"When I was first asked to write an opening piece in The Conversation
series on climate change and the energy transition, I wanted to say no. I
didn’t want to think about what I and anyone else who has been paying attention
knows is coming; not just next summer, which is likely to be a scorcher like
the one the northern hemisphere has just endured, but in the summers after that
for centuries to come.
It may already be too late to save the world as we know it. Coral reefs,
low-lying atolls and coastal strips, glaciers, Arctic summer sea ice, will all
likely be gone in the near future with predictable and unpredictable
consequences for the life that depends on them, including ours.
Or should I write “be under threat” instead of “likely be gone”, to soften the
story? No, already there has been too much softening and taking comfort in
uncertainty. The focus on rising temperatures itself makes the future seem more
benign than it’s likely to be. What is a degree or two warmer here or there on
a linear graph? But linear graphs are not the main story.
The main story is Earth’s complex climate systems, and the risk that the
continuing burning of fossil fuels is pushing some systems towards tipping
points, including the way ocean and atmospheric currents move heat and moisture
around the globe, with unpredictable cascades of non-linear consequences.
The climate scientist, the late Will Steffen explained there is a point at
which Earth’s cascading feedbacks drive it past a global threshold and
irreversibly into a much hotter state. This is the biggest risk, and it is
*** Xanni ***
Chief Scientist, Xanadu
Partner, Glass Wings
Manager, Serious Cybernetics