Paul F. Getty brought to my attention a new essay written by environmentalist Daniel A. Drumright. I featured his writing in a prior post entitled ‘The Day The Whole World Went Away‘. This new one, entitled ‘The irreconcilable acceptance of near-term extinction‘, was a bit long-winded for me, so I have whittled it down to the meat and potatoes and corrected a few typos. It’s worth your time to read it. I cannot find any fault with the machinations of capitalism he describes and his general outline of how things will fall apart, but of course the timing is always up to debate. However, seeing that the disintegration of the Arctic is happening faster than any scientific models had predicted, global famine may come much sooner than most know.
In conjunction with this essay, I would also point you to a recent post by Robert Scribbler – ‘For Central US, Climate Change and a Mangled Jet Stream Means Drought Follows Flood Follows Drought‘ – which should help bring everyone up to speed with some ominous trends in the climate of Earth. Humans are continuing to pump so much CO2 into the atmosphere in such a very short time span, geologically speaking, that a considerable lag time has built up, in terms of human time scales, for the final catastrophic effects to play out over the coming decades and centuries.
As far as how one should live their life from here on out, Daniel says “ethical hedonism” is the choice he has made in the face of NTE[Near Term Extinction]. As for myself, a lot of people are dependant on me, so I cannot take that route.
For anyone else reading this, how will you live henceforth, knowing the end is near?
This post is in response to Systemic Disorder commenter Palloy who thinks that peak oil will save mankind and that global warming “will not be as bad as +1.5°C.” I want to answer the question of what degree of warming we are already committed to if industrial civilization were to disappear off the face of the Earth right now.
Palloy is overlooking the part that aerosols from industrial activity play in temporarily cooling the planet. James Hansen called this the Faustian Bargain:
…Human activity modifies the impact of the greenhouse effect by the release of airborne particulate pollutants known as aerosols. These include black-carbon soot, organic carbon, sulphates, nitrates, as well as dust from smoke, manufacturing, wind storms, and other sources. Aerosols have a net cooling effect because they reduce the amount of sunlight that reaches the ground and they increase cloud cover. This is popularly known as “global dimming”, because the overall aerosol impact is to mask some of the warming effect of greenhouse gases.
Hansen’s new study estimates this aerosol “dimming” at 1.2 degrees (plus or minus 0.2°), much higher than previously figured. Aerosols are washed out of the atmosphere by rain on average every 10 days, so their cooling effect is only maintained because of continuing human pollution, the principal source of which is the burning of fossil fuels, which also cause a rise in carbon dioxide levels and global warming that lasts for many centuries…
The average global temperature rise thus far is about 0.85°C since the onset of the Industrial Revolution. Once industrial activity ceases and its accompanying aerosols fall out of the atmosphere, the average global temperature will jump to about 2°C, but it won’t simply stop there because Palloy forgets that there is a lag time involved with CO2 emissions. The effects we are feeling now were from our emissions 40 years ago:
…The estimate of 40 years for climate lag, the time between the cause (increased greenhouse gas emissions) and the effect (increased temperatures), has profound negative consequences for humanity. However, if governments can find the will to act, there are positive consequences as well.
With 40 years between cause and effect, it means that average temperatures of the last decade are a result of what we were thoughtlessly putting into the air in the 1960’s. It also means that the true impact of our emissions over the last decade will not be felt until the 2040’s. This thought should send a chill down your spine!…
This “committed warming” of past CO2 emissions whose effect will be manifested in the coming decades is about 0.6 degrees Celsius. Adding up the current warming of 0.85°C from the onset of the Industrial Revolution, the loss of aerosols with global dimming at 1.2°C, and the “committed” temperature rise from the 40-year lag time of CO2 emissions equal to 0.6°C, we get a total of 2.65°C. If all industrial activity stopped right now, we would already be committed to 2.65°C, a global average temperature rise of three times what we are currently experiencing. With all the drought, flooding, hurricanes, landslides, fires, and other manifestations of climate change that we are undergoing now, I shudder to think what the world will be like in 2050 and yet humans continue to burn coal and other fossil fuels at breakneck speed. According to the Climate Accountability Institute, half of all emissions have been produced in the past 25 years.
(1) An increase in temperature decreases the area covered by sea ice as it melts leaving a larger area of exposed ocean.
(2) This decreases the reflection of sunlight as ice is far more reflective than the newly exposed ocean.
(3) Reduced reflection increases the area’s absorption of heat from the sun.
(4) This increases the temperature of the area, amplifying the original increase in temperature mentioned in (1).
A recent study calculated that the loss of Arctic ice reflectivity from 1979 to 2011 added an amplifying feedback to human warming equivalent to 25% of the heat captured by CO2 emissions during that same time.
We know that we don’t live in a linear world and that climate change is a non-linear phenomenon. Recent studies on abrupt climate change in Earth’s history reveal that temperatures have changed rapidly by 5°C in just 13 years. With the grand experiment mankind has irrevocably and haphazardly embarked on, the de-thawing of vast stores of permafrost and clathrates measured in the gigatons has commenced, creating the possibility for a sudden catastrophic release of such gases at any time. Methane, for about the first 10 to 20 years of its initial release before it breaks down into CO2, is many fold more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. Humans are too busy calculating everything in terms of economic profit with regards to newly exposed resources and shorter shipping routes in the Arctic to take the time to fathom what damage they have done. Industrial civilization has permanently disrupted the stable period known as the Holocene within which mankind and civilization have been allowed to prosper.
Thus, we can see that the world is changing quickly into an environment that may well be outside the habitability for humans. The timing of human near-term extinction is likely academic.
Apneaman left this message here just a short time ago:
Journalist Dahr Jamail & Professor Peter Wadhams say the resulting release of methane will lead to massive climate disruption, and that we have reached a point of no return.
CO2 Takes Just 10 Years to Reach Planet’s Peak Heat (Not 40 Years)
In a study that could have important ramifications on estimating the impacts, costs and benefits of reducing carbon dioxide emissions, new research shows that CO2 brings peak heat within a decade of being emitted, with the effects then lingering 100 years or more into the future…
…The research, published Wednesday in Environmental Research Letters, provides policymakers and economists with a new perspective on how fast human carbon emissions heat the planet. Back-of-the-envelope estimates for how long it takes for a given puff of CO2 to crank up the heat have generally been from 40-50 years. But the new study shows that the timeframe for CO2 emissions to reach their maximum warming potential is likely closer to 10 years…. http://www.climatecentral.org/news/co2-emissions-peak-heat-18394
Those who have read my thoughts, sprinkled hither and thither around the internet, will perhaps be aware that I gave up, about one and a half years ago, when I realised that whatever mighty efforts activists might make, it was going to be impossible to save the biosphere. Daniel Drumright was about three months ahead of me.
Nobody who hasn’t fully encountered and absorbed that experience for themselves, in its true horror, has any idea what it really means, and for those who have yet to face it, you have my deepest compassion and sympathy.
There’s no point in going over the technical reasoning in detail. People either get it or they don’t. They can find all the information quite easily.
There are three big, obvious factors that most people do not understand; those are, first, the irreversible self-reinforcing positive feedbacks that Guy McPherson is listing, and second, the time lag, that what we have now is the result of what we did forty or so years ago, and what we get in the future will be the effects of what we have been doing ever since. The third is the astounding rate at which all the changes are happening, when compared with all previous similar or comparable events in Earth’s history. Whatever it is, it is ULTRA DRAMATIC on the geological time scale.
