FOR WEEKS NOW, we have watched with horror as floods submerged large areas in the Caribbean islands, southern continental USA, and recently Puerto Rico, as successive super hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria pummeled the hapless communities with tons of rainwater and frightening wins. The inundation has been so devastating, the destruction so massive it would take nearly a decade for rehabilitation of broken life to work wonders, if at all.
Bless us for God’s mercy, we have been thousands of miles away to be front and center of so catastrophic an experience. About the closest thing we can relate with this tragedy are Ondoy and Yolanda, which both left a swathe of destruction whose ill effects linger to this day. In the wake of the super storms that developed from the Atlantic Ocean, it’s always best to get ourselves prepared should similar weather extremities occur in our midst, from the Pacific Ocean which has bred much of the typhoons that have come our way, themselves huge and consequential. To get there, we begin somewhere.
As starters, we are told by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, joined in by the American Meteorological Society, that 2016 stood out as the hottest ever in modern times, publicly stating that “last year’s record heat resulted from the combined influence of long-term global warming and a strong El Nino early in that year.” Trends consistent with a warming planet had been detected from several benchmarks that broke records set the previous year — land and ocean temperatures, sea level and greenhouse gas concentrations.
The horrendous heat levels last year should be a source of global concern. Scientists have recently determined that the Atlantic Ocean-bred hurricanes came about as a result of global warming. Greenhouse gasses, accumulating in the Earth’s atmosphere, are said to be definitely causing temperatures to rise, which in turn results from the melting of our polar icecaps, the increased carbon dioxide in our seas, and the massive bleaching of sea corals.
Over the coming years, sea levels are expected to rise even more due to melting ice. Major cities along coastlines will be submerged, island nations will go under, as climate patterns alter drastically from year to year, the severe weather disturbances experienced in the Caribbean a proof positive that the last one is more severe than the one preceding.
Last year’s unprecedented heat levels worldwide may have already been surpassed by the heated oceans that are causing a wildly behaving climate swing, and end-2017 is still a good one fourth away. This much we are candidly told: mankind seems to be unrelenting in its reliance on fossil fuels for global energy use. Climate change disbelievers led by the usual greedy hotheads remain mired in self-denials. Greenhouse gases continue to be polluting the atmosphere in unprecedented levels — unchecked and without remorse, despite global recognition and agreements. Third, these gases envelope like a blanket to capture heat around our planet.
Clearly, all the major greenhouse gases that drive warming up — all the carbon dioxide (CO2), all the methane and nitrous oxide, are rising to new unparalleled lights. We are now told that atmospheric CO2 concentration has reached 402.9 parts per million (ppm), surpassing the level of 400 ppm for the first time in modern annals and ice core records dating back as far as 800,000 years.
Land and sea temperatures are now at new record-breaking levels, as evidenced by melting glaciers and ocean-swelling polar ice caps. In 2016, the global average sea level was 3.25 inches or 82 millimeters higher than the 1993 average, rising for six straight years, with the highest recorded in the western Pacific and Indian Oceans.
Land surface temperatures warmed too last year. The average Arctic land surface temperature was 3.6 Fahrenheit (2.0 Celsius), much above the 1981-2010 average. This represents a 6.3 F (3.5 C) increase since recording activities began in 1900.
In troubled times, we definitely are, regardless where we are — whether out there in places whiplashed by the Atlantic Ocean or out here by the Pacific Ocean. The oceans will continue to be heating up, because global pollution goes on unabated, because economic activities continue to cause global warming, because our effort has been globally without much significance.
One thing stands out that needs to be instilled in the hearts and minds of leaders and people. If we don’t take care of nature, it won’t take care of us, all of us. If we don’t work to manage our future, knowing what it holds for us by our inaction, singly and collectively, nobody else will. Even our inheritors will never forgive us for surrendering that future in the hands of those who refuse to see, feel and experience what has become too obvious: we either live and survive as one in the only planetary home that’s Earth, or perish as one in palpably catastrophic if separate ways.
Doing the only right thing in our lifetime, even for once, is the biggest right thing we can do.