Just one day after hurtling into space on the Blue Origin rocket, an emotional William Shatner appeared on Cuomo Prime Time to discuss the profound experience. The 90-year-old actor revealed that the once-in-a-lifetime trip was incredibly bittersweet.
“I wish I had better news and more entertainment and jokes to tell you, but I was moved to tears by what I saw,” Shanter said. “And I come back filled with… overwhelmed by sadness and empathy for this beautiful thing we call Earth.”
Shatner was visibly overcome with emotions while talking about how the trip affected his view on humanity. The usually jovial actor stressed the importance of implementing cleaner business practices to reduce the impact of climate change.
“We’re at the tipping point, we haven’t got time to wait 30 years and argue about a few billion dollars,” Shatner said. “Burying your head in the sand another instant about global warming and the destruction of the planet is suicide for all of us.”
Shatner appeared to reference the climate change agenda in President Biden’s embattled $3.5 trillion spending bill. He also warned that if we don’t do something about the industrial pollution, we will not only be stripping the planet of its natural resources, we will be stripping it of the future.
“What is tragic is if our children, especially our children’s children, don’t have a chance to be part of this beautiful thing we call Earth… and it’s just sad,” Shatner lamented.
It was a seamless synthesis of science and art, expanding the frontiers of human knowledge while being eerily beautiful at the same time. That was the response when, in the 1960s, professor Henry Stommel, a pioneering oceanographer, introduced a model to his colleagues that explained the motions of ocean waters. Decades later, Dr. Michael E. Mann, a distinguished professor of atmospheric science at Penn State University, still marvels at what he describes as the “elegant” nature of Stommel’s model.
Thus, armed with a model so simple that it can be solved with algebra, scientists now understood the ocean currents in the Atlantic.
This is how scientists figured out what is called the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation, or “AMOC” for short. When it comes to the motion of the ocean, AMOC is essentially a complex system of conveyor belts. The first belt contains warm water that flows north, where it cools, evaporates and increases the salinity of the ocean water. That water then cools, sinks and flows south, creating a second major belt. These currents are connected to each other by regions in the Nordic Sea, Labrador Sea and Southern Ocean, keeping sea levels down on the United States’ eastern seaboard and warming up the weather in Europe.
This current system connects many different pieces of life on Earth: tides, hurricanes, sea levels, ocean life, salinity, fisheries, water pollution, temperatures, weather — all are affected by this current system. A sudden shift in how the Atlantic current system works would drastically change life on Earth.Advertisement:
Yet the more we learn about ocean currents, the more we have cause for alarm. A February study published in the journal Nature Geoscience reconstructed the history of the current going back 1,600 years and found that circulation is weaker now than at any other point in that span. They identified the most likely culprit as global warming. With the Greenland Ice Sheet and Arctic ice melting as the planet heats up, and rain and snow levels increasing, the water flowing north loses much of its salinity and density. This causes the water to flow south more slowly and weakens AMOC overall.
More recently, another study in the journal Nature Geoscience that identified the important role played by winds in causing changes in ocean circulation. As lead author Dr. Yavor Kostov of the University of Exeter said in a press release, scientists have struggled to understand the variability in AMOC because there are so many variables that have an effect on it. He noted that after learning that winds influenced circulation in both sub-tropical and sub-polar locations, scientists concluded that “as the climate continues to change, more efforts should be concentrated on monitoring those winds — especially in key regions on continental boundaries and the eastern coast of Greenland — and understanding what drives changes in them.”Advertisement:https://41ec6cc7d108e5e26a65e7bc9cd265db.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html
The obvious question, then, is: what will happen if climate change continues to weaken AMOC?
“This won’t lead to another ice age (like ‘The Day After Tomorrow,’ which is a caricature of the science), but it may well threaten fish populations and lead to accelerated sea level rise along the U.S. east coast,” Mann told Salon. “This is furthermore a reminder that there are surprises in the greenhouse, and often they are unwelcome ones. If we want to avoid more and more of these unwelcome surprises, we need to bring carbon emissions down dramatically in the years ahead.”
“AMOC acts as a relief valve for the Atlantic heat buildup in the tropics,” Trenberth explained. “In the Pacific there is no equivalent and the relief valve is ENSO,” which stands for “El Niño and the Southern Oscillation.”
Ken Caldeira, an atmospheric scientist at the Carnegie Institution for Science’s Department of Global Ecology, said that it is ultimately impossible to predict with certainty what will happen if AMOC slows down — but that it is very unlikely to be good.
