Editor’s note: Marshall Brain – futurist, inventor, NCSU professor, writer and creator of “How Stuff Works” –  is a contributor to WRAL TechWire.  He’s also author of “The Doomsday Book: The Science Behind Humanity’s Greatest Threats.” Brain has written several posts recently about the threat of climate change. His exclusive columns written for TechWire are published on Fridays. 

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RALEIGH – Last week I wrote an article on the coming collapse of our ecosystem and our civilization:

We have destroyed our ecosystem – now we await the collapse of civilization

The article received a lot of traffic, and reactions were all over the map. Today’s article is for those people who think things aren’t that bad. They say things like:

  • “Everything is going to be OK”
  • “Civilization is not going to collapse”
  • “We are on the road to solving climate change”

To those on this “positive” or “hopium” end of the spectrum, here is something to consider: Things are way, way worse than you think. The reason people can believe that everything is going to be OK is because they have not taken the time to comprehend all the different things that are going wrong simultaneously, nor how seriously these things are going wrong.

Therefore, let’s take a dive into the unfolding catastrophe that climate change is creating for humanity and the planet’s ecosystems.

#1 Looking back at the Paris Climate Agreements of 2016

The first thing to grasp is that humanity is doing nothing of any significance to stop climate change. Humanity continues to burn fossil fuels like there is no tomorrow. How do we know this? Think back to the famous “Paris Climate Accords” from 2016. Nearly 200 members of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) signed the agreement (only 3 have not). Here is a quick summary of the agreement:

Paris Agreements – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paris_Agreement

“The Paris Agreement’s long-term temperature goal is to keep the rise in mean global temperature to well below 2 °C (3.6 °F) above pre-industrial levels, and preferably limit the increase to 1.5 °C (2.7 °F), recognizing that this would substantially reduce the effects of climate change. Emissions should be reduced as soon as possible and reach net zero by the middle of the 21st century. To stay below 1.5 °C of global warming, emissions need to be cut by roughly 50% by 2030.

That last sentence is important for two reasons. First, think about what has happened since 2016 in terms of emissions. Given that the agreement started in 2016 and we are now halfway to 2030, we would expect the world’s emissions to have been cut by 25% here in 2023. But this has not happened at all. Instead, emissions hit a record high in 2022 and will likely do the same in 2023:

Carbon dioxide emissions reached a record high in 2022 – https://apnews.com/article/climate-emissions-global-warming-carbon-dioxide-coal-494ef490f16abe381ea2a4107f779670

Second, temperatures have exploded. In 2016, the expectation/hope was that 1.5 degrees C of warming would be the peak, and we might hit it in 2050 or 2100. Instead, we are on track to see 1.5 degrees C of warming this year, in 2023. Back in 2016, such a thing would have been completely unexpected, but now it is our reality:

Earth’s average 2023 temperature is now likely to reach 1.5 °C of warming – https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-023-02995-7

This graph comes from the Nature article:

You can see that temperatures in 2023 are significantly higher than we would expect. This is happening because so many aspects of climate change are accelerating – going faster than the models in 2016 predicted.

#2 Record heat across the planet

The headlines about the heat this year have been nearly impossible to believe, but when you look at 10 of them at once you can get a sense of how bad things are. The heat is happening all over the planet, on land, in the oceans, in Antarctica, everywhere:

