Many people proceed in life as if no material changes are needed for humans to survive beyond the 21st century. But David Attenborough was correct when about ten years ago, he said:
We have a finite environment—the planet. Anyone who thinks that you can have infinite growth in a finite environment is either a madman or an economist.
Sir David described the moment he first understood climate change was driven by human activity while attending a lecture in the 1980s.
“The professor produced a series of graphs about the contents and changes in the atmosphere over the last 500 years plotted against the industrial revolution and changes in human population,” he said.
“You simply could not deny that a) the world was changing climatically and b) humans were involved in bringing that change about.”
He took issue with ideas that humans should protect nature simply because it might benefit us – such as the argument we should conserve the rainforest because it might yield a new species that could cure cancer.
“I can see why that’s a good practical reason for saving the rainforest, but it shouldn’t be the fundamental reason,” he said. “We should protect species not because it is affecting us, but because we have the stewardship of the planet. We are the only species that has dominated the planet.
“If you say ‘I will keep this and exterminate that’, I maintain that’s not a morally proper position. We don’t have the right to exterminate nature and manipulate it to that degree.”
A few years ago, BBC described what lies ahead as climate change worsens:
The permafrost – up until now, permanently frozen land and soil – is thawing out, and revealing its hidden secrets. Alongside Pleistocene fossils are massive carbon and methane emissions, toxic mercury, and ancient diseases.Pollution, anthrax – even nuclear waste – could be released by global warming
Days ago, newspapers reported the vast East Antarctica Ice Sheet, which is about the size of the United States, is at risk. Reports were based on a study published in the journal Nature by an international group of scientists. Their research indicates that if global temperature rise is not limited, sea levels could increase by as much as 5 meters (16.4 feet).
An Antarctic glacier larger than the UK is at risk of breaking up after scientists discovered more warm water flowing underneath it than previously thought. The fate of Thwaites – nicknamed the doomsday glacier – and the massive west Antarctic ice sheet it supports are the biggest unknown factors in future global sea level rise.Antarctic ‘doomsday glacier’ may be melting faster than was thought
Despite many warnings that climate change poses an existential risk, politicians and business leaders continue to encourage the idea of business as usual. They hunger for GDP increases because that faulty measure is treated as useful, even though it does not assess the welfare or well being of citizens.
Canada’s political leader promote fossil fuel production, even though the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions from human activities in North America is from burning fossil fuels for electricity, heat, and transportation.
We can blame politicians for worsening climate change, but they reflect values citizens find important. So if policies for survival are to be put in place, voters must decide they are a priority. Change is our collective responsibility.
An existential risk is any risk that has the potential to eliminate all of humanity or, at the very least, kill large swaths of the global population, leaving the survivors without sufficient means to rebuild society to current standards of living.
We Are Not the First Civilization to Collapse, But We Will Probably Be the Last, Chris Hedges, August 14, 2022
The poet Paul Valéry noted, “a civilization has the same fragility as a life.”
As industrial empires became global, their increase in size meant an increase in complexity. Ironically, this complexity makes us more vulnerable to catastrophic collapse, not less.
Soaring temperatures (Iraq is enduring 120 degree heat that has fried the country’s electrical grid), the depletion of natural resources, flooding, droughts, (the worst drought in 500 years is devastating Western, Central and Southern Europe and is expected to see a decline in crop yields of 8 or 9 percent), power outages, wars, pandemics, a rise in zoonotic diseases and breakdowns in supply chains combine to shake the foundations of industrial society.
The Arctic has been heating up four times faster than the global average, resulting in an accelerated melting of the Greenland ice sheet and freakish weather patterns. The Barents Sea north of Norway and Russia are warming up to seven times faster. Climate scientists did not expect this extreme weather until 2050.
Categories: Climate Change