The Age, by Liam Mannix: An alarming claim has been made about the future of our earth in recent months: that, at best, we’re facing the collapse of civilization or, at worst, a mass extinction.
The claims have been highlighted by environmental protest movement Extinction Rebellion and from climate crisis activist Greta Thunberg.
Ms. Thunberg has warned of the “end of our civilization as we know it.” A rebellion spokeswoman told The Age: “We are risking the collapse of human civilization and the deaths of billions of people.”
What do they mean? And are they right?
What’s behind the alarm?
The protesters warn of two separate but related threats: the Holocene extinction, and global heating. . . .
The Holocene extinction, also known as the sixth mass extinction, refers to fears that human activity is pushing a huge number of plants and animals to the brink of extinction. . . .
This would be the first mass extinction caused by human activity such as polluting and land clearing.
The Holocene extinction is related to, but distinct from, the threat posed by global heating.
Scientists agree that if the world’s emissions keep growing at their current rate, we are on track for warming of between 3 and 5 degrees by the end of the century.
Global governments pledged to keep warming to 2 degrees but pledges alone have not stopped greenhouse gas emissions increasing at unprecedented levels, driven largely by the industrialization of China and India.
Global heating has its own worrying effects too.
So is a huge extinction in store?
For plants and animals, yes.
About 25 percent of land species and 40 per cent of amphibians are now threatened with extinction, a 2019 UN evidence synthesis estimated. Some scientists have estimated that between 24 and 150 species become extinct every single day.
One in every 10 remaining species is already “committed to extinction,” meaning without action to restore their habitats they will die out, many within decades. Most of the damage has been done by land clearing, logging, hunting, fishing, and other human activities. Human actions have driven at least 680 vertebrate species extinct since 1500. . . .
Unlike humans, animals and plants cannot adapt to a quickly changing environment; scientists expect global heating to put more and more pressure on threatened species, adding to existing pressures from human activity and pushing them further toward extinction.
What about us? Will humans become extinct?
When Ms. Thunberg and Extinction Rebellion talk about the collapse of civilization, they are talking about the risks posed by global heating.
Will global heating mean the end of the human race?
“No. People will find refuge,” says Professor Steven Sherwood, deputy director of the University of NSW’s Climate Change Research Centre.
“But, will it bring about the downfall of civilization? That’s tricky.”
There is good evidence that the predicted 3 to 5 degrees of global heating will result in the deaths of many millions of people living in poverty.
They will run out of water, starve, or die in more frequent cyclones, floods, wildfires, and storm surges.
But humans won’t die out. With enough money, we are extremely adaptable. Air-conditioning and desalination plants will allow those in more affluent societies to live in extremely hot, dry places. The rich can build sea walls, move to colder places, and pay more for food—which will become much more expensive.
But, even for them, life will be different.
“If you find you have 60 days a year where it’s above 40 degrees [Celsius], it will change many aspects of our lives,” says Professor Brendan Mackey, director of Griffith University’s Climate Change Response Program.
The poor will not have the luxury of adapting.
Crop yields are projected to fall by 60 percent in the Middle East and North Africa, exposing hundreds of millions to starvation, according to the World Bank (this may be counterbalanced with increases in farming productivity). What crops do grow would become less nutritious. The number of fish available in key fisheries could fall by up to 50 percent.
Large parts of Bangladesh, home to 164 million people, will be inundated by sea levels that will rise by almost one meter. It is possible, although not certain, the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets will melt (the Arctic will definitely melt), raising sea levels further.
Global heating will increase the number of droughts the world will see and even the chance that conflicts will break out over remaining water supplies.
Available drinking water in already parched North Africa and the Middle East could fall by more than 45 percent, the World Bank predicts.
Global heating is already causing more deadly heat waves, hotter days and nights, more floods, more storm surges, more cyclones, and more wildfires. There will be more pandemics too, in so far as hotter weather increases the spread of fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes all of which are disease carriers.
The frequency of these events will continue to increase as the world warms…
Scientists and environmental activists are anticipating an increase in catastrophic events, though the cause may not be what they believe it to be. The earth is groaning due to the effects of sin and the workings of Satan in these last days.
“In accidents and calamities by sea and by land, in great conflagrations, in fierce tornadoes and terrific hailstorms, in tempests, floods, cyclones, tidal waves, and earthquakes, in every place and in a thousand forms, Satan is exercising his power. He sweeps away the ripening harvest, and famine and distress follow. He imparts to the air a deadly taint, and thousands perish by the pestilence. These visitations are to become more and more frequent and disastrous. Destruction will be upon both man and beast. ‘The earth mourneth and fadeth away,’ ‘the haughty people … do languish. The earth also is defiled under the inhabitants thereof; because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant.’ Isaiah 24:4, 5.” Great Controversy, page 589.