The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. – Albert Einstein.

As the world is trying to hopefully recover from the tragic effects of COVID-19, it is reminded there is no vaccine for the existential threat for its life support systems posed by global warming, nor for the looming threats of future wars and nuclear wars fueled by warmongers and $trillion preparations by military-industrial complexes.

Between 1740 and 1897 some 230 wars and revolutions in Europe suggested war remained deeply ingrained in the human psyche and civilization. The question is whether the currently approaching catastrophes can be averted.

No one wishes to believe in the projections made in the recent book ‘The Uninhabitable Earth’, except that these projections, made by David Wallace-Wells, are disturbingly consistent with the current shift in state of the climate toward +4 degrees and even +6 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, as indicated by the current trends (Figure 1) and conveyed by leading climate scientists and the International Panel for Climate Change (IPCC).

Figure 1.Global mean temperature estimates for land areas (NASA).

Facing the unthinkable consequences of global warming is pushing climate scientists into a quandary. In private conversations, many scientists express far greater concern at the trend of global warming than they do in public. However, faced with social and psychological barriers, as well as threats of losing positions and jobs, in business, public service and academia, a majority keeps silent, displaying lesser courage than school children.

According to James Hansen (2012), NASA’s former chief climate scientist: “You can’t burn all of these fossil fuels without creating a different planet”. According to Joachim Schellnhuber (2015), Germany’s chief climate scientist: ‘We’re simply talking about the very life support system of this planet’and ‘If we don’t solve the climate crisis, we can forget about the rest’.

Referring to a phenomenon he termed “scientific reticence”, James Hansen (2007) states: “I suggest that a “scientific reticence” (namely a reluctance to convey worrying news) is inhibiting the communication of a threat of a potentially large sea level rise”.

According to Bajaj (2019)“when it comes to climate change, the need for excessive caution and absolute certainty of the results is manifesting as silence from the mainstream science on the worst yet probable consequences and the worst-case scenarios that are looking increasingly likely”. A paradox emerges where scientists who experience scientific reticence are still accused of being alarmists.

This is because an evaluation of the probability of a risk needs to be related to the magnitude of the risk. For example, the inspection of the engines of a Jumbo Jet carrying 300 passengers need to be even more rigorous than that of a commuter van, or evaluation of the risk posed by a potential failure of a nuclear reactor even more critical than that of a conventional power plant, as is the absolute safety of a particle accelerator.

By analogy with the dictum Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it projections of future climate trajectories need to take account of studies of the past behaviour of the atmosphere-ocean system. The pace of current global warming exceeds those of the last 2.6 million years by an order of magnitude, with calamitous consequences for biological systems.

As indicated by the basic laws of physics, the principles of climate science and empirical observations in nature, under an increase of greenhouse gas concentrations by about 50 percent , global warming is inevitable. While modeled future climate change trajectories may vary, depending whether observations are based on recent measurements, paleoclimate data or models, the consequences of such an increase are inevitably catastrophic. Whereas IPCC models portray linear warming trends to 2300, other models take account of the flow of ice melt water from Greenland and Antarctica into the oceans and thereby irregular warming (Glikson, 2019).

Given the warnings issued by leading climate scientists and the IPCC, while nations keep investing their dwindling $trillions in its military-industrial complexes in preparations for future war/s, our world is losing its last chance to save its planetary life support systems.

Dr Andrew Glikson Earth and Climate scientist


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3 Comments

  1. Dr. Glikson’s assessment of our global prospects is certainly right on target. Neither ‘normal’ science nor the culture of public policy ‘experts’ and politicians are up to the task of reflecting and acting upon the overwhelming evidence that radical transformation of society is the only way humanity can reduce carbon emissions to levels that at least give us a chance to dampen the accelerating oscillations of both climate and ecosystems that will otherwise destroy much of life on the planet, including human life.
    One hesitates to apply the idea of ‘culltural revoluion, but that alone would not be enough. Complete restructuration of social formations to achieve ecological communities is necessary, along with the abolition of the global corporate industrial consumer economy. The unanswered question remains: How can that be accomplished without (or even with) massive societal disruptions and probably huge population losses around the world? Nobody seems willing to ask the question no less speculate on possible answers.

