Have we reached the tipping point?

The steady stream of news reports this summer about the ever-worsening effects of climate change have been depressing, ranging from the 100% loss of coral reefs off the Florida Keys (because water temperatures have reached 100 degrees), to the unprecedented floods in China, to the daily heat records in the American Southwest (where people are being treated for serious, third-degree burns if they touch the asphalt pavement).

Although the dire effects of climate change brought about by the burning of fossil fuels have been predicted for decades, the off-the-charts anomalies we are seeing this summer have far exceeded even the starkest of predictions. It is clear that scientists’ warnings about climate change have been greatly understated and that climate change is happening faster than anyone had predicted.

During the height of World War II, after England had thwarted the Germans in the air (known as the Battle of Britain)  and then defeated Rommel’s army on the battlefield in North Africa, Prime Minister Winston Churchill uttered these famous lines, “Now, this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”

Churchill’s message was one of hope — the war that Hitler had begun finally was turning against him and in favor of the Allies.

But in terms of climate change, we fear we are witnessing the reverse of Churchill’s words: Climate change already has begun. But, unlike World War II, it will not be taking a turn for the better — it’s only going to get worse, with far-reaching consequences that we do not even want to contemplate.

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