Something Happened To Our Planet

Something happened to our planet, and it was us. The upshot is that it is getting insane. People yammer about how hot it is currently in Phoenix. It has always been thus, but it no longer cools off at night. The high temperatures are not the problem so much as the the overall heating. Including that the cool off at night no longer happens.

Climate change and heat sinking.

But, together, they really do matter. A lot. Both can be minimized if humans are not stupid. Do not count on that happening. Because humans are stupid.

But the kids today, and their kids, will make the future. They can make a difference in their own schools and communities. Starting now.

This is  book for kids. But a really helpful, and useful, one.

Many, if not most, of the people that frequent here won’t be around in fifty years to see how it all goes, but you can school up those next generations. This book can help. It is a great starting point.

As an adviso, the author is a friend and relative of mine. But I would not recommend it if I did not truly believe in her and her work.

68 replies
  1. Knowatall says:

    And for any nouveau-Westerners, or curious “east coast elites”, the seminal Cadillac Desert (Marc Reisner) is worth the lengthy read.

    • chrisanthemama says:

      Thanks for that—I have a 6-year-old’s birthday coming soon. has it in stock (as does probably everyone’s local bookshop).

      • chrisanthemama says:

        Urk–didn’t mean to reply to your comment. But Cadillac Desert is an amazing book. I read it often. Don’t think the six-year-old is ready for it, though.

    • Leading Edge Boomer says:

      John Fleck’s books about water in the West are more contemporary than Cadillac Desert, with more volumes to come. I recommend them highly.

    • DrFunguy says:

      Any discussion of water policy in the arid West ought to include Beyond the Hundredth Meridian. Not just a biography of John Wesley Paul, not just a history of exploration, also describes the foundations of American water policy and how politics trumped science from the start.

      • Knowatall says:

        Powell, not Paul (dang autocorrect, right?). And, yes, the one-armed explorer was a true American icon. The trip down the Colorado was a landlocked version of Moby Dick.

    • TooLoose LeTruck says:

      I read Cadillac Desert when it first came out. One of the best books I’ve ever read. Some subject matters, like water in the American west, are truly interesting.

      Some books are really well written.

      Cadillac Desert is a really well written book about a really interesting subject matter.

      It is well worth the effort to read.

      • Peterr says:

        Yes. The only question is “how soon before things go really bad?” From the Guardian this morning:

        The Gulf Stream system could collapse as soon as 2025, a new study suggests. The shutting down of the vital ocean currents, called the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (Amoc) by scientists, would bring catastrophic climate impacts.

        Amoc was already known to be at its weakest in 1,600 years owing to global heating and researchers spotted warning signs of a tipping point in 2021.

        The new analysis estimates a timescale for the collapse of between 2025 and 2095, with a central estimate of 2050, if global carbon emissions are not reduced. Evidence from past collapses indicate changes of temperature of 10C in a few decades, although these occurred during ice ages.

        Other scientists said the assumptions about how a tipping point would play out and uncertainties in the underlying data are too large for a reliable estimate of the timing of the tipping point. But all said the prospect of an Amoc collapse was extremely concerning and should spur rapid cuts in carbon emissions.

        More at the link. Note: The folks who criticize the date of 2025 because of the data uncertainties do not disagree that this is happening, but saying that you can’t pin as precise a date on it as this new analysis tries to do.

        • Aj_21JUN2019_1613h says:

          Get rid of all the concrete. The cities hold the heat

          [Welcome back to emptywheel. SECOND REQUEST: Please choose and use a unique username with a minimum of 8 letters. We are moving to a new minimum standard to support community security. Because your username is far too short it will be temporarily changed to match the date/time of your first known comment until you have a new compliant username. *IF YOU DO NOT CHANGE YOUR NAME YOU MAY BE PUT IN AUTO-MODERATION UNTIL YOU DO.* Thanks. /~Rayne]

        • bmaz says:

          Without concrete, what do we build things on?

          Yes, I know the difference between concrete and cement.

        • punaise says:

          I see what you did there: pretty damn fly ash. Slump test? We don’t need no slump test…

        • punaise says:

          Concrete (more specifically the production of cement) is a huge contributor to CO2 emissions – 8% of global CO2 emissions in 2021. Building foundations, infrastructure: yes. Maybe use less in above-ground built environment.

        • ExRacerX says:

          …and what about the farting cattle who are forced to stand on concrete in factory farms—do the flatulence and concrete produce an additive effect or a synergistic one?

        • PeteT0323 says:

          I think AKA the oceanic thermohaline conveyors of which the Gulf Stream and its return flow from Greenland back South.

        • Rayne says:

          I first read about the AMOC’s potential collapse in 2002 when reading Prof. William Calvin’s A Brain for All Seasons. Calvin was researching the evolution of human brain size and the environmental factors which played key roles.

