Fifteen Eighty Four

Academic perspectives from Cambridge University Press


Surviving Climate Chaos: Fierce chaos and tipping points

Julian Caldecott

Surviving Climate Chaos is being published into a new world of lethal fires, floods and record-breaking temperatures, as well as frantic international negotiations before CoP 26 in Glasgow. This is while the IPCC warns us that we are in the last decade before Arctic, oceanic and equatorial tipping points take all choices out of human hands. This emergency calls for far greater focus and impact in our climate change response, and for the strengthening of communities and ecosystems everywhere against climate chaos

Fierce chaos.
Wildfires are ripping through landscapes and homelands, and etching their way deep into Arctic soils and forests. Everywhere that used to be on the edge of drought and heat-wave has now lurched over the border, with other areas following. If not fires then floods and storms, or one after the other, with zoonotic and water-borne pestilence to follow. Humanitarian assistance has never been more in demand. And this is just the start of a change in prevailing environmental conditions around the world that has long been foreseen with scientific precision, and ignored by the powerful for just as long.

Hope and purpose.
It is easy to be furious over human failings, but harder and more useful to be compassionate and determined to help change things. It is easy to give up hope, but harder and more useful to be purposeful. Anyway, we can’t know how this will actually play out. There are reasons to hope that one day soon the Zeitgeist, the ‘spirit of the times’, will tip. Then, maybe, humanity will suddenly realise that we need a liveable biosphere, and that nothing must stand in the way of saving it. In fact there are plenty of signs that such a tipping point is in the offing.

Emerging transformation.
Surviving Climate Chaos describes many of signs of an approaching Zeitgeist shift or tipping point. They include: Greta Thunberg and the School Strikes for Climate; the Extinction Rebellion; declarations of climate emergency in over 2,000 jurisdictions; greening of the world’s financial system led by the central banks of England and France; innovation and investments pouring into renewable energy worldwide; Citizens’ Assemblies on climate in France, England and Scotland; Green New Deals planned in Europe and the US; maturing ideas of new laws on ecocide and well-being economics; and an openness to new thinking by the overseas aid agencies. Finally, I outline how the world is following and slowly building on a 30-year peace with nature programme in Costa Rica and an equally-old climate strategy in the UK.

Tipping points.
But points can tip both ways. It used to be said that conservationists are in a race with extinction, but now there is something different going on. The tipping points of the ‘peace with nature’ Zeitgeist are in a race with the tipping points of biophysical reality. This is because if you push natural systems too hard for too long, they will do their own tipping. There’s the Arctic, which is famously melting, but to this we can add the drying and burning of the world’s great tropical forests, and the overfishing, acidification and slow heating of the oceans. When thresholds are reached such systems can collapse very quickly – major Indonesian islands into fire-maintained grassland, for example, or the Great Barrier Reef into bleached rubble.

Surviving Climate Chaos by Julian Caldecott
Surviving Climate Chaos by Julian Caldecott

Title: Surviving Climate Chaos by Strengthening Communities and Ecosystems

Author: Julian Caldecott

Paperback ISBN: 9781108793780

Hardback ISBN: 9781108840125

About The Author

Julian Caldecott

Julian Caldecott is Director of Creatura Ltd, an environmental consultancy, and has a background in wildlife research and conservation in tropical rainforests. Since 2000 he has le...

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