The doom scenario has been, and is being, comprehensively documented by xraymike on this blog. The trickle of folk who are going through the process of coming to terms with this hellish awakening has already grown into a cascade and will soon be millions, and I really have nothing to say to them, because I do not know what to say to them.
Once you get the insight regarding the Mass Extinction Event, it’s a bit like the Buddha’s Enlightenment Experience under the Bodhi Tree, only in reverse, so to speak.
Gautama pondered whether to keep his insight to himself and spend the rest of his days in bliss, or whether to teach others what he now knew, and he chose, out of compassion, to spend the remainder of his life wandering through India teaching his message.
But how do you teach how to cope with doom ? There’s nothing optimistic or pleasing or life-enhancing or joyful about imminent apocalypse. There’s just the anguish and distress involved with the demanding process of navigating your own psychology and emotional responses toward an impossible future.
Each individual IS an individual, as we see on NBL, with their own version of the mixture of belief and disbelief and their own political and philosophical and religious outlooks, and some have children and grandchildren and some are thinking of survival chances, some of suicide, some of resistance, and so on.
I have had more than a year to dwell upon my own position, and to watch the responses in my own being, and in the people whom I like and respect, and the voices I admire, who also grasp the profound and terrible tragedy facing us all. For a long time, there was commiseration, but then what ? Commiseration fatigue ? How can anyone commiserate with anonymous thousands, let alone millions ?
Again, there’s lots of speculation as to the detail of how the crash will play out and how societies will respond as they collapse. I’m not going to add much to that here, it’s all available elsewhere. We either get a die back, and a bottle neck, with a few survivors, or a complete die off and total extinction event. I think we get the latter, but even if it is the former, none of us are going to know any of those people, as to who they will be, or where or what becomes of them, so why does it matter ? And why would anyone choose to have to live through whatever horrendous circumstances they will have to endure, following the trauma of the ending of civilisation ? Perhaps some people will just happen to find themselves in such a situation. Who knows ?
Meanwhile, here we are. Peak just about everything, where we start the big slide down into the abysmal depths of whatever awaits us all… the biggest crisis that the human species has ever faced, 7 point something billion of us, with millions more arriving here every month. There is no discernible global leadership of any kind that comprehends our dire situation, only madmen and corruption and people locked in to dead cultural paradigms.
What does a dead cultural paradigm look like ?
Well, we’ve got Joseph Tainter to give us some clues from the historical record and maybe Heathcote Williams to bring us up to date with the contemporary scene
From what I understand of history, we can expect a hard swing toward fascist dystopia, as regimes try desperately to exert total control over everything, and hard swings from repressed populations and factions which reciprocate with resistance.
The future will be whatever it will be. Every day I walk up and down the Beach of Doom and kick at pieces of poisonous plastic flotsam and miscellaneous cosmic debris left by the virtual tide, and gaze at the orange purple bruises on the tangerine sky and sometimes I bicker and haggle with someone.
Yesterday it was Lidia at NBL to whom I am grateful for an insight into something or other.
You see, people can be very roughly divided into two groups. Those who primarily hold a religious, or spiritual, or romantic, or mythical world view. And those who primarily hold a scientific, or materialist, or rationalist world view.
Of course, this is a crude over-simplification, and speaking to any individual, you’ll soon find they hold all kinds of contradictory beliefs. But roughly, it’s Mythos and Logos, or Iain McGilchrist’s Right and Left Hemispheres.
So, Lidia was kind enough to describe her worldview, her welt anschauung, her cosmology, her mental conception of how reality is structured, her epistemology, her way of ‘knowing your place in the Universe’.
I hope she will forgive my using her as an example, and the exchange several days ago was only a brief re-run of a much longer version we had on the now defunct NTE ning, some months ago, so I think I do have a fairly full idea as to her thinking, but so as not to risk any personal offence, I’ll take the illustration away from Lidia, and apply it to any generic physicist or scientist or person with a similar belief system, of whom I have met very, very many. This will allow me some poetic license possibly, avoiding danger of maligning the good Lidia, I hope.
You see, according to this paradigm of reality, there is only physics. Everything is physics.
That means that everything is explained by physics. That means no mystery, because even if there is mystery, that’s only due to physics not yet explaining it. And once mystery is killed off, it’s relatives, cousins – things like awe, wonder, sanctity, sacredness, the numinous – easily shrivel and die too.
So, that reality ‘out there’, and this reality ‘in here’, is all meaningless, because it only means something if we impose some wishful magical thinking onto the physics, which, as objective scientists, we are not allowed to do.
And that reality ‘out there’ is just ‘stuff’, and it interacts with this reality ‘in here’, the brain, which again is just ‘stuff’. It’s all physics, it’s all physical stuff, and even though we don’t understand all of it – even don’t understand most of it, or, if pressed, hardly ANY of it, hahaha – in theory, physics can, and will, explain all of it, one day, so no problem.
So, it’s quite interesting to trace back where this story, this Logos story, comes from, and it’s quite easy to do, because it’s well documented and researched, and it goes back to Descartes and his radical scepticism, and the ideas given to him by an angel (Mythos) and his struggle to find anything, something, that he could not undermine by radical doubt, and his arrival at ‘I think, therefore I am’ and then the beginnings of modern science.
Given that the Church of Rome was the dominant power in Europe at the time, an accommodation had to be made between the rising power of science and the prevailing authority, and thus we got an expedient result, the division which gave the material world to the scientists and the spiritual world to the priests. That’s why there’s no God or spirits involved in physics. Which, you may say, is an excellent thing. But let us call it, for the moment, ‘a mixed blessing’.
Because, you see, if you follow the epistemology carefully, and look at it very closely, something absolutely amazing emerges.
Einstein said that our ordinary common senses give us ‘naive realism’. That is, grass is green, rocks are hard, and snow is cold. But physics, if it is true, tells us that this naive realism is all wrong, physics tells us that the reality is quite different, something completely different is actually going on, out there and in here.
Now, it’s all very well for someone like Einstein, or Niels Bohr, or Feynman, to come up with these ideas, as professional physicists, but what happens when this scientific worldview, this basically Cartesian worldview, is taught to us lesser mortals as part of the culture, and internalised as epistemology, and preached to us as ontology, and integrated into general social cosmology ?
This is where it gets really weird, a MOST extraordinary thing – because when I thought over what Lidia had told me, nowhere in the depiction and analysis is there anywhere for A HAPPY HEALTHY COMPLETE HUMAN BEING.
Isn’t that bizarre ? That human beings have come up with a teaching as to what the world is and what the totality of the Universe is, which does not even include the organism that WE ARE, AT ALL ?
I mean, that strikes me as exceptionally odd. Prior to Descartes, the cosmology was a sort of Divine Order, with the Heavens above and layers with angels and God at the pinnacle and so forth. And people were taught this, and their place in the social hierarchy of feudalism was essentially justified because the King was a sort of representative of God on Earth, and so on. So although we can scoff at the nonsense of it, at least at the time, if you were a peasant, you featured in the story.
If you were out in the fields with your ox and your plough and you were gazing at the distant rainbow and thinking about your dead grandfather and you heard the church bells peeling for a wedding in the village next door, all sorts of strange impressions could flicker through your mind, but basically you had a cosmology which placed God somewhere ‘up there’ and you ‘down here’ with a coherent pattern where your birth and living and death belonged with the landscape and the community and the larger reality.
