This is the Dawn of the Age of Collapse

Our Civilization is Now Reaching an Omega Point — the Point of Irreversible Collapse

This gentle world that you and I know, that I love, of old parks full of ancient trees, long walks through them — all that is now coming to a swift and sudden end.

We are reaching what I call the Omega Point. “O” for game over. The Omega Point is the inflection point at which our civilisation will no longer survive — and we are coming closer and closer to it by the day now. We are surely going to hit it within the next two decades, perhaps the next decade, on the trajectory we are on.

Omega isn’t some kind of abstruse notion — it’s just simple economics, which any grade schooler can understand. Let me explain it you conceptually, and then I’ll describe how life will change as we begin to hit it.

The world’s GDP is about $80 trillion. Omega is theoretically hit when the costs of the existential threats of the 21st century that our civilisation now faces — climate change, mass extinction, ecological collapse, and the pandemics and social upheavals and economic depressions they’ll ignite — exceeds the world’s GDP. At that point, we are spending every dollar, euro, and renminbi we have to fight floods, hurricanes, fires, and pandemics — which leaves nothing, and I mean nothing, over for air, water, food, energy, medicine. Bang. The lights go out.

In the real world, though, Omega is hit long before the costs of our existential threats reach the ceiling of global GDP. As we fight climate change, ecological collapse, mass extinction, pandemics, authoritarianism, we must still feed and nourish and clothe and mend ourselves — that is, we need to spend a significant percentage on the basics, food, water, air, medicine, shelter, clothing, and so forth. That’s about half of global GDP right now.

So realistically, Omega — the point at which our civilisation collapses, for sure, permanently, game over — is hit at about half of global GDP spent on combating our existential threats.That leaves us too little left over for the basics of life, and civilisation descends into chaos, ruin, and social collapse — just as it has, for example, in America, as people fight each other bitterly for self-preservation.

So we hit the Omega point when the damage caused by our existential challenges — climate change, ecological collapse, pandemics, authoritarianism, etc — reaches $40 to 60 trillion at our current level of global income and wealth.

Now, if that doesn’t make sense, think about it this way.If you had to spend 100% of your income, say, mending your roof, or shoring up your home’s foundations, you’d be effectively broke. Sure, you could borrow, maybe, if you were lucky, and you had good credit. But you would still be bankrupt in net terms. And as a world, we have no such luxury — when we are broke, collectively, nobody is left to lend to us. Omega therefore represents the point at which our civilisation is effectively bankrupt: when we’re $40 trillion to $60 trillion in the hole.

At that point, there will be no way out. We will be broke, and not have the economic capacity to mitigate, avert, or address problems like climate change and ecological collapse anymore. Their costs will have exceeded the total economic resources of our civilization.

Nice theory, Queen, you might say — but so what? Surely Omega, this sci-fi concept you’ve invented, is in the distant future. It’s something our great grandkids might have to worry about! Relax, dude! Everything will be fine!

Wrong!

Let me put in context for you just how close we are to hitting Omega. $40 to $60 trillion might sound like a lot — but in fact, it’s not. It is frighteningly little. Take Covid. It’s a relatively minor problem compared to climate change or mass extinction, in scale, scope, and intensity. Its damages won’t remotely approach those of a melted down planet. And yet the IMF has estimated that Covid has already cost us $24 trillion.

Covid alone takes us about 40 to 60% of the way to hitting Omega. Covid alone. My God. This afternoon, when I thought about this, and ran the numbers in my head, my heart skipped a beat. We are in serious, serious trouble, I thought. My God. Are you seeing the problem here? Let me spell it out.

So what about climate change? The IMF has estimated that climate change costs about 7% of global GDP — but that’s just subsidies for undercharging for carbon (if that makes your head spin, don’t worry about it.) That doesn’t factor in the damage caused by climate change — megafires, megafloods, mega-hurricanes, and so forth. It doesn’t even factor in, for example, the global microchip shortage, that was essentially caused by climate change.

So how much is that? Easily twice as much again — so now we’re at another 15% of global GDP. And even that’s sure to be a significant underestimate. We don’t know how much climate change is really going to cost us — all we know is that the costs are going to be singular in human history. The costs are going to be so great at some point they can never be repaid at all — do you know how to make the Arctic ice freeze again, how to make a rainforest? I didn’t think so. So doubling that estimate of climate change’s costs is far too conservative. I’d put the truer number at closer to 25% of the world’s GDP. But we can put it on a spectrum from 15% to 25%, because even that conservative math makes the point frighteningly clear.

In a world of Covid plus climate change, we’re already close to hitting OmegaCovid costs us 10 percent of the world’s GDP, and climate change another 15% to 25%. That’s 25% to 35% of global GDP — just on these two threats alone. Omega’s hit somewhere near fifty percent, remember. That means that we are more than halfway to hitting Omega, right now. That we are almost sure to hit it by the end of the decade or so.

We haven’t even factored in the biggies yet: mass extinction and ecological collapse. We are used to living in an alienated, hyper-technological, disconnected way. But the truth is that the basics of our lives come from…the earth. The insects and worms turn the soil in which we harvest our crops and medicines. The fish clean the rivers which supply our reservoirs. The trees, like the ones in my park, breath out the air we breathe in. The earth’s great ecosystems are reaching tipping points, because industrialisation and its predatory economics rips their roots out at the bottoms, killing off the most vulnerable things: little insects, fish, young saplings. Where and when they’re “replaced,” monocultures are made, which are no substitute for natural ecosystems and their complexity and productivity.

As the planet’s great ecologies collapse, our civilisations basic systems will fail. The most basic of all. Air, water, food, medicine, energy. The ones we have long taken for granted. And that’s when the fireworks will really begin. Life will become a bitter, brutal battle for self-preservation. Neighbour will turn on neighbour, and friend on friend — not just at local scales, but at national and then international ones. What will you do when the food, water, medicine, and air begin to run out? Well, the first thing you’ll do — have to do — is pay through the nose for what’s left. And the ensuing despair, poverty, and rage will kickstart a new wave of fascist-authoritarian movements globally.

If you think all that’s some distant fantasy, take a hard look at how long it took America to collapse. The middle class became a minority in 2010, and by 2016, Trump was made President, by an enraged, downwardly mobile white majority. That is how fast a society comes apart — even the richest one in the world. And in that way American collapse is a tiny warning of what awaits the world in an age of civilizational collapse. People turn ugly and stupid as they fight for self-preservation. Politics turns fascist. Economies go south. And a sense of indifference takes over. Because life becomes a bitter struggle for each isolated, disconnected individual. If you’re living, like the average American, a life of unpayable debt, facing an impossible challenge till the day you die — what emotional or economic room do you have to care about anyone else? You don’t. Bang. That’s how societies collapse: poverty.

