So, the paradox is, if life were easy, if life's just the sort of thing that shows up relatively easily and grows relatively easy into what we've become, and that from where we are, we can relatively easily continue on on to grow, then we should expect the Universe to be full of things like us. In fact, we should wonder why there's any room for us at all. Why has something else from somewhere else didn't come and take over Earth before we grew here? The Fermi paradox was a paradox promoted by Enrico Fermi in discussions with his friend Ed Teller. It's where are they? If there are extraterrestrials out there, UFOs and so forth, really where are they? Because even though people see UFOs in the sky, no one sees them land, there's no geological evidence that they left any trash here in the distant past. So we're not being visited by extraterrestrials comparable to us that are intelligent technological creatures. This is why I think the power of the Fermi Paradox is so simple. Where are they? How come we're not seeing them? And as a physicist, he would have quickly just negated the thought, well, they're all around us but they're invisible, or they're in some other dimension, or they're just some other– all the ridiculousness you hear now that we can be constantly visited and that they're out there, the truth is out there.
The truth is out there, they're not out there. The Universe is like 13 billion years old. Earth is four billion years old. So the Universe had seven billion years before the Earth even showed up. There's been lots and lots of time for other life to expand and colonize the Universe, but it looks so dead. So the question is, why does the Universe look dead? To me, it is the single most important of all scientific questions. How do you go from non-life to life? Apparently, as far as we can see, there is no place in the visible Universe, where some simple dead matter has gone from just being dead matter, all the way to become an expanding visible civilization. So, that path must be hard, in the sense that most things that start along the path don't make it to the end, or at least they haven't made it so far. That's the idea of the great filter.
We try to make a big point on the difference between microbial habitability and animal habitability. it doesn't take hardly anything; all you have to have is have liquid water on the surface and you can have microbial habitability. But to have animals evolve and survive, it takes a much narrower range of conditions. All the different academic specialties that think about these different areas of progress, the origin of life, multicellular animals, sex, intelligence, future expansions, all the intellectual areas that think about these things tend to think they aren't that hard, that it's not trivial, but it should be something that happens with a reasonable frequency. But when we add up all those usual stories into one total story, it tends to say, well, the whole filter isn't that hard.
But then that runs up against the observation that the whole filter has to be hard, because the Universe looks dead and empty. So I mean, somebody's wrong. Somebody somewhere along the line has just been a little too optimistic. My thought has always been that it's very difficult for any planet to remain habitable long enough to get to complexity. And complexity, I'm talking about something as simple as a flower, an animal, the simplest of animals. It took our planet 3.5 billion years before we got to very complex higher life. What are the blocks on the path that could prevent that? So, simple dead matter, for example, could simply fail to start any form of life at all. It could just stay dead. Simple forms of life could fail to elaborate to more advanced forms of life. They could say, fail to find sexual reproduction and be able exchange genes. They could fail to find ways to organize into multi-cellular organisms, to join together into larger units. They could fail to develop brains, or they could fail to elaborate brains into the size and complexity of brains that we have.
Those are all failures that could happen along the path to at least, where we are. And then from where we are, we could fail to continue to grow. We could destroy ourselves entirely, or we could become limited in such a way that we stop growing technically or economically and we find a stable scenario where we fail to grow. Now, you might not think that's such a bad thing, so some of the outcomes of failing to pass the great filter might be mildly reasonably acceptable outcomes. We stay on the Earth, we stay at a certain level of development, we never go any farther. But relative to the other option of expanding and growing and filling a Universe, it still seems a bit of a shame. A lot of people instinctively think that the whole purpose of all this stuff is to go in a straight line to us. And as people point out, if you did this 1,000 times, you have all these different divergent ranges, you know? And even if you get the animals, why we evolved? Because sharks haven't evolved very much, Peter works on nautiloids and they're largely unchanged in 400 million years because they don't have to. They're perfectly adapted to their environment.
They don't need to change. But complexity has a narrow environmental window that allows it to survive. And so, complexity is difficult to maintain if you have an environment that's changing and rapidly changing. So you need stability, complexity requires stability. How often do you get stability is the major question about the frequency of animal life in the Universe. People say, well, we're a typical planet, we're on a typical star. and that's totally wrong. I mean, we're not a typical planet. We're drastically different than all the other planets in the Solar System, so we can't be typical. Maybe you need tides, gigantic tides to make life. So this is hypothesis one now, that tides are important for life. So how do you have tides? Moon. How often do we get a moon? Therein comes the really rare part. Our Moon obviously, in our Solar System, is unique. There are other moons, but there's no other moon as large relative to the size of the planet, nobody else has that. I mean the Jupiter moons are really tiny compared to the size of it.
Getting our Moon required a very, very low probability event. Another planetesmal– or actually, a planet, A Mars-sized planet hit the earth early in time, and it spun out our Moon. But one effect of the Moon's on us, besides making lunar tides, is that its helped stabilize the spin axis of Earth for a very long period of time. So the Earth's spin axis is an 22 and 1/2 degrees and it's stabilized by this big gyroscope orbiting around the planet. When the Earth hit that Mars sized body over 4 and a 1/2 billion years ago the re-scrambling of all this, because it produced– a smaller Earth, a Mars size came together and produced a bigger Earth and a really small Moon. But the chemistry of both places got recycled. Parts of the Mars got strangled together with parts of the Earth, and we ended up having a very thin crust.
Venus has a very thick crust. It's so thick, it can't do the subduction. It can't go down through plate tectonics you don't have plate tectonics on Venus. Did that moon impact, Moon forming event produce the conditions– the Earth-like conditions– necessary to produce plate tectonics? And I think you have to have a Moon and you have to have plate tectonics to get life as we know it. From an astro-biology viewpoint, the occurrence of plate tectonics is really important. I mean, is it typical for an Earth-like planet to have plate tectonics? Maybe it is. But on the other hand, if we look at our neighbors in space, they don't have them. The concentric layers of the Earth do something else for us. That gives us a magnetic field and without that magnetic field you're bathed in radiation from your Sun.
