In just 11 years, our civilization, which has taken 4.5 billion years of Earthly evolution, will likely have signed its death warrant. The cause is not some distant other. The cause is our own recklessness and greed. We will crash through 1.5℃ of warming since industrialization, and be well on our way to runaway climate change. The latest IPCC report described the conditions awaiting humanity if we fail to act by 2030.
Hundreds of millions will suffer from extreme heat, lack of food and water with possible war like conditions as governments struggle to keep control.
And this report wasn’t even the worst case scenario. More alarming reports have included the dreaded positive feedback loops into their models. The most worrying feedback loop is the mass melting of the Arctic permafrost and up to 8 meters of sea level rise. The permafrost is of particular concern to scientists, and it should be to us all. Under the frozen ground, rests 205 gigatons of methane. Methane is 30 times more potent that CO2. If this methane escapes into the atmosphere, any future attempts at mitigation will likely prove futile.
Sea levels will rise, available land for growing food will decrease as a result. Water is becoming scarce already, but with warmer temperatures, water will be evaporated more rapidly. This will increase moisture levels in the atmosphere and fuel super strength storms. All this will be happening as billions of humans are added to the population. More people with less food, water and land, but increased temperatures, super storms and increased risk of disease.
This is the likely future of our planet. It doesn’t have to be this way. We can all make individual choices to avoid this reality. We can leave animal products off our plates, drive less, fly less, buy less and use less water. Taken together, these actions will have a massive impact. They will also show corporations and our AWOL, yet elected politicians, that people demand change.
It will not be enough though. We need our “leaders” to actually do their jobs of representing the electorate, not the business interests who fund their campaigns.
We need leaders who understand the grave situation and the unprecedented action required to avert this looming crisis. We need to transition to renewable energy sources as rapidly as possible. The IPCC report said that a 45% reduction in CO2 is needed, from 2010 levels, if we are to have any chance of staying within 1.5℃ of pre-industrial levels. Why take a chance though? We can and should aim for complete decarbonization of the economy by 2030. We have the technology. We have the know-how. All we are missing is actual leaders. If we fail to get a grip on climate change before 2030, we will need to rely on untested and unproven technologies, like geo-engineering. These applications will not remedy the situation. They will likely move the location of the problems around the planet, in a game similar to hot potato. The scientists themselves have admitted as much. As the IPCC report stated, we need unprecedented systemic change.
How can this be achieved? One would expect that politicians would actually care about their own children’s’ future, if not the future of others. That does not seem to be the case. In the absence of the kind of leadership people under attack desperately need, what can we do?
We believe that we the people must hold our elected officials to account. They are refusing to lead and have shown themselves to be incompetent at best and downright treacherous at worst. Nothing short of mass civil disobedience will get us out of this mess. A program of repeated nonviolent protests and strikes will be needed to give our children a livable future on this planet. Thomas Paine once said “I prefer peace. But if trouble must come, let it come in my time, so that my children can live in peace”.
Well, trouble has come. And it’s come in our time. We need to act now while we still have time. To fail will mean trouble far worse comes for our children. The extinction of our species is at stake. And we must rebel against the cause.