First published: Jun 23, 2023, 4:38pm EDT
Last edited: Jun 26, 2023, 9:57am EDT

What does a spiking sea surface temperature mean for me?

North Atlantic (0-60N) Sea Surface Temperature Anomaly from 1982 to 2011 mean. It's bonkers off the charts.

If there was ever a chart that I would expect to cause abject panic in world leadership, it would be this one. This chart should be the front page news of every newspaper right now, but it’s not.

The challenge science communicators have is that many people will look at this chart and say “so what? what does this mean for me?” and that’s a hard question to answer.

Imagine you were in an apartment building, and a wrecking ball outside was winding up to swing at the building you were in. You could see it winding up, but it hadn’t actually swung a damaging blow to you yet. Which specific rooms and walls will be damaged? Hard to say!

I don’t think anyone knows the exact multitude of ways that this wrecking ball will affect everything, but there are some obvious guesses:

What is even more concerning are the myriad second and third order effects that happen after the obvious first order things. Will this fundamentally change the Atlantic currents that make the climate in Europe what it is? Will the building collapse because the wrecking ball hit a load bearing wall?

What do we do?

I’m not talking about recycling. I think you and I both know that’s not even in the same ballpark of what needs to happen to fix this. Most of the world is still busy thinking about getting to “net zero” emissions, which doesn’t even address the 1.6 trillion tons of existing comitted emissions. Getting to “net zero” is insufficient to avoid the coming calamity. But even if “net zero” was a sufficient goal, we are still doing an astonishingly terrible job of even that! Emissions are still rising!

So, please check out these selected other posts I wrote on things you can do to help:

Unfortunately, even though the above things are all necessary, they may not be sufficient. The order of scale we need is to immediately revert to agrarian society, and I certainly can’t snap my fingers and make that happen. So, what can you do if you can’t force everyone else to change?

You should be preparing for a different planet, right now.

Look, the worst part about focusing on adaptation is that not everyone has the ability, foresight, or means to adapt! Climate change is going to hit some very poor nations first (Pakistan already went under water). This feels extremely inequitable, and the powerful countries that have gotten us into this mess (us) have a moral obligation to do everything to reverse this, keep the planet habitable, and support the most impacted. But I also can’t snap my fingers and make that happen either. So, adaptation.

Luckily, you are one of those people with foresight, right? You can see this happening too? You’ve got a head start! That’s very valuable! Get to work on preparing to be on a different planet!

A personal update

This is my blog after all. Maybe you care about my life. Here is what we’re doing:

It’s time we get as many people that will listen as possible ready for this new planet we’re journeying to. We might not outrun the wrecking ball indefinitely, but we’re going to sure as hell try. Join us!