Reposted from Resilience.Org

The beginning of the Anthropocene, the period when humanity became the predominant driver of changes in the Earth Systems, has been open to debate. Some argue for the period of the post-WW2 Great Acceleration, others for the beginning of industrialization, and some would perhaps go back as far as the European conquest and colonization of the rest of the world. What few seem to grasp is that the Anthropocene may last but a few decades, until the Earth responds like a boulder rolling down a hill. Humanity provided the push that overcame its inertia, but once in motion it accelerates away all by itself.

To exit the Anthropocene is to enter a period where humanity will be incapable of doing anything meaningful to stop climatic changes. Paleoclimatological research has shown that the Earth can jump up and sprint like a Gazelle at tipping points, with such things as one degree per year temperature increases, and feet of sea level rise per decade. Once started, these will be far too fast for society to reverse, it will simply have to adapt or even just struggle to survive. This is what scientists refer to as Abrupt Climate Change.

While the evidence that the door to the end of the Anthropocene is opening wide mounts, our society seems unable to grasp the scale and urgency of the danger. At the level of the United Nations, we have “soft” denial; an acceptance that climate change is real, but an assumption that the rate of change will be relatively slow and linear. It can be dealt with by some tweaks to the way our societies are currently run, nothing too unsettling required. And anyway, any overshooting of carbon dioxide levels can always be dealt with by new technology to suck it out of the air and safely store it. “We have the technology”. Then there are the “hard” deniers, personified by President Trump, who seem intent on the destruction of any public institutions that deliver inconvenient facts such as those that confirm the reality of climate change. It is as if the crew of the Titanic was split between those that thought that it would take days to sink, and those that believed that it would never sink. No need to panic, better to relax with a nice cup of tea.

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