The HUMAN JOURNEY across TIME AND CLIMATE
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Others, though, worry that alarmism, far from motivating people, leads to paralysis — too much despair about the future to even bother working on it. The expected effects of climate change, according to organizations like the IPCC and the World Bank , are fairly terrifying. If extreme poverty gets as bad as it was in due to climate change, that will be an immeasurable humanitarian failure, and hundreds of millions of people will die. But the s definitely did have human civilization, and the future in this version would too. Another way of looking at it is that the predicted effects of climate change are very bad, but not in a cinematic way.
Is climate change an “existential threat” — or just a catastrophic one?
Lots of people will die, most of them low-income. Where do some people conclude that climate change might swallow up civilization itself? Well, for one thing, lots of climate policy analysts agree that the IPCC is too optimistic. As my colleague David Roberts put it :. Models have often included unrealistically low estimates of current and future emissions growth, unrealistically early peaks in global emissions, and unequitable estimates of emission curves in developing countries implicitly assuming stunted development.
Models routinely show 4 or even 6 percent annual reductions, a rate of emissions decline that has never been achieved by anyone, anywhere, ever, much less consistently over 50 years. And what if, instead of trying to model the most likely outcome, we look at outcomes that may only have a 10 percent chance of occurring but would be particularly disastrous if they did?
How Climate Change May Have Shaped Human Evolution
The Breakthrough report , authored by former fossil fuel executive Ian Dunlop and author David Spratt, for the most part summarizes cases for pessimism that have been raised in other papers and public statements. Many people had no trouble believing it.
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Their responses were scathing. The Breakthrough report does indeed gather claims from other papers, climate leaders, and thinkers. But it selected many of the scariest and most speculative papers and presented them without being clear about how plausible they are. And some of its most outrageous claims are just wrong. They felt that the core claim — that 3 or 4 degrees of warming could destroy civilization — was also deeply unlikely. I also talked to some researchers who study existential risks, like John Halstead, who studies climate change mitigation at the philanthropic advising group Founders Pledge, and who has a detailed online analysis of all the strikingly few climate change papers that address existential risk his analysis has not been peer-reviewed yet.
The models show a surprisingly large chance of extreme degrees of warming. Halstead points out that in many papers, this is the result of the simplistic form of statistical modeling used. Other papers have made a convincing case that this form of statistical modeling is an irresponsible way to reason about climate change, and that the dire projections rest on a statistical method that is widely understood to be a bad approach for that question.
On the question of whether an increase of 10 degrees would be survivable, there is much debate. That last distinction Halstead draws — of climate change as being awful but not quite an existential threat — is a controversial one. To everyone else, those two outcomes seem pretty similar. To academics in philosophy and public policy who study the future of humankind, an existential risk is a very specific thing: a disaster that destroys all future human potential and ensures that no generations of humans will ever leave Earth and explore our universe.
The death of 7 billion people is, of course, an unimaginable tragedy. But researchers who study existential risks argue that the annihilation of humanity is actually much, much worse than that. Not only do we lose existing people, but we lose all the people who could otherwise have had the chance to exist.
This style of thinking seems plausible enough when you think about past tragedies; the Black Death, which killed at least a tenth of all humans alive at the time , was not one-tenth as bad as a hypothetical plague that wiped us all out. Obviously, and this needs to be stressed, climate change is a big deal either way.
But there are differences between catastrophe and extinction. If the models tell us that all humans are going to die, then extreme solutions — which might save us, or might have unprecedented, catastrophic negative consequences — might be worth trying. Think of plans to release aerosols into the atmosphere to reflect sunlight and cool the planet back down in the manner that volcanic explosions do. But if the models tell us that climate change is devastating but survivable, as most models show, then those last-ditch solutions should perhaps stay in the toolkit for now.
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Of course we should be. Finally, we have agreed to mobilize finance at scale, including leveraging private-sector finance to drive ambition forward over the coming years.
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Understanding that governments are committed to this long-term transition provides business with the certainty it needs to invest in the long term—particularly when investing in things like infrastructure. In terms of confidence, business needed to know that the agreement reached here and that the action that will follow is not dependent on political cycles or the changing political fortunes within countries.
We were looking for a progressive and consistent journey to raise ambition over time, and we have this in the agreement through the so-called five-year cycles. These commit governments to reviewing their national climate action plans every five years and to subsequently raise the ambition within those national climate action plans to achieve the long-term goal. Finally, in terms of a level playing field, companies operate across multiple jurisdictions through a complex and extensive value chain, and they needed to know this agreement would capture the widest possible cooperation across all countries.
For the first time, we have that level playing field: This agreement applies to all, and it involves ambitious action by all. The agreement ensures that climate action is no longer the pursuit of a limited number of pioneering countries; it is the pursuit of the entire global economy. Cameron : Businesses came to Paris in unprecedented numbers to demonstrate their own actions and commitments to reducing greenhouse gases and to enhancing resilience.
They also came to work with governments to create a catalytic instrument for the real economy. With this in mind, we developed eight key policy ingredients we wanted to see in the new agreement. Seven of those eight asks are captured in full in the final text. While not in the text, the remaining ask, carbon pricing, is also present in the text—but not in the form of a global price on carbon, as many businesses would have wanted. China, for example, has committed to creating the single largest emissions-trading system in the world by drawing seven pilot systems into one national system by Cameron : I would like to see an increase in the volume of business action on climate.
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We want to grow the volume of companies making these commitments. We also want to see companies turning these commitments into real action; engaging in dialogue with governments to create a conducive, enabling environment to achieve these commitments; and advocating for deeper commitments by their industry peers, within their supply chains, and in front of their consumers. Pacific Time Wednesday, December Join us at the BSR Conference to gain a greater understanding of the new climate that every business is facing and to learn how to meet these challenges as we move into the decisive decade ahead.
Read More. As companies seek to reduce their environmental impact, meet climate goals, and reduce fuel costs, there is increasing demand for sustainable fuel technologies such as renewable natural gas, renewable diesel, electricity, and biodiesel. How can businesses work together to support meaningful public policy to address the climate crisis and carbon emissions? As the effects of climate change continue to exacerbate poverty, inequality and other social issues, the solutions we put forth must include social focus.