In two recent commentaries about climate change, Jeffrey Sachs (“Our summer of climate truth,” Aug. 1, page 9) and George Monbiot (“Rich world’s smugness will melt with the ice,” Aug. 31, page 9) emphasized that not only is climate change real and about to turn this planet into a global emergency ward, but if we are not careful, it may be curtains for the human race. Of course, these words, whether written by Sachs, Monbiot or other climate Cassandras, generally fall on deaf ears. Life tomorrow will go on as usual in Taipei, in Washington and in London.
Sachs, who is an adviser to the UN secretary-general on the Millennium Development Goals and professor at Columbia University, pulled no punches in his piece. Monbiot went even further.
However, in my opinion both Sachs and Monbiot are still in denial about the real impact of climate change and global warming on this planet and on the future prospects for humankind.
They talk about “solutions,” as if some magical fix will make everything all right. Sachs speaks as if it is not too late to stop climate change and global warming, and once the world switches to alternative energy sources such as wind, water or solar power, everything will be okay.
It is too late. What we need to do is prepare for any potential climate chaos that might turn Taiwan and the rest of the world toward barbarianism as climate change creates huge migrations to the north of the globe. It will not be a pretty picture. There will be no Taiwan, there will be no lower 48 in the US anymore. All human life will settle in northern regions to endure a punishing, terrible hell on Earth.
Listen, lawmakers, world leaders and policymakers: Nothing will ever be okay again. No more comforting words about how everything will be okay once we find a way out of this mess. What very few people want to acknowledge, even luminaries like Sachs and Monbiot, is that we have already lost the battle.
The human species is at risk of extinction in 30 more generations. Sachs does not want to face this possibility since his well-paid career as an Ivy League economics professor means that he has to keep offering “solutions” and “fixes.”
He cannot understand that while the planet will recover from climate change impacts in the future, the human species has now passed the tipping point and billions will die over the next 500 years as climate chaos engulfs all nations, including Taiwan. Monbiot might understand this, but cannot write such words. It would cost him his job as a columnist for the Guardian.
What humankind is facing is not pretty and very few academics or climate activists want to go there. Their jobs and careers depend on creating hope that we can find solutions to this mess. The sad and tragic fact is that there are no solutions, no fixes, as Monbiot actually hints at but cannot bring himself to say outright. In the near future, perhaps just 100 or 200 years from now, billions of people will head north to Arctic climes, from Russia to Canada to Alaska.
In the southern hemisphere, millions of climate refugees will search for shelter in New Zealand and Tasmania and even Antarctica. Sachs and Monbiot know this but cannot bring themselves to write it out in the public prints because they are in denial. Everyone is in denial.
Planting more trees and recycling chopsticks is not going to do the trick. Humanity is doomed. However, some remnants of civilized people will survive and repopulate the Earth. They will survive in makeshift polar settlements scattered across the northern and extreme southern regions of the planet. What we need is to set up task forces and government commissions worldwide to study and discuss this kind of “adaptation” in a fragile world. Taiwan cannot stick its head in the sand.
Dan Bloom is a writer in Chiayi.
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