Join the dots, urges Greta

September 15, 2020
Another huge chunk of ice has broken away from the Arctic’s largest remaining ice shelf — Nioghalvfjerdsfjorden — in north-eastern Greenland. Photo: Copernicus Data/ESA/Sentinel-2B

Climate campaigner Greta Thunberg is doing a good job of keeping climate in the news: she’s an avid tweeter, and there’s a lot of news.

But her message to “join the dots” between today’s devastating climate events and people dying, fleeing and losing all their worldly possessions is lost on those in a position to change course immediately.

She knows that. But she remains at the helm urging action nonetheless. After all, she knows that people power is our only hope.

The global student strike for climate on September 25 takes place amid a devastating pandemic, and a world much changed from last year. Apart from the catastrophic climate-driven fires on the west coast of the United States and the tropical cyclones hitting the Gulf of Mexico, the big melt of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets continues.

According to scientists, their predictions about the rate of ice loss are wrong — it is already melting at nearly three times more than mid-range projections. If the loss rate continues, the resulting sea level rise could expose 50 million people to annual coastal flooding by the middle of the century.

Researchers say the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change’s most extreme forecasts now need to be recalibrated because the melt rate is already at the worst-case scenario defined in the last major assessment report in 2014.

Researcher Thomas Slater from the Centre for Polar Observation and Modelling at the University of Leeds said sea level projections are “critical” in helping governments plan climate policy, mitigation and adaptation strategies. “If we underestimate future sea level rise, then these measures may be inadequate and leave coastal communities vulnerable.”

Another huge chuck of ice broke away from the Arctic’s largest remaining ice shelf — Nioghalvfjerdsfjorden — in north-east Greenland on September 14. A 110 square kilometre chunk broke off from the Spalte Glacier, shattering into small pieces.

Satellite images show that ice is being affected by warming oceans and higher air temperatures that create pools of water that sit on top of the shelf ice. The liquid water fills crevasses and causes them to open them up. In a process known as hydrofracturing, water pushes down on the fissures, driving them through to the base of the ice shelf. Oceanographers have also documented warmer sea temperatures, which means the shelf ice is almost certainly being melted from below as well.

The BBC reported on September 14 that US-German Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment-Follow On satellites have been monitoring the changes in ice mass in Greenland by tracking changes in the pull of local gravity. The data showed 2019 was a record-breaking year, with enough melt water running off the land into the ocean to raise global sea levels by 1.5 millimetres.

New technologies are harnessing more evidence of the terrifying scale of anthropogenic climate change. But, as Greta keeps saying, we need to act like our house is on fire.

So, when Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison presents a landmark speech, as he did on September 15 in Newcastle, about how he will impel gas corporations to forge a gas-fired recovery, we must join the dots.

Morrison knows full well about the science of climate change; he just chooses to ignore it. Like US President Donald Trump, Morrison is wholly committed to peddling fake news about how a “gas-fired recovery” will bring down energy prices by providing an abundance of gas to the east coast.

He has not forgotten the laws of the capitalist market — that any extra gas will be sold to the highest bidder on the international market. He simply wants to support the profiteering of the powerful fossil fuel corporations, even while renewable energy prices are enticing those same corporations to begin making plans to corner that market.

Green Left is fully behind the students and their allies who, in Australia, are organising against the federal government’s gas-fired “recovery” plan. We, like millions of others, have joined the dots.

We know that organising together to demand people before profit is going to be the only way we will defeat the fossil fuel capitalists. Join the September 25 international day of action on the climate.

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