The Razor’s Edge of A Warming World — GQ Magazine

CO2 at Mauna Loa. Credit: NOAA

Click the link to read the article on the GQ website (Emily Atkin AND Caitlin Looby). Here’s an excerpt:

This reality is one that all of the earth’s inhabitants are now grappling with: If we want to preserve the places we love, we have to focus on moving away from fossil fuels immediately. The latest United Nations climate report, released in February, made it clear that irreversible destruction can no longer be avoided. The question is no longer “How can we fix climate change?” It’s “How much irreversible planetary damage are we willing to accept in order to continue extracting and burning fossil fuels?”

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The hottest temperature ever recorded on the planet, 56.7 degrees Celsius (134 degrees Fahrenheit), was in California’s Death Valley. But Jacobabad, in Pakistan’s Sindh province, might be the world’s hottest—and perhaps the most unlivable—city. Summer temperatures routinely exceed 50 degrees Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit); according to a recent study, Jacobabad—which has a population of 190,000 and a surrounding district of 1 million—is one of two cities on earth where temperatures and humidity levels have reached a point at which the human body can no longer cool itself, and has done so on four separate occasions…

Coral reefs are vital to both human societies and the ocean’s ecosystem—they protect shorelines from storm surges and erosion, and serve as nurseries for marine life. They’re also frighteningly imperiled by warming waters, which produce conditions that turn them a ghostly white and expose them to a blanket of algae. That’s what Kim Cobb saw one day in 2016 when she swam up to the reef in the central Pacific’s Line Island chain that she’d been studying for 18 years. A heat wave had killed or bleached 95 percent of the corals…

Last July, Julie Johnson walked around her vineyard in the Napa Valley town of St. Helena. The grapevines looked exhausted, and the nearby land was scarred by wildfires. But it was hardly shocking: The western U.S. is in the midst of a mega-drought, the worst in over a millennium. California’s 2020 wildfire season burned 42 percent of the land in Napa County. And now warmer temperatures are changing the soil, and the wine itself…

The roughly 15,000 Inuit who inhabit Qikiqtaaluk—also known as the Baffin Region, an area mostly composed of Arctic islands between Greenland and the Canadian mainland—are known for their resilience. In 2019, the Canadian government formally apologized for years of traumatic colonial practices, including forced relocation and the separation of parents and children. But now the Qikiqtani are facing a different threat. They depend on sea ice for hunting seals—a tradition that serves important economic and cultural functions. That ice is now deteriorating across Baffin Bay, including the area around Qikiqtarjuaq, an island home to just under 600 people. Locals acknowledge that reduced and less stable sea ice has made hunting more difficult…

One of the ski regions most affected by climate change is the Italian Alps, where some 200 resorts have already shuttered. And that trend could soon get worse: One study forecasts that with 1.5 degrees of warming, Italy would see about 750,000 fewer overnight stays each winter, and about 1.25 million fewer stays in a 2-degree scenario…

With temperatures that regularly reach minus 40 degrees Celsius, Yakutsk, in eastern Siberia, is known as the coldest city in the world. Like much of the surrounding Yakutia region, the city sits atop the permafrost, a layer of soil that traditionally remains frozen year-round. But the permafrost here has begun to thaw, setting in motion a potentially catastrophic sinking. “The difference between 1.5 degrees Celsius and 2 degrees Celsius, for this kind of permafrost, is the difference between life and death,” says Vladimir Romanovsky, a geophysicist at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, who has studied the Yakutian permafrost. Particularly concerning, Romanovsky says, is the type of permafrost found in Yakutia, which contains abnormally large amounts of ice. “If it’s a huge amount of ice, then all this foundation will turn into a lake,” he says. “Imagine if it’s on a slope.”

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Stretching across southern Africa, the Miombo Woodlands—named after the umbrella-shaped miombo trees—are home to elephants, lions, leopards, spotted hyenas, buffalo, antelope, and giraffes. But it’s becoming a less hospitable habitat: Rainfall is now more sporadic and intense, while the shifting climate threatens to increase wildfires and imperil a number of the region’s charismatic megafauna, like the critically endangered black rhinoceros, already long threatened by poaching…

The world’s islands are, of course, under threat from rising sea levels, but many of those same places face another peril exacerbated by climate change: hurricanes. That danger was made shockingly clear in 2017, when a pair of hurricanes tore through Antigua and Barbuda days apart; Irma damaged 81 percent of Barbuda’s buildings. “Our region was decimated by Irma and Maria,” Gaston Browne, the country’s prime minister, tells GQ.

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