According to the world’s largest assemblage of climate scientists, the view forward is bleak. The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says we should expect:
- millions of people to be displaced by rising seas and more frequent raging storms;
- more droughts, and more intense heat waves, in more places;
- extreme shortages of food, fuel, and medicine around the world.
That’s what the IPCC said in its first report, published in 1990. In reports issued every seven years since, including the one out today, it has said the same things, with increasing urgency and certainty.
In what sense, then, has this report “raised the threat of climate change to a whole new level,” as the UK’s Guardian puts it? My second favorite headline: The Worst is Yet to Come. Really? The IPCC has laboriously reached the conclusion that everything is not busting out roses? We are shocked.
There are two issues here. One of the unwillingness of the media to just say it straight: world civilization is facing its worst existential crisis ever, and it is self-administered. The other issue is our unwillingness to hear, and act on, this among many other warnings. We’re on the Titanic. We can see the bow is under water, we can hear the engine is stopped, we can feel the water lapping at our ankles. How many official warnings that the ship might sink do we require before we start looking for a lifeboat?
There is no point in going over the details of the latest IPCC report here. We’ve already reported on all the issues, and there are plenty of sources for what’s new. What you probably won’t see anywhere else is a consideration of how many reputable voices have been raised — just in the past few weeks — in a chorus of warnings that could not be more urgent, more worthy of a response, if one wall of the room in which you are sitting were aflame.
The world is heading for a financial crash “unlike any other,” according to Jeremy Grantham, the legendary hedge-fund manager who predicted the popping of the dot-com bubble and the housing bubble. This particular warning is based on finance, but he has made similar predictions based on the exhaustion of natural resources.
Shortages and high prices of oil will precipitate a crash of the global economy as early as 2015, according to Dr. Jeremy Leggett, a former oil geologist and energy adviser to the government of the U.K.
The lifestyle of western (i.e., industrialized) countries is “pushing the environment toward crisis,” one that is “hugely threatening to the world,” according to Rowan Williams, recently retired Archbishop of Canterbury.
World oil production is not keeping up with demand, despite the vaunted “boom” in U.S. fracking, and no one knows how to close the gap, according to Louis Powers, a former executive with Exxon and Aramco, now a consultant to the oil bidness.
A total and irreversible crash of the world economy is likely and imminent, according to a major interdisciplinary study conducted with funding from NASA and the National Science Foundation.
And that’s just in the last 30 days or so. So what if everybody in a crowded theater yelled “Fire!” and still nobody paid any attention?