  1. Earth just had its hottest summer on record, U.N. says, warning “climate breakdown has begun” – https://www.cbsnews.com/news/hottest-summer-on-record-2023-un-says-climate-change-global-warming-data/
  2. Antarctica experienced the most intense heat wave ever recorded – https://www.earth.com/news/antarctica-experienced-the-most-intense-heat-wave-ever-recorded/
  3. Record-breaking temperatures across South America prompt concerns of scorching summer and wildfires – https://au.news.yahoo.com/record-breaking-temperatures-across-south-125130980.html
  4. The ominous signs pointing to extreme heat and fire in Australia this summer – https://www.cnn.com/2023/09/24/australia/australia-el-nino-heat-fire-summer-climate-intl/index.html
  5. Exxon says world set to fail 2°C global warming cap by 2050 – https://www.reuters.com/business/energy/exxon-projects-oil-gas-be-54-worlds-energy-needs-2050-2023-08-28/
  6. China’s summer of climate destruction – https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-66616699
  7. The North Atlantic is experiencing a ‘totally unprecedented’ marine heat wave – https://www.cnn.com/2023/06/20/europe/marine-heatwave-north-atlantic-climate-scn-intl/index.html
  8. ‘Off-the-charts records’: has humanity finally broken the climate? – https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2023/aug/28/crazy-off-the-charts-records-has-humanity-finally-broken-the-climate
  9. Gulf Coast temperatures surge to highest levels ever observed – https://www.msn.com/en-us/weather/topstories/gulf-coast-temperatures-surge-to-highest-levels-ever-observed/ar-AA1fTCtr
  10. These places baked the most during Earth’s hottest month on record – https://www.washingtonpost.com/weather/2023/08/02/july-hottest-month-global-temperatures/

The last article puts it this way:

“A rash of intense heat domes — zones of high pressure sprawled across the northern hemisphere — plagued Asia, southern Europe and northern Africa, North America and much of the tropics including the Caribbean. Extreme heat was even observed on several occasions across the southern hemisphere, where it is the middle of winter. China registered an all-time high temperature for the country of 126 degrees (52.2 degrees Celsius), while the July 16 high of 128 degrees (53.3 Celsius) in Death Valley, Calif., was two degrees shy of the highest reliably measured temperature on Earth. Numerous countries surpassed 122 degrees (50 Celsius) for highs. In the Middle East, the heat index reached 152 degrees (66.7 Celsius), near the limit of human survival. In some cases, daily heat records have been strung together into record-long streaks, including 31 straight days reaching 110 degrees (43.3 Celsius) or higher in Phoenix, 44 days at or above 100 degrees (37.8 Celsius) in El Paso and 46 straight days with a heat index over 100 degrees (37.8 Celsius) in Miami.”

Will a place like Phoenix even be survivable as things get hotter in the years to come?

#3 Where does all this heat come from?

Why is all this heat happening? Humanity has added so much carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide to the atmosphere that this heating is unstoppable. Humanity adds roughly a gigaton of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere every week and a half. This graph comes from Statista:

Annual carbon dioxide (CO₂) emissions worldwide from 1940 to 2022 (in billion metric tons) – https://www.statista.com/statistics/276629/global-co2-emissions

“Global carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels and industry were 37.12 billion metric tons (GtCO₂) in 2021. Emissions are projected to have risen 0.9 percent in 2022 to 37.5 GtCO₂ – their highest ever level. Since 1990, global CO₂ emissions have increased by more than 60 percent.”

This would be comical if it did not portend the complete collapse of Earth’s ecosystem: In 2016 nearly every country on Earth (except 3) agreed that humanity would cut emissions 50% by 2030. Instead, emissions have increased significantly, and planet Earth is seeing accelerating heating as a result.

Even if humanity could get its act together and start cutting fossil fuel emissions, it does not mean that emissions will stop any time soon. Humanity will continue burning fossil fuels and easily emit hundreds of additional gigatons of CO2 by 2050, causing even more catastrophic effects for the environment.

#4 Wildfires also add carbon dioxide to the atmosphere

Fossil fuels are one big source of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. But wildfires also play a part. The huge wildfires in Canada in 2023 emitted another gigaton of carbon dioxide this year:

Canadian wildfires have released 1 billion tons of CO2 this year—equivalent to annual airline emissions – https://www.fastcompany.com/90932998/canadian-wildfires-co2-airline-emissions

“This year, more than 5,100 fires have burned across Canada. They’ve sent smoke plumes around the world, blanketing parts of the East Coast in an eerie haze and even drifting over to Europe. They’ve burned 13 million hectares of land, or about 32 million acres, a size equivalent to the country of Greece. And they’ve already released one billion tons of carbon dioxide emissions into the air, according to one estimate—about the same as the global airline industry emits in a year, or a year’s worth of driving from more than 222 million gas-powered cars.”

