Written By: Anton Sawyer
I must admit that depending on your political view, a number of my thoughts throughout other articles could fall under the category of “unpopular.” But the theory I am about to present you today is one that I know is going to be unpopular on such a level, that my self-awareness is unable to keep me from making note of it.
The argument about whether climate change being caused by man or not is a horrific misdirection in which no matter what the correct answer is, it really isn’t going to change the outcome at all. Also, none of the legislation pertaining to corporations and the environment—whether American or worldwide—that has been presented is going to change the endgame.
Whatever your viewpoint is, I’m sure that by the end of this article, you are going to have a few takeaways to ponder. Sadly, most of them are not good.
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As a science and numbers guy, I’m sure you know which side of the debate I stand on when it comes to arguments on whether or not climate change is caused by man. But before I get too ahead of myself I want to address those who disagree with me—those who see no connection between man and climate. To me, this is the far grimmer of all prospective endings to the story. Think about it for a moment. The increasing temperatures, the violence of storms, and to know that there’s absolutely nothing that can be done because Mother Nature does whatever she wants and there’s no way of stopping it. This is already condemning the end of our species from the get-go. This means that humanity is just occupying space until we do something horrific enough, it wipes us out.
With that being said, there have been a couple of environmental studies that have come out over the last decade that I think are worth examining. These studies paint mankind into a corner, exposing that there is very little which can be done at this point given our trajectory. And as depressing as it is to think about the Mother Nature theory, the fact that humanity is probably going to be taken out by its own hand is just as tragic.
The Point Of No Return
Most people have familiarized themselves with the term “The Point Of No Return” for climate change to be the point in which the environment has gone so far off the rails as to guarantee it being uninhabitable.
Some studies have said we have passed this point, while others have a bit rosier of a picture. Whether positive or negative, one by one each had either been outright debunked or questioned heavily when issues with methodology would arise. The one which seemed to have the most credibility came from a 2019 report. The study was published in the European Geosciences Union’s “Earth Systems Dynamics” journal and describes a powerful model that combines climate simulations with methods from statistical physics. The model accounts for climate uncertainties, different climate mitigation strategies, and policymakers’ willingness to risk missing the climate targets. The model also examines whether removing carbon from the atmosphere might buy the world more time. Even in the best of circumstances, it’s less than a century away. So, how late is too late for policies to have a reasonable likelihood of achieving the Paris Agreement’s 2-degree Celsius goal in 2100? Assuming a moderate mitigation strategy, a 2-degree warming threshold, and accepting a 67% likelihood of remaining below the threshold, the point of no return will arrive in the year 2035. If the removal of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere is strong, the point of no return gets delayed to 2042. With the same assumptions but a 1.5-degree warming threshold, the point of no return has already passed. Greenhouse gas removal, if implemented immediately, might push the Point of No Return to 2026. For a more aggressive (fast) mitigation strategy, the points of no return, assuming no greenhouse gases are removed from the atmosphere, will arrive in 2027 and 2045 respectively for the 1.5 degree and 2-degree targets.
Just for fun though, let’s say that every giant corporation on Earth was to meet these standards, and worldwide temperatures start to slow down in record-breaking ways. There’s one obstacle to the wellbeing of humanity that has plagued the species since moment one: humanity itself.
The oceans are a tragic mess, and it isn’t going to stop anytime soon. As much as it would be nice to point to giant corporations specifically for all of the environmental ills of Earth (and this doesn’t mean I’m giving them a pass—they are horrific in their own right), humankind is just as damaging.
Here are facts I like to call “cause and effect.”
