UXBRIDGE, Canada, Jan 11 2013 (IPS) - Experts on the health of our planet are terrified of the future. They can clearly see the coming collapse of global civilisation from an array of interconnected environmental problems. Poor communities are hit hardest by extreme weather events. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS
“We’re all scared,” said Paul Ehrlich, president of the Center for Conservation Biology at Stanford University. “But we must tell the truth about what’s happening and challenge people to do something to prevent it,” Ehrlich told IPS.
Global collapse of human civilisation seems likely, write Ehrlich and his partner Anne Ehrlich in the prestigious science journal, Proceedings of the Royal Society.
The 49-page agreement produced at the Rio+20 Earth Summit is unmitigated junk. I'm not going out on a limb here. It's one of those rare universally agreed upon truths.
Greenpeace called the summit a "failure of epic proportions". The organisers of the original 1992 Rio Summit said the document was a weak collection of "pious generalities". Friends of the Earth described it as "hollow". George Monbiot wrote it was "meaningless platitudes". Richard Branson used the phrase "mealy-mouthed".
The real nightmare scenario is when all these changes begin to rein- force one another. The Arctic loses its summer sea ice, causing Greenland's ice to melt and encouraging the boreal forests to change as well. The freshwater runoff changes the thermohaline dynamics and affects the jet stream. The El Niño–Southern Oscillation and the Amazon interact in such a way as to reinforce one another, perhaps affecting the monsoon in India and Africa. "It wouldn't be such a silly thing to say that if you meddle with one, you might affect the other," says Lenton. "Which direction the causality would go is not always obvious. We know it's connected, we know it's nonlinear, we know they somehow couple together. When you see one change, you see changes in the other."
"Then we start talking about domino dynamics," says Lenton. "The worse case would be that kind of scenario in which you tip one thing and that encourages the tipping of another. You get these cascading effects."
It would take a perfect storm of climate flips to get us to this particular worst-case scenario. If it does come to pass, however, at least it will happen quickly.
Although there is an urban legend that the world will end this year based on a misinterpretation of the Mayan calendar, some researchers think a 40-year-old computer program that predicts a collapse of socioeconomic order and massive drop in human population in this century may be on target.
The people of Earth have already gone too far to just stop global warming, Goodstein said. The planet, he said, is already set to warm four to 12 degrees in coming decades and has already warmed a degree and a half over the past century.