The Uninhabitable Earth, Annotated Edition

In July 2017 the New York Magazine published what rapidly came to be its most read article ever. This follow up article is an annotated response by the author, DavidWallace-Wells, to the many critics who found the article alarmist. By way of introduction Wells explains:

I hope, in the annotations and commentary below, I have added some context. But I also believe very firmly in the set of propositions that animated the project from the start: that the public does not appreciate the scale of climate risk; that this is in part because we have not spent enough time contemplating the scarier half of the distribution curve of possibilities, especially its brutal long tail, or the risks beyond sea-level rise; that there is journalistic and public-interest value in spreading the news from the scientific community, no matter how unnerving it may be; and that, when it comes to the challenge of climate change, public complacency is a far, far bigger problem than widespread fatalism — that many, many more people are not scared enough than are already “too scared.” In fact, I don’t even understand what “too scared” would mean. The science says climate change threatens nearly every aspect of human life on this planet, and that inaction will hasten the problems. In that context, I don’t think it’s a slur to call an article, or its writer, alarmist. I’ll accept that characterization. We should be alarmed.

THE NINE SECTIONS OF THE PAPER:

  1. Doomsday;
  2. Heat Death;
  3. The End of Food;
  4. Climate Plagues;
  5. Unbreathable Air;
  6. Perpetual War;
  7. Permanent Economic Collapse;
  8. Poisoned Oceans;
  9. The Great Filter

SOME EXTRACTS:

more than half of the carbon humanity has exhaled into the atmosphere in its entire history has been emitted in just the past three decades; since the end of World War II, the figure is 85 percent

The scientists know that to even meet the Paris goals, by 2050, carbon emissions from energy and industry, which are still rising, will have to fall by half each decade; emissions from land use (deforestation, cow farts, etc.) will have to zero out; and we will need to have invented technologies to extract, annually, twice as much carbon from the atmosphere as the entire planet’s plants now do.This road map was laid out in Science and neatly summarized in Vox.

10 BOOKS THAT SUPPORT THE UNIHABITABLE EARTH THESIS:

 

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