The Oceans are Coming? BFD, I got other Worries.

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Published on the Doomstead Diner on July 26, 2015

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Order the problems we face in Collapse from the most pressing ones to the least pressing ones in need of addressing First
  • Sea Level Rise
  • Atmospheric Carbon Content
  • Monetary System Collapse
  • Geopolitical Conflict/War
  • Fossil Fuel Energy Depletion
  • Human Population Overshoot
  • Loss of Liberty/Police State
  • Terrorism
  • Nuclear Power Plants/Spent Fuel
  • Food Production
  • Drought
  • Population Migrations/Refugees Big Climate Newz of the week was that James Hansen, considered by many to be the #1 Climate Scientist in the world released his latest report on the crappy state of the earth. Now, the report is up online and downloadable for Free in .pdf form, all 121 pages of it. You can peruse it at your leisure, but if you have been following the “climate debate” for any period of time and are not in a state of complete denial, it's not going to tell you anything real new that you don't intuitively know already, that the climate is changing and that change appears to be accelerating. In nice scientific fashion, Jim documents this, and about the only difference from earlier studies is that the tone gets increasingly more strident, trying to get people to DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT!

This follows on the heels of the Pope's recent encyclical, and Moonbeam Goobernator of Sunny and Very Dry CA Jerry Brown's warning that climate change is going to fuck us up if we don't DO SOMETHING. For Collapse Blogosphere fans, you can add to that Guy McPherson's uber-doom prediction of Human Extinction by 2030 or so.

Now again, while the rhetoric is getting more strident, this isn't a whole lot different than what we heard from Rachel Carson with Silent Spring in the 1960's, or from the Club of Rome with Limits to Growth in the 1970s. You never got any real changes out of those studies, why would you expect this will be any different?

The Industrial model isn't run by any one person or even a group of persons that can put the brakes on it. It's a set of systems that built up over time, with the choices made for that build up not made by the population at large, but rather by a few people in positions of control of credit and the war machine. The problem here is that the choices made in the past cannot now be reversed, at least not without a tremendous amount of social dislocation at the very least, and really in many places dependent on these system a whole lot of dead people. Which you will get eventually no matter what, but both individuals and entire civilizations tend to try to put of dying as long as they can, by whatever means they can.

The biggest problems I see with the Hansen study are twofold. First of all, even if you accept the theory that the current climate problems are generated mainly by fossil fuel burning, can stopping that burning now reverse the changes made already? This doesn't seem likely now. There is evidence of a 40 year lag time between when the fossil fuel gets burned and its end effect on the environment. There is also evidence that if you took the particulates created by burning fossil fuels out of the air, this would actually cause more rapid warming because more sunlight would make it through. Beyond that, Hansen doesn't address the corollary problem, which is that if you quit burning fossil fuels on a dime, even if it were possible to flick it off like a light switch, precisely how would we run all the systems that depend on this energy these days, like your electric lights, the sewage treatment plants in the Big Shities, etc?

The second major problem is the timeline question. Again, accepting Hansen's results here, even at the most rapid of glacial melting, it's going to take 20 years or more for sea levels to rise even 10m or so. The prospect of all these coastal cities underwater by say 2050 is certainly horrifying, but the issue is we have other more pressing problems likely to hit even before that.

First of is the ongoing collapse of the monetary system. This is the “glue” that holds many of the rest of our systems together, the energy extraction bizness, the transportation system, the electric grid and the communications network. Shut down the fossil fuel economy, the monetary system implodes right behind it. How are all the rest of those systems supposed to function here without fossil fuels and without a monetary system to do the trade and keep the stuff moving around?

Next up, you have the food production and distribution problem itself, affected by energy availability, population overshoot, topsoil degradation and water availability. To begin with, the huge ag yields of the industrial era come from fossil fuel based fertilizers. Quit using the fossil fuels to keep the sea level from rising, poof your yields drop. How exactly are you going to get what food you can still grow from the fields to the people living in the big shities before they are underwater? How exactly are you going to pump what water is left in Lake Mead over to the AG fields in central CA? If you follow Jim's prescription for saving the world from SLR, even if it could be implemented and would work (neither of which is very likely), then you run into the problem that everything else breaks down BEFORE the glaciers have a chance to melt enough for a 10M sea level rise. So why even bother with this discussion and political controversy? It's a WASTE OF FUCKING TIME!

