Thriving on Catastrophe

George Monbiot – 21 June 2023

Round the cycle turns. As millions are driven from their homes by climate disasters, the extreme right exploits their misery to extend its reach. As the extreme right gains power, climate programmes are shut down, heating accelerates and more people are driven from their homes. If we don’t break this cycle soon, it will become the dominant story of our times.

A recent paper in Nature identifies the “human climate niche”: the range of temperatures and rainfall within which human societies thrive. We have clustered in the parts of the world with a climate that supports our flourishing, but in many of these places the niche is shrinking. Already, around 600 million people have been stranded in inhospitable conditions by global heating. Current global policies are likely to result in about 2.7C of heating by 2100. On this trajectory, some 2 billion people may be left outside the niche by 2030, and 3.7 billion by 2090. If governments limited heating to their agreed goal of 1.5C, the numbers exposed to extreme heat would be reduced fivefold. But if they abandon their climate policies, this would lead to around 4.4C of heating. In this case, by the end of the century around 5.3 billion people would face conditions that ranged from dangerous to impossible…