So how much will ecological collapse and mass extinction cost us?Physicists have a point called a singularity — where all the laws of physics break down. This is an economic singularity. Nobody knows, and in a sense, it doesn’t matter, because the question makes no sense. How much does it “cost” to live on a planet where the air isn’t breathable, the water isn’t potable, and the food isn’t edible? Where life itself is poisonous? The question itself is absurd. The only good way to frame it is the opposite: it costs so much that nobody really realises their potential. People live short, dull, stupid, angry, desperate, lives, where they get sick, die young, and nobody much cares about anyone else. That’s what it costs. Attempting to quantify all that is an exercise in futility — all that we can say is that the cost is civilisation itself.

Still, for the sake of argument, let’s say, conservatively, again, that ecological collapse and mass extinction cost us another 25% of global GDP. They do so by causing widespread shortages of the basics. You used to be able to go the store, and buy anything you liked — now getting good water and fresh food is a daily challenge, which often goes unmet. Then there are the pandemics, which seem to erupt every five years or so. There’s the shortage of life-saving medicines, which cost a society huge numbers of life-years. There are the costs of migrations — people simply abandon those places which have become deserts, as the topsoil eroded away. Fire Belts, Flood Belts, Plague Belts — all these are the vocabulary people speak now, and the price of being poor is living in one. If you have the money, you flee, at all costs.

As a result, financial systems begin to break down. Who’s going to insure a Fire Belt, Flood Belt, Plague Belt?Those who did go broke — bang! There goes a whole asking sector and insurance industry. Who’s going to write a mortgage against a home that’s going to be incinerated or flooded — or already is, every year? Who’s going to insure a life whose expectancy is declining due to a new pandemic every few years? As financial crashes follow ecological ones, as natural disasters metastasise into economic catastrophes, whole economies begin to seize up. Banks don’t lend, businesses shutter their doors, mass long-term unemployment is the new normal. Getting money out of the bank is an iffy affair. Paying your bills — who knows if you’ll do it this month.

All that? Easily another 25% of global GDP.

And that puts well past the Omega Point. 20% Covid. 15 to 25% climate change. 25% ecological collapse — in truth, the number will be much higher. Still, all that is enough to put our civilisation past the point of no return. Add those up, and you get somewhere between 60 to 70 percent of GDP as the costs of our existential challenges. Bang. That’s too much. We can’t pay it. We can’t afford it. It makes us broke. And growing, poverty produces across our civilisation what it always does in societies: despair, rage, hostility, cruelty, stupidity, violence, fascism.

Omega. Game Over. The point at which the costs of our existential threats exceed our civilisations economic resources. When that point is hit, there is no turning back. Collapse is inevitable. We are, in my estimation, somewhere between 10 to 15 years away from hitting Omega.

Those are words that are frightening for me to write. They take my breath away. I’m not often wrong on issues of economics — I predicted everything from the crash of ’08 to the wave of authoritarianism sweeping the globe to American collapse. That’s not to toot my own horn. It’s to warn you.

The problem of imminent civilizational collapse is not being taken nearly seriously enough. How do we fix it? We invest, right now, like never before.

While we still have the money, energy, time, While we still have the resources to address our existential problems. Before they swamp us, flood us, incinerate us, spin out of control. Take Covid as an example. It was better to swallow a bitter pill, like New Zealand and Taiwan and Vietnam did, and lock down swiftly and hard — they have, by and large, bounced back. Those that didn’t swallow the bitter pill, like America, Britain, and Europe, are now paying a price without end — a pandemic that has spiralled out of control and won’t go away.

The lesson couldn’t be clearer. We have to get serious about our existential threats now, before they spin out of control.The closer that we come to Omega, the uglier life will get. The poorer we will grow as a civilization, and the uglier, stupider, more violent life will get — and the more powerless we will be to change it all. Just like it has in America.

I’ve estimated it will cost about $20 trillion to begin really addressing all these problems — a quarter of global GDP. 

That’s the scale at which we’re talking right now. Do you hear anyone — a single prime minister, politician, leader, CEO, talking at those scales?

I didn’t think so. And that, my friend, is the problem. We are about to be engulfed by our existential threats, and it is already hitting us faster, harder, and more severely than anyone much thought. Civilizational collapse is now the theme that will dominate the rest of our adult lives. Covid is a warning. This is the dawn of the age of collapse.

I’m Sorry, but Climate Change Will Not Be Stopped

Don’t get me wrong. Your heart is in the right place, but you are still living a delusional life, thinking that your desires are reflected in our politics because a 70-something-year-old in political office said some words once. You’re kind of like a smoker saying they’ll quit tomorrow, right after they finish this pack.

Tomorrow never comes, however. The smoker buys another pack. They’ll quit after this fresh new pack, after all.

You vote for another corporate politician who is paid to be liked by you, paid to say the things you want to hear, who enacts legislation favorable to big industries — in this case, any industry reliant on or producing fossil fuels. Like that smoker, you’ll quit your bad behavior tomorrow. The behavior of electing the same people who make the same promises over and over that they then break over and over. The same behavior of purchasing goods and services from those corporations that create all the emissions that cause the climate issues.

Today, though? You still have hope. The future is always full of potential correct choices that we can make. You can always quit smoking tomorrow. The past and present, however…

I’m sorry liberals, but climate change is coming. Your carbon taxes and credits won’t stop the easy money of fossil fuels from either simply paying for those credits and taxes while still burning fuel in excess, or from avoiding those regulations altogether through accounting tricks and the systemic reality of global capitalism.

Dodging some phone calls

Corporations consume, just like whatever ate most of this mushroom.

How can corporations avoid those regulations? Well, depending on the implementation of these liberal political solutions, big firms will either just drill elsewhere, refine elsewhere, or find a consumer base elsewhere.

That “elsewhere” is whatever country doesn’t have those carbon-reducing regulations. If you think this won’t happen, I offer the entire history of neoliberal global capitalism as proof of how these regulations will be avoided.

New labor markets get exploited elsewhere when unions are a problem locally. Corporations move headquarters for tax avoidance all the time. They also find new markets to sell their goods within when consumers in one location can’t afford the price of the goods locally — the consumer can always import them from elsewhere if they want them enough and have the extra cash.

