The Underestimation of Climate Risk- Can Communal Consciousness Turn the Tide?

By Roberta Russell

Ask your neighbors: “Could human-caused climate change result in worldwide societal collapse or even eventual human extinction?” 

David Spratt, research director of the Melbourne-based Breakthrough National Centre for Climate Restoration and co-author of the book Climate Code Red, thinks the threat is real. See his article, “Faster than forecast, climate impacts trigger tipping points in the Earth system.” (Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists 4-19-2023).

Shutterstock photo. Text: Roberta Russell.

As an illustration of how the predictions are not keeping pace with reality, consider that Spratt’s August 2022 Cryosphere report in the above-linked reference concluded that more than four meters of additional sea level rise occurred in sections of the West Antarctic ice sheet, potentially collapsing even without any further emissions. Several months later, scientists reported that the Greenland ice sheet glaciers are melting 100 times faster than had been previously calculated.

Spratt is not alone. “This is a dangerously underexplored topic…there are ample reasons to suspect that climate change could result in a global catastrophe,” wrote the eminent Australian climate scientists Will Steffen and colleagues in August 2022 in “Climate Endgame: Exploring catastrophic climate change scenarios.”

As temperatures escalate, the polar ice caps melt, releasing CO2; and glaciers retreat, causing sea levels to rise and intensify the threat to coastal communities worldwide. Higher sea levels increase the risk of flooding and storm surges that can damage homes, infrastructure, and agricultural land. In the long term, rising sea levels could force millions of people to migrate, causing social and economic upheaval. 

In Greenwich Village we are surrounded by water. Our ignorance and fear have given rise to complacency. 

The world is currently experiencing the effects of climate change, with global temperatures rising at an unprecedented rate. If we do not take urgent action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions we could reach the critical threshold of 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels as early as 2030. 

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has warned that if we fail to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius we will see more frequent and intense heatwaves, droughts, and flooding, as well a significant loss of biodiversity. 

While the task of limiting global warming may seem daunting, there are reasons for optimism. There is, of course, the ingenuity of man. Renewable energy technologies such as solar and wind power have become increasingly affordable and accessible, and many countries and cities around the world are taking steps to transition to clean energy. In addition, many businesses and investors are recognizing the opportunities offered by the transition to a low-carbon economy and are investing in renewable energy and energy efficiency.

However, there are significant challenges that must be overcome if we are to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. One major challenge is the political will to act. The Paris Agreement was a significant achievement, but many countries have not yet taken sufficient action to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, there are powerful interests, such as the fossil fuel industry, that are resistant to change, and some political leaders who deny the reality of climate change.

Climate change is a global problem that requires a global solution, and it will be difficult to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius without cooperation among countries. However, there are considerable geopolitical tensions and competing priorities that make international cooperation challenging. Failure to achieve this in time would have a significant and potentially irreversible effect. 

Individual actions can also have a significant impact in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Simple changes such as using public transportation, biking, or walking instead of driving can reduce emissions considerably. Additionally, reducing meat consumption and eating a more plant-based diet are important steps to take to reduce emissions. Decreasing waste by recycling, composting, and limiting single-use plastics can also help. If we discuss appropriate actions, our power to have an effect and sense of unity will only grow. 

I am invigorated by the advances in Artificial intelligence (AI) that I used for researching this article to help me explore and organize information on climate change. Nevertheless, I used my own voice, thoughts, and references. Try the link. It’s amazing. Let your voice be heard.

Overall, AI has the potential to play a significant role in reversing climate change, by analyzing data, optimizing systems, and developing new technologies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, protect biodiversity, and mitigate the impacts of climate change.

Send an email if you would like to explore the remedies with like-minded people who are motivated to assume the mantle of activists with a mission.

Roberta Russell,

© Roberta Russell, April 21, 2023, New York City.

Roberta Russell is the author of R.D. Laing & Me: Lessons in Love

with R.D. Laing (Hillgarth Press, 1992), Report on Effective Psychotherapy: Legislative Testimony (Hillgarth Press, 1981, 1984, 1994), and Report on Permanent Weight Loss (Columbia Academic Commons, 2017).

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