The Amazon rainforest is doing the same thing on its way toward collapsing:

Amazon rainforest now emitting more CO2 than it absorbs – https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/jul/14/amazon-rainforest-now-emitting-more-co2-than-it-absorbs

“The Amazon rainforest is now emitting more carbon dioxide than it is able to absorb, scientists have confirmed for the first time. The emissions amount to a billion tonnes of carbon dioxide a year, according to a study. The giant forest had previously been a carbon sink, absorbing the emissions driving the climate crisis, but is now causing its acceleration, researchers said.”

#5 Bad news on several fronts in the Arctic

The Arctic tundra is getting ready to do the same thing as the Arctic Circle region thaws out:

Arctic Tundra Leaking Greenhouse Gases – https://www.science.org/content/article/arctic-tundra-leaking-greenhouse-gases

“’The concern is what will happen in the future as global warming increases and melting permafrost exposes more of this buried carbon to be respired and released into the atmosphere,’ he says. As it does, this cold place could turn up the heat on the rest of the planet.”

This is a huge concern because the Artic Circle is warming so fast:

The Arctic is warming nearly four times faster than the rest of the world – https://www.pbs.org/newshour/politics/the-arctic-is-warming-nearly-four-times-faster-than-the-rest-of-the-world

“with some regions warming at a far greater pace. One such region is the Arctic. A new study shows that the Arctic has warmed nearly four times faster than the rest of the world over the past 43 years. This means the Arctic is on average around 3℃ warmer than it was in 1980.”

#6 The “tipping points” and “positive feedback loops” will release even more carbon dioxide

The Tundra represents one of the so-called “tipping points” or “positive feedback loops” in climate change. As global heating increase, the Tundra melts faster. The Tundra emits its own carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, which speeds up global heating even more. Which releases more carbon dioxide from the Tundra. And so on. This video does a nice job of summarizing the tipping point that the permafrost is getting ready to spring on humanity: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XpqZTqIKMxs

The Tundra tipping point will be exacerbated by the expected arrival of a Blue Ocean Event (BOE) in the Arctic Ocean. A BOE will occur once all the artic ice disappears in the summer:

Arctic Could Be Sea Ice-Free in the Summer by the 2030s – https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/arctic-could-be-sea-ice-free-in-summer-by-2030s-180982326/

“Summer sea ice in the Arctic could melt almost completely by the 2030s—roughly a decade earlier than projected—even if humans cut back drastically on greenhouse gas emissions, new research suggests. ‘We are very quickly about to lose the Arctic summer sea-ice cover, basically independent of what we are doing,’ Dirk Notz, a climate scientist at the University of Hamburg in Germany tells the New York Times’ Raymond Zhong. ‘We’ve been waiting too long now to do something about climate change to still protect the remaining ice.’”

There are 16 of these tipping points that the UN has identified, and several are getting ready to trigger in the near future:

World on brink of five ‘disastrous’ climate tipping points, study finds – https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/sep/08/world-on-brink-five-climate-tipping-points-study-finds

“These include the collapse of Greenland’s ice cap, eventually producing a huge sea level rise, the collapse of a key current in the north Atlantic, disrupting rain upon which billions of people depend for food, and an abrupt melting of carbon-rich permafrost. At 1.5C of heating, the minimum rise now expected, four of the five tipping points move from being possible to likely, the analysis said. Also at 1.5C, an additional five tipping points become possible, including changes to vast northern forests and the loss of almost all mountain glaciers.”

#7 The planet is running out of fresh water for humans to drink

In the previous quote it mentions “the loss of almost all mountain glaciers”. For example, the rate at which the glaciers are melting in Switzerland is accelerating rapidly:

Swiss glaciers lose 10% of volume in worst two years on record – https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/swiss-glaciers-lose-10-volume-worst-two-years-record-2023-09-28/

“Switzerland’s glaciers suffered their second worst melt rate this year after record 2022 losses, shrinking their overall volume by 10% in the last two years, monitoring body GLAMOS said on Thursday. The one-two punch for Swiss glaciers during the country’s third hottest summer on record means they lost as much ice in two years as in the three decades before 1990, it said, describing the losses as ‘catastrophic’.”

