Vote like the world depends on it. Because it really, really does.

Nov 1, 2018 by

MIAMI, FL - SEPTEMBER 10: A person looks on at a flooded street in the Brickell area of downtown as Hurricane Irma passes through on September 10, 2017 in Miami, Florida. Hurricane Irma made landfall in the Florida Keys as a Category 4 storm on Sunday, lashing the state with 130 mph winds as it moves up the coast. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

The few hundred families still a thousand miles away from the US border are absolutely no cause for alarm. The tens of millions who will be forced from their homes by climate change definitely are. On Wednesday, the Washington Post reported on new research showing that the climate change that has already taken place is worse than it may seem. While temperatures over land have already increased—severely in the case of areas near the Arctic Circle—even those changes appear to be deceptive.

The world’s oceans have been soaking up far more excess heat in recent decades than scientists realized, suggesting that Earth could be set to warm even faster than predicted in the years ahead, according to new research published Wednesday.

The numbers don’t appear to be off by five percent. Or ten percent. The oceans have held onto 60 percent more heat than previously thought. It’s an amount of captured energy that could power civilization for a century … except that it appears set to power it to its conclusion. The greater amount of heat in the oceans means that the process of warming is farther along then previously thought. We’re not at the beginning of the curve—we’re already well down the line toward unrecognizable world.

The results of this study don’t indicate that doom is already written into the rising seas. They do mean that the time to act is even shorter than previously believed. The climate we’re experiencing now is already unlike any mankind has known since the rise of the first civilizations. And we’re leaving it behind like a rocket.

Get out the vote like your life depends on it. Like your children’s lives depend on it. Like every future generation depends on it. Because it’s true.

Even within that “safe zone” hundreds of civilizations have been felled by changes in climate. In that blue zone, the Maya fell, the Sahara evolved, Petra went from a crossroads to a ghost city. The turmoil of the Little Ice Age and the reverses of the Medieval War Period are all contained within that zone. The zone we’ve now departed for parts unknown.

And if Holthaus’s graph is shocking, keep this in mind: It doesn’t include the results of the most recent report. As steep and as sharp as that rise at the end of the graph may seem, things are going to change more steeply, more sharply. The disaster ahead is much closer than it may seem in any chart or report you’ve ever seen.

The seas are going to rise faster. The storms are going to get even stronger, even wetter, and even more damaging. Areas that are now the breadbasket for our civilization are going to become drier, or wetter, and almost certainly warmer. Meaning that they will not be able to keep up current levels of crop production.

This is an existential crisis. Failure to act quickly will mean the displacement of millions. It will mean instability in governments around the world. It will result in the death of tens of millions. If not hundreds of millions. It is posed to be a disaster against which the Black Death and World War II are momentary blips. But instead of dealing with this real and looming threat, 15,000 American troops are being sent to the border to wave guns at families whose displacement is already directly related to climate change.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration has continued to roll back regulations aimed at reducing carbon emissions from vehicles, coal plants and other sources and has said it intends to withdraw from the Paris climate accord. In one instance, the administration relied on an assumption that the planet will warm a disastrous seven degrees Fahrenheit, or about four degrees Celsius, by the end of the century in arguing that a proposal to ease vehicle fuel-efficiency standards would have only minor climate impacts.

In a campaign season dominated by attempts to drive up racism and xenophobia, about the only place that climate change has found a spot is in Republican claims that Democrats are trying to pass “enormous energy taxes.”

But this issue can’t be forgotten. Because it absolutely, positively will not go away if ignored.

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