And by the way, it's real. And we’re causing it. It's anthropogenic if you want to sound fancier.
And it's like really fast. We’re pumping carbon into the atmosphere and heating up the planet faster than it’s ever happened before. The rate at which we’re changing the Earth’s climate is actually pretty impressive.
Impressive, but not cool. The rate of change is what makes it so bad. Had we done it over a million years, we’d probably be alright. A hundred years? We’re toast. Too fast for life on Earth to adapt, and not adapting means dying. And dying is decidedly not cool.
But you know what is cool?
Food is cool! And so is modern agriculture. It's kinda amazing. We can plant a tiny seed and grow a 2,702-pound pumpkin out of it. Or a 35,000-acre wheat field (which is ~141.6km2, or ~46% of the area of Riga, the capital of Latvia, where I'm writing this). Or like a whole cow! That’s agriculture for you.
And climate change is a major problem for agriculture:
- More extreme weather, like droughts, floods, and heat waves. This means crop failures, reduced yields, livestock heat stress, and feed shortages.
- Proliferation of weeds, pests, and diseases, which love warmer and wetter conditions. In addition to direct harm, this means more pesticides and parasiticides, with implications for pesticide resistance and food safety.
- Habitat and behavior change for fish and shellfish due to rising water temperatures. This means increased competition, disrupted reproduction and migration cycles, and increased likelihood of disease outbreaks.
As a fan of eggplants and tomatoes I’ve been mildly annoyed by prices going through the roof since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. But something that’s an inconvenience to me can be a life-and-death issue for someone less fortunate. And it will be the regions of the world already struggling with food security that will get hit by the consequences of climate change the worst.
Weather that doesn’t kill us is cool! I don’t know about you, but I enjoy living in a place where I’m not at risk of dying in a hurricane, tropical storm, or forest fire.
But we’ll get more extreme weather due to climate change:
- More destructive hurricanes. Higher temperatures mean more intense rainfalls, higher maximum wind speeds, and higher storm surges.
- More intense heat waves. The frequency, duration, and intensity of heat waves have been steadily rising over the past decades.
- Longer wildfire seasons, more floods, more droughts, and even worse blizzards.
So it’s not just getting hotter. The weather’s getting more extreme all over the place. Spring is my favorite season and I’m losing half of it to winter (we had snow in May a few years ago) and the other half to sweltering summer heat. Climate change is killing my favorite time of the year, and that's just not cool.
Living above the sea is cool! I live half an hour’s drive away from the seaside, and being able to take a break from work and go for a quick swim in the middle of a summer day is the best.
But the glaciers and ice sheets are melting at an accelerating rate, and the global sea level is rising fast. People living in coastal and low-lying regions will bear the consequences, such as flooding, submergence, salinization of soil and water, and loss of ecosystems — and face the prospect of becoming environmental refugees.
But wait, there’s more coolness! Clean air is cool. Water is cool. Nature is cool. And climate change worsens air quality, decreases freshwater availability, hurts biodiversity, and threatens thousands of plant and animal species.
We’re really going out of our way to screw the whole planet up here. And here’s the least cool thing about climate change: its causes and implications have been known for many decades, and the main reason we haven’t done more to address it is that some people with a lot of money wanted to keep making a lot of money, and engaged in all kinds of illegal and immoral activities to preserve the status quo.
So you might not care that much about food prices, starving African children, bleaching corals, and polar bears going extinct at some point. You might not even plan to have children and worry about the world they’ll live in.
But I’d say if you have someone who’s actively destroying the home you live in, getting ultra-rich off it, and lying to you through their teeth, then you just might want to do something about it.