Forget the Seawater arriving problem in 50 years, you have the Freshwater leaving problem ALREADY hitting!  Just about everybody knows about the problems they have in sunny & dry Califronia already, most of the Doom community knows about Sao Paolo in Brasil, but then on top of THAT you have the fact the Ogalala Aquifer is drying up.

The Great Plains’ invisible water crisis

The prairie wind buffeted Brant Peterson as he stood in a half-dead field of winter wheat.

In front of him, a red-winged blackbird darted in and out of a rippling green sea of healthy wheat.














Behind him, yellowed stalks rotted in the ground.

The reason for the stark contrast was buried 600 feet under Peterson’s dusty boots: Only part of the field – the thriving part – had been irrigated by water pumped at that depth from the ancient Ogallala Aquifer, one of the largest underground sources of fresh water in the world.

“If not for irrigation that whole field would look like this,” Peterson said, nudging the dead wheat with the toe of his boot.

But irrigation soon could end on Peterson’s southwest Kansas farm. The wells under his land in Stanton County are fast running dry as farmers and ranchers across the Great Plains pump the Ogallala faster than it can be replenished naturally.













Read more here:

You need to accept a few facts of life here:

1) The glaciers are likely to melt and sea levels will rise no matter what is done over the near to medium term.

2) You can't get a political consensus on what to do about that in any case.

3) Other Economic, Geopolitical and Climate problems are going to hit before ocean rise is a major problem.


So then you have to decide what you CAN do in the face of this

1) Where can I choose to live, if I have some kind of choice?

2) What will I need to survive as things spin down?

3) How long do I have before it gets REALLY bad where I currently am? took 112 pages to write his report, I can synopsize it all with one acronym, FUBAR, Fucked Up Beyond All Recognition. There is no way SLR is getting solved now, I doubt it was even possible to prevent this back when Rachel Carson wrote Silent Spring, and that is even assuming it's all Anthropogenic, which I don't think it is. It doesn't matter though whether this is primarily driven by Anthropogenic causation or Geotectonic causation, because either way the trajectory is basically the same, the sea levels will rise and a significant portion of Homo Saps currently walking the earth will no longer be doing so in a few years, or at most decades of time. Those who are still ambulatory won't be located where these current coastal cities are, which should indicate to you that a preponderance of the dieoff will come form these places. That is CFS.

I think a lot of people bog down here when presented with these BIG ISSUES of climate change that are going to play out over the next century or even faster than that over the next 50 years, complete with all the Scientific Documentation. For Jim Hansen as a Chicken Little on this one, instead of “The Sky is Falling”, it's “The Oceans are Coming!”. Which IMHO I think he is correct on, but we have much more pressing problems that will hit before those do, possibly in the next couple of years but no longer than a decade for many of them. other big problem you have is many people get overwhelmed by the scope of all the problems, considering it all so bad that absolutely nobody can survive, all the habitat on earth for other living creatures we depend on will be destroyed and we'll all go extinct, possibly leaving the globe to be taken over by the Tardigrades for a few millenia until they get fried too.

This is of course a possibility, but given the cycles the Earth has already gone through, and the fact populations do suffer knockdowns but then bounce back later, it's sure not written in stone here that Homo Sap will go extinct, and not on the 15 year timeline of Guy McPherson to be sure. If you go up in latitude, average temperature decreases. If you go up in altitude it does also. So really all one relatively small group of people needs to do is find one little valley somewhere to live in balance with the nature that surrounds them while the rest of the earth heals itself, which granted might take a few millenia, but seems likely to occur based on the geologic history.

