By William S. Becker

It seems like a gross overstatement, the kind of thing only fear-mongers say. It is another in a long line of warnings about catastrophes in our future.  It’s the kind of thing that Fox News loves to ridicule – predictions of environmental doom that never come true. Over the years, we’ve heard many times that if we don’t do something about climate change in the next few years, entire nations would be drowned in the sea, masses would starve, resource wars would break out, and so on.

So, it is no surprise that a new study describing the possible collapse of civilization would be greeted with skepticism. Nevertheless, two climate experts in Australia are warning that global warming could end civilization as we know it by mid-century. They are not predicting it; they are saying that this unhappy ending is plausible, caused by the collapse of biodiversity and ecosystems, international resource conflicts, killer heat, massive numbers of climate refugees, the flooding of major coastal cities, and so on.

Think of simultaneous tipping points in which damages to human, economic and environmental systems interact and cause a rapid unraveling of civilization beyond our control.

The authors of the analysis are David Spratt, the director of research for the Breakthrough National Centre for Environmental Restoration, and Ian Dunlop, a former international fossil energy executive, both in Australia. A risk assessor’s job is to identify plausible worst-case scenarios. That’s what Pratt and Dunlop have done, based on the unwillingness or inability of nations to avert more than 2oC of global warming.

As we plunge into the 2020 presidential race here in the United States, the Spratt/Dunlop analysis tells us something important: In word and deed, Donald Trump is the enemy of civilization. We are in an extraordinary situation where one irrational man, without any justification, is completely disarming the United States’ capacity to confront climate change. On top of that, he is helping the U.S. oil and gas industry produce a lot more of the stuff that causes global warming.

It apparently is not enough that Trump is doing this in the United States. While attending a meeting of the G-20 in Japan this week, Trump has been jawboning other world leaders to back off their carbon-cutting commitments under the Paris climate accord. So far, Trump is the only world leader who has stated an intention to back out of the Paris deal.

In other words, Trump is working at home and abroad to make the collapse of civilization not only plausible but more likely. Which is just one reason that the 2020 election cannot come soon enough.