Cause and Effect
A study prepared by the World Wildlife Fund and the Zoological Society of London in 2015 shows that the population of marine species has declined by a whopping 49% since 1970. This is the worst sea population decline ever. Irregular fishing and commercial killing of sea animals have led to this situation, say experts. This leads to even more dire statistics. By 2050, plastic in the oceans will outweigh fish, predicts a 2017 report from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, in partnership with the World Economic Forum. The report projects the oceans will contain at least 937 million tons of plastic and 895 million tons of fish by 2050. Part of the reason is that plastic use has increased 20-fold in the last 50 years, and its consumption/manufacturing isn’t slowing down. We don't reuse nearly as many plastics as we could, causing them to go into landfills that can then pollute the oceans. For example, only 14% of plastic packaging is recycled, and is the biggest source of plastic pollution in the oceans, according to the same Ellen MacArthur report.
Looking at these reports also reveals another factoid. Like I mentioned above, as much as we would like to blame big businesses for their environmental destruction, in many cases, the destruction is due to the sheer necessity of providing for the masses. As of 2017 businesses were losing at least 80 billion dollars a year because they have to make so many new plastics from scratch. This oceanic garbage dump is also a helping factor when it comes to weather patterns as well. A 2018 report published in Nature says that a recent weakening of the “Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation” (AMOC) is coming to an end but will stay at a “prolonged minimum” for the next two decades. This "conveyor belt" impacts everyone on Earth.
A good example is how it plays a crucial role in western Europe’s climate by allowing the incoming warm water to release its heat into the atmosphere. Without it, for example, UK winters would be around 5 degrees C colder, and the propensity for massive European wildfires to increase. It is worth mentioning that there have been scientists who have debated whether these results are caused by mankind or not. The indirect “proxy” data used to analyze the AMOC suggest that its weakening is part of a natural cycle, rather than being caused by human-caused warming—as had been proposed by two earlier studies published. However, researchers not involved in the study warn that it is “debatable whether such strong conclusions” about the AMOC can be drawn using proxy data, rather than direct observations. But whether caused by man or not, one fact remains clear; the research has suggested that the AMOC has weakened by around 15% since the middle of the 20th century.
We can debate numbers all day, but I want to just throw stark reality out there. Let’s look at the amount of preventable death due to the choices of mankind that everyone on Earth has been impacted by in one way or another throughout the 21st century.
The entire Covid-19 situation says it all—not even in just America, but worldwide. Yes, some countries have fared better than others (New Zealand comes to mind). But no country on Earth didn’t feel the scourge of a piece of their constituency fighting tooth-and-nail what was ultimately in the best interest of everyone at large. Believing whatever they read online to fit their narrative as fact, because to these people, they were facts.
We live in a world wherein certain parts, millions of people want to kill millions of other people because of the different words used between the two warring factions towards the same invisible man in the sky. Humanity, as a species, has a lot of growing to do in general. In a related thought, do you honestly believe that the terrorists of the world are going to remember to pick up their shell-casings for recycling after committing ethnic cleansing on the homes of their enemies?
To be honest, the only way to survive is to get off this ball of dirt. And I don’t mean by allocating funds or additional tax breaks to people like Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, or anyone else who are starting their own space programs. But we do need to look at the realities of maintaining life outside of the Earth’s atmosphere. We need to look at ways of transport, at construction in space, and how to realistically get as many people as possible into a sustainable way of life out there.
What we need to do is begin a scientific agricultural push by finding ways to grow foods in extreme fashions. Maybe take some of the heirloom seeds from the Svalbard Global Seed Vault and take the properties of the moon soil we currently have and find a way to allow for cloning and mass production? Look, there are a lot more people more qualified to make these kinds of discoveries, but to say that ALL hope is lost … I choose not to look at the world that way.
Something drastically needs to change, and the current mode of thinking—saving the planet—is barking up the wrong tree. The numbers, and even the logic that has played out before our eyes this century when it comes to the levels of division between peoples, shows this. The crash course is being set day by day, and the pilot is asleep at the wheel. There is one thought that sickens yet amuses me at the same time when it comes to this entire situation. It’s interesting to think that because of our intellectual, spiritual, and technological advancements, we have become the epitome of the most dominant species to ever walk the planet. Yet at the current rates, we are also going to be the first dominant species to cause our own extinction as well.
We’re number one?
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