The new Republican administration’s war on the environment symbolizes how ignorant most people are about the dire situation we are facing. Part of this is because those who do know don’t express it, because people have ignored or pushed back against being told about the smaller problems, let alone the much worse things that are coming.
The problem is there is a time lag of several YEARS between the moment greenhouse gas is released into the atmosphere, and when the effects of that manifest themselves. In other words, the environment today reflects conditions 4 or 5 years ago. We are NOT seeing the effects of all the greenhouse gases that have been released since then, yet.
The ocean has attempted to adjust to these changes by absorbing as much heat and carbon dioxide as it can. Neither of which are not good for marine life. But the ocean is reaching its capacity to mitigate these problems, which will mean that air temperatures will begin to rise at an accelerating rate.
Adding to the problems are various cycles that involve feedback loops. One example relates to methane, a greenhouse gas twenty times more potent that carbon dioxide in terms of heat trapping. The warming atmosphere is melting the soil that contains vast amounts of trapped methane. As these land areas have warmed up, methane is being released. This adds to the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, increasing air temperatures further, warming the soil more, releasing more methane.
Another feedback mechanism relates to arctic ice. The white ice reflects sunlight off its surface, reducing how much is absorbed, helping keep surface temperatures lower. Now that the ice is melting, the sunlight is absorbed by the exposed land or water, increasing temperatures further.
There are other feedback mechanisms like these.
Environmentalists know, but don’t often say, that conditions in our environment have deteriorated to the extent that we cannot recover, and humans will become extinct. How quickly this will happen is not known, but estimates are moving closer and closer to the present.
This creates an existential problem–if it is too late, why not go ahead and burn up all that fossil fuel? Besides the moral aspect, doing what we can to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will slow down the rate of our demise, and make the quality of life as good as it can be under the circumstances.