COVID Is Just The Beginning

Lest yesterday’s semi-optimism distract us…

The Biden Administration will undoubtedly ramp up production and distribution of the COVID vaccines, and most of us are desperate for a return to something approximating “normal.” It is highly unlikely, however, that we will recognize the next decade  or two as even approximating our version of “normal.”

The Brookings Institution has put the most positive possible spin on that reality, advocating for adoption of the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals. The report notes that the pandemic has put a spotlight on global problems like “food insecurity, gender inequity, racism, and biodiversity loss, alongside longstanding gaps in access to education, jobs, and life-saving technologies,” and points out that these are all problems that the Sustainable Development Goals address.

That’s clearly good advice, but it’s probably coming too late.

Pandemics are connected to climate change, and they aren’t even the worst of those consequences. The science deniers, fossil fuel interests and others who have retarded efforts to avoid the worst results of climate change may have doomed humanity, or a substantial portion thereof, to a future somewhere between dismal and dystopian.

Have you noticed the lack of insects the past several years? The absence of bugs that used to smash into our windshields? Fewer mosquitos and fireflies? That’s just the more obvious evidence of a collapse in the global insect population.

The world’s insects are hurtling down the path to extinction, threatening a “catastrophic collapse of nature’s ecosystems”, according to the first global scientific review.

More than 40% of insect species are declining and a third are endangered, the analysis found. The rate of extinction is eight times faster than that of mammals, birds and reptiles. The total mass of insects is falling by a precipitous 2.5% a year, according to the best data available, suggesting they could vanish within a century.

The planet is at the start of a sixth mass extinction in its history, with huge losses already reported in larger animals that are easier to study. But insects are by far the most varied and abundant animals, outweighing humanity by 17 times. They are “essential” for the proper functioning of all ecosystems, the researchers say, as food for other creatures, pollinators and recyclers of nutrients.

If that isn’t worrisome enough, recent studies suggest that previous warnings of planetary warming may have been understated. Media outlets are reporting that warming is likely to be more severe than previously expected. World temperatures could rise 15 percent more than expected this century. Ice sheets are melting more rapidly than anticipated as well, increasing sea level rise. 

We have already seen a dramatic rise in hurricane strength, wildfires and other results of our environmental heedlessness. Recent studies suggest a far more dangerous future.

Past models have suggested a 2 degree rise in global temperature. That’s bad enough-with a 2 degree rise, sea levels would rise by 1.6 feet, global heatwaves would become common, and subtropical areas would lose a third of their fresh water. Nearly all coral reefs could die. 

Now, studies are suggesting the planet might become 5.3 degrees hotter. That’s 33% higher than most previous estimates–and it would probably mean extinction of the human race on Earth.

According to a recent scientific paper published by the Breakthrough National Centre for Climate Restoration in Melbourne (an independent think tank),

Climate change poses a “near- to mid-term existential threat to human civilization,” and there’s a good chance society could collapse as soon as 2050 if serious mitigation actions aren’t taken in the next decade…

What might an accurate worst-case picture of the planet’s climate-addled future actually look like, then? The authors provide one particularly grim scenario that begins with world governments “politely ignoring” the advice of scientists and the will of the public to decarbonize the economy (finding alternative energy sources), resulting in a global temperature increase 5.4 F (3 C) by the year 2050. At this point, the world’s ice sheets vanish; brutal droughts kill many of the trees in the Amazon rainforest (removing one of the world’s largest carbon offsets); and the planet plunges into a feedback loop of ever-hotter, ever-deadlier conditions.

 “Thirty-five percent of the global land area, and 55 percent of the global population, are subject to more than 20 days a year of lethal heat conditions, beyond the threshold of human survivability,” the authors hypothesized.

Meanwhile, droughts, floods and wildfires regularly ravage the land. Nearly one-third of the world’s land surface turns to desert. Entire ecosystems collapse, beginning with the planet’s coral reefs, the rainforest and the Arctic ice sheets. The world’s tropics are hit hardest by these new climate extremes, destroying the region’s agriculture and turning more than 1 billion people into refugees.

Meanwhile, last year, 150 members of Congress—all Republicans—rejected the scientific consensus that human activity is driving climate change.

Apparently, humans will continue to fiddle while the Earth burns….


  1. Well, this is a downer, Sheila. While you see the impossibility of everything returning to “normal”, I see a great opportunity for things to truly improve.
    I don’t want things to return to normal. I want there to be a great awakening of the human consciousness… a jumping off place for humans to see themselves as they are, understand themselves and their place in nature. Being isolated, restricted and forced to find new ways of seeing the world as we all have had to do for the past year, and then having the real ugliness of extremism shoved into our faces, just may have forced mankind to grow up.
    If we do go back to “normal” we will have failed to seize the moment and most likely continue our march toward extinction.

