PB July-August 2023 July-August 2023 49
Off the coast of Ireland
for much of June we’re
seeing one of the most
severe marine heatwaves
anywhere on Earth
n the 2020s, as the darkening penumbra of
climate collapse draws ever closer, it takes
a remarkable leap of faith to decide to bring
a new life into the world. After all, a child
born this year or next will still be in their 20s
by 2050, and, all other things being equal, expect
to be alive to see in the 22nd century.
A new study of 5,000 parents in India, Mexico,
Singapore, the United States and the UKfound
that more than half report that concerns about
climate change are aecting their decision as to
whether to have more children.
The research found surprisingly high levels of
concern among these parents about climate
change, with 91% reporting at least some degree
of concern. Unsurprisingly, the single aspect
causing most alarm is rising temperatures, while
water shortages, extreme weather events and
sea level rise were also cited as sources of
In a letter to investors in 2021, investment
giant Morgan Stanley described how the
“movement to not have children owing to fears
over climate change is growing and impacting
fertility rates quicker than any preceding trend in
the field of fertility decline”. People are, you
might say, voting with their foetuses.
“Every child had a pretty good shot, to get at
least as far as their old man got”, went the lyrics
to Billy Joels ‘Allentown’, a dirge to the US rust
belt and the despair of the abandoned working
Choosing to become a parent is an act of faith
in the future, broadly underpinned by the
universal myth of progress, the belief that,
despite setbacks and diculties along the way,
the future remains bright, and there for our
children to inherit, “if they work hard, if they
behave”, as Joel wrote.
In many respects, the promise of the future has
indeed delivered. Who in 1980 could ever have
imagined that one day wed all have mobile
phones, let alone the internet, on-demand video
or digital music libraries that put millions of
songs, all on an advanced computer that fits in
your pocket.
“Any sufficiently advanced technology is
indistinguishable from magic”, as the author and
futurologist Arthur C Clarke memorably put it. I
am just about old enough to remember the
absolute magic of seeing colour television for the
first time. For other generations, the arrival of
radio, the phonograph, the telephone, telegraph
and the automobile were all in their own way
A century and more of breath-taking
technological progress has delivered the
glittering baubles of modernity, but it has turned
out to be the ultimate Faustian bargain, and now
the devil, in the form of incipient climate and
ecological collapse, is at our doorstep to demand
his pound of flesh.
It’s a little over 20 years since I first became a
parent. At the time, I was blissfully unaware of the
dire condition of the biosphere. It was quite
possible in the Ireland of the 1990s and into the
early 2000s to not encounter anything on TV or in
the papers around climate change, unless you
were already aware of it and actively looking out
for it.
Once my first child was born, I was in a very real
sense connected to the mid-to-late 21st century,
an unknown country that previously had never
cost me a thought. The future had arrived, and
that rudimentary awareness in turn set me on the
path that has come to dominate my life in ways
that the 2002 version of me would have scarcely
As I write, there is a massive sea-surface-
temperature anomaly covering the 40 million
square kilometres of the North Atlantic, with
temperatures to a depth of 20 metres a
Voting with their foetuses
After a century of breath-taking
technological progress the
devil, in the form of climate and
ecological collapse, demands his
pound of flesh.
By John Gibbons
mind-boggling 1.3C above the 1982-2011 mean.
O the west and north-west coast of Ireland for
much of June, what has been described as one of
the most severe marine heatwaves anywhere on
Earth has been occurring.
NOAA’s Marine Heatwave Watch has
categorized this event as a Category 4 (extreme)
marine heatwave. This provides the fuel for
devastating storm systems and extreme flooding
events, as witnessed in parts of Ireland with
torrential downpours and so-called once-in-500-
year flooding events.
The amount of energy required to heat a
molecule of water is 10,000 times greater than
the energy required to heat the same amount of
air. To put this in context, last year, the world’s
oceans heated up an amount equal to the energy
of five of Hiroshima-sized bombs detonating
underwater every second for 24 hours a day,
every day. That’s the energy equivalent of around
160 million Hiroshimas accumulating in the
oceans last year. The climate bomb is primed.
The bubble of climate complacency that has
existed for many in the ‘developed’ world was
popped with recent confirmation from the World
Meteorological Organisation that Europe is now
the fastest-warming continent. Yes, thats where
we live.
The summer of 2022 was Europe’s hottest in at
least 500 years, and worse, much worse is to
come. This is, quite literally, one hell of a world
we are leaving as an inheritance to our children
and theirs.


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