Manual Fatal Airs: The Deadly History and Apocalyptic Future of Lethal Gases That Threaten Our World

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The violence baked into heat.

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Climatologists are very careful when talking about Syria. They want you to know that while climate change did produce a drought that contributed to civil war, it is not exactly fair to saythat the conflict is the result of warming; next door, for instance, Lebanon suffered the same crop failures.

But researchers like Marshall Burke and Solomon Hsiang have managed to quantify some of the non-obvious relationships between temperature and violence: For every half-degree of warming, they say, societies will see between a 10 and 20 percent increase in the likelihood of armed conflict. In climate science, nothing is simple, but the arithmetic is harrowing: A planet five degrees warmer would have at least half again as many wars as we do today.

Overall, social conflict could more than double this century. This is one reason that, as nearly every climate scientist I spoke to pointed out, the U. What accounts for the relationship between climate and conflict? Some of it comes down to agriculture and economics; a lot has to do with forced migration, already at a record high, with at least 65 million displaced people wandering the planet right now. But there is also the simple fact of individual irritability.

Heat increases municipal crime rates, and swearing on social media, and the likelihood that a major-league pitcher, coming to the mound after his teammate has been hit by a pitch, will hit an opposing batter in retaliation. And the arrival of air-conditioning in the developed world, in the middle of the past century, did little to solve the problem of the summer crime wave. Dismal capitalism in a half-poorer world. The murmuring mantra of global neoliberalism, which prevailed between the end of the Cold War and the onset of the Great Recession, is that economic growth would save us from anything and everything.

Before fossil fuels, nobody lived better than their parents or grandparents or ancestors from years before, except in the immediate aftermath of a great plague like the Black Death, which allowed the lucky survivors to gobble up the resources liberated by mass graves. Of course, that onetime injection has a devastating long-term cost: climate change. The most exciting research on the economics of warming has also come from Hsiang and his colleagues, who are not historians of fossil capitalism but who offer some very bleak analysis of their own: Every degree Celsius of warming costs, on average, 1.

This is the sterling work in the field, and their median projection is for a 23 percent loss in per capita earning globally by the end of this century resulting from changes in agriculture, crime, storms, energy, mortality, and labor. Tracing the shape of the probability curve is even scarier: There is a 12 percent chance that climate change will reduce global output by more than 50 percent by , they say, and a 51 percent chance that it lowers per capita GDP by 20 percent or more by then, unless emissions decline.

By comparison, the Great Recession lowered global GDP by about 6 percent, in a onetime shock; Hsiang and his colleagues estimate a one-in-eight chance of an ongoing and irreversible effect by the end of the century that is eight times worse. The scale of that economic devastation is hard to comprehend, but you can start by imagining what the world would look like today with an economy half as big, which would produce only half as much value, generating only half as much to offer the workers of the world.

It makes the grounding of flights out of heat-stricken Phoenix last month seem like pathetically small economic potatoes. And, among other things, it makes the idea of postponing government action on reducing emissions and relying solely on growth and technology to solve the problem an absurd business calculation.

Every round-trip ticket on flights from New York to London, keep in mind, costs the Arctic three more square meters of ice. Sulfide burps off the skeleton coast. That the sea will become a killer is a given. Barring a radical reduction of emissions, we will see at least four feet of sea-level rise and possibly ten by the end of the century.

At least million people live within ten meters of sea level today. But the drowning of those homelands is just the start.

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There, the small fish die out, unable to breathe, which means oxygen-eating bacteria thrive, and the feedback loop doubles back. Hydrogen sulfide is so toxic that evolution has trained us to recognize the tiniest, safest traces of it, which is why our noses are so exquisitely skilled at registering flatulence. Plants, too. It was millions of years before the oceans recovered. Our present eeriness cannot last. Surely this blindness will not last — the world we are about to inhabit will not permit it. Humans used to watch the weather to prophesy the future; going forward, we will see in its wrath the vengeance of the past.

You can find it already watching footage of an iceberg collapsing into the sea — a feeling of history happening all at once. It is. Many people perceive climate change as a sort of moral and economic debt, accumulated since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution and now come due after several centuries — a helpful perspective, in a way, since it is the carbon-burning processes that began in 18th-century England that lit the fuse of everything that followed.

But more than half of the carbon humanity has exhaled into the atmosphere in its entire history has been emitted in just the past three decades; since the end of World War II, the figure is 85 percent. She has been smoking for 57 of those years, unfiltered. Some of the men who first identified a changing climate and given the generation, those who became famous were men are still alive; a few are even still working. Like most of those who first raised the alarm, he believes that no amount of emissions reduction alone can meaningfully help avoid disaster.

Jim Hansen is another member of this godfather generation. Hansen has recently given up on solving the climate problem with a carbon tax alone, which had been his preferred approach, and has set about calculating the total cost of the additional measure of extracting carbon from the atmosphere. Hansen began his career studying Venus, which was once a very Earth-like planet with plenty of life-supporting water before runaway climate change rapidly transformed it into an arid and uninhabitable sphere enveloped in an unbreathable gas; he switched to studying our planet by 30, wondering why he should be squinting across the solar system to explore rapid environmental change when he could see it all around him on the planet he was standing on.

The answer, they suggested, is that the natural life span of a civilization may be only several thousand years, and the life span of an industrial civilization perhaps only several hundred.

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In a universe that is many billions of years old, with star systems separated as much by time as by space, civilizations might emerge and develop and burn themselves up simply too fast to ever find one another. And yet, improbably, Ward is an optimist. So are Broecker and Hansen and many of the other scientists I spoke to. We have not developed much of a religion of meaning around climate change that might comfort us, or give us purpose, in the face of possible annihilation.

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But climate scientists have a strange kind of faith: We will find a way to forestall radical warming, they say, because we must. It is not easy to know how much to be reassured by that bleak certainty, and how much to wonder whether it is another form of delusion; for global warming to work as parable, of course, someone needs to survive to tell the story. The scientists know that to even meet the Paris goals, by , carbon emissions from energy and industry, which are still rising, will have to fall by half each decade; emissions from land use deforestation, cow farts, etc.

Nevertheless, by and large, the scientists have an enormous confidence in the ingenuity of humans — a confidence perhaps bolstered by their appreciation for climate change, which is, after all, a human invention, too. They point to the Apollo project, the hole in the ozone we patched in the s, the passing of the fear of mutually assured destruction. The planet is not used to being provoked like this, and climate systems designed to give feedback over centuries or millennia prevent us — even those who may be watching closely — from fully imagining the damage done already to the planet.

For them, the alternative is simply unimaginable. Listen to this story and more features from New York and other magazines: Download the Audm app for your iPhone. Former Gov. At the same time, Massachusetts Democrats close to Mr. Patrick have started to reach out to prominent party leaders in early nominating states to alert them that he may run, according to one Democrat who has received an inquiry. Protesters began disrupting transit as early as 7 a.

The protester was in a critical condition on Monday morning, but by the afternoon, police said there was no immediate threat to his life. The shooting sparked public outrage, escalating what had already looked to be a long day of demonstrations. The FBI is taking part in the investigation into an attack that left nine people dead last week in Mexico near the US border.

The victims were dual citizens of Mexico and the United States. In a statement Sunday, Mexico reiterated its commitment to investigate the facts to ensure justice to the affected families. USD Buy Online, Pick up in Store is currently unavailable, but this item may be available for in-store purchase.

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