  2. And the message is repeated; again and again, for the last 30, 40, 50, 60 years since biologists reported acidification of the ocean leading to coral reef death. Few listened. Big Oil, like Big Tobacco before it, recruited scientists, biologists, to poo-poo the message. Hence the passage of years before the message has at last been heard
    and acknowledged.

    Other dangers are looming, equally ignored, equally life-threatening. Humankind goes merrily on, blissfully uncaring. Covid-19 is of more immediate concert. Thanks for THE vaccine. Why worry?

    Then, of course, the Olympics. So much to think about; so much to engage one’s mind. Global warming? With all this snow! Nuclear radiation? Chernobyl came and went. Fukushima likewise.
    Storms in a teacup!

    Genetic Engineering? Whoopee! Bigger crops. No weeds. Medical miracles. Engineered viruses?

    And the wonders of Artificial Intelligence. Scientific miracles. No more drudgery. No more work. No need for people! A new role for viruses: rid the world of useless and unwanted eaters; age-specific, race-specific, gender-specific, social order-specific???

    What a wonderful world; what a wonderful life!

  3. Andrew Glikson’s warning is a serious one to take. Please permit me to add few more nuances to it.

    Today we witness live the decadence of human civilization both at the material and moral/ethical levels. Many may justifiably say the latter leads to the former. I tend to see it as the interplay of both. Excessive material enjoyment sans control affects moral adherences, which in turn down-slides further material and bodily civilizational enjoyment. Maybe it is time to fast and learn to temper your bodily-material greed as the Yogis do regularly and discipline themselves. We have a World Yoga Day. It is time to initial a World Fasting Day and monitor the result. We could see a shocking drop in consumption in just one day that eventually will affect our climate if repeated often globally improving health as well.

    It is indeed debilitating to note, “threats of losing positions and jobs, in business, public service, and academia, a majority keeps silent, displaying lesser courage than school children.” Taken together with the foregoing part, ”many scientists express far greater concern at the trend of global warming than they do in public”, is a very disturbing psychic sign of a paralytic impasse as it hinders positive action at global levels.

    I disagree a bit with the author on “war remained deeply ingrained in the human psyche and civilization.” That was, but need not remain. As evolving and evolved human beings we should outgrow and root it out of psyche in toto. We should be enlightened enough to adopt the Higher Reason to ensure our survivability. Otherwise, we are un-evolving animals clad as human beings. But even animals don’t kill or go to war if they have enough to eat, have a safe place to sleep and have some progeny assurance. In fact, they inherently pass the “survival of the fittest” test better than we humans do.

    The essential danger facing us is, life-supporting systems are being endangered globally, be it through rise in sea levels or eventual total disappearance of coral reefs as a consequence of temperature rise of 2 deg Celsius (UNEP report). If ocean life is dead, then terrestrial life termination may follow suit. One could even foretell that temperature rise leading to ice-melts in both hemispheres will lead to floods and more rains, entrenching a multiple disaster perpetuation all over the Earth as a permanent feature; catastrophic disturbances created on roll-band for cross-sectional biological life, from agriculture to zoological species.

    Ultimately, this situation portends, we find a new coalition of scientists from all 5 continents to shun this “scientific reticence” and openly speak out en masse with one voice, without fear and violence, against the very industry even that feeds our bellies. Only then shall we inaugurate a genuine true self-correction, transformation, and affirmation of our survivability as homo sapiens, no matter which governing body we fight against with our true conscience.

    George Chakko, former U.N. correspondent, now retiree in Vienna, Austria.
    Vienna, 27/12/2020 12:46 hrs CET