Abrupt Climate Change, Aldous Huxley, Anthropocene Extinction, Atomization of Society, Chemical Pollution, Climate Tipping Points, Collapse of Industrial Civilization, Dr. Peter Ward, Dystopic Future, Ecocide, Global Warming, Heat Dome, Loss of Biodiversity, Micro-Plastic Pollution, Ocean Acidification, Ocean Dead Zones, Pacific NW Heatwaves, Techno-Fix, Widespread Deoxygenation of Temperate Lakes, Widespread Ocean Anoxia
“Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.” ~ Aldous Huxley
The foundation beneath our house of cards is beginning to buckle and heave. For far too long, humans have poked the sleeping monster of abrupt climate change and it’s starting to awaken. Thus far, nearly a thousand deaths in British Columbia alone are likely attributable to hyperthermia caused by a persistent heat dome that has spiked temperatures to unprecedented levels. Take note that we are seeing these unreal temperature spikes at the end of a cooler La Nina cycle. When these heat domes form during the next warmer El Nino cycle, the results will be disastrous. We have now made such mass casualty events 150 times more likely with our heat-trapping gases which have doubled the earth’s energy imbalance in just the last 15 years. Over a billion sea creatures are estimated to have cooked to death off the western shores of Canada. “Eventually, we just won’t be able to sustain these populations of filter feeders on the shoreline to be anywhere near the extent that we’re used to,” says Chris Harley, a marine biologist at the University of British Columbia. This will have massive effects up and down many ecological networks. Remember last year when Australia’s mega-fires killed or harmed 3 billion animals? I thought that horrific trauma would be mankind’s epiphany on climate change, but it’s clear that as long as there is a dollar to be made there will be justification for genocide and ecocide. The planet’s last remaining natural resources and biodiversity are being liquidated at breakneck speed in order to maintain the colossal enterprise of industrial civilization.
Modern society is more connected than ever digitally, but not emotionally or intimately. Too fragmented and dysfunctional to save itself, we exist not as human beings but as consumers and statistical numbers on a spreadsheet. Thus it is easy to write off the millions of deaths from industrial pollution as a cost of doing business, especially when the rules of the game are written for shareholders far removed from the damage being wrought. Our suicidal march into the abyss seems to be preordained because we have paid no heed to an endless stream of dire scientific reports and warnings that span decades. Like the collapse of the Surfside apartment building in Miami where the residents lived oblivious to warnings signs from decades ago, the collapse of industrial civilization will follow a similar response to anthropogenic climate breakdown. At this late stage, techno-optimists still cling to the belief that somehow we can adapt and thrive in an inhospitable and deteriorating post-Holocene epoch. At the same time, disinformation and propaganda continue to be spread by those who are outright denying the growing existential threat. The end result is the same, no matter which side prevails. Humans can’t even agree on what is reality, so how could they possibly organize a coherent response in time:
There is no escape from this cage modern man has constructed for himself. As lead scientist Dr. Robert Rohde at @BerkeleyEarth points out, 78% of humanity’s energy systems are powered by fossil fuels as of 2020. Oil and gas took 90 years to displace coal as the main energy source, illustrating that transitions take a very long time and ‘renewables’ remain a small fraction of total energy consumed. Scientists are becoming increasingly unnerved:
“We should be alarmed because the IPCC models are just not good enough,” Dame Julia Slingo of the @metoffice says.
“The obvious acceleration of the breakdown of our stable climate simply confirms that – when it comes to the climate emergency – we are in deep, deep s***!” says UCL’s @ProfBillMcGuire. “Many in the climate science community would agree, in private if not in public.”
“It blows my mind that we could get the temperatures that we’re observing here in the Pacific north-west, especially on the west sides of the Cascades that have that proximity to the ocean, that it could get that hot for so many days in a row,” said Nick Bond, Washington state climatologist. “I would have been willing to guess something like that in the middle of the century, in the latter part of the century.”
“The extreme nature of the record, along with others, is a cause for real concern,” says veteran scientist Professor Sir Brian Hoskins. “What the climate models project for the future is what we would get if we are lucky. The models’ behaviour may be too conservative.”
As has been pointed out before, but which is still not accepted let alone understood by the vast majority, is that even if we employed techno-fixes such as Bill Gates’ Solar Radiation Management Company, it would not stop climate change’s evil twin, ocean acidification, which is threatening to collapse the entire marine ecosystem. A recent paper by marine biologists and environmental consultants has warned that human society faces extinction if nothing is done to reverse the destruction of the oceans:
Over the last 70 years since the 1950’s and the production of toxic forever chemicals and plastic, more than 50% of all marine life, including plants and animals under 1 mm in size, have been lost from the world’s oceans, and that decline continues at a rate of 1% year on year…Over the next 25 years, pH will continue to drop from pH8.04 to pH7.95, and carbonate-based life forms will simply dissolve. This will result with an estimated 80% to 90% loss of all remaining marine life when compared to the 1950’s. Becoming carbon neutral will not stop the pH from dropping to 7.95, and even in the unlikely event of the world achieving Net Zero by 2030 it will not stop the pH dropping to less than pH7.95. Coupled with the micro-plastic and toxic chemical stressors on marine life, the GOES team believe there will be a trophic cascade collapse of the entire marine ecosystem.
