The Climate Catastrophe Is Already Here

by on July 21, 2023 · 11 comments

in Environment

From wildfires and floods to record heat, it’s clear we’re at the point of needing to save what we can while we can.

By David Helvarg / The Progressive / July 18, 2023

Since before the release of the first United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change  report in 1990, scientists have been warning that, without global action to quickly reduce carbon dioxide emissions, we could shift from a dangerous to a catastrophic climate situation.

Last summer’s weather made the argument, and this summer has confirmed it—we’ve entered that catastrophic phase. Within a few years we’ll blow through the 1.5 degree Celsius warming of the planet that the world committed to preventing at the 2015 Paris Climate Summit.

The ocean, a natural driver of climate and weather, is heating up faster than even the most sophisticated climate models predicted.

The United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is projecting that half of the world’s oceans could be experiencing “marine heat waves” by September of this year.

From this summer’s wildfires in Canada giving the East Coast and Midwest a taste of the harmful smoke that the West has been experiencing from its own drought driven mega-fires, to heat waves and flooding in China, India and Japan, to heat domes in Texas and Arizona and flooding in Vermont and New York, to incredible 98 degree waters off the Florida Keys (where most corals have already died), to the hottest days ever recorded on the planet (at least in human history) on July 3, 4, and 5, following June, the hottest month in history, the climate signal has become an alarm siren.

But as with the melting of Arctic ice, too many corporations and governments hear this alarm as a dinner bell—an opportunity to drill for oil in newly opened waters or to mine the ocean’s depths.

Civilization, which emerged and grew over the past 10,000 years thanks to the temperate climate conditions that allowed for the development of agriculture, is now threatened in ways never before known. In the last century humanity barely escaped two existential threats, global fascism and nuclear destruction.

Today, while neither of these threats is completely eradicated, the linked threats of climate change and the extinction crisis are far from being adequately addressed. With the human population having exploded from three to eight billion in my lifetime, displacing wildlife at a rate not seen in sixty million years, 96 percent of today’s remaining mammals are either humans or the animals they raise as livestock. And they too are suffering from the heat with a more than 3.5 percent decline in cattle in the United States due to drought in 2022-2023.

What we need today is a global mobilization of resources such as occurred during World War II.

But with one of the two major political parties in the world’s largest economy acting as a fully owned subsidiary of the fossil fuel cartels—along with some Democrats—and much of major U.S. media still reluctant to link extreme weather events to climate change lest they be seen as “partisan,” we have only recently begun to address the climate emergency in a modest fashion.

While I worked for and supported the Biden Administration’s efforts around the Infrastructure Bill and the Inflation Reduction Act—two climate laws that commit an initial $300 billion over the next ten years toward a just energy transition—what we need today is a global mobilization of resources such as occurred during World War II.

At this point in the Anthropocene, we need to start thinking about triage—saving what we can while we can and hoping that the feedback loops long warned about by climate scientists, such as the release of methane from the ocean and thawing permafrost, don’t supercharge planetary heating and mass extinction even if we are able to end fossil fuel usage.

And while today’s insurance costs and death tolls continue to mount (a new study says that 60,000 people died of heat in the European Union last year), I worry that the best present plan for serious climate action is a work of science fiction—Kim Stanley Robinson’s The Ministry for the Future. The book outlines a complete transformation of the global economy to a more just and equitable system where eco-restoration becomes humanity’s primary task, a vision that it is up to us to make real.

Please go to the original for any links.

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Mateo July 24, 2023 at 8:34 am

Build to Rent will save us!
If we can just keep building more high density luxury apartments by the tens of thousands in San Diego, the oceans will stop acidifying and global temperature will come down several degrees and save the planet!


sealintheSelkirks July 24, 2023 at 3:33 pm

But of course we need more luxury apartments! Below are the reasons why:

Here’s the latest from Dr. James Hansen and his team. You all remember him, yes? The NASA climate scientist that stood in front of Congress in 1988 and warned everybody? This is what he said last week:

‘We are damned fools’: scientist who sounded climate alarm in 80s warns of worse to come
Yep Mateo, the reason is WE ARE DAMNED FOOLS.
So…this is what his team put out a few weeks ago:

10’C hotter? Are you kidding me? Every large land animal on the planet will be dead, as will the oceans. Large animal being anything above the size of a…mouse I guess.



Linda July 25, 2023 at 2:51 pm

Like it was said in the 70’s
Over population and deforestation. Plane and simple.
Shade the earth so she can breathe!


Vern July 26, 2023 at 6:12 am

“… In cities, the heat is amplified by something called the urban heat island effect.

Urban heat islands are a byproduct of a built environment. Gas-powered cars and air conditioning units generate and radiate heat. Concrete parking lots and buildings absorb the sun’s heat and emit that heat long after the sun sets. Fewer trees mean less shade. Densely built areas essentially become islands where temperatures are hotter than their surroundings…”


Vern July 26, 2023 at 6:45 am

Extreme Urban Heat Islands

Nine cities are home to at least 1 million people who live in neighborhoods that climb 8 degrees higher than surrounding areas.
New York: 7.1 million
Houston: 4.3 million
Los Angeles: 3.3 million
Dallas: 2.2 million
Chicago: 2.1 million
San Antonio: 1.5 million
San Diego: 1.4 million
Phoenix: 1.3 million
Detroit: 1 million


sealintheSelkirks July 27, 2023 at 2:40 am

US cities are so much less crowded than so many others around the world but even so, all of them are completely unsustainable.

