A Second Trump Term Will Prove Even More Deadly For Americans


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“It’s going to disappear. One day it’s like a miracle – it will disappear.” ~ Trump

Who would have guessed that a reality TV “star”, con-artist, and political hack would be the one person to shake America’s institutions of government to their core? Then again, Hitler was a down-and-out artist before he became a dictator. Lots of people warned that this time with D.J. Trump would come even before he finagled his way into the White House. From his days of swindling hundreds, if not thousands, of small business contractors and workers to laundering money and defrauding the U.S. government, his tenure as president has been no less riddled with corruption, back-stabbing, lying, and cheating. Since Trump cannot retain power through the traditional means of tinpot dictators via military coup, he is using an army of lawyers who will question every mail-in ballot and use every legal maneuver in an attempt to render the 2020 election results null and void. This summer, Trump began a campaign to sabotage mail-in voting after falsely claiming it was fraught with fraud and then hiring one of his unscrupulous cronies, GOP Megadonor Louis DeJoy, to cripple the U.S. postal service. However, the GOP plan to destroy majority rule really kicked into gear with their ‘gerrymandering on steroids’ strategy which was hatched more than a decade ago when right-wing strategists concluded that taking over state legislatures would enable them to redraw districts and control the outcome of elections.

Over the last four years, Trump has amassed a laundry list of skuldugery such as abusing his high office to delegitimize any reporting critical of his administration by labeling it “fake news”, exacerbating an atmosphere of doubt, mistrust, and suspicion of the government by perpetuating numerous conspiracy theories, stoking racial tensions with incendiary rhetoric while ignoring the mounting anger over police brutality, perverting the rule of law by stacking the courts with unqualified GOP-friendly judges, installing a henchman named William Barr to run the DOJ and help give the president autocratic powers, and politicizing science by censoring government researchers and dismantling science-based health and safety protections. All of these tactics have been used by dictators of foreign countries to eliminate opposition leaders and control the population. Muzzling of scientists is a global problem that is getting worse. Trump has single handedly made the US a pariah on the world stage as he cozies up to dictators while belittling and undercutting traditional Western allies. In fact, America’s reputation in the world is the lowest it’s been since such surveys began two decades ago. There’s no hiding that Trump would love nothing more than to turn America into a Russian-style dictatorship where he could rule for life, rob the public purse at will, and kill dissidents with impunity.

Had Trump properly handled the pandemic that continues to upend the economy and ravage people’s lives, 90% of U.S. coronavirus pandemic fatalities could have been prevented. Life would be drastically different from what we are experiencing today. By January 2021, pandemic fatalities in the U.S. are projected to more than double from their current number of over 200,000. This will be Trump’s macabre achievement for his criminally negligent handling of this pandemic. He was able to do much more than when he proclaimed he could stand on 5th Avenue, shoot someone, and get away with it. In fact, due to his lack of leadership, downplaying of the virus, obfuscation of CDC reporting, and failure to enact a coherent national plan, he will have killed more Americans than whom died in World War II. By comparison, that’s twenty-five to fifty times the number of Americans who die on average in any given year from the flu. Trump may blame China, the WHO, Democrats, or anyone else for unleashing this plague, but it was his deliberate and willful abdication of his duty as president to protect public health and safety that has created his coronavirus killing fields. Who hasn’t heard the Bob Woodward tapes from early February 2020 of Trump explicitly saying that the virus is much more deadly than any strenuous flu and extremely contagious? All the while he has downplayed the danger to the public, even going so far as to say it was a “hoax” by the Democrats? To this very day, he perpetuates these lies while corralling his cult followers into close quarters for his self-aggrandizing MAGA rallies. His followers are oblivious to the fact that they serve as nothing more than disposable props at these grotesque events. He mocks masks, the most effectiive tool we have against the virus. He likes to claim that his China travel ban saved many lives but, like so many things he says, the opposite is true. His ban had many holes and actually may have worsened the outbreak in the United States. In addition, Trump’s downplaying of the virus has allowed it to fester in the U.S. and likely mutate into a more contagious strain; whether it transforms into something more deadly is all a matter of a genetic roll of the dice. Experts are fearing a double whammy from both the flu and the COVID-19 coronavirus this winter.

With historic megafires raging along the entire west coast in the new normal of inferno seasons, Trump tells climate scientists directly to their face that “it will get colder, just wait and see” and “I don’t think science knows about climate.” In the meantime, he’ll be spending millions shoring up his golf course properties from the rising seas. Over eight feet of sea level rise is already locked in from Antarctic ice melt alone, even if Paris climate agreements are fulfilled. As Biden says, Trump is a “climate arsonist.” At this point, I cannot help but view anyone who supports this catastrophic president as anything other than a traitor to their own country.

At a time where compassion and honesty are most in need as our civilization runs headlong into the limits of a finite planet, the world appears to be going in the opposite direction of more magical thinking, selfish nationalism, and diminishing human rights. The destruction Trump has done is real and four more years of him will guarantee further damage for decades to come. For instance, many of the dozens of environmental regulations that Trump has rolled back will likely be permanently cemented into place by Trump-appointed judges. These rollbacks are already causing countless premature deaths in the U.S. The amount of carbon his legislative actions will have put into the atmosphere by 2035 is estimated to be the equivalent of Russia’s annual emissions. The EPA will become a shell of its former self, having been completely usurped by corporate interests to pollute without restraint. Other countries are already following America’s lead of completely disregarding the threat of anthropogenic climate disruption. Any semblance of democracy will be shredded as Trump’s swamp of greed, corruption, and white nationalism runs amok. Conspiracy theories will run rampant as daily life becomes ever more precarious in a climate of fear and science becomes completely subjugated by economy, polity, and religion. There is a prescient quote from Carl Sagan that warns of the dystopian world we are well on our way to creating:

“I have a foreboding of an America in my children’s or grandchildren’s time — when the United States is a service and information economy; when nearly all the manufacturing industries have slipped away to other countries; when awesome technological powers are in the hands of a very few, and no one representing the public interest can even grasp the issues; when the people have lost the ability to set their own agendas or knowledgeably question those in authority; when, clutching our crystals and nervously consulting our horoscopes, our critical faculties in decline, unable to distinguish between what feels good and what’s true, we slide, almost without noticing, back into superstition and darkness…

The dumbing down of American is most evident in the slow decay of substantive content in the enormously influential media, the 30 second sound bites (now down to 10 seconds or less), lowest common denominator programming, credulous presentations on pseudoscience and superstition, but especially a kind of celebration of ignorance”
~ Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark 

I shudder to think of the hellscape that awaits us with another term of Trumpian chaos. There are only two choices before us in our American corporatocracy, so let’s be pragmatic about our dire situation. I’ll take take Biden, the corporate friendly centrist who has a plan to contain the virus and a two trillion dollar climate change strategy, any day of the week over Trump, a corporate fascist masquerading as a populist who never had any national plan to effectively contain the virus and believes climate change is a hoax. Of course there are many other issues that make Biden the sane choice between the two. It’s comical how the Right-wing propaganda machine has painted Biden as some sort of bumbling socialist puppet, especially when you consider that Wall Street’s own analysts say that a Biden administration would be neutral to positive for them. Under Trump’s direction, the very wealthy were given big tax breaks that allowed them to pay less than the working class for the first time in history. And due to Trump’s gross mismanagement, our government’s budget deficit will soon exceed the size of the nation’s entire economy for the first time since World War II. A growing body count of dead Americans that rivals the biggest war fatalities in our nation’s history is happening as a result of Trump’s sociopathic response. Trump’s latest hairbrained scheme is to allow the American population to build herd immunity to the novel virus. Never mind that in the process we would incur fatalities in the millions and collapse the healthcare system which would raise the death toll even higher, or the fact that scientists doubt the population would even ever be able to reach such levels of immunity. Someone, please tell me how Trump has made America great again.

Age of Annihilation


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“We must now understand that our own well-being can be achieved only through the well-being of the entire natural world around us.” ~ Thomas Berry

As governments stared glass-eyed at what was unfolding in China earlier this year, the fragility of modern life’s interconnectedness was soon to be laid bare by a microscopic organism. Within a couple months of the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, airline travel from China had spread the novel virus to more than 60 countries. Despite decades of warnings about the inevitability of such an event, politicians had paid about as much lip service to preventing the next pandemic as they had to dealing with climate change. As has been warned by health experts, the best we can hope for is to blunt the effects of the COVID-19 disease on the global population; eradicating it will be futile. Something similar could be said of the legacy effects of our CO2 emissions which will haunt life on Earth for time immemorial.

A study from 2014 found the total number of infectious disease outbreaks has more than quadrupled between 1980 and 2010. Approximately 75% of all emerging infectious diseases originate from animals and chances for pandemics are increasing as humanity’s growing assault on the natural world disrupts what remains of the planet’s ecosystems. If you need further evidence that we are annihilating life on Earth, consider that the microscopic mite, among the oldest and most plentiful invertebrates on the planet and a keystone species in many ecosystems, is disappearing at least 1,000 times the natural rate. More novel zoonotic diseases will eventually be unleashed into the bloodstream of the globalized economy as corporations revive parasitic growth at the expense of a habitable planet. The coronavirus pandemic is a symptom of our unfolding Anthropocene Mass Extinction which is accelerating.

The current pandemic may well mark the beginning of the end for growth as we knew it. In the U.S. right now, there are 29 million unemployed and tens of thousands of small businesses that have closed during the pandemic will never reopen. In the Age of Environmental Breakdown, there can never be a return to normal. For the normal that industrial civilization has become accustomed to is the very thing ripping to pieces those white picket-fenced lives in suburbia. A Biden presidency may bring back some sense of sanity and order to those pursuing the illusion of the American Dream, but it won’t alter global civilization’s current trajectory toward an increasingly chaotic world of never-ending disasters. The synergistic effects of biodiversity collapse, climate change, and industrial pollution will act as a growing weight on the economy.

We just learned that Greenland’s ice sheets crossed a tipping point two decades ago and will never recover, as far as human timescales are concerned. Nothing will bring them back except another ice age, and humans have managed to erase the next one scheduled to have occurred some 50,000 years hence. 100,000 years will have past before the planet completely rids itself of the CO2 humans have loaded into the atmosphere. Second only to Antarctica in terms of ice volume, Greenland’s melt-off could eventually contribute 23 feet of global sea level rise. Antarctica’s ice sheets have also been found to be much more vulnerable to collapse than previously known, as rising atmospheric temperatures melt their surface and a warming ocean destabilizes them from below. Coastal erosion, flooding, and soil salinization from sea level rise are growing drags on the economy. About 40% of the global population lives near the coast and will account for the largest mass migration in human history. Indeed, billions of U.S. tax dollars are now being used in a new strategy to relocate entire neighborhoods from coastal regions persistently hit by flooding in recent years.

With the meltdown of the Earth’s cryosphere, we are witnessing a large-scale catastrophic disruption to a critical part of the Earth system under which all life has adapted. In particular, the relatively stable climate of the Holocene is what allowed for the development of agriculture and human civilization. We no longer live in that era; We have entered the chaos of the Anthropocene, a time of deadly climate disruption, social upheaval, mass extinction, and ultimately collapse of industrial civilization. With arctic amplification weakening jet streams, larger and more intense heat domes now form over geographic regions to help spark megafires, power grid blackouts, and heat-related deaths. In Phoenix AZ, a heatwave just obliterated a previous record of most days over 110°F (50 plus), and another record-breaking heatwave is on its way as I speak. California’s Death Valley just recorded the highest temperature on Earth since reliable records began. The six most recent years (2014-2019) and 2020 have been the hottest ever recorded, with each decade since 1980 being hotter than the previous.

The recent heatwave that thawed Siberia’s tundra, set it on fire, and caused an ecological disaster by collapsing a diesel fuel reservoir, could never have happened without the massive spike in CO2 emissions from mankind’s fossil-fuel binge. Summer wildfires in the Arctic set a record this year, emitting 34% more CO2 than in the prior year. Fires in the Amazon jungle are the worst in a decade. Wildfires in Arizona this year have already scarred more land than in the prior two years. Colorado just logged the biggest fire in its history and California’s wildfires are already on track to break records even though the fire season has just begun. Globally, wildfires have increased 13% over the prior record-breaking year of 2019. A more apt name for the Anthropocene might be the Pyrocene – Age of Fire.

