This chapter reviews our existing state of knowledge on the threshold behavior of Earth’s climate system, and examines fluctuations in weather system attributed to greenhouse-induced climate change. The chapter posits that the extreme perturbations observed in natural physical systems provide “weak indicators” of nontrivial losses from climate change. Even when conclusive scientific proof of the precise nature and extent of losses in the future may be patchy, and may fall short of providing the necessary conditions for justifying strong interventions, the “weak indicators” may provide the sufficient conditions for regulation. The notion of “precautionary principle” is invoked in this regard to argue that when probabilities of catastrophic losses are nonzero, no matter how small they are, it is sensible to err on the side of caution.
For the first time humans dominate Planet Earth. We are changing the composition of gases in the atmosphere, its bodies of water, and the complex web of species that makes life on Earth. This historical development emanates from the globalization of markets since World War II following the creation of the Bretton Woods institutions in 1945, and gave birth to a new geological period called the Anthropocene, which started in 1945 and can now be read in rock formations. This originates in the unprecedented use of natural resources in the period, based on international between poor developing nations, which are the main exporters of resources, and industrial nations that import and consume most of the world resources, causing most global environmental damage to the atmosphere, the world’s biodiversity, and its bodies of water and an ever increasing wealth differential between a rich North and a poor South. This chapter examines the challenges the situation creates to human survival and possible solutions, building on the role of the carbon market introduced by the author into the UN Kyoto Protocol in 1997 that became international law in 2005. Similar markets for global resources such as water and biodiversity were officially proposed in 2011 to the United Nations Economic Commission for Asia and the Pacific by the author together with new mechanisms to resolve the divide between poor and rich nations in the global climate negotiations while closing the carbon cycle through carbon-negative technologies. Two key policies were introduced into the UN Clean Development Mechanism in Copenhagen COP 15 by the author, carbon-negative carbon capture and a US$200 billion/year Green Power Fund based on the carbon market to build carbon-negative power plants in Latin America Africa and Small Island States to accelerate economic development while decreasing carbon in the atmosphere. Both initiatives have become or are becoming international law. The overall vision proposed here is the pursuit of Basic Needs policies and the implementation through green markets of Sustainable Development, proposed in the 1970s by the author and more recently required by the G-20 in 2009.