October 20th, 2020

Speeding along the Highway to Hell

By Lethbridge Herald Opinon on December 21, 2019.

Climate change nearing the ‘point

of no return’

“The point of no return is no longer over the horizon,” warned UN secretary general Ant—nio Guterres as the 25th climate summit (COP25) opened in Madrid two weeks ago, and the multitude of delegates from more than a hundred countries presumably understood what he meant. But they ignored it anyway.

The “point of no return” arrives in the mid-2030s, when the rising emissions of greenhouse gases (they are still rising, not falling) pushes the amount of carbon dioxide equivalent in the atmosphere up past 450 parts per million. 450 ppm of CO2 drives the average global temperature up past +2?C (two degrees higher than the pre-industrial average) and into runaway.

In diplomatic-speak, what happens then is “dangerous climate change,” but that is actually happening already, with carbon dioxide at 405 ppm and average global temperature “only” 1.1C higher. We are seeing firestorms in Australia, rising sea levels, catastrophic storms and melting glaciers.

What happens at 450 ppm is that the two degrees of warming caused by human beings trigger natural processes (“feedbacks” or “tipping points”) that also cause warming – and once they start, human beings cannot stop them. The Big Three feedbacks are the loss of the Arctic Ocean’s sea ice cover, the melting of the permafrost zone, and the release of vast amounts of CO2 by the warming world oceans.

Guterres called it “the point of no return” because after that we lose control. The warming will then continue even if human beings eventually stop all of their own emissions. We will be trapped on an “up” escalator that delivers us into a world three, four, even five degrees hotter than the pre-industrial average.

That is exactly where the World Meteorological Organization predicts we will be by the end of this century if current promises on emissions cuts are kept, but no more is done. Long before the end of the century that would mean the collapse of food production in the tropics and the sub-tropics, famines and huge refugee flows, mass death.

They never spell these things out at the climate summits, but almost everybody there knows them. And yet, once again, they failed to produce a deal that moves the process forward. The best that can be said is that they stopped a concerted attempt by the biggest emitters, led by Brazil and Australia, to gut the proposed rules for a global carbon market.

How can they be so blind to their own long-term interest in survival? The answer, alas, is that our evolutionary past of human beings has not made human societies good at long-term thinking. Moreover, human politics is dominated by those whose interests will be advanced or damaged by what the government does right now, not in 15 years’ time. Take Australia, for example.

Australia is the driest continent, and as the heat mounts (much of the country is expecting temperatures in the low to mid-40s C this week) the number and scale of bushfires has exploded. The biggest blaze, in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney, has already burned over 400,000 hectares and is still growing.

But Australia is also the world’s biggest exporter of coal, mostly to China and Japan. Coal-mining only employs 38,000 Australians, but it brings in a lot of money, some of which inevitably ends up as political contributions that link the industry with all the Australian political parties.

That’s why, two years ago, Liberal (i.e. conservative) politician Scott Morrison brought a lump of coal into parliament. It was “clean” coal, in the sense that it had been lacquered so that it wouldn’t dirty people’s hands. Morrison passed it around to his parliamentary colleagues saying “Don’t be afraid, don’t be scared, it won’t hurt you. It’s coal.”

ScoMo (as the Australian media have nicknamed Morrison, presumably because it sounds a bit like “scum”), is now prime minister, and as the country burns he continues to deny any link between burning coal and global heating. He offers his “thoughts and prayers” to the victims of the fires, but insists that climate change is only one of “many other factors” in fuelling the bushfires.

Deputy Prime Minister Deputy PM Michael McCormack takes an even more robust line, dismissing climate change as a concern of “raving inner-city lefties.” That will not endear him to the hundreds of families who have been burnt out, but there are millions of families who have not yet lost their homes, so this may still be a viable political position.

Of all the major emitters, only the European Union is taking its responsibilities seriously. The rest range from deeply conflicted countries like China and Canada, both aware that climate change is an existential threat but both hugely dependent on fossil fuels, to the outright deniers like Australia, Brazil, Saudi Arabia and the United States.

So one by one, we are missing all the exits on the Highway to Hell.

Gwynne Dyer’s new book is “Growing Pains: The Future of Democracy (and Work).”

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George McCrea

Yeh especially the exit where all these experts flying in from all over the world get the hell off.