And surface life, land life– life underwater is not affected. But you'll never get on land, you'll never have plants on land if you are totally bathed in radiation without a magnetic field. All these factors, we call rare Earth factors, probably not many of them are really critical, but they are factors. So if you have the factor, well, do you have magnetic field or don't you have a magnetic field? Maybe if you don't have one, maybe you'll never evolve giraffes because nasty things that happen with the Sun and wipe them out. But it's not, if you have this you can have life, if you don't, you don't. We get certainly undoubted multicellular life, there are some really interesting fossils about two billion years that look like life has finally figured out how to put itself together into bigger assemblages. But again these are fairly rare, it's not till a billion years ago that we see lots of evidence of multicellular, like kelp, you have algae that are out there.
So that's a billion years ago. Wow, that sounds like that's really old. Compared to the 4.567? Now we're taking almost four, little less than four billion years to get to something as complex as a kelp? Come on. Probably all the early life on earth we would consider extremophiles, because they were living in extreme conditions that we could not live in. And they're also very tough, too. Animals are very easy to extinct. A typical animal species goes extinct in a couple million years. The really lucky ones, like sharks and nautiloids, maybe survive a couple hundred million years. But typically those are only a million years. Microbes are almost inextricable. The analogy is the mass extinctions are weeding the garden. And once you weed the garden, the good vegetables can grow.
I've written about this, I've said, yeah, that's probably way it is. Maybe you need to have some critical number, too many, too few. Maybe you don't have to have mass extinctions. This is just us trying to rationalize what happened. And going back to Frank Drake, he said, well a mass extinction, a modern mass extinction would be a good thing. Because after every past mass extinction, new types of life have come forth. But Frank, the point I was trying to make to him was that there is a dead period, a recovery period of millions of years. Do we want to have planet Earth five million years before things crawl back out and start– no, you don't want a modern mass extinction. Yeah, we don't have that time. So the K-T event was the impact of a 10 kilometer-sized asteroid or comet that made a crater about 200 kilometers in diameter in the Yucatan peninsula. And this, it's not terribly rare earth event, it happens about every 100 million years.
If you were looking at this event from space, you would see this big impact, big crater, big flash, very, very spectacular. And then the Earth would turn this uniform Grey color. You're seeing Mexico blanketing the entire planet because it's shrouded– it blocked the Sun for a visible period of time, at least a couple weeks. And so things that rely on the sunlight, like plants and so forth, have a problem. And things are herbivores that eat these plants have a problem. And then there are maybe possible acid ocean changes and a variety of chemical effects which was a nasty cocktail to life on Earth. Rare Earth to me was always an environmental statement, that if life is rare, if the Earth is rare, why in the world are we trashing it? We see on TV that we're just going to move on, that we'll move out, we’ll colonize the Solar System.
And [that] we'll get stellar drives, then we'll beam ourselves from planet to planet, we're going to expand. What if we can't? It's just tough. Doing things in space is really tough. And I view that a lot of ideas of interstellar travel are just absolute fantasy. It may not ever be possible using any technology. I mean, warp drive is probably a fantasy. But there is, I think a highly probable contingency that we will never get out of our Solar System This in itself would answer immediately the Fermi paradox. Maybe nobody gets out ever. There's never ever, never, interstellar travel. And right off the bat people say, "Oh, that's– you cannot deny that possibility. And yet that particular possibility is never raised. So this is where rare Earth comes back into it.
If we're stuck here, we ought to take care of it. Global warming and human caused climate change is an unhappy accident of there being billions of people on the planet and an abundant fuel source that we're addicted to. Fossil fuels are the engines of our economy. And the engines of our growth and the engines of our population explosion, too. The problem in its most immediate form is carbon. Coal, and oil, and gas release carbon into the atmosphere, and the molecular structure of CO2 traps heat that would otherwise radiate back out to space. I think that a different way of looking at it is to– I think, to understand that probably fossil fuel is more important than ideology and the development of the last few hundred years. Well, the stakes are very high, so this climate crisis is the greatest threat that humanity has ever faced. People often talk about global warming, climate change.
Today civilization was built for the climate of the early 20th century, but that climate is changing, all right? And the population growth has been explosive. And so probably, civilization as we know it is unsustainable. My editors don't want anything about global warming, and they certainly don't want anything depressing about global warming, people don't want to hear it. Science tends to be fairly conservative in what it says is true, because it has to stand up to peer review, it has to stand up to other people doing the same research and making sure they get the same answer. It has to be defended very rigorously. So the fact is that these big assessments, like the IPCC report, tend to be fairly conservative in what they say is true.
So you guys are from California, so you have some sense of what's going on in one small corner of the world where we're seeing drought on a scale we haven't seen before, for instance. And that kind of thing just gets more and more and more common and violent as the temperature goes up two degrees Celsius, three degrees, four degrees. That's what we're on path for now. That's a world where we probably can't have civilizations like the ones we're used to having, because we won't be able to depend on raising food in the ways we do now. And our cities, most of them built on the coasts, will be highly vulnerable. And it'll be a difficult, maybe impossible place to live. With a four degrees Celsius temperature range, we can expect the Sahara Desert in North Africa to jump across the Mediterranean into central Europe, resulting in summer temperatures of 120 degrees, typical day. With a three degrees of warming, we could expect the Brazilian rainforest to burn down and turn to desert, with probably super, super storm hurricanes with the capability to obliterate cities occurring from time to time.
Though those are the things we sort of notice on a day to day basis, the kind of bigger, more profound mess, or what's happening at the whole system level. Both the Arctic and the Antarctic are now melting at prodigious rates, and the oceans are 30% more acidic than they were 40 years ago. We're talking about the biggest physical features on planet Earth, and they're essentially breaking. In the last 150 years or so, sea level's gone up by about 20 centimeters, which is about eight inches. Now, that doesn't sound like a lot when you're standing there on the beach and the waves are crashing over your feet. But you have to remember, that's 8 inches times 2/3 the area of the planet. So it's a huge volume of water that's been added.