You might be thinking, “So what? Who needs glaciers?” The problem is that the accelerating loss of these glaciers represents just one of the many ways that humanity will be running out of fresh water. Think about the freshwater situation in India and Pakistan:

As Himalayan Glaciers Melt, a Water Crisis Looms in South Asia – https://e360.yale.edu/features/himalayas-glaciers-climate-change

“These changes could have far-reaching consequences for hazard risk and food and water security in a heavily populated region. More than a billion people depend on the Indus, Ganges, and Brahmaputra river systems, which are fed by snow and glacial melt from the Hindu Kush Himalaya region, known as the world’s “Third Pole” because it contains so much ice. Peaking in summer, meltwater can be a lifesaver at a time when other water sources are much diminished.”

Meanwhile, in the United States we have multiple reasons to worry about the freshwater supplies in many parts of the country:

  1. New Orleans braces for drinking water emergency from drought-stricken Mississippi River – https://www.nbcnews.com/science/environment/new-orleans-braces-drinking-water-emergency-drought-stricken-mississip-rcna117218
  2. America is using up its groundwater like there is no tomorrow – https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2023/08/28/climate/groundwater-drying-climate-change.html
  3. The Colorado River drought crisis: How did this happen? Can it be fixed? – https://www.washingtonpost.com/climate-environment/2023/02/05/colorado-river-drought-explained/
  4. With the Ogallala Aquifer drying up, Kansas ponders limits to irrigation – https://www.kcur.org/2023-04-04/with-the-ogallala-aquifer-drying-up-kansas-ponders-limits-to-irrigation
  5. ‘We are dropping about 2,000 acre feet a day, that’s never happened’ | What it will take to fill up Central Texas lakes – https://www.kcentv.com/amp/article/tech/science/environment/what-will-take-fill-central-texas-lakes/500-77a448cc-98e4-45ac-8e0e-6e4924940f82

Rivers like the Mississippi river and the Colorado river are drying up. The aquifers in states like Kansas and California are drying up. The reservoir lakes in states like Texas are drying up.

Meanwhile there are unbelievable situations happening all over the western United States – situations that consume huge amounts of fresh water. This video talks about farming alfalfa for Saudi Arabia in water-scarce Arizona – it is impossible to believe it is true given what is at stake: https://youtu.be/b78owYAd0iw&t=47

#8 Massive droughts are happening all over the planet

Unless you are personally affected by a drought, it is easy to forget that droughts are happening all over the planet. Here are several examples:

Severe drought is a worst-case scenario for human survivability. Without sufficient water there can be no agriculture, no livestock, and therefore no humans.

#9 Paradoxically there is also increased flooding in other parts of the world

This article from CNN describes how serious the threat of flooding is becoming:

Ten countries and territories saw severe flooding in just 12 days. Is this the future of climate change? https://www.cnn.com/2023/09/16/world/global-rain-flooding-climate-crisis-intl-hnk/index.html

“September started with a typhoon that ripped through Hong Kong, uprooting trees and flooding the city. It was the first of a slew of extreme weather events that have hit ten countries and territories in just 12 days – the most catastrophic being the floods in Libya, which have killed more than 11,000 people according to the UN and left many thousands missing. Scientists warn that these types of extreme weather events, affecting countries all over the world, may become increasingly common as the climate crisis accelerates”

The massive floods in Pakistan last year affected nearly a third of the country, and there is still standing water in Pakistan today: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0N0bumkG8RQ

This article from Wired explains why the flooding is getting so bad due to climate change:

Why Rain Is Getting Fiercer on a Warming Planet – https://www.wired.com/story/why-rain-is-getting-fiercer-on-a-warming-planet/

“Atmospheric scientists rely on the Clausius–Clapeyron equation, which says that for every 1 degree Celsius of warming, air can hold 6 to 7 percent more water. If nothing else changes, you’d expect the same increase in the amount of rainfall from a given storm… Extreme rain gets especially dangerous when water dumps quickly. The landscape simply doesn’t have time to absorb the deluge, leading to flash flooding. If one storm follows another, the soil might already be too wet to accept any more water.”

