Time to stop pretending. The human race has conspired to exterminate itself, at least on this planet. According to a study authored by Yann Robidou du Pont of the Australian-German Climate & Energy College at the University of Melbourne and Malte Meinshausen of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, if we continue to do what we are doing to address a warming climate, we might as well all lie back, sip our favorite alcoholic beverage, and party like its 1999, because we will all be dead soon and so will be our planet.
Nice work, humans. We have conspired to foul our own nest so egregiously that our extinction is now all but assured. All that left to do is rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic as we slowly but surely extinguish any chance that we have of survival.
Where Does Your Country Rank?
The study, entitled “Warming assessment of the bottom-up Paris Agreement emissions pledges,” was published on November 16, 2018 in the journal Nature Communications. It claims that if China, Russia, and Canada continue with their halfhearted measures to rein in rising global temperatures, the world will be 5º C hotter by 2100 than it is today. 5º Celsius, chums, is a death sentence for humanity and virtually every living creature on the Earth.
But there is good news. The current policies of the United States and Australia would only kill most of the world’s population by permitting an increase in average global temperatures of 4º C. Europe is doing a better job than most parts of the world but even its efforts will lead to a rise of 3º C, enough to cause the death of billions of people. Congratulations, Europe. You are the best of the worst.
Of all the developed nations, India is doing the best job. Its policies, if enacted globally, would limit temperature rise to just over 2º C. You can see where every country falls relative to each other on the interactive map at Paris Equity Check.
Nationally Determined Contributions
As part of the Paris climate accords of 2015, each nation made pledges regarding the actions it was prepared to take to limit its contribution to global warming, known as Nationally Determined Contributions. The Paris agreements recognized that a top down solution to global warming imposed by the United Nations or similar organization was an unworkable plan, so the bottom up process of letting each country establish its own targets was adopted.
The NDCs are supposed to take into account the degree to which each country has contributed to rising global temperatures historically and its ability to bear the costs of decarbonizing its economy. The authors of the study recognize that each country will construct its NDC goals to reflect its own self interest. Their purpose is to provide a framework that allows each nation to compare its actions to those of other nations. “This paper provides a means for countries to check how their contribution might be perceived by other countries and thus judge whether they are perceived as a climate leader or laggard,” Joeri Rogelj of Imperial College London tells The Guardian.
Optimism Within The Gloom
Despite the gloomy results of the study, its authors see a ray of sunshine in all this. “The positive outcome of this study is that we have a metric to assess the ratcheting up of ambition. Civil society, experts and decision-makers can use this to hold their governments accountable, and possibly undertake climate litigation cases as happened recently in the Netherlands,” du Pont says.
“This metric translates the lack of ambition on a global scale to a national scale. If we look at the goal of trying to avoid damage to the Earth, then I am pessimistic as this is already happening. But this should be a motivation to ratchet up ambition and avoid global warming as much and as rapidly as possible. Every fraction of a degree will have a big impact.”
Things Aren’t Looking Good
All we can say to du Pont and Meinshausen is, “Good luck with that, fellas.” Brazil has just elected a new leader who has vowed to withdraw from the Paris climate accords and permit clear cutting the remaining Amazon rain forest to allow more agriculture and oil extraction. His new foreign ministers told the press yesterday that climate change is nothing but a Marxist plot, echoing the now infamous statements of Donald Trump who called it a hoax perpetrated by China.
International Cooperation? Are You Serious?
At a time when international cooperation will be required on a scale never before seen, many countries — including the US — are descending into a nationalistic fervor that demonizes foreigners, reducing the chances for cooperation and exacerbating the problem. Right now the US and China are playing a game of “Mine’s bigger than yours” in the South China Sea and threatening the next world war. It’s as if humans have some built-in wiring that prevents them from seeing the train bearing down on them while they cavort on the tracks.
Time For The Next Great Flood?
The legend of the Great Flood is found in every known culture, even those in remote areas where contact with the outside world has been rare. It’s not always Noah and the Ark. Sometimes it’s a giant war canoe or a floating island. The means of conveyance may vary but the message does not. At some time in the past, the Earth was inundated and most life was destroyed. After a few hundred thousand years, the waters receded and a new civilization arose. It’s as if humans have a genetic memory of a cataclysmic event that happened long ago.
Perhaps the Earth goes through cycles similar to the season — dying from time to time so it can be reborn. If things continue going as they are now, with fossil fuel companies straining every sinew to extract the last molecule of energy from beneath the Earth’s crust, we may find soon ourselves approaching a precipice. Once we go over it, the Earth will return to its watery state until such time as it heals the wounds inflicted by humans.
Let’s hope the species that follows us a million years or so from now is imbued with the skills necessary to avoid extinction. Based on the observable evidence, almost any life form that follows after we have snuffed out human civilization will be an improvement.