“For me, it is not so much about the direct impacts of this particular change, which I think are highly uncertain, but rather if we are impacting major parts of planetary-scale processes and knocking them out of the range that they operated in (and we adapted to) over the entirety of human history, it is a pretty safe bet that we can anticipate some fairly nasty unknown unknowns,” Caldeira wrote to Salon. “That may be just indefensible bias that cannot be
Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh. To be great is to be misunderstood.~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
I frequently hear and read that COVID-19 is a nefarious attempt by the so-called “elite” among us to depopulate the burgeoning human population on Earth. Other conspiracy theories abound, including COVID-19 as an attempt to further reduce human rights, promote expensive medical therapies, and otherwise enrich the wealthy at the expense of the bamboozled masses.
I do not doubt the ability of the informed wealthy to fleece the ignorant masses. Nor do I doubt the ability of the informed wealthy to turn virtually any situation into an opportunity for monetary gain. A quick glance at the past two centuries provides plenty of examples. However, I doubt the monetarily wealthy among us are interested in accelerating human extinction, even for financial gain. As I explain below, the ongoing reduction in industrial activity as a result of COVID-19 almost certainly leads to loss of habitat for human animals, hence putting us on the fast track to human extinction. I doubt the knowledgeable “elite” are interested in altering the sweet deal they are experiencing with the current set of living arrangements.
In light of the ongoing pandemic, the ongoing Mass Extinction Event, and abrupt, irreversible climate change, I am pleasantly surprised humans still occupy Earth. I strongly suspect the ongoing reduction in industrial activity will reduce the aerosol masking effect sufficiently to trigger a 1 C temperature spike, as described in the peer-reviewed literature. In fact, I suspect it already has. The outcome is not yet obvious because the timing of the outbreak of the novel coronavirus was favorable for human habitat. Trees produced leaves in the Northern Hemisphere spring of 2020 as a result of carbohydrates stored the previous year. Grain crops were harvested before the novel coronavirus emerged. I suspect the results of the recent and ongoing rise in temperature, which has already been reported in China and India, will become obvious to most humans when many more trees die. Large-scale die-off of trees likely will approximately correspond with catastrophic crop failure. This might occur by the end of this year, although I would rather it not.
History is replete with examples of human hubris. We thought we were mighty, and we thought we were human, whatever that means. Collectively, we certainly have left our mark on Earth. How embarrassing for the big-brained human species that a microscopic virus could pull the trigger on our extinction. How wonderful for thoughtful individuals that we get to ponder our deaths, and therefore our lives. We get to contemplate not only our lives, but also how we live.
How fast can our planet’s climate change? Too slowly for humans to notice, according to the firm belief of most scientists through much of the 20th century. Any shift of weather patterns, even the Dust Bowl droughts that devastated the Great Plains in the 1930s, was seen as a temporary local excursion. To be sure, the entire world climate could change radically: The ice ages proved that. But common sense held that such transformations could only creep in over tens of thousands of years.
In the 1950s, a few scientists found evidence that some of the great climate shifts in the past had taken only a few thousand years. During the 1960s and 1970s, other lines of research made it plausible that the global climate could shift radically within a few hundred years.
In the 1980s and 1990s, further studies reduced the scale to the span of a single century. Today, there is evidence that severe change can take less than a decade. A committee of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) has called this reorientation in the thinking of scientists a veritable “paradigm shift.” The new paradigm of abrupt global climate change, the committee reported in 2002, “has been well established by research over the last decade, but this new thinking is little known and scarcely appreciated in the wider community of natural and social scientists and policymakers.” 1
Much earlier in the 20th century, some specialists had evidence of abrupt climate change in front of their eyes. The evidence was meaningless to them. To appreciate change occurring within 10 years as significant, scientists first had to accept the possibility of change within 100 years. That, in turn, had to wait until they accepted the 1000-year time scale. The history of this evolution gives a good example of the stepwise fashion in which science commonly proceeds, contrary to the familiar heroic myths of discoveries springing forth in an instant. The history also suggests why, as the NAS committee worried, most people still fail to realize just how badly the world’s climate might misbehave.
Michael Mann: “A new normal makes it sound like we have arrived in a new position, and that’s where we’re going to be. But if we continue to burn fossil fuels … we are going to … get worse and worse droughts, and heat waves, and super storms, and floods, and wildfires.”
Kate Marvel: “The whole idea that everything’s going to work out isn’t really helpful because it isn’t going to work out ” said Kate Marvel a climate scientist at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies. Climate change is going to worsen to a point where millions of lives, homes, and species are put at risk she said.