Public figures talk and act as if environmental change will be linear and gradual. But the Earth’s systems are highly complex, and complex systems do not respond to pressure in linear ways. When these systems interact (because the world’s atmosphere, oceans, land surface and lifeforms do not sit placidly within the boxes that make study more convenient), their reactions to change become highly unpredictable. Small perturbations can ramify wildly. Tipping points are likely to remain invisible until we have passed them. We could see changes of state so abrupt and profound that no continuity can be safely assumed.
Climate and its changes might not only be observed in relation to landscape but also felt, sensed, apprehended emotionally, passing noticed and unnoticed as part of the fabric of everyday life in which acceptance, denial, resignation and action co-exist.
Because scientists and insurance companies agree: The fires have been historically bad, but it’s gonna get worse. Even before the Camp Fire became the most destructive wildfire fire in California history, gutting more than 7,000 structures so far, my colleague Rob Meyer reported on the recent catastrophic fire seasons.“The worst wildfires—and the hottest summers, and the worst floods—are yet to come. And the only technologically proven way to keep them at bay is to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions,” Meyer wrote.
It’s only going to get worse.