Scientists keep warning us that Earth is heading toward a global tipping point if the climate crisis continues on its current path and calling for urgent action to avoid an existential threat to civilization.
You would think such foreboding pleas would leave most folks with eyes as big as silver dollars and gulped throats in mouths. Or trigger a deafening global shriek.
Instead such warnings elicit either yawns or derision from committed doubting Thomases.
Chalk it up to a society too superficial, too selfish and too preoccupied with the present to give a damn about the future even if it means their grandchildren wind up living in a man-made hell.
Then there are those who proclaim man-triggered global warming to be a total crock, dismissing climate change as merely a function of historical cycles.
They claim the human-caused global warming hypothesis is completely model-dependent because we can't directly observe cars and cows turning up the Earth’s thermostat.
Have they never stood near a revving engine or a farting cow?
Furthermore they say all our models of Earth’s climate are incomplete, leaving climate scientists to fantasize from dubious data. Cynics of mankind-fueled global warming claim you cannot extract the human contribution from a vast number of unknowns.
A guy has to eat a lot of Swiss cheese to have that many holes in his logic.
Granted, not all scientists are Mozart with melodies or Rembrandt with canvas. It is not uncommon for science to reverse itself after additional research.
So are we sentenced to merely staring at mosaics of contrasting strategy, of truth and bluff?
There have been enough clarion calls from climate scientists to get the point unless you’re either wedded to archaic denial or have to be briefed on how to eat your morning cornflakes.
You don’t have to be Detective Columbo to see the ballooning evidence that mankind has bulled its way into the black heart of a vile situation, and we’re all pinned like a butterfly at the center of it unless we muster the resolve to stave off the executioner’s song.
A group of researchers recently published a commentary in the journal Nature saying there is growing evidence that irreversible changes to the Earth’s environmental systems already are taking place and that we now are in a state of planetary emergency.
The commentary says a global tipping point is a threshold when the planet's systems go beyond the point of no return — such as the loss of the Amazon rainforest, accelerated melting ice sheets and thawing of permafrost.
Such a collapse could lead to hothouse conditions that would make some areas on Earth uninhabitable.
"We argue that the intervention time left to prevent tipping could already have shrunk towards zero, whereas the reaction time to achieve net zero emissions is 30 years at best," the authors write.
Led by Timothy Lenton, professor of climate change and Earth system science at the University of Exeter in southwest England, the team identified nine areas where they say tipping points are already underway.
Those include widespread destruction of the Amazon, reduction of Arctic sea ice, large-scale coral reef die-offs, melting of the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets, thawing of permafrost, destabilizing of boreal forests — which contain vast numbers of trees that grow in freezing northern climes — and a slowdown of ocean circulation.
The team claims that these events are interconnected and change in one will impact another, causing a worsening cascade of crises.
The authors say data from recent studies suggest tipping points can happen between 1 and 2 degrees Celsius of warming. Global average temperatures today are 1 degree Celsius higher than in the pre-industrial age and continue to rise.
They project a domino effect will kick in if global temperatures rise more than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
The authors acknowledge that there are limits to their understanding of climate tipping, and further investigation is needed. But they say the possible impact could be so huge and "irreversible" that "to err on the side of danger is not a responsible option."
In other words, not acting is "too risky to bet against" in their view.
Such a grave predicament should be eating at your stomach lining.
Unless, of course, you’re still too stubborn to swallow it.
Mike Zielinski, a resident of Berks County, is a columnist, novelist, playwright and screenwriter.