Lost in a haze of hyperreal distractions and the weakening of our body politic, we forget in fact how our planet came into being. Violent eruptions, long periods of stability, sometimes
equilibrium. But its eruptions were serious, and nothing to shrug off.
I’m talking extinction events like the Permian-Triassic, romantically known as the “Great Dying”, a climate change nightmare to end all nightmares. The hangover took millions of years to recover from.
So it would stand to reason — ah, those were the days — that were such events heading our way, we’d do something about them. Because things are getting worse. Exponentially worse.
According to recent reports, the InterGovernmental Panel on Climate Change was off in its estimates. Way off, as expected if you were a student of exponents, which have a tendency not to accrue in equal chunks but snowball over themselves, growing bigger by the revolution.
Speaking of snowballs, the IPCC misread our quickly shrinking sea ice, which has unmoored itself from itself and is now snowballing into the ocean-at-large at increasing rates. It figured the melt would be measurable, which is another way of saying an amount it could lowball to a public too busy with aptly named virtual realities like Survivor, Lost, Second Life and so on.
But the IPCC failed to see the replicating threat on the horizon.
In short, the IPCC claimed the melt would tickle global coastlines with 20 to 60 centimeters of water, but it was wrong. The figure has now exponentially grown to two metres and climbing, which is over six feet for those on the inch standard. And if you think that’s Chicken Little talking, take a look at these maps illustrating some of America’s coolest cities, post-deluge. They might change your mind.
The reality is, fittingly, worthy of disaster cinema. Holes have developed in the sea ice through which water as large as Niagara Falls has plummeted back to the ocean, greasing the wheels, so to speak, for an even faster melt. Which in turn, getting back again to exponents, is pushing the ice across the sea even faster, and so on. Speaking of disaster cinema, how about this blockbuster? The glacier at Ilulissat, rumored grandpa of the iceberg that sank the Titantic, is now hurtling three times faster into the sea than it was a decade ago. Other glaciers and ice shelves are doing the same dance of doom.
And they’re coming our way.
Think of them as one giant pain machine made of ice, skating across the planet to smack down some land and its self-important inhabitants. Think of it as Saddam plus Osama plus Kim Jong plus Iran plus every other creep you’ve been arming yourselves against. Think of it as the Bush administration, extraordinary renditioning you into Egypt for some “coercive interrogation.”
But think of it. Because if the IPCC got the depth wrong, they almost certainly got the dates wrong. And they were giving an ETA of around 2100 for the worst of what global warming has to throw at humanity. That deadline has now been upgraded to, well, how does tomorrow work for you?
I’m not kidding. Because it’s not just water that’s plunging into the ocean and jacking up coastlines and currents, screwing the equilibrium that has allowed Earth to stay cool for thousands of years. It’s also sediment, plants, animals and much more, matter of all types torn apart by the earthquakes and other violent eruptions these melts have caused.
Call it the “Great Drowning.”
At least for now, because it’s about to get hot in here. Real hot. Once those ice shelves melt, they’ll no longer be around to reflect the sun. That will be left to the sea, which will heat and blast out the type of CO2 emissions that would make Exxon, Chevron and onward proud. And all of it will happen faster and faster until the new equilibrium comes.
Our time would be better spent on issues other than batshit pop stars or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. It would be better spent on things like living, breathing, not dying by our own hands. It would be better spent thinking about how to capitalize on our own misfortune, an irony that still hasn’t settled in even though I wrote it moments ago. It would be better spent working this problem than any other cultural, religious or racial hyperrealities built to sucker us into thinking we’re different from each other and don’t want our spaces invaded.
Because we’re not different from each other in the slightest. We’re all earthlings, and we’re all going to find out what that means before 2100 comes to pass. Likely we will find out that we are different not
from each other, but from every other species in the universe.
Which means our time would be better spent right now, not tomorrow, not when our kids wake up and ask us, “What the fuck were you thinking?” We want to have a good answer for them. We had them, after all.
We should have known better.
An earlier version of this early Cli-Fi entry originally appeared here on Morphizm as well as Huffpo.