Last blog post was about a Siberian High, causing Hammarby Sound to freeze over. This seems like a world apart today. The past month proved to be the hottest hereabouts in recorded history (dating back to the mid 1700s). If 35° weren't enough, humidity went to the extreme, envelopping us in a wet blanket day and night and leaving us no place to escape. Our apartments here in Stockholm are built with generous windows, granting the sun free access to us sun-loving Northerners. It now dawns on us that sun-flooded rooms are not what the doctor ordered. Even if my apartment is facing north, the sun starts sneaking in around 6 pm, getting up the heat just in time to prevent me from having a healty sleep.
Extreme times crave desperate measures. I discovered that a daily visit to the neighbourhood (Swedish style) Sauna was the way out of misery. After sitting about 10 minutes in it, sweating out at 90° (Celsius) of dry heat and taking a cold shower afterwards, 35° outside heat appears almost normal!
In the same spirit, I decided, in the beginning of last week, to take a quick trip to Southern Turkey. There, temperature surpassed even 40° in daytime and humidity was at its outmost; just like in a Sauna, but a Finnish one. The idea was to spend three days there and return to a more moderate Stockholm, cooler by at least a few degrees. Now, that I am back, I am glad to say that Hammarby Sjöstad has cooled off considerably during my absence. Or is it the contrast to Lykia in Turkey that makes me believe that?
The recent heat wave got me to recognosce up-to-date findings about climate change. Not bothering with reading the most recent articles in scientific journals, I contented myself with gathering insights from Youtube videos in the field. Don't ridicule me! There is quite serious knowledge to be gained there. As an example, let me point to a recent lecture by Professor Wadhams of Cambridge University. He is a convivial enough fellow, hardly prone to exaggerate.
My research, albeit sporadic, leads me to conclude that we already seem to have passed "the point of no return". Even if we drastically diminish carbon dioxide emissions forthwith, we will still surpass the red line (the 2° temperature increase) early on in the next decade. Thereafter, and with sizable methane emissions from the Arctic continental shelf and from melting Siberian permafrost, climate change will accelerate and lead to a more than 3° increase within the following decades.
An increase by more than 3° may not sound a lot, but it will most probably put an end to the main conduit of global food production, the grain belt girdling the northern hemisphere; not to speak of rendering the subtropical regions, Southern Europe among them, into deserts. So the writing is on the wall.
Should we find comfort in this? I fear not! Think about the hundreds of millions living south and east of our borders and getting ever more desperate, as deserts spread in Africa and Southern Europe and food supply is drying up further north. The Völkerwanderung of the 5th to 7th century AD is just an inkling of what lies ahead of us! To get an idea of what this means, look no further than to the failed states in the Middle East and the millions from there streaming into Europe just two years ago!
What can be done about this? On a global scene, probably nothing. That is, unless geo-engineering at hitherto unexperienced scale could be enacted within the near future, which is hardly likely, if even feasible. Better to look at it from a personal angle. Here we have a problem: climate change is not happening in a linear fashion. Feed-back loops are pushing to the forefront and will greatly accelerate the change, even if we at present still appear to experience only a modest and gradual warming. This makes it difficult for us humans to grasp the high probability of a timely demise of civilisation.
To fix ideas: imagine that a meteorite will strike the Earth in thirty years' time, enveloping the Earth in huge dust clouds and rendering food production infeasible over all of Earth for a number of years, except in north-eastern Europe. How would you as a person prepare for such a catastrophe? Speaking as an old-timer, my life would go on as usual, with maybe a bit more propensity to nurture friendships and family relations. For our children, they will have to be more philosophical; we all have to die, sooner or later, and it may just be a bit sooner for them. It is the grandchildren whom we should pity. They will be in the prime of their life and, instead of fulfilling all their dreams of family and career, they will be in constant war and struggle to fend off the hungering hordes invading the few territories where food can still be obtained.
This leads me to suggest a collective action that still could be taken to make life a bit more bearable for those poor grandchildren. Why not re-introduce comprehensive conscription for all 18 year olds, boys and girls, starting a decade from now. Why not borrow experts from the Israeli army to help introduce an efficient training programme involving weapon use, martial arts combat and living off the land. With an intensive training of this kind, we will at least provide these poor youngsters with a minimum of crafts to cope with the coming catastrophe! This quite apart from maintaining the regular army, manned by professional experts, as is the case at present.
Am I an extremist? Probably so, but I think that I will be considered a moderate ten years from now, when the red line of 2° warming will have been crossed and warming will accelerate. A pity that I probably won't be around then to feel righteous about it! Instead, why not enjoy the good life as long as it lasts, and let art and music come to the rescue, when my thoughts risk becoming too dire.