  2. As much as I’d like to think these politicians are free and independent thinkers who’ve researched climate change and relied on independent data to determine that climate change is a “liberal plot,” I know better.

    I remember sending a well-researched article on climate change to Luke Messer about how dirty Indiana’s air has become due to the coal-burning power plants. He responded with a canned response, mostly citing the Indy Chamber of Commerce.

    With the help of the international community, it’s far past time that the polluters like the Koch’s, Duke, and Exxon are held accountable by prison/fines for crimes against humanity. They are violating our human rights.

    And not just the sources of killing off our ozone and heating the planet – the whole chain of shills including many in academia, “think-tanks,” politicians, and the media.

    Once again, if we had a legitimate free press in this country and across the globe, this wouldn’t have happened or be happening. The deniers would have been flushed out long ago, and corrupt politicians and academicians would avoid accepting bribes.

    As a result, we have a kleptocracy and a kakistocracy.

  3. During the 1940s, my Geography teacher at Riverside #44 School, told the 5th grade class that in the far, far, distant future, Indiana would have weather like Florida because the earth is constantly slightly changing on it’s axis. I have remembered that all these years as I await that Florida weather never knowing I had been taught Climate Change in the 1940s.

    A recent picture on Facebook of the famous Indianapolis “Blizzard of 1978” brought back memories of enduring what was an extreme amount of snow here but wintering our way through months of snow was the norm. Now Blizzards and hurricanes are hitting our east coast multiple times which was the norm in Alaska and northern Canada but not New York City, Boston, Washington, D.C. and certainly the earthquake which hit D.C. was far from normal. But those living through those disastrous events still argue there is no Climate Change and Global Warming is a political ploy to instill fear.

    These same people view Covid as being outside their realm of reality; even as they die. I lost a dear friend and family member to the reality of Covid-19 and we lost one of our commenters here on the blog. Maywin A. Jackson died Sunday night after being diagnosed the previous Tuesday when she added the fact of her diagnosis at the end of our conversation about Covid, Trump, the election, the insurrection and family news. When I checked back on Wednesday, she only replied that she was very sick, her daughter messaged me Monday morning that she had died Sunday night; that is how fast this political ploy works.

    This entire country. at different levels and using different formats, will be going through a Reconstruction period not unlike that at the end of the Civil War; which coincidentally lasted four years, the same length of time as Trump’s term in the presidency. He is planning a hero’s leaving for himself using the government with military honors and 21-gun salute when he should be drummed out of town, tarred and feathered. We can hope for a freak storm to hit the military base as he is applauding himself for the final official time surrounded by his maskless supporters bunched together. Unless he finds a way to use OUR military to overturn the official election results. Mr. My Pillow is aiding and abetting him with advice.

    Meanwhile; we watch as 25,000 National Guard members, all armed, have been deployed to Washington, D.C. to prevent another insurrection while the head of D.C.’s National Guard claims it is not a war zone.

    “Apparently, humans will continue to fiddle while the Earth burns….”

  4. One fact that wasn’t mentioned in the statistics is that Homo sapiens is now the most populous mammal on Earth. There are more of us than there are rats, although some rats are human. There are almost 8 billion of us on a planet that was supposed to be able to support only 3 billion humans. But… We insist that every one of us should live long lives and reproduce like rabbits. And here we are. We broke the rules of nature and we will pay with our own, self-directed extinction.

    The idiotic economic model that Karl Marx warned us about is driving the insanity surrounding the issue of climate change. Corporatists, capitalists and the money changers on Wall Street are operating on the premise that resources will never be exhausted and that growth is the only option for economies and societies. How’s that working out?

  5. While JoAnn,

    I’m sorry to hear about “Maywin” we’ve lost several family members due to this Covid! And yet, we have family members from another side of our family who still deny Covid. Those individuals who were taken much earlier than they should have, has left quite a large hole. I remember engaging with Maywin, and it makes me sad!

    When it’s all said and done, Trump was just the current incarnation of Nero, there are plenty of self-centered and self-righteous leaders run through the forest with a can of gasoline and a book of matches! How can you expect to survive a house fire without anyone to put it out? Or, how can a landlord expect to only allow specific apartments to burn out and still have a viable apartment building? The stupidity is astounding, and, I made this very comment almost 2 years ago. The only thing that’s happened, is it’s gotten worse and the people of gotten exponentially dumber.