Therefore, the map, the mental model ‘in here’, when projected and overlaid upon reality, had in it the human subject as its focal point, and because that’s what the human subject had been taught, a story was established featuring the ME.
But now, not only have they written God out, with Descartes and the Cartesian Paradigm of reality as the basis of modern science, but you’ve got a model, a cosmology, which has written US, as human beings, biological creatures, right out of the system altogether, as if they were not even involved !
And then people have internalised this model and taken it to be their own personal reality that they use to explain the world to themselves.
I wonder what that does for a person’s health ? I wonder what it does, when millions of people do something like that ?
The Christian Fundamentalists may be completely round the bend when it comes to LOGIC but maybe they just feel intuitively that what they are being offered by the people who argue against them, a worldview, a cosmology, which says NOTHING MEANS ANYTHING, and a worldview, a cosmology, which doesn’t have ANY PLACE where a happy healthy human, a biological human being, can even fit into it, is so sterile and horrible, that they intuitively reject it and are hostile to it ?
Because, if you look at anthropology or what Joseph Campbell said about myth, what a belief system provides for a tribal people is a safe mental refuge. When a person takes a mental excursion into fantasy and ponders the nature of their own life and identity, and the dream they had last night, and their relationships with the world around them and other folks, and the stars above and so forth, the whole purpose of the cosmology is to deliver them safely back unto THEMSELVES.
I mean, think of acid trips and ayauasca and mushrooms and vision quests and all that stuff, where you encounter visions of beings from other dimensions and the most mind-boggling experiences, the idea is to get back to start, square 1, more or less sane and intact.
The same applies to ordinary daydreams and fantasies and all our thinking about our ordinary experiences. How can we be sane and healthy, if our fundamental belief system does not even include a home base option anywhere within it ?
You know, who cares what the physics says. Primarily, we are human beings, biological animals, that cry when we are hurt and sad, and laugh when we are happy, and get sentimental about babies and kittens, and need clean water and food, etc. AND we need a meaningful Universe which has a place for US in it, with a STORY that makes sense as to why we exist…
You know, a story we can UNDERSTAND about who we are and what we are doing here.
At the moment, all these stories we are being told are crap because they are not accurate with the science, strictly speaking, since they can’t be; we can’t get any clear picture from the physicists as to the ultimate nature of all the quantum stuff and the Universe. In addition, these cultural stories are unsatisfactory at the human level when they LEAVE OUT the human being and pretend it’s all some sort of abstract empty machine.
What’s more, from what a large percentage of quantum physicists have plainly stated, you cannot leave the physicist out of the experiment because the observer EFFECTS the observation. Now, I recognize this is contentious, there is no consensus, and it’s not clear what this means. But !
So, what does a ‘good story’ look like ? Well, that’s hard… but I’m glad you asked.
I think this is a complicated and difficult problem, and here I am upon the Beach of Doom, with all of human history and culture, every idea that’s ever been recorded, washed up at my feet at the tide line, strewn and tangled and rotting and steaming…
Look at us, pitiful, confused Bonobos, asking ourselves questions we can’t answer, tearing ourselves and each other apart, trying to satisfy Maslow’s Hierarchy…
Is that what we are doing ? Well, the whistle has blown, the sirens are wailing, time is up, the NTE light is flashing, so there is not going to be some utopian Promised Land for the Bonobos to migrate to…
Xraymike was kind enough to point me to the definition of the word Humanistic:
1. A believer in the principles of humanism. 2. One who is concerned with the interests and welfare of humans.
“Humanism is a group of philosophies and ethical perspectives which emphasize the value and agency of human beings, individually and collectively, and generally prefers individual thought and evidence (rationalism, empiricism) over established doctrine or faith (fideism). The term humanism can be ambiguously diverse, and there has been a persistent confusion between several related uses of the term because different intellectual movements have identified with it over time. In philosophy and social science, humanism refers to a perspective that affirms some notion of a “human nature” (contrasted with anti-humanism). etc…”
So let’s take that as a verbal anchorage.
I’d suggest that most human beings have a fundamental requirement, for their psychological, physiological, and social welfare, to understand ‘the world’ in a way that makes sense. So that, whenever they sit down and think things over, and run ideas through their head, they can confirm themselves and they can confirm ‘the world’ and feel okay.
Wouldn’t that be nice ? Look what we’ve got. It’s not THAT, is it.
Is it any surprise that some people want the Rapture or Alien abduction to get the hell out of this confusion ?
The epistemology that science teaches, following on from Descartes, has caused most of the damage to the biosphere over the last century or two, because nothing is sacred, everything is just dead stuff, in a dead machine, inhabited by ghostly meaningless meat robots, zeks, without any dignity or purpose of their own.
You marry that to Capitalism, an elite with power and greed as their motive, and give it to them as a tool, and hand them control of the Military, which was once meant to guard but gets turned into a predatory plundering machine.
Well. We are where we are. The lights will go out, one by one, and then a few million years of silence as the extremophiles have peace.
It could have been, might have been, a very different story, if we had all followed the example of, say, the Bishnois.
I saw yesterday that peak oil historian John Michael Greer weighed in on the current debate over NTE or near-term extinction for humanity. After reading his post The Pleasures of Extinction, I was quite disappointed in his outright dismissal of the possibility of NTE in the face of recent unprecedented climatic changes. His post does not address any of the scientifically backed findings which, with business-as-usual, point to an uninhabitable future for mankind, let alone most other flora and fauna. Indeed, the predictions of the IPCC have been proven to be much too conservative and do not take into account known positive feedback loops. As they say on Wall Street, past performance does not necessarily predict future results. Even if all human-generated CO2 ceased today, we have a future of environmental catastrophe awaiting us with what has already been pumped into the atmosphere. Referring to NTE as “apocalypse machismo”, Greer paints it as some sort of passing cultural fad in keeping with other doomsday scenarios our culture has popularized, such as the Mayan Prophecy of 2012 or the Rapture of Christian Fundamentalists. He also lumps NTE in with the suicide pacts of lunatic-fringe cult groups:
…Those of my readers who remember the Solar Temple mass suicides of 1994 and 1995 may recall that the collective suicide note left behind by the members of that ill-fated order made exactly that claim: Earth would be uninhabitable by the year 2000, Solar Temple founder Luc Jouret insisted, and so the initiates of the Solar Temple were getting out while the getting was good.
After reading through the numerous comments on Greer’s post, I found several people who had the same incredulous reaction I did:
And this one…
Here was Greer’s response to the above comment by Andrea:
WTF? The science is not the essence of the argument??? I suppose we could say the same for Peak Oil, Ocean Acidification, The 6th Mass Extinction, The Global Die-Off of Forests, etc. They are all part of the doomsday narrative that people are pushing with no science backing up the essence of their argument. Must be a global conspiracy created by some shadowy network of armageddonists.
Besides the cultural obsession with doomsaying which Greer describes in his essay, what reason does he give for why people are pushing such disturbing arguments? Well, he answers that in his comments section:
Mr. Greer, aren’t you a part of this apocalypse lobby? And is Peak Oil the only reality you subscribe to?
I hear that both Greer and McPherson will be speaking at the Age of Limits conference next week. Hopefully those two can have a debate which someone could videotape for us. Greer better beef up on his climate science.
