My hay fever started in the beginning this week. I don’t believe this ever happened in March before. It usually comes in May, last year in June. I saw butterflies fluttering around the beginning of last month and the first wasp entered our house today. Yet perhaps the most discomforting sign of seasonal extremities was the man with the ice cream van in front of the window on a February night. I can assure you: if that happens in the Netherlands it means trouble.
This was the week in which the IPCC presented its fifth report compiled by 300 top-notch international scientists. Some media largely ignored it. Perhaps they didn’t consider it important enough. Or maybe they believe that whatever we don’t give attention does not exist? Others spoke of it using terms like food-pocalypse – it’s tempting to be original – or in more a nuanced way: “justified rise in global concern“. IPCC has a conservative stand in presenting climate data. The facts have never been as clear as they are now.
It is now officially proven that humans have caused or amplified much of the climatic extremities we see, and we know that they are likely to keep doing so, with self increasing consequences. Take the simple example of drought caused by increased heat. It will cause forests to burn more easily, and by doing so, release more CO2 in the atmosphere. This will cause more heating, more burning and even more CO2 . Another example. A forest is like a sponge: it sucks up water and keeps it on the spot. As you know, plants need that water to grow. Now, what happens if that forest gets burnt or cut down? No more sponge, no more water, and no return of the trees. This has happened before, in the worst cases it is called desertification. Such processes are called positive feedback loops. That’s because they increase themselves, not because they predict utopia.
Reality is more complex than these examples, because there are negative feedback loops as well. That is one of the reasons why the IPCC uses terms such as “likely”, “more likely than not” or “very likely”. This time, however, with the arrival of new information, they have managed to present rather unpleasant findings as “virtually certain”. Time has lifted our doubts, catastrophe is upon us. We cannot avoid it anymore, only reduce it’s effects. But politicians remain awfully idle, too occupied with ownership to induce a regime of global custody. Hence we arrived at the day when climate experts predict more war.
Strangely enough, there’s something in this story that deeply comforts me. Apparently, I’m not the only one who believes that humanity has gone insane. There are experts out there who agree, and what’s more, nature herself starts striking back. Perhaps there is a time in the future when we’ll learn from what we’ve done.