Cash is king. Screw the environment. That’s not your home, is it? Capitalism is your culture, now. Accept it.

Regulatory pressure and the corporations avoiding that pressure are no different — it will either be cheap enough locally to pay off politicians to prevent regulation, or corporations will just move their headquarters somewhere else, a place that doesn’t impose regulations on them in exchange for the jobs and GDP growth to bolster that country’s tax receipts.

The politicians love that stuff.

No, I don’t mean wherever you grew up, or wherever your parents are. Wherever that home is might be underwater when climate change is in full swing — depending on the surrounding topography, of course.

I mean go back home.

The interesting scientific fact of life here on earth is that we are all related. I’m related to you, even if the distance of our relation is large.

The other interesting scientific fact of life here on earth is that all life is related. From the tiniest little fungus growing on a fallen branch, to the huge oak tree whose branch fell off and is rotting on the ground, to the snake that lives under the fallen branch, to the coyote that just trotted past the fallen branch, to the human hunter tracking the coyote because it killed a chicken… We are all related.

Everything you look at that is alive is a distant relative.

You haven’t been home in a long, long time.

You’ve been in a world of steel and concrete and carbon and asphalt and glass and drywall. You’ve been in a world of on-demand air-conditioning and heating — all reliant on carbon, of course. You’ve been in a world of on-demand entertainment, unable to entertain yourself in the ways humans have entertained themselves for a million years. You’ve been in a world of on-demand McDonald’s and Panera and Subway and the French Laundry and Door Dash and Uber and Lyft and AirBnB and artisanal soaps and just this once, you know, treat yourself!

Your nature has been replaced with capitalism.

You’ve been renting an apartment in another city in another country on another continent, far from your home.

You speak a language that nature doesn’t know, now. Your home doesn’t speak your language, and you have forgotten how to listen to the words it uses. They’re not literal words — the home you left long ago speaks in a language of signs and symbols, able to be divined only roughly, and only learned through some intuitive form of semiotics.

Your home speaks a language of chirps, and barks, and rustles, and wind, and dampness, and sharpness, and roughness, and dirtiness, and growth, and decay, and heat, and cold, and fangs, and beauty, and fear.It’s a language you would need to know if you wanted to stop or reverse climate change — it’s how we didn’t notice a problem until recently. We didn’t hear the words our home was using to tell us about it, and now that it’s screaming, we’ve finally taken notice. It’s too late.

Without knowing the language, you will never be able to be comfortable in a carbon-free home. You will never stay there willingly. You will never make the pilgrimage back home because you will not be welcome there. You may crash there for a weekend, but you will go back to your normal world immediately due to the discomfort of not understanding the language. There will be nowhere for you to sleep comfortably, no food for you to eat, and no company to share.

There will be no one to talk to back home. You are a stranger to your family.

How to become welcome again

The religious know of a concept called revelation. As an atheist, I can’t say I have ever experienced religious revelation.

But I have experienced natural revelation before. The religious will try to attach their rhetoric to this somehow, but I know better. I received natural revelation when I started to remember the language, when I began to sense the dialect of our home.

I received a completely subjective form of knowledge that I couldn’t give anyone else — no attempt at translation could transmit it between you and I. It was knowledge only I could have. I could describe the steps to take to get there, but I couldn’t describe the knowledge sitting at the end of those steps.

And I could only describe my steps. I don’t know if your steps will be different. It brings to mind a quote I know, although it describes the inverse of this situation between us:

There is a false saying: “How can someone who can’t save himself save others?” Supposing I have the key to your chains, why should your lock and my lock be the same.

Friedrich Nietzsche

I know my lock and I have my key — but I don’t know your lock, and I do not have your key. You have to find those yourself for natural revelation.

It was easier for me to pick up the dialect of our home again than many others, I suppose. I spent most of my youth in the woods. I probably chopped down one hundred trees before I was twelve. I spent years in the military in the bitter cold of the arctic and the extreme heat of the desert. I’ve caught wild fish with my hands in a jungle pond. I’ve seined for bait fish to catch bigger fish to eat. I’ve seen cows, alienated from their natural world by human forces, get stuck in the mud of a ravine and die. They are not home just like you are not home.

Climate change may very well be your mud.

So, I have always been able to intuitively understand bits and pieces of the language of our home. My alienation was not as complete as most of us today — it’s harder for me to get stuck in the mud than many. I could tell there was a language being spoken, even if I couldn’t speak it, much like how I know when someone is speaking German and I understand the general idea of what they are saying, while I can only speak English fluently.

But, you? It’s very likely you’re reading this somewhere in a city, on a floor of a building not at ground level, or on a train scrolling through articles displayed on a phone that has a million times the processing power needed to get to the moon and back.

You likely speak a language completely foreign to your home. You need to go back — the door has always been open, and your family has been waiting for you. They’ve missed you, even if they don’t know what to make of you any more.

When you start to speak their language — when you have a naturalrevelation after some time spent at home — you will be welcomed again. Just like we always were, until only very recently in our history.

It’s not too late for you. It’s never too late to go back home — your real, ancestral home. You will only be judged there if you do not speak the language. That can be overcome.

When you can speak their language, you are what your family calls an apex predator. They respect you greatly. Only humans will ever debate whether you are one or not — a luxurious argument that only another apex predator could make.

The first painful steps

The first steps are the hardest in any journey. You know the road ahead will be long and difficult and maybe even dangerous.

The first step in going home is to go home. There is no way out of the process but through the process. It is natural and personal.In the language of humans, this means… Put your shoes on. Put on a hoodie or a jacket if it’s cool outside. Take a backpack or a bag you can walk with comfortably. Throw some bottles of water in there. Skip the snacks — you’re going hungry today. Trust me, food will only slow you down.

And now, just go walk somewhere that humans aren’t. That’s it. That’s how you go home.

And I don’t mean go to an abandoned strip mall, either. I mean go to where the woods and forests are. Go out into the desert. Go up into the mountains. Go down into the swamps and jungles. Go out into the grasslands. Go far down the beach, way past the parking lot where all the tourists are. Step off of a path and keep walking. Keep walking for hours in your home. And keep walking still, until you are exhausted. And then, sit there for a while. Regain your strength. Look around. Poke stuff with your fingers. Listen.

Maybe don’t eat anything just yet. You don’t know the language. Yes, I know you’re hungry. Let the feeling pass through you. It doesn’t have the power over you that you think it does.

