In parts 1 and 2 of this series, we reviewed the origins and evolution of the modern world system through a long historical process of protracted military and economic violence, violence that continues today in the imperial atrocities being committed across diverse strategic peripheries in the Middle East, Central Asia and Northwest Africa.
This global system is hugely destructive of human life. Devoid of the capability to recognize and enact ethical values, it is driven purely by the imperatives of profit, efficiency, growth, and monopoly. Consequently, it is not only destructive of human life; it is destructive of all life, nature, and even itself.
It is now generating multiple crises across the world that over the next 20 years threaten to converge in an unprecedented and unimaginable way, unless we take drastic action now.
These crises can be categorized broadly into four key themes:
2. Peak oil
3. Food scarcity
4. Economic instability
These are summarized below.1. Climate Catastrophe
Industrial civilization derives all its energy from the burning of fossil fuels, pumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The C02 emissions from the industries that drive our economies, our societies, that sustain our infrastructures, are the main engine of global warming in the last few decades. This doesn’t mean that all climate change ever is due to human-induced C02. Scientists know that there are many other factors involved in climate change, such as solar activity, as well as periodic changes in the Earth’s orbit. But they have overwhelmingly confirmed that these are not the primary factors currently driving global warming. The primary factor is C02 emissions induced by human activities.
The origins of climate change are no longer a matter of serious scientific debate. Early in 2007, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reported the findings of a three-year study projecting the rise in temperatures due to global warming by 600 scientists from 40 countries, peer-reviewed by 600 more meteorologists. The report confirmed that human-induced global warming is “unequivocally” happening, and that the probability that climate change was due to human C02 emissions is over 90 per cent.
Indeed, climate scientists last year published the results of the latest research into the relationship between the sun and climate change in the top journal, Nature. The London Times reported on the study as follows:
“Scientists have examined various proxies of solar energy output over the past 1,000 years and have found no evidence that they are correlated with today’s rising temperatures. Satellite observations over the past 30 years have also turned up nothing. ‘The solar contribution to warming... is negligible,’ the researchers wrote in the journal Nature.”So what exactly is likely to happen to the climate at current rates of emissions? According to the IPCC’s first report issued last year, by 2100, the average global temperature could rise by 6.4C, leading to drastic ecological alterations that would make life throughout most of the Earth impossible. This is what is supposed to happen at 6c : “Life on Earth ends with apocalyptic storms, flash floods, hydrogen sulphide gas and methane fireballs racing across the globe with the power of atomic bombs; only fungi survive.” Growing evidence suggests that the IPCC projections are extremely conservative, and that the climate crisis is rapidly growing out of control. According to Dr David Wasdell, a climate expert and an accredited reviewer of the IPCC report, the final report was watered down by Western government officials before release to make its findings appear less catastrophic. Dr Wasdell told the New Scientist (8 March 2007) that early drafts of the report prepared by scientists in April 2006 contained “many references to the potential for climate to change faster than expected because of ‘positive feedbacks’ in the climate system. Most of these references were absent from the final version.” The following IPCC report, however, distilling the research of 2,500 climate scientists, released in November 2007 only confirms that the original projection was too optimistic. To avoid heating the globe by the minimum possible, an average of 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, the world’s spiraling growth in greenhouse gas emissions must end no later than 2015, and must start to drop quickly after that peak. By 2050, carbon dioxide and other atmospheric polluting gases must be reduced by 50 to 85 percent, according to the estimates. But even this is already too late. “We may have already overshot that target,” said David Karoly, one member of the core team that wrote the report. Current emissions already are nearing the limit required in 2015 to limit the warming to 2 degrees Celsius, he added in a media interview from Valencia. But Western governments have known about this danger for years. At the June 2005 UK government conference on “Avoiding Dangerous Climate Change” at the Met Office in Exeter, scientists reported an emerging consensus that global warming must remain “below an average increase of two degrees centigrade if catastrophe is to be avoided”, which means ensuring that carbon dioxide in the atmosphere stays below 400 parts per million. Beyond this level, dangerous and runaway climate change is likely to be irreversible.  About two weeks after the government conference warned of this minimum threshold, the Independent commissioned an investigation by Keith Shine, head of the meteorology department at the University of Reading. Using the latest available figures (for 2004), Professor Shine calculated that “the CO2 equivalent concentration, largely unnoticed by the scientific and political communities, has now risen beyond this threshold.” Accounting for the effects of methane and nitrous oxide, he found that the equivalent concentration of C02 is now 425ppm and fast rising, guaranteeing that the global mean temperature will rise by 2 degrees. Consequently, some of the worst predicted effects of global warming, such as the destruction of ecosystems and increased hunger and water shortages for billions of people in the South, may well be unavoidable. When asked about the implications, Tom Burke, a former government environment adviser, told the Independent: “The passing of this threshold is of the most enormous significance. It means we have actually entered a new era -- the era of dangerous climate change. We have passed the point where we can be confident of staying below the 2 degree rise set as the threshold for danger. What this tells us is that we have already reached the point where our children can no longer count on a safe climate.”
According to the US National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) the percentage of Earth’s land area stricken by serious drought more than doubled from the 1970s to the early 2000s, from about 10-15 per cent to 30 per cent, largely due to rising temperatures. Widespread drying occurred over much of Europe and Asia, Canada, western and southern Africa, and eastern Australia. [NCAR Press Release, “Drought’s Growing Reach” (Boulder, Co: National Center for Atmospheric Research, 10 January 2005] Global warming is not only melting the Arctic, it is melting the glaciers that feed Asia’s largest rivers -- the Ganges, Indus, Mekong, Yangtze and Yellow. Because glaciers are a natural storage system, releasing water during hot arid periods, the shrinking ice sheets could aggravate water imbalances, causing flooding as the melting accelerates, followed by a reduction in river flows. This problem is only decades, possibly even years away, resulting in hundreds of millions of Africans and tens of millions of Latin Americans who have water, being short of it, most likely in less than 20 years. By 2050, more than 1 billion people in Asia could face water shortages, and by 2080, water shortages could threaten 1.1 billion to 3.2 billion people. Some climate models show sub-saharan Africa drying out by 2050. 2. Peak Oil
There is yet another crisis emerging, which is also linked to our addiction to burning fossil fuels. That is the energy crisis. Today, the most prominent energy source is, of course, conventional oil. Here in the UK, from where I’m now writing, 90 per cent of our energy comes from conventional oil, gas and coal, but primarily oil. Without these energy supplies, civilized life in the UK would simply collapse. Transportation, agriculture, modern medicine, national defence, water distribution, and the production of even basic technologies would be impossible. This formula applies across the board, throughout western industrial civilization.
The basic rules for the discovery, estimation and production of petroleum reserves were first laid down by the world renowned geophysicist Dr. M. King Hubbert. Hubbert pointed out that as petroleum is a finite resource, its production must inevitably pass through three key stages: