Like the author, I'm very concerned about climate change. But there's some nonsense in this article. Scenario presented is worst worst case. https://twitter.com/NYMag/status/884418279762272257 …
Our planet can be invaded. Are we prepared for it?
AUSTRALIAN scientists have said a hugely controversial article that predicts a climate change driven apocalypse is “scary” and “embellished” but entirely plausible despite the extreme scenario dividing climatologists worldwide.
“I promise, it is worse than you think,” he says in the opening line of the article published last week.
Even if Australians manage to survive major cities being in “permanent extreme drought” or poisonous sea “burps” it’s likely we’ll be finished off by “rolling death smogs” or “perpetual war” instead, the article states.
Climate change impacts poverty: Tim Costello
Doomsday could occur by the end of the century.
Mr Wallace-Wells’ piece has been heavily criticised. But not by the climate sceptics — it’s climate scientists who are up in arms, claiming it is “irresponsible” and “alarmist”.
Respected climatologist Michael E Mann, director of the Earth System Science Centre at Pennsylvania State University, has said the “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence … [and this] article fails to produce it.”
Richard Betts, from the UK’s University of Exeter told website Climate Feedback,
the Earth becoming uninhabitable within the timescale suggested was “pure hyperbole.”
This is a deeply irresponsible article, cherry-picking doomsday scenarios. Climate change is real and serious, but this is stretching... https://twitter.com/nymag/status/884418279762272257 …
What's written's actually beyond worst possible case. THIS is the "alarmism" we get accused of. It's important to speak out against it.
But Australian climate scientists news.com.au spoke to said while some of the descriptions of the future earth were fanciful (one called them “dramatised”), fanciful didn’t mean they were false.
“It’s absolutely true these things could happen,” said Dr Liz Hanna, President of the Climate and Health Alliance and a researcher into the health impacts of climate change at the Australian National University (ANU).
“It’s alarming but not alarmist.”
Professor Will Steffen of the Climate Council of Australia said the predictions were not from “ultra greenies” but were a sober assessment of the societal collapse extreme climate change could bring.
THE MOST DIRE PREDICTIONS
In his essay, Mr Wallace-Wells says the effects of global warming were already happening.
The Global Seed Vault, surrounded by supposedly permanent ice, has flooded. On Wednesday, a trillion-ton block of ice twice the size of the Australian Capital Territory sheared off from the Antarctic ice sheet. The last three years have been the hottest on record globally.
The articles he said, “was not a series of predictions of what will happen. Instead, it is a portrait of our best understanding of where the planet is heading absent aggressive action.”
The outlook was dire. “No plausible program of emissions reductions can prevent climate disaster.
“Most people talk as if Miami and Bangladesh still have a chance of surviving; most of the scientists I spoke with assume we’ll lose them within the century.”
He writes that the Earth had a mass extinction 250 million years ago when the planet warmed by five degrees triggering the release of methane encased in Arctic ice.
“This ended up with 97 per cent of all life on Earth dead. We are currently adding carbon to the atmosphere at a faster rate”.
That same melting ice could also release dormant deadly diseases frozen in time, such as smallpox and the plague.
It is deeply gratifying, and deeply humbling, to see so many scientists engaging so deeply with the story.
HUMANS COOKED FROM INSIDE OUT
The 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, which the USA has withdrawn from, has an aim of holding the increase in global temperatures to “well below 2C” above pre-industrial levels. Many climate scientists think this goal is already unachievable.
Mr Wallace-Wells said if global temperatures rose by around 4C, hot and humid equatorial regions would be unliveable.
“Within a few hours, a human body would be cooked to death from both inside and out.”
Oceanic acidification could kill off fish creating “dead zones’ and poisonous hydrogen “sulphide burps” might bubble up from the sea floor.
In a 4C warmer world, the Earth’s ecosystem — Australia included — will boil with a constant swarm of tornadoes, floods and droughts, “that not so long ago destroyed whole civilisations.”
It’s depressing stuff and, in a Facebook post, Penn State’s Prof Mann, hit back claiming some of the data used was “just not true”.
“The article argues that climate change will render the Earth uninhabitable by the end of this century. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. The article fails to produce it.”
Prof Mann added, he “was not a fan of this sort of doomist framing,” which spread “a sense of doom and hopelessness”.
Mr Wallace-Wells has said his critics who paint the article as being just a worst-case scenario miss the point. “[That] is a factual description of the story and its explicit goals”, he said on Twitter.
Mr Steffen, an ANU emeritus professor, told news.com.au there were issues with the piece but it still painted a realistic picture.
“[The article] was dramatised and somewhat embellished but it did raise an important issue and that’s if you look at this one per cent to five per cent risk you get pretty scary and plausible scenarios.”
Despite the low probability of the various horrors coming true, we ignored them at our peril, he said.
“A one per cent risk to aviation industry would mean maybe ten planes crashing a day and that’s not a risk we would tolerate.”
Current projections suggested these far-fetched outcomes were becoming, if anything, more likely.
“These are not wild risks being put forward by ultra greenies — they are sober risks understood by people in the Pentagon and Australian military,” Prof Steffen told news.com.au. “It’s not far fetched if the Pentagon are looking at it.”
SOCIETY COULD COLLAPSE
“When people can’t eat they fight, move or do both but they don’t just sit there and starve.
“It’s not at all too big a stretch to say society could collapse.
“By the end of the century the population could drop from seven billion to one billion because what you’re facing is a changing rainfall regimen that will wreak havoc with global food systems and see sea level rises which could inundate industrial areas,” he said.
Dr Hanna agreed the bleak future prophesied was more plausible.
“Could parts of the world become uninhabitable? A definite yes.
“Darwin is already problematic in the build-up and could become problematic for everyone aside from extremophile for much of the year.”
The “permanent extreme drought” predicted to afflict densely populated parts of Australia might not come to pass, she said, but devastatingly deep and longer lasting droughts certainly could.
There were brighter spots, she said, including the rise of renewables, despite them becoming a political punch bag,
Even Mr Wallace-Wells has hope pointing to the success in gradually depleting the hole in the ozone layer.
Dr Hanna says she has little time for the argument that such apocalyptic descriptions should be kept from the public.
“Some say that people will be paralysed by fear, ‘what can li’l old me do about it?’
“But if we tell people how grizzly it could become, it might not lead to paralysis — it could jolt them into action,” she said.
“By the time people go ‘shit we’re in real trouble now,’ it could be too late.”
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