In 2015, five Democratic presidential candidates were asked about national security. Many gave vague standard bull shit answers about foreign policy, except one person. Climate change is an existential threat the 74 year old Democratic socialist from Vermont said to thunderous applause at the debate. “The scientific community is telling us that if we do not address the global crisis of climate change, transform our energy system away from fossil fuels…the planet we are going to be leaving our kids and grandkids may not be habitable.” Five years later Sanders was again sounding the alarm on a 2018 UN Report by the ICCC predicting we had until 2030 to drastically cut our global emissions maintain a global temperature increase of 1.5 to 2 degrees Celsius. “This is an existential threat.. we’re fighting for the future of this planet.”
At the time it sounded outlandish and radical to many in the news media and from both major parties, but looking at our planet proves that he was right. The Vermont Senator had been warning about this as early as 2014, and his advocacy and repeated warnings fell on deaf ears. And he wasn’t the only one, Professor William Ripple, an expert in climate science from Oregon State University published a report endorsed by 11,000 leading scientists from 153 countries warning of “untold suffering” if we didn’t act on limiting our emissions. Both Sanders, Ripple, and the world’s leading climate scientists were ignored and it wasn’t until 2020 that we witnessed how climate change could wreak havoc on our world
According to Scientific American temperatures in Greenland soared to twenty degrees above normal, leading to fears that melting could drastically affect climates around the world in the near future. The less ice there is near the Article Circle, the less likely cold fronts will head south bringing snow to the Cascades or Sierra Nevada mountains which millions rely on for drinking water. And more importantly the less precipitation will fall in normally wet regions.
Fires Occurred in Places Once Unthinkable
In 2020, record-breaking megafires occurred all over the western half of the United States, including in normally water saturated areas like the Pacific Northwest. Over 4.3 million acres ignited in California, creating an eerie orange glow (that you’d expect from blade runner) in San Francisco. An enormous 900,000 acre fire slammed into Oregon so suddenly that the southern suburbs of the largest city (Portland) were placed on mandatory evacuation. In my home state of Washington 330,000 acres burned in a single day. These came suddenly and with little warning as offshore winds of 50 mph and smoke slammed the Seattle area knocking out power and choking them with smoke for weeks. The smoke from the West Coast fires was so thick it stretched all the way to Europe and could be seen from space.
“Climate change is real…it is already causing devastating problems in America” — Sen Bernie Sanders
In total 13.1 million acres burned in the United States, and we’re not alone. Siberia was ablaze, as was the forest next to Chernobyl, and of all places the Amazon rainforest. The very rainforest considered the lungs of the earth was now on fire because we failed to act on climate change. And it’s only getting worse the longer we continue to deny reality.
Antarctica Melting Away
Six days ago a 1,776 square mile Delaware sized slab of ice broke off from Antarctica’s ice sheets. According to NOAA that is the largest ice sheet and here’s the reason why that should alarm you. Glaciers not only reflect sunlight but provides cool air which when mixed with warmer air condenses and falls as precipitation. Less ice means less inexpensive water for billions of people rely on for water. Snow and ice covers 1.7% of the planet’s surface, but stores 69% of drinkable water for seven billion people. In addition to that droughts in places that normally are wet (i.e. California, Brazil, Siberia) will lead to mass migration in search of more water.
“The United States must lead the world in reversing climate change. We can do that.” — Sen Bernie Sanders
While climate experts were the ones who initially warned us about this we must also give credit to politicians who warned us about. Bernie’s call for bold action was ahead of his time, and he was right. The United States must take drastic action in mitigating the effects of climate change and work with others using diplomacy. The time for incremental solutions are over. We can do it, if we start listening to the scientists and even listening to politicians who have proposals on how to decarbonize and transition away from dirty fossil fuels towards a cleaner sustainable future. It’s not rocket science it’s just a matter of whether we want humanity to survive.
Pandemic aside 2020 was a wake-up call for climate advocates, it’s time to get out shit together and do something about it. Because as Sanders said “We’re fighting for the future of this planet”