Climate Depot’s Marc Morano comment: “I hope these people get the help they need. There are always endless ways people can allow themselves to be scared without basis and put into a panic. Climate fears seems to be some kind of stimulating drug for these sad souls. Enjoy the read below. The ultimate antidote to this nonsense?” See: Skeptical ‘Politically Incorrect Guide To Climate Change’ book surges to #1 Amazon Best Seller in ‘Climatology’ – Goes into its 4th printing as it surpasses Carl Sagan’s ‘Cosmos’ book
What if I told you there was a paper on climate change that was so uniquely catastrophic, so perspective-altering, and so absolutely depressing that it’s sent people to support groups and encouraged them to quit their jobs and move to the countryside?
Good news: there is. It’s called “Deep Adaptation: A Map for Navigating Climate Tragedy.” I was introduced to it via an unlikely source—a guy formerly in advertising who had left his job to become a full-time environmental campaigner. “We’re fucked,” he told me. “Climate change is going to fuck us over. I remember thinking, Should I just accept the deep adaptation paper and move to the Scottish countryside and wait out the apocalypse?”
“Deep Adaptation” is quite unlike any other academic paper. There’s the language (“we are about to play Russian Roulette with the entire human race with already two bullets loaded”). There’s the flashes of dark humor (“I was only partly joking earlier when I questioned why I was even writing this paper”). But most of all, there’s the stark conclusions that it draws about the future. Chiefly, that it’s too late to stop climate change from devastating our world—and that “climate-induced societal collapse is now inevitable in the near term.”
How near? About a decade.
Professor Jem Bendell, a sustainability academic at the University of Cumbria, wrote the paper after taking a sabbatical at the end of 2017 to review and understand the latest climate science “properly—not sitting on the fence anymore,” as he puts it on the phone to me.
What he found terrified him. “The evidence before us suggests that we are set for disruptive and uncontrollable levels of climate change, bringing starvation, destruction, migration, disease, and war,” he writes in the paper. “Our norms of behavior—that we call our ‘civilization’—may also degrade.”
“It is time,” he adds, “we consider the implications of it being too late to avert a global environmental catastrophe in the lifetimes of people alive today.”
Even a schmuck like me is familiar with some of the evidence Bendell sets out to prove his point. You only needed to step outside during the record-breaking heatwave last year to acknowledge that 17 of the 18 hottest years on the planet have occurred since 2000. Scientists already believe we are soon on course for an ice-free Arctic, which will only accelerate global warming. Back in 2017, even Fox News reported scientists’ warnings that the Earth’s sixth mass extinction was underway.
Erik Buitenhuis, a senior researcher at the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, tells me that Bendell’s conclusions may sound extreme, but he agrees with the report’s overall assessment. “I think societal collapse is indeed inevitable,” he says, though adds that “the process is likely to take decades to centuries.”
The important thing, Buitenhuis says, is to realize that the negative effects of climate change have already been with us for some time: “Further gradual deterioration looks much more likely to me than a disaster within the next ten years that will be big enough that, after that, everybody will agree the status quo is doomed.”
“Jem’s paper is in the main well-researched and supported by relatively mainstream climate science,” says Professor Rupert Read, chair of the Green House think-tank and a philosophy academic at the University of East Anglia. “That’s why I’m with him on the fundamentals. And more and more people are.”
Read’s key disagreement with Bendell is his belief that we still have time to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, saying, “I think it’s hubris to think that we know the future.” But that doesn’t mean Bendell’s premise is wrong: “The way I see it, deep adaptation is insurance against the possibility—or rather, the probability—of some kind of collapse,” says Read. “‘Deep Adaptation’ is saying, ‘What do we need to do if collapse is something we need to realistically plan for?'”
When I speak to Bendell, he tells me he thinks of “Deep Adaptation” as more of an ethical and philosophical framework, rather than a prophecy about the future of the planet. “The longer we refuse to talk about climate change as already here and screwing with our way of life—because we don’t want to think like that because it’s too frightening or will somehow demotivate people—the less time we have to reduce harm,” he says with deliberation.
What does he mean by harm? “Starvation is the first one,” he answers, pointing to lowering harvests of grain in Europe in 2018 due to drought that saw the EU reap 6 million tons less wheat. “In the scientific community at the moment, the appropriate thing is to say that 2018 was an anomaly. However, if you look at what’s been happening over the last few years, it isn’t an anomaly. There’s a possibility that 2018 is the new best case scenario.”
That means, in Bendell’s view, that governments need to start planning emergency responses to climate change, including growing and stockpiling food.
He minces his words even less in his paper: “When I say starvation, destruction, migration, disease, and war, I mean in your own life. With the power down, soon you won’t have water coming out of your tap. You will depend on your neighbors for food and some warmth. You will become malnourished. You won’t know whether to stay or go. You will fear being violently killed before starving to death.”
Should people start building bunkers and buying bulletproof vests? “There’s no way of getting through this unless we try together,” he says. “We need to help people stay fed and watered where they live already to reduce disruption and reduce civil unrest as much as we can.” Of the Silicon Valley financiers prepping for the apocalypse in New Zealand, he says: “Once money doesn’t matter anymore and the armed guards are trying to feed their starving children, what do you think they’ll do? The billionaires doing that are just deluded.”
Bendell wasn’t always this gloomy about the state of the world. He once worked for WWF, one of the biggest environmental charities in the world, and in 2012 founded the Institute for Leadership and Sustainability (IFLAS) at the University of Cumbria. The World Economic Forum named him a Young Global Leader for his work. So how did he end up writing a paper that determined that civilization—and environmental sustainability as we currently understand it—is doomed?
This article originally appeared on VICE UK.