I started writing this essay on April 3, 2023, but have been unable to generate any enthusiasm to write. Then tonight (April 5) it occurred to me that the reason for my lack of enthusiasm is my pessimism regarding the human future.
(Blog Editors Note: The following is an article called, What To Do? (If Anything!) by the 83-year-old Alton C. Thompson. It captures many painful aspects of the climate change emergency, especially the dread and the appropriate disillusionment it produces in many people.
We recommend it because it is highly informative on why so many people do not see humanity surviving and having any livable post-climate change emergency future. However, as he asks at the end of his essay, there are numerous rational reasons why we should still have a limited yet wholly appropriate hope for a better post-climate emergency future.
At the end of his essay, we have provided links to why everyone should still have and maintain some climate hope and what we need to do to support that hope staying alive and being used to change our future for the better.)
What To Do? (If Anything!)
I started writing this essay on April 3, 2023, but have been unable to generate any enthusiasm to write. Then tonight (April 5) it occurred to me that the reason for my lack of enthusiasm is my pessimism regarding the human future.That pessimism is demonstrated especially in my Ten Reasons Why We Are Doomed and The Message of a Graph.
The basis for my pessimism is the global warming now occurring—and even accelerating, thereby “bringing world ‘dangerously close’ to irreversible change.” Stated another way:
We may be about to pass – or may already have passed – tipping points in the Earth’s climate, according to a group of leading scientists.
The scientists analyzed evidence on these nine components of our climate system – called "tipping points" because they are under growing threat of abrupt and irreversible changes.
1. Amazon rainforest
2. Arctic sea ice
3. Atlantic circulation
4. Boreal forests
5. Coral reefs
6. Greenland ice sheet
8. West Antarctic ice sheet
9. Part of East Antarctica
Passing one of these climate tipping points – from the collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet to the loss of coral reefs and the Amazon rainforest – may increase the risk of crossing others, the scientists write in a commentary article in the journal Nature.
The passing of a “tipping point” means that “runaway” begins—and as this article notes:
This is a good definition of runaway from a 2018 paper:
Self-reinforcing feedbacks could push the Earth System toward a planetary threshold that, if crossed, could prevent stabilization of the climate at intermediate temperature rises and cause continued warming on a “Hothouse Earth” pathway even as human emissions are reduced.
This paper warns that 'warming could activate important tipping elements (12, 17), raising the temperature further to activate other tipping elements in a domino-like cascade that could take the Earth System to even higher temperatures (Tipping Cascades)'. Even if the Paris Accord target of a 1.5 °C to 2.0 °C rise in temperature is met, we cannot exclude the risk that a cascade of feedbacks could push the Earth System irreversibly onto a “Hothouse Earth” pathway.' As we are committed to 2C without immediate rapid global emissions decline we are now at a point of runaway extreme risk. [I added the two links.]
In short, we are in a dire situation at present, and it may now be too late to act in meaningful ways—that is, ways that would prevent our species from going extinct! And what’s odd about that fact is that few in our society, and elsewhere, seem to be aware of our current dire situation! This because the media have been “silent” on the matter. As this article from 2012 points out:
What has become most striking about the growing evidence that climate change is a clear and present danger indeed an emerging existential threat is the simultaneous failure of the U.S. news media to deal seriously with the issue, another sign of how the Right can intimidate the mainstream into going silent.
This phenomenon of silence both in the political and journalistic realms has not gone completely unnoticed. It’s just that those who make the point are ignored, too.
For instance, Sen. John Kerry, D-Massachusetts, gave a major speech on the Senate floor on June 19 lamenting the failure of the U.S. political system to address the global-warming crisis but the speech got little play.
Kerry said, “As a matter of conscience and common sense, we should be compelled to fight today’s insidious conspiracy of silence on climate change, a silence that empowers misinformation and mythology to grow where science and truth should prevail. It is a conspiracy that has not just stalled, but demonized any constructive effort to put America in a position to lead the world on this issue.
Here in Milwaukee, several years ago I sent an email to the lead meteorologist at one of the local television stations, asking him why I never hear “global warming” being mentioned. I didn’t expect a reply—but did:
Our management forbids us to do so. (!)
