The truth of the matter is that WG1 which considers the physical basis of how humans drive climate change is now a side show. In spite of the spittle that our good friends from FUD splatter on the inside of our LCD monitors, our understanding of this is more than enough to conclude that increases in greenhouse gases will drive global temperature, changes in the weather patterns, sea level rise and more. The debate, such as it exists is how fast, but anything on a scale of less than a few centuries screws us (or our kids) right to the wall. The Earth abides, the people in it, well, there is a problem.
But to really understand the catastropic potential of the climate change people are driving you have to look at the biological part of the problem, something that most of the blogs most of the bunnies follow are weak on and you have to look at WGII, the consequences, to begin to get a clue. Eli is talking mostly about ecology. Jeff Harvey who comments at Deltoid made a clear statement of the issues in the January open thread,
“And what mix of mitigation and adaptation is the most likely to be effective?”Remember how long Biosphere 2 lasted as a closed system and repent lest the roaches inherit the Earth.
This argument misses the point entirely. BFPM appears to believe, like many so-called deniers, that the ability of humans to persist on the planet in light of the myriad of assaults our species is inflicting on it, will depend largely on our ability to ‘adapt’ to these changes. But the truth is, given what most ecologists know, is that its out of our hands. Essentially (her I go again for the billionth time but for the D-K crowd it NEVER sinks in), humans are utterly dependent on a range of critical conditions that freely emerge from natural systems and for which there are few, if any technological substitutes (and even where there are, they are prohibitively expensive). These conditions are generated over variable spatial and temporal scales by infinite numbers of interactions involving large and small scale populations and individuals of species. From them we already know that services permitting humans to exist and survive are produced.
Now, as I have said many times before, many from the adaptionist school appear to think that humans are exempt from the laws of nature. They ignore the manifest consequences of climate warming, habitat destruction, eutrophication, wetland loss, invasive organisms, various forms of pollution etc. on ecosystems and the organisms that make them up. In their thinking, humans can cover much of the planet in concrete and significantly alter the chemical composition of the air and water and that somehow, through technology, we will adapt to this massive assault.
Its clear that the mainstream media is doing a piss-poor job on educating many of the masses, or else we scientists are not getting the message through ourselves, but the comment made by BFPM is one that is shared by a huge proportion of laypeople out there. They appear to think that the main values of nature are consumptive and aesthetic; that any other value in economic terms is limited or even non-exitstant.
I don’t know what can be done to get across the point I am making. I’ve repeated this argument so many times on Deltoid alone that I am getting sick and tired of doing so. Clearly many of the nay-sayers don’t read out side the ‘box’. These cornucopians don’t know much about systems or population ecology, and they’ve been so insulated in their cozy urban lives that any notion of human existence hinging on conditions emerging from nature are alien to them.
In summary, what I am saying is that humans don’t have a choice. We must mitigate as much as possible, for adaptation is NOT an option, not if continue on a business-as-usual path into the mid to long-term future. The consequences of this is that Homo sapiens will be lucky to survive another century, let long 5 more centuries. The average shelf life for a species is 1 to 10 million years; for mammals perhaps slightly less. Our time for extinction will certainly come, but for me it seems to be folly that we appear to be doing everything in our power to hasten its realization in the short-term. Ultimately, if we continue along the current trajectory, we will so simplify natural systems that the services we take for granted will sputter and wither away. Once this happens, our species will go into free fall. No species depends on or utilizes more from nature than does Homo sapiens. The irony is that we will be one the earliest and biggest casualties of our own stupid actions. Nature of course will persist long after we have extinguished ourselves, but why we seem intent on going over the cliff in light of what we know are likely to be the consequences is for me one of the great mysteries of our time.