In a series of articles for the New York Magazine David Wallace-Wells describes the consequences of global warming. It's a nightmarish scenario, and Wallace-Wells throws everything at his readers, even the kitchen sink.
Beyond raising sea levels, Wallace-Wells reminds us of other possible effects of increasing temperature: large swathes of the planet, too hot for human life, could become uninhabitable, mega-storms and mega-droughts, mass migrations, crops failing, ocean acidification, mass extinction on land and in the water, new diseases or return of old ones, military conflicts, CO2-induced stupidification of humanity.
Is that a realistic scenario?
Frankly, I wouldn't have a clue. Many have commented on the articles, accusing Wallace-Wells of alarmism.
Even if all his claims were well founded, many, I suppose, could be sensitive to changes on current trends.
One thing, however, seems certain to me: no matter however many things he might have wrong, the things he could get right would still leaves us in deep shit. And the thing is, although everybody is going to lose, you can guess who the likely biggest losers will be: those unable to pay for more expensive food, relocation, medicine, energy.
Just look at the mirror and think of billions of faces like that, all over the world.
Apparently, at least some Australian climate scientists aren't too bullish about our future, either:
"Cradling her newborn baby girl, heatwave expert Sarah Perkins Kirkpatrick admits to feeling torn between the joy of motherhood and anxiety over her first-born child's future.
" 'I always wanted a big family and I'm thrilled. But my happiness is altered by what I know is coming with climate change,' she said.
" 'I don't like to scare people but the future's not looking very good. Having a baby makes it personal. Will this child suffer heatstroke just walking to school?' "
About a year ago, almost to the day, Adam Sternbergh asked whether the present was worse than any futuristic dystopia. He didn't think so.
Dystopias, he argued, are useful as warnings about how the future might turn out if things continue as they are; utopias, on the other hand, show how things could be so much better, if only we did the right things. He concluded his reflections thus:
"The current Trumpified moment isn't the worst-case scenario, despite what your Twitter feed is screaming at you. If we want to transcend this current moment, it's important that we not only retain the desire to hope for the best. We also have to work hard to imagine the worst."
I am a curious Marxist: a pessimist by nature. At my age, it's too late for me to change. I don't believe in utopias, not even Marxist ones.
I do believe, however, socialism could result in a fairer, more equal, rational, democratic society. But that outcome is not inevitable: many things could still turn out bad.
In the same spirit I'll tell you this: capitalism isn't up to the task of averting Wallace-Wells' worse-case scenario or ensure our survival as civilisation or even as species, so the question of utopia is quickly becoming moot. We aren't thinking about that, as Sternbergh asked of us.
Wallace-Wells, on the other hand, is not blind to the link global warming-capitalism. Unfortunately, he didn't join the dots.