Then, turn around and come back to your apartment in the human world, far from home.

You won’t speak the language at first, or even hear it. You will be startled by wild animals. You will be feasted upon by mosquitos or ticks or leeches or flies or all of the above. You will be tired and thirsty and hungry and sore and uncomfortable. You will feel not welcome.

But if you do this enough — if you practice this immersive form of learning the language of your home over days, weeks, months — you will understand what nature is saying when it’s trying to communicate with you. You will understand what your distant relatives are saying again, like you used to before the concrete and steel.

It will be that form of natural revelation that you are alienated from now that you will feel, the subjective knowledge that I cannot give to you. A form of knowledge only gained by experience. No words can suffice. No translation is possible. Your key is not my key.

Why you must go home

You have to go home if you ever want to reverse climate change. Capitalism has alienated you from a fossil-fuel-free life. Even if we stopped all use of fossil fuels — and thereby saved the climate and the world’s ecosystems from collapse, if we were lucky enough to have done it thirty years ago — you would be screaming and crying for fossil fuels to return within the next day.

That first night at home would be unbearable to you. It would be a Pyrrhic climate victory. You do not know that which you wish for.

This alienation is complete as long as we do not recognize it. We only do not recognize it because we do not feel the discomfort of going home and trying to speak to our family. The discomfort is unbearable and slaps you in the face with the alienation you have succumbed to unknowingly. A passive alienation you couldn’t detect, because it was made so easy for you.

The more you are home, though, the more you will be immersed in the language of your family. You will become comfortable around them. They’ll stop running away from you when you show up — not always, and not all of them, hell… some of them don’t even have legs — but you will be speaking their language and know what not to say to them that would cause offense.

They’ll share their culture with you freely. It costs nothing but your time and discomfort.

Have you ever wondered how wildlife photographers can take photos of lions and bears and poisonous snakes up close? They’ve spent a lot of time at home and they speak the language fluently.

If you want to save the climate — if you want to fix the world — you have to go home first. That’s the first step.

They miss you. You’ve been avoiding their calls. Stop sending them to voicemail just because you no longer speak the language fluently. It can be learned again. It’s natural for you.


The Fat Lady Has Just Sung


In October, ahead of the useless and infuriating spectacle that is the COP 26 meeting in Glasgow, quietly, with little fanfare, and it seems almost reluctantly, the U.S. Office of the Director of National Intelligence released a report titled:

“Climate Change and International Responses Increasing Challenges to US National Security Through 2040”

Taken together with articles and studies coming fast and furious regarding the state of the climate since the U.N. declaration of “Code Red for Humanity” last month, the report is both a sobering read and a final and unequivocal rebuke of climate denial as far as the U.S. government is concerned.

One notable omission from the report is the usual recap of the science behind climate change, designed to convince pea-brained, snowball-toting, mega-skeptics like Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma.

The first sentence states:

“Risks to US national security through 2040 will increase as countries respond to physical effects of climate change. Global temperatures most likely will surpass the Paris agreement goal of 1.5 degrees Celsius by around 2030, and the physical effects are projected to continue intensifying.” (emphasis mine)

Notice, they allowed no room for fudging. No “might be”, or “could be”, no “optimism” a-la CNN that “there is still hope!” or “ but we are not TOO late…”

The US military is planning on a greater than 1.5 degrees Celsius rise in global temperatures and chaos, by 2030, even if Senator Inhofe thinks snowballs are proof of his scientific discovery that it is all a hoax.

Right below that declaration, is a deceptively bland-looking graphic, with full or half-full orbs denoting the likelihood and the severity of adverse events. The events below are considered “high risk to US national security” by the U.S. intelligence community by 2040, and by extension a risk to your security. That is less than 19 years from now. A newborn today will still be not old enough to buy a Bud in the U.S. but will be able enroll in the military and will have to deal with the risks of…

  • Cross border water tension and conflict,
  • Developing country financial and technology assistance,
  • Petro-states resisting clean energy transition from fossil fuels,
  • Competition with China over key minerals and clean energy technologies,
  • Cross border migration due to climate impacts,
  • The strain on energy and food systems,

to name a few.

In the key findings section we encounter:

“Key Judgment 1Geopolitical tensions are likely to grow as countries increasingly argue about how to accelerate the reductions in net greenhouse gas emissions that will be needed to meet the Paris Agreement goals. The debate will center on who bears more responsibility to act and to pay — and how quickly — and countries will compete to control resources and dominate new technologies needed for the clean energy transition.”

This, after admitting that the world is not likely (at all) to meet the pledges made at Paris.


It remains a fact the industrial north is responsible for at least 62% of the CO2 accumulated in the atmosphere since 1751. It is also fact, that even after externalizing carbon emission to other countries and relying on shoddy carbon accounting, the North American per capita emissions is 3.5 times the world average, while the average European’s is 1.8. If you compare it to an average African citizen, a person living in North America is responsible for a staggering 13.7 times more carbon emitted annually.

“Countries most likely will wield contentious financial and economic tools to advance climate policies and defend their national economies”

Page 7

Many countries, devoid of the resources to meet the looming crisis, need help but the greedy, be it the feudal, colonial, or the capitalist kind, are loath to admit their undeniable responsibility to humanity, stop polluting, and pay up.

According to the External Affairs Minister of India, by the time of Indian Independence, the British had extracted $45 trillion of wealth from the subcontinent.

Even for allowing the moral escape clause of limiting the counting to start at a time when “international awareness of climate issues” grew, research estimates the environmental liability of the OECD 20 countries at $15 trillion!

However, the countries most responsible for this destruction are yet to make good on their pledge of the paltry $100 billion promised at the Copenhagen climate conference of 2009. Only $10.3 billion has been delivered so far.

The U.N. reports that in 2019, 118 million people in India “suffered the indignity of defecating in fields, forests, bodies of water, or other public spaces due to lack of access to toilets” — after making significant progress since 2015, when the number was over 560 million!

The Queen of England, on the other hand, having been handed sovereignty over the seabed around the British Isles in a breathtaking (pun intended) display of appropriating the commons by the consent of a handful of English gentlemen (The Continental Shelf Act of 1964), is now adding to her considerable ill-gotten gains by leasing the wind that blows over that seabed to the tune of millions of dollars. Apparently, looting of the sub-continent, and most of the planet for that matter, for 200 years wasn’t enough.


What would your demands be, if you were a leader of a country where 118 million people were desperately looking for a place to defecate twice a day while the country and the people that impoverished your country kept getting richer off air?

