Brace yourself. This post will make for uncomfortable reading. Regular readers will know that my understanding of the world has been shaped by articles that are published in the London Review of Books (LRB) and that I value the opportunity to widen the circulation of these important ideas through the medium of my blog-posts. At the beginning of August, the LRB edition included a review by Francis Gooding of a book by David Wallace-Wells (2019), The Uninhabitable Earth: A Story of the Future
. Here's the bad news:
Marshalling research from all quarters, Wallace-Wells 'paints a picture of disastrous change on an almost incomprehensible scale'. His focus is on the most direct effects of global warming - hotter temperatures, rising seas, extreme weather, and so on. He reminds us that of the five previous mass extinctions that we now know have occurred on our planet only the most recent was caused by an asteroid. The other four were all due to 'climate change produced by green-house gas'.
|Our children are speaking truth to power. |
We are currently adding carbon to the atmosphere at a rate 'considerably faster' than it took to cause the almost total destruction of complex life in the deadliest of these mass extinctions, 250 million years ago. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicts that if emissions continue at their present rate, the earth could be warmer by 4.5 degrees C by 2100. Permafrost in the Arctic is already melting, with the potential to release large amounts of methane. Hydrogen sulphide is currently bubbling out of the sea and forming vast organic dead zones of green sulphur bacteria in four hundred identified zones, totalling an area the size of Europe. The oceans are beginning to die.
|Our future - their future - their children's future|
'Dying Oceans' is one of 12 chapters in which Wallace-Wells analyses what he calls the 'elements of chaos'. Each is dedicated to a particular feature of a warming world, such as:
Crop failure - freshwater shortages - violent and unpredictable weather - leading to greater migration and more wars.
The US military is planning for a new era of conflict governed by global warming; so too is China. We are looking at the fantasies of science fiction coming true: end-time resource wars on a dying planet.
|Disaster movie - for real|
Everything that happens within our interconnected ecological system has consequences elsewhere. One major wildfire in California can wipe out the emission savings of the entire state for a year. The loss of forests to fire adds to the disaster of worldwide deforestation, a major cause of increasing carbon emissions.
The 2016 Paris Agreement on climate change and the need to reduce carbon emissions accepted that a reduction by 2 degrees C was a 'must-meet target'. This now seems improbable. Overall emissions continue to rise. Wallace-Wells writes: 'We have now already exited the state of environmental conditions that allowed the human animal to evolve in the first place in an unsure and unplanned bet on just what that animal can endure. The climate systems that raised us, and raised everything we now know as human civilisation, is now, like a parent, dead.'
|Extinction Rebellion protest during the PM's visit to the Royal Cornwall Hospital - 19/08/2019 |
Faced with a planetary-scale crisis that requires urgent action now, the powerful and wealthy elites who govern us are left exposed - and that is why Friday's Global Climate strike is so important. Our children are saying the Emperor has no clothes - he is naked. Stop pretending - and act now.
|12 noon - Monday 19 August, 2019 - the PM of the United Kingdom is driven away in convoy from the RCH, Truro as Extinction Rebellion and supporters deliver their message. The protesters never saw him - did he see or hear them? Press coverage of the protest: virtually non-existent. |
What we need - urgently - are vast, co-ordinated programmes of de-carbonisation.
What we have is the former head of British counter-terrorism claiming that Extinction Rebellion represents 'anarchism with a smile'. State security services and corporate interests line up to declare environmental groups a threat. In fact, such groups are in Francis Gooding's words: the 'vanguard of planetary salvation'.
|Walls have ears - word got out of the PM's visit - the Extinction Rebellion protest was arranged forthwith - smart work! Supporters of Extinction Rebellion are shown in this image; Rob Donovan, the author, is on the far left …. |
If we are to save ourselves, the IPCC says that global mobilisation on the scale of the second World War will be necessary. This Friday is lighting up the way to such action. JOIN US, PLEASE! I'm at Lemon Quay in Truro from 10.30 am - google to find the location of your nearest strike for sanity.
Finally, do click this link BY PRESSING HERE
to revisit or read for the first time my May blog-post: CLIMATE CHANGE SOS - AND THE ROLE OF A JEREMY CORBYN-LED LABOUR GOVERNMENT