Originally published on the Doomstead Diner on April 9, 2017
“We see these beautiful pictures at night from the decks of these two U.S. Navy vessels in the eastern Mediterranean. I am tempted to quote the great Leonard Cohen: ‘I am guided by the beauty of our weapons.’”
― Brian Williams, MSNBC anchor
It's been a week in which we took several steps toward our own Appointment in Samarra. We are expected to believe that the nation's Chief Executive, who heretofore has demonstrated absolutely no empathy for anyone, reversed his own stated foreign policy based on news pictures of children, ostensibly suffering from a Syrian government gas attack. Just the week before, said executive's Secretary of State had affirmed a new policy in which the US would be content to let the destiny of Bashar Al-Assad be settled by the Syrian people.
And who exactly are we fighting in Syria? Is it ISIS? Al Qaeda? Jabhat al Nusra? But Assad purchased oil from ISIS, yes? How did that work? And now we're bombing Assad? All of the Jihadis in opposition to Assad are Sunni, whereas Assad's regime belongs to the Alawite sect of Islam, related somehow to the Shia branch of Islam. One needs a scorecard…
As difficult as this might be to sort out, when the newest atrocity pictures appeared on FOX News, they hit our non-reading president right in the feels. And like Xanadu, a military action was decreed. Meanwhile, trump's legions of right-wing zealots were discomfited that he had bombed Syria and thus had gone "full neocon." Great was the hue and cry therefrom. Meanwhile, in the West Wing, Jared Kushner and Steve Bannon wrestled for primacy. If you're not the president's son-in-law, I don't like your chances. Mitch McConnell got clean away with the heist of a Supreme Court seat, and, oh yes, in spite of the Trump administration's decision to ban the phrase "climate change", the Arctic north is melting and we are awash in icebergs. Can global sea level rise be far behind?
The Rockets' Red Glare
We are told the short-fingered vulgarian "became president" by sending a volley of Tomahawk missiles, costing $1-1.5 million the each, to light up a Syrian airstrip, the assets of which had been moved by previously-alerted Russians and Syrians who, unlike Congress, had received prior notice. The air show on a virtually deserted airstrip avoided most of the runways, such that Syrian planes are reported to be flying missions as I write. Thus the US spent about $93,810,000, blowing up very little in order to show them that "we mean business."
The Palmer Report estimates that Donald Trump's ineffective Syria attack could have fully funded Meals on Wheels through 2029.
The MSM, hot on the trail of #trumpRussia connections, were captivated. On MSNBC, which we are constantly reminded is the "left" news network, fake news parolee Brian Williams waxed rhapsodic about the beauty of the rocket launches, if not the tumescence of the manhood which unleashed them. CNN's Fareed Zakaria proudly asserted Trump’s missile strike in Syria shows him emerging from the chrysalis and displaying the same bloodthirsty qualities as America’s past leaders. Friday morning on CNN’s “New Day," I stood openmouthed in astonishment as Zakaria said
“I think Donald Trump became president of the United States last night. I think this was actually a big moment.”
Making this Zakaria's Van Jones moment, and exposing him as another to-be-ignored careerist. Neocon Senators John McCain and Lindsay Graham swooned, and were observed to have rare swellings in their crotches at the audacity of dope. If these last for more than four hours, they should call a doctor. Or a Capitol Hill reporter.
Leading papers published opinions like "Trump’s Chance to Step Into the Global Leadership Vacuum," "Trump Has an Opportunity to Right Obama’s Wrongs in Syria," "Syrian Opposition Leader: Trump Has a Chance to Save Syria" and "Syria Missile Strike Could Lead to Political Solution"–but no pieces opposing an unauthorized military attack against a sovereign nation. Dan Rather had a few choice words.
"War must never be considered a public relations operation. It is not a way for an Administration to gain a narrative," Rather continued. "It is a step into a dangerous unknown and its full impact is impossible to predict, especially in the immediate wake of the first strike."
On other news, Raytheon, the company that makes the Tomahawk missiles used in the air strikes, was rising in early stock trading Friday. In related news, Lockheed Martin, helps Raytheon make the Javelin missile launcher system, gained nearly 1%. We may be headed for the End Times, but we're creating some beautiful opportunities for profit in arms.