Heatwaves aren’t just striking on land; they are also cooking the oceans. Increasingly severe and frequent marine heatwaves(MHWs) have surged by more than 50% in recent decades. Warming oceans help create more destructive and more frequent hurricanes and typhoons. They also threaten biodiversity and ecosystem function on a global scale. Scientists have observed that stony corals around the world are hunkering down into survival mode, exhibiting the same traits as they did prior to the last great extinction. Let that sink in for a moment…Yes, a relatively primitive organism with a rudimentary nervous system is actually preparing for a mass extinction while the so-called ‘Wise Ape’ blissfully carries on destroying his very own life-support systems.

“It was incredibly spooky to witness how corals are now exhibiting the same traits as they did at the last major extinction event,” said Professor David Gruber, a researcher and marine biologist with The Graduate Center, CUNY and Baruch College. “Corals seem to be preparing to jump across an extinction boundary, while we are putting our foot further on the pedal.”

Apparently, coral are not hampered by politics in their decision-making processes. These creatures of the primordial seas will likely outsurvive the Self-Absorbed Ape who has insulated himself in a technological cocoon of false security, oblivious to the harsh physical laws of nature indifferently working to take him down. Hell, scientists are now finding microplastics in every human tissue they examine, and the health effects are unknown. How’s that for forethought?

Scientists can issue warnings about our impending demise until they are blue in the face, and they have, but they and the public are at the mercy of economic, financial, and political forces beyond anyone’s power. Couple that with the fact that the average person on the street has a Trump-level of comprehension about these existential crises and is being bombarded on social media by fake news that plays on emotions and deep-rooted inter-group distrust. Cheap energy and the individualistic consumer culture have created an illusion of abundance and destroyed any sort of communal cooperation which was once the basis of everyday life. I’ve walked this Earth for over five decades and have seen a steady and continuous degradation of the natural world; corporate greenwashing is rampant. The growth in ‘green energy’ has not displaced fossil fuel fuel consumption to any great degree; fossil fuels still supply 84% of global energy consumption. Worse yet, just to maintain our current growth in energy consumption would require an unattainable expansion in alternative energies. If one connects all the dots on our current state, then there is no refuting this most clear-eyed of scientific assessments:

“Given the momentum in both the Earth and human systems, and the growing difference between the ‘reaction time’ needed to steer humanity towards a more sustainable future, and the ‘intervention time’ left to avert a range of catastrophes in both the physical climate system (e.g., melting of Arctic sea ice) and the biosphere (e.g., loss of the Great Barrier Reef), we are already deep into the trajectory towards collapse.”

The end of the world is the ‘cha-ching’ of a cash register as the last vestiges of nature are converted to dollars. Lest we forget, 71% of global emissions come from just 100 companies and more than half of global industrial emissions since 1988 originated from 25 corporate and state-owned entities. While the ultra-wealthy reap the profits of a poisoned ecology, the rest of the world is left to take the brunt of consequences from a world that grows more dangerous by the day. Those living on the edge who lost their livelihood during this pandemic are the collateral damage of an out-of-control socio-economic system whose incompatibility with life on Earth becomes more evident with each passing year. There’s nowhere to escape for most people because, to one degree or another, we are all entrapped in this system. The immutable laws of biology, physics, and chemistry have set an expiration date on America’s non-negotiable way of life, ensuring that many more will soon fall victim to the short-term greed of capitalism. As Stephen Hawking warned, “Stupidity and greed will kill off humans.”

The Apocalypse Will Not Be Televised


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“3D visualization” of the Australian fires by Anthony Hearsey, compiled from NASA satellite data collected across the span of a month/an injured koala bear sits alone on the ‘apocalyptic’ Kangaroo Island

The year is 2020 and climate change-related disasters are in full swing while at the same time, the most influential country in the world is under the leadership of someone who calls scientists “foolish fortune tellers.” Australia, another country being led to its slaughter by the willfully and criminally ignorant, is literally going up in flames as we speak. Its rich millennia-old evolutionary legacy is disappearing before our eyes. The pictures of charred kangaroo corpses entangled in barbed wire fences and koala bears curled up in the fetal position as they tried to flee the fires are gut-wrenching and should be a wake-up call to our leaders. The platypus, another of the country’s iconic creatures, is dying off in drought-stricken cesspools. To make matters worse, recent heavy rains are causing massive fish kills as bushfire ash washes into rivers. More than a billion creatures(excluding frogs, insects, other invertebrates, or livestock) are estimated to have perished, and the wildlife that do manage to survive the country’s apocalyptic conditions are now at risk of starvation. Scientists fear these fires are causing the extinction of entire species of insects which play a vital role in “processing waste, pollination, providing nutrition for other species, and myriad other ecological functions.” While warming at twice the global rate from humanity’s fossil fuel binge, Australia continues to be the biggest net exporter of coal in the world, thus fueling its own conflagration.

The Australian mega-fires are not a one-off, but just the latest manifestation of an increasingly disrupted global climate system. Australia’s fate was predicted by scientists many years ago. The forever legacy of greenhouse gas emissions means the dust won’s settle in any time scale appreciable to humans. Sea levels will continue to rise for millennia, droughts and storms will grow in frequency and intensity, thousand-year rains will become common occurrences, entire ecosystems will unravel, and the human experiment will undoubtedly come to an end. To quote an Australian on Reddit:

This is what disturbs me about my countrymen. This is not just a one-off terrible event, this is a permanent step down, a large nail in our collective coffin. Long before we recover from this, we will suffer it again, and again. Those poor animals. Worse than being glorified, or not televised, our collapse is being looked at without seeing. It is misunderstood and denied.

For those not from here I’d say that one can’t overstate what is happening here, it is truly awful. We will never recover.

Australia’s annual fire season is only at its midpoint, yet the massive pulse of carbon from these bushfires is now estimated at 900 million tons —double the country’s annual emissions. As horrific as the fires have made life on land, what’s happening in Australia’s oceans out of site and mind is equally disturbing, but of course this is not confined to Australia. Scientists have found that a ‘heat blob’ in the north Pacific ocean killed a million seabirds and wiped out 100 million cod.

We are destroying the life support systems to which all creatures, including man, are dependent, yet it does not appear that any climate disaster no matter how catastrophic will alter mankind’s tragic path to extinction. Wiping out an entire continent’s flora and fauna does not register on the Stock Market. No number of five-alarm fire warnings planet Earth sends will be heeded by this cabon-fueled corporate kleptocracy which carries us all toward a very dark future. Why would we expect any differently from an economic paradigm that tolerates no disruption as it plunders the planet in search of the almighty dollar? A report from two years ago called Australia’s extinction crisis a “national disgrace” and described its institutions tasked with protecting threatened plants and animals as “broken”. We see today that nothing has changed to prevent Australia’s natural treasures from disappearing into the black void of the Anthropocene extinction, never to be seen or heard from again. In fact, current assessments show extinction rates are accelerating:

  • Nature is in ‘unprecedented’ decline. A substantial proportion of assessed species are threatened with extinction and overall trends are deteriorating, with extinction rates increasing sharply in the past century.
  • This decline is a direct result of human activity, the most devastating being changes in land and sea use, including natural habitat destruction.
  • Since 1980, greenhouse gas emissions have doubled, raising average global temperatures by at least 0.7 degrees Celsius. 75% of fossil fuel burning and anthropogenic CO2 emissions in the atmosphere has occurred since 1970; their effects are just beginning to be felt.
  • In the near future, climate change is expected to surpass the impacts of land and sea use change as well as other drivers(direct exploitation of organisms, pollution, invasive alien species).
  • Increased human population and per capita consumption is a key driver of the above.
  • By destroying the foundations of Earth’s interconnected web of life, we are threatening our own health and existence.

I am loath to repeat these numbers because no price can be placed on intact ecosystems, but the economic costs of this year’s fire season in Australia are estimated to be approaching $100 billion, the costliest natural disaster in that country’s history. And in the U.S., the last decade has been ‘unprecedented‘:

The U.S. billion-dollar disaster damage costs over the last decade (2010-2019) were also historically large, exceeding $800 billion from 119 separate billion-dollar events. After adjusting for inflation, the U.S. experienced more than twice the number of billion-dollar disasters during the 2010s than the 2000s decade: 119 versus 59…Clearly, the historically large U.S. losses from hurricanes and wildfires over the last few years have further skewed the total distribution of extreme weather costs. This increase reflects a combination of increased exposure, vulnerability and the fact the climate change is playing an increasing role in the frequency of some types of extremes that lead to billion-dollar disasters.

The finance industry is starting to see that climate change is an existential crisis, yet offer no alternative to their ideological stalemate of infinite growth on a finite planet. In fact, they believe that the personal sacrifices needed to halt greenhouse gas emissions will create a public backlash towards such efforts. In other words, business-as-usual will rule the day until the hard laws of physics, chemistry, and biology make our bubble economy impossible. We’re undergoing that process right now as anthropogenic climate disruption returns planet Earth to the chaotic climatic conditions of the Pleistocene —a time in which organized societies and agriculture will be impossible. Water shortages, degraded soils, and loss of pollinators will only compound the problem. No amount of accounting tricks will bring back the habitability of the planet.

Cheap and abundant fossil fuels have given us modern science and technology which have allowed humans to feel detached and independent from nature, but when this civilization inevitably collapses we will once again be at the mercy of the natural world. If we have destroyed the biosphere and set in motion a mass extinction event at a time when we strongly need to rely on nature, then our prospects for survival are very grim indeed! Yet another study released this week shows that Earth’s biodiversity is crashing under a perfect storm of global warming, extreme weather events, and human activity. Collapse of industrial civilization and its vast amount of specialization along with a simultaneous planet-wide ecological collapse can very easily lead to human extinction. It’s not hard to imagine a Third World War being ignited by deteriorating environmental conditions and resource depletion as nations fall under the sway of propaganda from demagogues inciting fear, hatred, and violence.

With Earth Overshoot Day arriving ever earlier each year, we have arrived at the last stage of global civilization’s doubling time. The next twenty years will be the final tick of the clock in which our mass resource extraction, consumption, and waste irreparably damage the planet’s regenerative abilities and life support systems. Decades of greenwashing, empty rhetoric, and regulatory capture by the fossil fuel industry have brought us to this precipice:

As you can see, any mitigation efforts at this late date rely heavily on the fantasy of carbon capture with nonexistent technologies that, truthfully, will never scale up to the enormous problem. To some degree or another, we are all in denial of what is unfolding in our final century as we go about our daily lives within a set of living arrangements completely incompatible to the survival of our descendants. Everyone is riding the peak of industrial civilization as we watch the world fall apart on our smart phones and LED TVs. In the meantime, the nightly news drones on about hyperpartisan politics and economic growth. That barely a vague mention is made in the news cycle of the most important story in mankind’s history tells you all you need to know about who controls mass media and why the story of our imminent demise will remain buried.

Our fossil record will be comprised mainly of plastics, radioactive waste, and billions of human bones and that of our domesticated animals. The remnants of wild animals will be extremely rare since we have supplanted them with our livestock. All civilizations, especially complex ones, eventually collapse. Ours, like many before, will be undone by overshoot of the environment’s carrying capacity, albeit this time on a planetary scale and with no second chance for a do-over.

Greta Thunberg Speaks the Horrific Truth of Humanity’s Fate


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When a 16-year-old girl named Greta Thunberg spoke with trembling anger of the unspeakable crimes today’s adults are committing against her and future generations, a chill ran down my spine. She will be alive to see the pulses of rapid sea level rise, the unraveling of industrial agriculture, the mass migration of hundreds of millions of climate refugees, and the disintegration of Earth’s biosphere. Today’s world with the ever-worsening breakdown of the biosphere is much more dangerous than during the Cold War when the threat of imminent nuclear annihilation hung in the air like the sword of Damocles, as expressed by President Kennedy: “Every man, woman and child lives under a nuclear sword of Damocles, hanging by the slenderest of threads, capable of being cut at any moment by accident or miscalculation or by madness.” Not only does the threat of nuclear war persist, the sword of abrupt climate breakdown now looms ever larger as governments are rendered impotent.

Scientists and the Red Cross recently warned the world is currently suffering at least one climate catastrophe per week and nearly two million people per week are needing humanitarian assistance. A UN global assessment confirms the planet is currently experiencing 2,500 conflicts over fossil fuel, water, food and land — conflicts directly related to the ongoing collapse of the earth’s biodiversity. No civilization in history has faced a complete reshuffling of the planet’s biosphere, let alone the ecological armageddon brought on by a Pandora’s box of pollutants from industrial civilization. Microplastics are literally raining from the sky. Irrevocably out-of-step with the natural world, modern civilization is destroying its host ecosystem by altering the geochemistry of the planet. A mass extinction event unlike any in Earth’s history is underway. Even if a small fraction of the global population survives this overshoot, it will take 10 million years for biodiversity to bounce back. Since atmospheric CO2 will ultimately be drawn down through a very slow natural process called sedimentation, the Earth will not reach pre-industrial CO2 levels again for more than 100,000 years. The last time CO2 levels were this high was 3 millions years ago during the Pliocene when temperatures were 3-4°C(5-7°F) higher globally than today, and sea levels were 15-20 meters(50-65 feet) higher. It was too warm for glacial ice sheets to even exist in the northern hemisphere.