75,000 years ago when the Supervolcano Toba went ballistic, the population of Homo Saps was knocked down to 10,000 Human Souls, or 1000 Breeding Pairs.  There is a decent amount of debate over whether Toba actually was the cause of this, but the genetic record is pretty clear, and CFS should tell you that we started from a relatively small group of people, or even incipient people going back into pre-history far enough to Austrolopithecus and so forth. that small number, we bounced up to the current 7B, much of that current population fed on the stored thermodynamic energy in fossil fuels. We'll most likely never get that big in population again, but it is still no sure thing that we will go extinct either. It aint' OVAH till the Fat Lady Sings the individual inside the Industrial Economy right now, it is much like riding a Chinese Bullet train headed for a Bridge across the Yangtze River you know will not support the train. You know it is destined to crash. Your problem is you don't know the exact speed at which the train is moving or the exact distance between where it is now and where the bridge is. So you can't know exactly how long it will take to get there. Right now, they are serving really nice Lobster & Filet Mignon in the Dining Car too, and who wants to leave that?  Especially in order to leave you have to jump off a moving train into unknown territory, and convince your loved ones to jump with you too!

So it is pretty hard to quit on it, and really about all the people I have run into over the years who have quit are single and male, with a few exceptions of couples trying subsitence farming. That's obviously not rewilding, and in about all cases still relies on many inputs from the Industrial economy as well. There are not any cookbook solutions to this problem, but I do caution against obsessing over Sea Level Rise as the most pressing problem we face here, it is not. It can give you some window into deciding where you do NOT want to be, which obviously is any low lying Big Shity, but there are a few other obviously poor spots, like Las Vegas and Sao Paulo also. Of course, even Alaska isn't looking so great these days with all the wildfires, though we have had some rain and they have calmed down a bit. Still generally better than most places though.

Wherever you do end up, your survival will depend on luck and circumstance as much or more than any prepping you can do, but you can't do without the prepping either. It is also a pointless exercise to obsess about Extinction, which was always an inevitability, only the timeline was a question mark. All Living things Die, all Civilizations Collapse, all Species go Extinct. Perhaps if we had more Wisdom or Sapience as George Mobus on Question Everything puts it, we might have been able to keep this civilization going a bit longer than it did, but I doubt it. There are thermodynamic imperatives at work here that supercede the sapience of any individual, and we are only as smart as the whole network we create, which is only as smart as the dumbest node in there, and there are a lot of dumb ones out there, even in control of the levers of power.

Where we will be as a species in 10 years, 20 years or a century is anybody's guess. Where we will not be is no guess at all, we won't be Star Treking the Universe, that is certain. Where you or your progeny will be, also uncertain, but all you really can do as an individual is live another day, until you can't anymore. The imperative of life is to keep living as long as you can.  You are not responsible or in control of what occurs to the entire race of Homo Saps no matter what you do, what choices you make. On the eternal level, you are only responsible for your own morality and your own ethics, and whatever they were or are, those are your legacy for your life. They will remain on your balance sheet for all eternity. Choose them well.

11 Responses to The Oceans are Coming? BFD, I got other Worries.

  • Frunobulax718 says:

    "Beyond that, Hansen doesn't address the corollary problem, which is that if you quit burning fossil fuels on a dime, even if it were possible to flick it off like a light switch, precisely how would we run all the systems that depend on this energy these days, like your electric lights, the sewage treatment plants in the Big Shities, etc?"

    That's not even the level-one corollary problem, IMHO. Its 'how do you keep Wall Street from utter collapse as soon as you zero out $20T worth of coal and oil assets?'

    • RE says:

      The monetary system will collapse long before the Oceans roll over Miami.  I dropped that one on as my Number #1 in the list of problems we have oncoming here in the survey.


      • Frunobulax718 says:

        Yeah, I saw that. I failed to mention that the article is balls-on accurate. Good job.

        I've been saying for years now that the SLR is not something we need to worry about; at least not compared to the global megadrought. My perspective comes from history. There are countless empires and civilizations that fell where a naturally-occurring climate change event was the straw that broke the camel's back. These empires were already rotten to the core, being weakened by bad governance (by elites fighting with elites in order to maintain their slice of an ever-shrinking pie), a weakened economy (made worse by ill-advised military campaigns) and disruptive technologies. When the climate changed, it acted as a "threat multiplier" (in Pentagon-ese), and drove the system down hard. Rome wasn't built in a day, but it damn near collapsed in one.