Adding to this warning is another recent study showing that freshwater lakes are losing oxygen at a rate 9.3 times that of the oceans:
That matters, because not only do we get much of our drinking water from lakes and use them for recreational activities, but they support an extensive variety of species. “These substantial declines in oxygen potentially threaten biodiversity, especially the more oxygen-sensitive species,”…Rose identified a second problem too: Deep water is becoming less clear because of a host of factors including erosion, algal growth, and fertilizer runoff from nearby agricultural fields and residential developments. Murkier waters make plants less likely to survive, which means less photosynthesis and less oxygen down below. And that, of course, is bad news for the lakes’ creatures. “Just like humans, every complex life form on the planet depends on oxygen,” Rose says. “In water, that’s in the dissolved form.”
There was a study a few years ago which concluded that deoxygenation of the world’s waters from a warming world is what really drove the end-Permian mass extinction. The lead author is quoted as saying:
“This study shows that we’re on that same road toward extinction, and the question is how far down it we go.”
Keep in mind that we don’t have to reach the same elevated levels of CO2 in past geologic extinction events for things to get really nasty, causing modern civilization to crumble. Remember also that the Anthropocene Extinction has multiple prongs such as chemical and plastic pollution, deforestation, and other manmade pressures on the environment that did not exist in Earth’s history. According to paleontologist Dr. Peter Ward, all major extinctions occurred when CO2 levels exceeded 1000ppm. Past extinction events took hundreds of thousands to millions of years to play out, but our current rate of change is 25,000 times faster than the last known event (Paleocene Thermal Extinction) which took a million years for CO2 to increase by 100ppm. We are on track to reach 1000ppm within a century, but we’ll never get there of our own volition because our civilization will be toast long before then; however, once tipping points in the climate system are breached, positive feedback loops will have been set in motion that will propel CO2 levels upward beyond our control. For instance, the Amazon is now emitting more carbon than it is absorbing. In an interview four years ago, Dr Ward gave this warning:
“…we really are going to have unintended consequences and much more rapid heating than even the models say — for the simple reason that the [IPCC] models are highly conservative, too conservative.”
You may be asking yourself when humans will finally wise up and end this madness. Henri L Vichier-Guerre, a reader of this blog, recently posted a quote from a very good book entitled Requiem for a Species: Why We Resist the Truth About Climate Change by Clive Hamilton in 2010:
…even with the most optimistic set of assumptions – the ending of deforestation, a halving of emissions associated with food production, global emissions peaking in 2020 and then falling by 3 per cent a year for a few decades – we have no chance of preventing emissions rising well above a number of critical tipping points that will spark uncontrollable climate change. The Earth’s climate would enter a chaotic era lasting thousands of years before natural processes eventually establish some sort of equilibrium. Whether human beings would still be a force on the planet, or even survive, is a moot point. One thing seems certain: there will be far fewer of us.
As Henri L Vichier-Guerre points out, none of those optimistic things have happened in the intervening years. On the contrary, the ecological destruction has accelerated and the chances of anyone at all surviving grows more remote with each passing year. Henri goes on to quote the following on why no one in any significant seat of power is talking about our impending doom:
Not everyone believes we should be completely forthright with the general public about the depths of our crisis, including many of those in our Government.
Because it’s far too late to do anything to mitigate the crisis.
Far too late to avoid a global environmental, ecological and economic catastrophe.
This may go some way to explaining why the general public is still not being told the truth by Governments around the world.
It may go some way to explaining why many of the super-rich have already set up lavish underground ‘doomsday bunkers’ where they and their families can bug out when the shit hits the fan.
We have plenty of bread and circus distractions to keep us preoccupied until the very end. Television did not get its name ‘The Boob Tube’ for nothing. Now we have the infinite scroll of websites to hypnotize and control the masses. Click that ‘Like’ button. Sophisticated social media algorithms feed you what you want to see and hear 24/7. Cognitive biases are reinforced and facts no longer matter in a world suffering from severe truth decay. Aldous Huxley’s vision of a world driven by absolute consumerism that sacrifices human values and controls the masses with a non-stop supply of diversions via mindless entertainment and sensorial stimulation has become a dystopic reality. Just as in his book, it’s all happening in broad daylight with the tacit acceptance of everyone as we watch the world burn.