther from our fading hopes of survival.
The right wing’s anti-science tendency was on full display yesterday, not with regard to
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