People don't understand is how fast levels gonna rise. Whether it happens three feet, weather it happens at the end of the century, or even the middle of next century is irrelevant. Three feet affects unbelievably the amount of food they can be produced. It doesn't necessarily have to happen all at once. Just like Hurricane Sandy in New York, of course, that wasn't caused by global warming, but it was exacerbated by global warming. Of the 18, 19 feet of storm surge, a foot or so was global warming. Now, that's not a huge impact yet, but if we're looking at 5,6 feet of sea level rise in the next 100 years, it will begin to become very, very important. We have harnessed the meager water resources of the West, all right, to sustain this great civilization that we've built here in California. It's amazing in a semi-arid environment –this is the sixth or the seventh largest economy in the world.
The economy of California is larger than the economy of Russia, all right? But we all forgot that it was semi-arid, and we have a long history that's written in great droughts. And it's come back to haunt us here, at the beginning of the 21st century. And in this case, the economics are very clear. If you let climate change get any further out to control, the economic damage that it does is on a scale that we haven't encountered before. The British economist Nicholas Stern tried to kind of– did the first sort of full on global scale calculations and says it looks like unabated global warming is more of an economic hit than World War I, World War II, and the Great Depression combined. OK, so we know we're trying to avoid. Why is this drought so much more severe than what we saw in the mid 1940s to the early 1970s? Well, the population of California has quadrupled since the 1950s and the 1960s, all right? Agriculture has been explosive. In some ways you might say, well, a lot of New Orleans, effectively what the government and the society decided was that they were going to continue to try to protect it, despite the fact that sea levels are rising, despite the fact that there will eventually be another storm that floods New Orleans.
But if it's important enough to you, then you might decide to protect it. But you have to make decisions. You can't protect the entire coast, and so what areas are we going to protect and what areas are we going to let go of? Those are questions we should be answering right now. There is no way that 20 million people in Southern California, when the water from the Colorado and the Sacramento in the San Joaquin river dry up, there is no way you're going to move all 20 million of those people to Seattle and Vancouver. That's just un-doable. So the question is one of these tipping points. And the methane clathrates are suspected to be a possible tipping point. To where if you warmed up enough of these regions, they would release all this methane, and then you'd have greenhouse warming the ran away from you. That wasn't being driven by humans anymore, it was really being driven by natural tipping points in the climate. A tipping point, well, a good metaphor to start with is you imagine an egg on the edge of a table. And if you give it a little nudge, but it doesn't fall over, then you could give it a nudge back.
You can kind of reverse the process. But if the egg is right on the edge of the table and you give it a nudge and falls over and it breaks, then your table and egg system is in a different state and it can't be reversed. All right, so there was a sudden change. You've crossed a tipping point when that egg fell over. Well something like that exists with aspects of the climate and the climate as a whole. Not yet, we haven't yet so destabilized the Arctic we should give up the fight and go on. CH4 is obviously a problem, like CO2. And it's a difficult problem, because with CO2 we have our hand on the thermostat. We can turn down the amount of carbon that we use. If we let things heat to the point where we're getting really huge volumes of methane, we have no control of that thermostat. So that's all the more reason to move very fast.
To me, the biggest problem on the planet is the population problem. And no one talks about it, really. Hardly anyone talks about it, and no one's come up with a solution. You think it's hard to talk about carbon dioxide politically, talk about population control politically. That's almost impossible. But you know, there actually are some great tools for it. Education, giving women a choice over when and how many children to have, has been shown to actually lead to population reduction. So the solutions to that one might be good, whether you're interested in population control or not. It's a really huge problem and the global warming would not be such a big deal if we had kept our population around a billion people or so. More people, more energy requirements, everybody wants to become part of the middle class, growing affluence, growing technology, so it's not just population, you have to take population and multiply it by affluence. You can't tell the rest of the world they can't be affluent, all right? You can't tell the rest of the world that they can't have an iPhone.
Our technology is totally dependent on fossil fuels. We would have never have made to where we were without this gift from nature of this huge supply of fossil fuels. And don't think we should feel guilty about it, because it's nature provided, and we would probably still be the Stone Age without it, without developing iron, and so forth. But it is a– it's almost a predictable consequence of development of life like ours on a planet that we get to the point where we– we're over-productive in terms of population growth. And we also consume all this burnable material. And ultimately, we have to transition to a society that does not use fossil fuels. I think it'll eventually work because it has to. Because we have finite amounts of fossil fuels. So they will eventually run out.
So ultimately we will be– we will have a wind, water, solar economy. Now, the key is to squish it forward in time so that it's faster. So will it work in the next 35 years? It's possible, it's technically and economically possible. It all depends on if enough politicians and the general public get on board with it. If the public and politicians get on board, it will happen. What could get rid of us is our own carbon dioxide through one of the greenhouse extinctions. If you think– call that nature, that's nature. Engineering our way out is our only hope that I can see. But engineering our way out will only work if we recognize the limitations of engineering your way out, that you have to take dire steps soon, or it will be too late. Now of course, some people say that technology might save us. Well that's true, but in a sense, technology is also part of the problem. Now, I always say that– when I talk to my students, I said, if you want a good example of global warming, all right, there she is or there he is.
All right, this is the poster child for global warming. Just think of all the water, natural resources, and the energy that go into cellphones. There's no way to avoid using fossil fuel in the world in which we live. That's why the job is not to spend all your time and money perfecting your own household. That's why the job is to transform the way we live, the structures in which we live. My roof is covered with solar panels. I drive an electric car. I eat close to home, all those kinds of things. But I try not to fool myself that that's solving the problem, it isn't. This is a structural and systemic problem. That means the answers are structural and systemic. That means, by far, the most important thing that an individual can do is not be an individual. Join with other people in a movement large enough to move those systems and structures.
And if you have time left over after that to change you're light bulb, then by all means. We look at each energy sector, electricity, transportation, heating, cooling, and industry. Then we try to electrify each sector and power that electricity with wind, water, and solar power. And we find from doing that that we've reduced power demand just by electrifying everything and using some hydrogen. We would use reduce power demand overall in California by about 44%, because electricity is so much more efficient than combustion or burning things. Technically, it's possible to do it. The strives that the engineers have made in the last 25 years are astonishing. The price of a solar panels has dropped 95 percent. That's an astonishing gift, and one that if we were to take full advantage of, we'd be able to make– not a painless, or costless, or easy transition, but it's a transition we could make. That we're not doing it in anywhere near the scale we need to is a reflection of the power of the fossil fuel industry to get in the way of that transition.
