I was playing golf the other day with Max, a friendly fella who has recently moved, with his wife, to be closer to their daughters and grandchildren. The idea is to assist with child-raring activities like taking the grandkids to their junior football and providing their life experiences as a learning tool.
There is no doubt that on many subjects, Max is well-versed, but like many of his age, persists in the belief that climate change is a myth. So all the valuable knowledge Max can pass on will in a wider sense be useless if the grandchildren are part of a world devastated by altered climate conditions.
Let’s imagine that a climate change worst case scenario has come to pass by 2050 (which is mandatory when applying the precautionary principle).
The air is polluted, making you cough. You have to check the air quality before even opening a window. When you do go outside, your eyes water and you have to wear a mask — on bad days, a high-tech mask, that is if you can afford it.
Depending on where you live, the temperature can be as hot as 60ºC for more than a month each year. In public restrooms, you have to pay to use water.
And there is a mental toll to living in a world that feels like a dangerous obstacle course. People feel bottomless despair and resent previous generations for their lack of action.
This worst case scenario is what life could look like if no progress is made in slowing greenhouse gasses to mitigate climate change, according to Christiana Figueres and Tom Rivett-Carnac in their 2020 book, “The Future We Choose: The Stubborn Optimist’s Guide to the Climate Crisis.”
Meanwhile, back to the present. Economic forecasts predicting the potential impact of climate change have grossly underestimated the reality and delayed global recovery efforts by decades, according to a leading professor.
Mainstream economists “deliberately and completely” ignored scientific data and instead “made up their own numbers” to suit their market models, Steve Keen, a fellow at University College London’s Institute for Strategy, Resilience and Security, told CNBC on Friday.
Now, a “war-level footing” is required to have any hope of repairing the damage, he said.
“Fundamentally, the economists have totally misrepresented the science and ignored it where it contradicts their bias that climate change is not a big deal because, in their opinion, capitalism can handle anything,” Keen told “Street Signs Asia.”
Keen said the repercussions of climate change were foretold in the 1972 publication “The Limits to Growth” — a divisive report on the destructive consequences of global expansion — but economists then and since failed to heed its warnings, preferring instead to rely on market mechanisms.
“If their warnings had been taken seriously and we’d done as they’d suggested, changing our trajectory from 1975 on, we could have done it gradually using things like carbon tax and so on,” he said. “Because economists have delayed it by another half century, we are, as a species, putting three to four times the pressure on the biosphere.”
As a result, he said, “the only way we can (reverse) this is effectively a war level footing of motive mobilisation to reverse the amount of carbon we’ve put into the atmosphere to drastically reduce our consumption.”
Referring specifically to a report produced by economists at the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which was instrumental in outlining global climate targets including those presented at the Paris Agreement COP21, Keen said even their most severe estimates were a “trivial underestimate of the damage we expect.”