War and disease can be the means to achieve a grim kind of environmentally sustainable relationship between humankind and nature. Hundreds of millions of people already survive on a hand-to-mouth basis, living essentially on the leavings and limited charity of those who are better off. As climate change deepens, even the donor portion of society will feel the effects, and those below will be much worse off than before.

Severe climate change will put additional stress on all systems of social support. Already tenuous health care systems may collapse. Vulnerability to new forms of disease will increase. In some regions the process may resemble the abrupt die-offs that are thought to have occurred on a smaller scale among ancient peoples. Instead of focusing on ways to save modern civilization, social efforts may increasingly focus on sheer survival. Preemptive desertion of urban civilization will occur. Attention to the long-term requirements of society will weaken as a consequence of a public conviction that nothing can be done to alter the downward course of events.

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