Imagining the unthinkable
There is substantial evidence to indicate that significant global warming will occur this decade causing a significant drop in the human carrying capacity of the Earth’s environment.
When most people think about climate change, they imagine gradual increases in temperature with marginal changes in other climatic conditions, and that the pace of climate change will not overwhelm the adaptive capacity of society, or our efforts to mitigate the impacts.
This view of climate change is a dangerous act of self-deception, as increasingly we are facing weather related disasters - more hurricanes, monsoons, floods, and droughts around the world.
The conventional wisdom that modern civilization will either adapt to whatever weather conditions we face and that the pace of climate change will not overwhelm the adaptive capacity of society is utter gibberish as we have no idea how sever, how fast or how frequent climatic events (climate shifts) will be upon us.
It is all best ‘guesstimate’ as those climate modelling computer programs continuously get outfoxed by climate events.
In general, climate shifts (those one in a hundred year events happening frequently) are an economic nuisance, generally affecting local areas as storms, droughts, and hot spells impact on agriculture, logistics and utilities. For now they are a bearable nuisance to our society and its infrastructure as the weather patterns are not yet severe enough or widespread enough to threaten society or its infrastructure as a whole.
But as time progresses, their impact will be more noticeable and the age old saying; today’s news is tomorrows fish and chip wrapper, will no longer be true as these events become more frequent, more severe and begin to have a huge cost, both financially and physically on our infrastructure. But more importantly, they will leave an impending sense of foreboding on the human psyche.
There will be, at some point in the not too distant future, an unnoticeable reduction in the carrying capacity of our society in general as we lose the ability to absorb and repair such events.
Even today the carrying capacity, which is the ability for the Earth and its natural ecosystems including social, economic, and cultural systems to support the finite number of people on the planet, is being exceeded around the world. At present we are living well above it, meaning there are not sufficient natural resources to sustain our present behaviour and lifestyles.
Within a decade the evidence of an imminent abrupt climate shift will become all too clear. When it does, new forms of security dealing specifically with energy, food and water will be the necessity, disruption and conflict will be endemic features of life.
The industrial heartbeat; the economy and industrial civilisation, the very cause we face extinction in the near term, the trigger that precipitated climate change, will be irrelevant when feedback loops get in motion, as then, inevitability will take over.
Methane will be the main driver now, not carbon dioxide, and the maxim will be ‘The hotter it gets, the faster it gets hotter’ as the exponential methane feedback loop gets into its stride. Recent scientific findings suggest that we are on the cusp of such an event. As global and local carrying capacities are reduced, tensions will mount around the world, leading to two fundamental strategies: defensive and offensive. Nations with the resources to do so will build virtual fortresses around their countries, preserving resources for themselves. Less fortunate nations especially those with ancient enmities with their neighbours, may initiate in struggles for access to food, clean water, or energy. Unlikely alliances could be formed as defence priorities shift for survival rather than religion, ideology, or national honour.