As a consequence of Co2 forcing, temperatures have already increased by 0.8°C (climate system inertia means that the final warming from current forcing will be 1.3°C). 2°C of warming is considered 'safe' by the EU but has also been described as a “prescription for disaster” by the climatologist and former head of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, James Hansen.
This 0.8°C is currently costing (through damage) the world economy 1.2 trillion (1.67%) a year. By 2030, the annual cost of climate change is expected to reach 3.2% of global GDP. It is (conservatively) estimated that efforts to stabilise atmospheric Co2 could cost 2% of annual global GDP by 2050.
Global economic growth averages between 3 and 4%.
What will the cost of climate change be when temperatures reach 3° or 4°C?
At what point will global GDP growth be overtaken by climate cost? At what point will this decline, regardless of effort, become irreversible?
February 03, 2013
The overall costs and risks of climate change will be equivalent to losing at least 5 percent of global GDP each year, now and forever. If a wider range of risks and impacts is taken into account, the estimates of damage could rise to 20% of GDP or more. A scale similar to those associated with the great wars and the economic depression of the first half of the 20th century. And it will be difficult or impossible to reverse these changes.
In January 2013, Nicholas Stern stated: “I got it wrong on climate change - it's far, far worse. This is potentially so dangerous that we have to act strongly. These risks for many people are existential."
The surveillance states have been in part created to manage this risk. As part of this management strategy, the Pentagon has modelled economic and environmental collapse - and the conflicts and civil disorder that will follow.
In 2009, the Center for New American Security (CNAS) think tank conducted a climate change war game designed to test the world's reaction to a series of climate shocks. In 2011, the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command ran a Unified Quest war game that featured a complete social and economic breakdown within the U.S. with the Army's ability to quell civil unrest, whilst operating with minimal resources. In 2013, Unified Quest used the NIC 2030 study to create military scenarios linked to climate change.
The Pentagon's preparations are not just theoretical. The U.S. Army has created a rapid-reaction force of 20,000 troops to respond to "catastrophic homeland events" with the National Guard following their example. After Unified Quest 2011 identified legal difficulties (the 1807 Insurrection Act and the 1878 Posse Comitatus Act) in operating domestically, the military granted itself authority (May 2013) to intervene in the event of “civil disturbances”:
“We are not afraid to entrust the American people with unpleasant facts, foreign ideas, alien philosophies, and competitive values. For a nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in the open market is a nation that is afraid of its people.”
Emergency authority. A Federal military commander's authority, in extraordinary emergency circumstances where prior authorization by the President is impossible and duly constituted local authorities are unable to control the situation, to engage temporarily in activities that are necessary to quell large-scale, unexpected civil disturbances because:
(1) Such activities are necessary to prevent significant loss of life or wanton destruction of property and are necessary to restore governmental function and public order; or
(2) Duly constituted Federal, State, or local authorities are unable or decline to provide adequate protection for Federal property or Federal governmental functions.
Across the Five Eyes new laws are being sought to criminalise peaceful protest. In the UK an attempt was made to outlaw protests that were “capable of causing nuisance or annoyance”. The bill was defeated (January 2014) in the upper house of the Parliament. However, it will return and is just the lastest effort to restrict the right to protest. In the U.S. (where protest has for some time been "treated as illegal") anti-Occupy legislation has been unanimously passed (April 2012) by both houses. In Canada, the Quebec student protests were used to introduce Bill 78 (July 2013), which was eventually repealed after sustained protests. Montreal's similar anti-protest P-6 bylaw remains. In Australia and Tasmania a series of new laws have been enacted (December 2013 - January 2014). New Zealand has amended the Crown Minerals Act 1991 (April 2013) to restrict protest land and sea. In all five countries, peaceful environmentalists are being labelled and treated like domestic terrorists, and anti-terrorism laws are being invoked to criminalise protest and stifle dissent. The hatches are being battened down because time has almost run out.
The climate crisis is now hitting the U.S., Australian, Canadian, UK and New Zealand mainlands. In America, the July 2013 summer heat wave, the January 2014 Polar Vortex and the February 2014 drought; in Australia, the January 2013 and 2014 heat waves; in Canada, the 2013 June and July floods and the thawing permafrost; in the UK and New Zealand, storms and flooding throughout 2013 and 2014, are all portents of the developing "emergency" (image gallery).
Criticality will be reached when these extreme climate events begin to converge. It is at that point - which will arrive before climate damage begins to reverse national or global economic growth - that civil unrest caused by alarm at the inexorable rise of event frequency and intensity or stemming from the direct consequences of events, will strain and in some instances break governments' containment capabilities. That these events are not wholly natural disasters, means blame can be apportioned and justice sought. It also means that future climate protests and unrest will have a unique character. In the past, when a city was destroyed by nature it could only be attributed to God. In the future, those found guilty of contributing to this crisis may find that, as with the Arab Spring, blanket surveillance, anti-protest laws and military force will not protect them.
