I’m frequently disparaged by relatively wealthy, Caucasian men who cannot think for themselves. It turns out to be a stunningly large proportion of the demographic. The line they trot out, time after time, is that I do not explain how a rapid rise in global-average temperature will cause human extinction.
Allow me, yet again, to explain with small words and short sentences. I doubt it’ll help, but I’m giving it one more try.
The genus Homo has occupied the planet for about 2.8 million years. We’ve never had humans at 1.7 C or higher above baseline in the past (baseline = beginning of the industrial revolution, commonly accepted as 1750).
Even when the genus Homo was present at relatively high global-average temperatures, the rise in temperature paled in comparison to the contemporary rate of change. Even the Wall Street Journal realizes it’s too late to mitigate. Well, of course it is: The rate of evolution trails the rate of climate change by a factor of 10,000, according to a paper in the August 2013 issue of Ecology Letters.
And that’s based on the relatively slow rate of change so far. It fails to take into account abrupt climate change, which has begun only within the last few years.
Plants cannot keep up with the rate of change. So they die. For those without the slightest clue about biology, this seems to be a technical problem to which we’ll simply design a technical solution. Not so fast, engineers. The living planet is not merely a complex set of cogs to which we can apply wrenches and screwdrivers. Evolutionary change requires random mutations and subsequent heritability. Alas, there is no time for multi-generational adaptation to a rapidly changing physical environment.
Without plants, there is no habitat for the genus Homo. Without plants, our species has no food. Never mind the lack of water for Earth’s current human occupants. Never mind the early deaths of millions of people due to ongoing climate change. After all, the techno-fantasies of the engineers include the ability to create potable water with “free energy.”
Even if we could manage to move plants from one area to another, don’t expect the plants to thrive unless we move the soil, too. And the rich array of organisms within the soil. And the relatively stable weather system with which the plants evolved.
Whoops, too late. The weather is too weird. The soils are too interactively alive.
We’re human animals. As with every other animal on the planet, we need habitat to survive. Once the habitat is gone, we won’t last long. But, immersed in abject misery, every moment will seem to last forever.
Forever is a long time. Especially toward the end.