Trump's troll army was not pleased, and the alt-right crowd broke with the president over his perfidy. The web-savvy, anti-establishment "alt-right" neo-nazis at the passionate core of Trump’s online support last year, have become apoplectic over the strikes. This "America First" wing, which includes Milo Yiannopolis, Mike Cernovich, Ann Coulter, and the famously punched-in-the-face Richard Spencer, (he of the memes), as well as those basement dwellers on The_Donald subreddit and the /pol/ section of 4Chan, warn of a slippery slope to intervention in Syria.
As recently as last week, they believed Trump would keep the country out of unnecessary wars. Last Thursday on a trip to Turkey, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said, the “longer-term status of President Assad will be decided by the Syrian people.” And then came the news pictures of Syrian children being gassed. Whereupon, we are told, the president decided to "follow his heart."
Leaving aside for a moment the notion of how a Republican Congress or the American public would react did if a female president had decided to "follow her heart," and launch 59 Tomahawk missiles, we are left to marvel at 180° whipsaw-like change in the direction of American foreign policy.
Meanwhile, about those pictures, and who was responsible for them. Many on the fascist fringe scream that Trump has been duped into a war a "false flag" operation. "The Syrian gas attack was done by deep state agents," tweeted alt right agitator and Pizzagate auteur Mike Cernovich. And other marginal voices, including Alex Jones and Paul Joseph Watson, as well as Ron Paul, Scott Adams and Michael Savage, have upped the ante, blamed the attack on George Soros, and condemned Trump for surrendering to "Republican hawks."
Plus, Julian Assange, believed to have sole control of the WikiLeaks Twitter account, shared a video from a Syrian activist in Germany on Thursday that said Islamist extremists were probably behind the chemical attack, not the Syrian government. Even left-wing observers have opined that the chemical strikes may have originated with Syrian rebels. Assessing the truth is to walk in a hall of mirrors.
Speaking of a hall of mirrors, Tina Nguyen of Vanity Fair does exemplary reporting on all things Trump, and made the following salient observation:
The missile strike came only hours after Bannon, the de facto representative of the alt-right in the White House, had been removed from the National Security Council Principals Committee, cutting off his access to military decision-making. His supporters quickly, and not without logic, blamed the Syria situation on the same people they believed were responsible for Bannon’s ouster and diminishing stature in the West Wing: Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and the leader of what a White House source described to Politico as the “West Wing Democrats.”
Few things gladden my heart more that a right wing circular firing squad, as headlines broke on Friday that Bannon had called Kushner "a cuck" and a "globalist." What the Bannon-Kushner tussle portends for the future, and for Trump's relationship with the reclusive Mercer family (which bankrolled his electoral victory) is anyone's guess.
It Stays Stole
In 2016, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said: "One of my proudest moments was when I told Obama, 'You will not fill this Supreme Court vacancy,'" and in 2017, he said, "Apparently there's yet a new standard now, which is not to confirm a Supreme Court nominee at all. I think that's something the American people simply will not tolerate."
This week, McConnell invoked a parliamentary maneuver to end the filibuster opposing the nominee, Neil Gorsuch, for the stolen Supreme Court seat, thus clearing the way for Gorsuch to occupy said stolen seat. This legislative coup will ratify the primacy of the corporate state for the next 30 years.
In a related story, hypocrisy stocks were up 12 percent this week.
And in climate change news, which we no longer count anymore because trump, we learn that Greenland’s coastal ice has passed a critical “tipping point,” according to a new study. Which doesn’t bode well for the rest of the island’s ice.
The Greenland ice sheet, which covers about 80 percent of the island’s surface, is the second-largest ice body in the world after the Antarctic ice sheet. The same processes that have caused the accelerated melting of Greenland’s coastal ice bodies could also influence the island’s massive ice sheet — with devastating results, lead study author Bryce Noël said.
“For now, the ice sheet is still safe,” he said. “Its tipping point hasn’t been crossed yet. But if warming continues, it’s very likely that it will be crossed.”
If the entire Greenland ice sheet were to melt, it would cause a global sea level rise of more than 20 feet.
In a related story, The Guardian tells of a swarm of more than 400 icebergs that have drifted into the North Atlantic shipping lanes over the past week, unusually large for so early in the season.
Most icebergs entering the North Atlantic have “calved” off the Greenland ice sheet. Michael Mann, director of the earth system science center at Pennsylvania State University, said it was possible climate change was leading to more icebergs in the shipping lanes, but wind patterns were also important.