In the U.S. the scale of Hurricane Katrina (August 2005) overwhelmed local, state, and federal government and civilian organizations, and no amount of lessons learned will alter the chaotic reality of an extreme event striking a vast metropolitan area. In the future, as in the past, attempts to control a breakdown of civil order that is mostly a psychological projection could become desperate and dangerous. The knowledge that every landfall will arrive sooner that the last (the Hollywood movie 'Pacific Rim' is an allegory of this phenomenon), will create a broader, more profound state of fear and paranoia than that experienced by both authorities and civilian populations (to a far lesser extent) in the aftermath of Katrina. Civilisation will come to depend upon overcoming these base emotions and holding onto rationality and goodness.
It is safe to assume that some regions will weather the crisis better than others. However, it is impossible to know where disintegration or cohesion will occur. Preparations by the most technologically proficient, organised and stable societies is not a guarantee of survival, but they do increase the odds. Old political orders associated with the creation of this crisis may fall, but this does not mean that cultures will collapse, it is just as likely that they will emerge from brief periods of turmoil reinvigorated.
Those faring better will form the climate states. Whether utopian or dystopian (there will be a tendency to gravitate towards political extremes), these states will ceaselessly consolidate themselves, focusing solely on support for allies and the control of foreign resources. Thus far, the world has been unable to solve the first wave of climate change conflicts. In the future, no one will be able to spare the political, economic or military resources that humanitarian aid or genuine interventions need. Only areas containing natural resources (including associated infrastructure and workforce), will be protected, while the nations and populations containing them will be deemed superfluous.
Necessity (backed by military force) will close borders to climate refugees. Internally, any perceived threat to stability will be eliminated before it can become contagious. External threats likewise. The climate states will not take chances. The places where questions of freedom survive will be guarded just as vigorously as those where enlightenment has been buried.
At some point in the near furure, climate change will be used to justify these powers. Even viewed in context, their legitimacy rests on the nature of those who wield them. As things stand, without reform, these programs have no place in democracies that were never informed of their existence and will never be allowed to vote on them.
The peoples of the Fives Eyes have also never been consulted on climate change policy. They are spectators, expected to ride out the storm and sacrifice for a society in which they have little stake or say, while surveilled under a culture of fear that travels in two directions: the use of fear (to control others), by an entity that fears itself and the people it is supposed to represent. Nothing could be furthest from and closest to John F. Kennedy's remarks celebrating the 20th anniversary of Voice of America:
The image of climate change foisted on the world by the politicians belies reality and shows that they are indeed afraid of the people. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports are exercises in politically driven scientific conservatism, a state of affairs known to every single policy-maker responsible for inaction. And yet these reports are still terrifying.
Instead of a global state of emergency and the mobilizing of all availible resources to meet the approaching crisis, humanity's leaders have thus far failed the world. The forthcoming IPCC Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change's (UNFCCC) 2015 Conference of the Parties (COP21), are a final chance to alter the path towards the climate states. The UN is currently attempting to break political deadlocks in preperation for COP21. There is a finality here. If COP21's emission reduction targets (for the proposed 2020 regime) are not agreed, ratified and fully implemented, then that will be it, there will be no time left.
Greenhouse gas emissions need to be reduced by at least 80% by 2050, relative to 1990 levels. To achieve this an unprecedented industrial and social reordering is required. This is an opportunity for change and, while some may fear it, the world must be retrieved from its current position.
In the chaos and devastation of a transition to 4°C and beyond, it is very likely that the industrial capacity needed to geoengineer a solution will not survive. Abrupt climate change driven by cascading positive feeback loops is "more the norm than the exception". This means that once abrupt change processes are set in motion, there will be a race to influence the climate system before ever-increasing levels of economic damage overwhelm efforts.
Furthermore, at 2°C the likelihood of self-reinforcing warming increases. By 4°C, this phenomenon becomes a certainty. These feedback mechanisms are not distant or imminent; they have already begun. When warming becomes independent of human forcing, geoengineering attempts will face a further challenge.
While failure to act now will set us upon a truly desperate path, the inaction of the past has already created a situation of extreme gravity. A resolution of climate change cannot be achieved on a human time scale and it will have a profound impact (that will only increase in the short and medium term) on everything from quality of life to geopolitical stability for generations.
The ongoing surveillance preparations of the Five Eyes seem inconsequential in comparison to the security threats climate change is creating. And yet they constitute an existential threat to the free societies. To survive climate change with our culture and civilization intact, a different mentality must be adopted. There is no time for the carelessness that has characterised the majority of human affairs throughout history.