How would you plan for what would surely be “geopolitical tension” between nuclear-armed, economically challenged countries if you were a Pentagon analyst?

“Key Judgment 2: The increasing physical effects of climate change are likely to exacerbate cross-border geopolitical flashpoints as states take steps to secure their interests.”

Through its occupation of the Tibetan plateau, China controls the headwaters of not only the Yangtze and the Yellow rivers essential to feeding its ever-growing, coal-dependent population, but it also controls the headwaters of the Yarlung/Brahmaputra, Indus, Lakong, and Nu rivers, estimated to be home to 46% of the world’s population in several countries. Two of those counties are nuclear powers and so is China.

Turkey sits on top of the Euphrates and Tigris, Ethiopia controls the Nile, Israel (also a nation that possesses nukes) has a death grip on the Jordan River, and Bolsinaro is burning the Amazon.

Flashpoints indeed!

The chart on page 2 of the report makes the point extremely clear even to the snowball-toting skeptics in the US Congress. Just look at the numbers.

Already over 800 million people worldwide suffer from hunger according to the UN. Given the enthusiasm for cutbacks on the part of industrialized countries, when the global average temperature reaches 2 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial average, that number will explode.

“All societies are three meals away from anarchy.”

Vladimir Lenin

Key Judgment 3Scientific forecasts indicate that intensifying physical effects of climate change out to 2040 and beyond will be most acutely felt in developing countries, which we assess are also the least able to adapt to such changes. These physical effects will increase the potential for instability and possibly internal conflict in these countries, in some cases creating additional demands on US diplomatic, economic, humanitarian, and military resources.

After decades of hegemonic oppression and capitalist exploitation, the weakened states of Central America are finding it impossible to deal with the effects of an increasingly destructive and hostile climate. Caught between hurricanes, droughts, and inept or outright corrupt governments while faced with starvation or becoming collateral damage to criminal elements, they flee, mostly northward.

The U.S., having found itself unable to deal with this mass of humanity to begin with, will soon find itself dealing with large internal population displacements due to the same dynamics, as well as more climate refugees massing its Southern border.

This northward movement of humanity in its hundreds of millions will leave no country unaffected. Along with the human misery of the so-called “caravans”, a flood of humanity, like Napoleon’s Grande Armee marching through Prussia, will devour everything in its path.

Donald Trump will not be the last leader to call for a wall, misguided as that approach is. India already has a wall along 76% of its border with Bangladesh, potentially in a futile attempt to cut off over 100 million future refugees. Backed against a rising sea, starvation, and no way out, they will also swarm that border. What would you do, if you had a child and that was the only way out?


What would you do, if you were a leader of a nuclear-armed country where 118 million people are lacking basic sanitation, let alone have access to air-conditioning needed to cool down in now-common 50 degrees C+ days, or have the electricity needed to run the pumps to drain your aquifers even further because China has reduced your water-flow and your crops are failing?

In a way, attempting to predict the future is futile. Humans are fickle, leaders may change their minds. We have discovered that even quantum particles can’t be counted on to stay put. That’s one reason the reporters and courtesans tell us “but there is hope”, I suppose.

The U.S. Intelligence agencies do not deal in hope. They deal in analysis and risk assessment, although even they can’t help but indulge in magical thinking sometimes. Under “Events that would change their assessment”, they include:

“A successful geoengineering deployment at the scale that results in global cooling without negatively disrupting weather patterns.” Insert miracle here ___

It is a sad day for humanity when even the most clear-eyed assessment of our “predicament” hopes for technological magic to save us, while ignoring one of the most obvious solutions.

Cut the military’s budget that uses the threat of ongoing conflict to bloat its spending, and funnel the money into realistic, fossil-fuel-cutting, emission-reducing solutions. Now. Repeat worldwide.

Sir David Attenborough said it best during his speech at COP 26:

“If working apart we are a force powerful enough to destabilize our planet, surely working together we are powerful enough to save it!”

Sir David Attenborough

I share his passion, but sadly, not his optimism.


The Root Cause of Climate Change

Burning fossil fuels is said to be the root cause of climate change, but it’s not true. So, what’s the real driver? We’ll get to the answer in a moment. But first, let’s look at a few facts about our climate crisis and get a feel for the scope of the problem.

In This Post:

  • How Hot Will Earth Get?
  • What Happens If Earth’s Temperature Rises by 37° F?
  • What’s the Root Cause of Climate Change?
  • Population Growth: The No 1 Root Cause of Climate Change
  • Development: The No 2 Root Cause of Climate Change
  • Greed: The No 3 Root Cause of Climate Change
  • Human Consumption and Population Growth are Culprits Say Top Scientists
  • Solutions? Maybe
  • Renewables
  • Financial Arguments No Obstacle to Climate Action
  • Consumption Must Fall in Wealthier Countries
  • Maybe the Rich Are the Root Cause of Climate Change

How Hot Will Earth Get?

We don’t know exactly; global temperature projections vary according to the assumptions used. But current evidence points to a rise in Earth’s temperature of at least 37.4° F by the end of the century.

Even if all countries meet their climate action commitments under the 2015 Paris Agreement, the planet is heading for a 37.76 global temperature rise over pre-industrial levels by 2100. That’s according to the annual Emissions Gap Report compiled by the latest UN Environment Program. 1 Meantime, the U.N. World Meteorological Organization recently issued a statement forecasting a rise of between 37.4° F and 41° F.

What Happens If Earth’s Temperature Rises by 37° F?

We don’t know for certain what the effects of global warming will be by the end of the century. Climate models can’t yet cope with the complexities of our climate system and its meteorological weather patterns. Even so, scientists have a reasonable idea of how rising temperatures are likely to impact the planet in such a case, and it’s not pleasant. I

For example, according to research group Carbon Brief, warming of 3°C will lead to a 6.4-meter (21 ft) sea level rise, placing 432 million people below the water level.

Extreme weather events (hurricanes, cyclones, floods, heatwaves, marine heatwaves) will become more frequent and more intense, rainforests will dry out, and large areas of permafrost will start thawing. Some of these effects of global warming are likely to trigger irreversible sequences or ‘climate tipping points‘, involving runaway polar ice melt and the like.

Okay, now that we’ve set the scene let’s deal with the real driver of climate change.

What’s the Root Cause of Climate Change?

The main driver of our climate crisis is human consumption, which (incidentally) is going to get much worse, very quickly.

