As nine of the 15 known global climate tipping points that regulate the state of the planet have been activated, more scientists are speaking candidly about the implications for humanity of potential societal collapse due to the direct and indirect impacts of climate change.
Some leading scientists believe we will see an “overall deterioration in many features of life, with regional collapses occurring here and there”, and “there is a very big risk that we will just end our civilisation”. Others feel that the human species will survive somehow but we will destroy almost everything we have built up over the last two thousand years.
JP Morgan bank analysts conclude: “We cannot rule out catastrophic outcomes where human life as we know it is threatened… the Earth is on an unsustainable trajectory. Something will have to change at some point if the human race is going to survive.”
The climate crisis is accelerating faster than most scientists expected (IPCC 2018). It is more severe than anticipated, threatening natural ecosystems and the fate of humanity (IPCC 2019).
Yet human activities continue to release deadly greenhouse gases:
CO2 levels are the highest in three million years and rising, causing warming that triggers other runaway systems. Vast quantities of methane, 86 times more potent than carbon, are stored in the polar permafrost; the Arctic is warming faster than even the most alarming predictions, leading scientists fear a sudden large methane release that could rapidly accelerate the Earth’s warming within months – an extinction event in itself.
Nitrous oxide is 300 times more potent than carbon; new studies show a clear correlation with rising levels of nitrous oxide in the atmosphere as more fertiliser than ever is used to increase crop production.
Sulphur hexafluoride (SF6), used in many green and renewable technologies, is 23,500 times more potent than carbon.
Food supplies are threatened, as grain production is reduced by 6% for every one degree celsius rise above pre-industrial norms – we are now well over one degree celsius and climbing.
Oceans are heating twice as fast, having absorbed a staggering 93% of the warming, without which average land temperatures would be 36 degrees celsius higher! The cost of ocean warming is dying coral reefs, plankton loss, ocean acidification, unprecedented storms, and increased water vapour, another greenhouse blanket holding heat in the atmosphere.
Human-caused sixth mass extinction sees 150 species become extinct daily, with a quarter of Britain’s native mammals “at imminent risk of extinction”, yet our existence depends on these ecosystems. Australia’s drought-triggered bushfires of 2019 alone impacted 143 million mammals, 2.46 billion reptiles, 180 million birds and 51 million frogs.
Consensus is that it is time to acknowledge our collective failure to respond to climate change, and accept the massive adaptation needed. If nothing changes, it will eventually be our turn for extinction….
Sherwood Forest Friends of the Earth
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