At 412 ppm and rising, experts said temperature rises of 3-4C are likely now locked in.

What does any honest scientist have to say about mankind’s prospects in a 4°C world:

“There is a widespread view that a +4ºC future is incompatible with an organized global community, is likely to be beyond adaptation, is devastating to the majority of ecosystems and has a high probability of not being stable.”
Professor Kevin Anderson, Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research (Video, 58:00)

“We have already observed impacts of climate change on agriculture. We have assessed the amount of climate change we can adapt to. There’s a lot we can’t adapt to even at 2C. At 4C the impacts are very high and we cannot adapt to them.”
Rachel Warren, University of East Anglia

“There is a growing sense of panic in those who really understand what a 4°C world might be like.”
Prof. Will Steffan, Director of the Australian National University Climate Change Institute

“Thinking through the implications of 4 degrees of warming shows that the impacts are so significant that the only real adaptation strategy is to avoid that at all cost because of the pain and suffering that is going to cost.”
Prof. Neil Adger, University of Exeter

“…there is also no certainty that adaptation to a 4°C world is possible. A 4°C world is likely to be one in which communities, cities and countries would experience severe disruptions, damage, and dislocation, with many of these risks spread unequally. It is likely that the poor will suffer most and the global community could become more fractured, and unequal than today. The projected 4°C warming simply must not be allowed to occur.”
World Bank report (2012) Turn down the heat: why a 4°C warmer world must be avoided

“If we don’t reduce greenhouse gas emissions and ultimately stabilize CO2 — and we also have to draw down a lot of carbon out of the atmosphere. If we don’t achieve that, there’s no real prospect for a stable society or even a governable society…”
Jason Box, Prof in glaciology at the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland 

People are completely oblivious to our dependence on the complex adaptive systems that allow humans to exist and persist. To be clear, when the global temperature rises by 4°C within this century it will be faster than the blink of a geological eye, and we, along with 80% or more of the planet’s species are finished. 96% of all marine species and more than two-thirds of terrestrial species perished during the Great Dying at the Permian-Triassic interface. Global mean temperature at that time rose an estimated 5-8°C over a timespan of 3,000-20,000 years. A 4°C rise over just two centuries will be a rate of warming 15 to 100 times faster than that past extinction event. At this speed of warming, regions would experience temperature spikes of 10-15 degrees above normal in some months. Ecosystems would implode and the services they provide that sustain us would be obliterated. Virtually every vertebrate species on Earth would disappear, along with most plants and many invertebrates.

At just 1°C of warming we are already seeing major ecosystems such as coral reefs unraveling. Hurricanes so powerful that they require a new category now barrel across the Atlantic ocean and completely decimate islands; the cataclysmic Storms of our Grandchildren that Hansen warned about have only just begun. Arctic permafrost melt has already exceeded 2090 projections. It was economist William Nordhaus that set the 2°C warming target in 1975, not scientists. What did he get for this dangerous speculation, divorced from empirics? The Nobel, naturally. These days he is saying 3.5°C is just fine. John Kerry says we cannot leave the climate emergency in the hands of the neanderthals in power, but I dare say that anyone promoting mainstream economic theory is guilty of omnicide. Capitalism’s “extractivism” has turned the entire planet into a sacrifice zone.

Grand Bahama island before/after Hurricane Dorian made landfall, Sept 1, 2019

Humanity has essentially documented its own demise for the last half century while the Keeling curve inexorably rises faster than ever. As MIT Prof Daniel Rothman says, “When carbon levels in the atmosphere spike dramatically, the web of life collapses.” We are now seeing a record 10ppm of CO2 rise every four years and have have failed to curb emissions growth let alone move towards any sort of carbon neutral world. Alternative energies remain a sliver of total global energy consumption. In fact, “the annual increase in global energy use is greater than the increase in renewable energy, meaning fossil fuel use continues to grow.”

The rise of political ‘populism’ and the election of reactionary politicians in the U.S. and abroad has thrown yet another monkey wrench into any possibility of tackling the climate crisis. The demagogic Trump administration is simply burying any scientific evidence and ignoring its government’s own research on such things as the recent surge in climate refugees from Latin America due to climate-induced food insecurity. Russia and Brazil have both encouraged and precipitated the wildfire infernos raging in their countries. The catastrophe unfolding in the Amazon is a direct result of President Bolsonaro’s neoliberal policies designed to plunder the Amazon much like Trump’s dismantling of the EPA and deregulation of corporations. Both ignore the science of climate change and the reality of ecological collapse. In the case of Russia’s Putin, it was a cold economic calculus: “If the cost of putting out these remote fires is greater than the profit that could be made from selling the timber, they can decide to let it burn.”

And then there’s the global debt bomb of $250 trillion waiting to explode, not to mention the $200-250 trillion global carbon debt which increases by 16 trillion every year. Meanwhile, banks are quietly shielding themselves from climate catastrophe at taxpayers’ expense by shifting risky coastal mortgages off their books and onto the federal government’s Fannie and Freddie programs. Just as the U.S. government is leaving vulnerable countries to fend for themselves, so are private institutions unloading the risks onto the public. For those at the very top of our economic pyramid scheme who control public policy, dwindling resources will be kept first and foremost for them while everyone else is treated as collateral damage. This dereliction of responsibility, this cutting and running, is how the deteriorating conditions of the world are being handled. Throughout history, society’s elite have shown the same arrogance and hubris in the face of impending calamity. For example, the Fall of the Roman Empire:

If you read the chronicles of the early 5th century AD, you get the impression of total mayhem, with barbarian armies crisscrossing Europe and few, if any, Roman nobles and commanders trying to defend the Empire. Most of them seemed to be maneuvering to find a safe place where they could find safety for themselves. We don’t know what was the final destiny of Rutilius Namatianus but, since he had the time to finish his poem, we may imagine that he could build himself a castle in Southern France and his descendants may have become feudal lords. But not everyone made it. For instance, Paulinus of Pella, another rich Roman, contemporary of Namatianus, desperately tried to hold on his possessions in Europe, eventually considering himself happy just for having been able of surviving to old age.

We see a pattern here: when the rich Romans saw that things were going really out of control, they scrambled to save themselves while, at the same time, denying that things were so bad as they looked. We can see that clearly in Namatianus’ poem: he never ever hints that Rome was doomed. At most, he says, it was a temporary setback and soon Rome will be great again.

Thunberg’s speech alluded to such behavior by the polluting nations:

For more than 30 years, the science has been crystal clear. How dare you continue to look away and come here saying that you’re doing enough, when the politics and solutions needed are still nowhere in sight. You say you hear us and that you understand the urgency. But no matter how sad and angry I am, I do not want to believe that. Because if you really understood the situation and still kept on failing to act, then you would be evil. And that I refuse to believe.

Yes, Greta, they are evil; they have access to every expert on the seriousness of the crisis and they are building walls and saving their own skin while continuing business-as-usual. Lest we forget, the fossil fuel industry’s own scientists accurately predicted the life-threatening effects of its product decades ago and not only did they do nothing to stop it, they funded and orchestrated a vast network of climate denial propaganda which continues to this day and have raced to exploit even more fossil fuels from the melting Arctic. When you consider that billions of people are going to die as a result, their actions become by far the greatest crimes against humanity ever committed. Make no mistake, our society is trading a livable planet for an unsustainable way of life that is irreparably depleting finite resources and altering the earth for eons, making it uninhabitable for organized human societies. Each day of business-as-usual further degrades the planet’s biodiversity.

“As the temperature rises, the patricians will seek refuge as polar migrants, or set sail on heavily armed ocean liners. Millions more will live in underground cities, anywhere to escape the sun. Dazzling reports of new methods for sopping up the gigatons of carbon dioxide will create ripples of enthusiasm and then fade in the next news cycle. Fisheries and agriculture will collapse, drugs will provide little solace, and everyone will curl up in a foetal position in the end, like the ash-entombed victims at Pompeii, whimpering in the inescapable heat. The likelihood of this outcome increases as the years pass and the smoke rises.”
~ Nicholas P. Money, THE SELFISH APE: Human Nature and Our Path to Extinction

Weekend Funnies for the Depressed Collapsitarian #11


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It’s been a while since I’ve published one of these dark humor posts, but I think that as the catastrophic flooding, heat waves, and other extreme weather events continue to multiply and intensify and as more and more people start losing their minds, all we can do is laugh at the absurdity of our self-inflicted predicament. As has been said many times before, the Anthropocene carbon spike is just one of many symptoms from an overpopulated technocapitalist-driven world chasing too few resources, whether it be wild fish, potable water, rare earth minerals, or arable land. No one is putting the breaks on this race towards the abyss because no one is truly in charge, except for the cold and amoral calculator of corporate profits and stock market returns. In an age of “worse than expected” and “faster than anticipated”, the true cost of environmental collapse cannot be fully appreciated because humans have never existed in a world that is 500ppm CO2e and accelerating. One thing is certain —most of Earth’s mass extinctions were caused by a disruption in the carbon cycle which happened slowly over a much longer time span compared to today and without all the other human-forced pressures on the planet. All the technological advances and creature comforts we value today came at a rising environmental cost which is now impossible to repay since we have essentially ‘sold the farm’ in terms of the stability of the Holocene and the biochemistry of the planet. There’s no techno-fixing our way out of this mess. We didn’t build a durable civilization; we built a superficial and fleeting one blinded by delusions of technological grandeur and human superiority. So as we all slowly arrive at the fifth stage of grief, here’s a toast to humans before the party ends

And this cartoon is becoming more accurate as time passes and oil executives mourn for the loss of future profits

Earth will be fine. Humans?…not so much 🤣

No need to plan for retirement, the beach will come to you…

I’m sure Greta Thunberg would have something to say…

Do as I say, not as I do…

And lastly…

A Final Warning to Planet Earth

15,364 scientists from 184 countries issue a ‘warning to humanity’ and present a radical agenda to protect planet Earth. We, the billions of people believing in human exceptionalism, categorically reject this agenda and issue in return a stark warning to planet Earth…We officially summon planet Earth to abandon its intransigent attitude and accept the inevitable: an extension of its biological and physical limits. Should planet Earth stick with its hardline ideological stance, it needs to be aware that mankind will never compromise and that we will seek a second planet. The universe is like our ambition: limitless…

Concerning Humanity’s Future: Interview with Nick Humphrey, Climatologist and Geoscientist


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NOAA image of the “bomb cyclone” that struck the Midwest earlier this month, triggering flooding in three states and taking the lives of humans and livestock. The National Weather Service described it as “incredible” and a “Great Plains cyclone of historic proportions.”

I first discovered the writings of meteorologist/geoscientist Nick Humphrey with his brutally honest essay The Conversation No One Knows How To Have and since then have followed his posts and comments. He has been featured or quoted in a number of publications such as Mother Jones, New York Times, Washington Post, and Science Alert. Few scientists will publicly tell you how dire things are, but Nick Humphrey is not one to shy away from the truth. What follows is a Q&A interview I held with him on a variety of questions concerning humanity’s future.

ML: Can you give us a brief summary of your background and why you became interested in studying the detrimental effects of climate change?

NH: My background is in meteorology, geosciences and interdisciplinary studies. I have a Bachelor of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies from South Dakota State University. I completed a Master of Science in Geosciences with a concentration in Applied Meteorology from Mississippi State University in 2016. My education and research studies have been in the societal impacts of weather/climate, natural hazards, and advanced forecasting techniques. I also have a background in global climatology. I did undergraduate research into human decision-making in response to tornado warnings and graduate research in tropical cyclone impacts.

I have been following news and research into climate change for about the past decade. However, I became more intensive in my personal research as a result of an apparent acceleration in climate impacts in the past 4-5 yrs. My study took me to look into the research of scientists such as Dr. Natalia Shakhova, Dr. James White, Dr. Peter Wadhams, Dr. James Lovelock, and Paul Beckwith. I also looked into the interdisciplinary connections between ecological and environmental variables by Dr. Guy McPherson.


ML: What is the most disturbing aspect of anthropogenic global warming that you are seeing today and what are its implications for the future?

NH: To me, the most disturbing aspect is the destruction of ice on the planet. It is commonly discussed among climate scientists that the planet has a high “inertia”. This means in natural climate change, there is typically a significant lag between what is happening in the atmosphere (rise in greenhouse emissions) and climate response (warming of the planet), forcing a more gradual temperature rise.