Ah well, a little controversy never hurt sales. I hear that Nicole Foss of the Automatic Earth will soon join the NTE discussion shortly…
As for my opinion on why all the public fascination with Zombies, Post-Apocalyptic narratives, and the like, I believe it’s the collective subconscious of society bubbling up. For those who dig deeper and actually study what is happening in the world, it’s like looking into a bottomless abyss or the Pit of Hell. If you are honest with yourself, the seeming invincibility of humans and their industrial civilization dissolves before your eyes.
Civilizations are living organisms striving to survive and develop through predictable stages of birth, growth, maturation, decline and death. An often overlooked factor in the success or failure of civilizations are cultural memes—the knowledge, beliefs, and behaviors passed down from generation to generation. Cultural memes are a much more significant driver of human evolution than genetic evolution. Entire civilizations have been weeded out when their belief system proved maladaptive to a changing environment. One such cultural meme holding sway over today’s governments, institutions, and society is our economic system of capitalism. The pillars of capitalism represent a belief system so ingrained in today’s culture that they form a sort of cargo cult amongst its adherents.Cargo cults are any of the various Melanesian religious groups which focused on obtaining material wealth(manufactured Western goods that came on cargo ships) through magical thinking, religious rituals and practices. Today the term “cargo cult” is used to describe a wide variety of phenomena that involve superficial imitation of a process or system in order to fabricate a successful outcome without even the basic understanding of its mechanism.
The tenets of capitalism are ritually followed in the proclaimed belief that “a rising tide lifts all boats”, i.e. so-called improvements in the general economy will benefit all participants in that economy. Centuries of unbridled capitalism have demonstrated beyond any doubt that it does not lift all boats. A new study finds that half of Americans are “shut off from economic growth”. The rules of the game are so stacked against the masses that this week a professor said “only all-out thermonuclear war might fundamentally reset the existing distribution of resources.” Capitalism’s imperative for expansion, growing profit levels, and efficiency has ultimately dehumanized our culture. Not even when our basic life support systems are being torn asunder do the vast majority question the path we are on. We are all a captive audience to the system and those few dissident voices are snuffed out under the wheels of “progress”.
Truth be told, the corporate elite have long written off all those people living hand to mouth. Trump’s pick for Labor Secretary said, unlike workers, machines are “always polite, they always upsell, they never take a vacation, they never show up late, there’s never a slip-and-fall, or an age, sex, or race discrimination case.” Massive global unemployment resulting from the automation revolution has not yet been addressed by governments. Roughly half of all jobs in the U.S. are at risk of automation and two-thirds in the developing countries. This is all coming at a time when humans are fast destroying the ecosystems underpinning the very foundation upon which human civilization has developed over thousands of years. Mass migration of climate refugees will only further destabilize governments, stoke ethnic and cultural tensions, and give rise to fascist political movements. No conspiracy is needed to exterminate the “useless eaters”, just allow mother nature to take its course and climate change will be killing billions by mid century. Those in military planning know this and periodically express their fear of what is coming, but business-as-usual rolls on.
Capitalism’s constant impetus to shift costs, risks, and burdens off industry and onto the environment and society carries on under the guise of “being more competitive”. It’s a way of externalizing costs to maximize profit and if these costs were truly taken into account, none of the world’s top industries would be profitable(Interestingly, the link to this study has been scrubbed from the internet). It’s the height of magical thinking to put so much faith in some mystical “invisible hand of the free market” to solve existential threats such as an ever-widening wealth gap and the wholesale destruction of planetary life-support systems. There is no benevolent “invisible hand” turning individual self-interest into the common good. The primary mandate of capitalism is to protect and grow capital. The “invisible hand” is just a bunch of people scrambling to make as much money as possible, not caring or oblivious to those they hurt in the process. Fuck the invisible hand of the market. The invisible hand of mother nature will punish those who squander Earth’s rich but finite resources.
Note that the Permian Mass extinction is estimated to have happened anywhere over the course of 200,000 years to 15 million years. The current 6th mass extinction is happening orders of magnitude faster due to a multitude of factors including deforestation, habitat fragmentation, chemical pollution, poaching, etc., making this current disaster very unique in Earth’s history:
The team of geologists and biologists say that our current extinction crisis is unique in Earth’s history due to four characteristics: the spread of non-native species around the world; a single species (us) taking over a significant percentage of the world’s primary production; human actions increasingly directing evolution; and the rise of something called the technosphere. – Link
Perhaps the fate of humans was written in stone once we stood upright and developed tools. To a large degree, modern technology has been an expression of the energy-dense hydrocarbon fuels we discovered and are not willingly giving up anytime soon. Once fossil fuels ignited the Industrial Revolution and the Haber–Bosch process unleashed the human population bomb, nothing could stop the deadly carbon consumption feedback loop, not even decades of scientific warnings.
From a throwback to our primate ancestors, modern humans have been hard-wired to ignore threats that are not immediate or local; global ecological overshoot(of which climate is just one aspect) is imperceptible to the real-time cognitive processing of humans and represents the ultimate under-the-radar threat able to undermine our reasoning and response:
Psychological concepts of how we view the world around us, including ‘creeping normalcy’ or ‘landscape amnesia’, block day-to-day comprehension of what accelerating human activities represent—whether it is human population, the number of dammed rivers, forest destruction, or the impact of motor car emissions in a timespan that is geologically brief. Creeping normalcy refers to slow trends concealed in noisy fluctuations that people get used to without comment, while landscape amnesia describes forgetting how different the landscape looked 20–50 years ago (Diamond 2005: 425).
In his study of how societies fail, biogeographer Jared Diamond calls global warming a pre-eminent example of a ‘slow trend concealed by wide up and down fluctuations’ (2005: 425). He likens the denial of climate change impacts by leading politicians, including former US president George W. Bush (and his contemporary John Howard in Australia), in the late 1990s and early 2000s to the elite of ‘the medieval Greenlanders [who] had similar difficulties recognizing that their climate was gradually becoming colder, and the Maya and Anasazi (in Central and North America) [who] had trouble discerning that theirs was becoming drier’ (2005: 425). – link
We evolved to react to imminent dangers, not slow-rolling and seemingly invisible catastrophes as an unintended consequence of our cushy lifestyle. From lofty corporate boardrooms to the filthy streets of skid row, the mass of humanity is following the same biological script of overshoot and collapse seen in every organism from bacteria to reindeer herds. Fossil fuels only enabled the destruction to multiply a million-fold, culminating in one final and spectacular explosion of human activity that will leave the planet nearly barren for eons.
Open-ended growth appears to be inherent in nature, all the way from the DNA to the arthropods to mammals, including humans. Open-ended growth is the psychology of a cancer cell. I am not sure I know of a species which has learnt how to limit its own growth. Unfortunately species which transcend their environmental resources can hardly survive – the final arbiter of the climate impasse will be nature itself. ~ Andrew Glikson, Earth and paleo-climate scientist, Australian National University
The beauty and wonder of this planet is being trashed by a naked ape whose cleverness in tool-building has far outstripped his ability to handle it in any restrained or judicious manner. Nature’s rich book of life is being pancaked into a cheap, crumpled comic book.
