Two recent stories, the first from Brazil:
President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil fired the head of a government agency that had revealed a steep increase in deforestation in the Amazon.
The second from America:
… for the first time, regulators would be allowed to conduct economic assessments … when deciding whether a species warrants protection. Critically, the changes would also make it more difficult for regulators to factor in the effects of climate change on wildlife …
These stories illustrate how denial of climate change by the authoritarian populists, Bolsonaro and Trump, is leading, without ambiguity, to a tolerance of extinction. These leaders and those who support them, explicitly or by their silence, are willing to not only eradicate species and biospheres but take all of us all down with them if it helps speed up the liquidation of the last good stuff, by seizing power and wealth. As illustrated so presciently by The New Yorker.
It may seem cynically extreme to say that those in power, public or private, whose job it is to assess risk and respond appropriately care little for civilizational survival so long as they see short-term gain. Let’s instead assume they’re operating on a 3D Strategy: doubt, deny, delay. Acknowledge climate change, if need be, include it in the long-term assessments, fund a few programs, but keep any disruptive change that requires immediate and large-scale response off the agenda. Or use it against your opponents.
But that only makes sense so long as nothing substantially changes in the short term that confirms the long-run predictions and starts to scare people. And unfortunately the changes are coming fast and looking uncomfortably furious:
July 2019 was Earth’s hottest month in 140 years of record-keeping, according to a just-released analysis from NOAA.
A response of no response just won’t cut it – eventually. But many of those whose job it is to make decisions in the face of varying risk have, by default, remained silent or self deceiving. They hope to revert to the Harper strategy: acknowledge, plan at a high level, do nothing disruptive in the short term. Others hope for technological magic or unavoidable instructions from above.
Unfortunately, some of those from above have decided that extinction is an acceptable outcome. Consequently, extinction in various ways now has to be put on the list of possible, even likely, outcomes and incorporated into current strategic planning. We will have to start developing ‘extinction scenarios’ – for a future in which feedback loops have triggered unstoppable climate change incompatible with our existing civilization. How, what, when, and what then?
Since human beings in the face of existential threat will try every means possible to avoid extinction, we will also have to recruit and charge The Generals assigned with resources and power to do whatever is necessary to save at least some of us.
They might begin by making extinct those who could or should have known what was coming and not only failed to act but prevented others from doing so, while accelerating the process that led to the unimaginable horrors. But unfortunately they might still be in charge.