There are two very important components of Earth’s inertia.
1) Water (which can gain/lose a huge amount of heat with a gradual temperature change) and 2) Ice.
Ice, in my view, is the biggest climate regulator because it can do two things:
1) In the process of melting and freezing, heat is latent or “hidden”. Meaning it does not contribute to temperature, but to melting (heat gain) or freezing (heat loss) of ice.
2) Ice is white, so as a result, it is a high reflector of visible light, preventing absorption of heat at the surface. So it has a double impact. As the planet loses ice because of warming temperatures, there is less total ice to melt and more heat goes into warming the oceans, land and atmosphere. It takes nearly 80 times more heat to melt ice than to warm the same amount of liquid water by 1 degree C/1.8 degrees F. The less ice there is, the lower the planetary albedo, resulting in more heat entering the climate system, creating a feedback loop to destroy ice faster and accelerating planetary heating. The loss of sea ice in the Arctic is a planetary catastrophe.

Trends in sea ice thickness are another important indicator of Arctic climate change. While sea ice thickness observations are sparse, here we utilize the ocean and sea ice model, PIOMAS (Zhang and Rothrock, 2003), to visualize mean sea ice thickness from 1979 to 2019. Updated through February 2019. https://sites.uci.edu/zlabe/arctic-sea-ice-volumethickness/


ML: With the environmental damage that has already been put into the pipeline, modern organized human society may not survive this century and we are already seeing signs of this with the destruction caused by recent extreme weather events. The city of Beira in Mozambique, recently hit by Cyclone Idai, is said to be “the first city to be completely devastated by climate change.” Do you think it’s possible to transition to a net-zero carbon emission civilization within a brief period? Would this not require a radical reconfiguration of every sector of our economy and the way in which we treat each other and the environment?

NH: In short, no, I do not think it is possible to transition to a net-zero carbon emission civilization within a decade. The idea itself is simply absurd because it would require basically returning to a pre-industrial society with none of the benefits which came from building the society provided by fossil fuels. There are some economists and environmentalists who believe you can have “green growth” but such growth leads to further environmental destruction as population and energy demands continue to grow exponentially. In order to go to a net-zero carbon civilization, you must first, ironically, increase carbon usage. More building of solar panels around the world, more building of wind farms, more building of electric cars, more concrete, more metal manufacturing, more highly polluting mining, not only of the land, but more rare Earth metals will be needed from the seas, harming ecosystems and polluting the oceans. Meanwhile, none of this stops climate change because, as you mention, there is already much damage in the pipeline.

At 500 parts per million of equivalent carbon dioxide concentration, enough greenhouse gases are currently in the atmosphere to ultimately warm the planet 4-5 degrees C/7-9 F above 1700s temperatures, raise the sea level by 220 feet/67 meters (assuming 1 ppm CO2 equivalent = 1 ft sea level rise, based on past longer-term paleoclimate change response), remove significant amounts of soil moisture, leading to the destruction of agriculture. And this is without any other carbon releases or feedbacks. Building more in an attempt to maintain civilized society with high energy consumption makes this all worse.


ML: There are around 454 nuclear reactors around the world with several dozen more currently under construction. At least 100 U.S., European and Asian nuclear power stations are built just a few meters above sea level. With accelerated sea level rise and stronger storms on the horizon, we should be planning right now to decommission and close down these future nuclear disasters. What is your stance on nuclear energy?

NH: Nuclear reactions themselves are an effective way to produce energy. The problem is that, like any form of energy, it requires energy to produce it and leaves waste products. Fossil fuels are needed to build the nuclear reactors (especially all the concrete), water is needed to keep the reactors fuel rods cool, and nuclear waste results from the use of the reactors which must be stored safely for thousands of years. It requires civilization to function for thousands of more years to keep it functional and safe or alternatively decades to properly decommission them. Given sea level rise is accelerating with a doubling of approximately 7-10 years (possibly causing a meter of sea level rise as early as the 2040s-2050s, faster in some regions like the US East Coast), I do not believe we should be building more nuclear reactors and should decommission all others as quickly as possible to save what remains of the natural world from devastating impacts of nuclear failures if civilization collapses and humans are unable to care for those sites.

I make note, it is not only nuclear power stations on coastal areas which are of concern. Stations located along rivers are at risk as well…from increasingly larger floods, drying rivers which are used for cooling, and warming rivers which do not bring in cool enough water to keep the reactors cool. These events are already happening.


ML: What do you think about geoengineering schemes by scientists to dim the sun in order to reduce global warming and buy humanity more time to “fix” the problem? Proposed technology that could pull CO2 out of the atmosphere at the scale required is generally considered a pipe dream. At what point do you think our civilization will lose faith in technology to solve all our problems?

NH: Geoengineering schemes, to me, are equivalent to using a small band-aid for a large stab wound. It is and will be completely overwhelmed by what is happening. Spraying aerosols over the Arctic to try to cool the Arctic with increased summer cloud formation doesn’t solve the fact that there is 500 ppm of equivalent carbon dioxide already in the atmosphere which cannot be removed with the speed and scale required. You are not dealing with regions where the geoengineering is being done in closed systems. You cool one area, other areas will respond by warming further. You cool one region, atmospheric and ocean circulations will develop and intensify to transport heat to the cooling area to try to equalize the temperature imbalance. Direct ocean heating from below the ice will make it difficult to grow thick ice and not allow ice to reform in the polar night. These heat balances have always existed of course, but it was still cool enough to allow significant ice to exist in the Arctic. The atmosphere is now too altered to allow widespread sea ice to exist in the near future and geoengineering doesn’t prevent this or even delay it in a meaningful way.


ML: In the recent extreme flooding in the U.S. Midwest, farmers suffered devastating losses with similar food shocks on the rise around the world. How do you see the world feeding itself in such an uncertain future, especially when industrial monoculture is actually increasing worldwide?

NH: In short, I do not see a way for humans to feed themselves in an organized manner. Using the worse-case estimate for warming since pre-industrial times, the planet’s land air and sea surface has averaged around +1.2 C relative to pre-industrial the past 5 years with a peak of +1.4 C in 2016. The Northern Hemisphere land masses (where most of the food on the planet is grown) are quickly approaching +2 C. And we are already seeing the impacts of both extreme heat and extreme precipitation events on crops which depend on stability at mild temperatures and an expected range of moisture. This will only worsen and in between +1.5-2 C, we will conservatively see a reduction of US crop yields by between 30-46% of recent levels. By +4 C, that falls to 63-82% as aridification —droughts which are never-ending— dominate the Great Plains/Midwest and California Central Valley with very extreme summer heat and occasional intense rainfall as well as destructive flood events, exacerbating soil erosion.

We are entering a range of weather conditions not supportive of agriculture. And not simply monoculture. All agriculture. Even other ways of doing Ag require stable weather conditions, seasonality, soils and ability to conduct economic activity between peoples. None of this will be possible in these conditions. And that assumes the ecosystems which support agriculture also remain stable and available and that is not likely given the ongoing global extinction of insects.

NASA before/after imagery of flooding near Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska.


ML: Many mainstream scientists feel that to “work within” the system, they have to use language that politicians and economists can understand in order to maintain credibility, i.e. the “value of ecosystem services”. Attempting to place a monetary value on every aspect of nature while externalizing the environmental cost of pollution is a major flaw of our economic system. Inaction by governments and corporations on climate change may have already condemned a large percentage of the global population to a premature death. Do you think ecocide should be an international crime?

NH: If ecocide were an international crime, we would all be guilty in some way. Obviously, I do not believe all humans are *equal* in terms of blame. A person living in the US is a far far larger consumer of energy with a bigger carbon footprint than a person in say, Kenya or Indonesia. And of course, the developing world receives cheap products (coal, plastics, etc) from the developed world. However, while greenhouse gas pollution is significant from countries such as the US and China, plastic pollution is significant *everywhere*. Mining pollution is significant everywhere. Deforestation either is or has been in the past significant from Canada to Europe, increasing in the Amazon, the continent of Africa, etc. Water is nearing depletion on the Great Plains, parts of Europe, Australia and falling quickly in the Amazon. We’ve required more energy on this planet for all the technologies which many would consider have enhanced human life and existence on this planet…improved infrastructure, medicines, monoculture farming which did allow for much higher and resilient production of crops, etc. But all of those “improvements” to the human condition come at a cost and that cost is the destruction of the natural world, and ultimately ourselves.


ML: I understand wealthy countries have much larger carbon footprints per capita than the rest of the world due to our unsustainable consumption patterns, but the other much overlooked factor is overpopulation. We are adding roughly 90 million more people onto the planet per year, many of whom are striving to attain a similar western standard of living. Is there any ethical way to control population growth or will nature be the final arbiter? What do you think is the maximum carrying capacity for the Earth’s human population?

NH: Overpopulation is a major problem and factor in the mass extinction ongoing on the planet. However, given the scales required to fix the problem, I do not see a way to fix it which would fix the damage already done to the planet within the timeframes necessary. The only *ethical* means to control overpopulation is to educate a free population (in particular, women must have reproductive freedom) on the benefits to humans by improving the natural world. Laws will fail because it is ultimately an issue of personal physical sovereignty and humans will always fight for personal sovereignty over their bodies as it relates to sex and reproduction vs. govt interference. China’s one-child policy had a lot of unintended consequences. There are other ways to try to “control” but ultimately, what would really be needed is population decline. Given humans are a relatively large land mammal, in order for Earth to have kept ecosystem stability, the human population would have to have stayed in the millions, spread thinly across hospitable regions of the planet as hunter-gatherers. The population of hunter-gatherer/early agricultural humans in the Early Holocene (10-12,000 years ago) is estimated at 1-10 million.

Ultimately, nature appears to be “loading the gun” to make it difficult for the human population to grow much longer; and really, it will crash. The 6th mass extinction is underway and humans will be a part of this given we are at the top of the food web.


ML: Who, living today, serves as a role model and inspiration for you and in what way? Do you follow any particular philosophy in your life?

NH: I’d say one role model of mine is my father. He died in January 2017 after a battle with cancer. He spurred my interest in science as a child and was one who always strongly emphasized the importance of finding the truth, no matter how difficult it was or the barriers that happened to be in the way. Another is Dr. Albert Einstein, who had many personal flaws, but wanted to use science to improve society and found its uses for killing and destruction of life abhorrent. He spoke the truth even when it marginalized him. Also Dr. Neil DeGrasse Tyson, who works hard to communicate complex topics in a way that can be understood and appreciated by the average person.

My only philosophy in life is to live my life to the fullest, given the incredible changes underway, and bring truthful information to people who can see what’s happening and want to know “why?”. I’m an interdisciplinarian and work to bring a more comprehensive understanding of the predicament we face to anyone willing to listen.


ML: What do you think of the Dark Mountain Project whose members have “stopped believing in the stories our civilization tells itself”? What new stories should we be telling ourselves in this age of ecological catastrophe and extreme economic inequality?

NH: I’m not familiar with the Dark Mountain Project; however to answer the questions, I think we should stop telling stories about how grand our civilization is and celebrating its attempts to dominate Nature and impose fake human superiority. Civilization, which served the purpose of insulating humans from the dangers Nature posed, has destroyed Nature at the expense of its own growth. This was true long before the development of the modern fossil-fueled world. In order to be sedentary and not be dependent upon the local forces of Nature, we needed to build towns and cities. This requires destroying forests, damming rivers, taking over land with agriculture we would control the growth and development of. This means other species, who could not stop us, lost territory. Each improvement in protecting ourselves from Nature meant more population growth, more resource needs, more energy, which in turn meant more destruction and more attempts at control. Humanity, as a hunter-gatherer species, meant our growth was dependent upon what we could find for food and water within the bounds of the climate. Our ability to enclose and mass manipulate our environment and resources meant we could grow beyond our resources and, in the process, mass pollute the world. Civilization has been an 8,000 year attempt to win a war against Nature. A war we are losing because Nature —following the laws which have governed the Universe for 14 billion years— always wins.

Nature is in control, not humans. Even our current catastrophes which were sparked by humanity’s activities were ultimately governed by the laws of Nature (physics, thermodynamics, chemistry, etc). We never were separate from it all, but a part of it. We should be telling ourselves to do what we feel is right to respect Nature and its unbreakable laws, accepting our place in the Universe as just one of many species which have a finite existence on this planet.

