This week brought unprecedented worldwide (media) attention to the dramatic IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5ºC giving humanity a deadline of 2030 to avoid a climate disaster. To cite from the official press release:
The report highlights a number of climate change impacts that could be avoided by limiting global warming to 1.5ºC compared to 2ºC, or more. For instance, by 2100, global sea level rise would be 10 cm lower with global warming of 1.5°C compared with 2°C. The likelihood of an Arctic Ocean free of sea ice in summer would be once per century with global warming of 1.5°C, compared with at least once per decade with 2°C. Coral reefs would decline by 70-90 percent with global warming of 1.5°C, whereas virtually all (> 99 percent) would be lost with 2ºC.
I could not help but think of the potential human health, healthspan and healthy longevity analogues of the different metrics, measures, numbers mentioned in the report.
The metrics mentioned above are all metrics of negative effects, of ‘things getting worse’, of dangers, risks galore. The situation is bad but it can get even worse. To quote from Cormac McCarthy’s No Country for Old Men:
“It’s a mess, aint it Sheriff?
If it aint it’ll do till the mess gets here.”
This would suggest to look for analogies in terms of the acceleration of age-associated damages, diseases. But no, when it comes to humans dying due to the accumulation and acceleration of biological aging the balance is so negative that the only match is between smaller vs. bigger gain for humanity.
So am thinking things like …
Could reduced morbidity/mortality due to less cardiovascular diseases/deaths be paired up with limiting global sea level rise?
Could the likelihood of the Arctic Ocean free of sea ice at least once per decade vs one per century be matched to a 10fold vs 100fold decrease in worldwide dementia occurrence?
Could less autoimmune human damage be put next to more coral reefs surviving?
I could not help but think that now all the fingers point outwards (and rightly so) to show a coming ecological catastrophe while not enough fingers are pointing back to the damage done by biological aging to human bodies (wrongly so). Warning. This is not wanting to diminish the relevance of the former but explicitly to use this very relevance to shine upon the latter.
We can step even further and picture climate change as ongoing biological aging itself in individual bodies where the different components of global warming correspond to different hallmark aging processes. So increasing low-level inflammation might turn into global sea level rise, the melting of the polar ice cap could represent exhausted regenerative stem cell pools and disappearing coral reefs morph into vanishing checkpoints of originally tight nutrient-sensing pathways.
When offering global climate change as a metaphor and symbol for individual, accelerated human biological aging it becomes clear what makes it so hard to see the parallels between the two. While the signs of global warming can be experienced by everybody on Earth (weird weather), the effects of accelerated biological aging overwhelmingly hits older people and makes it hard to recognise it as an universal process, even though theoretically everybody knows that the mess is coming towards their shore. It is universal, only temporally differently distributed. And while climate change spatially presents itself through different observable phenomena, that can be recorded and demonstrated for everybody, the bigger chunk of biological aging (the molecular, cellular events) is mainly hidden (as of now) from the outside view. But we are getting there to measure these processes out with science and technology and put it on the display to see just how universal it is.
And when you think of what we already have in terms of the seed components of a robust healthy longevity technology you see how much of the following section of the press release applies to the healthy lengthening of human lives:
The good news is that some of the kinds of actions that would be needed to limit global warming to 1.5ºC are already underway around the world, but they would need to accelerate,” said Valerie Masson-Delmotte, Co-Chair of Working Group I. The report finds that limiting global warming to 1.5°C would require “rapid and far-reaching” transitions in land, energy, industry, buildings, transport, and cities. Global net human-caused emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) would need to fall by about 45 percent from 2010 levels by 2030, reaching ‘net zero’ around 2050. This means that any remaining emissions would need to be balanced by removing CO2 from the air. “Limiting warming to 1.5ºC is possible within the laws of chemistry and physics but doing so would require unprecedented changes,” said Jim Skea, Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group III.
So why we do not have a report like this when it comes to human longevity, counteracting biological aging and limiting its damage? Am not getting historical here to explain this, am getting futurical (yep) to call for such a study.
The closest we have is this suggestion by the WHO:
Reduce the number of older adults 65+ yrs who are care dependent by 15 million
But is this target enough compared to the damage done and the tools available or in the making? Are we aiming for the top here to be on a potential worldwide longevity trajectory?
No. Nope. Negative.
We should also see proposals like ‘advance healthspan of current middle-aged people by 3 years by 2030′ or ‘advance healthspan of a current older cohort by 2 years by 2030’. Hope you get the hang of what I want to say by now?
The Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C (SR15) used ‘6,000 scientific references, and was prepared by 91 authors from 40 countries’.
In terms of healthy longevity research there must be at least 6000 scientific references and 91 authors from at least 40 countries around.
So what are we waiting for? And where is our Intergenerational Panel of Healthy Longevity?
Time is not working for us. We should be working for more.