Sight Magazine – Essay: The climate apocalypse is real, and it’s coming
- THOMAS REESE
Scientists are warning us that due to global warming, civilization is heading for the worst disaster in human history. Unlike a war, a pandemic or a depression, this is not a disaster that we can recover from in a few decades. This is a calamity from which it will take centuries, even millennia, to recover, if a cure is even possible.
Unfortunately, most people consider scientists to be Cassandras whose warnings can be ignored. âOf course, it’s hotter; of course, forest fires are raging; of course, storms are bigger. But I have more immediate concerns that I need to worry about âis the response of most people.
As a result, politicians are not prepared to make the tough decisions that will save us from the coming apocalypse.
Smoke rises above the hills north of a Red Cross disaster shelter as the Bootleg Fire spreads to more than 210,000 acres. Klamath Falls, Oregon, US, July 14, 2021. PHOTO: Reuters / Mathieu Lewis-Rolland / File photo
The report of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, released on Monday, makes it clear that global warming is no longer a theory – it is a proven reality.
Here are the facts: The world is 1.1 degrees Celsius hotter than it was before the Industrial Revolution, and it’s on an alarming trajectory to rise half a degree by the early 2030s. This is due to the human use of coal, oil and gas.
“These numbers may seem infinitely small, but if the world reaches two degrees above pre-industrial levels, we will see cataclysmic changes in the environment. The Greenland ice cap will slide into the sea and we will see a rise of six. feet above sea level, enough to submerge most coastal towns. The glaciers and snow packs that provide water to towns and farms will disappear. Aquifers will be exploited. Farmland will become deserts. Famine will ensue. will produce on a massive scale worldwide.
These numbers may seem infinitely small, but if the world reaches two degrees above pre-industrial levels, we will see cataclysmic changes in the environment. The Greenland ice cap will slide into the sea and we will see a sea level rise of six feet, enough to submerge most of the coastal towns. The glaciers and snow packs that provide water to cities and farms will disappear. The aquifers will be exploited. Farmland will become deserts. Famine will occur on a large scale all over the world.
Neither will we be able to look to the seas for our salvation. As the oceans become more acidic from carbon dioxide, coral cannot survive. Coral reefs and kelp beds, nurseries for marine life, are already disappearing. When they are gone, the species of fish will disappear.
All parents want to leave legacies for their children that give them a boost in life. Human civilization is built on what previous generations have created. The current generation will leave their children and grandchildren a wasteland, and there is nothing they can do as individuals to alleviate that for their own children.
Science tells us what happened and what will happen. Science also tells us how to prevent it from getting worse. We need to stop dumping CO2 and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
As Pope Francis taught us in his 2015 encyclical, Laudato Si ‘, this will require both individual and systemic conversion as it will require sacrifices on a huge scale. Everyone must reduce their carbon footprint, but economic systems must change too. Economists recommend carbon taxes to discourage carbon consumption, but regulations will also be needed to force companies to do the right thing despite market forces.
Currently, this seems politically impossible as there is no sense of urgency among the public. In the COVID crisis, it took thousands of deaths every month to convince America to take the pandemic seriously, and some still don’t. If we can’t respond to a crisis that we can see now, how will we respond to a crisis in the future that too many people refuse to see?
My only consolation is that Catholicism, through the Pope, is for once on the right side of history. Unfortunately, too few of our bishops are following him and doing anything about the crisis. When was the last time you heard your bishop talk about climate change?
As Pope Francis said, concern for the environment can no longer be an optional or secondary aspect of Christianity. It has to be at the center of who we are as Christians. We have to take care of God’s creation; we need to protect the Earth and everything that lives on it. Otherwise, our children and grandchildren will experience the apocalypse.
Reverend Thomas J Reese, a Jesuit priest, is a senior analyst at RNS.