Climate Corner: Warning signs

Jul 3, 2021

Aaron Dunbar

The snow is bleeding.

Yes, you read that correctly.

The typically white snow that covers the French Alps has been observed darkening to a blood red hue, producing a phenomenon known as “glacier blood.” This disturbing trend is triggered by the green microalgae that live in the snow turning red as a response to rising temperatures. What’s more, as the Alps darken they absorb even more sunlight, creating a feedback loop that’s likely to destabilize the entire ecosystem as global warming spirals out of control.

I have to admit I’m a bit of a sucker for these near-biblical portents of climate doom. Another favorite of mine came in the form of a magpie filmed during the 2019/2020 Australia wildfires. The black and white bird can be observed vocally mimicking the sound of the New South Wales fire sirens, so constant and ubiquitous they’d become as flames ravaged the nation.

The warning signs we’re being given are anything but subtle. The natural world is going completely haywire, and it takes a deliberate, concerted effort not to notice that something is very, very wrong.

As I write this, the Pacific Northwest finds itself in the grip of a record-breaking, once-in-a-millennium “heat dome.” The typically moderate climate in Portland has been replaced by 112-degree temperatures, while the state of Washington has surpassed its all-time high record for the month of June, with ground temperatures in Wenatchee reaching a mind-boggling 145 degrees. Such intense, unprecedented heat is actively destroying infrastructure throughout the region, melting electric cables and threatening to disrupt power grids.

If you pay any attention at all to stories about climate change, you’ll quickly notice that such “once-in-a-millennium,” “once-in-a-century,” and “once-in-a-lifetime” weather events, from freak heat waves to monster hurricanes, are taking place more and more frequently with each passing year. Keeping in mind that we’re still in the relatively embryonic stages of the climate crisis, you can expect such disasters to become increasingly common and more deadly with time.

In Florida, meanwhile, a 12-story condominium recently collapsed in Surfside, Miami, causing at least twelve deaths at the time of this writing, with 149 people still missing. Although far from the sole cause, it’s currently being speculated that elevated sea levels played a significant role in the tragedy, prompting further concerns about the inability of coastal infrastructure to handle our rising seas.

One might hope that such concerns over infrastructure in the face of climate catastrophe were being taken seriously. But recent days have also seen our milquetoast corporatist president (who took over $1.5 million in oil and gas money during the 2020 election) reaching an infrastructure “compromise” with Republicans, few of whom even believe that climate change exists, or that Biden himself is even the actual president, for that matter.

Not only did this brilliant negotiating needlessly slash proposed infrastructure spending by more than half, it also scrapped major climate change measures, while simultaneously positioning public infrastructure to be sold to the private sector in order to pay for new infrastructure. This is likely to come at a significant cost to every day citizens, in addition to making it far more difficult to adapt our society to the challenges of climate change.

West Virginia golden boy and hostage taker of the already-toothless Democratic Party Joe Manchin (who’s received a career total of $493,995 in oil and gas contributions) has complained that Biden’s climate goals are too “aggressive,” even as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change steps up its warnings on climate tipping points, beyond which global heating and its myriad of repercussions are likely to become irreversible.

In my own state, corrupt Ohio lawmakers are busy actively working to prevent the expansion of wind and solar projects, essentially destroying the renewable energy sector, as well as badly needed economic growth, in the process.

If all of this seems like a lot of doom and gloom, that’s because quite frankly it is. There is no easy way to put a positive spin on what’s happening at the moment. We are absolutely failing to respond to the climate crisis, and we need to acknowledge that fact.

Our leaders are failing us. We are failing our children, and their children, and their children’s children’s children.

I cannot stress enough the urgency of the situation we’re in, and the scale of the action necessary for us to have even a hope of combating the climate crisis at this stage. Now is the time to act, in whatever capacity you possibly can.

It is absolutely critical that we force our leaders to rise to this threat before it’s too late. It’s clear by now that they will not do so on their own, and it’s up to all of us to hold them accountable.

We no longer have any choice but to radically transform our broken politics, our destructive energy systems, and our fractured society.

We are all firsthand witnesses to the dawn of the climate emergency. We live in it now, and we will live to see our world burn to the ground around us if we fail to take bold and immediate action.


Aaron Dunbar is a member of Mid-Ohio Valley Climate Action.