|Doomsday predictions for a humanity divided ‘as never before’|
Until the existing profit-driven system is replaced by a more cooperative, equitable framework, more doomsday reports, more fearful warnings of Armageddon, and further predictions of a polarised ‘new world order’ can be expected in the newspapers.
Bleak forecasts of the future have become so common in the media that most of us casually anticipate the next report on environmental catastrophe, increasing inequality, mass hunger or even Armageddon. The recent release of the fourth assessment report on global warming by the United Nations was no exception; a “near-apocalyptic vision of Earth’s future” according to most reviews, we are warned of landscapes ravaged by floods, of sea level rises and extreme weather events, of increased droughts and crop failures, of more diseases and species extinctions, and of a “great climate change divide” that devastates even further the worlds poorest countries.
Despite the harrowing, unequivocal assessment given with “90 percent confidence” that global warming is caused by humans, the most controversy surrounding the report concerned not the questions of public complacency, corporate inertia and disinterest from the US government, but the even gloomier and oft recurring question of climate change censorship. On one camp, right-wing commentators filled the weekend newspapers with claims that environmentalists are trying to shut down debate and censor those who contend that man-made global warming is nothing more than a misnomer or a myth. The other camp, perhaps exemplified by George Monbiot’s latest column in the Guardian UK, claim that far from gagging the climate change deniers, even this latest U.N. report is significantly watered down in its assessment.
As the second of four reports being released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) this year, the findings cannot be easily dismissed; led by the world’s top scientists with more than 2,500 experts from more than 130 countries over the last six years, its conclusions are the starkest warning yet that the world is heading into a nightmare future unless a drastic and global turn-around plan is put into immediate effect. Africa, as always, will be the hardest hit if the world continues along the currently projected course; by 2080, says the report, 1.8 billion Africans might not have enough water to survive, crop revenues could fall by as much as 90 percent by the end of the century, and sea level rises could decimate the entire East African coast.
Even though the general theme of the report depicts a world in which humanity will be divided “as never before”, with the divisions between rich and poor countries becoming sharply exacerbated by an escalating pattern of environmental disasters, the richest nations of the world will not escape unscathed; according to a leaked draft of the report posted online by the activist group Climate Science Watch, if temperatures rise by four degrees Celsius, and if the Greenland or Antarctic ice sheets consequently melt, then the sudden rise in sea levels will lead to cataclysmic floods of Biblical proportions as outlined in Al Gore’s award-winning documentary, An Inconvenient Truth. This warning, which scientists gave a five-in-ten chance (or in other words, 50-50 odds) of actually happening, was controversially deleted after some of the developed nations lobbied for last-minute changes to the dire predictions.
The IPCC findings coupled well with a separate and less publicised 90-page report issued by the British Ministry of Defence a few days later. In just a few short decades, it predicts, the disempowered middle classes of an increasingly unequal world are likely to become “revolutionary”. Massive population growth, 98 percent of which will occur in less developed nations, says the report, will lead to “new instability risks” inside burgeoning and volatile slums, whilst brain chips will become standard for all citizens in developed nations by 2037, endemic unemployment will threaten the world social order, and political and religious fundamentalist groups are forecasted to form an “alliance of belief systems” that directly oppose the state.
It’s possible to be more dubious of such end-times prognostications from government white papers and strategy documents – as the Daily Telegraph UK scathingly pointed out, CIA predictions in 1981 that the Soviet Union would be approaching “hegemony over most of the world” by 1993 were far from hitting the mark – but other less futuristic predictions circulating the alternative media are even more disturbing. General Leonid Ivashov, Vice-President of the Academy on Geopolitical Affairs and ex-Joint Chief of Staff of the Russian Armies, has written an alarming insight into the stand-off between Iran and the US. If the US and its allies go ahead with a ‘tactical’ nuclear strike in Iran, an event long planned by the Pentagon, he argues, to prevent an inevitable crash of the global financial system based on the US dollar, then “it will become totally impossible to prevent the use of all of the available means of mass destruction” – meaning the imminent possibility of a nuclear global conflict.
The most vital questions raised by these chilling projections are not only evidenced in the stymied responses of activists and NGOs, but in the telling reactions or silences coming from the most powerful governments and multinational corporations. The Bush administration, when forced to make a statement on the U.N. report on climate change, quickly made it clear that it would not be stampeded by the report into taking part in the U.N.’s Kyoto Protocol, the agreement made in 2001 that seeks to limit emissions of carbon dioxide in over 160 countries.
A similarly non-committal response can be expected from all multinational corporations, even if they repackage themselves through massive PR campaigns to seem more environmentally friendly – the oil giant BP, as the obvious example, may have long reinvented itself with the new green, flower-like logo, but it remains one of the world’s foremost polluters of the environment and is often cited in the pejorative top 10 list of global corporate criminals. In a political economy based upon the cut-throat, competitive drive for short-term economic gains at the expense of the long-term needs of humanity and the planet, the lead for change cannot be expected from the corporate world or any First World government. Until the existing profit-driven system is replaced by a more cooperative, equitable framework, and until a net transfer of essential resources is effected from the richest five percent of the population to the 40 percent of the majority world left suffering in poverty, then more doomsday reports, more fearful warnings of Armageddon, and further predictions of a polarised ‘new world order’ can be expected in the newspapers.
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