US Coast Guard Commander Gabrielle McGrath, who leads the ice patrol, said she had never seen such a drastic increase in such a short time. Adding to the danger, three icebergs were discovered outside the boundaries of the area the Coast Guard had advised mariners to avoid, she said.
Another week in which we incrementally slip towards the doom which awaits us for our fecklessness and irresponsibility for failing to summon the will to be good stewards of what we have inherited.
Surly1 is an administrator and contributing author to Doomstead Diner. He is the author of numerous rants, screeds and spittle-flecked invective here and elsewhere, and once quit barking and got off the porch long enough to be active in the Occupy movement. Where he met the woman who now shares his old Virginia home and who, like he, is grateful that he is not yet taking a dirt nap, and like he, will be disappointed to not be prominently featured on an enemies list compiled by the incoming administration.
Published on the Chimeras on December 27, 2015
Antarctica deglaciated and uplifted, as it could appear ten thousand years after the Great Warming of the 21st century (from global warming art).
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The text below is part of my cli-fi novel "Queen of Antarctica" that one of these days I might be able to publish, somewhere. The novel takes place in a remote future and it is based on the idea that, after the runaway climate change of the 21st century, the survivors managed to colonize the extreme North and the extreme South of the planet, including Antarctica. And here is how their remote descendants living in Antarctica would tell the story. Note that the story assumes a relatively warm Antarctica, but it reflects the peculiar conditions of a civilization living near the South Pole that would experience six months of light followed by six months of darkness.In this world, people would spend the dark winter in a sort of hibernation. For them, seeing the stars in the dark sky would be something special, worth celebrating.
Children, come. Come here, because this is a special night. It is the night when the Moon is highest in the sky, and the night when the Moon starts to go down and, slowly, to let the sun come back, and give us light again after the long winter night. And we call this night the night of the winter solstice.
So, children, you have been sleeping through the long winter night, but now you are awake, and it is good that you are awake because this is a very special night. It is the night when we all wear heavy clothing and we go out to look at the stars! Yes, children, the sky is dark during the solstice night, and this night is darker than all the other nights of the year. So, we go out and we look at the stars, and at the moon, and at the planets above us. It is beautiful, and many of you have already seen it, and some of the youngest among you see the dark sky for the first time because they were too young to go out the last solstice.
But before we go outside to see the stars, children, it is the time for me to tell you a story. I'll tell you the story of the land where we live, that we call Antarctica; and of the city where we live, that we call just the city. And it is for me to tell you this story, children, because I am the oldest woman of the city and some say that for this reason I am a wise woman; and some call me witch because I know many things. And this may be true, though all that I know I learned from other wise women who came before me, just like you, children, are learning this story from me. And maybe, one day, when you'll be old as I am now, you'll be telling this story to the children who will be here because this is what has happened in our city for a long, long, time, since it was founded long, long ago.
So, children, listen to me. You know that the world was created when the Goddess separated the waters from the land, and then the She created the Sun and the Moon, and she made the Sun so that it would shine light on the land during half of the year, and She made the Moon so that it would stay in the sky for the other half of the year, and then the cycle would restart. And it is the light of the Sun that makes grain grow and makes us live. And then, it is the time for the Moon to be alone in the sky, then the land rests, and the people of the city rest, all the creatures of Antarctica rest, ready for the new cycle to start, when the sun comes back, the snow melts, and grain grows again for us.
But, children, you must know that Antarctica has not been the same forever. And this is a story that I have to tell you, children, because it is an ancient story that comes from the time of the founders and that the wise women of the city have kept by telling it to one another for a long, long time. And the story says that long, long ago, Antarctica was not the same as it is today; no, it was colder. Much colder than it is today. And the land was covered in ice, by mountains of ice! So big and so tall were these mountains that you can't even imagine how big and how tall. But they say that the tip of these mountains of ice was as tall as the mountains you see today. So tall that and so big that nothing of what you see today was visible. The land where now our city stands was covered in ice, and the grain fields around the city were covered in ice. Everything was covered in ice.
Long, long ago, when Antarctica was covered in ice, no one lived here. People lived far, far away, on the other side of the sea. And the lands in which they lived were not so hot as they are today, and people lived there. And people had built cities there, great cities with tall buildings. But those cities don't exist anymore and the people living there have died. It was because of something terrible that happened in those ancient times and that was what the founders called the Great Warming. Some say that it was the will of the Goddess that caused the world heat up so much that so many people died and they say that it was because people had become too proud and they were not paying to the Goddess the respect she deserved. But the founders say otherwise and they say that it was a fault of the ancient who had done something that had caused the Great Warming without knowing what they were doing.
