Global Warming is Only One Symptom

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.


Finally the world is paying some attention to the IPCC reports. Finally there’s a sort of awareness of global warming. May the global attention span stretch to meet the need.

But guess what? Climate change is only one symptom of a greater disease scientists call global environmental change (GEC). Global warming is the rash. GEC is the bubonic plague. The other symptoms are equally deadly and still barely recognized outside science. The International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP) lists the following:

• Half of Earth’s land surface is now domesticated
for direct human use.

• 75 percent of the world’s fisheries are fully or over-exploited .

• The composition of today’s atmosphere is well outside the range of natural variability the Earth has maintained over the last 650,000 years.

• The Earth is now in the midst of its sixth great extinction event.

This blogger first interviewed James Hansen, the father of global climate change science, in 1985. That’s right. Twenty-two years ago, Hansen was trotting out his climate graphics and talking about sea level rise and carbon dioxide. Well, we don’t have another 22 years to address the rest of the list. Homo sapiens rip-van-winkleus needs an infusion of Red Bull and reality.

Kevin Noone, Executive Director of the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme, notes that the IPCC work establishes a template for the other systemic problems:

The IPCC report, with its interdisciplinary approach to climate change, is a clear example of how the Earth needs to be considered as a coupled system in order to understand global environmental change… The study of the Earth as a system, looking not only at climate but also at changes in the oceans and on land, how those changes affect each other, and the role of humans as part of that system is a crucial approach to managing a sustainable planet.

THIS IS BIG FOR US.

And we won't beat around the bush: Our fundraising drive to finish our current budget on June 30 and start our new fiscal year on July 1 is lagging behind where we need it to be.

If you value the reporting you get from Mother Jones and you can right now, please consider joining your fellow readers with a donation to help make it all possible. Whether you can pitch in $5 or $500, it all matters.

If you're new to Mother Jones or aren't yet sold on supporting our nonprofit reporting, please take a moment to read Monika Bauerlein's post about our priorities after these chaotic several years, and why this relatively quiet moment is also an urgent one for our democracy and Mother Jones’ bottom line—and if you find it compelling, please join us.

payment methods

THIS IS BIG FOR US.

And we won't beat around the bush: Our fundraising drive to finish our current budget on June 30 and start our new fiscal year on July 1 is lagging behind where we need it to be.

If you value the reporting you get from Mother Jones and you can right now, please consider joining your fellow readers with a donation to help make it all possible. Whether you can pitch in $5 or $500, it all matters.

If you're new to Mother Jones or aren't yet sold on supporting our nonprofit reporting, please take a moment to read Monika Bauerlein's post about our priorities after these chaotic several years, and why this relatively quiet moment is also an urgent one for our democracy and Mother Jones’ bottom line—and if you find it compelling, please join us.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate