How could anyone end civilization?

How civilization ends in climate change

What Comes After Climate Change - Part 7

The catastrophe begins with many small events and more or less drastic disturbances. We are currently in a phase in which repairs and clean-up work are still possible and the restoration of normal life creates the illusion that climate change is a result of manageable individual extreme weather conditions, which are uncomfortable and sometimes dangerous, but all in all it has no consequences for our standard of living and our way of dealing with the world. Everything still appears to be technically manageable, just as every challenge has been technically mastered so far.

The picture will change over the next few decades. We will increasingly experience that faults can no longer be repaired in good time before the next disaster happens. We will see that stabilization attempts fail, that construction projects that are supposed to bring security are destroyed by the next storm, that hopeful agricultural experiments fail because the grains in which we are placing our hopes cannot cope with the climate chaos after all, because in the years in which we hope that what we have laboriously bred will grow and prosper, the weather will be completely different than predicted.

Loss of confidence in the capabilities of modern society

This will create a deep distrust in the capabilities of our social institutions. Fewer and fewer people will believe that science and engineering can still develop sensible solutions. Confidence in the efficiency of modern technology will wane. Above all, however, confidence in political institutions, especially in democratic decision-making processes, will wane. The thesis that political processes take far too long, which is already widespread today, is becoming a generally accepted matter of course. The hesitation, the weighing up, the testing and approval procedures will be blamed for the fact that measures to protect against the consequences of climate change are not taken in good time. Every failure, every failure will be blamed on politics. There will always be people who claim to have shown beforehand that the path they have chosen is not the right one. There will always be people who will assert that everything would have gone better if only you had listened to them.

In addition, there are international and global mutual accusations and conflict escalations, all of which will erode not only the cultural and technical infrastructures, but also political stability, cooperation and compromise will be replaced by short-term self-interest and the struggle for interpretive sovereignty and resources. Based on current developments in international politics, one must expect that in more and more countries with growing uncertainty and fear of the future, more and more populists and demagogues come to power who manage to blame the citizens of their own country and their own sense of responsibility to spare for what happened by assigning those responsible for every catastrophe and every failure to foreign forces and governments - and at the same time promise to now ensure with a strong hand and will that the own interests of their own people, their own region or the own continent is now reasserted.

Thus, gradually with the technical and cultural infrastructures, the political infrastructures of balance and cooperation on every level are finally destroyed. Humanity ceases to exist - not only when humans are extinct, but when the concepts of commonality and universal humanity and togetherness have become insignificant. Then, as unstable and fleeting as its existence up to now has been, humanity will quickly disintegrate into a tattered and fragmented crowd of groups who see each other as the cause of all evil and the resulting hatred the justification for a relentless struggle for the last resources Move on. How this event can develop will be dealt with in more detail below.

Despite the great faults just described, humans will not automatically become extinct within a few decades. We must first realize that there are currently almost eight billion people on earth - and in the next few years, despite the incipient climate chaos, there will be even more. Then we have to consider that people have set themselves up under the most varied of climatic conditions, in desert regions and in tropical forests, in regions of perpetual ice and in barren steppe areas. In addition, people have survived long wars, deadly disease epidemics and natural disasters in the past centuries. These were always regionally limited, but people's resources and options for action were also limited. Today's people have a great deal of accumulated knowledge, even if this knowledge, which may be needed for survival, is not present, it can still be updated. The following pages will therefore primarily focus on the question of how we will live; the question of whether people will have to become extinct in the course of the climate chaos remains speculation.

The end of humanity is the end of humanity

However, let's start with the worst, and most terrible, yet probable part of the scenario. There are regions on earth where the majority of the people living there will actually have little chance of surviving in the climate chaos. The rising sea levels, combined with storm surges and extreme floods, will make large areas of Oceania and other archipelagos uninhabitable, the people there will drown, those who survive the floods will not be able to feed on the barren land and will die of hunger and disease . No subjunctive and no qualifying insert that this is "to be feared" or "to be taken as a risk" should prevent us from looking this future scenario in the eye. Some of them will try to escape - but where to? We know from experience over the past few years that no one will be ready to take in and care for these people. This applies to those from the island states as well as to those who flee into the interior of their continents from flooded and uninhabitable coastal regions. The climate chaos will present every country, every society, with its own challenges and risks, so we shouldn't hope that the Europeans will be ready to organize and finance the evacuation and resettlement of climate refugees from the poorest and most vulnerable countries.

In any case, only very few of them will be able to set off on their own. Most of them will feed on the remains of their possessions for as long as possible without hope and perish in the process.

This is what is meant when we speak of the end of humanity, the end of civilization. It will happen that here in the best-equipped societies, we, who are responsible for most of the catastrophe due to their industrialization and unrestrained growth, and who also exemplify an image of prosperity for the people in other regions of the world and have set them up as a model to strive for, so that they too have swung on the shining path of perdition, we will not only close the doors, but also our eyes and ears to the suffering of others, because we are afraid of our own future and any additional one Burden to deny any uncertainty caused by welcoming strangers.

One can rightly object that the Europeans, and with them the North Americans, never really and practically bothered about the suffering in the distant regions, not when they were entirely or partially to blame for this suffering and not when it was humanity and some universal ethics would have demanded. A humanity in the sense of a universal willingness to stand up for others and also to provide help for the most distant people may never have existed. A civilization in the sense that we strived for the well-being of all together and in a civilized manner, has always been more of an ideal than lived practice. That is correct and it should bury the last illusions about whether we might not go on rescue missions after all to save the people in the southern hemisphere from drowning and starvation, from death from epidemics and ultimately from civil war. But we will have to see very clearly that we have not become morally any better than the colonizers of Africa and the conquerors of America.

We will probably lose contact with these distant regions of the world after a short time. The disruption and the breakdown as well as the lack of interest in all problems that are not directly our own or at least indirectly affect our own lives will mean that the reports and news of distant catastrophes will soon no longer reach us. So we will always be able to convince ourselves that we don't know how the disaster ended for the people on the islands in the Pacific, in India and in South Africa and that maybe they somehow managed to save themselves.

The end of the "western world"

What is in store for us here in the highly technical regions of the world that are well equipped with scientific knowledge and masterpieces of engineering? Will we be able to save ourselves? Or will there be hardly any people here just a few decades after the start of the destructive phase of climate change?

First of all, it can be assumed that we will hardly have any more children. Even under the conditions of prosperity, the number of births has declined, even if it has increased again in recent years. The young people have chosen to wait for the right moment in their life to have children. There is nothing to complain about. But under the conditions of the climate crisis there will no longer be a real moment. Hardly anyone will be responsible for bringing children into this world at a time of great uncertainty about the future. In addition, children themselves are a great burden for 10-20 years and increase the risk of not being able to face the dangers of uncertain times.

The uncertain times are creeping up. They begin with interruptions in rail traffic caused by lightning strikes in signal boxes, by flushing of rails, with power outages due to overturned power poles, with flooded motorways and trunk roads. Perhaps the uncertain times of climate change will also begin with crop failures that make flour and fruit more expensive, or with dust storms on the highways. They begin with low water levels in the reservoirs, which mean that here and there and for a short time there is a risk of drinking water becoming scarce.

Part 8: How high technology fails in the face of climate change

(Jörg Phil Friedrich)

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