There are countless reasons to vote against Donald Trump in the 2020 election, which is just a week away, but the most important reason is by far the need to elect a leader who will lead the fight against climate change and help mitigate the looming ecological apocalypse that humanity’s excessive carbon pollution has made inevitable.
Scientists have recently discovered that the giant deposits of methane — a greenhouse gas 80x more potent than carbon dioxide — that have been locked in the Arctic ice for thousands of years are beginning to be released into the atmosphere, thanks to abnormally high temperatures in the region that are also the result of climate change.
An international team of scientists on the research ship R/V Akademik Keldysh in the Laptev Sea found that methane levels were four to eight times higher than usual and that this gas was venting into the atmosphere. Monitoring a slope 150km long and 10 km wide, the researchers found clouds of methane bubbles at six different locations. At one location, methane concentration was 400 times higher than expected.
While we may not feel the full effects from these leaks for decades, once the process begins, there’s no turning back. “The discovery of actively releasing shelf slope hydrates is very important and unknown until now. This is a new page. Potentially they can have serious climate consequences, but we need more study before we can confirm that,” said chief scientist Igor Semiletov.
Climate change activists and researchers have long worried that the release of these methane deposits will trigger a feedback loop in which the release of the greenhouse gases accelerates the rise in global temperatures and extreme weather events that in turn then leads to faster melting across the poles and an even faster release of trapped greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
“At this moment, there is unlikely to be any major impact on global warming, but the point is that this process has now been triggered. This East Siberian slope methane hydrate system has been perturbed and the process will be ongoing,” warned Swedish scientist Örjan Gustafsson.
Though these findings are still preliminary, they are a terrifying reminder of what awaits the world if we don’t elect Joe Biden and take immediate action to stem the amount of carbon emissions out of the United States, which currently emits 5.41 gigatons of greenhouse gas every year, 13% of all global emissions — second only to China, which still emits less on a per capita basis than the United States does despite having four times our population.
Rising sea levels, frequent natural disasters, famines, and droughts are just the tip of the rapidly melting iceberg — not to mention the chaotic violence, instability, mass migrations, that will surely follow in its wake.
As the world’s highest per-capita emitter of greenhouse gases, it is imperative that the United States elects a leader who believes in the basic science behind climate change and is willing to address the issue aggressively. Whether or not Joe Biden will be aggressive enough to forestall civilization-ending disaster remains to be seen, but his ambitious proposal to spend $2 trillion to make the United States emission neutral by 2050 is by far the best step in the right direction that our nation has ever considered taking.
Donald Trump and the army of oil lobbyists that run his Environmental Protection Agency have spent the past four years slashing every possible regulation and protection they possibly can, taking at least 159 separate actions to “to scale back or wholly eliminate climate mitigation and adaptation measures,” according to Columbia University’s Sabin Center for Climate Change Law.
While it sounds hyperbolic, the fact of the matter is that it’s not just American democracy that’s on the ballot next week — it’s the future of human civilization as we know it. It’s already far too late for humanity to stop climate change from happening, so it is of critical importance that we do everything we can to make it as painless as we reasonably can. Trump has made it clear he will not only do nothing but will actively fight to make climate change happen faster.
Your grandchildren will thank you.
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Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.