Avoiding Climate Disaster: Our Last Chance?


John Scales Avery, Ph.D. – TRANSCEND Media Service

29 Apr 2023 – The most recent IPCC report:





The report states that globally,

“approximately 3.3 to 3.6 billion people live in contexts that are highly vulnerable to climate change.”

“Increasing weather and climate extreme events have exposed millions of people to acute food insecurity and reduced water insecurity, with the largest adverse impacts observed in many locations and/or communities in Africa, Asia, Central and South America, [Less Developed Countries], Small Islands and the Arctic, and globally for Indigenous Peoples, small-scale food producers and low-income households.”

“Climate change has caused substantial damages, and increasingly irreversible losses, in terrestrial, freshwater, cryospheric, and coastal and open ocean ecosystems.”

“The love of money is the root of all evil.” (Timothy, 6:10)

Individuals can, of course, act to reduce their carbon footprint. They can travel only when it is absolutely necessary, go over to a plant-based diet, and so on. However, the major changes needed to save the earth from catastrophic climate change must be made by governments; and governments consistently give a higher priority to economics than to saving the earth from a climate catastrophe. Why?

Firstly, governments are controlled by money (“the root of all evil”).

Secondly, the threatened climate catastrophe requires immediate and drastic action, but it is unfolding on a much longer time-scale.







The World’s Largest Greenhouse Gas Emitters

Despite promises made at each COP climate conference, the Keeling Curve, which registers carbon dioxide concentrations in our atmosphere, keeps increasing, indicating that the nations of the world have by no means stopped emitting greenhouse gases. On the contrary, they are emitting these gases in record amounts. Which countries are the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitters? Here is a list:

  1. China with more than 10.1 billion tons of CO2 released per year.
  2. United States, with 5.4 billion tons of CO2
  3. India, with 2.7 billion tons of CO2
  4. Russia, with 1.7 billion tons of CO2
  5. Japan, 1.2 billion tons of CO2

The Chinese Government May Find It Difficult to Stop Burning Coal

In China, the amazing rate of economic growth has lifted the population out of poverty. This economic growth is driven by energy derived from fossil fuels, especially from coal. The Chinese government would like to reduce the country’s use of fossil fuels and go over to renewable energy sources, but is finding it difficult to do so.


The Ecological Impact of Militarism


Here is a quotation from an article by Lorah Steichen and Lindsay Koshgarian:

“In this report, we’ll lay out how militarism and the climate crisis are deeply intertwined and mutually reinforcing. The military itself is a huge polluter – and is often deployed to sustain the very extractive industries that destabilize our climate. This climate crisis, in turn, leads to massive displacement, militarized borders. And the prospect of further conflict. True climate solutions, we argue, must have antimilitarism at their core.”

Warnings from the Poles



Diagonal cracks have been observed in Antarctica’s enormous Thwaites Glacier, and scientists fear that it might shatter into small pieces like a windscreen. They also fear that the loss of Thwaites Gæacier might trigger the collapse of other nearby glaciers, thus leading to a sea level rise of several meters.

The World Meteorological Organization has confirmed a temperature record of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit, measured in the Siberian town of Verkhoyansk, 70 kilometers north of the Arctic Circle. A spokesman said that such temperatures “were more appropriate for the Mediterranean than for the Arctic”. High Arctic temperatures are driving wildfires in the region, as well as permafrost melting, both of which put more carbon into the atmosphere.

Another Thing That Individual Citizens Can and Must Do

We mentioned above that individuals can reduce their carbon footprints by such measures as traveling only when absolutely necessary, or going over to a plant-based diet. But if we are to avoid a climate disaster, individual citizens must also put pressure on their governments to give a higher priority to immediate and drastic climate action than to the economy. This must be the central issue in every election!

Feedback Loops

A positive feedback loop is a self-amplifying phenomenon. A positive feedback loop occurs in nature when the product of a reaction leads to an increase in that reaction. In the context of climate change, an important example of a feedback loop is the albedo effect. Albedo is defined as the ability of a surface to reflect light. Scientists worry that the loss of Arctic sea ice, which formerly reflected the sun’s rays, will be replaced by dark ocean water that will absorb the sun’s heat. This effect is self-amplifying, because warmer oceans will melt more ice and increase the area of dark ocean water. Another example of a feedback loop is the thawing of Arctic permafrost, which releases the powerful greenhouse gas, methane, into the atmosphere, producing further warming and further melting in a vicious circle.

The methane hydrate feedback loop involves vast quantities of the powerful greenhouse gas methane, CH4, frozen in a crystalline form surrounded by water molecules. 10,000 gjgatons of methane hydrates are at present locked in Arctic tundra or the continental shelves of the world’s oceans. Although oceans warm very slowly because of thermal inertia, the long-term dangers from the initiation of a methane-hydrate feedback loop are very great. There is a danger that a very large-scale anthropogenic extinction event could be initiated unless immediate steps are taken to drastically reduce the release of greenhouse gases. The worrying thing about the methane hydrate feedback loop is the enormous amount of carbon in the form of hydrate crystals. 10,000 gigatons, most of it on the continental shelves of oceans. This is greater than the amount of carbon in all other forms that might potentially enter our atmosphere.

The need for immediate and drastic climate action is largely due to the danger that feedback loops may be initiated, due to which global warming will continue regardless of human actions.

What Will Happen if We Fail?

If we fail to control catastrophic climate change, then, in the long run, most parts of the world will become uninhabitable, starting with tropical regions, and low lying areas which will be drowned by sea level rise.  Very many plants and animal species will become extinct. I believe that humans will not necessarily become extinct. because there will still be a few regions of the world where life is still possible. However, the global population of humans will be greatly reduced. One can also predict that violent conflicts will occur as people compete for the few regions where life is still possible.

Hopefully, the grimness of this scenario will spur our efforts to avoid a climate disaster.

Other Books on Global Problems:

Other books and articles on global problems and on cultural history may be downloaded free of charge from the following links:





John Scales Avery, Ph.D., who was part of a group that shared the 1995 Nobel Peace Prize for their work in organizing the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs, is a member of the TRANSCEND Network and Associate Professor Emeritus at the H.C. Ørsted Institute, University of Copenhagen, Denmark. He is chairman of both the Danish National Pugwash Group and the Danish Peace Academy and received his training in theoretical physics and theoretical chemistry at M.I.T., the University of Chicago and the University of London. He is the author of numerous books and articles both on scientific topics and on broader social questions. His most recent books are Information Theory and Evolution and Civilization’s Crisis in the 21st Century (pdf). Website: https://www.johnavery.info/

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This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 1 May 2023.

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