    Like I said concerning the politics and everything else, things might seem to improve for a while, but in the long run, months, years or decades, we will have succeeded in destroying the only home we have, all the while committing mass suicide! Snakes are one of the canaries in the coal mine, so are Bees, another are butterflies! Some places you’ll never see one, but does anyone ever really notice? How bad will it get? Scripture talks about a great tribulation, and just like it says, it’s a great tribulation! You try and prepare, but the wealthy think that they are the only ones which will survive! When a boat sinks, the whole boat sinks not just half or two thirds or even 9/10, they just haven’t figured out they’re in the same boat with everyone else!

  6. Hate to bring brutal reality into this…but…I feel pretty lucky that I won’t be around.

  7. 30 years ago,

    President Mitterrand of France, speaking in January 1990 about the problems of European unification, said: “We are leaving an unfair but stable world, for a world we hope will be more just, but which will certainly be more unstable.”

    In his book; “5000 Days To Save The Planet” Edward Goldsmith wrote, “Barely fifty years ago the world’s environment was still largely in balance. . . . The world was a vast, beautiful and powerful place; how could we possibly damage it? Today we are told that our planet is in crisis, that we are destroying and polluting our way to a global catastrophe.”

    By 2050 the earth’s population will be close to 10 billion! Where are they going to live? What are they going to eat? What diseases will rampage through huge swaths of poor and hopeless, a primordial soup growing and mutating diseases at an exponential rate leading towards complete annihilation of the human species!

    Paul R. Ehrlich, professor of population studies at Stanford University, notes the enormity of this problem, saying: “While overpopulation in the poor nations tends to keep them poverty-stricken, overpopulation in rich nations tends to undermine the life-support capacity of the entire planet.”

    In 1972, the UN posted what was called the Earth Summit that took place in Stockholm Sweden. The next Earth Summit took place in 1992. This led to a statement by Maurice F. Strong, chief organizer of both the 1972 and the 1992 conferences, to which he stated; “We have learned in the 20 years since Stockholm that environmental regulation, which is the only real lever that environmental agencies have, is important but not adequate. It has to be accompanied by important changes in the underlying motivations for our economic behavior.” Close to 40 years later, what’s changed? We have world leaders that deny the scientific evidence more so than before. Lip service never accomplishes anything, except catastrophe!

    The German Federal Ministry for Research stated in 1992, ” In view of the complexity of the problems facing us, meaningful political decisions will only be possible based on solid scientific findings and reliable forecasting models. This seems to be the only way to avoid expensive or even undesirable and disastrous developments. The provision of this information poses the greatest challenge to the scientific community at the present time.”

    Fiddling, gasoline, matches, the fire has spread so deep into everything, and more than likely will never be extinguished until there is nothing left to burn!

    ………..According to his secretary Pyarelal, Mohandas Gandhi, the late spiritual leader of India, observed: “Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s need but not for every man’s greed.”

    Who knew Barney Fife would’ve been so prophetic, when he told Andy, ” just nip it in the bud!” Unfortunately, mankind was busily doing unto his fellow man to pay attention. Brookings is probably correct, we’ve reached a point of no return!

    Every generation has thrown its hypocrisy on the next generation, so, pray for those babies coming along now, it is truly going to be a terrible life! Mankind has proven that he cannot, will not, change course! The iceberg has been visible for many many decades, that in itself is pathetic!

  8. So long as a large chunk of the population believe that their God will magically fix everything, there will be no plan to save the Earth. They will continue to vote for those that dismiss the scientists until it’s too late. Hate to say it, but religion is destroying us. It is the ultimate manipulation tool. Devout believers need no evidence for anything. They put their faith in “God’s local spokesperson”. My heart is broken for the world we leave our grandchildren

  9. John Sorg’s comment that Trump is the contemporary version of Nero is a perfect description.

    One more thing. Sheila’s comments about the importance of climate change are accurate and timely, but the extinction of insects may not be as important as the deforestation in tropical regions. That process seems to be at partially the cause of pandemics such as covid, Ebola and SARS. If that process keeps up, society may face multiple pandemics at the same time.

  10. I’m with Lester. I probably won’t be around for the worst of it, but I support every possible move to battle climate change. On the plus side, we won’t have to convince anybody in the next generation that we are killing the planet. They are begging us to act now!

  11. I used to watch fire flies in our wooded backyard when I was an adolescent. It looked like the realm of fairy was at our doorstep. I hate to think that these enchanting insects that bring us a magical, glimmering light might disappear.