The founders said that the ancient had found something underground, a dark stuff that they could burn as if it were wood, but that was not wood. They dug it out and they burned it to warm themselves, to cook, and to smelt metals. And this dark stuff was easy to find and easy to burn, so they burned a lot of it. And they burned so much of it that it poisoned the air and made it warmer. It was like when you warm yourself in a sealskin and it may be too warm for you if you do that during the summer. And this blanket made the world much hotter than it used to be, and it covered the whole world. And it covered Antarctica, too.
The founders say that the wise among the ancient understood what was happening and warned the others, but that the less wise among the ancient did not believe what the wise people were telling them and so they didn't want to stop burning that dark stuff, and that was perhaps how they offended the Goddess, as some people say. So they kept burning that dark stuff and the world became hotter. And then, the founders they say that something came out of the depth of the earth, something that made the air even hotter and did it faster, so fast and that could not be stopped, no matter what the ancient tried to do. And that was the Great Warming that some say was a punishment sent by the Goddess.
When the great blanket of ice that covered Antarctica felt the heat of the Great Warming, it started melting. And all this ice that melted went into the oceans as water, and the oceans rose. And the cities that had been on the coasts of the continents in the North were submerged, and the people who lived in those cities had to move inland, and they didn't have enough food to eat because the Great Warming had dried up much of the land, and many places were too hot for people to live. So, many of them died, many, many of them. And those who survived migrated to the Northern Lands, where they say that their descendants still live today, although it is so far away from us that nobody has been there for a long, long time.
Here, in Antarctica, when the ice melted, much of it crashed into the sea very fast, because the great ice sheets slid over the water under them, and they moved very rapidly and, soon, there were great stretches of land in Antarctica that were free of ice. But there was nobody living in there because nobody had ever lived in Antarctica up to then. It was at that time that the founders came. They came from the North, they were some of those who had survived. They came by boat, and it was a difficult trip for them, because the currents that circle around Antarctica were strong and dangerous at that time and they are still strong and dangerous today. But they crossed the Antarctic Ocean and they landed in the land that we call the Peninsula, even though it is an island, because at that time it was connected to the mainland of Antarctica.
The founders came, and they came to Antarctica to settle. They were wise and learned, they brought tools and machines that today we don't know anymore how to make, but so many years have passed and perhaps we don't need to make those tools and those machines anymore. And they brought animals with them that we don't have anymore, because they died and so still today Antarctica has no other animals than the birds who flew here by themselves; and the creatures who swam here by themselves, seals and iguanas, and others. It was a difficult time for the founders, because the land was bare, there were no plants and no animals, and the sea was growing in height as the ice kept melting. But the founders were resourceful and they had brought seeds with them, and they sowed grain, and they planted trees on the land left free by the ice.
In time, there was no more ice on the land of Antarctica, and much of the land was submerged and under the sea. But they also say that, slowly, the land rose, little by little the waters receded. It took many centuries, millennia, and the land is still rising, but much more slowly by now, so that Antarctica is now the way we know it; without ice, and with its coasts that fall rapidly into the sea.
And while the ice was receding, the founders moved inland they built cities. And they built them the way we see them today. And they built the city in which we live today. We live in this city and we remember the old times, and we remember of the founders, and we remember the things that happened so long ago. And some say that, one day, the ice will return; and some say that in the mountains, something is now happening that never happened before; and it is that when summer is at its height, there still remains a little snow on top of the mountains. And some say that the snow will grow and it will become ice. And that, one day, Antarctica will be covered with ice again. But that will take a long, long time, longer that we can say, longer than we can ever imagine. If that happens, then the people of the cities of Antarctica will have to move to somewhere else, because things always change and as the founders came here, so long ago, we can go back to where they came from, if that will be necessary.
But now, children, it is time to go. It is the solstice night, and you'll come with me and we'll go outside; to see the stars. The stars that you never see during the summer, the stars that come out when we are all sleeping during the winter, the stars that we see together in the night of the solstice. And you'll see the moon shining bright, and bright stars that the ancient told us are not stars but are called planets. And you'll see how beautiful is the dark sky, how beautiful is the moon, and how beautiful are the planets! Then, children, you'll go back inside, and you'll be warm and comfortable in the city until the next cycle starts and the sun comes up again, and this is the cycle that keeps us alive, and it has been going on like that for a long, long time, and it will keep going like that for a long long time. And you'll grow in this city, children, you'll become adults, and then you'll become old, and then you'll go dreaming underground. And then you'll become grain, and then you'll become people again. And that's the great cycle that was created by the Goddess, as it has been, as it is, and as it will be for a long, long time to come. May the Goddess bless you, children! And now come with me, to see the stars!