          What he shared from his research was terrifying — the AMOC’s collapse could trigger a rapid onset ice age. Granted, the science has changed since 2002, but climate scientists were worried about anthropogenic climate change then as they are now. We may not be able to evolve fast enough *ahead* of the impending change AMOC’s collapse may set in motion.

          The scary part to me wasn’t just the likelihood of humanity facing an extinction level eventually they brought on themselves. It’s the collective cognitive dissonance which prevents us from not only confronting the current overheating crisis with appropriate speed but inability to build a flexible response at scale no matter what happens next — including a rapid onset ice age which could freeze earth to the 45th parallel and beyond.

      • David Brooks says:

        A simplified version of the way the Gulf Stream matters to Brits (and hence the Grauniad), at least as told when I was growing up, is that it carries warm tropical water to the island over 51 degrees north. Lose it and we lose the temperate climate. But the article seems be about more than that.

      • nord dakota says:

        In just the last few days 3 items have been publicized (besides people in Phoenix getting serious 3rd degree burns if they fall on asphalt pavement):–Major melting of Greenland ice 416,000 years ago, not more than 2 million years ago Antarctic is not adding enough ice this winter, with the likelihood of ice erosion on land during the southern summer due to less sea ice protecting coasts–in recent years Antarctic sea ice has been growing not shrinking, but this could be due to freshwater melt from the continent (fresh water freezes at higher temps), but then as the character of the seawater changes other things can change. . . so not looking good for land ice on Antarctic coast
        now the news about the current

        Human behavior being what it is, I just don’t see anything could coming out of it all regardless of whether political responses are rational or irrational.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        The Gulf Stream is a north, northeastward flowing near-surface current and a part of the larger, more complex AMOC, a large part of which is comprised of deep ocean currents that transport water and heat energy. The systems are interconnected, so it seems a tad exaggerated to say that the Gulf Stream is neither threatened nor vital to global climate. It just hasn’t as much of an effect as would changes to the AMOC.

    • RipNoLonger says:

      How can we separate these two items? If we were still on a planet with 1 million people, we obviously(?) shouldn’t have these problems. But even 1 million that are engaged in destroying our environment with modern technologies might cause a similar problem.

      The only way this planet is going to lose a significant percentage of its population (80%+) will not be pleasant. But it may happen even if we don’t willfully cause it.

  2. Lawnboy says:

    Mr. Maz
    Funny you mentioned this. Lawngirl and I are in Vegas for 5 days ( what was I thinking) and they have set a new record of 12 days over 110 F. All day on the top of the London bus… what was I thinking…
    True , the cement is drawing in energy and blasting it back at night. The handrails are useless , so hot. A women fell ill at J. Kimmels last night from heat stroke.

    Your faithful reporter

      • Knowatall says:

        And A/C is one of the worst things for the climate. It turns out that Marx’s critique of capital was spot on. As the old blues song said-we’re on a Downbound train.

        • bmaz says:

          How nice of it for you to say so. I was born and raised here. What should I do, just die because YOU do not believe in air conditioning?

  3. Chrisanthemama says:

    Thanks for that—I have a 6-year-old’s birthday coming up soon. has it in stock (as do many other independent local booksellers).

  4. David F. Snyder says:

    I see the forecast low for Phoenix tomorrow being 91°F. That is brutal! Maybe visit Flagstaff for the next week or month?

      • Super Dave says:

        Try Greer or anywhere in the White Mountains. We used to go there in July back in the ‘90’s when we lived in Gilbert. 9,000 ft elevation helps.

  5. ratbastahd says:

    This year’s summer of record-breaking heat set another milestone Monday when a buoy in Manatee Bay just off the coast of southwestern Florida registered an ocean temperature of 101.1 degrees Fahrenheit. This follows the same buoy reading of 100.2°F on Sunday. The previous world record for warmest ocean temperature was 99.7°F in Kuwait Bay, according to a 2020 study. Those are hot tub temperatures. And both Sombrero Reef and Looe Key reef in the Florida Keys are seeing 100% coral reef mortality as we speak. Devastating.

    [Moderator’s note: Please confirm you’ve changed your email address since you lasted commented here. It’s been quite a while but we need to verify there’s only one “ratbastahd. /~Rayne]

  6. Leading Edge Boomer says:

    When I lived in Phoenix in the 1970s people used to play tennis or engage in other outdoor exercise early in the AM. But now 90F is about as cool as it gets.

  7. oldtulsadude says:

    At one point does Earth become uninhabitable?
    I’m your Venus, I’m your fire
    at your desire.

  8. Margo Schulter says:

    Bmaz, I’m thinking of you and Arizona while running my new evaporative cooler, which I understand was popular in oldtime Arizona,

    In Sacramento also it gets hot and dry, but the wildfires have gotten worse, and I remember the horrible smoke pollution we got during the Bill Barr era.

