Life on Earth Can Recover … Humans Cannot.

From Joanne Young Doesschate (Port Jefferson)

I’ve gotten lots of great news links sent to me about so many different subjects, but then the leaked IPCC report put all but the environment and climate change on the back burner. 

When the ground temperature in the Arctic Circle on the summer solstice last week was 118 degrees, the report says 

     “Life on Earth can recover from a drastic climate shift by evolving into new species and creating new ecosystems … humans cannot.”

     “Tipping points are triggered when temperatures reach a certain level, whereby one impact rapidly leads to a series of cascading events with vast repercussions. For instance, as rising temperatures lead to the melting of Arctic permafrost, the unfreezing soil releases methane, a powerful greenhouse gas that in turn causes more heating.”

We’re reaching those tipping points faster than imagined, and the fear is that we may have already started a cascade we cannot stop.  We are about to enter a mini-heat wave on Long Island (high 80’s). Nothing compared to the other side of the US: 

“[T]his heat will be historic, dangerous, prolonged and unprecedented. ” “We can’t stress enough how impactful this heat will be to nearly every person and community in the Pacific and Inland Northwest region.” – Spokane Weather Service – 

All Politics Is Local.  All climate change is local too and we won’t meet the Paris Climate Accords (which are already too little too late), without local politics helping national politics helping global politics. 

This is the 50th anniversary of Joni Mitchell’s Blue album.  But her Big Yellow Taxi best describes what we have done:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GFB-d-8_bvY

They paved Paradise and put up a parking lot

With a pink hotel, a boutique and swinging hot spot

Don’t it always seem to go

That you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone  

They paved Paradise and put up a parking lot.

Took all the trees and put them in tree museum

And they charged the people a dollar and half to see them  

Don’t it always seem to go 

That you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone…  

The final conclusion of the IPCC report:


     Climate change will fundamentally reshape life on Earth in the coming decades, even if humans can tame planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions. 
     Species extinction, more widespread disease, unliveable heat, ecosystem collapse, cities menaced by rising seas — these and other devastating climate impacts are accelerating and bound to become painfully obvious before a child born today turns 30.

While it has been dire reading, this, by Prof Waleed Abdalati of the Univ. of Colorado, Boulder, may say it best: 


“The science does clearly point to a challenging future, one in which climate change places significant stresses on every aspect of our lives. Science, by its nature, avoids hyperbole and those who have spoken out most aggressively about the climate crisis have been derogatorily labeled as alarmists. But sometimes, when the outcomes and risks are so severe, alarm is warranted.


Alarm, however, should not necessarily equate to hopelessness. On the contrary, alarm can and should be a motivator for action, action that brings out — and takes advantage of — the best in our scientific, technological, policy, industrial and humanitarian capabilities to rise to the climate challenge and successfully overcome it. 

The content of the upcoming IPCC Assessment Report will, like those before it, present us with an opportunity to take an honest and sober look at the future we may be in for and help us determine the trajectory of humanity in the face of that future. Just as science shines a light on the challenges, science can light the path to success.”

Will the world be willing to meet the challenge?  Today’s article in the NY Times, “What If American Democracy Fails the Climate Crisis?”, has lots of intriguing ideas but doesn’t make it sound promising. Take this comment about the the original infrastructure jobs bill, not all of which dealt with climate: 

In particular, the scale is simply too small; $900 billion on climate is not enough to catalyze the pace of decarbonization we will need in order to cut emissions by 50 percent by 2030, while providing millions of good jobs. That’s more like $10 trillion over 10 years.

The new bipartisan bill is only $1.2 trillion and most not for climate change.  One project, linked below, hoping to get some of that federal funding, is for protecting the Houston coastline from rising sea levels.  It has a projected cost of $26 million. That is only one city.  Which cities do we save, which ones move inland, which ones die?  That is a global question, not just an American one. 

And it’s not just cities.  What parts of Long Island do we save?  Can we save?

Lots of reading, lots of thinking.  Will you meet the challenge?  Please try to read it during this moderate heat spell by challenging yourself and doing it without turning on the AC!  

Take care, JoAnne

About D. Posnett MD

Emeritus Prof. of Medicine, Weill Cornell Medical College
This entry was posted in climate change, Environment, Uncategorized, wind energy and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Life on Earth Can Recover … Humans Cannot.

  1. Sustain blog says:

    Life on earth can recover but humans cannot and will go extinct. That is the way it is going now!

  2. Bette Smith says:

    Thanks for this article . It is very disturbing to see how we have ignored the warnings of climate change . If it does not affect people lives in a personal way they will not change their behavior. I think the windmills here on LI are good example. The Wainscott community of wealthy people do not want their lives disrupted even though they know and are aware of climate change. Installing the windmills requires the cable to land in their neighborhood ,not in my backyard.Just do not inconvenience me in anyway, short sided behavior.
    I hope it is not too late , but the heat wave in this country is certainly a warning . The ice melting at a rapid pace also is not reversible. We have to wake up and act soon.

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