Wednesday, April 07, 2010

"How it will end"

"So what really will kill us? Greed, fear, short sightedness, and an inability to create a government that serves the public interest."

By Steve Kirsch

Modern humans have roamed the earth for the past 120,000 years. If we continue to act as we have in the past and as we are acting now, the scientific consensus is that there is now more than a 5% chance that human beings could be virtually extinct in as little as 90 years from now.

The reason you haven't heard about it though is because the press hasn't really connected the dots between 3 different highly respected scientific sources: IPCC consensus report, a paper that appeared in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (that was cited by Time Magazine), and a book, "Six Degrees" by Mark Lynas, that was brought to my attention by Bob Corell, a leading climate scientist who appeared on 60 Minutes in 2006.

If you put the 3 sources together, you'll reach the same conclusion I did.

Here are the details...

Ostensibly, we will die due to the effects of global warming. By 2100, according to the IPCC consensus report (see Table SPM.3 on page 13 and footnote 5 on page 2 which explains the ranges in the table), there is a 5% chance that the average temperature of the planet will rise by more than 6.4ºC. That's in the report, clear as day, but nobody talks about it because only a few people understand exactly what that means to our planet. But one guy from the UK (who has hardly gotten any press in the US) Mark Lynas, has done the research on what this means. Lynas spent 3 years of his life poring over 10,000 scientific papers and found that, although it doesn't sound like a lot, a 6ºC temperature rise will pretty much wipe out just about every life form on the planet, us included. Although IPCC scientists had previously projected that there was only a 5% chance of more than a 6.4ºC warming by 2100, the assumptions on which those projections are based have already been exceeded, which is pointed out in this paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The paper points out that the assumptions in all 6 emission scenarios considered by the IPCC have already been exceeded. So that's why I am using the numbers from the A1FI scenario, which gave a 5% chance of exceeding 6.4ºC by 2100. If it doesn't happen by 2100, it will not be long after. I wrote a short web page "Why global warming should be every candidate's #1 priority" describing this in detail.

The bottom line is this: unless we change our ways, there is more than a 5% chance of a mass human extinction in less than 100 years. I'm just telling you what the overwhelming scientific consensus is. Whether or not you choose to believe it is, of course, up to you. If you do disagree, what is the scientific basis for your disagreement? Do you know something the scientists don't?

For some it will come much sooner. Australia will likely be mostly uninhabitable in 50 years from now (see Sydney 50 years to live Features The First Post).

So what really will kill us? Greed, fear, short sightedness, and an inability to create a government that serves the public interest.

Much as we may hate to admit it, our own government, which we empower to make decisions for us, is essentially no smarter than the frog in Gore's movie. Special interests, driven by short-term greed, control government decisions in America. Politicians, fearing they will be not be re-elected, pay attention to the people who are willing to spend big money to get their way. And despite all the awareness about global warming that has been generated to date, the public is still shortsighted and doesn't demand change. That lack of public outrage is why top staffers in the House complain that they can't pass even the simplest of measures to combat climate change, such as a bill to increase mileage standards for cars.

It's likely that we are not outraged because we will not feel the full impact of the ecological catastrophe we are creating today for another 30 to 50 years due to the thermal inertia of the ocean. The climate changes we are seeing today are just the tip of the iceberg; they are from our emissions from more than 30 years ago. Our emissions today are much higher than 30 years ago. But most people don't know that. They look out the window and things look fine. It seems just too impossible to believe that we could all be dead in less than 100 years. So we choose to ignore what the scientists tell us. The most unequivocal and important scientific consensus in our lifetime, and we choose to ignore it. How smart is that?

We are also too easily distracted by other seemingly more immediate issues such as terrorism, Iraq, healthcare and immigration to worry about things such as the survival of humanity. We think we can worry about that later. But we can't. By the time global warming has caused mass devastation, it will be way to late to do anything about it. The public can complain all they want...but it will be too late to make changes because the same "time delay" that has protected us for decades (the thermal inertia of the oceans) works the other way to make it impossible to reverse things quickly, even if we stopped all greenhouse gas emissions completely. Our climate is like a battleship: it's direction can not change quickly. Today, we are like mariners in a fog heading straight for disaster. By the time we can clearly see the iceberg ahead, it will be too late to turn the battleship to avoid hitting it...

If we are going to save humanity from extinction, we had better be doing something about these 3 issues:

• global warming
• overpopulation
• the accelerating decline of every single major ecosystem

All of these trends are getting worse. None have been reversed at a global scale. We need action on all three. But right now, none of the candidates have the courage to even talk about serious solutions. In fact, on some issues, they won't even talk about the problem!

... Lester Brown does a great job of describing it in his wonderful book Plan B 2.0. Jared Diamond lays it all out in his book, Collapse. Diamond, Brown, George Monbiot, and others all point out that we have the technology to save ourselves, but simply lack the political will and leadership to do so...

What's ironic is that our fear of confronting and solving these problems makes no sense. If we do what must be done, there will be an incredible upside along the way - new jobs, and the inspiration that comes from working together on something that is greater than ourselves. There could be a final product of a healthier, happier humanity, with a planet shared by diverse and amazing creatures, if only people are willing to make the compromises needed to live sustainably....

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