        Examples of this include the Egyptians of the Old Kingdom, the Akkadian Empire, and the Indus River civilizations (in the 23rd centruy BCE), the Egyptians of the New Kingdom, the Hittites, and the Mycenaens (in the 13th century BCE), the Romans (in the 5th century CE), and the French monarchy (in the 18th century CE). We can also include the Mayans, the Viking colonies in Greenland, the Easter Islanders, as well as the Vedic cultures of India and Pakistan, as well as a variety of Chinese cultures. Even the collapse of the Russian Czar can be attributed to a nasty winter that made their situation far worse than it already was. The people of a civilization will put up with a lot of crap (in the form of a corrupt and despotic government), but take away their food, and they'll revolt. Like napoleon once said, "I'd rather face an army of a million men than face my own people when they're hungry."

        All of these societal collapses occurred during the relatively stable climate of the Holocene, and we are being catapulted out of that stability fast. What's more, the fall of these kingdoms and empires occurred rapidly despite the slow onset of naturally-occurring climate change. The Old Kingdom, for example, was experiencing high yields with their harvests a mere generation before the drought came. At that point, the Nile River dried up completely (!!!), and the Egyptians were reduced to cannibalism. [The same thing happened to them in the 13th century BCE; this is contemporaneous with the myth of Moses, which may explain the Hebrew taboos against eating pig (when cooked, they smell a lot like human flesh burning.]

        The situation today is obviously far worse than even those events. Unlike the days of old, there is nowhere to escape to. The economy has been globalized; a major crash affects everyone. Bad governance is in every country and at every level (national, state or province, and city/town). Disruptive tech — instead of arriving once every century or two — is now coming at us several times a year. And, or course, the climate change event is anthropogenic instead of naturally occurring, which means it wil be far stronger, far wider in geographic scope, and arrive much faster this time. But like the others, it will be drought that is the killer.

        When, in just a few short years from now, the Mississippi River dries up to the point where one can walk across its dried up riverbed at St. Louis, it will become obvious to everyone that we're beyond saving. Seven billion hungry and desperate humans will ravage the planet like a plague of a hundred trillion locusts. Nothing will be left but dirt and several hundred million tons of radioactive waste. I doubt any life will continue to exist in those conditions, let alone humans.

  • L Racine says:

    Enjoyed the article…

    Very difficult to prioritize the list of Doom…  so many of them are interrelated, and one will cascade into the others, question is which shoe will drop first…..

    I have been watching the El Nino build and was reading comments in Robert Scribbler's blog on the subject, this one ain't your typical El Nino…  the nullschool site really brings it home when you click on Mode – Ocean… and Overlay – SSTA.,-4.84,323

     It is also great to see what the atomspheric winds at various levels are doing… beware the site can be hypnotizing.  And follow the Ridiculous Reslient Ridge on the overlay that shows the jet stream….

    The subject of an "atomspheric river" came up and the massive flood in CA  in 1862… of course being a doomer I had to find out what this was all about.. Another name for is the ARk Storm…  worth the read….  also FEMA has run models on the cost and impact of this event….  my jaw dropped when I read about this one….

    This site gives your real time loop on the water vapor, very much like null school, (I have been watching the massive dry air sitting off the coast of  Califorinia for months now…..)

    An then of course you have the Cascadia subduction Zone….  this is also worth reading about and this New Yorker article is a really good primer on it.

    The sea level is one thing..  but how about the Methane Hydrates…  nice little ticking time bomb..  that no one wants to talk about… once we have a summer ice free arctic this issue is going to come front and center… and I have been following the papers being presented by the researches in this field and it is eyebrow raising to say the least… and no I am not in the NBL camp but I believe this might come very quickly.  If you are interested, google Nick Breeze he has a really good collection of the acutal papers/research/lectures being presented on You Tube from the likes of Havard etc etc… 


    In closing I am an engineer, older than dirt…  and I could not find the spell check button…so I apologize for any Typos…



  • tagio says:

    RE, good article and spot on about priorities, but not everyone is up on the acronyms, because not everyone spends hours a day reading doom.  What the fuck is SLR?  Last I heard it meant single-lens reflex.

