Opinion Lectorinfabula Festival 2022

Will the climate crisis lead to the end of humanity?

"Universal Judgement"is the theme of this year's 18th edition of the international cultural festival Lectorinfabula, which takes place on 19-24 September in Conversano (southern Italy). Voxeurop is, as every year, a partner. On this occasion we publish a contribution by Thierry Vissol, director of the Librexpression centre, member of the festival's organisation and of Voxeurop's technical committee.

Published on 24 September 2022 at 16:55

For the first time in its long history, humanity is in real danger of extinction. Perhaps
the recklessness of homo sapiens even makes it inevitable.

The fear of the end of the world has been part of humanity's cultural heritage since
prehistoric times. Ever since Hippocrates, the relationship between climate variability
and subsequent disasters for people has been the subject of analysis and debate.
The relationship between climate and human activities was a major political issue
long before the industrial revolution. Two main questions emerged: were these
climatic changes spontaneous? Or did they result from the effects of human action?

Some of the proposed solutions will have only a marginal effect, while others
are nothing more than greenwashing, based on technologies that do not yet exist or
that are difficult to implement and dangerous. This is the basis of the “energy
transition”, “green growth” (including in electric vehicles), and "carbon neutrality" –
proposed for 2050 by the multinationals, which are responsible for 70% of
greenhouse gasses. The latest IPCC report (February 2022) predicts that
temperatures will have risen by 1.5°C by 2030, a rise that could reach 3.5 to 5°C by
2100 if nothing is done.

For several decades now, systematic studies of the climate and its history have
made it possible to answer yes to both questions. There is no denying the average
rise in temperature (+1.2°C) since the end of the "little ice age" around 1850, and we
are feeling its increasingly devastating effects. Of course, it is difficult to assess the
exact proportion of the rise attributable to astronomical causes, as compared to
anthropogenic ones. Yet it is undeniable that technical progress, urbanisation,
intensive agriculture and deforestation have always had an impact on the climate –
just not to the extent that they have since 1950. There are three main reasons for
this change.

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The first is that, despite the 26 COPs – Conferences of the 197 signatories to the
non-binding 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change
(UNFCCC
) – temperatures and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are still rising. No
country is meeting its commitments to reduce GHG emissions to below 2°C, and “if
possible” (sic!) to 1.5°C, as agreed in Paris (2015) and reasserted in Glasgow
(2022).


The voracity of economic systems and the lure of profit are the self-destructive
forces of our coercive and plundering societies


The second reason is twofold: the existence of cascading and feedback effects, and
the tremendous inertia of climate processes. Even if the right decisions on GHG
emissions were taken today, the effects would only be felt, at best, in a century. The
relationship between temperature increases and extreme weather events is not
linear, but exponential.


The third reason is that humanity has embarked – with its eyes closed – on the path
towards a totally digital and interconnected society that is even more interdependent
than it already had been since the industrial revolution. In addition to the impact on
individual freedoms – that of expression in particular – this involution presents
extreme risks. In the worst-case scenario the new civilisation could collapse. In a
better eventuality, societies could split between those in control and those who are
controlled.

Interdependence and hyperspecialisation

The Covid crisis, and then the war in Ukraine, give a foretaste of the consequences
of such interdependence and hyper-specialisation when these are upset by the
disruption of trade. The resulting cascades of effects and backlashes should make
us cautious about moving towards ever-more interdependent societies that are
dependent on any one invasive and fragile technology.

Cyberspace relies on physical infrastructures: DNS servers, routers, cables,
satellites, etc. Such infrastructure is very complex, difficult to manage and protect,
energy-intensive (7.3% of GHG emissions) and requires constant maintenance. It is
therefore susceptible to systemic failures or destructive attacks that might bring
about the wholesale collapse of our societies.

The voracity of economic systems and the lure of profit are the self-destructive
forces of our coercive and plundering societies. Greed, violence, ignorance,
fanaticism, political short-sightedness, the over-exploitation of available resources
and the competition between great powers and multinationals for access to them –
these are the preconditions of a catastrophe.

The physicist and philosopher Jean-Pierre Dupuy asks the crucial question: "Are we
even capable of believing what we know, of envisaging this spiral of collapse and of
acting to put an end to it?" As things stand, the answer is clearly no. Dupuy
concludes: "Misfortune is our destiny, but a destiny that is only such because men do
not recognise the consequences of their actions."

This year, Voxeurop is once again collaborating with the Lectorinfabula European cultural festival, which takes place from 19 to 24 September in Conversano (Southern Italy).
Among others, we organised a round table on the consequences of the war in Ukraine for Europe, with Ukrainian author Kateryna Mischenko, Bosnian poet Faruk Sehic, Estonian writer Maarja Kangro and Swedish journalist Carl Henrik Fredriksson. It will be moderated by journalist Marina Laovic (RaiNews24).

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