Monday, August 30, 2021

Clearing Up Human Extinction

"There is no evidence of climate change scenarios that would render human beings extinct," Michael Mann, a distinguished professor of atmospheric science at Penn State and author of "The New Climate War: The Fight to Take Back Our Planet" (PublicAffairs, 2021), told Live Science in an email.
cc: Extinction Rebellion, Jem Bendell


Layzej said...

I wonder whether hyperbole on one side is necessary to balance hyperbole on the other. Maybe it allows scientists and economists to occupy the middle ground. Most people interested in the truth will ignore the fringe on either side.

Alternatively, if you have the Sky Dragons on one side and scientists on the other it gives room for dismissives to occupy the "sane" middle ground.

To be clear, it's important to point out the ridiculous claims on either side. There is no value in allying with either fringe.

Thomas said...

Add humans fighting over the inhabitable land when large, currently densely populated areas, become inhospitable and the outcome gets a lot more murky. Some genius deciding that the best way of clearing land for your own population is bio warfare or autonomous killer drones and human extinction starts to seem a lot more plausible,

Entropic man said...

Our planet will survive climate change.

Our species will probably survive climate change.

Our global high tech civilization will probably not survive.

Layzej said...

"There is no evidence of climate change scenarios that would render human beings extinct"

Is incompatible with

"Our species will probably survive climate change."

because the second implies that there is evidence of climate change scenarios that could render human beings extinct.

This one doesn't seem supportable either: "Our global high tech civilization will probably not survive."

My understanding is that cost and suffering can be minimized with sensible climate policy. Are there Mad Max scenarios? If so, are they really more likely than not?

Entropic man said...

"My understanding is that cost and suffering can be minimized with sensible climate policy. "

It can be, but will it be?

Even with greater recent awareness, our attempts to mitigate climate are running a long way behind the rate of change.

I'm afraid I do not share your optimism. Humanity functions well in the face of immediate disaster, but not when immediate action is required to prevent a disaster in the distant future. Whether you call it discounting or lack of imagination, it is something you see a lot.

Climate change is just the sort of thing we'll only respond to when it is too late to do much about it.

Layzej said...

"It can be, but will it be?"

Maybe. Maybe not. I suspect we'll find that the answer is "Somewhat". It's also possible we end up with a not-so-sensible climate policy that does more damage than good.

But none of that implies a Mad Max scenario where "Our global high tech civilization will probably not survive."

Entropic man said...


We are a civilization mostly based on coastal plains. The most damaging effects of climate change are the loss of coastal agricultural land and infrastructure due to rising sea levels and higher storm surges.

The test of our civilization will be to replace lost food production and infrastructure fast enough to counter the effects of climate change. For example, most of our existing nuclear power stations are vulnerable to storm surges amplified by climate change.

Layzej said...

I suppose it's a matter of perspective, but food scarcity and nuclear disasters (such as Fukushima) sound closer to "cost and suffering" than civilization ending.

Entropic man said...

"This is the Way the World Ends: Not with a Bang but a Whimper."

T S Eliot

I don't expect global disaster. More a progressive disintegration as the ropadope of overpopulation, resource depletion, famine and climate change makes it harder for countries to maintain complex infrastructure.

Consider Haiti. They've been hit repeatedly go high category hurricanes and earthquakes and don't have the resources to rebuild. They are becoming a failed state because they can't keep up with the damage.

Consider the US. Wildfires and drought in the Southwest. Increasing hurricane damage disrupting life in the East and South. Desertification nibbling at the Southern edge of the Great Plains breadbasket. Your margin is shrinking.

Entropic man said...

On the BBC news I just watched a New Jersey woman describing how her situation has changed. Her house has repeatedly flooded in recent years and her insurance company now refuses to cover the damage. She is being forced to move because she can no longer afford to live there.

As below, so above. Regions and even countries fail because it's just too expensive to keep them functioning.

And how many failed states does it take to disrupt the global interdependence we have come to rely on?