The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

We should call it Climate Rupture

First it was called the Greenhouse Effect, then Global Warming, then Climate Change. Each accurate enough, as far as that goes, but all woefully inadequate at conveying the catastrophe we’ve been creating.

Here in Washington it has been too dry until it was too wet. But we didn’t get the brunt here. South Carolina got it. Unprecedented rainfall. With rainfall, ‘averaging out’ doesn’t work. When it’s too dry, things die. Have you had much success trying to revive a dead houseplant with extra water later? And too much rainfall later is like that, only worse. Now we get drought followed by flooding. We’ve designed our communities to shed excess water into streams that can’t handle it all, creating torrents that scour and erode the stream ecology. And that’s under ‘normal’ conditions. Record flooding actually kills people.

Neither does too much water on the East Coast, ‘balance out’ too little on the West Coast. Record dryness there is resulting in record fires. These may be causing permanent forest damage.   If the California drought lasts a decade or more, what is that state going to look like? If it is punctuated or followed by inundating rainfall on dry, unstable hills, what is that going to look like?

Refugees anyone? The political crisis in Syria followed significant drought conditions. How many years can farmers worldwide stay on their land when bankrupted by waterless, cropless fields? Tell me how many more refugees Europe is willing to accept. Tell me how many your community is. Now tell me the alternatives.

This is the world we’ve been systematically creating, ton by ton of atmospheric carbon. We are nearing a threshold level beyond which all bets will be off.

A watershed, indeed.