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2 Celsius, So What?

July 9, 2024

“Those on the left have everything upside down. They think it’s cars and planes and air conditioners and fossil fuels that are heating the planet.  Wrong — these are the things that keep us cool,” — Stephen Moore in the New York Sun.

A month or so ago I decided to trash the manuscript for my book, “Just 2 Celsius”. That’s a full two years of part time work rubbished.

Just 2 Celsius was written to try breakdown the firewall that currently prevented scientific, a posteriori information on bad, bad climate news from reaching the general populace. It would explain why 2 Celsius was such a big deal. Just 2 Celsius wouldn’t be the first book to do so, but clearly nothing has worked as the vast majority went about their daily lives oblivious to the subtle changes taking place to the climate that governs their lives. The danger simply wasn’t registering — partially because of denial and mainly because of gaslighting. To make my point, I refer you to the above quote from the other stable genius, Stephen Moore.

I was working on Just 2 Celsius when 2023 came around. The Climate Smackdown of 2023 will be remembered for notching up twelve confirmed $1 billion disasters in just the first half of the year. That was only in the United States. I was writing away in Hong Kong that summer, when India’s northern plains caught fire with average temperatures the highest on record. Then the monsoons came, bringing massive flooding instead of the relief they traditionally deliver. The same was happening in China and facing floods after an intense heatwave, the authorities there turned neighbouring cities into dikes and moats to prevent waters from reaching Beijing. Meanwhile in Canada, fires burnt off an area the size of Portugal and over in the Hawaiian island of Maui, people were jumping into the ocean to escape their own wildfires.

Not a fast learner, I continued slogging over the original thesis — trying to explain the subtleties of climate change — when 2024 came and delivered the same intense heat-crazy precipitation cycle of 2023. Temperatures across the Middle East and Northern India have hovered at 50 Celsius this summer with no let up. Kuwait City, New Delhi, and most towns on the Indo-Gangetic Plain are unbearable during the day with zero respite at night unless one has air conditioning — something barely 5% of Indians do. As in the COVID days, there’s no accurate record of how many Indians have died this summer from heat. When the monsoon rains finally came to North India towards the end of June, there was so much precepitation from the intense summer heat that all that moisture came down in a torrential flood taking more lives.

I am in Virginia now, and it’s averaging 35 Celsius afternoons (95F). The hurricane season has begun and armed with that additional moisture, Hurricane Beryl just landed in Texas after a killing spree across the Caribbean. There are other equally not-so-subtle changes in the air. Planes get regularly tossed about by turbulence these days and plummet tens of meters without warning. Not always Boeing’s fault — clear air turbulence around mountains and clouds has noticeably worsened due to climate change. There’s nothing subtle about climate change anymore. Now that any damn fool can see something big’s gone awry, one would think people will rally. One would be wrong.

That’s Tangiers Island in that pic above, off the Virginia coast. You can canoe to it down the Potomic towards Chesapeake Bay — where Tangiers settles down a few inches more every year. The island is sinking as the sea level continue to rise. “Not true,” the islanders contend while I stare at water lapping on their doorsteps. Unwilling to admit climate change is real, they plan to vote en masse for Trump this coming election. Tangiers Island may look like an isolated case, but climate change is now a real experience for the vast majority of people world over; a reality most chose to ignore even as it changes their lives for the worse.

What makes decent folk play with their lives, and that of their children and grandchildren? This is where anything left of my original thesis gets shot to hell. I took on this project because everyday people couldn’t see what was happening to them. Until 2023, when they could. From trying to explain what is causing the climate change catastrophe, the Just 2 Celsius project has become an exercise in trying to understand why we choose to ignore it. Why would any species, more so a social animal, knowingly harm itself and its own kind?  Is this trait uniquely human?

For starters, all that stuff about other species not killing their own is nonsense. Internal competition is built into the gene pool of every species, and it vies with internal cooperation and the endgame is decided by the ecosystem. The only difference is that humans deny it, other species don’t, and we can drive internal competition to the point of no return as we are doing now. Denial and Internal Competition then, are what’s working in tandem to take us to predition. We have the ability to push our competitive agendas to the ultimate extreme while other species cannot. Understanding this truth about us, one understands how the climate change agenda is governed and why the Fossil Fuel Lobby and the Stephen Miller types for example will drive us from COP to COP ensuring there is no accord even if it means an eventual end to life as we know it.

No prize guessing such a sophisticated level of denial and internal competition is driven by our Higher Intelligence (HI). Eyes and other organs favored by Evolution have occurred independently several times. However, Higher Intelligence has occurred only once. Anatomically modern homo sapiens with HI showed up just 300,000 years ago and we are already planning the seeds of our own demise.  Whereas the crocodile has existed for 95 million years with no plans to drive itself extinct while the cockroach’s been doing brilliantly for 320 million years. The jellyfish and sponges have been around for 600 million years. Clearly HI isn’t favored by Evolution. The devastation wreaked by us on the planet may even suggest that HI is harmful to the survival of a species. This is where the new thesis for my book picks up. Does the climate catastrophe suggest our higher intelligence could be the cause of our ultimate demise? For the answer one may have to do an Enrico Fermi and look up to the sky.

Because that’s what the world-renowned physicist, Enrico Fermi did in 1950 over a now equally famous lunch. Looking up, he asked his colleagues, “Where is everybody?” Immortalized as the Fermi Paradox, the question resonates because he was asking why the skies were so empty, and where were other intelligent life forms one could reasonably expect in such a vast expanse. Being researched and rewritten as, 2 Celsius & The Fermi Paradox, the revamped book tests the idea that havoc caused to the climate suggests the same HI needed for interstellar or intergalactic travel will probably kill off a highly intelligent species before it can master relativistic speeds to escape its home planet in a practical manner and reach for the stars. Maybe that’s why we don’t see anyone up there.

Looking at what we are willfully doing to the climate, it’s a safe assumption that to survive, we would have to become sufficiently less internally competitive. That is not going to happen on its own and maybe not in time for us to become an intergalactic species. All this is a lot more complicated than my simple rendering over here, but surely you get the gist. One surprising outcome is that AI could end up saving HI from itself. The more one researches the more one learns how little one knows. HI could eventually kill us, but for now it sure is useful if one’s writing a book.

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