Human consumption — by which we mean the human use and exploitation of Earth’s resources — is driven by three things: (A) population growth (B) economic development and (C) greed. These three drivers together constitute the root cause of climate change. The impact of the first two will get much worse as the century unfolds. The third may well prevent us from finding the necessary solutions.

Population Growth: The No 1 Root Cause of Climate Change

As of March 2020, the world’s population was estimated to be 7.8 billion. Since the year 2000, it has risen by an average of 84 million people per year. This is 50 percent more people than the annual average during the 20th century. Demographers expect it to reach 8 billion in about 2023, 9 billion by 2037, 10 billion by 2056 and 11 billion by 2100.

To put these figures into the context of global warming, the population in 1800 (shortly after the start of the Industrial Revolution) was 1 billion, and in 1900 (the baseline for pre-industrial temperature levels) it was 1.7 billion. Today, there are 6.1 billion extra people to feed, clothe and provide for. These 6.1 billion extra human beings are the root cause of today’s climate change.

Some of the greatest growth is in the poorest areas, where large families are seen as a form of wealth and an insurance against poverty and starvation in old age. Take Ethiopia, for instance. When famine struck the country in 1985, the population of the country was 36 million. The famine eventually ended, and their current population is now 112 million. In 1960, there were only 28 million people in the entire country. (Source: Knoema Data)

It is the consumption of resources by this mass of humanity (such as water, food, housing, heat, power, transport, health services and material possessions) that leads to the burning of coal and natural gas for energy, and petroleum for transportation.

And as we know, the combustion of ever larger amounts of fossil fuel produces ever larger greenhouse gas emissions, which ramps up the greenhouse effect which traps heat in the atmosphere and leads to global warming.

But it’s all because of the huge rise in global population. More people need more food, more energy, more houses and more stuff, and it all causes more emissions and more global warming.

Yes, renewable energies don’t emit greenhouse gases, and by switching to them (as we are) we are lowering our emissions. But this switch is happening far too slowly. In fact, the percentage of primary energy supplied by renewable energy has hardly changed over the past 20 years. In 2000, coal, oil and natural gas accounted for 86 percent of the world’s energy consumption. (Source: International Energy Agency.) In 2018, they accounted for 85 percent. (Source: BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2019.)

Looking ahead, global population is due to be 28 percent larger by 2056, and 41 percent larger by 2100. Some experts already say this is likely to cause an increase in demand for food of between 50 and 90 percent, by 2050. The demand for animal-based foods is forecast to rise by almost 70 percent.

With food demand rising so fast, the crunch issue is going to be the battle between agriculture and global warming. Some political leaders are already demanding more forest clearance and more space for cattle. But more deforestation and more cattle will create more emissions of carbon dioxide and methane, which will simply add to global warming, making it progressively more difficult to increase food production because of extreme heat, soil erosion and reduced crop nutrition.

Extreme heat, for example, can be fatal to plants. If temperatures exceed the physiological limits of a plant, they lead to higher desiccation rates. In addition, they also affect plant phenology — that is, the timing of certain plant life-cycle events such as flowering.

Excessive heat can destabilize vernalisation in wheat, or cause spikelet sterility in rice, or reduce pollen viability in maize. During flowering, for instance, crop yields can suffer severe reductions if temperatures exceed critical limits for as little as 1 hour.

When extreme heat is combined with lack of water in the soil (either from drought, or from downpours causing excessive run-off), the effect on crops — including corn and soybean — is much more serious. Unfortunately, rainfall patterns are forecast to become more and more unbalanced, with long dry spells in some areas, and dangerous floods in others. The World Health Organization predicts that, by 2025, 50 percent of the world’s population will be living in water-stressed areas.

What’s more, extreme heat leads inevitably to rising seas that can swamp fertile delta fields, as well as coastal lands and wetlands, destroying valuable agricultural land and displacing hundreds of millions of people.

Development: The No 2 Root Cause of Climate Change

The United States is the world’s richest country. But two centuries ago, it was a developing country, doing its best to grow and prosper. Today, many developing countries are doing the same, and we in the developed world must afford them the same opportunity to achieve their potential.

India, for example, contributes a significant share of global emissions, but a great deal of her economic activity is essentially directed at fighting poverty rather than creating yet more affluence. Providing food, shelter and employment for its 1.3 billion citizens (17.7 percent of the total world population) means that India is going to emit substantial amounts of greenhouse gases. Even so, India’s per capita emissions are eight times smaller than those of the United States, Canada or Australia.

The Paris Climate Agreement recognizes the need for equality of development in two ways. First, by accepting that a developing country’s greenhouse gas emissions are going to peak later than those of a developed country. Secondly, by recognizing that developing countries need financial and technical resources to help mitigate and increase resilience to climate change.

It is this implicit right of development that is going to raise human consumption to higher and higher levels during the rest of the century. For example, as of 2020, at least 60 countries have a carbon footprint per person of less than 1. 12 Hopefully, all of them will raise their standard of living significantly by 2100, even though this will add significantly to global emissions and thus to climate change.

A key indicator of economic development is calorie-intake. According to the IPCC’s Special Report on Climate Change and Land (2019), consumption of food calories per person worldwide has increased by about 33 percent since 1961, and the average person’s consumption of meat and vegetable oils has more than doubled.

Unfortunately, providing more calories to the citizens of developing countries is going to put even more pressure on agriculture, which fails to feed the world’s current population, let alone the 3.2 billion extra mouths expected by 2100.

Basic infrastructure development is another major contributor to global warming.

This can include the development of roads and rail connections, as well as the construction of power plants, hydroelectric dams, cement factories, fertilizer factories, a new airport, and so on. All of these projects, to a greater or lesser extent, involve the use of concrete. Unfortunately, a major ingredient of concrete is cement, which is second only to carbon dioxide as a driver of global warming because of the staggeringly high CO2 emissions released during its manufacture.

Since 1990, global production of cement has almost quadrupled, with Asia accounting for the bulk of this growth. China, for instance, used more cement in the three years 2011, 2012 and 2013, than the United States did during the entire course of the 20th Century.

As developing countries expand their industrial base, they often face increasing urbanization which leads to more construction and higher cement emissions. This is reflected in new forecasts showing that most future growth in construction is set to take place in the emerging markets of South East Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.

Greed: The No 3 Root Cause of Climate Change

Greed is defined as an “intense and selfish desire for something, especially wealth, power, or food.” (Google’s English dictionary, provided by Oxford Languages.) In the context of climate action, this definition perfectly sums up the main motivation of the wealthy countries of the world.