Haze from peatland fires in Indonesia (September, 2015). Source: NASA Earth Observatory
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Tropical peatland ecosystems contain very high levels of sequestered carbon and are experiencing rapid degradation. This happens because population pressure and increased resource consumption lead to land use conversion and draining with rice farming, oil palm and rubber production replacing tropical peatland ecosystems. Both the use of intentional fire, with slash and burn clearing, and outbreaks of wildfires due increased dryness, which worsens during El Niño years in Indonesia, destroys peatland ecosystems that releases massive amounts of stored carbon to the atmosphere. Which rapidly contributes to further global warming.
In 1997-98, during a strong El Niño, massive peatland fires across Indonesia resulted in major regional haze, millions suffering from respiratory problems, and resulting in billions in economic losses across Southeast Asia. Similarly, 2015/2016 El Niño season seems to have pushed already fragile peatland ecosystems in Indonesia over the limit with 118,273 active fires releasing 1636 metric tonnes CO2 equivalent to the atmosphere (as of 30 October, 2015). Peatland fires are not like ordinary fires due to the carbon rich soils they are very difficult to extinguish. Many times they don’t stop until heavy rains come along to help extinguish them.
Source: Global Fire Data
Much attention in mainstream media has been regarding Indonesia's poor land management policies during the last 30 years. However, in a resource scarce world with a growing population and increasing consumption of fat/oils in everything from crackers to soap and biofuels this was bound to happen. There is no such thing as “sustainable palm oil” since it uses more resources (energy) than it can produce and at huge environmental costs (not accounted for!). It’s like trying to argue that “fracking” is sustainable, which of course is ludicrous. So anyone buying palm oil products is part of the problem, and claiming otherwise is hypocrisy.
Access roads and terraced fields destroy orangutan habitat in Borneo's lowlands.Photograph by Mattias Klum, National Geographic Creative
There are over 300,000 different animals found throughout the jungles of Borneo and Sumatra, many of which are killed or displaced during deforestation. Palm oil plantations increases accessibility of animals to poachers and wildlife smugglers who capture and sell wildlife as pets, use them for medicinal purposes or kill them for their body parts. Orangutans have been found buried alive, killed from machete attacks, guns and other weaponry. Government statistics has shown that over 50,000 orangutans have already died as a result of deforestation due to palm oil in the last two decades. Mother orangutans are also often killed by poachers and have their babies taken to be sold or kept as pets, or used for entertainment. Other species like the Sumatran Tiger, Sumatran Rhinoceros, Sun Bear, Pygmy Elephant, Clouded Leopard and Proboscis Monkey has also suffered greatly.
Gito was found lying in a urine-soaked box with severe hair loss and grey and flaking skin. Credit: PA
The Union of Concerned Scientists released a report in April (2015) scoring America’s top brands usage of palm oil, including worst brands like: KFC, Pizza Hut, Taco Bel, Wendy’s, CVS/Pharmacy, Dollar General, Dollar Tree, Target, Costco wholesale, DQ’s, Domino’s. I suggest people boycott these companies, and palm oil in general, there are other and much better vegetable oils that one can buy from more local sources. Converting oil palm for biofuels so rich americans and europeans can drive around in their cars is simply wrong, on so many levels.
Off the keyboard of RE
Published on the Doomstead Diner on July 26, 2015
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- Sea Level Rise
- Atmospheric Carbon Content
- Monetary System Collapse
- Geopolitical Conflict/War
- Fossil Fuel Energy Depletion
- Human Population Overshoot
- Loss of Liberty/Police State
- Nuclear Power Plants/Spent Fuel
- Food Production
- Population Migrations/Refugees
The 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 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.
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?
Jim 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.
The 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.
From 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
For 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.
Off the keyboard of Albert Bates
Published on Peak Surfer on May 24, 2015
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We are in a crisis in the evolution of human society. It’s unique to both human and geologic history. It has never happened before and it can’t possibly happen again. Albert Bates, author of The Financial Collapse Survival Guide and Cookbook, brings you along on his personal journey.