#10 When droughts + floods + heat combine, it leads to crop failures

There are plenty of places on planet Earth experiencing various crop failures:

From the last article:

“’I don’t think India is in a position to reach anywhere near its targeted production of 112 million tonnes.’ He said the major reason for this is that the rainfall was widespread and frequent in all major wheat-producing states this year. This is unlike last year when the heat wave was limited to parts of northern India. This time, unseasonal rainfall has covered all parts of India. Sharma said while damage to wheat crops is significant, other major rabi crops too suffered damage due to rough weather, causing huge financial distress to farmers.”

With 8 billion people on the planet, the problem simple: humanity faces a decreasing margin for error in agricultural production. If climate change causes simultaneous crop failures across several important regions, there will not be enough food to feed everyone, and we get a famine.

#11 Things are looking bad in Antarctica

Since Antarctica is in the southern hemisphere, winter is just finishing up in Antarctica. Therefore, we would expect Antarctic sea ice to be at its maximum. Unfortunately, this year’s maximum is woefully low:

Antarctic sea ice shrinks to lowest annual maximum level on record, data shows – https://www.theguardian.com/world/2023/sep/26/antarctic-sea-ice-shrinks-to-lowest-annual-maximum-level-on-record-data-shows

The Guardian article contains this surprising graph:

“She said the loss of sea ice had far-reaching consequences for the planet. Sea ice helps protect the land-based ice from entering the ocean, which could push up sea level by several metres. Sea ice also reflects the sun’s energy back out to space. She said with less sea ice, more of the ocean is exposed to the sun’s energy, causing further Southern Ocean warming and further loss of ice.”

What this loss of ice means is that during the upcoming summer, the water around Antarctica will absorb more sunlight than usual, making things in Antarctica even warmer. It is another example of a positive feedback loop that helps to accelerate climate change.

All this heat and missing ice in Antarctica is causing renewed fears of glacier collapse and the resulting sea level rise:

We reached the glacier just as it collapsed – https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2023/08/thwaites-glacier-collapse-melting-sea-level-rise/674943/

Elizabeth Rush on her epic journey to Earth’s ‘doomsday glacier’ – https://www.bbc.com/travel/article/20230814-elizabeth-rush-on-her-epic-journey-to-earths-doomsday-glacier

“Thwaites is currently disappearing eight times as fast as it was in the 1990s, dumping 80 billion tonnes of ice into the ocean every year and accounting for 4% of the planet’s annual sea level rise. Because of its colossal size and alarming collapse, this remote ice cap is not only considered one of the scariest places on Earth, but also one of the most important: the frozen ground zero in the global fight against climate change. Were Thwaites to completely melt, it could raise sea levels by 10ft or more, triggering “spine-chilling” global implications.”

See this video for details: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IY3mXFXd3GU

#12 Therefore, sea levels are rising

If Antarctica is melting, and Greenland is melting, and the mountain glaciers are melting, and the Arctic ice is melting… all because of the warming created by carbon dioxide… then we would expect sea levels to be rising. And in fact, they are:

Antarctica warming much faster than models predicted in ‘deeply concerning’ sign for sea levels – https://www.theguardian.com/world/2023/sep/08/antarctica-warming-much-faster-than-models-predicted-in-deeply-concerning-sign-for-sea-levels

“Antarctica is likely warming at almost twice the rate of the rest of the world and faster than climate change models are predicting, with potentially far-reaching implications for global sea level rise, according to a scientific study.”

Seas have drastically risen along southern U.S. coast in past decade – https://www.washingtonpost.com/climate-environment/2023/04/10/sea-level-rise-southern-us/

“Scientists have documented an abnormal and dramatic surge in sea levels along the U.S. gulf and southeastern coastlines since about 2010, raising new questions about whether New Orleans, Miami, Houston and other coastal communities might be even more at risk from rising seas than once predicted.”

Sea level rise poses ‘unthinkable’ risks for the planet, Security Council hears – https://news.un.org/en/story/2023/02/1133492

“Noting that some nations’ coastlines have already seen triple the average rate of sea level rise, he warned that, in the coming decades, low-lying communities – and entire countries – could disappear forever. ‘We would witness a mass exodus of entire populations on a biblical scale, and we would see ever-fiercer competition for fresh water, land and other resources,’ he warned… Meanwhile, saltwater intrusion can decimate jobs and entire economies in industries like agriculture, fisheries and tourism, and it can damage or destroy vital infrastructure, such as transportation systems, hospitals and schools.”

