There has been a lot of buzz about a recent movie streaming on Netflix. “Don’t Look Up” tells the story of astronomers who discover a comet hurtling through space. The senior scientist does some calculations and comes to the frightening conclusion that the comet is on a collision course for Earth in about six months.
The rest of the movie shows them trying to get the attention of an air-head president, as played by Meryl Streep, and top layers of government, along with appearing on TV news programs to inform the public of the upcoming calamity.
The movie depicts a series of events that demonstrate a disdain for that kind of news by the public. A proposed military action to try to send missiles to blow up the comet or at least bump it off course is scuttled because a TV huckster convinces the president that the comet is made of all sorts of rare minerals that they could mine profitably.
Even when the comet becomes visible to the naked eye, people continue to ignore the coming calamity, even chanting a slogan, “Don’t look up” as their mantra, with many people wearing red ball caps saying, “Don’t look up,” an apparent reference to some who have been known to wear red ball caps with a political message.
While the movie is a fictional story, it’s not hard to recognize that it’s a satire of a similar calamity heading our way, climate change.
Peter Kalmus, a climate scientist writing for The Guardian says the movie isn’t about a comet, “it’s a film about how humanity is responding to planet-killing climate breakdown. We live in a society in which, despite extraordinarily clear, present and worsening climate danger, more than half of Republican members of Congress still say climate change is a hoax and many more wish to block action.” He doesn’t spare Democrats either, citing a party platform that continues to enshrine massive subsidies to the fossil fuel industry, or the current president, who ran on a promise that “nothing will fundamentally change.”
According to climate scientists at NASA, 2021 finished the year in a tie with 2018 as the 6th warmest year on record, and the last seven years are the hottest seven years on record. Satellite images show how warming is changing the world, as melting of ice sheets and glaciers accelerate, and sea levels rise. The Arctic is warming four times faster than the rest of the planet. Ocean temperatures are the highest on record and global sea levels are the highest on record.
Scientists are currently studying a huge glacier in Antarctica, the Thwaites Glacier. The glacier is roughly the size of Florida or Great Britain. Currently, the glacier is losing some 50 billion tons of ice each year, accounting for 4 percent of annual global sea level rise.
According to a CNN report, the glacier is resting on an ice shelf offshore, a huge slab of ice on top of an underwater mountain. Warming ocean water is weakening the ice shelf and allowing more glacier melting and a potential breakup of the glacier, with a calamitous rise in global sea levels over a period of several decades as icebergs gradually melt.
Early this month, we had a week of cold, snowy weather, a seeming return of what should be normal weather for January. Happily, scientists reported on much-improved snowpack levels. That week of cold, snowy weather was followed by warming weather, and these last two weeks we’ve seen our snow melting in the warm (for January) sunshine. Last week one person asked me, in all seriousness, “Do you think winter is over?”
I responded, “I hope not. We need a lot more snow and cold weather to build up snowpack.”
Last year was a good indication of what future life in western states could be as climate change continues to bring a warmer, drier pattern of weather accompanied by calamitous weather events, such as recent heavy winter rains causing flooding in coastal Washington.
Look up, folks. Climate change is real and it’s scary.
Paul Vang’s new book, “Golden Years, Golden Hours,” is available at How Novel, The Second Edition, Isle of Books & Books, or online at http://writingoutdoors.com.