Discuss this article at the Kitchen Sink inside the Diner
In 1935, Erwin Schrödinger wrote a letter to Albert Einstein in which he used the word verschränkung (translated by himself as entanglement) "to describe the correlations between two particles that interact and then separate, as in the EPR experiment."
In the Einstein-Podalsky-Rosen experiment it appeared that one particle of an entangled pair "knows" what action has been performed on or by the other, and with what outcome, even though there is no known means, or time, for such information to have been communicated. Schrodinger later wrote, "I would not call [entanglement] one but rather the characteristic trait of quantum mechanics, the one that enforces its entire departure from classical lines of thought."
Debaters of the likelihood of Near Term Human Extinction (NTHE) are less perfectly aligned than an EPR pair. Even those that subscribe to the theory are divided as to both the date and the precipitating cause.
Near-term civilizational collapse, on the other hand, is a bit easier to predict because (a) all civilizations collapse eventually, (b) this new, wholly global one exhibits a perfect storm of fatal design errors and (c) the empirical measure of net energy per capita – with human civilization viewed as a rudimentary heat engine that hit its zenith some years ago (estimates of date vary) and is now in steepening decline (although the International Energy Agency or President's Council of Economic Advisors would disagree).
Humans are considered to be pretty resilient and adaptive. We have been through several evolutionary bottlenecks already, to prove the point.
Granted, luck plays a role. If the few thousand survivors of the evolutionary bottleneck now revealed by mDNA studies to have occurred 70,000-80,000 years ago had all been clustered in one location – say Cupertino, California – and a Chicxulub-scale meteor had chosen to strike there and then, well sayonara. Silicon Valley would never have had a garage to build in.
But we are not alone. We are not even our own DNA. That body we blithely call human is actually a community of mostly convivial organisms, some autonomous, some not, that cohabit these complex, highly-evolved, organic structures and are responsible for all the vital functions that allow us to live. Indeed, "highly evolved" by itself means that cooperative arrangements between the many life forms that are in us and out, producing our food, oxygen, rainfall and climate, had enough time to become exceedingly complex and antifragile in their interactions. It is their tangled web that is largely responsible for this mild Holocene Epoch we have been enjoying, not just Milanković cycles.
If complexity is a precursor to climax in ecosystems, disturbance, and restart, the same may be true of the human ecosystem, and so our highly complex human biology argues, after a Tainterian fashion, for NTHE. However, such a jaundiced view begs the question of how much complexity is too much, and how much provides biological stability, or antifragility, of a kind.
Much depends on what the after-crash climate will be. After the great warming "pulse" generated by fossil carbon burning, the Earth will stay very warm for a long period – at least some thousands of years. Gradually, it will cool down as the atmospheric carbon dioxide created by the industrial revolution will be gradually – very gradually – re-absorbed into the Earth's crust. It may well take a hundred thousand years to return to the pre-industrial CO2 concentrations. Only at that point we may see again the climate conditions which were typical of an Earth unperturbed by human activities; perhaps with the series of ice ages that characterized the "Pleistocene," the epoch preceded the more stable Holocene – in which we are still living.
Assuming Bardi's postulate is correct, or more precisely, that of David Archer, whom Bardi references, that the mean lifetime of fossil CO2 (not all GHGs) is about 30–35 kyr then it may well take 100,000 years for Earth's atmosphere to recover from Homo petroleo. Unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, one cannot rely on that prediction because of the possibility of the clathrate gun that could transform Earth's atmosphere to something more resembling Venus, shrouded in methane clouds. We wept at that prospect in our 1990 book, Climate in Crisis.
Productivity of the U.S. health care
system, 1930-1982 (Tainter 1988)
Even assuming Homo post-petroleo could adapt to blistering hot surface temperatures for 100,000 years, perhaps on islands moderated by the ocean currents or at the poles, could our species then adapt to a Venus-like world? Chances diminish by degrees. The problem, as Tom Goreau has eloquently stated it, is that IPCC reports go out merely a century, while the emissions being accumulated will be around for millennia, and full cessation of fossil fuel burning will not arrest their delayed effects, although healthy soil microbe communities, promoted by regrarian farming and biochar, perhaps could.
