Here I illustrate how the emerging climate crisis would be viewed by those in the medical community who are used to dealing with fuzzy categories and their closing windows of opportunity for effective action. I hope to provide a better intellectual toolkit for facing up to the climate crisis, largely borrowed from what medical school professors teach med students about dealing with emergencies.
Focus your mind for a moment on the traditional bathroom light switch, where a gradual increase in finger pressure suddenly triggers a flip and a click, flooding the space with painfully bright light.
Climate can flip as well and, so far, we lack a dimmer device to slow down the five-year transition time. Yet we keep assuming the overheating is like pushing a dimmer switch, where results are linearly proportional to the push.
But for five types of extreme weather, something did flip between 2002 and 2010. It was regime change. Unlike storm surges, the Big Five did not go away. Sustained changes everything— now we need to actually back up, cooling via taking the excess CO₂ out of circulation.