    Maybe we could have a post about the definition of TDS, a topic which I’ve been contemplating.

    • bmaz says:

      Hi Margot. Evaps work extremely fine. Until it gets humid. Watch out for the humidity! As to TDS, maybe, it it kind of a floating mark these days though. It is a tiring one I’d love to move beyond.

  9. WolverineEngineer says:

    My first post to this site (…although I have benefitted greatly by reading Ms Wheeler’s insightful posts for years): We saw the effect of the COVID pandemic, when massive panic-buying of toilet paper left shelves empty. Imagine what will happen when an agricultural catastrophe results from a climate event… It brings to mind the quote: “there are only nine meals between mankind and anarchy,” attributed to Alfred Henry Lewis (and others).

      • WolverineEngineer says:

        Thank you, bmaz. I will.

        And I need add: In addition to Ms Wheeler’s posts, I find the comments posted to this site to be a highly valuable addition as well!

        • orcatjf001 says:

          yes, I second that. I don’t read many comments at other sites, but this site has the best commenting by far.

  10. Max404Droid says:

    For those who don’t know it, the film “The Age of Stupid” is really good. It came out in 2009.

    From the perspective of after the catastrophe, it asks the question, “Why did we let this happen?” or better, “Why did we do this to our planet?”

  11. Jim Luther says:

    History shows that species go extinct. Dinosaurs were on top for something like 180 million years – humans a mere 230 thousand. No big deal. We may the first knowingly extinguished ourselves though. I suspect all warm blooded mammals will struggle. A/C and driving to a place that is more comfortable is the problem, not the solution. A lot of people think money, or God, or technology, or markets will provide a solution but faith in those things is exactly why we are where we are. I figure we deserve it.

    • Terry Salad says:

      Well, paleontology (my field) shows that extinction is the ultimate fate of all species, not history. And, they often do it while maximizing their fitness all the way down. That’s natural selection for you, it favors short-term solutions that maximize reproductive success even when such paths are ultimately maladaptive in the long run. You are quite correct that air conditioning and moving are problems and not solutions. But, try explaining that to the Fox News and Joe Rogan audience.

  12. hollywood says:

    This climate business is a real PITA. Here in SoCal, it currently gets hot later in the day (say 3 pm), but it stays warmer during the evening, maybe getting to a low of 69 overnight (when it used to get to high 40s or even mid 50s). This is not looking good. Just when we thought the snowpack was solving our drought issue. Maybe I’m just worried about our whole worldwide system having just seen “Oppenheimer” (highly recommended), but are we weather bombing and fossil fueling ourselves into more droughts, fires, pandemics, etc.? Where is our Oppenheimer when we need him? Or will we just elect Trump and have him bomb the tropical storms?

    • bmaz says:

      Exactly the problem here. The entire world seems fixated on the heat wave in Phoenix. But it has always been hot as hell here in the summer, the real problem is that it doesn’t cool off at night anymore.

      Going to go see Oppenheimer (and Barbie too!) either this week or next. Need to find the time for a midweek matinee though, we don’t go to theaters on weekends much anymore.

  13. Lisboeta says:

    We could’ve taken steps to mitigate this disaster: climatologists were warning us for years. Well, warning those who actually read fairly widely, and from legitimate sources. But they’re the minority. Many people (mostly right-wingers) still refuse, despite the growing visible evidence, to alter their mind-set.

    It puts me in mind of anti-vax, anti-mask Covid patients, gasping their last in ICU, who begged for the vaccine. Awareness came far too late.

    • WolverineEngineer says:

      “…climatologists were warning us for years…”

      Indeed. In “The Coming Plague,” Laurie Garrett — an author I respect greatly — documented and warned of “emerging diseases in a world out of balance.” Published in 1994, it’s now dated, but still a prescient work.

    • nord dakota says:

      The first I heard of it was around 1980-82. ABC used to do these news documentaries–I think it was ABC. I remember one about guns and one about global warming due to CO2. I particularly remember the suggestion that one result of the AMOC falling apart was triggering an ice age in the northern hemisphere. I don’t know if that would still be a prediction. I know I saw the program at my parents’ farm, where I lived for a couple of years during that time frame. And before there was such a thing as reality TV.

  14. Skelly00 says:

    This is my field, and what happens when the ocean stops being a net heat sink (since it will eventually warm up enough that the air and ocean temperatures will be at equilibrium, and it will be offgassing CO2 – not absorbing it – before then) will be a notable sharpening of the hockey stick. We need to start pulling GHGs out of the atmosphere soonest – not just stop adding. That said the real problem, history tells us, is climate related migrations.
    The debate about a few million migrants now hints at the genocidal questions that will be relevant later this century. I’m glad I won’t be around to see it. 😀Have a happy day!

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