So that means what we should be doing is building the movements necessary to break the power of the fossil fuel industry. We can't outspend them, they have more money than any industry on earth. But that's not the only currency the world works in and in extraordinary moments the currencies of movement, passion, spirit, creativity, sometimes, the willingness to spend one's body and go to jail, those are currencies that count too. And we have to be– we have to be spending them as fast as we can. So we would eliminate all fossil fuel. So we would have no more oil refineries, no more gas pipelines, no more natural gas, no more coal, no more nuclear power, no more biofuels. We don't need it. We can solve the entire problem 100%, and with 100% reliability of the grid with wind, water, and solar.
We're building that movement. I don't know whether it's big enough yet. But we have to put it into action, which is why we're confronting the fossil fuel industry wherever we can, on new infrastructure projects, on their financing through things like divestment. I guess the grand plan, if there is one, is to try and hold down the fossil fuel industry as best we can, to freeze their expansion. A fossil freeze, and at the same time, work and hope for a solar thaw. Personally, I think a carbon tax is a good idea, it's a good start. Because we don't pay the cost of the carbon we add to the atmosphere. We pay the cost of digging up the carbon from the ground and putting in our car. We don't pay the cost of what it does to our planet's climate.
Well, I mean, every economist for a long time has said, one of the first things we should do is put a price on carbon. Clearly, and the way to do it, is this fee and dividend scheme where you put a big price on carbon and rebate the money back to everybody. Because if anybody owns the sky, it's us, not Exxon. That would help, we need a crash scale, World War II scale kind of program to put solar panels on every south facing surface we can find, to put windmills where there's wind. We're technically capable of doing it, but it's going to take money, and will to make it happen. Now, to actually get the thing implemented though, you need capital. So you need capital to buy all the devices, just like you would need capital to buy devices for fossil fuels and plants. And that capital cost would be on the order of about $15 trillion in the United States.
And again though, you have to look at how that cost is spread over time. So this is between now and 2050, we would have the whole infrastructure up. And I would be working hard to make sure that we were transferring sufficient resources north to south to allow this transition to happen where it's needed most, in the poorest countries of the world. These guys need more energy, unlike us. And it's now entirely plausible for them to get it from clean sources, but they need help, you know, technology, to make that happen. In the negotiations at Paris this year, probably the most important question will be actually not over targets and timetables, it will be over financing for the transition in poor parts of the world. Those are decisions we have to make together as a society. And the answers are not in the scientists pocket. We don't have the answers– you know, we can tell you about the ice sheets changing, but we can't really tell you what a carbon tax is going to do to the economy. So remember that when I talk about this, I'm just another citizen.
But the fact is that I think we have to begin to try those kinds of things, because we're probably going to mess up along the way as we try them. But that's not a good reason to do nothing, the alternative of do nothing is the worst thing we can do. If your experience, not your beliefs, not your theoretical understanding, but if your experience is that your food comes from the grocery store and your water comes from the tap, you will defend to the death the system that brought those to you because your life depends on it. If on the other hand, your food comes from a land base and your water comes from a river, you will defend to the death the land base and the river because your life depends on it. And so, that's one of the things that has happened is that we have had our allegiance, our loyalty, and our life dependence transferred away from the living planet and over to this capitalist system. So, you know, we can ask ourselves, well, given the danger of climate change and given that we have adequate solutions with existing technology to supply the energy that we're even using, which is excessive, but we can even supply that through renewable sources, why aren't we doing it? And so the answer is capitalism.
Capitalism is based on profit and inequality, because obviously, some are going to get rich, someone will be poor. So it's based on the system of Inequality, which always means domination. So it is a rule of money. And as the ancient Athenians knew, which many of us apparently don't know, the rule of money is not the rule of the people. Democracy means the rule of the people, oligarchy is often the term used for the rule of money. Oligarchy means the rule of the few, literally. But Aristotle explained, the wealthy are always the few, and the poor are always the many, so the role of the few is a rule of the wealthy. Our lot in life isn't due to God's will, instead it's the market forces. So the market has rewarded the billionaires. The market has punished you, because you're poor. So the market forces are portrayed as some sort of objective force the works for the common good of everyone. But in reality, the market was man made. It was created by human beings and it's manipulated by the rich to serve their own interests.
So they basically run the government through their lobbyists, and they deregulate their own industries. They create rules which will enrich themselves. They create policies which requires the government to buy services from them to enrich themselves further. So this market force which serves as kind of a moral– the moral basis of capitalism kind of contributes to the role of capitalism as a kind of a religious force. It's very hard for people to get past that. In fact, many, many people, I would say, probably most people, can more easily imagine the end of the world than they can imagine the end of capitalism. And you know our whole political system is one of bribery. I mean, contributions, contributions are bribery unless their small. If I give five dollars to a senator, obviously, I don't think I'm going to have access and control, and so that's not bribery. Because I'm not going to get anything from my $5, and I know it. And same people give ten dollars or– but the people who give thousands and thousands, this is bribery.
They're saying, I'm giving you money if you pass the laws I want. But it's legal bribery, though some of it is illegal too. The Congress is a perfect reflection of who paid for it. I mean, when there's a vote on something like the Keystone Pipeline, if you tell me in advance how much money each of these guys got from the fossil fuel industry, I can predict with unerring accuracy how they'll vote. It's a better predictor than party identification or region or anything else. But there's also a lot of just pure misinformation put out there. There are groups and organizations often funded buy oil companies, who make it a business to collect information, distort it, and submit it out to the public. There's no shortage of folks like that. So there's a lot of disinformation out there, as well. As we switch off fossil fuel, we will be moving in interesting new directions.
The sun and the wind are omnipresent but diffuse. We all have some. And that means that we can power ourselves close to home. We're no longer dependent on the richest people in the world who became the richest people in the world because they happen to live over deposits of coal or gas or oil. We begin to upend the balances of power. I mean, the richest men in the world is the two Koch brothers, taken together, an oil and gas fortune. They used that oil and gas money, about $100 billion, to dominate our political life. They just announced they'd spend $900 million on the next presidential election, more than the Republican Party or the Democratic Party, Koch brothers: party of two. I don't think electoral politics is a way out, because you basically have two parties which are the two halves of the capitalist party.
