Human-caused threats to climate, nature and economy pose a danger of systemic collapse comparable to the 2008 financial crisis, according to a new report that calls for urgent and radical reform to protect political and social systems. While many studies of environmental risk have examined threats in isolation – to the weather, to ecosystems, to the economy – the new paper, “This is a Crisis: Facing up to the Age of Environmental Breakdown”, assesses how the interplay of these factors can create a cascade of tipping points in human society as well as the natural world.
The meta-study compiled by the IPPR thinktank shows that since 2005, the number of floods has increased by a factor of 15, extreme temperature events by a factor of 20, and wildfires sevenfold; topsoil is now being lost 10 to 40 times faster than it is being replenished by natural processes; the 20 warmest years since records began in 1850 have been in the past 22 years; vertebrate populations have fallen by an average of 60% since the 1970s; and insect numbers – vital for pollination – have declined even faster in some countries.
Wider discussion is the first step, according to lead author Laurie Laybourn-Langton, who said he was shocked by the paucity of public debate relative to the scale of the problems: “It is the sort of thing mentioned at the end of a conversation, that makes everyone look at the floor, but we don’t have time for that now,” he said. (Guardian 12 Feb 2018)
My comment: That man-made climate change is a threatening fact should be a matter of debate no longer. It has been proved beyond doubt, and no respectable scientist now doubts it. Unfortunately, half-educated people like Trump and his yes-men, and those cynical money people for whom climate change is highly inconvenient and needs to be discredited, have muddied the waters (so to speak), denying the evidence of their own eyes and of the daily news. But young people know it’s true and are rightly frightened about the prospect of what is likely to happen in their lifetimes: mass migrations causing violence, the swamping of coastal cities, increasing numbers of wildfires, horrendously hot summers and the loss of productive soil by erosion (to name some of the worst).
I would rather like to erect a memorial that listed the chief proponents of doing nothing, the people who have actively trashed science. Their names would live in ignominy on my memorial. I won’t, of course, build it, having neither the ways or means to do so. But I, like all good Epicureans, should do what they personally can to mitigate the effects of their own footprints on our sickening planet. This is actually all we can do, aside from countering the ignorant and the selfish climate deniers whenever we encounter them. Where do they think all the gunk we spew into the air goes? Mars?