He didn’t speculate as to why this was so; but I suspect that the management there, in recognizing their dependence on advertising for their existence, knew that any “disturbance of the peace” on their part would result in the loss of advertising!
I should perhaps add here that knowledge of the occurrence of global warming goes back to Svante Arrhenius [1859 – 1927]. Arrhenius was the first to use the principles of physical chemistry to estimate the extent to which increases in the atmospheric carbon dioxide are responsible for the Earth's increasing surface temperature. His work played an important role in the emergence of modern climate science. In the 1960s, Charles David Keeling demonstrated that the quantity of human-caused carbon dioxide emissions into the air is enough to cause global warming.
In 1988 NASA’s James Hansen testified before the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, beginning his testimony with these words:
I would like to draw three main conclusions. Number one, the earth is warmer in 1988 than at any time in the history of instrumental measurements. Number two, the global warming is now large enough that we can ascribe with a high degree of confidence a cause and effect relationship to the greenhouse effect. And number three, our computer climate simulations indicate that the greenhouse effect is already large enough to begin to effect the probability of extreme events such as summer heat waves.
But how many members of our society are aware of that history and aware of the threat to our species—and many other species as well—posed by global warming? (A rhetorical question, of course!)
It’s easy to conclude from the above discussion that our situation is hopeless—so that there is no answer to the global warming problem! What should add to that feeling of hopelessness is this solution to the problem offered by Prof. William J. Ripple and four colleagues in this paper (signed, to date, by “14,709 from 158 countries”!):
To secure a sustainable future, we must change how we live, in ways that improve the vital signs summarized by our  graphs.
Now if we “must” change how we live, there’s this problem, stated by Christopher Ryan:
Civilization is a package deal.
Our insistence on considering only the upside of civilization while ignoring many of its costs—and, conversely, demonizing prehistory with repeated misinformation—is as misguided (and dangerous) as only paying attention to the visible part of the iceberg. In the end, it’s the massive, submerged churning that will determine our fate, on both the individual and planetary levels.
What’s of particular relevance regarding the fact that a society, such as ours, is a “package deal,” is that if a given society has many problems—such as crime, drugs, disease, etc.—the implication is that the usual approach to problem solving is to merely “tinker” with the societal system, rather than doing what’s necessary. What’ necessary is to change the society itself—in the words of Prof. Ripple and colleagues, “change how we live.”
Thus, to solve the global warming problem, because it’s a global problem:
All societies in our world must change, each in a way that will solve all of their problems!
Because the likelihood of that occurring is close to 0—if not zero itself!—we must conclude there is no solution to our global warming problem; and that because that’s the case, it’s just a matter of time before our species (and many other ones as well) will go the way of the dinosaurs! (But for a different set of reasons.)
As the father of 3 wonderful children and grandfather of 5 fantastic grandchildren, this is not a conclusion that gives me any pleasure. But I see no other one!
If you see a better future, and can provide good evidence in support of it, please let me know about it!
End of Essay Critical Links
Click here first and read about why humanity will not likely go totally extinct because of the climate change emergency and its many consequences.
Click here next to read about what you must begin to do to maintain any rational and appropriate hope that at least parts of humanity will survive the many severe and unavoidable climate change consequences humanity will experience.
Click here for the master list of primary and secondary climate change consequences.
1 Dr. Phil said today (April 7, 2023), on his television show, that one should find a job that one can be passionate about, and do it to the best of one’s ability. What’s obvious about Dr. Phil is that he’s an intellectual prisoner of the Existing Order, utterly lacking in knowledge about global warming, and the threat that it poses to life—human life included!
2 See this recent article.
3 30 years later Hansen said that he: “wishes he had been wrong. He wasn't.” (!)
4 This article from 2019 states: “The bonds that hold nature together may be at risk of unraveling from deforestation, overfishing, development, and other human activities, a landmark United Nations report warns. Thanks to human pressures, one million [plant and animal] species may be pushed to extinction in the next few years, with serious consequences for human beings as well as the rest of life on Earth.”
5 Author of, e. g., Civilized to Death (2019).
6 A characteristic of “civilized” societies; see note 5.
7 Global warming is both a societal problem and a specietal one!
8 Because of societal inertia.
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