    In the meantime, I keep doing what I can to diminish global warming. I so wish everyone and all the governments would join me and would take heed to the warnings of Greta Thunberg.

  12. Greetings Robin. Nice comment. I grew up on a farm in southeast Indiana. Dearborn County in the 1930’s and 40’s. Rural electricity did not appear until after WW II. So the nights when there was no moon were very dark. But because there was no ground light the night sky was wonderous. And the lightening bugs (our name for the fireflies) were out in force. WOW Owls hooted for their mate. I live in Indianapolis and have not seen a firefly nor heard an owl hoot for decades. 🙁 🙁 🙁 Irvin

  13. One of the underappreciated facts about anthropogenic global warming (AGW) is that the weather we are experiencing today is not the result of the current load of fossil fuel waste dumped into the sky but that of several decades ago. That previous load is still there and we add more to it every year. The lag is because of the nature of what engineers call positive feedbacks caused by the initial warming but very slowly and inevitably developing over decades and adding their own consequences. In other words, we don’t yet know the changes that we have already committed to.

    What the new self-created world will be at odds with is our civilization, the massive infrastructure we are now completely dependent on for almost everything in our lives. Our reaction to many of those consequences will be to abandon what we have built and relocate to another but safer place. That was most evident from the impact of hurricane Katrina in New Orleans and the wildfires in California. The inhabitable world will shrink and we will have no alternative to responding no matter the cost. This will peak at about the same time as our population does at 10-11 billion people.

    This will not be your grandfather’s shitstorm.

  14. The Chinese have a very aggressive program to have all their cars electric by 2030. While our politicians argue about climate change. Maybe Biden can pull a Trump and go ahead with his Green Program by issuing a executive order if he can’t push it thru Congress.

  15. Robin,

    I’m going to try my hand at beekeeping, lol! and I’m planting the milkweed plants that the monarch butterflies need for sustenance! Climate is making it such, that no matter what we do in our personal space, even if many people were doing it in their personal space, it won’t make much difference! But, it’s better than sitting around with emperor Nero, or his current incarnation whoever that may be.

    I live in the middle of what has been designated as a bird sanctuary! And we still have a lot of great horned owls and red-tailed Hawks, and an occasional eagle, a lot of woodpeckers, cardinals, blue jays, grackles, orioles, killdeer, finches and everything that you haven’t seen in a long time. Feeding those birds is pretty expensive, but, after a while, to see them out there everyday is worth it!

  16. “Pandemics are connected to climate change.”

    I read the article. It doesn’t quite come out and say that. The claim the author makes is that climate changes cause changes in how human beings interact and that could be connected to making pandemics worse. There is no actual science though behind the argument. There is certainly no data is offered for that supposition.

    The chief climate change the author is talking about is a warmer planet. But the deadliest pandemic ever – the Black Death Pandemic occurred in the 1300s during the Little Ice Age which followed the medieval warming period. Some of the worst pandemics we’ve ever had occurred was during periods of cooling, not warming. Mankind has always flourished whenever the climate has gotten warmer. It turns out human beings really like warm weather, which is why people who retire move to Florida instead of Minnesota.

    The article smacks of the author using the occasion of a pandemic as a useful tool to promote the author’s concerns about the dangers of climate change. That is like when both sides use weather events to make claims about what the climate is dong. Weather is not climate.

    I’m reminded of the climatologist who did a 100 year study of hurricanes and tornadoes. I have to give him credit. He actually sought out actual data he was sure would prove his supposition that climate change had caused an increased occurrence of hurricanes and tornadoes. Turns out, hurricanes and tornadoes had decreased substantially during the last 100 years. I applaud him for publishing his study despite the fact the data didn’t support his position. But he couldn’t help himself in the article, still concluding that climate changes was causing more tornadoes and hurricanes – it just had not happened yet.

    I don’t want our science politicized. I want the scientists to make suppositions and back those suppositions up with real, verifiable data. The author doesn’t do that.

  17. After reading Sheila’s intro this morning I was reminded of the old “Other than that, how did you like the play, Mrs. Lincoln.” Uh. . . Or the hapless observation of Vonnegut “and so it goes.” I do not like to be in a position of helplessness in matters environmental where corporate profits have won the battle with the common good, but here I am, “and so it goes.”

    Or does it? I like Theresa’s and Todd’s observations of this seeming dilemma. We need more than public control of corporate polluters; we need a better understanding among the “public” who finally assert control of polluters of two realities (among others): the accumulative effect of our past environmental sins and (dare I say it – population control).

