This week I celebrate the second birthday of my first born grandson. This is the reason to wonder what world he will live in if he reaches my age. This is for you OMG.
The end of the century
Near the end of the century you will be my age if you are lucky. You might not consider yourself lucky in the world you will be living in.
The picture looks grim. And many – especially the ones in power to do something about it – do not (want to) believe it. Or so they say. It could very well be that they know exactly what is going to happen but just don’t care. That they despite their pretences to love their children and grandchildren just care about themselves and their lives in luxury and over-consumption and give a damn about future generations. A 15 year old Swedish school girl Greta Thunberg did not pull her punches at the recent Climate Conference in Katowice Poland.
Looking into the future is not a precise science. There are to many known and unknown variables. We cannot even predict the future weather if it is going to rain on the fifth day of the boxing day cricket test, which might be only ten days away. Many mistake the weather with climate and conclude that if we can’t predict the one we cannot predict the other. That however could not be further from the truth. Climate is the big picture of the whole planet over decades and centuries. Here the data show patterns and trends. And these don’t look good. For instance the fact that in the last 18 years we had the 17 hottest years on record. The jury is in. It is man made by our fossil fuel consumption.
Another trend is very worrying. Every new international climate report is more alarming than the last as new data come in. The news on climate change get worse not better. The outlook gets more catastrophic by each report. This is not hyperbole. Most serious scientists know that there will be no miracle technical breakthrough. The idea that we are so clever that we will invent some technical solution just in time to save us is just an excuse not to act now to prevent the climate catastrophe.
Nor does it look like that there will be a miracle enlightenment of the elites to turn this hopeless situation around. The latest climate conference in Katowice ended after overtime to just keep the Paris agreement alive without any real progress. The point of no-return might have already passed anyway.
The consequences of global warming, which instead of slowing is accelerating, are dire. First of all we will not be able to hold it at 2 degrees. By the current trends at the end of your lifetime it might be closer to 4 degrees. This will lead to sea level rises that will displace hundreds of millions of people in low laying coastal areas including many of the world’s largest cities.
Large areas of land in all continents, which today are still arable and feed hundreds of millions of people will not be able to sustain life. The oceans as a major food source will be affected .
By the current rate the process will be accelerated by the disappearance of tropical rainforests like the Amazon and in Indonesia. They served us as carbon sinks and provided us with oxygen. With them we will also loose biodiversity on a catastrophic scale.
This is what scientist of the various fields are telling us today. However that will not be the worst part of it.
War and Civil Unrest
Over the last few years we are witnessing scary developments in the countries of the North triggered by a wave of immigration from the South. Right-wing anti-immigrant parties gaining power and are destabilising formerly solid democratic countries. That many of the newcomers pray to a different god adds to the xenophobia. The people we as their rulers looked down at are now moving in next door. But this is nothing compared to what is coming in 20 or 50 years time. What now seems to be a wave will be regarded as a trickle compared with the tsunami of desperate victims of our reckless destruction of the planet being forced to move north. As history has shown no wall will stop them.
The worst consequence of climate change will be war and civil unrest over dwindling resources and survival space. Civil society as we know it will not survive.
Is there no Hope ?
I am afraid it does not look good. Sir David Attenborough, the Secretary General of the United Nations, Pope Francis among all the scientists have just sounded the warning bells again without effecting any change of direction.
The powerful that could stop us from going over the cliff are distracted. The rich are busy getting richer. The politicians are busy to get re-elected in short term cycles. The media mostly put their heads in the sand chasing trivial stories instead. A revolution of civil society is not in sight as all demand that their way of life i.e. over-consumption and destruction of the planet must be maintained. The US will never give up the “American Way of Life.”
Man has evolved to survive sudden danger. We instantly swing into full action mode when threatened by the sound of a rattle snake or an intruder breaking a window. Our lizard brain has however not evolved to react the same way when the threat is without precedent and relatively distant. We are like possums in the headlight to slow to move.
That is however no excuse as we are the first generation in history, which has all the information to confidently look into the future and act upon it.
What did I do ?
After WWII in Germany my generation asked our fathers the question : What did you do during the 3. Reich when the Nazis send millions of Jews to their death ?
In future I will face the question : What did you do when in your time the course was set for genocidal global destruction ?
Sorry, I have no excuse for my generation.
For myself I can say that I always have been an activist and on the right side of history including on the issue of climate change. Still I must admit that my greatest contribution might just have been that I never was a wasteful consumer.
Will that be enough to answer your question : What did I do ?
By Dr Hans B. Grueber
PS : Happy Birthday OMG.Tweet ##NZPOL