Tim Louis: A dire warning about the end of human civilization due to climate feedback loops

There's no time for complacency, according to Dr. Peter Carter, founder of the Climate Emergency Institute

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      Last Monday (March 7) as I watched Paul Jay’s podcast, A Dire Warning About the End of Human Civilization, on theAnalysis.news website, my worst fears were confirmed—the climate crisis is order of magnitude more catastrophic than we have come to believe.

      It is now no longer a question of whether or not we will drastically reduce and then eliminate our carbon emissions before we reach a point of no return. The question now is whether or not we have already surpassed that point.

      The March 7 podcast featured Jay interviewing physician Dr. Peter Carter about the report Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability, released on February 28 by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)—a report which is more dire than all previous IPCC reports. Carter is the founding director of the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (CAPE) and more recently a founder of the Climate Emergency Institute.

      This latest IPCC report is different from all previous reports. It no longer focuses on things that might happen. It now focusses on what is already happening. The scientific evidence is unequivocal now that climate change is threatening the entire planet’s population and the well-being of the planet itself.

      Carter makes it very clear that there is no longer any possibility of stabilizing our climate with a temperature increase of 1.5° C since the start of the Industrial Revolution. Stabilizing it with an increase of 2° C is almost certainly not going to be possible either.

      Carter adds that even if we could stabilize at 1.5° C—which we aren’t going to do—we would still be in a very serious situation, with a large number of people losing their lives due to heat events, forest fires, and plummeting food production.

      To drive home the criminality of the crisis, he quoted UN Secretary-General António Guterres, who has stated that the inaction on the climate crisis has now reached the level of crime.

      James Hansen, director of the Climate Science, Awareness and Solutions Program in Columbia University’s Earth Institute, tells us that a 2° C increase is the end of the world for humanity.

      Carter agrees with Hansen.

      That's because 2° C is the tipping point of all tipping points. It will trigger eight to 10 powerful sources of amplifying carbon feedback. Some examples of carbon feedback that occur with a 2° C higher temperature are increased wildfires, mass mortality of trees, and carbon drying of peatlands. Just one of these—the thawing of permafrost—will release massive amounts of carbon into the atmosphere.

      Another tipping point is the failure of our natural carbon sinks. The most horrifying is the lost resilience of the Amazon rainforest. The Amazon is now emitting more carbon than it is absorbing.

      If all of the above is not bleak enough, Carter explains that previous predictions on the timeline for a temperature increase of 1.5° C (2030) and 2° C (2050) may be out the window, due in no small part to the rapidly disappearing ability of our oceans to absorb carbon.

      Becoming carbon neutral by 2050 doesn’t even come close to what we need to do. We need to eliminate all carbon emissions as close to immediately as is humanly possible. We must commence a concerted, aggressive lobbying campaign aimed at all three levels of government—municipal, provincial, and federal. We must also call on labour to declare a general strike to demand an immediate end to carbon emissions. 

      Daily atmospheric CO2 [Courtesy of CO2.Earth]

      Latest daily total (Mar. 10, 2022): 418.94ppm

      One year ago (Mar. 10, 2021): 416.53 ppm

      Tim Louis is a Vancouver lawyer and former city councillor and park commissioner. This article first appeared on his blogThe Georgia Straight publishes opinions like this from the community to encourage constructive debate on important issues.