    We must clean up our current environmental sins so that our net gain more than offsets past accumulative effects if we are to have a chance to survive, and as to population control, those in Judeo-Christian history who urged us to procreate had much greater death rates of mother and child and shorter lives without penicillin and its derivatives, but that was then and this is now and we must fashion policies to suit the realities of the times lest we have no times in which to enjoy the luxury of choice.

    Insect, mammal and other life forms are canaries in the mine and are not faring well, nor (environmentally and politically) are we. It is past time for an end to fossil fuel based energy and also past time for us to venture into reforestation, population control, public control of all possible polluting activities (including especially plastics), and other such environmentally cleansing of the only planet we will ever inhabit, all in the hope that our species can somehow avert the looming disaster we have ignored in the mad rush for profits over people.

  18. a phrase like “food insecurity” keeps the conversation above the heads of the people who need to hear the word “HUNGER.”

  19. Paul, the proximate cause of AGW was proven beyond doubt a century ago and reconfirmed every time the spectral absorption of greenhouse gases is measured which is several times every day in high school and university physics labs. The additional energy held here by the growing accumulation of atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases is measured by satellites daily.

    All weather is caused by the growing balance of energy among atmosphere, oceans and land of earth.

    Energy affects matter in very predictable ways including increased mobility in spacetime. In other words more energetic weather is the same as more extreme weather.

    Mankind is creating here a different planet than the only one we have ever known and we are decades at best away from stopping to change our planet away from what we built civilization assuming.

    The only good news is that we know the science and engineering necessary to sustainably harvest the energy our civilization was built by.

    The bad news is that this economic maelstrom comes at the most inconvenient of times in our history.

    Are we smart enough to avoid many more shots to our feet?

  20. The failure to take climate change seriously and the related demonization of science will likely go down (if there are still historians to write about it) as far greater crimes of the Trump administration than sedition and election tampering—bad enough as those certainly are. The years we have lost to inaction haven’t merely postponed needed interventions, they seriously compromise the likelihood of success in the long run. I suggest, Sheila, that your readers take a look at 2019’s The Uninhabitable Earth by David Wallace-Wells. As diminished as our chances for success are, how do we sustain hope? A critical question, because we’re doomed to failure if we don’t.

  21. Thank you, St.Reagan, Newt “No acid rain” Gingrich, and more.
    When the permafrost began to explode in the Kamal Peninsula, some years ago, it occurred to me that we might have, already, reached the climate’s tipping point.
    I personally have not seen evidence to counter this idea.
    Sure, let’s go ahead and burn the Amazon rainforest, what the hell, it will only shorten our suffering. Getting “Ferklempt” now….

  22. *Thanks, Theresa!

    *Thanks, JoAnn, for letting us know about Maywin Jackson’s passing. I shall miss her commentary. R.I.P. Maywin. I really hate this disease!

    *The Fireflies: A gathering of synchronous fireflies (Photinus Carolinus — they synchronize their lighting) can be seen annually for a few short days (late May-early June) in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park near Gatlinburg, TN. Enter the lottery to be selected to drive in to Sugarlands Visitor Center to witness the event. It’s an amazing natural wonder! The rules for entering and attending are explained at the park’s website. There are YouTube videos of this amazing event.

    *PETE SOUZA tonight! Souza’s beautiful photography during the Obama years is compiled into a special which will be shown again tonight on MSNBC. “The Way I See It” is worth seeing again and again. Check your local listings for the time.

  23. A couple of bad axioms are floating in the punchbowl here.
    1) We don’t have a civilization.
    2) We aren’t civilizable in our present genetic state.

    I opine, on a lifetime’s evidence, that as in science fiction,
    we will need to seriously tune up our genetics if we hope to survive as a species, however transformed. Darwin et al, lead me to believe that a new, non-interbreeding species may be needed.
    We’re greedy beyond need. We’re blind to the realities of our fellow humans.
    We teach our children to accept fantasies as fact: religious education, political affiliation, patriotism.
    This will eradicate a large portion of our current species, and leave the rest as slaves to corporate greed.
    There’s hope, but you won’t like it. Go Latino: share and build on family. Sounds too simple, eh?
    Well, I’m a former physicist who was always surprised at how simple things get after you get used to them. I’ve spent a lifetime simplifying it.
    Ask some questions of yourself, and, if you dare, others.
    Why are humans intrinsically valuable?
    Are some humans more valuable to the species than others?
    If you’re paralyzed by political correctness, go back to sleep.

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