Nick Humphrey’s blog can be found here: https://www.patreon.com/MeteorologistNickHumphrey

The Inconvenient Truth of Modern Civilization’s Inevitable Collapse


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“My early death by fossil fuel reflects what we are doing to ourselves.”
David Buckel

Today’s global consumption of fossil fuels now stands at roughly five times what it was in the 1950s, and one-and-half times that of the 1980s when the science of global warming had already been confirmed and accepted by governments with the implication that there was an urgent need to act. Tomes of scientific studies have been logged in the last several decades documenting the deteriorating biospheric health, yet nothing substantive has been done to curtail it. More CO2 has been emitted since the inception of the UN Climate Change Convention in 1992 than in all previous human history. CO2 emissions are 55% higher today than in 1990. Despite 20 international conferences on fossil fuel use reduction and an international treaty that entered into force in 1994, manmade greenhouse gases have risen inexorably. If it has not dawned on you by now, our economic and political systems are ill-equipped to deal with this existential threat. Existing international agreements are toothless because they have no verification or enforcement and do not require anything remotely close to what is needed to avoid catastrophe. The 20 warmest years on record have been in the past 22 years, with the top four in the past four years, according to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). Ice loss from Antarctica has sextupled since the 1970s and Greenland’s pace of ice loss has increased fourfold since 2003. The Arctic ocean has lost 95% of its old ice and total volume of ice in September, the lowest ice month of the year, has declined by 78% between 1979 and 2012. With grim implications for the future, Earth’s air conditioner —the cryosphere— is melting away.

An article from a few months ago lays bare the reality that throughout the past two hundred years and with recent “alternative” or “renewable” energy sources, humans have only added to the total energy they consume without ever having displaced the old, polluting ones. An alternative energy outlook report by Wood Mackenzie foresees that even in a carbon-constrained future, fossil fuels would still make up 77% of global energy consumption in 2040. The world economy remains hopelessly tethered to fossil fuels. We are kidding ourselves if we think there will be any sort of orderly transition to sustainability with which modern civilization appears to be wholly incompatible. We are, as Nate Hagens says, energy blind.

Modern civilization has become so intertwined with petroleum-based products that their remnants are now found in our excrement. It seems no living thing can escape microplastics, not even the eggs of remote Arctic birds. This should come as no surprise if you look at the scale of the problem. Plastic production has grown from 2 million metric tons in 1950 to roughly 400 million metric tons today(more than 99% of plastics made today are with fossil fuels and only a tiny fraction of it recycled). There are five massive oceanic gyres filled with pelagic plastics, chemical sludge and other human detritus; one of the these gyres, named the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, is three times the size of France and growing exponentially. The health and environmental effects are grim; organized society may not even be around to examine the long-term effects of these persistent synthetic materials:

“Health problems associated with plastics throughout the lifecycle includes numerous forms of cancers, diabetes, several organ malfunctions, impact on eyes, skin and other sensory organs, birth defects” and many other impacts, said David Azoulay, a report author and managing attorney at the Center for International Environmental Law…”And those are only the human health costs, they do not mention impacts on climate, impacts on fisheries or farmland productivity.”

Making things more efficient and convenient has its limits, but humans keep trying to beat the consequences of Earth’s dwindling natural resources while ignoring the environmental costs. Jevons paradox be damned! To make matters worse, the fossil fuel industry has employed a well-financed and highly effective global disinformation campaign to confuse and sow doubt in the public mind about the reality of climate change. And to top it all off, we have a leader who reinforces the ignorance of climate change deniers:

It’s a cruel irony that this President’s emergency declaration for building a border wall comes at a time when migration from Latin America is near a 40-year low and the majority of those now seeking asylum are families fleeing climate change-related disasters. This President and the craven politicians who line up behind him are an abomination! At a time when compassion, cooperation, and scientific reasoning are needed to deal with the multiple crises we face, politicians are instead conjuring up xenophobia, racism, and conspiracy theories. As inequality grows and the once-stable climate continues to unravel, expect the super-rich to barricade themselves behind heavily fortified mansions while treating climate refugees and the most vulnerable among us with extreme prejudice. A new study shows increasingly severe weather events are fueling the number of ‘food shocks’ around the world and jeopardizing global security:

These “food shocks” —or, sudden losses to food production— are hitting local communities hard, in addition to impacting the global economy, with long-term implications. “Critically, shock frequency has increased through time on land and sea at a global scale,” the study notes. “Geopolitical and extreme-weather events were the main shock drivers identified, but with considerable differences across sectors.”

Douglas Theobald, in his study at Brandeis University, calculated that there is less than a 1 in 102,860 chance that all life did not arise from a common ancestor. In other words, humans are related to all life on Earth and share much of their DNA with other organisms. Despite earning the title of ‘superpredator‘, humans are dependent on intact and functioning ecosystems. Our chances for long-term survival are ultimately tied to the health of the planet, yet we are carrying out ecocide on a planetary scale. Being a mere 0.01% of all life on Earth, humans have managed to destroy 50% of wild animals in just the last fifty years and 83% since the dawn of civilization around 3,000 B.C.. Who knows how many plant species have gone extinct:

Hawaii is losing plant species at the rate of one per year, when it should be roughly one every 10,000 years. “We have a term called ‘plant-blindness’… People simply don’t see them; they view greenery as an indistinguishable mass, rather than as thousands of genetically separate and fragile individuals…”

The bedrock of our food, clean water and energy is biodiversity, but its loss now rivals the impacts of climate change. Without biodiversity, our food sources, both plants and animals, will succumb to diseases. Microbes and hundreds of different life forms interact to make soils fertile. Without them, soils will be barren and unable to support life. Monocultures can only be held together through artificial means(fossil fuels, inorganic fertilizer and toxic pesticides) and are highly vulnerable to diseases, yet industrial monoculture farming continues to dominate the globe. Most Worrisome are the recent studies indicating that biodiversity loss raises the risk of ‘extinction cascades’. Insect numbers, the base of the terrestrial food chain, are in steep decline and starfish, a common keystone species in coastal ecosystems, are facing extinction due to some sort of wasting disease likely caused by climate change:

“Many of these outbreaks are heat sensitive. In the lab, sea stars got sick sooner and died faster in warmer water… A warming ocean could increase the impact of infectious diseases like this one…We could be watching the extinction of what was a common species just 5 years ago.”

And here is Professor Stephen Williams discussing the recent mass death of Australia’s flying fox bats in which 30,000 —a third of their remaining population— died in a single extreme heat wave:

“A lot of tropical species are much closer to the edge of the tolerances, so they very much are the ‘canary in the coalmine’ for the world in what’s going to start happening with climate change…The fact that we’re now seeing things endangered occur in places that you would’ve thought to be pretty secure, that’s the scary bit…I suspect the next wave of extinctions is going to be mostly due to extreme events — extreme climate events like heatwaves.”

These disturbing headlines indicate to me that the Sixth Mass Extinction is gathering pace and the real stock market underlying our very existence and survival is crashing before our eyes!!! Four of the last five mass extinction events were preceded by a disruption of the carbon cycle. When renowned paleoclimatologist Lee Kump was asked whether comparisons to today’s global warming and that of past mass extinctions are really appropriate, he ominously said, “Well, the rate at which we’re injecting CO2 into the atmosphere today, according to our best estimates, is ten times faster than it was during the End-Permian. And rates matter. So today we’re creating a very difficult environment for life to adapt, and we’re imposing that change maybe ten times faster than the worst events in Earth’s history.” Humans are recreating the past extinction known as The Great Dying at a much faster pace and at many more human-forced levels that leave no ecosystem on Earth intact.

By orders of magnitude, the human endeavor has grown much too large for the Earth to support; climate change, plastic pollution, and biodiversity loss are just a few of the symptoms of this global ecological overshoot. The people who have studied this problem for years and from every angle have come to the same conclusion —technology simply won’t save us, but that won’t stop humans from experimenting. By far the most effective way to reduce future emissions and resource consumption is to reduce human birth rates, yet the global population is still increasing at about 90 million people per year despite the geographic shift in fertility rates.

Humans recognized decades ago the threats they are now facing, yet nothing was done due to political inaction and industry malfeasance which continues to this very day. The scientists who wrote The Limits to Growth decades ago were expecting our political institutions to take action back in the 1970s, but they were met with ridicule and now we stand at the doorstep of modern civilization’s collapse. Political inaction and regulatory capture by the fossil fuel industry appear to be intractable barriers that have condemned the human race to a hellish future. Anyone waiting for some sort of seminal climate change event that is going to galvanize the world’s leaders into action will be tragically disappointed. If seeing the world’s coral reefs dying, its glaciers disappearing, permafrost melting, and the steady uptick in extreme weather and wildfire events does not spur them to action, it is much too late to hope that any single event will ever do so. The time to act would have been before we were seeing all these environmental degradations and tipping points, not afterward. There is no way to put the CO2 genie back in the bottle. The Earth cannot even begin to reach a new climate state until humans stop emitting the roughly 40 to 50 gigatonnes of CO2 per annum and stop altering and destroying global ecosystems. This fact is our daily nightmare.

A myth that many uninformed people hold is that biospheric health will quickly bounce back after we humans get our act together. Nothing could be further from the truth. Much of the damage we are already seeing is irreversible on human time scales. Positive feedbacks were already occurring at less than 1°C of warming. Many carbon sinks are on the verge of becoming or have already become carbon sources. As we race toward a nightmarish future with no realistic way to stop, we leave behind a “forever legacy” that will haunt mankind for the rest of eternity.

Evolutionary Dead-Ends


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“It may seem impossible to imagine that a technologically advanced society could choose, in essence, to destroy itself, but that is what we are now in the process of doing.” ~ Elizabeth Kolbert

Have things improved since I wrote my last essay a year ago for this blog? Have we miraculously transformed our entire energy system into one that does not poison and degrade the natural world? Have we slowed the onslaught of plastic pollution choking the planet’s rivers, lakes, and oceans? Have we done anything meaningful to halt the deterioration of the planet’s biodiversity toward mass extinction? Has this global, hi-tech civilization done anything significant to avert its own demise? Despite a constant flow of warnings from the scientific community and even a letter signed by more than 20,000 scientists, the simple answer is no. We have failed to address the complexity of our rising population and a degrading environment. Yes, we are self-conscious and thus able to recognize the fact that we are destroying the only home we have, but will the end result differ much from a population overshoot of bacteria in a Petri dish? Dependent on a continuous stream of finite resources imported from across the globe, modern megacities contain the seeds of their own destruction and that of all other life forms upon which humanity depends for its survival. The exponential growth of modern civilization ensures that one of the next doubling times will produce an absolute increase in overshoot that tips the world into unavoidable collapse. Enough damage may well have already been done; we’re just waiting for inertia to catch up to the impacts.

2017 set a global record for the most skyscrapers built in a single year and 2018 is predicted to eclipse it. The fossil fuel energy spent to construct those concrete and steel buildings translates into a melting cryosphere. Not to mention the fact that the carbon footprint of some of the world’s biggest cities is 60% bigger than previously estimated. “Renewable energy” still only comprises a tiny fraction of global energy consumption and plans for a total transition will take decades, if it’s even possible. Any growth in ‘renewable energy’ has been offset by increased consumption of fossil fuels in the developing world. 2017 marked a new record high in CO2 emissions with 2018 set to break that record. Global CO2 emissions have yet to peak, and the UN has warned that we are on course for a 3C world. It doesn’t help that the current U.S. administration plans to cut funding for alternative energy R&D, with the Energy Department expecting no drop in the U.S. carbon footprint through 2050. Having embedded itself in the U.S. government over a century ago, the fossil fuel industry has consistently worked to block climate change action and undermine environmental laws. A UK shipping executive recently admitted his industry is guilty of doing the same to protect their bottom line. The utilities companies knew the dangers as well. Like most corporations, the viability of their business model depends on perpetuating an unsustainable way of life. With warnings ignored since the late 1800s starting with the work of Svante Arrhenius, it should be obvious by now that intelligence without sapience has produced deadly results. A new study finds “the most accurate climate change models predict the most alarming consequences.” The recently released U.S. National Climate Assessment has similar findings:

While climate models incorporate important climate processes that can be well quantified, they do not include all of the processes that can contribute to feedbacks (Ch. 2), compound extreme events, and abrupt and/or irreversible changes. For this reason, future changes outside the range projected by climate models cannot be ruled out (very high confidence). Moreover, the systematic tendency of climate models to underestimate temperature change during warm paleoclimates suggests that climate models are more likely to underestimate than to overestimate the amount of long-term future change (medium confidence). (Ch. 15)

In a new ominous research finding, the evil twin of climate change(ocean acidification) is threatening the base of the marine food chain by disrupting the production of phytoplankton. This is yet another positive feedback loop increasing the rate of global warming. Climate feedback loops and ice sheet modeling are two weak areas of climate science, which means many unpleasant surprises. This is why researchers are constantly astonished. Adaptation is not a luxury most organisms have at the present rates of change. Techno-fixes are but a pipe dream.

