The lower manufacturing output associated with the recession has had a tiny curbing effect on global CO2 emissions, buying us a tiny amount of extra time in which to address the climate crisis. That’s the good news, says paleontologist and extinction expert Peter Ward. The bad news is that severe climate change is happening anyway, and its likely impact keeps him awake at night.
Perhaps we shouldn’t feel too guilty about our destructive potential; Ward has famously hypothesized that multicellular life as a whole is suicidal over the long term, and believes that intelligent life might actually provide the only loophole. It would be a shame, though, if we were to finish ourselves off: Ward believes that while other planets in the universe probably do contain intelligent life, they are also likely to be incredibly rare.
How can scientists better sound the alarm, and connect with the public in general? Ward has some ideas about that too, and fondly remembers a late scientist who was one of the best in the field at bringing science to a lay audience.