global warming won’t kill us anymore. but it will make us suffer - [ weird things ]

global warming won’t kill us anymore. but it will make us suffer

Humanity won’t collapse from climate change thanks to the steps we’ve already taken. But we will still be in serious trouble if we don’t do more.
giant desert skull
Illustration by Jocelin Carmes

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past two decades, you’ve heard the increasingly dire reports about the sorry state of our environment and just how incredibly bad things will be getting if we don’t start aggressively phasing out fossil fuels. Simply put, if the average global temperature rises above 5 C, vast swaths of the planet will become unlivable for humans and unsuitable for agriculture or development thanks to the blazing heat, extreme storms, and rising sea levels. This will lead to wars, terrorism, refugee crises, and kill millions in the process.

Well, believe it or not, despite all the gloom and doom, there are good news. Thanks to all the electric vehicles, solar panels, and wind turbines we’ve been busy putting into circulation, the doomsday 5+ °C scenario is no longer realistic. Instead, we’re heading for a worst-case scenario of a 3.6 °C global temperature rise. This is still far from great and more than enough to trigger food insecurity and civil wars in fragile nations, displace millions, and cause trillions in damage with stronger, more frequent storms. It won’t be the apocalypse, but a really bad time will be had by all.

Let’s put it this way. Imagine that you live in a very large house with several roommates. With an investment from their friends, they set up port-a-potties in your living room and kitchen and are now charging random strangers to use them. To maximize their profits, they seldom clean the latrines, and when they do, they hire the cheapest, shoddiest service possible. When you point out that it’s unsanitary, disgusting, and leads to disease and infection, they shrug and ask you why you hate the economy and free enterprise before adding more port-a-johns.

why the way we treat our planet is dangerous

This is pretty much where we are with our planet right now, and while in this situation, you’d probably be pummeling those roommates with the nearest blunt object, or shoving them head first down their “service facility” cesspits, the real world situation is far more complicated and involves a lot of horrible, powerful people who honestly do not give a shit if the whole world burns because they won’t be around for the worst of it, so they’re slowly but surely poisoning us for profit while relying on good, old-fashioned red-baiting to escape responsibility.

So far, our success was the equivalent of cajoling and bribing our horrible roommates into removing some of the port-a-potties and having better, more regular cleanings. But they’re still treating our home as a sewer, and there’s still an elevated risk of disease in these unsanitary conditions. And this isn’t just the analogy talking, global warming is projected to cause more pandemics by allowing diseases to spread faster and travel further, and increase deadly fungal infections we have great difficulty treating thanks to the similarity of funguses to human flesh.

If you thought COVID was a huge, chaotic pain in the ass and was handled quite poorly by both the governments in charge of combatting it and the public, wait until the next pandemic strikes, one with far more potent germs and infections, and a much higher mortality rate. One would think that basic self-preservation would incentivize us to avoid making the planet hotter and more disease-riddled, and that dumping toxic chemicals into our drinking groundwater and oceans, where we grow and catch our food, would be every bit as disgusting to us as having a plastic toilet full of human waste in our kitchens.

why we need willpower and new leaders

And this is where the good news comes back into play. As far as the big, smart money sees the future, renewables are cheaper, cleaner, have better PR, and create more jobs, which is why they’re slated for cash injections worth trillions over the next decade. Over the next 20 to 30 years, you will be driving an electric car with replaceable sodium-ion batteries that can easily ferry you for well over a thousand kilometers on a single charge. Airplanes will fly on biodiesel. Your home will be powered mostly by nuclear, solar, wind, and tidal power. That’s the future.

But that future is not yet set in stone. The momentum towards it is building, but we need to actively accelerate it instead of letting it crawl or backslide in the worst-case scenario. We’ve already made a serious dent and put the apocalypse on hold, but as already mentioned, a world that’s 3 °C warmer on average is going to be an unpleasant, less stable, more dangerous place to live. Should we really double down on treating our planet like our home, rather than an open sewer, we could be looking at a warming of 2.3 °C by 2100, a much more manageable scenario.

Remember, humanity doesn’t have a Planet B, and won’t for hundreds, if not thousands of years. If we completely trash this world for the incredibly stupid reasons we’re doing it today, we’ll suffer for it. The very notion that commerce or the economy somehow require us to destroy our own home is absurd to the point of imbecilic, especially when it should be plainly obvious that the longer we’re around, the healthier we are, and the cleaner our air, water, and soil, the more value we’ll create over the long term than through the myopic, self-destructive greed currently dominating so much of our society.

# science // climate change / future / global warming


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