Three simple-to-read temperature and rainfall measurement maps, produced this month with the help of satellite imaging, speak volumes about an impending catastrophe. Yet no one seems to have a clue about what’s unfolding, thanks in no small part to the media being soaked in petrochemical advertising dollars.
The first map is from the Goddard Earth Observing Systems and shows the Middle East reaching highest temperatures of 122°F on June 6.
The second map shows the expansive heat in the western third of the US, expanding all the way from the shores of the Pacific to the edge of the Midwestern breadbasket. That region feeds not only the US but also a massive portion of the planet via agricultural exports.
For useful reference, here is a third map of the nationwide drought.
If the math is not clicking yet, these maps show a growing worldwide band of extreme heat and drought. As the globe crawls closer and closer to volcanic temperature levels in many regions, people will be faced with two options: shelter in place and rely on air conditioning powered by increasingly expensive energy or head to cooler climes. This means millions upon millions of refugees fanning out across the world in an era in which heightened xenophobia has plunged their destination locales into neofascist nightmares. If you think the MAGA movement’s ghastly nativism and former president Donald Trump’s aspiration to “Build a Wall” at the Mexican border were horrifying, just you wait for the main event.
Washington, New York, London, Paris, Berlin, Moscow, Dehli, Beijing, Riyadh, Dubai, Tokyo. None of these pillars of global power and leadership are raising the international red alert that this moment merits. A mere spark dropped in an opportune location across those thousands of miles in the American west could catalyze wildfires displacing millions of people overnight. The US has neither the infrastructure nor the readiness nor the political will to absorb these internally-displaced souls on the scale required by such a calamity.
But wait. It gets worse.
Droughts and wildfires are just one of many imminent climate-linked cataclysms we’re facing. While talk that a lab leak caused the Covid-19 pandemic is consuming the media this week, few recognize that climate change played a major role in the virus’s emergence. “Climate change may indirectly affect the Covid-19 response, as it undermines environmental determinants of health, and places additional stress on health systems,” the World Health Organization says. “More generally, most emerging infectious diseases, and almost all recent pandemics, originate in wildlife, and there is evidence that increasing human pressure on the natural environment may drive disease emergence.”
In Siberia and other polar regions experiencing increasingly moderate temperatures, permafrost is melting. That means everything contained in it, including deadly diseases we haven’t seen for decades, are being released into the ecosphere. During the summer of 2016, for example, Siberia experienced an anthrax outbreak that killed one and hospitalized 115 when a reindeer’s corpse, frozen since 1941, suddenly thawed out due to that year’s heatwave. Regions that are experiencing permafrost depletion could be centers for outbreaks of all kinds of new pandemics.
Besides harboring nightmarish infectious diseases that we have no mass vaccination protocols in place for, permafrost contains massive amounts of methane, a greenhouse gas. As permafrost melts, methane will be released into the atmosphere, magnifying temperatures at a rate much more rapidly than previously estimated. Here’s some images of what this phenomenon looks like.
Increased temperatures means increased stress on food chains. We’re already seeing mass extinction of an average of 150 species per day, which is significantly impacting animal food chains. Heightened thermometer readings also directly impact human food chains. Besides droughts that are reducing crop yields, as described by Anna King’s important reporting, fish stocks are also under heightened stress.
It was the first week in June 2021. The salmon were the last of 2021’s endangered winter-run and threatened spring-run Chinook salmon heading up the Sacramento River to spawn below Shasta Dam and in tributary streams. Many were in the middle of their 300-plus-mile journey from the Golden Gate through the Bay, the Delta, the lower Sacramento River. Water temperatures rose to lethal levels through the lower end of the Sacramento River, as flows at Wilkins Slough (River Mile 125) dropped nearly 50% to 3500 cfs and water temperatures reached 25ºC… Water temperatures above 68ºF (20ºC) are stressful for salmon, and 72ºF (22ºC) is their maximum tolerance limit that forces them to seek cold-water refuge. If salmon cannot find refuge, water temperatures near or above 77ºF (25ºC) are lethal.
Fine, salmon are a luxury foodstuff. But this is just an omen of a larger phenomenon that will impact billions of landless workers and peasants who depend on various amphibious lifeforms as a means of survival.
These and many more chain reactions are part of larger “feedback loops,” which are defined as an “effect that change in one part of an ecosystem has on another and how this effect then feeds back to effect the source of the change inducing more or less of it.”
Some might be tempted to change the name of these phenomena with a modifier like positive or negative, which serves as both a mistake and a useful final insight. Feedback loops, just like the larger planet they occur upon, are fundamentally indifferent to their impacts upon us. They just don’t care about homo sapiens and are utterly indifferent to whatever impact they have on us.
Earth can do without us. We can’t do without the earth. And the only people who care about this at the moment are über-capitalists Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and Richard Branson, which is far from encouraging. To put it mildly.