One day, while slowly drifting with the river current past Sum Random U., Dewey noticed a chilly nip in the air. Suddenly he stopped short. His composition changed, locking him in place. He’d never experienced anything like this and began to panic. “Help!” he cried out. “I’m frozen in place!”
“Of course you are, silly. It’s cold out. What did you expect?” I. C. Crystal, the cute molecule frozen next to him teased. “Haven’t you done this before? I love being a solid!” she burbled as other molecules quickly began freezing around them both.
Meanwhile, inside the lecture hall overlooking Dewey’s river, Professor Climey Tologist was wrapping up his lecture on climatic tipping points. “So for example, as liquid water cools it reaches a “tipping point” when it suddenly flips into a different state of matter and becomes a solid, namely ice. Water can easily flip back and forth depending on the temperature. But climatic tipping points are different in one hugely important way. Once they flip, there’s no going back. The entire climate flips into a ‘new normal’.”
Prof. Tologist’s next slide listed potential climatic tipping points that the Earth is rapidly approaching. These are the result of the burning of fossil fuels that emit greenhouse gases, which inhibit heat from escaping Earth’s atmosphere. The most alarming tipping points shown were: the loss of ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica, permafrost thawing, and the collapse of both coral reefs and of crucial North Atlantic ocean currents.
“Once any of these tipping points flip, the relatively stable climate the world has known since the ice age will change in dramatic and unpredictable ways,” Prof. Tologist continued. “It’s scary stuff. But it doesn’t have to happen. While no one of us is going to prevent the climate from flipping, each of us can do our small part to reduce our personal use of fossil fuels and to demand that decision-makers act.”
Dewey and his new friend, Ms. Crystal, continue to travel the world together. They’re heartened to see each human acting to protect the only home any of us will ever know. Right here, where we’re all forever… Earthbound.