The Gulf States, Canada, the United States, Russia and China are the wealthiest nations in terms of fossil fuel reserves. They, and other countries like them, have little interest in divesting themselves of their energy assets. As far as they’re concerned, their coal, oil and gas reserves represent real economic power, which they are not going to give up.

So when the UNFCCC, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) or Greenpeace call for a drastic reduction in fossil fuel combustion, the wealthiest nations nod vigorously but do nothing.

The rest of the world have few options. The top 5 fossil fuel producers not only control most of the world’s energy, they also account for more than 45 percent of global GDP.

These nations are concerned about global warming. They may suffer from serious smog, or other forms of air pollution involving wildfires, or fossil fuel pollution. And they may even be leaders in the development of renewable energy, such as solar, wind or hydropower. But they are not going to stop selling and using fossil fuels.

Some of them are actively pushing natural gas as the new “clean fuel”. Except it’s not. “Gas is a major concern,” says Bill Hare, chief executive officer of environmental group Climate Analytics. “Governments are acting as if this fossil fuel is somehow clean. Yet gas was responsible for half the increase in CO2 emissions from fossil fuel consumption in 2017–18.”

Similarly, wood has suddenly become reborn as a clean fuel. (Which it most certainly is not.) In April, 2018, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that wood burning was “carbon-neutral”. The EU has since followed suit (along with other countries), ignoring the advice of its own scientific committee in the process. These countries do not care that their approval is already causing the loss of primary growth forests in the Southern United States and Europe, despite the fact that tree conservation is a stated objective of the Paris Agreement (2015) to which both the US and EU are signatories.

In January 2020, the British Meteorological Office advised that Australia’s bushfires of 2019–2020 were expected to contribute 2 percent to the increase in the atmospheric level of carbon dioxide. That’s about 1 billion tonnes worth of heat-trapping greenhouse gas. If this is what carbon neutrality looks like, we are all in deep trouble.

Human Consumption and Population Growth are Culprits Say Top Scientists

In a major article, eminent scientists from UCLA and Stanford University in the US, and Flinders University in Australia, have warned of a ghastly future for humanity due to the unchecked effects of global warming.

Citing 150 studies, the scientists identify a series of scary trends in biodiversity decline, mass extinction, climate disruption, and planetary “toxification”, all of which are linked to human consumption and population growth. Prof Paul Ehrlich of Stanford University, an expert in mass extinction, said lack of political leadership, combined with global disinformation campaigns designed to protect short-term profits, make it doubtful that the climate action needed will be made in time.

Solutions? Maybe

There are two theoretical ways to cope with the root cause of climate change, and reconcile the needs of a growing and developing world population with the need to tackle our climate crisis.

(a) We can develop renewable energies that don’t contribute to global warming, or (b) We can agree a maximum per capita carbon footprint for all countries. Neither is problem-free.

Renewables

Unfortunately, while we all know the benefits of renewable energy, switching from fossil fuels to renewables is not quite as simple as it sounds. Renewables have yet to prove themselves in the area of transport and heating. 16 Also, the storage of renewable electric energy (batteries), as well as the integration of intermittent renewable energies (like wind power and solar energy) into national grid systems, is still under development.

In other words, it’s going to take a lot more money to develop the technologies needed to store and distribute renewable power.

In its 2018 Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C, the IPCC warned that the world needed to invest $2.4 trillion in clean energy every year through 2035 in order to keep global warming below 2°C. That’s 8 times the amount (US$311 billion) that was was invested in renewable energy in 2019.

And here’s the problem: the wealthiest countries can’t/won’t agree on a global investment strategy to ramp up the supply of renewables. But they still give out huge fossil fuel subsidies.

The latest International Monetary Fund (IMF) report (2018) estimates 6.5 percent of global GDP (US$5.2 trillion) is spent on fossil fuel subsidies; a 500 billion dollar increase since 2015. The largest subsidizers are China (US$1.4 trillion in 2015), the United States (US$649 billion) and Russia (US$551 billion).

According to the IMF, “fossil fuels account for 85 percent of all global subsidies,” and reducing these subsidies “would have lowered global carbon emissions by 28 percent and fossil fuel air pollution deaths by 46 percent, and increased government revenue by 3.8 percent of GDP.” An Overseas Development Institute study found that subsidies for coal-fired power increased almost three-fold, to US$47.3 billion per year, from 2014 to 2017.

It’s important to note that the figure of US$5.2 trillion includes the full social and environmental costs of fossil fuels. Air pollution is costed at $2.3 trillion worldwide. The cost of global warming is reckoned to be $40 per ton of carbon emitted. That comes to $1.1 trillion. The costs of traffic, of road upkeep, and of car fatalities are assessed at $735 billion.

These costs are real enough, and fossil fuel companies should not get away scot-free from these liabilities, but no one is actually writing a check to these companies for US$5.2 trillion.

The amount that governments actually pay over to fossil fuel companies by way of direct subsidy is around US$296 billion per annum, of which (at a conservative estimate) the US government contributes roughly US$20 billion a year — 20 percent to coal and 80 percent to natural gas and petroleum. EU subsidies come to about $55 billion per year. In addition, fossil fuel companies are also in receipt of numerous grants and subsidies for R & D, much of which is aimed at carbon capture and storage technologies to reduce fossil fuel emissions.

Researchers still debate the fine points of subsidies. Even so, it’s safe to say that fossil fuel subsidies have outlived their usefulness and should go. At least one study has recently pointed out that subsidies could increase oil production by a fifth by 2050, equivalent to 6 billion tonnes of CO2 emissions.

Instead of paying the fossil fuel companies to pollute the planet, we should be charging them for some of the damage they’re causing, which — as the IMF report shows — is massive. The United States took US$4.5 billion from BP for damage caused by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010. It should be able to sue the oil and gas companies for damaging the planet.

It’s worth noting, that even as they agree on the need to decarbonize and reduce emissions, fossil fuel companies wage a constant guerrilla campaign against it in the background. For example, the top 5 publicly-owned oil and gas companies in America — BP, Shell, ExxonMobil, Chevron and Total — spend about US$200 million annually on climate lobbying to delay, control or block policies designed to tackle climate change.

Financial Arguments No Obstacle to Climate Action

According to a wide range of financial experts and research institutes, financial opposition to climate change mitigation is not credible. Evidence shows clearly that the future benefits of climate action overwhelmingly outweigh the future costs of doing nothing. 22 To start with a trivial example, the UK National Audit Office estimates that for every £1 spent on climate change adaptation measures to protect communities from flooding, roughly £9 in property damages and other costs may be avoided.