A diet reliant on animal agriculture is one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gases, biodiversity loss, and oceanic dead zones, yet global per capita meat consumption is increasing rapidly in both developing and industrialized countries. Investments have been made to increase global plastic production by 40% over the next decade, even as all the world’s natural bodies of water become inundated with microplastics. Coca Cola alone produces 110 billion throwaway plastic bottles every year – an astounding 3,400 a second. Plastic waste from the military is another massive contributor that cannot be overstated. Half of all plastics have been made in just the last thirteen years. Over 90% of the so-called purified bottled water sold to the public has been shown to be contaminated with hundreds and even thousands of microplastic pieces. A byproduct of petroleum and the epitome of our throw-away society, plastics have truly become ubiquitous in the environment, entering the food chain at every level.

A study published last year pulls no punches by describing the mass extermination of billions of animals in recent decades as a “biological annihilation.” Extinction risks for many species are vastly underestimated. Insects, the base of the terrestrial food chain, are faring no better. With the steep loss of invertebrates, multiple studies indicate the world is “on course for an ecological Armageddon”. Trees are dying at an unprecedented rate from extreme weather events, portending profound effects to Earth’s carbon cycle. Coral bleaching events are now happening four times more frequently than a few decades ago. Dr Charlie Veron, a renowned scientist specializing in corals and reefs, said this last year:

“Half of all coral colonies on the Great Barrier Reef died over the past two years due to coral bleaching,’’ Dr Veron said.

“It’s going to be a horrible world. Young people now are going to curse the present generation for what we’ve done. We’ll have left them a planet in dire straits.’’

“Between a quarter and a third of all marine species have part of their life cycle in a coral reef. Taking away the reefs precipitates ecological collapse of the oceans. It’s happened twice in the past due to volcanoes releasing carbon dioxide and lava flows, but that was nothing like the amount of carbon dioxide being released now.’’

No one thought that ecosystems such as The Great Barrier Reef would be circling the drain this soon. How these changes are affecting flora and fauna as well as human societies is critical, but it’s like trying to predict the outcome of a high speed car crash as it’s happening. Hindsight is 20/20, but it only serves a purpose if you are still around to learn from it. Abrupt climate change is happening now and we’re not prepared for it. Fighting to protect the very life support system we all share, environmentalists are under attack worldwide and being murdered in record numbers. The problem of poaching is so bad that scientists are advising people to scrub all GPS data from their nature photos before publication to help protect endangered species from being ransacked. The voracious consumption and defilement of the planet continues unabated, despite clear signs the once-stable biosphere that enabled the establishment of human civilizations is quickly unraveling(Puerto Rico, Houston, never-ending wildfire seasons, melting Arctic and Antarctic sea ice, widespread glacial retreat, shrinking lakes, and many other signs of a destabilized climate). The following picture taken in Oregon last summer illustrates my point; seemingly oblivious to the massive wildfires raging in the background, a group of golfers continues playing a round…“We’re trading a habitable climate for a few generations of easy living.”

Climate change is just one of many factors in mankind’s planetary overshoot. We even have a day designated in recognition of our oversized ecological footprint which comes earlier every year, with nary a mention of it in official economic reports. As Herman Daly has explained, the global economic system treats the earth as a business in liquidation. The destruction of the natural world is enshrined in our positive economic indicators, i.e. rising GDP. And if need be, those numbers will be massaged to meet expectations. On a subconscious level, the growth imperative applies to all species including humans:

Humans share two behavioral traits with all other species that are critically important to (un)sustainability. Numerous experiments show that unless or until constrained by negative feedback (e.g., disease, starvation, self-pollution) the populations of all species:

• Expand to occupy all accessible habitats.

• Use all available resources.

Like mindless bacteria bent on their own success, humans are victims of their own DNA and ingenuity. Any civilization that develops energy harvesting technologies allowing for rapid population growth will generate entropy which will in turn almost certainly have strong feedback effects on the planet’s habitability. Our exponentially growing economy is on a collision course with an immovable ecosphere.

The end of the world is coming for the naked ape, not by a cabal of bankers or any sort of cockamamie conspiracy tale like chemtrails, but by us –the entire human race– and the economic system we have developed. We’ve become hostages to the complex structures and ever more intricate specialization of an economic system designed to exploit diminishing resources. Pollution and waste are of little concern for capitalism until they become a significant drain on overall profitability and new frontiers to exploit are exhausted. When profitability on a global scale is finally threatened by climate change, it will be far too late. The response will be militarized and authoritarian.

On a more insidious note, capitalism is driven by a deep instinctive drive to accumulate which was a very survival-positive compulsion during our several million years of evolving into Homo sapiens to overcome dry periods and other threats. Capitalism hits on this genetic proclivity, and when we get a clear opportunity to grab a big time accumulation, get rich and all, social good be damned. Our big and powerful cerebral cortex is hard-pressed to find a cure.

“I am rather pessimistic. The maladaptive assumptions of prevailing cultures are deeply ingrained. The notion that economic growth must take precedence over all other considerations and general ignorance of biological and ecological realities do not augur well for the future.” ~ Professor Stephen Boyden, human ecologist

In Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, Jared Diamond found that a common factor was the myopic and self-serving decision-making of elites who believed they could insulate themselves from the consequences of societal disasters. As the elites reaped the rewards, the resulting damage to everyone else built up over time until calamity struck. The grim reality is that history has proven such cycles of extreme wealth inequality have only been broken by catastrophes –plagues, revolutions, massive wars, and collapsed states. The U.S. has now reached a degree of wealth disparity unequaled in history:

Overall, the highest-ever historical Gini the researchers found was that of the ancient Old World (think Patrician Rome), which got a score of .59. While the degrees of inequality experienced by historical societies are quite high, the researchers note, they’re nowhere near as high as the Gini scores we’re seeing now…”it is safe to say that the degree of wealth inequality experienced by many households today is considerably higher than has been the norm over the last ten millennia,” the researchers write in their paper.

The crisis of civilization is planet-wide this time. We’ve turned a utopian world of plenty into a dystopian world of fascist-leaning governments, industrial disasters, collapsing ecosystems, and technological addiction. We have a Commander in Chief who tweets bizarre debunked conspiracies at 3 am, gets his intel briefings from right-wing TV shows, dismantles any remaining hindrances to unbridled capitalism, and doesn’t know the difference between weather and climate. Public discourse has been dumbed down to the level of Fox news talking points and tribal groupthink. Those who can discern actual ‘fake news’ from scientific fact are left to watch in horror as mainstream scientific projections continue to prove overly optimistic. Not only are regulations being cut left and right, they are not being enforced. Government science advisors are being purged and replaced with mouthpieces for industrial polluters. In fact, this administration is actively working to delegitimize and destroy government institutions. A sizable population of low information voters supports such actions, but it’s only to their own detriment. Although both major parties are under the sway of corporate power, Trump and company represent an exceptionally predatory class of people. The Union of Concerned Scientists is monitoring the current administration’s war on science and public health; their latest report is here:

The administration’s one-year record shows an unprecedented level of stalled and disbanded scientific advisory committees, cancelled meetings, and dismissed experts. The consequences for the health and safety of millions of Americans could be profound.

We live in an age of unparalleled technological advancement, while at the same time we turn a blind eye to the disintegrating natural world that gave birth to us, having forgotten that our destiny lies in our relationship with the earth. Like Icarus who, in his exuberance, ignored his father’s warnings and flew too close to the sun, modern man with his technology has ascended to great heights without heeding sound advice.

“We’ve arranged a civilization in which most crucial elements profoundly depend on science and technology. We have also arranged things so that almost no one understands science and technology. This is a prescription for disaster.” ~ Carl Sagan

Sic Transit Imperium


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…. The passing of empire.

The dank and musty allure of 19th century opium dens beckoned to those weak of will and lustful for escape. An opioid fuel of sorts, nature’s stock for an addiction that consumed its adherents in exchange for a state of nonchalant bliss, a temporary reprieve from the thousand paper cuts of life.

Experienced practioners knew to employ the buddy system, in advance soliciting a disinterested friend to come collect the user after 12 hours or so, sternly instructed to ignore any pleas to the contrary, and to extract the user from the den and the throes of opioid delirium, forcibly if necessary. Failure to do so might mean the will for a voluntary exit could well evaporate after a few days, and any exit might be feet first in a pine box.

An early example of the addictive effects of nature’s stock upon humans.

Amid much fanfare and production, the scientists of our society engage us in cultural clashes where arguments pertaining to climate change rage on, point and counterpoint, endless minutiae and technical details debated and argued. Advocates and denialists in full combat, in a battle of data against superstition that has lasted the ages and will never resolve.

Exactly as the instigators intended.

What is missing from these credentialed technical arguments are more basic questions, such as Why? Or How?

Why did our culture take up an addiction to fossil fuels, and How did this happen?

Human ecology professor, Andreas Malm has taken to addressing these two overarching questions in his book “Fossil Capital” which I shall review here.

“Fossil Capital” deviates from the typical climate change discussion as he strives to understand the onset and dependency of fossil fuels from a Marxist perspective. I must admit I was somewhat skeptical, orthodox Marxism is notoriously lax in addressing the largest threat to our planet, seemingly content to lather about in worker exploitation and revolts that never seem to happen.

However, the author reminds us that the core construct of Marx’s magnum opus is based on the philosophy of social relations, if anything, Capital shows us the dialectic relationship between capital, the political economy, and society at large. It shows us how capitalist property relations impacts workers, and how workers impact capital, leading ultimately to Malm’s staggering conclusion- that our addiction to fossil fuels, the resulting present day climate impact, and the onset and general adoption of fossil fuels was not due to technology, not due to scarcity of existing organic resources, and importantly, not due to intrinsic and supposedly dormant human tendencies to plunder the planet.

With academic rigor, Andreas Malm answers the Why and How, as he traces the onset of fossil fuels into general usage, and in so doing discovers that a very small group of men in a very small part of the world, belonging to an even smaller class of participants, are wholly, totally, and irrefutably responsible.

Malm finds that those responsible belong to the Capitalist class of 19th century England.

He explains this by animating Marx’s discoveries of property relations and the laws of motion of Capitalist production. He takes the dry, tedious text of Marx and shows how it fits chapter and verse with the 19th century ascension of the Industrial Revolution.

Fortunately for Malm, 19th century England is one of the most thoroughly documented periods and he find much empirical support for his thesis. The records are quite clear, voluminous data is available for parsing and analysis and he takes full advantage to make his case.

“Fossil Capital” starts with a debunking of the two prevailing mainstream theories as to how we evolved into a fossil fuel economy. The first, the so-called “Elizabethan leap” contains the more common bourgeoisie understanding of how 16th Europe migrated from burning wood for heat and cooking, to the use of coal. The superficial explanation is that wood was a declining resource experiencing scarcity in England and Continental Europe, and the migration to coal was an entirely natural progression to a more dense and efficient energy source.

There are a couple of problems with this, not the least of which is that coal did not make any significant inroads into energy consumption (in England anyway) until the late 18th century, so there is the small matter of a 200 year discrepancy.

But Malm considers even this to be a red herring, he suggests that the use of either wood or coal for heating and cooking purposes (the dominant uses in this time period) is really not a very interesting story, in his words this is a “proto-fossil fuel” economy, the real story begins when these fuels are used for purposes other than cooking and heating.

As all of this late 18th century stuff was taking place in England, to supplement the superficial, the theories of Ricardo, Malthus, and our dear friend Adam Smith all get roped into contributing to this explanation. Ricardo, as he posits that the available land for photosynthesis (the main vehicle for organic fuel production) is insufficient to support an exponential expansion of energy in the soon to occur industrial revolution. Malthus, with his converging and exponential population growth, needs to preserve at least some arable land for food instead of fuel production, and of course, Smith for his division of labor theories.

The author calls this first explanation the “Ricardo-Malthusian” theory, which seeks to explain the evolutionary and entirely “necessary” conversion from wood to coal because of insufficient land mass, and a geometrically expanding population with arithmetically expanding food production. As the organic economy of pre-industrial England is in effect dependent on plants (photosynthesis) for energy production, these arguments might make some sense.

A review of the historical data reveals some troubling problems with the Ricardo-Malthusian explanation. First of all, the use of organic fuels such as wood for cooking and heating cannot explain the explosion of energy expansion in 19th century England. Between 1800 and 1870 the population of England grew by 160%, yet energy consumption grew by some 4,000%.