They both serve Wall Street, they both serve the same masters. The problem with climate change is that it's not in the end a political adversary. It's not Democrats versus Republicans or industry versus environmentalist. Those fights are important, but the basic fight is human beings against physics. Physics is poor negotiator, it isn't cutting us any slack, we don't get points for spin. This culture is systematically, and fundamentally, and I would say, psychologically, and psychopathically, based on a refusal to acknowledge or accept limits. And there could be no limits on– I mean, the whole point of this culture is to boldly go where no man has gone before. And there could be no limits on so-called technological progress.
There could be no limits on the number of humans there are. There could be no limits on our influence over the planet. There could be no limits on, essentially on our behavior. And I've thought a lot, I've written a lot about cash and money. And I've just written some about it. I think money is really interesting in that, let's say that I'm going to attempt to acquire resources, and we don't have a cash economy. And I'm going to acquire say, all the fish. The thing is, the fish are going to rot. But there's a great thing about money, which is it doesn't rot, and you can accumulate infinite amounts of it. And it– because it's entirely abstract, it means you can keep accumulating essentially forever. Even if you were going to try to accumulate gold or something that doesn't rot, there still is a physical limit as to how much you could get. There's five times as much carbon underground in known proven reserves around the world as we can afford to burn without going over the two degrees Celsius limit that I mentioned a little while ago and which has been embraced internationally as a sort of a red line not to cross. That means we would have to leave at least 80% of it underground, untouched.
Well how much is that 80% worth? Well it's around 20 trillion dollars, give or take. So does anybody seriously believe that Wall Street is going to give up 20 trillion dollars just to save the planet? Fossil fuel industry gets huge subsidies and has for a couple of hundred years. So they have this huge built up pile of money, infrastructure. And you know, you can list sort of the easy ways in which they get subsidized, the annual depreciation allowance, all those kinds of things. The biggest subsidies are things like they're allowed to use the atmosphere as an open sewer for free, unlike any other industry. And they get all the rest of us to pay for defending the supply lines. I mean, nobody's under any illusion that we would have bothered to go fight wars in Iraq and places like that had there not been oil somehow involved in the whole equation. If this was a nation that ran on solar energy, what would we care about Saudi Arabia? Guys, whatever.
Have you ever noticed that when you look at any article in the mainstream press about the extinction or about the endangerment of some creature, you– it always has to come back to its economic value? Every time there'll be these extraordinary articles about– oh like, there was one about how basically the deep oceans, even the deep oceans are being significantly harmed by this culture. And after talking about that for a while, it said, while it may not seem like they have commercial value, but there are commercially viable fish down there. I was like, for God sake, you're talking about the vast majority of the space of this actual planet. This water planet is being harmed by this culture and the only thing you care about how it affects your pocketbook. Part the problem is with the tremendous voracious appetite we have for stuff, is that were decimating much of the plant life on Earth and particularly deforesting in Southeast Asia, Indonesia, in the Amazon, in Africa.
And so people forget, not get too complex, but fully 20% of global warming is deforestation, because that CO2 is no longer being taken up by the forest that we're consuming for toilet paper in China. What we need to figure out is– the biggest challenge therefore comes in places with relatively stable populations, like China, but who are starting to consume like Americans, OK? The planet clearly probably can't deal with one continent consuming like Americans and definitely can't deal with three or four consuming that way. You know, trash, toxins, all kinds of waste is necessary to maximize profit. So when things are produced, it's cheaper to produce them without protecting the environment than it is with protecting the environment. There's 100 billion tons of junk mail each year in the United States alone.
And that junk mail which we all– you know, we pick up in the mailbox, we toss it in the trash as soon as we walk in the house, that 100 billion tons of junk mail generates 51 million tons of greenhouse gases each year. So it's just– it's all over the place. Overproduction, waste, it's endemic to the capitalist system. States, many states in the United States are facing the choice between clean drinking water and fracking. And this was presented according to the article as a dilemma. And they said scientists response are mixed. I said, are you kidding? This is– it's a dilemma to choose whether to have drinking water that you need to survive, or fracking. That's how much these techniques control our lives. Is that that's how the Japanese Energy Minister can say that, "Oh, we can't imagine living without electricity." The electricity is in charge, it's no longer us in charge.
So, the first thing to observe about green capitalism is that it has been a failure, and a spectacular failure so far. So even with the advent of solar panels and wind turbines and green products of all sorts, global carbon emissions keep going up. Somewhere in the last, say 20 to 30 years, environmentalism has had a dramatic shift for the worse. And it used to be that environmentalism was really about protecting places and beings. Various, you know, somebody would love salmon, they try to protect them. Somebody else loves the Grand Canyon, so they try to protect that. And somewhere along the way it shifted from being about protecting wild places and beings to sustainability. And sustainability doesn't mean sustaining a planet, it means sustaining this culture that's killing the planet. You know, it's true that an electric car is less polluting when you drive it. It's much more efficient, especially if you supply the electricity from renewable energy sources. But it turns out that about half of the carbon footprint of a car, that is to say the amount of carbon released into the atmosphere by the existence of a car comes at the point of manufacturing the car.
So electric cars have a carbon footprint too, through their manufacturing. They're better than the gasoline cars, it's true. But because of the nature of capitalism, because of its need to expand and find expanding markets, the selling these cars in China and India all around the world is likely to make things worse, rather than better. What we really need is this first rate mass transportation systems. It's like, what do salmon need to survive. What they need is for industrial logging to stop, they need for industrial fishing to stop, they need for the murder of the oceans to stop, they need for global warming stop, which means they need for the oil economy to stop, and they need for dams to be removed. Those are all straightforward technical things. Does that mean they're easy? No. But they're straightforward technical things.