The rate of sea level rise is accelerating, and will accelerate even more as humans continue burning fossil fuels:

Sea level rise – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sea_level_rise

“Between 1901 and 2018, the average global sea level rose by 15–25 cm (6–10 in), or an average of 1–2 mm per year. This rate accelerated to 4.62 mm/yr for the decade 2013–2022. Climate change due to human activities is the main cause. Between 1993 and 2018, thermal expansion of water accounted for 42% of sea level rise. Melting temperate glaciers accounted for 21%, with Greenland accounting for 15% and Antarctica 8%.  Sea level rise lags changes in the Earth’s temperature. So sea level rise will continue to accelerate between now and 2050 in response to warming that is already happening.”

Note that this statement does not consider the possibility of glacier collapse in Antarctica. Also note that even if humanity could completely stop the use of fossil fuels today, the acceleration of sea level rise is already baked in because of our past emissions. This video summarizes the effect of sea level rise: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z1q5bG-L5Cs

#13 Mass extinction is already happening

With all the heat, the droughts, the floods, the increasing pressure of 8 billion humans destroying habitat… We would expect the natural world to be withering. And it is. We can see the withering through the extinction of species:

Mass Extinction: Entire Branches on Tree of Life Are Dying, Scientists Warn – https://www.sciencealert.com/mass-extinction-entire-branches-on-tree-of-life-are-dying-scientists-warn

“Over the past few months the sixth mass extinction has become devastatingly visible. We’ve witnessed mass seabird deaths, shores have been littered with droves of dead fish, and sea lions poisoned by heat-induced algal blooms. Last year entire populations of penguins failed to breed and for years now researchers have been investigating an alarming reduction in insect life.”

The extinctions are arriving on multiple fronts:

Brown bear cubs in Japan die of starvation amid salmon shortage – https://www.theguardian.com/world/2023/sep/26/brown-bear-cubs-in-japan-die-of-starvation-amid-salmon-shortage

“Fishers caught 482,775 pink salmon in rivers in Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost main island, between 25 July and 5 September in 2020, but only 23,298 last year, according to the Hokkaido Salmon Propagation Association.”

The reason for the decline in salmon is heating in the ocean. The lack of salmon is then causing bears and their cubs in the area to starve.

You might have also heard about the disappearance of the snow crabs:

Why billions of snow crabs disappeared from the Bering Sea – https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/why-billions-of-snow-crabs-disappeared-from-the-bering-sea

“More than 10 billion snow crabs disappeared in 2022, devastating a commercial fishing industry worth $200 million the year before… The Bering Sea fishing grounds are usually covered in sea ice in the winter. But there wasn’t much ice, and they fished further north than usual. Finding snow crabs was still difficult. The lack of sea ice was a red flag for scientists like Erin Fedewa, who is studying the conditions in the Bering Sea that led to the massive die-off.

Then there are the insects:

Ecosystems in danger: Scientists reveal reasons behind ‘global crash’ in insect numbers – https://studyfinds.org/global-crash-in-insect-numbers/

And the vertebrates:

The other ecological crisis that should keep us up at night – https://www.wbur.org/cognoscenti/2022/12/15/cop15-un-biodiversity-conference-ecosystem-collapse-frederick-hewett

“This past October, World Wildlife Fund’s Living Planet Index reported sharp drops in animal abundance. They estimate that populations of monitored vertebrate species are down an alarming 69% on average since 1970, with freshwater species suffering even more significant declines.”

The natural world is dying as the ecosystem collapses.

