The United Nations Conference of the Parties (COP-21) has convened in Paris this week. The Presidents of France and the United States have stated that the consequences of uncontrolled global warming are likely to be so serious in this century as to adversely change all our ways of life far into the future.
The juxtaposition of COP-21 and the Paris terrorism attacks two weeks earlier lead to thoughts of how these two events might be related.
I have two questions I think should be debated in the global media this week, while international leaders are in Paris, simultaneously dealing with the dual threatening disasters of climate change and terrorism.
- Is it possible that climate change could at some point in the future extinct humanity?
- Is it possible that terrorism could at some point in the future extinct humanity?
Scientific knowledge and experts should be invited to discuss the first question, while political science knowledge and experts in that field should be brought to the second question. Such discussions would likely be very interesting and informative. I think we’d all like to see what the experts conclude.
It is my belief that the answer to both is yes, at least theoretically.
The first “yes” could result from serious and prolonged destruction of the global ecosystem, accompanied by losses of humanity’s edible food production, including losses of fresh water needed to produce that food, accompanied also by personal and military conflicts associated with these changes — likely to result from extreme global warming and the multiple weather and other associated disasters. If this results in sufficient damage to the global life-support system (our biosphere), the result could well be the extinction (or near-extinction) of humanity.
The second “yes” could come should the terrorist state reaches the point and power where it obtains nuclear weapons and uses them to initiate a global thermonuclear war, killing large numbers of humans and producing serious destruction of governmental, industrial, and agricultural systems, coupled with the use of biological weapons and/or intentional or unintentional release of virulent strains of killer bacteria and rapidly spreading viruses affecting the human population, thereby extincting humanity.
I think the likelihood of the first of these extinction scenarios is very much greater than the second one.
Most of my scientist friends and colleagues, when they speak or write to each other about this topic, have a very dim view of humanity’s near term future on Earth. “Near Term” in this context spans the next several generations of humans.
The problem, of course, is the systematic taking apart of our life-support system, a global action in which we are all, collectively, embarked. Their dim view stems largely not from failures of science and other disciplines to identify, measure, and scope out the problems we are experiencing around the world, but from:
- failures of education regarding the Earth and how it works plus what we are doing to it,
- failures to accept the magnitude of the changes that must be made quickly enough to reverse the dangerous trend,
- failures of current political system design (and/or operation) to recognize the scope and immediacy of the problem, and
- failures to take actions of magnitudes worthy of the need.
(For a very effective short cartoon video, “300 Years of FOSSIL FUELS in 300 Seconds” showing what has brought us to the current turning point, check out this youtube link.)
Fortunately, academics in other fields outside science and many other educated and aware people have formed the same view of our future and are recommending a new movement to address the problem. This group has finally recognized the larger systemic nature of the problem faced globally — failures of governing systems to function on behalf of human sustainability, health, and general welfare. Two of four bullet points at the web site of this new attempt to create real change states the case thusly: Continue reading