When people say, I hope salmon survive, what they're saying is, I hope salmon survive without a stop to industrial logging, without a stop to industrial fishing, without a stop to– without taking out dams, without a stop to global warming. We can say the same thing about global warming. When people say, gosh, I hope global warming doesn't exist. It's like, what will it take to stop what warming? Well, the industrial economy needs to stop. So if we really want to reach zero emissions across the world, that's going to take extraordinary measures that go far beyond just renewable electricity generating plants, solar panels and wind turbines. So even if we generated the entire– all the world's electricity through renewable sources, we would still be killing ourselves because only about 25% of global carbon emissions come from electricity and heating. The other 75% comes from other sources, so it comes from a variety of other sources. It comes from industry, it comes from transportation, its comes from agriculture and land use.
So the changes have to go across the entire global economy if we're serious about staying below two degrees Celsius by the end of the century, and certainly after that, too. So that means industries are just going to have to be shut down, like it's not just the oil, gas, and coal extraction, but manufacturing of all sorts, paper products. The third biggest industry in the world is packaging, after energy and food. So you don't think about all the things that you buy, they come in boxes are too big for the thing that it holds. That's part of marketing, you know, they make the boxes bigger on purpose so it looks like there's more stuff inside. So all that stuff you throw away, you buy something in the pharmacy or the grocery store, or something, and there's all kinds of paper you throw away.
I mean all kinds of industries like this, wasteful industry, just have to be shut down or scaled way, way back. And other industries have to be open. So there's really no way around socializing the major industries and coordinating production with a view towards the carbon emissions that these industries cause. And this now not– it's not really a moral imperative, so much as a survival imperative. Oh well, what is socialism? So socialism is, at least the Marxist kind, is that you cannot have real freedom if you're a slave, or an underdog, or a servant. So you have to abolish class distinctions. Because for Marx, what constitutes a class is how much money it has, its role towards the means of production, means of production is what people work on and with machinery, the Earth and all that, that has to be communal. And you can have one class that dominates the economy and produces only for its own profit, because what capitalism is, you produce for profits.
If it's not profitable, you're not going to produce it. The idea of communism, or socialism, is the opposite. You produce for need. What human beings need, then you manage to produce. And what are luxuries, are superfluities, things I think are needless armaments, you don't produce that, because it's not a question of profit. It's a question of what human beings need. I don't think capitalism exists because– inevitably because of human nature. I think that there's a range of behaviors in human nature. And that range is manifested not only in a single individual, but across the entire population of human beings. And what capitalism does is it rewards the worst aspects of human nature. So it rewards greed, it rewards aggressiveness in pursuit of the greed, to the extent that wars are almost unavoidable under capitalism.
Now I'm not saying that capitalism causes all wars, because there were wars before capitalism existed. But there are certain kinds of wars, which are almost unavoidable under capitalism, and those are resource wars. So, for example, the US invasion of Iraq in 2002 was for the oil. Rousseau had a wonderful passage about what would we think of a society where the interests of every man is opposed to the interests of every other man, where the good luck of every man requires the misfortune of his fellow man. And yeah, if I can only win if you lose, then what kind of attitudes are we going to have towards each other? So capitalism engenders animosities and hatred and stifles any compassion. I'm sorry, but I have to destroy your forest, but it's profitable. I don't care where you'll live afterwards, that's not my problem. So when money– in fact, I quote Rousseau again, it says "when profit is the only imperative, is it always more profitable to be a rascal.
" Best case scenario is that we have the– we have habitat for humans on the planet in 2040. That's the best case scenario for humans. Best case scenario for non-human species and for humans in non-industrial cultures is complete collapse of industrial civilization as rapidly as possible. Our planet can, and the human beings on this planet can survive more or less intact with many of the technologies that we admire right now intact using renewable energy resources, primarily solar, and wind, and maybe tides, and so forth, but only if the population of the world is reduced by 90%. That's my estimate and some other people's estimate of what population would be supported by renewable energy resources, really tapping in to them. But you know, you can lose 90% of the population over a couple of centuries just by cutting way down on the birth rate. What I think's going to happen? What do I honestly think's going to happen? I think that this culture is going to continue to grind away until there's nothing left but ashes and dust. And we also famously have this global warming technique, which commonly people say, the end of the world.
It's not the end of the world, you know, I mean, it's a problem. It's a huge problem for us, a huge problem for civilization. But it's by no means the end of the world. The world doesn't care. The world will totally recover from all of this. I assume we will burn every drop of coal in the planet. We probably won't burn all of it, but a large amount of it. And eventually on a timescale of thousands of years, that will be removed from the atmosphere. So it– it's our problem, not the Earth's problem. When the average temperature of the Earth goes not 1.6 degrees but four degrees, six degrees, if it goes to 10 degrees, much of the earth will be uninhabitable, all right? So at that point, you can definitely put your head between your legs and kiss your tukas goodbye.
So worst case scenario is we kill everything on the way out the door, and I mean everything. A six degree temperature increase, six degrees Celsius, which is about 11 degrees Fahrenheit, could result in an extinction level event for humanity. There may be a few lucky individuals who would survive it, maybe a billionaire finds a deep hole to dig in Antarctica or something and stores supplies. But it would be the end for most of us. Human beings are just not well suited to live in that kind of a situation. Sea levels going up to 240 feet, when that happens we have this stagnant world, hydrogen sulfide starts rising. How fast does it take, how fast from where we are now? If we hit 1,000 parts per million, and we're at 400 now, the fossil record tells us that the probability is we're going to go into this hydrogen sulfide world. At the rate we're doing this, that's about 200 years at most, and at the rate we're changing and increasing in population, it could be as little as 100 years where hit 1,000 parts per million.
The notion of near term human extinction certainly adds clarity to what's important in life. And is it depressing? Yes. I don't think humans are going to go extinct, we're a resourceful bunch and at least the richest among us will figure out ways to keep going. But that doesn't seem to me to be the issue. We're going to take a lot of DNA out along the way, biologists think half the species on the planet could go out this century. And we're going to do in incredible numbers of the poorest and most vulnerable people on Earth, most of whom have done nothing to contribute to the problem we now face. If you're a family member of the 5 million people a year who die early deaths because of climate change, you're already feeling it. No, I don't think it's going to be too late for humans. Humans are an incredibly tenacious species with all kinds of ways of getting by.
