We are still screwed: the coming climate disaster


The only environmental disaster that causes me existential dread is a precipitous drop in the oxygen level.

There are lots of marginal ways to survive an ecological collapse. But not if we suffocate.



Not to sideline the conversation, but would you mind explaining why you think that? I’m being serious: I can see people wanting a world for their children, but from a purely objective viewpoint–barring religious reasons–I don’t see any strong arguments for the perpetuation of the human species. It has been a pretty unmitigated disaster for the planet and every other living thing on it.


You sound like a Pak Protector without any family members.

It’s all about the species.


I don’t think Timex is saying he doesn’t care about individuals. He’s just pushing back against the idea that climate change would wipe out the species altogether.

I tend to agree and think of it as more of a Black Plague-level event, which is to say, survivable by a civilization but really really sucks to anyone going through it. Which is more than enough to make it the highest priority in the world right now.

But I could be wrong. It could also be much, much worse than the Black Plague (say, modern-civilization-ending) and still leave hundreds of millions of humans alive in primitive circumstances. Or it could actually be an extinction level event as some here are arguing. I simply don’t know enough about how our ecosystem works, and how vulnerable to climate change its essential pillars are, to venture an opinion with much confidence.


I don’t know what a Pak Protector is.

But I’m serious: I feel no allegiance to the human race as a species. I don’t see any compelling non-religious reason why anyone should care if it disappears from the face of the planet. I understand that genetically we are wired to propagate, but we are intelligent enough to overcome that if we choose.


Having a kid suddenly makes one very, very interested in the future of the species for the next ~100 years at least.

It’s not rational, but humans aren’t Vulcans.


Yeah, I mentioned that upthread. But wanting to protect and provide for your own progeny is different than caring about the survival of the species as a species.


Except insofar as your progeny’s wellbeing is tied to the species’s wellbeing.


And I certainly understand that. I just think that, as a whole, the human species has been a massive failure. We should let the dinosaurs give it another shot.


Nah man, it’s the cockroaches’ turn. They’ve been waiting forever. And they’re tired of being everyone’s whipping boy.


But we created this!!!

As a misanthrope since my teenage years, I can answer that. Fair warning, it's going to sound corny.

Human beings are the Universe (striving to) understand itself. We’re a complex arrangement of atoms and molecules that have obtained sentience. Simply put, humans appreciate beauty - art, philosophy, math, physics. And although I think nature is intrinsically valuable beyond its utility to the human species, nature doesn’t care. Human beings have that potential.

Unfortunately we are also susceptible to greed and hate, but that bad doesn’t in itself obviate the good.



Carl Sagan: “We are the universe’s way of knowing itself.”


That’s where I am. In order for my progeny to succeed, we as a species has to succeed.

We all need to pally for the submarine.

Also, for those that don’t know, a Pak Protector is from the classic series Ring World. If you get a chance, it’s worth reading.

It’s up there with series written by Frank Herbert and Isaac Asimov


Intelligence allows a creature to adapt to it’s environment dynamically, without resorting to random chance in genetic mutations over generations.

If the environment changes, most life has no real way of adapting to it, beyond trying to relocate themselves to an environment more hospitable.

Humans are able to do things like make tools, on the fly, to survive in different environment. We can survive virtually anywhere as a result of this ability. That’s why we are one of few species that exists everywhere on Earth… And in space.


Oh yeah. I’ve read Ringworld, just long long ago. And the sequels all sucked.


That explains your apathy. You’ve obviously lost your mind!

Seriously though, a lack of empathy is not a sound or stable place to b. If you really feel disconnected from the people around you, it might not be a bad idea to reach out.


This ability did not save our own species from a recent bottleneck which squeezed our total population down to a few thousand individuals. Nor did it save any of the other members of our genus. There are many plant and animal genuses that are at least as or more widespread and numerous than we are (though this is hard to judge, since we ourselves have an enormous impact on the distribution of species. There are probably more brown rats than humans, for instance, and they exist in every habitat on the earth except the poles, but that’s largely because of us.) There are many trillions of springtails, and they occupy every land surface on the earth, including the poles. And our adaptation to special environments like space or the bottom of the ocean or the poles is highly contingent. We don’t have, like, breeding populations living in any of those places, or anyone on any permanent basis.

If there’s a catastrophe capable of killing off all of the rats, for example, it’s hard to imagine that humans, even with our intelligence, would be able to weather it somehow.


Not to harp on the but, when large civilizations and empire collapse, the tendency is for society to revert to hyperlocal tribalism and there is a loss of collective knowledge and technology. (Think the dark ages but more so in this case.) I’m setting a challenge for you and your neighbors to put a man on the moon using only local resources. You have ten years to accomplish this. Oh, and you can only barter for the goods needed for your space program.


Obviously you need post-industrial civilization to get to space, but that’s just an extreme example of humans’ ingenuity.

If the ecology cascades such that there are no fish left in the sea and edible food cannot be planted and grown, then sure, humanity will probably go extinct. Otherwise, I think people find a way, even if the population declines from 7 billion to a mere 50 million or so.

When is this supposed to have happened? Is it based on DNA evidence or something else? Just curious.