If and When All of Our Immediate Crises End, the Climate Crisis Will Still Be There

How was your week?
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National Geographic has a story that’s guaranteed to get your week off to a flying stop. Periodically, we check in on the existential crisis that existed before the existential public-health crisis, and before the existential economic crisis, and before the existential political crisis. This indicates that we are rapidly approaching that barrier referred to in scientific circles as the What-the-Fck-Is-the-Point? Point.

Scientists had determined that this ice sheet last retreated about three million years ago. But a new paper in the journal Nature suggests—based on a study of crystals collected from the region—that a large part of it collapsed only 400,000 years ago. Most startling of all, the team’s calculations suggest that the dramatic change happened during an extended but relatively mild warm spell...
“That’s the scary thing,” says Harwood. Modern carbon dioxide levels blew past 300 ppm way back in 1915—and they currently sit at 410 ppm. In the coming centuries, that extra carbon dioxide could raise temperatures, and sea level, well above what happened 400,000 years ago, he says. “This doesn’t bode well for the future.”

The climate crisis is still going to be there when—and if—the current tangle of crises ever ends.

It’s going to be there to greet whoever gets elected in November. Hell, if we’re not diligent, it’s going to be there to greet whoever gets elected for the balance of the century. In a time in which we’re all calibrating our movements in thinner slices of calculated immediacy, long-term thinking seems like a luxury. But the climate crisis is going to be there, waiting, like an old unpaid bill, no matter who wins or what happens. Rocks and the sea measure time in centuries.

If these new findings bear out, then East Antarctica may contribute to sea level rise sooner than expected. The greenhouse gases that humans have produced to date may have already locked in 42 feet of eventual sea level rise from all of the glaciers predicted to melt in the coming centuries, including the ones in East Antarctica.

And how was your week?

This story originally appeared on Minor edits have been made by editors.

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About The Author
Charles P. Pierce
Charles P. Pierce, lead for Esquire Politics US, has been a working journalist since 1976. He is the author of four books, most recently 'Idiot America.' He lives near Boston with his wife but no longer his three children.
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