And they are all over the planet living in some far, far places and in some very unpromising environments, and doing sometimes fairly well. So no, that's not what we're going to– we're not going to lose human beings, unfortunately. What we're going to lose is a lot of species, of other species and a lot of stuff in the ocean. And then things will, you know– you've read about the six extinctions, or the five previous extinctions, they all came back. Even the ones where life on Earth was reduced to some fairly simple organisms, they do come back. So no, it's not an end of humanity, but it is a reduction of, and a loss maybe, of a lot of technology, and information, and science that might come about if things got really weird. I think as a socially progressive ideology, we want to try to help everybody. I mean, we want to embrace humanity as a whole and try to create a system where we can all live. I mean, population is a problem, it should go down. I agree, it should decrease. But not through this kind of Mad Max dystopian futures where you have a few deep green resistance types who are trying to live off meadows and then you've got raiding, you know, right wing gun fanatics who go and steal their food and there's no civilization there, so they got that.
But it's not a very attractive kind of future. One also has to look underfoot, and in their backyard, to say, well, what are the environmental problems? They're not the same here as they are in East Asia or many other parts of the world where environmental problems and social problems are right in your face all the time. They're not in our face here, which is why so many Americans go about their lives heedlessly at the moment. But the changes that are coming seem to be pretty inevitable. When you have sustenance level living, you are not thinking too much about major global problems, you're worried about your kids. It's too many kids, to many mouths to feed. Parents will do anything they need to do to keep their kids fed. Now from day to day, most people are just trying to survive. Trying to put a roof over their head.
Their education level is not necessarily high, doesn't mean their intelligence is not high. But how much time do they have for global warming, you know, when they're trying to feed their family, look for a job in a sinking economy? Fighting off Al Qaeda Poor people are in the Middle East. And so, you know, you have to– to us, it seems the most compelling issue. But for most people, there are many, many issues. But remember, this issue will tend to override everything else and guide all the rest of these issues. I mean, we don't know how much longer before we have such disasters in floods, or droughts, or whatever, which we already starting to feel. And whether that can be counteracted in time, that's a very iffy question. And so it's hard to be optimistic, but we have to act as if something can be done because we can't just lay back and let disaster overwhelm us.
It looks to me like there's still time. You know, there's 20 years or so where we can really try to turn things around and save ourselves. And I can't think of anything better to do than try. I mean, if you just take the point of view that we're doomed, then why get out of bed in the morning? You know, I mean, why send these emails saying that we're doomed, if there's really literally nothing that can be done? It's both a– it's an unprecedented threat, but it's also an unprecedented opportunity, because it has the potential to bring us together. It intensifies all struggles for justice. Economic, ecologic, civil rights, human rights, you name it, every issue out there is intensified by the climate struggle. I think if we change our culture to the point where people are really concerned about climate change and understand it it's completely possible to address and deal with it, then I think the politicians will probably have no choice but to follow.
You know, I think the hopeful analogies in our time are the ways in which things like gay marriage became– quickly went from being impossible to contemplate to being so obvious that only the most troglodyte stand up against it. This is harder, because there's more money involved, you know? But, the stakes are high enough that it's worth the fight to find out if we can do it. So things can change– if you look back in history, things don't change gradually, they change suddenly. Take the American Revolution, that was a sudden change within the British empire, or the Russian Revolution of 1917. Things can change much faster than you imagine, and because of that, it's very important to have ideas out on the table for the aftermath. How do we get from here to a global green New Deal that solves the climate crisis and the economic crisis in one fell swoop? We do that by standing up and using the residual, you know, the vestiges of democracy that we still have. We still do have a democracy, they do everything to tilt the playing field.
I mean, one of the problems of environmentalism is I think a lot of us don't know what we want. Do we want this culture we continue? Do we want for there to be photovoltaics on every rooftop? What do we want? And I'm very clear what I want. What I want is for there to be more wild salmon every year than the year before. What I want is for there to be less dioxide in every mother's breast milk every year than the year before. I want for there to be more wild fish in the oceans every year than the year before. I want for there to be more migratory song birds every year than the year before. I want there to be more newts every year in the world than there was a year before. I want for there to be more frogs every year than there was the year before. We have such a steep hill to climb to be seen, to be on the ballot, to be heard, to participate in debates, et cetera. It's so difficult to be a third party in the US, that's forced many of us parties to come together.
So the greens have sort of encompassed a broad agenda of the left and of independent politics to some extent, of libertarian and civil liberties, kinds of thinking as well. There's no reason that we couldn't have all kinds of social services, and especially in the United States. We have a productive capacity to give everyone free medical care, free education through the PHD Level, mass transportation as I said, we can make sure people have places to live, all this is easily within grasp of our productive capacity. And we could do this with a low carbon footprint. Fewer emergency room visits, fewer hospitalizations, less respiratory illness, less cardiovascular disease, less asthma, and temperatures will just be more stable on a global scale, when people realize these benefits, in addition to the direct financial benefits of stabilizing energy prices and the job creation, they'll be on board.
So I think right now it's more an education issue, because most people just aren't aware what is possible. We need to put people and planet over profit. You know, I think sort of fundamentally, that's what Eco-socialism is about. And I think that is also fundamentally what the Green Party is about, that if we want the planet to survive, we need a political and economic system that puts people, planet, and peace over profit. And right now we don't have that. I just an email from Lawrence[inaudible] the other day. He said, I think the answer Gary, is a civil ecological socialism. So you have to put some other label with socialism to say that socialism might work. The resistance to socialism is not necessarily a bad resistance, its resistance to too much organization of the state by people who are not tuned in to what everybody else is thinking and doing. So it is a most universal moral rule and it often has a religious basis, but there's no reason why it can't have a secular appeal.