Add in the development of mass consumerism, planned obsolescence, and the hypnosis of corporate-sponsored TV and you have a passive, malleable population happily marching towards the slaughterhouse. It’s fitting, then, that the masses would be swindled by a megalomaniac bankruptcy artist who dabbled in Reality TV. Every one of Trump’s cabinet picks is a big middle finger in the faces of those who fell for his pseudo-populist rhetoric: billionaires, Wall Street sharks, Goldman Sachs alumni, and hardcore laissez-faire capitalists chomping at the bit to deregulate, monetize, and privatize every last bit of what remains. The allure of capitalism has always been that you’re just one lucky break away from becoming one of those fat cats, if only someone would give you a chance. A prescient observation by Ugo Bardi from earlier this year:
Trump is a symptom of the ongoing breakdown of the social pact…capitalizing on this breakdown by…playing on the attempt of the white (former) middle class to maintain at least some of its previous prosperity and privileges. Trump is…an unavoidable consequence of resource depletion. – Link
The bottom line is that a swing towards authoritarianism happens when resources become scarce. Climate change is simply a symptom of humans overshooting the planet’s carrying capacity. Free market ideologues are nearly always climate ‘skeptics’ because acknowledging the reality of human-induced climate change would be an admission that industry must be curtailed or controlled. Left-leaning people nearly always accept the science because it goes along with their criticisms of capitalism which externalizes social and environmental costs for the benefit of just a few at the top of the economic hierarchy. Thus we see parasitic Trump surrounding himself with right-wing, climate denying, fossil fuel corporatists and insiders who will be doing everything in their power to dismantle health and environmental regulations including privatizing social services which are barriers to capitalist expansion.
To be blunt, our chance of developing a sustainable culture passed us by a long time ago. People will try to adapt until they cannot, and myths will be created to explain away harsh realities. A dystopic future in all its horrific glory has arrived: baked-in biospheric collapse, the inherent and irreconcilable contradictions of techno-capitalism, a dysfunctional political system unable to come to terms with root causes, and the cognitive dissonance of the masses blind to the bigger picture. Our numbers are not a safeguard from extinction.
The ratio of carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere is flirting with 400 parts per million, a level last seen about 2.5 million to 5 million years ago, according to the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego….
…The speed at which Earth’s atmosphere has reached that density of carbon dioxide, a known greenhouse gas, has scientists alarmed.
Scientists estimate that average temperatures during the Pliocene rose as much as 18 degrees Fahrenheit. Sea levels during that 2.8-million-year epoch ranged between 16-131 feet higher than current levels, according to Richard Norris, a Scripps geologist.
“I think it is likely that all these ecosystem changes could recur, even though the time scales for the Pliocene warmth are different than the present,” Norris said. Heating the ocean probably will cause sea level rises and change the Ph balance of the ocean, affecting a wide array of marine life, he said. “Our dumping of heat and CO2 into the ocean is like making investments in a pollution bank,” he said…
Let’s go over and update the major tipping points again(covered earlier here and here) which are currently in play:
Jason Box speaks the language of Manhattans. Not the drink—the measuring unit.
As an expert on Greenland who has traveled 23 times to the massive, mile thick northern ice sheet, Box has shown an uncanny ability to predict major melts and breakoffs of Manhattan-sized ice chunks. A few years back, he foretold the release of a “4x Manhattans” piece of ice from Greenland’s Petermann Glacier, one so big that once afloat it was dubbed an “ice island.” In a scientific paper published in February of 2012, Box further predicted “100 % melt area over the ice sheet” within another decade of global warming. As it happened, the ice sheet’s surface almost completely melted just a month later in July—an event that, in Box’s words, “signals the beginning of the end for the ice sheet.”
Box, who will speak at next week’s Climate Desk Live briefing in Washington, D.C., pulls no punches when it comes to attributing all of this to humans and their fossil fuels. “Those who claim it’s all cycles just don’t understand that humans are driving the cycle right now, and for the foreseeable future,” he says. And the coastal consequences of allowing Greenland to continue its melting—and pour 23 feet’s worth of sea level into the ocean over the coming centuries—are just staggering. “If you’re the mayor of Hamburg, or Shanghai, or Philadelphia, I think it’s in your job description that you think forward a century,” says Box. “They’re completely inundated by the year 2200.”…
3.) Unleashing of Tundra methane clathrates and sub-sea methane deposits from (1) and (2):
Courtesy of the work by Sam Carana, the multitude of reinforcing feedback loops from the loss of the Arctic Ice Sheet are listed below:
Albedo feedback: Accelerated warming in the Arctic speeds up the decline of ice and snow cover, further accelerating albedo change.
Methane feedback: Methane releases in the Arctic further add to the acceleration of warming in the Arctic, further contributing to weaken Arctic methane stores and increasing the danger that methane releases will trigger runaway global warming.
Currents feedback: Sea ice loss can cause vertical sea currents to weaken, reducing the cooling effect they had on the seabed. This can thus further cause sediments to warm up that can contain huge amounts of methane in the form of free gas and hydrates.
Storms feedback: Increased frequency and intensity of storms can cause substantially more vertical mixing of the sea water column, causing more warming of the seabed, thus further contributing to the warming of sediments, as above.
Storms feedback: Accelerated warming in the Arctic can result in more storms, causing mixing of cold Arctic air with warmer air from outside the Arctic. The net result is a warmer Arctic.
Storms feedback: More open waters can result in more storms that can push the ice across the Arctic Ocean, and possibly all the way out of the Arctic Ocean.
Storms feedback: Storms also cause more waves that break up the sea ice. Smaller pieces of ice melt quicker than large pieces. A large flat and solid layer of ice is also less susceptible to wind than many lighter and smaller pieces of ice that will stand out above the water and capture the wind like the sails of yachts.
Storms feedback: Storms cause waters to become more wavy. Calm waters can reflect much sunlight back into space, acting as a mirror, especially when the sun shines under a low angle. Wavy waters, on the other hand, absorb more sunlight.
Fires feedback: More extreme weather comes with heatwaves and storms. Thus, this is in part another storms feedback. The combination of storms and fires can be deadly. Heatwaves can spark fires that, when fueled up by storms, turn into firestorms affecting huge areas and causing huge amounts of emissions. Storms can whip up particles that when deposited on ice, snow or the bare soil, can cause more sunlight to be absorbed.
Open doors feedback: Accelerated warming in the Arctic causes the polar vortex and jet stream to weaken, causing more extreme weather and making it easier for warm air to enter the Arctic.
Two papers released last week in the journal Nature Geoscience provide evidence that warming and melt in West Antarctica are occurring at levels that are highly unusual compared to natural variability.
The West Antarctic Ice Sheet contains about 2.2 million cubic kilometers of ice; enough to raise global sea levels by 3 to 4m. What’s making glaciologists nervous is that the ice rests on bedrock which is below sea level; this makes it vulnerable to attack from below by a warming ocean as well as attack from above by increasing air temperatures.
As some of us were heading off for the Easter holiday weekend, the Brazilian government was quietly releasing deforestation trends showing an increase in deforestation for the first time in five years.
These numbers use the DETER rapid response satellite system, a system that provides estimates of deforestation rates every month. Over the time period documented, August 2012 to February 2013, the rates increased an estimated 26.82% and an area of the Amazon larger than the size of the city of London disappeared.