  • Robert Callaghan says:

    Exactly so. The world GDP is 50 trillion bucks per year, with derivatives the nominal figure is 1 quadrillion bucks.

    If dollars are seconds, you get 1 million in 12 days, i billion in 30 years, 1 trillion in 30,000 years, 1 quadrillion in 30 million years.

    The financial collapse of 2008 was caused by a mere 3% drop in value of the assets on which all those derivatives were based. We have kicked the can down the road, as usual, and doubled down on derivatives. We are super ultra-maxi fucked.

    Carbon is earth's energy storage battery, whether living trees, or dino-juice, we are draining the battery for which life on earth depends. This energy battery provides the atmosphere that insulates us from the vacuum of space. Draining the energy battery that produces our atmosphere will result in the lowering of the vacuum of outer space until it kisses the surface of the earth to reach energy equilibrium. But, wait, there is more. Earth is entering a magnetic pole flip. This can last for a thousand years and result in several multiple magnetic poles allowing solar radiation to scorch the surface for up to a deacade at a time over any particular geographic area. Some may survive in vallies for a while, but eventually we will have to go below the surface. There may be vertical farms, but they will be below the surface. I am not a scientist, economist or priest, I cut grass for a living in a trailer park in Canada. If I can figure this shit out, then why can't anyone else?

    If you are interested in what I am saying click here:




  • tagio says:

    Nevermind, I figured it out.  Sea Level Rise.  Personally, I prefer RSL.  Rising seal levels sounds so much more active!

    Btw, I suspect Frunobulax is right, the first thing to hit home besides a financial crisis that will drive home the seriousness of the situatation is likely to be drought.  No matter how scary what's happening to Lake Meade and the Mississippi are, the idea of massive and prolonged drought in India is exponentially scary and mind-blowing.  The next FC (I can do it too!) will not be attributed to increased costs of obtaniing renergy and resources, so I don't think it will have much capacity to "wake people up."  It will be chalked up to some "man-made" problem (ZH has posited that HFT/algos will be the fall guy for the next round) and as long as the FC doesn't totally end civilization as we know it, will be subject to various hopium "fix-it" solutions, also referred to among the cognoscenti as FIS.  But as we all know here at the Diner, FIS are FOS. 

  • RE says:

    Acronyms are a Diner Trademark!  I trust you know what CFS is?

    Results of the Survey so far are very interesting and somewhat unexpected by me in terms of how the Kollapsniks have the issues ordered.

    I am waiting until I have around 50 respondents before publishing survey results.  At around 35 last I checked.


  • Joe D says:

    RE, how can one prioritize a list of issues without clearly stating the goal?  What's your goal?  Saving people's lives?  Everyone's life?  Someone's life?  Highest likelihood of preserving business as usual?  Making things more fair for more people?  Lowering the general level of suffering across the largest group of people?  Is the goal long term survival?  Or near term life improvements?  Etc…Etc…

    For me, the goal is improving the likelihood that some humans (preferably including my children and grandchildren) make it through the bottleneck to the other side.  Hence, I don't care much about SLR.  In fact, because I consider a big knockdown in population totally inevitable, I don't care much about many of this issues because they only aim to protect the current model – which I firmly believe is already dead.

    So it's the things that can actually result in human extinction that matter most to me – even if they are farther out on the timeline.  This is because full blown, global nuclear meltdown kills everyone.  Ditto GHG levels AND ICE MELT that results in massive releases of methane.  Methane and radiation can make the earth completely uninhabitable.  Total collapse of the monetary system DOES NOT render the air unbreathable.  These two items CANNOT be put on the same level if you care about the long term survival of the human species – regardless of when their impacts are felt. 

    Hansen is completely right, if not totally clear as to why, focusing on sea level rise because it means all the ice is melting which means all the tipping points are being crossed which means all the methane is coming out which means everbody is going to die.  On the other hand, there have been countless economic meltdowns of all shapes and sizes throughout history and NONE of them have resulted in the extinction of life on earth.

    • RE says:

      You order the list according to your own priorities.  Each person has their own priorities and their own beliefs.  I'm not defining how anyone should view any of these things.  I have my own POV and ordering, but I'll wait until after I publish the Poll results to explain my thinking on it.


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