What it all means

Think about everything we have discussed in this article:

  1. Massive heat waves across the planet
  2. Rising fossil fuel emissions
  3. Heating of 1.5 degrees C in 2023
  4. Failure of the 2016 Paris agreements
  5. Huge wildfires in Canada
  6. Wildfires burning in the Amazon rainforest
  7. Arctic Tundra thawing out and tripping a climate feedback loop
  8. Other climate tipping points getting ready to trigger
  9. The acceleration of Arctic warming
  10. The coming Blue Ocean Event in the Arctic to make Arctic heating even worse
  11. All the mountain glaciers are melting
  12. Rivers are drying up
  13. Aquifers are drying up
  14. Reservoir lakes are drying up
  15. Aquifers and farmland are becoming contaminated with salt water
  16. Massive droughts across the planet
  17. Massive floods in other parts of the planet
  18. Crop failures
  19. Heating and melting in Antarctica
  20. Threats from the Thwaites glacier
  21. Sea level rise around the world
  22. Mass extinction events in every area


All these phenomena are happening simultaneously, and they will all be accelerating. If you can wrap your head around the convergence of these 22 problems, you can begin to understand how bad things are getting.


Think about it this way: If we get together again next year in October, after humanity has released another 37 gigatons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, are any of these 22 things going to get better? What about in three years, after humanity has released another 100 gigatons of carbon dioxide? What about in 10 years, after humanity has released another 300 gigatons of carbon dioxide? And then add in the unknowns:

  • What if the Amazon rainforest collapses and releases another 100 gigatons of carbon dioxide?
  • What if a large glacier in Antarctica collapses?
  • What if all the ice in the Arctic disappears and we experience a blue ocean event?
  • What if positive feedback loops like the Tundra really engage?
  • What if droughts and floods and heat increase enough to cause major crop failures?


Unfortunately, it does not look like the world’s leaders are going to do anything significant to address climate change. The Paris agreements were a chance for them to do something, and we have seen that they failed. This is why in last week’s article I had this quote:


We have destroyed our ecosystem – now we await the collapse of civilization – https://wraltechwire.com/2023/09/22/doomsday-authors-analysis-we-have-destroyed-our-ecosystem-now-we-await-the-collapse-of-civilization/


“The next best thing would be the appearance of super-intelligent AI that wants to help the planet recover and lead humanity down a better path. The super-intelligent AI would need to establish a beneficent global dictatorship that takes over the operations of humanity on planet Earth. By replacing all the governments of the world with a single super-intelligent government, and by taking control of the planet’s industries, there is some hope that a super-intelligent AI could bring humanity in for an imperfect but soft landing for the benefit of all.”


What might the super-intelligent AI do once it has taken control? It would do all the things that human leaders are refusing to do but that must be done. The AI would cut through all the noise, disinformation, corruption, propaganda, naysaying, and bickering, moving positive actions forward to solve the climate change problem quickly. I hypothesize that the AI would take steps like these:

  • The AI would take immediate steps to cool the planet down with geoengineering techniques. The excessive heat is causing so many problems that there needs to be immediate relief.
  • The AI would replace fossil fuels with carbon neutral synthetic fuels by inventing techniques and rapidly scaling up production. This would allow the rapid decarbonization of agriculture and transportation.
  • The AI would upgrade the grid and rapidly decarbonize electricity production with renewables and modular reactors.
  • The AI would eliminate absurdities like private jets and SUVs, then move toward more efficient public transit systems.
  • The AI would move to protect vulnerable areas like rainforests, Antarctica, the Arctic circle, etc.
  • The AI would stabilize Greenland and the AMOC
  • The AI would eliminate all cattle
  • The AI would rapidly advance educational initiatives worldwide so that all humans are highly-educated beings
  • The AI would start efficiently extracting CO2 from the atmosphere and oceans
  • The AI would find ways to reduce the risks from crop failures and diminishing fresh water supplies
  • The AI would eliminate both wealthy people and poverty
  • And so on

If all these things (and many others) happened quickly and with conviction, things would not be perfect. There are certain aspects of climate change that are baked in and will cause damage regardless. But it would limit the worst-case scenarios. It would be an imperfect but soft landing, and humanity would benefit in so many ways.

Unfortunately, an omniscient super-intelligent AI is unlikely to appear in time to save us. Thus, “we,” humanity, will get to witness our own downfall. It is quite possible that in the history books, 2024 or 2025 could mark the peak of human civilization on planet Earth unless there is a superhuman change of direction.