Climate Crisis: Approaching the Tipping Point of Civilization

Geeta Pillai
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As the climate crisis intensifies, humanity faces the possibility of nearing the limits of viable civilization. This warning comes from Prof. Michael Mann, a renowned climate scientist, who explores the delicate balance between the Earth's resilience and fragility in his latest book, 'Our Fragile Moment'. He analyzes Earth's four billion-year climate history, emphasizing the necessity of not exceeding a 1.5C increase in global temperatures.


He also warns that a rise beyond 3C could be civilization-ending. This stark warning underscores the urgent need for climate action, which is being thwarted by numerous political obstacles.

Climate Doomism: A Tactic by Polluters

Mann criticizes the rise of climate doomism, a tactic used by polluters to convince people that it's too late to act. This notion of inevitable doom, he argues, hampers proactive efforts to address global warming. Instead, he advocates for collective action and systemic changes to combat the escalating crisis.


The climate scientist also voices concern over the United Arab Emirates hosting the Cop28 climate summit due to its significant plans for oil and gas expansion, which contradicts the climate objectives set out in the Paris Agreement.

Climate Crisis and Economic Sustainability

Gaya Herrington, a Dutch sustainability researcher and adviser to the Club of Rome, a Swiss thinktank, has made headlines for her report affirming bleak scenarios from a landmark 1972 MIT study, 'The Limits to Growth'. The study presented various outcomes for what could happen when the growth of industrial civilization collided with finite resources.


Herrington's work predicts that civilization could collapse around 2040 if current trends persist. The timing of her paper is highly prescient as governments grapple with the impact of the pandemic, and despite warnings, largely look to return economies to business-as-usual growth, which is incompatible with sustainability.

Choice to Avoid Collapse: A Renewed Perspective

Herrington's review concludes that the 1972 study was essentially on target. However, she insists there is nothing inevitable about its predictions. "The key finding of my study is that we still have a choice to align with a scenario that does not end in collapse," she says.


With innovation in business, along with new developments by governments and civil society, updating the model provides another perspective on the challenges and opportunities we have to create a more sustainable world.

Climate Change: A Present Reality

The world is currently 1C warmer than preindustrial levels. This has already resulted in devastating hurricanes in the US, record droughts in Cape Town, and forest fires in the Arctic. The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warns that every fraction of additional warming would worsen the impact, making clear that climate change is already happening.


Scientists who reviewed the 6,000 works referenced in the IPCC report said the change caused by just half a degree came as a revelation. They emphasized the dramatic difference that restricting warming to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels would have on the global environment.

Call for Urgent and Unprecedented Changes

The IPCC report calls for urgent and unprecedented changes to reach the target of keeping global warming to a maximum of 1.5C. The half-degree difference could prevent corals from being completely eradicated and ease pressure on the Arctic. It could also reduce the proportion of the global population exposed to water stress by 50% and make food scarcity less of a problem.

By mid-century, a shift to the lower goal would require a supercharged roll back of emissions sources that have built up over the past 250 years. This would require carbon pollution to be cut by 45% by 2030, compared with a 20% cut under the 2C pathway, and come down to zero by 2050.

As the climate crisis continues to escalate, the need for urgent action has never been more apparent. The choices made now will determine the survival and future trajectory of civilization as we know it.