So in that sense it's universal. And what it tells us is not to treat others in the way we don't want to be treated. So if we want good schools for ourselves and our children, we should want good schools for our neighbor. If you want medical care for ourselves, we should want medical care for others. If we don't want to be treated like animals in sub living wages, we should not want to treat anybody like animals and sub living wages. So that's why socialization is a demand for equality, for humanity. Operatively, the real problem is the control of big money over our political discourse, and over our communications system. Because they're forever putting us into pigeon holes and trying to fan the flames of combat between us. But, you know, I've worked with libertarians quite a bit. In fact, we now have a joint legal case against the Commission on Presidential Debates to try to open them up. I don't– I mean, I don't know what sort of system we'll have all at the end of it.
I anticipate we'd still have markets and things. I don't think we're going to have a centrally planned economy. The idea of market, you can only have a transformation– a revolutionary transformation of a society through revolution is essentially correct. I mean we say, that's terrible, people should find a way without– we didn't find a way to start without revolution and we didn't abolish slavery without a civil war. And England has its own civil war to establish a parliamentary system. France, we all know had the French Revolution. The Russians had theirs, the Chinese had theirs, the Cubans had theirs. Confrontation, education's good, but best education's accomplished often in confrontation with the powers that be. The point is that it's not this culture that's hitting bottom, it's everybody else hitting bottom. As this culture is addicted to its power over– and addicted to these authoritarian techniques, addicted to its technologies, addicted to– one of the pro-slavery philosophers in the 1830s wrote that the reason that they couldn't get rid of slavery is because how else would they get the comforts or elegancies on which their entire way of life is based.
And that's really what the arguments against bringing down civilization come to, is that we'll lose our comforts or elegancies. And that's not a good reason to kill the planet. I think that going to jail, for me, it's no fun to spend a few nights in jail, but it's not the end of the world. The end of the world is the end of the world. Is this anarchism or anarchy? Anarchy means real disorder. Anarchism means– actually all it means is societies without the formation of the institution of the state. So what it means, really, is self government. I think complaining about capitalism as a destructive competitive system comes from our intuition that the forager way of life is the right way of life. We evolved as foragers, and deep inside us as a forager still, who wants to live in a world like that? Foragers lived in small communities of 20 to 50 who shared food, who shared resources, who make communal decisions and decided where to go when.
You were free to leave, and so it was nice. But in order for humanity to become larger and more powerful, we had to adopt behaviors that were not forager behaviors. Religion and other forms of culture pressure came in to help us do these things. But at some level we're aware that they aren't natural and they aren't what feels right. And then there's Marshall Sahlins groundbreaking study, called Stone Age economics, in which he said a number of the hunting and gathering cultures of the upper Paleolithic were the original affluent society. They only had to work about 20 hours a week to get the food and materials that they need to live. We didn't have a city on the planet until a few thousand years ago. A city by definition is an area in which humans are overshooting their land base. They require water and food and sometimes clean air and in today's case, fossil fuels to be shipped in to within the city limits.
So we all rely upon several acres, or several hundred acres for our own survival. You live in a city, you just don't know it. There's a lot more in the world then people who are– don't even remember what it was like to have an outhouse. And they think, I couldn't live like that. Well, you can live like that. There's all kinds of ways that people have lived and done very sophisticated little things as they did it all the way through. Does our founding document for this country say, life, liberty, and the pursuit of electricity? No, we lived for two million years, we lived through the early 1960s in this country, in many places without grid-tied electricity. The rural South didn't have electricity– grid-tied electricity until the 1960s, and there were no solar panels. What I've been working toward is to try to develop an anthropological humanist perspective on history.
And I talked about that when I was up at my college the other day, Reed, about a post-human humanism and a new perspective on the whole global project, which is to understand the varieties of human strategies for survival, and not just survival, but for living the good life as they find it in each in their own place. And that is one of the answers that we will come back to as the global type economy crumbles and the high energy use type economy crumbles. And then the questions are what do you lose after that? Which reminds me of Pericles, the famous orator, during the Peloponnesian War where he meant what democracy meant to the Athenians. And among other things he said, when people don't mingle with politics, who don't say they mind your own business. They're failing their business. Their business is to be involved in politics, it is to be involving the arts. So he has asserted the multi-dimensional capacity of the Athenians, which he contrasted to the one dimensional Spartans that they were fighting at the time. So I wrote this poem called "For the Children".
Think of it as the models then of graphs. The raising hills, the slopes of statistics lie before us. The steep climb of everything going up, up, as we all go down. In the next century or the one beyond that, they say, are valleys, pastures. We can meet there in peace, if we make it. To climb these coming crests, one word to you too, you and your children. Stay together. Learn the flowers. Go light. My name is Robin Hanson, I'm an Associate Professor of Economics at George Mason University. I've spent many years thinking about a excessively wide variety of subjects, including the distant future, aliens, big issues like that. So I'm Don Brownlee at the University of Washington. I'm an astronomer. I work on comets and extraterrestrial materials. And I was the principal investigator of the NASA Stardust Mission, which flew out to a comet and grabbed samples of it and brought it back to Earth. Peter Douglas Ward, Professor of Biology and Earth and Space Sciences at the University of Washington, and soon to be Professor of Geobiology at the University of Adelaide, Australia.
My name is Josh Willis, I'm a climate scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. And I study global warming and how the oceans change as a result of human caused climate change. I'm Bill McKibben, a professor here at Middlebury College and the founder of 350.org, which is the first big global grassroots climate campaign. Yeah, hi, I'm Bill Patzert, I'm a climatologist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. I've been working on climate variability and climate change for more than four decades. Sure, I'm Guy McPherson, I'm Professor Emeritus at the University of Arizona. I left the institution about five years ago in despair and disgust. My name is David Klein, I'm a mathematical physicist and a Professor of Mathematics at California State University at Northridge. I'm also the Director of the Climate Science Program on campus.
Well, my name is Roger Carasso. I'm a Professor Emeritus at California State University in Northridge where I taught some 40 years and my special interest was always classical political theory. I'm Derek Jensen, I'm the author of "Endgame", and "A Language Older than words- Culture Make Believe". And I'm a longtime grassroots environmental activist. I'm Mark Jacobson, a Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and director of the Atmosphere Energy Program at Stanford University. I'm Jill Stein, and I'm a candidate for president. I'm Gary Snyder, a melon grower, and a seller of okra and aubergine in one of the remote back country forests. Also, I write poetry sometimes..