In absolute numbers, that means 1,695 square kilometers (654 square miles) of forest have disappeared. That equals an area the size of 237,000 soccer fields…
…The increase in deforestation rates can be directly attributed to the Brazilian government’s systematic dismantling of the laws and agencies that protect the Amazon…
…President Dilma Rousseff’s approval of a new Forest Code, a law that provides amnesty for crimes committed after 2008 in the Amazon and reduces large areas of protected land, paved the way for the increase in deforestation. The president also structurally weakened government agencies like IBAMA, the federal environmental enforcement agency, so unfortunately it won’t be a surprise if deforestation continues to rise in the Amazon…
After more than a decade, the mountain pine beetle epidemic that surged through British Columbia appears finally to be in remission. Having devastated the province’s lodgepole pine forests, the insect is running out of food.
But forest managers now see new beetle infestations appearing at the edge of the Boreal Forest, in Alberta, and in the Yukon and Northwest Territories — areas well outside the insect’s historical range. As a warming climate lifts the temperature limitations that once kept the beetle in check, scientists fear it may continue its push across the continent, perhaps as far as the Atlantic Coast…
…Without debating the causes of global climate change the effects of forest dieback can be viewed factually. The earth is warming and droughts are increasing in severity and magnitude. Temperature and drought are major contributing factors to forest dieback, so more trees will be dying in the future. As more carbon is released from dead trees, especially in the Amazon and Boreal Forests, more greenhouse gasses are released into the atmosphere. Increased levels of greenhouse gasses increase the temperature of the atmosphere. The negative feedback loop is reinforced and the biological adaptations of the species determine its survival. Projections for dieback vary, but the threat of global climate change only stands to increase the rate of dieback. The issue is complex and models are intricate, so scientists have serious work ahead of them.
Scientists do not know the tipping points of climate change and can only estimate the timescales. When a tipping point, the critical threshold, is reached a small change in human activity can have long-term consequences on the environment. Two of the nine tipping points for major climate changes forcast for the next century are directly related to forest diebacks. Scientists are worried that forest dieback in the Amazon rain forest and the Boreal evergreen forest will trigger a tipping point in the next 50 years.… – source
7.) The Sahara and Sahel in Africa
It is difficult to estimate the overall ability to increase food production, but a recent analysis suggests that human consumption may be approaching the limits of the net primary plant production (NPP) — that is, the maximum photosynthetic production that is possible on the planet.
It is “not whether humans will reach the global NPP boundary but when they will do so.” It seems probable that the developed countries will continue their excessively high levels of consumption. The emerging economies are likely to continue to eat more protein and a larger slice of grain production in countries with an appropriate climate for grain production will be diverted to feeding animals, or ethanol to drive automobiles. A child born in the Sahel today could belong to the first generation to come to maturity in the contemporary world where the ability to feed large numbers of ecological refugees may well diminish. It is also possible that the secondary effects of the collision of population growth and climate change could create what scientists call an “asymmetrical uncertainty.” The possible consequences of this asymmetrical uncertainty on political processes and violence could range from a slow worsening of the current situation to extremely serious conflict over resources and threats to security. Biologically, adverse factors can interact in ways that can cause a rapid downward spiral. For example, as noted above, ambient temperatures over 29°C (84°F) lead to a rapid decline in crop yields.
[At least 95% of the food production in the Sahel is based on rain-fed agriculture. The agricultural sector employs, directly or indirectly, more than half of the Sahel’s population…Global warming will mean that in temperate lands, where much of the global crop production occurs, the most productive regions will migrate away from the equator. While the net aggregate change as a result of climate change at a global level may be slow, the regional effects in the Sahel will be more rapid, significant, and adverse.] – source
8.) The El Nino Southern Oscillation(ENSO):
Climate models appear to be unable to accurately predict ENSO changes. Although scientists can predict some large-scale and long-term effects of anthropogenic global warming, there remains a lot of unknowns about specific regional effects.
The problem may lie in the models’ inability to reproduce the cycling between the ENSO’s El Niño and La Niña phases, especially given that many scientists think that La Niña is the major driver of drought in the southwest. The ENSO “behaves much messier in the real world than in climate models”, says Jessica Tierney, a climate scientist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts who has investigated the role of the ENSO in East African rainfall variability2. “We’re not sure how it has varied in the past, and we don’t know how it might change in response to climate change. This is really one of the big uncertainties we’re facing.”
In addition to their failure to reproduce El Niño and La Niña, existing models do not fully capture other factors that influence rainfall, such as clouds and vegetation. But Smerdon adds that the atmospheric and oceanic dynamics that inhibit rainfall and favour prolonged drought may be essentially random and so almost unpredictable.
Last week’s findings highlight the broader challenge of predicting how precipitation patterns will change as the global climate warms. Models are often at odds over the very direction of regional changes. For example, different projections prepared for the Colorado Water Conservation Board disagree on whether mean precipitation in the state will increase or decrease by 2050 (ref. 3).
But the uncertainties don’t change the larger picture, scientists say. “Climate models are not perfect, but they do the big things really well,” says Tierney. “We can be pretty confident that the southwest will warm and that water will become scarcer.
…since the 1970s the atmospheric circulation patterns over the Pacific have tended to favor La Nina conditions over El Nino ones. And, they write: “The overall trend towards a stronger, La Niña-like Walker circulation is nearly concurrent with the observed increase in global average temperatures.”
We know from historical data that from these two climatic events – the Medieval Warm Period(the long stable warming period over Europe) and the Little Ice Age(a well-known described historical event) – that the temperature changed, and our big question is, “Does the ocean also respond in this very short time scale?”
And one of the major results and maybe one of the biggest prices is that the ocean and the thermohaline circulation(THC) respond to these thermal drivers within just a decade.
…What we are mostly concerned about is that there is a certain threshold which is then reached, a certain point of no return more or less. So we will have a trend where it’s getting warmer and warmer and warmer, and there will be no return from this warming… and that will change the whole system, the whole flow of the system, and the thermohaline circulation may be changed…
The major threats we see right now to the thermohaline circulation mainly derive from the Arctic region. We see increased melting from the Greenland Ice Sheet. We see a retreat of Arctic See Ice. We see large reorganizations in the Arctic ocean system which accumulate fresh water. All of these things are components which may affect the thermohaline circulation.”
The most important factors affecting changes in the conditions of the thermohaline circulation are:
1.) Global warming itself caused partly by greenhouse gases from human activity.
2.) From AGW, there will be more rainfall in the higher latitudes causing glacial melt.
Density in the water is a key factor for the THC driver mechanisms. Cold surface water temperatures make the water denser and high ocean salinity cause these waters to sink. These are the main engines that run the THC, but now more fresh water is entering the ocean through the melting of the Arctic and Greenland ice sheets.
When this is integrated into the models, a new development of the engines is revealed. In a warmer climate state, the engine of the Labrador Sea seems to simply collapse…
10.) The Indian Summer Monsoon:
…Writing in the journal Environmental Research Letters, researchers at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and Potsdam University in Germany said increasing temperatures and a change in strength of a Pacific Ocean circulation pattern known as the Pacific Walker circulation in spring could cause more frequent and severe changes in monsoon rainfall.
The Walker circulation usually brings areas of high pressure to the western Indian Ocean but in El Nino years this pattern gets shifted eastward, bringing high pressure over India and suppressing the monsoon, they said.
Computer simulations show that with future global warming the Walker circulation is likely to bring more high pressure over India even without an increase in El Nino events.
These failures of the monsoon system suggested by the simulation, defined as a 40 percent to 70 percent reduction in rainfall below normal levels, were unprecedented in the researchers’ observational record, taken from the India Meteorological Department dating back to the 1870s.
