by Robert Hunziker
The world of academia is starting to pick up on the concept that humanity is unknowingly cruising on a train ride to doomsday, a surefire encounter with collapse of society based upon climate crises brought on by exponential climate change. The depth of the problem: It’s inevitable and inescapable.
Nonetheless, people do not want to discuss and/or read about an impending disruption to society, especially on the scale of a collapse. Still, some academics consider it responsible and in fact necessary to communicate the issue on a pre-collapse basis in order for people to learn to support each other and to explore the radical implications well ahead of time.
Hence, the premise for Professor Jem Bendell’s brilliant seminal work, “Deep Adaptation: A Map for Navigating Climate Tragedy, July 27th 2018.”
Accordingly, at the opening of the essay: “It is time we consider the implications of it being too late to avert a global environmental catastrophe in the lifetimes of people alive today.”
Seemingly, Professor Bendell is going out on a limb by calling for ecosystem catastrophes followed by social collapse within current lifetimes. Few, if any, academicians dare make such a prediction, and the few that do risk loss of jobs, grant funding, and renunciation by colleagues.
Kevin Anderson, deputy director of the prestigious Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research in a live interview with Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! at Paris 15 admitted that climate scientists low-ball their findings, often times to protect grant funding.
Anderson: “Yet so far we simply have not been prepared to accept the revolutionary implications of our own findings, and even when we do we are reluctant to voice such thoughts openly… many are ultimately choosing to censor their own research.”
Therein scientists unwittingly do the handiwork, in part, for fossil fuel companies and for America’s entrenched global warming denial brand of politics, led by President Trump and the entire Republican Party. They do not believe in human-caused global warming.
Bendell carefully reviewed the scientific literature as well as accessing research institutions to get to the bottom of the current status of climate change. What he discovered is basic to his conviction that society is headed for a train wreck of enormous proportions; thus diametrically opposite America’s stated position on global warming.
After focusing on data, especially since 2014, it became crystal clear that the climate is undergoing a sea change like never before because of its non-linear credentials. To quote Bendell: “Non-linear changes are central importance to understanding climate change based on linear projections and that the changes no longer correlate with the rate of anthropogenic carbon emissions. In other words – ‘runaway climate change’.”
Bendell’s research uncovered the chilling fact that several non-mainstream climate scientists of stature believe climate change is no longer simply change in the abstract. Rather, it is an ongoing crisis with real time dimensions and substance that is unavoidably dangerous for society. And, of utmost concern, it’s possible, but not proven, that the dye is cast.
Bendell’s Deep Adaptation is a wake up call for those who dismiss the dark side of the climate crisis. On the lighter side, it is only too evident that mainstream science is too slow and too conservative.
For example, Bendell references Peter Wadhams, one of the most eminent climate scientists in the world, when discussing the impact of an ice-free Arctic, which, according to Wadhams, will likely double the warming caused by CO2 from human activity. Whereas, “In itself, that renders the calculations of the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) redundant, along with the targets and proposals of the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change).”
In other words, the leading authority on Arctic ice disagrees with the conclusions reached by the IPCC and UNFCCC, which serve as guidepost for nation-states to avoid the worst impact of the climate crisis.
Similarly, Bendell finds serious discrepancies in IPCC projections for sea level rise because of its commitment to linear change whereas non-linear is the course of action, especially based upon data over the most recent decade. The difference between linear versus non-linear is monumental and crucial to understanding the risks associated with the timing of climate crisis evolving into collapse of society.
A myth uncovered by Bendell is the 2C benchmark established at Paris 15, a temperature not to be exceeded or all hell breaks lose. Major problem: Many ecosystems will collapse and irreversible risks will be created along the way to 2C. In point of fact, it’s a contrived number resulting from competing at-odds interests of industry, governments, and scientists. Not surprisingly, it’s suspect!
In fact, some climate scientists say the temperature guardrail should be 1.5C. But then again, some say we’ve already blown thru that level even though the prevailing opinion is that as of today we’re at 0.8C above pre-industrial CO2. Whichever, no matter, the laundry list of impaired ecosystems is already a long one, indeed, Antarctica, the Arctic, Greenland, Patagonia, Andes glaciers, the Amazon, Tibetan glaciers, Siberian and Alaskan permafrost, the ocean, etc.
There is something unique about those “impaired or damaged ecosystems” located where nobody lives; nobody sees it happening, nobody knows, other than the occasional team of scientists on expedition. That is why it is so bloody difficult for people to grasp the challenge of the climate crisis. They do not see it happening!
In fact, most alarmingly, Bendell found a climate science expert that believes existing CO2 in the atmosphere “should already produce global ambient temperature rises over 5C and so there is not a carbon budget – It has already been overspent.” This one projection seems beyond the pale vis a vis Bendell’s most ambitious research results.
One can only hope that climate scientists that foresee the dark side of climate change prove to be overly pessimistic much as it is clear that mainstream science underestimates the downside risks. Over and over again, projections from yesteryear are crushed by altered ecosystems today; for example, Alaska’s permafrost for the first time is emitting massive amounts of carbon in competition with human-induced CO2. Whereas, the IPCC projections do not allow for Alaskan permafrost carbon emissions, especially when Alaskan permafr0st emits as much carbon in two years as all U.S. commercial CO2 per annum. That’s outlandishly bad news.
Bendell’s dissertation delves into potential reductions of atmospheric carbon by natural and assisted biological processes as “a flickering ray of hope in our dark situation. However, the uncertainty about their impact needs to be contrasted with the uncertain yet significant impact of increasing methane release in the atmosphere.”
The methane behemoth, he soon discovered, is a very contentious issue within the scientific community, i.e., factions that believe methane emissions are no problem for the foreseeable future versus factions that believe the East Siberian Arctic Sea could release gigantic surges of methane on a moment’s notice, especially in lieu of its shallow waters, <50-metre depth.
In fact, the most recent scientific data on methane belies the mainstream viewpoint, which claims, “… it is highly unlikely we will see near-term massive release of methane from the Arctic Ocean….”
Rather, “… report of subsea permafrost destabilization in the East Siberian Arctic sea shelf, the latest unprecedented temperatures in the Arctic, and the data in non-linear rises in high-atmosphere methane levels, combine to make it feel like we are about to play Russian Roulette with the entire human race, with already two bullets in the chamber.”
Interestingly, Bendell provides a script of the likely outcomes, as if speaking to readers in a personal manner, to wit: “With the power down, soon you wouldn’t have water coming out of your tap. You will depend upon you neighbors for food and some warmth. You will become malnourished. You won’t know whether to stay or go. You will fear being violently killed before starving to death.”
Maybe unintentional, but maybe not, by addressing the reader on a personal basis with worst-case scenarios of everyday life, Bendell essentially takes the reader’s mindset into a real world setting of catastrophic societal collapse. He chose those words in an attempt to cut through the mistaken sense that the topic is purely theoretical. Mission accomplished.
The Deep Adaptation Agenda is discussed in detail starting on page 18 of Bendell’s dissertation.
As for his conclusion: “Disruptive impacts from climate change are now inevitable. Geoengineering is likely to be ineffective or counter-productive. Therefore, the mainstream climate policy community now recognizes the need to work much more on adaptation to the effects of climate change… societies will experience disruptions to their basic functioning within less than ten years due to climate stress. Such disruptions include increased levels of malnutrition, starvation, disease, civil conflict and war – and will not avoid affluent nations.”
In short, the impending breakout of a full-blown climate crisis in full living color will be all-inclusive, leaving nobody behind.