Tris Pargeter

You’d prefer AMATEURS then would you George?
Having a problem with “expertise” means having a problem with humans at their best, along with their skill, knowledge, and judgment, so is pretty much the definition of “anti-intellectual.”
We all went to school with a few of those…. they were often a bit slow on the uptake, but if they were male, that seemed to make them even MORE certain of their opinions I noticed.
And speaking of “getting the hell off,” I have an idea….how about all of you who eschew climate science hop onto an ice floe together, just to prove your point?


If Mr Dyer could be truthful he would not say most all of what he did. For example the EU at large is failing spectacularly to meet their CO2 targets. The USA is actually leading the world in reducing CO2 emission but not by any tax or trade (xc California) just aware organized focus on reducing pollutions of all effluents. This trendy mistruth agenda is becoming typical for Dyer, and the LH publishing him is a big negative to my renewing my subscription this year.

Tris Pargeter

It’s not at all fair to describe Mr. Dyer as “untruthful.” That is NOT what he’s known for in his long career. And just because something has become a “trend,” and therefore the newfangled domain of naïve liberal thinkers, or other versions of the silly and the young, does NOT automatically make it a “mistruth.”
Most of you on this page fancy having the “inside track” on something just because you’ve been around the block a few times; it’s a power thing, needing to ALWAYS be “in the know.”
And if contrary to all reason, well then you pat yourselves on the back for being sage, wise men, with a touch of the “rogue” even.
As it turns our, you could NOT be more wrong, could NOT be more on the wrong side of history. You’re all like the prime minister of Australia.

Duane Pendergast

Disappointing! Mr. Dyer seems to be repeating many of the dire claims made by bobblehead bafflegab’s on the climate issue.

Tris Pargeter

Takes one to know one I guess…

Duane Pendergast

Thanks! Glad you liked it.


The climate has changed since the earth was born. 2/3’s of North America were under a mile of ice 10-15,000 years ago. The Sahara Desert has flipped back and forth from being a desert to grass covered, treed lands with lakes, rivers and streams with fish. Man had nothing to do with it.
There are a growing number of scientists, over 500 now that now ignore the threats of being blacklisted or fired for speaking out against all this climate change hype, openly stating now that man has very little impact on the climate.
All of the space junk surrounding the earth could be throwing the magnetosphere out of flux, as it has been for awhile and the magnetosphere protects the earth from solar storms/winds. Ever noticed the rise in ‘northern lights’? They are from solar winds hitting the earth from the sun CME’s and solar flares!
They carry a variety of rays that impact weather, tectonic activity, oceans and one university study in the US even found it impacts humans physically and in some cases mentally.
The Farmers Alamanac used the solar flares on the sun to predict weather here on earth.
BC also supplies China with a considerable amount of coal, so I am not sure why this article misses that. China emits over 30% of the world GHG’s and if you add China, the US and the EU together you get almost 60% of the world GHG’s emissions.
Canada only emits 1.6% that is one point six percent of the world GHG’s and even if we dramatically and drastically reduce emissions, we can only bring that down to maybe 1.1%! Do the math and ask why Canada is the one under the attacks!
You speak of ‘Highway to Hell’ . . . well maybe you should be on your knees praying, because there is more chance of Armageddon happening right now than all of the hype the fearmongers are pushing!
The prophesies are being fulfilled since Israel became a nation once again in 1948 and more prophesies were fulfilled in 1967 when Jerusalem was reunified with Israel.
The armies of the world are now in the Middle East, as prophesied! I would be more worried about that then this hype being pushed by greedy billionaires and those focused on the Western world being forced into a welfare state for the world!
Highway to Hell . . . for many yes, but not because of man-made climate change!


Here we are at Christmas. A time of hope and joy looking forward to a new year and along comes yet another hobgoblin of doom spreading fear and trembling among the population. I was saddened to hear of school children being incessantly told by teachers that they were essentially doomed to the point that some of the children were screaming ” I don’t want to die” , ” I don’t want to die”
Enough already ! There is one fact often forgotten when trying to blame one single element, namely Co 2, for all the changes in earth’s climate, and that is that almost everything in our lives is cyclical as is the ever changing climate. Blaming one single element in an assumption that from now on we live in a linear world that only goes in one direction makes little sense.
So have a wonderful Christmas and a Happy New Year to all .