“Our study points to the possibility of even more severe changes to monsoon rainfall caused by climatic shifts that may take place later this century and beyond,” lead author Jacob Schewe said. – source
Indeed if humans were able to set aside their anthropocentric view of the world, we would be frantically changing our behavior and rearranging our economic and social activities in order to prevent our own demise. But alas, if things aren’t right between one’s ears, then everything else is moot.
(Edit on 3-9-2015: The following video has been made “private”, but it can be viewed in its entirety here.)
Hello dominant life form of planet Earth. Yes, that means you Homo Sapiens. I’ve watched as over the millennia you evolved from a primitive ape-like hominid species, surviving purely by instinct, to the technology-wielding, sophisticated-thinking creature of today. Truly, the planet became your smorgasbord and you have partaken freely. As a matter of fact, you have very nearly emptied the planet’s entire refrigerator and cupboards and are now preparing to lick your plate clean. I’ve been throwing up some warning signs, especially this past year, to try to get your attention and perhaps make you reconsider your current omnivorous appetite. After all, you do share the planet with other life forms who have been hoping someone or something will put an end to your callous industrial rampage. I’ve even set in motion a sort of evolutionary check-and-balance, a doomsday device if you will, in the form of atmospheric heat-trapping gases, ensuring your demise just in case you don’t get the message of behavior modification. In other words, your dominant socio-economic paradigm of capitalism is fatally flawed.
Your voracious appetite for the world’s natural resources — fish, timber, potable water, arable land, minerals, et al. — continues unabated. And after consuming them, you leave behind mountains of waste and destruction. Does it always take a crisis before you creatures take action? Instead of waiting until you suffocate to death in a world of hypoxic oceans and dead forests, try listening to those lone voices of dissent screaming for your attention:
Look, I have news for you. The human economy does not take precedence over the Earth’s natural ecological processes which have evolved over millions of years to provide you with clean water, clean air, fertile land, and productive plant and animal life. All of these priceless necessities have been given to you at no charge to your accounting ledger. I guess free lunches are something no human can refuse, but the bill will come due no matter how you try to hide it by pushing it off onto the environment and future generations. In a planet without a stable biosphere, your glimmering metropolises with their megalithic concrete and steel structures reaching heavenward are nothing more than fleeting sand castles to be washed away by the next rogue wave of a surging sea… Sandy was just a warm-up event. Perhaps a new ‘Dust Bowl’ event and heat waves down under demanding a new color code on the weather map and droughts rendering useless a nation’s hydroelectric power will do the trick. I suppose as long as the $tock exchanges of the world are operable, your “business as usual” scheme of perpetual growth and converting all the natural world into capitalist symbols of wealth will carry on its merry way right over the edge of global extinction. And you thought the “fiscal cliff” was something to worry about?
As a mentor and intellectual peer of this site said recently, “tribes and societies that did master effective class consciousness thrived, for a very long time. Those that didn’t, don’t.” At today’s massive scale of production and consumption, the human and environmental exploitation characterized by modern industrial capitalism undermines the long-term existence of mankind along with every other living organism on the planet. Capitalism shoehorns everything into its profit-seeking regime, no matter if that means global genocide on a scale never heretofore seen:
…Actually, the more I reflect on it, the clearer I see the logic, the rationale, behind the bankers’ and the capitalists’ push for privatization. It is not just more profits they are after, not just share price or corporate valuation; no! They are after mass extermination, genocide on a grand scale – of the world’s needy, the under-funded, the unwanted, the uncivilized, the savages and the barbarians, the commies and the Islamists, in short, elimination of all of the Others.
The big boyz have seen all the data and crunched all the numbers, and it is clear to them – the earth is running out of resources, Mars is -50 C all of the time, and we can no longer afford to carry all of this excess baggage here on the planet — all of these miserable, thankless, do-nothing mouths to feed. So the plan is brilliant. You reduce the number from 7+ billion by at least 33% without firing one shot. You simply privatize all natural resources and then price access so that the bottom third of the globe’s population cannot afford it. And so, they die; it will be the biggest die-off of the Anthropocene epoch…
Having lived in the Mohave desert for about a decade, I had the dubious pleasure of enduring its scorching summer temperatures which can push 130° Fahrenheit. Without the usual creature comforts of modern industrial civilization like air conditioning, refrigerated foods and drinks, and piped-in water, life is such inhospitable places would be brutal if not impossible. What if such desert heat was the norm across the land surface of the planet? Then extreme places of desert heat like the Mohave desert would become dead zones for any living plant or animal we have known. Instead of peaking at around 130° F, it would reach unthinkable, Venus-like temps of greater than 200° F. Depending on the source you use, the average land surface temperature that we humans have enjoyed is 13° to 17° Celsius or 55.4° to 62.6° Fahrenheit. For the ocean surface, the average is about 17 °C (62.6 F). According to new research concerning the time of the Permian-Triassic Mass Extinction or ‘mother of all extinction events’, there occurred yet another mass extinction within that time span called the Smithian-Spathian extinction in which lethal global warming developed. The average land temperature in the tropics was an unimaginable 122-140°F (50-60°C)with average sea surface temperatures of 104°F (40°C). Such intolerable temperatures resulted in a massive ‘dead zone’ belt around the Earth:
Plant and animal life had it rough 250 million years ago. As if to add insult to injury, the end-Permian mass extinction was quickly followed by yet another mass extinction, what’s called the Smithian-Spathian extinction. New research suggests that the Earth got excruciatingly hot during this period, creating a veritable ‘dead zone’ in tropical areas, what forced the remaining animal life to head to the poles. And it lasted for nearly 5 million years.
According to research done by Yadong Sun and Paul Wignall of the University of Leeds, UK, this was hottest era on Earth since it cooled down from its initial molten formation. Their study has reset notions of just how hot our planet can get — a disturbing bit of insight that could reset current models of climate change on Earth.
The Smithian-Spathian extinction was time that characterized the shift from the Permian era to the Triassic, just before the emergence of the dinosaurs. By this point, the mysterious Permian Extinction had reduced the life on Earth to a select group of insects, plants, marine life (like fish, coral, sea lilies, and ichthyosaurs), and terrestrial animals (like insects and the reptilian tetrapod).
Sun and Wignall’s research indicates that during this time, the heat at the tropical regions reached an astounding 50 to 60°C (122°F to 140°F) on land, while the waters at the surface reached 40°C (104°F). They were surprised to discover that the water could get that hot; previous estimates assumed that sea-surface temperatures could not surpass 30°C (86°F). Moreover, at 40°C, most marine life dies and photosynthesis stops…
…What happened? Essentially, the superhot Earth was caused by a breakdown in global carbon cycling. Normally, plants help regulate temperature by absorbing CO2 and burning it as dead plant matter. But without plants, the CO2 levels rose unchecked, causing a spike in temperatures. Specifically, the researchers estimate that at least 12×103 gigatons of isotopically depleted carbon as methane was injected into the atmosphere…
…My total turnaround, in such a short time, is the result of careful and objective analysis by the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project, which I founded with my daughter Elizabeth. Our results show that the average temperature of the earth’s land has risen by two and a half degrees Fahrenheit over the past 250 years, including an increase of one and a half degrees over the most recent 50 years. Moreover, it appears likely that essentially all of this increase results from the human emission of greenhouse gases.