Next, these theories were applied after the fact, using a modern interpretation (within the last century) to explain what is now a self evident problem, but this is less than convincing as no one in 19th century Britain sat down with quill and ink and forecast the energy demands of the forthcoming industrial revolution, concluding that we must switch to a coal economy toute de suite.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, Malm finds no evidence of scarcity of either arable land for wood production, or of wood as a commodity as seen by market forces, e.g. there were no price spikes in this time period that would indicate a shortage, or of pending scarcity. Now there are plenty of papers and scholarly opinions that conclude that large scale shortages were present in this time period, but Malm disagrees.

Malm theorizes with some justification, that if there were resource limits to organic energy production (wood) in this time period there would be at least some price anomalies- he found none.

What then? What could be the cause for a several thousand percent increase in energy consumption- and a paradigm shift away from an organic energy economy to one wholly sustained by fossil fuels?

The genesis can be found in James Watt’s 1784 patent of the steam engine.

Knowledge of the nature of the phase change of water when boiled, and the resulting energy release had been known for centuries. What Watt had done with his steam engine patents was to harness this effect in a self contained boiler, converting steam pressure into smooth, rotative motion. This system converted the choppy, erratic motion of a steam piston into a spinning wheel, which could then be used to power other machines through belt drive connections.

Machines which would soon be called “means of production”.

With twice the BTU’s and half the volumetric density of wood, coal was the perfect fuel to propel the steam engine into mainstream use. In the period of 1800-1870, the vast majority of all coal burned was used to power steam engines, and the largest use of steam engines was in the production of cotton.

And here is where it gets really interesting.

In 19th century in Britain, the economy was all about the production of cotton. By 1870, cotton accounted for nearly 40% of the UK GDP. So cotton was a big deal, not just in sheer numbers, but in the rapid adoption of Capitalist modes of production in the industrial scale up of this commodity. In 1780, it took approximately 600 man hours to process a single bale of cotton, with the invention of the cotton gin (1793), this dropped to around 12 man hours per bale. Adding to the efficiencies, the spinning jenny (1764) and Richard Arkwright’s water frame (1768) which was designed to be powered by water flow- all represented an ushering in of a crude form of machine age- centered around cotton production.

Significantly, the main competitive fuel to coal in the early 19th century was water power. It wasn’t even close, by far water power was the first choice of any and all sources of rotative power. The reasons were simple and compelling- it did not cost anything to run. Water flow was free. Any fuel that burned, be it wood or coal, had a cost associated with it and factory owners did not want to pay when water was readily available and free for the taking.

Water was clean, reusable, quiet, and put forth no emissions. And it was cheap. So why then would anyone want to abandon this cheap and abundant energy source and switch to the dirtier, and far more expensive coal?

Well initially anyway, no one did. But as the production of cotton began to scale, and as Britain shed its mercantilist mode of production for Capitalist tendencies, issues of property and social relations began to rear their ugly heads.

Another consideration was that the use of water flow was by its very nature collective. No one owns the water, and if other mill owners shared the same water source for their own mills, which was common, there could be a conflict between users of the same resource.

So as Malm describes it, the problems began to originate from the spatial attributes of the water mills, they were by necessity located near water sources, which meant that they were generally not near urban centers, and generally located in rural or countryside locations. So it became difficult to attract and keep labor at these semi-remote locations. There was little external infrastructure, often no towns or support resources for life, however short it might be, outside of the factory mills. And retaining labor once so located was also difficult as they might just run off, converting to a ruthless and grueling factory pace of 16-18 hours days, 6 days a week was a difficult adjustment from an agrarian lifestyle which marked the previous way of life.

So the ascendant Industrial revolution began to experience labor strife, it was to become acute, perhaps more acute than any time in modern history, as large numbers of people migrated from agrarian lifestyles to a wage labor supported factory life- they did not make the change with open arms.

The mill owners quickly came up with a brilliant solution as the realties of Capitalist property relations began to settle in. It seemed that the local orphanages were full to brimming with abandoned and runaway children from all walks of life, and surely, the mill owners would be doing all a tremendous favor to “rescue” these misfits and delinquents from their stultifying existence, unshackling them for a vigorous and meditative visit to the British countryside, where they might partake in fresh air and healthy exercise.

For around 20 years.

Ever the social liberals, the headmasters of the orphanages insisted that room and board be offered to each child, and perhaps an hour per week of study so as to insure that some level of education be maintained.

Other than that, they were happy to see them go.


To support this newfound labor pool, the Capitalist mill owners often had to construct at their own expense a compound, buildings to house workers, eating halls, etc. in effect all the necessities of a labor camp.

There were still more problems. Not all workers were children of course- most were not. Some of the labor classifications, such as spinners were highly skilled and these in-demand workers began to demand high wages. If a group of spinners left a mill, they could cripple production and the prospects for replacement staff was not good- given the remote locales of the water mills. As the water mills became more widespread throughout Britain, child labor also grew. Soon, the moral prospect of working young orphans 16 hours a day began to wear on society as a whole, and a bitter struggle for reformed labor laws ensued lasting throughout most of the first half of the 19th century. A brief listing:

-The Cotton Mills and Factories Act of 1819. Limited employment to children age 9 or older, children aged 9-12 could not work more than 12 hours per day.

– The Cotton Mills Regulation Act 1825. Limited work hours to 10 hours on Sat, added a one hour lunch break. The mill owners were having problems with inconsistent water flow, so they needed “make up” time, e.g. extra hours during the day when workers could be forced to work longer to make up for poor flow or equipment failures. This Act accommodated these conditions by imposing limits as to how many hours could be worked and how late they could be enforced, typically no later than 11:00 PM.

– Labor in Cotton Mills Act of 1831. Extended the 12 hour day limit to anyone under 18, no night work allowed for minor children.

– Numerous legislation passed between 1831-1867 essentially limiting children, and ultimately most adults to no more than 10 hours a day of work.

One might wonder why it took 50-60 years to resolve which seems like a simple issue of social justice, using children for indentured labor. The answer is twofold, first, the capitalist class put enormous pressure on British parliament to refrain from interfering with any regulations that might impede production, the “compromise” was a highly publicized effort to address the children, as the lawmakers understood that the optics of defending this egregious practice was not going to stand, so they made much of these paltry reliefs specific to child labor. The other reason was that of male suffrage. Incredibly, throughout the 19th century, men without property ownership simply could not vote. This held until the early 20th century, indeed until the 1918 Representation of the People act, which removed the restriction of property ownership and allowed all men (and some women) the right to vote.

All of these acts and legislations were bitterly opposed by the Capitalist class- but none more vigorously than the provision allowing mill owners to work extra hours if the water flow fell off during a production day, or if equipment broke. This provision allowed the mill owner to enforce a labor effort not just by the clock, but to make sure that this labor product could be productively deployed when all the conditions of production were operational- which they often weren’t. So if you were signed up for a 12-16 hour day, and water flow dropped off midday so as to deny production, you had to stay at the mill and make the time up when the water flow returned.

A typical workday might be 16 hours. And in this workday we are reminded of Marx’s principle of abstract surplus value, which says that the workday is organized to first cover the cost to reproduce the worker, then additional hours are used to provide surplus value to the Capitalist. That’s how we get to 16 hour days. 10 hours in this example to reproduce (cover costs) and 6 hours for surplus.

But when forced by regulations to limit the workday to 10 hours, with limited ability for make up time, we have a big problem as now we have to ask where does the surplus value come from?

And the answer is that it comes from intensification of production, e.g. with speeding up the machinery. This now gives us relative surplus value, so named as the surplus is now recovered by extending backward into the workday, by working faster we can reproduce the workers cost in 8 hours and get the same surplus as before in 10 hours total.

But we have to run the machines and the people faster to achieve this result.

And as it turns out, it is pretty easy to speed up a steam engine, not so much for a water wheel. And in fact according to Malm, the sum of these attributes outlines the fundamental reason for the shift to fossil fuels- they were infinitely more tolerant to the demands of the Capitalist class than renewable resources, even though they cost more.

Steam engines could be placed conveniently next to coal mines, or to even greater advantage in the middle of population centers where there was not scarcity of labor. If a crew of experienced spinners up and quit, a replacement crew could be assembled without too much trouble. Also, population centers did not need the infrastructure build out for living quarters for example, that the water mills needed, it already existed.

And this is exactly what happened, despite the more attractive cost model of renewable energy resources, the labor relations outcome was disastrous for the water mill owners and the shift to coal powered steam engines proved unstoppable. By 1840, the battle between water power and coal was largely over, coal fueled steam engines had made significant headway into the sphere of production. This however, was no panacea, labor revolts and labor strikes grew to epic proportions, as capitalists tried to lower wages, with roving bands of strikers marauding through the cities destroying the hated steam engines as Capitalist property owners reduced wages to increase profits.

In 1842 one of the largest strikes ever was assembled, involving some 500,000 striking workers. They took to destroying steam engines, many by pulling the plugs on the pressure vessel rendering the engines useless. The phrase “pulling the plug” is still in common use today and stems from this calamitous riot in Britain.

Soon after, intentionally damaging steam engines became a crime punishable by death in Britain.

Interestingly, the word ‘Power’ in the English language has two meanings, one meaning, the noun, describes ‘…the capacity or ability to direct or influence the behavior of others or the course of events…’

The other usage is as a verb, “…..to supply (a device) with mechanical or electrical energy….’

In no other language does this word share this duality. This is instructive, as it became apparent that those that controlled the power, indeed had social power. We can still see evidence of this today in modern politics.

If Malm had been unkind to the Ricardo-Malthusian explanation for the onset of fossil fuels, he is not particularly generous to the more contemporary Anthropocene narrative. Malm’s objection with this movement is not necessarily to deny the labeling of this as an ecological epoch, rather, he takes issue with the notion that somehow man was intrinsically and irreversibly responsible as a species for the onset of fossil fuel usage and the resulting climate change.

He argues that early man’s mastery of fire does not necessarily implicate humans as destined to destroy the planet, he makes the rather succinct point that ownership of steam engines, and the resulting adoption of coal to feed these engines, was specific to a very small class of people, namely, wealthy white guys involved in the Capitalist mode of production. An average wage laborer did not own a steam engine in the 19th Century, why would she? The Capitalist class acted directly to divert an organic economy that was already successful and underway with renewable hydro power to an economy that relied on fossil fuels, specifically to avoid the untenable social relations present in using a collective energy resource like water power. The Capitalist must own not just the means of production, but the fuel sources as well.

Beyond this Malm ventures into some truly interesting commentary, he discusses in some detail the need for constant exponential expansion intrinsic to Capitalism, and makes a most interesting observation about this expansion from the perspective of fossil fuels.

To do this, he discusses the time honored theory of the tendency of the rate of profit to fall, which is the primary failure mechanism of Capitalism in orthodox Marxism. The rate of profit tends to fall, as the organic composition of constant capital to variable capital changes. In plain English, this means that as machines and automation replace people, the profits left for the Capitalist decline. This is because if labor is the source of all value, as labor content declines, so does surplus value.

But this “tendency” is not a hard and fast rule, there are ways that this “tendency” can be mitigated, indeed, the Capitalism of today goes to great pains to deflect these tendencies- largely through State interventions. However, we do know that as more machines are created to replace or accelerate human labor, more fossil fuels will be used to power them- just as it did in 19th century Britain.

Malm suggests that this energy consumption component of value production is a hard and fast rule- not a tendency, and that as the composition of constant Capital increases, the consumption of fossil fuels must also increase- exponentially. He expresses this as an increased carbon content per unit of production. This would suggest a death spiral related to fossil fuel use, unstoppable and with no known restraint under the laws of motion of a Capitalist economy.

To the notion that man as a species is intrinsically responsible and destined to destroy the planet, his view is that if we all are responsible, then no one is responsible. By this he suggests that if all are guilty, then no one can be deposed or held accountable.

And this narrative is starting to sound vaguely familiar, yes, blame the working class and the poor for societies woes, and for good measure be sure to inflict the greatest amount of retribution and payback amongst those least responsible.

This is a time honored strategy unique to class structure. A secondary outcome is the blaming of workers for global warming through consumption.

Malm makes a solid case using historical reconstruction and a Marxist framework to unveil the unity between energy and exploitation. He suggests that the need for exploitation within the Capitalist mode of production is largely the driver towards unfettered fossil fuel consumption. Another thrust, which he is covering in a new book, is the notion that the nexus to petroleum energy was in direct response to the crippling coal miner’s strikes.