As for the heat island effect, take away the giant parking lots of black asphalt. Take a look at these two:

And in Europe:



Vern July 27, 2023 at 8:45 am

Conventional paving materials can reach peak summertime temperatures of 120–150°F (48–67°C), transferring excess heat to the air above them and heating stormwater as it runs off the pavement into local waterways. Due to the large area covered by pavements in urban areas (nearly 30–45% of land cover based on an analysis of four geographically diverse cities1), they are an important element to consider in heat island mitigation.

Cool pavements can be created with existing paving technologies (such as asphalt and concrete) as well as newer approaches such as the use of coatings or grass paving. Cool pavement technologies are not as advanced as other heat island mitigation strategies, and there is no official standard or labeling program to designate cool paving materials. To help address the growing demand for guidance on pavement choices, the Transportation Research Board has formed a subcommittee on Paving Materials and the Urban Climate. The subcommittee’s scope includes modeling, design practices, testing, standards development, and planning and policy considerations.

Benefits and Costs
In addition to reducing heat islands, the benefits of cool pavements include:
– Reduced stormwater runoff and improved water quality: Permeable pavements can allow stormwater to soak into the pavement and soil, reducing runoff and filtering pollutants. Both permeable and non-permeable cool pavements can also help lower the temperature of runoff, resulting in less thermal shock to aquatic life in the waterways into which stormwater drains.
– Lower tire noise: The open pores of permeable pavements can reduce tire noise by two to eight decibels and keep noise levels below 75 decibels, although noise reduction may decline over time.2
– Enhanced safety: Permeable roadway pavements can improve safety by reducing water spray from moving vehicles and increasing traction through better water drainage.
– Better nighttime visibility: Reflective pavements can enhance visibility at night, potentially reducing lighting requirements and saving both money and energy.
– Improved local comfort: Cool pavements in parking lots or other areas where people congregate or children play can provide a more comfortable environment.


The Los Angeles Zoo uses a reflective paving product.


sealintheSelkirks July 29, 2023 at 12:23 pm

More on Heat Islands, and the top US cities and how it affects them:
I’m guessing TPTB in San Diego are upset they didn’t make it onto this list as they are doing all they can to do so with their policies…




Jan Michael Sauer July 29, 2023 at 4:34 pm

Here in San Antonio the new cool pavement technology testing is providing good results. We show a 7 to 10 degree drop in surface temperature. The hope is that these new technologies will help to lower the heat in the inner city neighborhoods. We get about 14% of our electricity here from nuclear power. I keep wondering- Doesn’t that mean that electric vehicles increase nuclear waste? Are they REALLY better for the environment? I don’t know the answer to that one.


Dickie July 30, 2023 at 12:55 pm

“At this point in the Anthropocene, we need to start thinking about triage—saving what we can while we can”
This, I have come to believe, is the most important point of all in David’s important post. Having spent a good portion of the last three years reading what I used to call “post-apocalyptic” fiction (including the Ministry of the Future and a good deal else by Kim Stanley Robinson), and believing there is much truth to found in good fiction the point is not that bad things are coming but they are already happening. “Apocalypse” is not the point . . . too much religious overtone. What is happening is very material and demands very concrete responses, and not just on the political level. We need collective and compassionate self-organization on the level of collectives, community, organizations and even institutions that can act to minimize the impacts on people and other creatures. Current leadership, all over the world, is lacking. The only sane voice I ever hear from the mainstream is that of UN Sec’y General Guterres. His latest message (paraphrase) is that we have left the time of global warming, it is now global boiling. Gotta get it together! There is no political force out there with the vision or capacity to lead us out of this.


sealintheSelkirks July 31, 2023 at 10:52 am

I beg to disagree with two things; the quote”need to start thinking about triage” and the term Anthropocene.

Our so-called ‘leaders’ should have started a crash course about the quote the very same day Dr. James Hansen stood in front of Congress with his bad news warning in 1988.

What did they do? Ignored him and all the other climate scientists for the joy of sucking the hind tit of fossil fuel robber barons and the wealthy that buy their silence through bribery…oh excuse me, ‘campaign contributions’ and ‘gifts’ and ‘vacations’ and all the rest that we’ve come to expect of our ‘leaders’ and ‘Supreme Court Justices.’

Second, we’re beyond the Anthropocene. It’s now turned into the ‘Blowtorchocene’ (yes, a word I invented).

But I do agree with the concept of word mis-use with the heavily connected-to-religious myths ‘Apocalypse’ to describe what we are now experiencing. The myths of a nomadic sheep-herding culture of 2,500 yrs ago who didn’t understand the world isn’t flat and the funny lights in the sky weren’t circling us are not truly appropriate to conceptualizing that what we’ve done to the planet is OUR FAULT due to greed.

That we have a 30 yr lag time between emissions and consequences of those emissions in the atmosphere is also nearly too horrible to contemplate. Which is probably why we see nearly nobody changing any of their behavior. We are not an intelligent species. Clever, yes, I will give us that.



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