A new book, The Climate Pandemic: How Climate Disruption Threatens Human Survival, concludes that humans will not survive the unrelenting onslaught of climate disruption.
“As horrific as the COVID-19 pandemic has been, its effects pale in comparison to the coming catastrophe from climate disruption,” wrote author and veteran science writer Dennis Meredith. “In fact, the climate pandemic will steadily worsen, even bringing our species to extinction, unless we launch a global revolution to abandon our carbon-dependent energy system.
“Given the evidence in this book, I see only a vanishingly small possibility of such a revolution. And I do not see a pathway for our species’ survival,” he wrote. “However, it is my fervent hope that those who read this book will somehow see such a pathway. I even hope that they will identify flaws in my reasoning and/or my interpretation of the science that will render my opinion invalid.
“I must emphasize that my agonizing conclusion did not arise from my own personal predilection,” Meredith wrote. “Rather, it emerged from the vast trove of credible research detailed in this book documenting the devastation to the global environment that we are causing. I do not consider myself an advocate for this conclusion, but rather its reluctant messenger.”
The most comprehensive book on climate disruption, The Climate Pandemic explores the science, technology, politics, economics, and psychology of climate disruption. It includes an extensive bibliography of references on climate disruption, with more than 1,700 hyperlinked entries. These include peer-reviewed scientific papers, books, and reports from government and international agencies and scientific associations.
“I recognize that, in the words of Carl Sagan, ‘Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence,’” wrote Meredith. “So, in this heavily referenced book, I have sought to document the evidence for the extraordinary claim that we face extinction. My journalistic approach has been: ‘Don’t take my word for it.’
“I hope the book and the resources it offers serve to inform researchers and policymakers about the daunting scientific, economic, and political realities of climate disruption,” wrote Meredith. “I have read so many articles and books in which the authors propose climate-rescue policies that are little more than vague, naive hand-waving, with little understanding of those realities.”
Meredith wrote that “I did have an intense debate with myself about whether to write a book that would so severely disrupt the comfortable shared fiction that humans will somehow manage to prevail in the climate pandemic.
“In the end, I decided that those who need the truth should have it. So, this book tells a hard, even devastating, truth—a really inconvenient truth, if you will.” He warned readers that “If you are not prepared to confront this truth, do not read this book.”
In writing the book, “I discovered to my surprise that much of what I believed about climate disruption were myths,” wrote Meredith. Among those myths are that current plans to limit global heating will help avoid climate catastrophe, he wrote.
For one thing, “The benchmark temperatures used in climate policymaking . . . are political numbers not scientific numbers,” wrote Meredith. “Their scientific provenance is highly dubious. The conveniently round numbers might even be considered scientifically dishonest because scientists don’t really know the consequences of each increase. But for political expediency, they pretend that they do.”
Another myth, according to the book, is that decarbonizing the global energy system—for example, increasing renewable energy or capturing carbon dioxide from power plants—will reduce or eliminate carbon pollution.
“The realistic outlook for decarbonization, however, reveals it to be a delusion borne of desperation and ignorance,” wrote Meredith.
The book’s exploration of the science of climate disruption covers underlying mechanisms of climate-driven heat waves, megadroughts, wildfires, floods, and superstorms; as well as the human impacts of climate disruption, including increased toxicity and disease, famine, migration, war, and societal collapse.
The Climate Pandemic also explains how the media, scientists, environmentalists, corporations, and politicians have failed to help mitigate climate disruption; the psychological barriers that have prevented people from acting to mitigate climate disruption; how climate “de-nihilists” have sabotaged solutions; and how climate advocates have promoted a "nostrum" of false hope.
Meredith dubs as “illusory panaceas” the Paris Agreement, renewable energy, carbon capture, geoengineering, and nuclear power.
“Some might see the dark future of climate disruption as an excuse to indulge in our most selfish, destructive impulses—continuing to plunder the Earth for our own benefit,” wrote Meredith. “However, one hopes that our better angels would prevail; that in the twilight of our species we would instead seek solace in environmental good works—in essence, palliating our planet.
“As we cycle among the stages of grief, we could give our lives meaning by offering our time, money, and effort to the organizations and causes that work toward mitigating climate disruption.”
Meredith, 76, served over his career as a public information officer at the Universities of Wisconsin and Rhode Island, MIT, Caltech, Cornell, and Duke. He is author of nonfiction books including Explaining Research: How to Reach Key Audiences to Advance Your Work (Oxford 2021), as well as science thriller novels. He also consults on research communication and conducts communication workshops for researchers. He is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and a member of the Society of Environmental Journalists and the National Association of Science Writers.