So it is not surprising then that we see similar characteristics in our current bourgeoisie government in the persona of Trump. We see the ascension of energy moguls to the levers of power for exactly the same reasons, with exactly the same objectives that were there in 19th century Britain.

The current era Capitalist class is deeply concerned with the declining rate of profit, despite the mitigating influence of neo-liberal expansion. They reflexively return to tried and true restorative strategies, central to this is an expansion of fossil fuel production and simultaneous relaxation of regulations- of which we see abundant evidence that this is underway.

If there is an area of weakness in Malm’s work, it is in his explanation of why man is not acting in his own best interests. While I find his rejection of the culpability of man as a species gratifying, it is hard to connect the dots between the Plug Riots of 1842 and a similar modern day Black Friday mob descending like locusts on a Wal Mart sale. There really is no coherent explanation offered to connect the dots between these disparate behaviors, and it really is one of the more important questions of our time.

Perhaps a narrative that revolves around addiction, and its close companion denial is more appropriate.

Overall in his wrap up to include modern times, Malm is not hopeful for any relief from the fossil fuel madness or any meaningful redress to climate change. He points out that sunk capital costs in coal fired plants, refineries, and other capital intensive investments are unlikely to be unwound until they are fully amortized. Once paid for, there is little motivation to sunset them as after all, they are paid up and can then contribute to supra-profits. The modern day Capitalist class does not make these kind of massive investments without a priori policy assurances from the State- which they actively seek and receive.

In the end Malm accomplishes a great deal with his book, the approach of leaving aside pure science and using tools of sociology to examine causality is very effective. It will be interesting to see where he takes this thread in his upcoming book, continuing with a similar framework around petroleum fuels.

It is more likely that we will find coal a source of sunlight, than sunlight a competitor of coal.

William Stanley Jevons 1860

The Trumpocene: Darkness Gathers


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“The point of modern propaganda isn’t only to misinform or push an agenda. It is to exhaust your critical thinking, to annihilate truth.”Gary Kasparov

With each passing day, the mental stability of our narcissistic, megalomaniacal president is increasingly being called into question by those unnerved from his erratic behavior. The unhinged press conferences, comically embarrassing meetings with world leaders, and uncensored tweets reveal just how illiterate, delusional, and divisive America’s first reality TV president truly is, and the consequences won’t be confined to the imaginary world of a television screen. The irony is that the very news media networks whom the president disparages on a daily basis were instrumental in getting him elected, allowing Trump’s circus to hog the headlines in an ‘issues free’ campaign. Trump received $1.9 billion in free media coverage, 190 times as much as he paid for while the major networks made tons of revenue off Trump’s theatrics. Driving this symbiotic relationship is the fierce competition for ratings determining the advertising revenue and bottom line of these corporate-owned news networks. The media exploited Trump’s sensationalist behavior for profit, helping to drive his campaign to the top of this money-grubbing pyramid scheme. We are, as Neil Postman mused, amusing ourselves to death. Most of these networks are now busy trying to contain the monster they helped create. The other great irony is that America is getting a taste of its own medicine after having meddled in other country’s elections for decades; the CIA was one of the early developers of cyber warfare and is one of the world’s most ruthless practitioners of it.

Of the many Trump lies glossed over by corporate media, the most dangerous one is that anthropogenic climate change is a hoax. The Trump administration is riddled with like-minded Flat-Earthers bent on dismantling the EPA and stoking fossil fuel consumption. In Trumpland, alternative facts are as valid as any empirical evidence. Scientists are being muzzled and the masses are being gaslighted. Conspiracy theories, hearsay, and pure fantasy have replaced meaningful public discourse. We have a demagogue working to blind everyone to what scientists are telling us and our own eyes can see. A civilization which cannot discern the truth cannot make rational decisions for the future, let alone the present. Trump’s kleptocracy will flourish in such an environment while repeating the mantra, “It’s all about the American people.”

The dumbing down of American is most evident in the slow decay of substantive content in the enormously influential media, the 30 second sound bites (now down to 10 seconds or less), lowest common denominator programming, credulous presentations on pseudoscience and superstition, but especially a kind of celebration of ignorance” ~ Carl Sagan

The loss of the Fairness Doctrine in 1987 was an important milestone in America’s decline towards a “post-truth” culture, paving the way for the “outrage industry” and talk radio demagogues like Rush Limbaugh. Twitter is the new bully pulpit for a tyrant-aspiring charlatan, and his antics serve as a useful tool for distracting the public from the right-wing agenda of extreme deregulation and privatization, otherwise known as the Overthrow Project. The biggest danger of wealth inequality is capture of the political system by the elites. This has already happened in America and abroad to the extent that there is now a new globalized elite who have more fealty towards each other than their country of origin, completely lacking positive feelings and loyalty towards their own native lands. The existing oligarchy is being strengthened at the expense of an already polarized and economically disenfranchised society. The Trump regime is corporatism on steroids.

As the famous saying goes, “There’s a sucker born every minute” and Trump is just the latest huckster to exploit them. His rhetoric appeals to people’s emotions and raises their dopamine levels, but facts have a tendency to get in the way of a good story. Trump’s base of supporters, however, appear immune to facts that contradict their leaders’s disinformation. One of his big campaign pledges was to bring back the manufacturing base of the U.S. and revive the Rust Belt, but this promise rings hollow in the age of techno-capitalism. Machines have taken over manufacturing and Trump’s protectionist policies will in all likelihood accelerate this process. AI promises to bring even more radical disruption to the job market:

At a time when the Trump administration is promising to make America great again by restoring old-school manufacturing jobs, AI researchers aren’t taking him too seriously. They know that these jobs are never coming back, thanks in no small part to their own research, which will eliminate so many other kinds of jobs in the years to come, as well…

In the US, the number of manufacturing jobs peaked in 1979 and has steadily decreased ever since. At the same time, manufacturing has steadily increased, with the US now producing more goods than any other country but China. Machines aren’t just taking the place of humans on the assembly line. They’re doing a better job. And all this before the coming wave of AI upends so many other sectors of the economy.

Trump’s fake stance on protecting American workers will not unwind decades of globalization, unrelenting automation, or the machinations of corporate capitalism. His promise to reignite the coal industry is yet more empty rhetoric; independent energy experts at BNEF dismantle his claim:

Coal power is just too costly and inflexible, explains BNEF: “Super-low-cost renewable power — what we are now calling ‘base-cost renewables’ — is going to force a revolution in the way power grids are designed, and the way they are regulated.”

When you add the revolution in cheap fracked gas — which Trump has pledged to double down on — it’s no surprise the country shut down over 40 gigawatts of coal-fired power stations since 2000…

It’s also being driven by a collapse in the export market, as countries from Europe to Asia also move away from coal because of its economic and human cost…

So Trump won’t be bringing back the domestic coal industry. And even if he could, he can’t bring back the jobs because it’s the coal industry itself that wiped out most of those jobs through productivity gains from “strip mines and machinery”…

Conveniently ignoring the harmful environmental impacts and the fact that illegal immigration has been on the decline for the past decade, the proposed Trump Wall is an expensive monument to xenophobia and misguided fears. No wall will prevent those determined to circumvent it, but if you listen to the engineers and experts who actually have experience working at the border, then it’s not a solid continuous wall(projected to take 16 years to complete) but a partial fence that would be more effective and feasible, and that’s if you believe that Americans will take the place of those millions of migrant farm workers who leave their homes every year to plant, cultivate, harvest, and pack America’s fruits, vegetables and nuts, in addition to the millions of other low-skilled and low-paying jobs that immigrants perform. Capitalism thrives on the back of cheap labor, but even these jobs are not safe from machines.

What kind of world is going to support all this labor-saving, hi-tech gadgetry when its creators are too short-sighted to maintain the habitability of the planet for their own descendants? There is no deus ex machina to prevent catastrophic collapse of the oceans nor is there one to stop catastrophic climate change. Industrial civilization is a one-hit wonder for which there are no solutions that scale up to the mountain of problems it has created. Dealing with the environmental costs of fossil fuels is the classic “prisoner’s dilemma” whereby the incentive to cheat for short-term economic gain prevents the cooperation needed by everyone. The economic, legal, and moral framework to tackle climate change simply does not exist. The invisible hand of the “free market” has turned into the boot of environmental catastrophe.

Primates, mankind’s closest biological cousins in the animal kingdom, are in steep decline because they have the “misfortune of being concentrated in areas rich in certain resources precious to their sapient but ravenous cousins.” Not even our fellow human beings can escape war and death when they live atop coveted resources, so what chance does any other species have?

“People have argued that we only have to worry about human-caused extinctions if we do something that causes the loss of 80 or 90 percent of species on the planet,” said UC Berkeley environmental scientist James W. Kirchner.

“Our analysis shows that even if the human impact is much smaller than that – 20 or 30 or even 50 percent of species – it’s still going to take 10 million years for the Earth to recover. That is well past the expected life span of the human species, or even of the genus Homo.” – Link

The study quoted above was from the year 2000 and has the usual hopeful spin:

“It is not preordained that high levels of human-caused extinction have to happen,” Kirchner said. “Our future depends on what we choose to do on a national and international level, as a society. Those decisions are critical because they will have very long-lasting consequences.”

Not surprisingly, we have failed to heed that advice. Scientists say our rampant road building has dissected the Earth’s land into 600,000 fragments too small to support significant wildlife. A new study covering 130 countries finds deforestation rises with incomes in developing economies and never reverses. This is particularly troubling because Africa is a developing continent with some of the world’s largest tracts of remaining undisturbed forests and biodiversity hotspots. Biodiversity loss is an existential threat comparable to climate change. The glaring warning from all these studies is that the Western way of life exported across the entire planet has brought us to a point of cataclysmic overshoot. Business-as-usual only exacerbates the crisis:

Real-world CO2 emissions have tracked the high end of earlier [IPCC] emissions scenarios, and until the currently wealthy countries can produce a large decline in their own emissions per capita, it is dubious to project that emissions per capita in the less developed countries will not continue on a trajectory up to the levels of currently wealthy countries…[The top 10% of the economically wealthy in the world produce almost as much total GHG emissions as the bottom 90% combined]… – Link

Trump peddles the false hope of regaining material wealth for a collapsing middle class with his slogan “Make America great again”, but after being elected, is giving more power and riches to those who have created this environmental and social catastrophe. Capitalism is, as Martin Luther King observed, “socialism for the rich, rugged individualism for the poor.” Nonetheless, in the bigger scheme of modern civilization’s looming collapse, the ‘Trumpocene’ amounts to nothing more than polishing the brass on the Titanic.

A time is coming when what we do to Earth is completely overshadowed by what Earth does to us. We have already condemned the planet to an ice-free Arctic and no amount of techno-fixes will return it to its former state. Were humans to disappear today from the Earth, the after-effects of our massive fossil fuel binge would reverberate for aeons. The last time there was an ice-free Arctic was during the Eemian period 125,000 years ago at the height of the last major interglacial period, but the CO2 levels of today are much higher now and causing the climate to change at a rate that is 170 times that of natural forces with much more warming to come. According to a new study, manmade global warming is replicating conditions that triggered an abrupt sea level rise of several meters in the ocean around Antarctica some 15,000 years ago. The damage done is irreversible not only on a human timescale or a civilizational time scale, but a species timescale. The total global carbon dioxide emissions load from the onset of the industrial revolution is enough to push the next ice age back by 100,000 years and only deep geologic time will significantly remediate the chemistry of a CO2-spiked atmosphere. The same is true for ocean acidification. The natural process of continental rock weathering to neutralize all of the CO2 from human activity that is entering the oceans would take hundreds of thousands of years. Plankton blooms, a key part of the entire marine food web and the biological carbon pump, are being disrupted by warming, acidifying oceans. The Great Barrier Reef is expected to be completely dead within the next two decades and 98% of all reefs around the world gone by mid century. The latest research indicates ocean acidification is much worse for corals that previously thought.

Manmade persistent organic pollutants(POPs) such as PCBs and flame retardants can be found in the most remote places on Earth such as the 36,000-foot-deep Mariana Trench in the western Pacific Ocean where researchers tested crustaceans and found them to contain 50 times more POPs than crabs living in one of China’s most polluted rivers. Once these endocrine-disrupting compounds settle into the sediments, they can remain there for thousands of years before being disturbed and recirculated into the environment once again as a contaminant. Microplastics less than 5mm in size are ubiquitous in the environment, having been documented in the waters of both the Arctic and Antarctic and recently found on 73% of Britain’s beaches.

The irrational ramblings of a demagogue won’t change a shifting earth laying waste to a once rich ecosphere and grinding to dust the landmarks of modern man. Delusions and protestations have no bearing on the laws of chemistry and thermodynamics.