According to a joint report from The Hamilton Project and the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research, U.S. carbon taxes would produce significant reductions in CO2 emissions together with environmental benefits in excess of the costs.

For example, an ambitious US$50 per ton price is calculated to reduce near-term emissions by 30 percent. It also reduces local air pollutants, including nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide and particulate matter (PM2.5), with significant improvements in human health. When all the benefits are added up, the carbon tax’s benefits exceed the cost of compliance by a factor of four. A major attraction of using a carbon tax to secure reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, (as opposed to adopting other conventional regulations for this purpose), is its ability to persuade the market to use the lowest-cost methods for reducing emissions.

Recent data corroborates the financial costs of air pollution around the world. New research from Greenpeace Southeast Asia and the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA), shows that air pollution from burning fossil fuels causes economic losses of US$2.9 trillion — roughly 3.3 percent of global GDP. The most affected countries include China (US$900 billion), the USA (US$600 billion) and India (US$150 billion).

Meantime, the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate states that transitioning to a low-carbon, sustainable growth pathway can deliver a direct economic windfall of US$26 trillion, and can generate more than 65 million new jobs by 2030, compared with business-as-usual. (22)

Consumption Must Fall in Wealthier Countries

Another way of dealing with the root cause of climate change (in conjunction with renewables), is for richer nations to reduce their consumption to an agreed per capita carbon footprint.

For example, tIhe average carbon footprint for a person in the United States is 15.5 tons, one of the highest rates in the world 12 This has to come down. According to the US environmental organization The Nature Conservancy, to have the best chance of avoiding a 2℃ rise in global temperatures, the average global carbon footprint per year needs to drop under 2 tons by 2050.) This seems way too radical. But 4–5 tons might be doable.

Countries would agree to limit their CO2-equivalent emissions to (say) 4.5 tons. So, a country with 1 million inhabitants will have a limit of 4.5 million tons of CO2. In practice, wealthier nations will have to reduce their emissions considerably, while poor countries will have room to develop.

Some of this reduction can be achieved simply by switching to forms of sustainable energy, such as wind, solar, hydro, biomass, geothermal, wave, tidal power and so on. But not all. Come what may, wealthier nations will inevitably have to reduce their actual consumption. This is only to be expected, given the fact they already use a far greater share of the world’s resources than other countries.

Wealthy Countries Consume Too Many Resources

As soon as we resolve the climate crisis there’ll be another crisis — maybe we’ll run out of copper or lithium or trees. Or maybe we’ll pollute the oceans so badly that we’ll kill all the oxygen-producing phytoplankton. The point is, there’s going to be a continuous crisis of resources. Why? Because humans consume too many resources, create too much pollution and kill too many animals.

Earth Overshoot Day is the day of the year when humanity has used up nature’s resource budget for the entire year. In 2019 (the last full year before the COVID shutdown) Earth Overshoot Day fell on July 29. This means we’re using up the resources of about 1.7 Earths. It’s a very clear measurement of how human consumption is becoming more and more unsustainable.

According to National Geographic’s Greendex, U.S. consumers rank last of 17 countries surveyed in regard to sustainable behavior. Furthermore, U.S. consumers are among the least likely to feelguilty about the impact their behavior has on the environment.

The U.S. has 4.2 percent of the world’s population, but uses 20 percent of its oil and 17 percent of its energy.

Its per capita use of energy, metals, minerals, forest products, fish, grains, meat, and even fresh water dwarfs that of people living in the developing world.

The United States has a per capita carbon footprint of 16.1 tons of carbon, per year. By comparison, the EU has a per capita footprint of 8.7 tons — 54 percent less. But billions of people in the developing world have a footprint of less than 2 tons.

In practice, this means that one American causes about the same amount of global warming as:

  • 2 Chinese
  • 5 Mexicans
  • 7 Brazilians
  • 9 North Koreans
  • 15 Pakistanis
  • 31 Nigerians
  • 41 Kenyans
  • 51 Haitians
  • 103 Madagascans
  • 155 Ugandans
  • 534 Burundians

The Average U.S. Adult Wastes One Million Dollars

The United States needs to reduce its consumption of energy and material possessions. A huge amount of this spending is non-essential. According to research commissioned by Ladder and conducted by OnePoll, the average adult in the USA spends $1,497 a month on nonessential items. This adds up to almost $18,000 a year — or more than a million dollars over the course of an adult lifetime.

Maybe the Rich Are the Root Cause of Climate Change

Then there are the rich. It’s the rich who are to blame for the global climate crisis, says a new study of 86 countries by the University of Leeds. The study shows that the richest 10 percent consume about 20 times more energy than the bottom 10 percent, wherever they live.

The gap is largest in travel and transport, where the top 10 percent use 187 times more fuel than the bottom 10 percent, the research says. This confirms previous research showing that 15 percent of UK travellers take 70 percent of all flights, while 57 percent of people in the UK don’t fly abroad at all.

According to a new report published by Oxfam and the Stockholm Environment Institute, the wealthiest 1 percent in the world were responsible for the emission of more than twice as much CO2 as the poorer 50 percent of the world, from 1990 to 2015. The report also warns that rampant overconsumption and the rich world’s addiction to high-carbon transport, are exhausting the world’s “carbon budget”.

Anyone who works hard and makes sacrifices is entitled to enjoy the rewards. But no one gets carte blanche to do what they like. Especially if their luxury is acquired at the expense of another person’s necessities. The well-being of our families, communities and nations, depends upon a fair share of resources.

Notice we’re not saying ‘equal’: we’re saying ‘fair’.

Veteran environmentalist David Attenborough puts it best in a recent podcast. He said that Nature would flourish once again when “those that have a great deal, perhaps, have a little less.”

The richest 10 percent may not agree that the disparity in consumption between them and the poorest 10 percent is unfair, but it’s safe to say that if they had to swap places with their less fortunate cousins, they’d change their minds pretty quickly. In fact, it’s probably safe to say that many rich people in the West have absolutely no idea how few resources are available to most people in the developing world.

Think what an educational experience it would be for members of the rich, white ruling class in the United States — the only major country to have quit the Paris Agreement — to be flown into (say) the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and left there for a couple of weeks to sample the life of ordinary people on average income.

Our way of behaving is not sustainable and at some point, in the not too distant future, there is going to be no more planet.

Unless we change.