One of the mistakes people make about climate change is saying that the planet is at stake. “Is it the last chance to save the planet from climate change?” “Tens of thousands of activists warning climate change is destroying the earth.” “The biggest cause in Hollywood is saving the Earth. Climate change and all that.” That’s not really the right way to think about it.
Earth has gone through immense climate changes many, many times before,
in some cases leading to mass extinctions. but life persisted. Mammals evolved from reptiles, and primates from mammals. They stood up. And walked out of Africa, eventually
reaching the corners of every continent. But Only after well over 100,000 years of wandering did the real human innovation happen, when 12,000 years ago we stopped foraging and started farming. Agriculture meant villages, cities, society, government: the birth of civilisation. but why did it take so long for humans to take control of their food? well If you look at this chart of global temperature change going back 100,000 years, you might notice something special about the last 10,000 years. That’s when the climate settled into a period of unusual stability. It was on this ledge that human society developed, where reliable seasons fed more and more people…where knowledge accumulated and science began.
Until eventually, inventors created machines that could unleash unimaginable growth and
mobility. All they needed was fuel to burn. and they found it in the form of ancient forests
buried for under dirt and compacted over 300 million years. With these coal deposits, humans unearthed tons and tons of carbon that had been locked away long before our species appeared.
And that’s how we began to disrupt the climate that birthed us — the climate that our food
systems and infrastructure are built upon. After 10,000 years of temperatures that varied
only within about 1 degree Celsius, scientists now say we’re on track for 3 degrees of
warming by 2100 if we don’t change course. Humans have been around for .004% of Earth’s history. And of all human history – the 200,000 years since our species began, we’ve had agriculture for just 5% of that time. We’ve had electricity for .07% of that time.
The simple truth about climate change is that it isn’t new to the planet, but civilization
is. Andd here’s what’s even newer: In the past hundred years, the number of people alive has quadrupled. And thus so has the capacity for suffering So slowing climate change isn’t about saving the planet. It’s about us, about our vulnerability to a level of climate disruption that human civilization has simply never seen before.