These findings are stronger than those of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the United Nations group that defines the scientific and diplomatic consensus on global warming…
Are we in the beginning phases of walking headlong into another mass extinction of our own creation, altering the chemistry of the oceans and atmosphere through the burning of fossil fuels? If you’ve been reading this blog, then you know about feedback loops and tipping points and their consequences if humans continue to force changes in the delicate ecosystems of this planet. Monthly reports from the NOAA are not very comforting:
…The average global temperature across land and ocean surfaces during September was 0.67°C (1.21°F) above the long-term 20th century average. This temperature ties with 2005 as the record warmest September in the 133-year period of record. The Northern Hemisphere tied with 2009 as second warmest on record, behind 2005. The Southern Hemisphere also ranked second warmest on record, behind 1997. It was also the highest departure from average for any month in the Southern Hemisphere since May 2010…
The difference between now and 250 million years ago is that profit-seeking corporations were not around to hoodwink the denizens of the planet into perpetuating their own extinction…
…despite its history and today’s unprecedented riches from science, the U.S. has begun to slip off of its science foundation. Indeed, in this election cycle, some 236 years after Jefferson penned the Declaration of Independence, several major party contenders for political office took positions that can only be described as “antiscience”: against evolution, human-induced climate change, vaccines, stem cell research, and more. A former Republican governor even warned that his own political party was in danger of becoming “the antiscience party.
Or the fact that the belief in an unfettered free market has become sacrosanct…
…In order to understand the fervor of this continued popular support for failed policies, it is important to grasp the utopian, quasi-theological nature of neoliberal ideology. In the neoliberal worldview, the self-regulating market is not a merely human construct, but a form of naturally-occurring “spontaneous order” that produces optimum outcomes and maximum individual freedom if left completely unfettered. (13) It is, as Karl Polanyi pointed out in “The Great Transformation,” a radically utopian vision that rests on a blind faith that markets are essentially part of the natural order. (14)
On the political right, this faith has reached its fullest expression, ultimately moving markets into the realm of the sacred, where their legitimacy cannot be questioned. In this utopian setting, regulation is not merely ill advised; it is a violation of natural law that is nearly sacrilegious…
We’re not wiser, just more manipulative and conniving…
Another year is drawing to a close and it’s time to look back and see what we’ve done in 2013. There were 137 blog posts for 2013 with several notable guest essays by Brutus, Darbikrash, Scott Erickson, Kevin Moore(from a detailed comment he made) and ulvfugl. I’ve put out a couple author invitations for people whose comments caught my attention. One has already accepted but is sitting on the sidelines for the time being.
The Arctic is melting, but it’s just an invitation to exploit it as the next hydrocarbon frontier. It’s a golden busine$$ opportunity with new shipping lanes, untapped oil/gas reserves, minerals, and fish. Hell, it’s even got potential as another tourist trap.
Drill it, frack it, dig it up, pump it out and burn it!
Gotta keep our six lane highways humming, our three-story malls and big-box stores bustling, our jumbo jets flying, and our semi trucks hauling.
Drill it, frack it, dig it up, pump it out and burn it!
Our food supply is failing from floods, droughts, and heat waves, but it’s the perfect open door for Mon$anto’s GMOs. A DNA tweak here and a genetic alteration there to our fossil fuel-dependent monoculture crops is all that is needed to withstand this strange new weather.
Drill it, frack it, dig it up, pump it out and burn it!
The forests are dying, biodiversity is disappearing, the oceans are acidifying and plasticizing, the fresh water aquifers are drying up, and the skies are simmering, but the show must go on, for the corporations know no other way. Business-as-usual must continue, even if it kills us.
Drill it, frack it, dig it up, pump it out and burn it!
The history of large-scale industrialization, whether capitalist or communist, has been marked by the mindset of ‘develop-first and clean-up later’ if at all. The costs of oil spills, nuclear meltdowns, dead zones, industrial GHG pollution, chemical contamination and countless other adverse effects of man’s activities are paid for collectively by the human race as well as every other living thing on the planet. The totality of all these environmental assaults has reached such a high degree that it has set into motion an escalating disruption and alteration of the Earth’s weather and seasonal patterns. Last year was a record for CO2 emissions; methane spikes have been recorded in the ongoing runaway climate change of the Arctic; and we now know that both poles are primarily melting from below by the warming oceans. What has been the response of this planet’s human inhabitants? …to sprint headlong toward the climate cliff. This kind of reaction to the unfolding eco-apocalypse can hardly be the sign of a wise being, but rather that of a fossil-fuel addict who cannot stop using, even in the face of death, i.e. near term extinction (NTE). Wisdom requires a broad and deep understanding of reality as well as acknowledgment of one’s limitations and humbleness of one’s capabilities. Industrial man exhibits neither of these traits, but instead thinks of himself as somehow outside the web of life and a Master over nature.
Radical change is unequivocally needed, and the alternative of business-as-usual, which we appear hellbent on following, is assuredly catastrophic and final. “But we have technology!”, they say. Technology cannot substitute for a stable climate or for the myriad of ecosystem services the Earth provides free of charge to the human economy. Sorry, but none of the geoengineering schemes proposed by man will bring back the melting glaciers and ice sheets nor stop the methane time bomb we have unwittingly released. We are talking about geologic processes which have been unleashed, far beyond the capability of humans to stop or control at this late stage. We’re sort of like ticks on a rampaging elephant. Nevertheless humans will try to sequester the carbon, sprinkle the atmosphere with reflective nanoparticles or aerosols, seed the ocean with iron, or any other of a number of schemes, but to no avail. I suppose the following 1990 statement by the U.N. Advisory Group on Greenhouse Gases should have been taken more seriously:
Beyond 1 degree C may elicit rapid, unpredictable and non-linear responses that could lead to extensive ecosystem damage.
In light of the sudden cancellation of the Halocene’s stable climate regime, I would say that the statement, “The American Way of Life is not negotiable!“, first uttered by George Bush Senior at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio, is not only negotiable, but will soon be null and void. Yes the lifestyle of industrial civilization marked by mountains of disposable plastic bottles and wrappers, cheap crap shipped from Asia, and hours-long commutes from suburbia to corporate enslavement centers will inevitably fail as will all things propped up by hydrocarbon energy. What we took for convenience and progress was actually killing us, both physically and spiritually. The trappings of industrial civilization snuffed out the last connections we had with the real world so that people now think food comes from grocery stores, water comes from faucets, and climate control comes from a thermostat. As disconnected as we are, most never saw Mother Nature slowly pulling the plug on what Joe Bageant called “the theater state’s 400 million screens” of the “American Hologram.” Being released from the 24/7 American hologram would actually come as a welcome relief for most if not for the fact that the real world which they had been disassociated from for so long was rapidly deteriorating. In tandem with the collapse of the biosphere is America’s not so surreptitious slide into overt totalitarianism. You must have already figured out that a few well-heeled individuals are going to try to protect their opulent lifestyle as the rest of humanity turns to a diet of insects and rodents. Somebody’s got to pay the price for all those externalized costs and it’s going to be the unwashed masses – the climax of socialized losses and privatized gains.
And what about the children, if by some miracle a few do survive the ravages of climate chaos? Well, we can only hope that in the aftermath of their ancestor’s sociopathic behavior and lack of conscience, they will forgive us. Bequeathing a destroyed planet to one’s descendants most certainly earns such a person a seat in the innermost circle of Hell. But quite literally, Hell is what we are creating right here on Earth.