Welcome to the inaugural post of A Change in the Weather.
Things are getting weird. The planet is sending signals that, taken as a whole, cannot be rationalized away. A few are patently ominous, like the melting of the Arctic ice cap. That’s the key event in my novel A Change in the Weather, by the way. The ice cap disappears in the summer of 2018 and disrupts the jet stream and seasonal weather patterns around the globe, which in turn ruins agriculture. I’ve checked with experts Dr. Jeff Masters at Weather Underground and Dr. Mark Serreze at the National Snow and Ice Data Center, among others, and they worry that this scenario is completely plausible.
The eerily warm weather of March 2012, when the daily low temperature in many northern states exceeded the “normal” daily high, was a mild foretaste of the disruption redirecting the jet stream can cause.
Other signals are localized and not individually attributable to climate change, but nonetheless spooky, like heavy snowstorms with thunder and lightning in Washington DC or the 100+ degree heat wave that smothered most of the midsection of the US for much of July 2012. Add increasingly frequent record rainstorms, longer, more widespread droughts, precessing growing seasons, shifting animal and plant habitats, rapidly expanding pest populations, melting glaciers, ocean acidification (or more precisely, de-alkalinization), and proliferating wildfires, and these individual phenomena add up to something big and imminent.
Like someone experiencing shortness of breath, chest pain, and nausea, our collective reaction so far seems to be, it can’t be what I think it is, it’ll pass. Or, for some of us, the reaction has been to reject the facts with suspicion, contempt, and hostility.
We’re pussyfooting around a lot of the deep cultural, political, and psychological taboos that keep us on track to turn the entire globe into Easter Island, Jared Diamond’s classic example of a society driving itself to extinction through cultural inertia.
Surfacing some of these issues may help us recognize this for the emergency it is and to do the difficult things to keep the worst from happening.
We can’t do this as individuals. Redirecting our present trajectory will take a level of agreement, cooperation, and organized effort unprecedented in human history. The closest equivalents are World War Two and the Marshall Plan, when Americans came together to make short-term sacrifices for the long-term good. But our awareness of what’s happening is also unprecedented, as is our ability to communicate, and the intellectual and technological resources at hand to create the solutions.
What we lack are imagination, will, and leadership.
There’s nowhere to hide from a disrupted climate. There’s no preparation, no adaptation, no defense, and no survival strategy that isn’t like living in a perpetual state of war. There’s no magical real estate where you can hunker down until it all blows over. And most of all, there’s no denying it. There’s only prevention.
A Change in the Weather visualizes what might happen to us—not some faceless future generation, but us—if we don’t reach that agreement, and soon. My hypothesized near future may not play out in its particulars as I’ve imagined it. Who can predict exactly what will happen when the ice cap disappears and the Arctic inverts from heat reflector to heat sink? No one, of course. But here’s my bet: we won’t like it.
For more on what to expect in the coming weeks, click here.