2080 AD. All humans on earth from my generation would long be dead. But if my daughter were to plan a family today, her newborn would then be about the age of my generation today.
2030 AD. Global climate has worsened unimaginably and humans already stressed by climate extremes have been struck by another pandemic far worse than COVID19. Billions have been infected and the death toll is rising by the day. Fear of death is the overriding emotion all over. Chaos, uncertainty, and confusion reign supreme.
Economies all over are tumbling like ninepins and a sense of doom and helplessness pervades. The blame game is the order of the day but no one is entirely surprised because the writing on the wall has been crystal clear for decades. Warnings had been raised time and again. Science was clear but people who mattered failed to act when there still was time. They continued to indulge in grandstanding and blame transfer (tu tu mein mein in vernacular) thinking that perhaps technology would bail humanity out in time. But alas!
While the above may still not be true in 2030 but come 2080, science and scientists opine that the above might become a stark reality for the generation getting born today unless drastic and emergency actions are taken today in 2022 in terms of a paradigm shift away from our current GDP-based economic model and the wasteful, high-consumption human lifestyle.
Tall order most would say, despite Antonio Guterres, the UN Secretary-General repeatedly for the last few years crying himself hoarse declaring “addiction to fossil fuels is MAD (mutually assured destruction)”…. “We are on a fast track to climate disaster….and most recently “we seem to be trapped in a world where fossil fuel producers and financiers have humanity by the throat”.
Let me try and unravel the extent of the climate emergency as presently understood by scientists. It may be noted that climate science, despite major strides taken thanks to the use of manmade satellites, still remains pretty inexact because the variables are too many and some are even unknown to date.
While several critical atmospheric phenomenons like El Nino, La Nina, Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation, etc have been deciphered and monitored, more remain to be found and understood. So, figures and timelines emerging out of climate models could even be deceptive, making precaution far preferable to cure!
Sample the following findings:
Overuse and abuse of wild biological resources by the wealthy could result in the extinction of 50-75% of earth’s species (6th mass extinction) within this century or next said June 2021 IPEB-IPCC report highlighting that ‘devil may care’ consumption attitudes and patterns of the rich and spoilt are pure evil, not just unsustainable.
It is urgent to shift to a post-growth economy (where economic growth come what may, is no longer the elusive ‘god’ to attain) if – forget the Paris target of comfortable cum manageable 1.5deg – 2.0deg C temperatures rise above pre-industrial times – actual global temperature rise of 1.8 -2.4deg C is not to be seen and experienced by 2040 or so.
Some believe that even a 1.5 -2.0deg C rise itself is humanity’s death sentence. Not far-fetched if we look at how erratically the climate is already in 2022 behaving at a mere 1.17deg C rise since the 1750s. So it is little wonder that the IPCC 2022 report (AR6) has for the first time since 1990 stressed economic “de-growth” as an unavoidable imperative for the still growth-obsessed humanity to seriously consider and adopt.
But where from the 2080 timeline….
It has been estimated by a 2020 study that with greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions keeping to business as the usual norm, there shall be 560 ppm (parts per million) of atmospheric CO2 in 2080 – against the current 419 ppm in 2022 – which would be double the total carbon dioxide levels (278 ppm) in the atmosphere at the dawn of the industrial era in the 1750s. The climate catastrophe associated with this doubling might just make the earth uninhabitable for the human race.
‘Good riddance’, remaining life forms on earth might joyously exclaim!!!
To make matters worse and rub salt onto injury, the latest UN climate talks in Bonn, Germany ended on 16 June in a stalemate. Yet another example of what Antonio Guterres says about “global leadership is failing to listen to science and sleepwalking to climate catastrophe”.
This article was first published at TheDialogue as Failing Economy & Climate Disasters: Writing Was On The Wall.
Read another piece by Manoj Misra on the wasteland problem of deserts- Deserts and Ravines are not Wastelands in IMPRI insights.
Read another piece by Manoj Misra- Reducing Water Footprint in Electricity Production in IMPRI insights.
Read another piece by Manoj Misra on Can Compensatory Afforestation cure all woes? in IMPRI insights.
About the Author
Manoj Misra, former member of the Indian Forest Service (IFS), and Convener of Yamuna Jiye Abhiyaan (Living Yamuna Campaign) a civil society consortium. Member of Water Conflicts Forum and the India Rivers Forum, Organising Committee