Microbes, which are morphologically quite simple, can be remarkably more adaptive than humans to extreme conditions. On April 20, 1967, NASA's unmanned probe Surveyor 3 landed at the Mare Cognitum on a Lunar reconnoitering mission. Samples of soil from the crater where it landed were excavated with its robotic scoop and television pictures sent back to the Earth until May 3, when it shut down for a lunar night and unfortunately caught cold and died, unable to be reawakened when morning dawned, 14 days later.
The camera was retrieved by Apollo 12 astronauts three years later and returned to Earth. Opened in a clean room and sampled, the camera was discovered to still have live earthly microbes hiding in the foam crevices of its housing. These resilient microbes apparently had evaded sterilization procedures prior to Surveyor's launch.
Some years later studies suggested that the camera had been contaminated by the Apollo astronauts, or in the sampling procedure, but these claims do not stand up to the original scrutiny provided by Lt. Colonel Fred Mitchell. In his careful study, Mitchell observed that there was a significant delay before the sampled culture began growing. This is consistent with the sampled bacteria as dormant spores, but would not be the case if the sampled culture was the result of fresh contamination. In addition, according to Mitchell, the microbes clung exclusively to the foam during culturing, which would not have happened had there been contamination. Furthermore, Mitchell suggested, if fresh contamination had occurred, millions of individual bacteria and "a representation of the entire microbial population would be expected"; instead, only a few individual bacteria were discovered and only from a single species. (Mitchell, F. J., & Ellis, W. L., "Surveyor III: Bacterium isolated from lunar retrieved TV camera," in A.A. Levinson (ed.). Proceedings of the second lunar science conference. MIT press, Cambridge, 1971).
To recap: one species of terrestrial microbes, the common bacterium Streptococcus mitis, when suddenly confronted with the nearly absolute cold of space, adapted, went dormant, and survived, not for a 14-day night, but for years.
Diminishing returns to increasing
complexity (Tainter 1988)
This historical anecdote makes a pretty good case for the proposition that no matter what we humans do to the climate of Earth, some life forms will survive. How long it takes these life forms to again evolve a community of something resembling human is anyone's guess.
A lot of things happened to humans during the transition from hunter-gatherers to farmers and pastoralists. We lost a good 3-4% of the cranial capacity, many of us became able to digest milk, we developed resistance to many diseases and the capability to live on a diet that was very different and much poorer than that of hunters and gatherers. These changes were genetic, resulting from the need of adapting to a different lifestyle and to a more complex society.
True these changes are genetic, but that may miss half the story. The changes also reflect the evolution of our microbiome. Our gut bacteria, which can evolve more quickly than generalized human physiology, are in much greater control of most bodily functions than is often assumed.
According to a new review in Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment, "Psychobiotics and the gut–brain axis: in the pursuit of happiness" by Linghong Zhou and Jane Foster from McMaster University in Canada (Neuropsychiatr Dis Treat. 2015; 11: 715–723, doi: 10.2147/NDT.S61997):
"The human intestine houses an astounding number and species of microorganisms, estimated at more than 1014 gut microbiota and composed of over a thousand species. An individual’s profile of microbiota is continually influenced by a variety of factors including but not limited to genetics, age, sex, diet, and lifestyle. Although each person’s microbial profile is distinct, the relative abundance and distribution of bacterial species is similar among healthy individuals, aiding in the maintenance of one’s overall health. Consequently, the ability of gut microbiota to bidirectionally communicate with the brain, known as the gut–brain axis, in the modulation of human health is at the forefront of current research.
Photo credit: CSIRO.
These cryptophytes have the
capacity to choose between
quantum coherence and decoherence
"Bidirectional communication via the vagus nerve, a component of the parasympathetic nervous system, is a well-established pathway for gut-brain signaling and, in recent years, has emerged as an important microbiota-to-brain communication pathway.
"The ENS [enteric nervous system], sometimes referred to as "the second brain" comprises intrinsic primary afferent neurons, motor neurons, and glial cells contained within the myenteric plexus and the submucosal plexus that extends along the entire length of the gut."
Zhou and Foster discovered that what you thought was your thinking may actually have originated in the hive communication going on in your gut amongst a billion single-celled organisms. How else do you explain how our biocomputer experiences 70,000 thoughts per day on roughly 24 Watts of power?
A century ago, Russian embryologist Elie Metchnikoff surmised that a healthy colonic microbial community could help combat senility. Now we are learning that the gut-brain axis – the two direction communication between the gut microbiota and the brain – affects not only health and immune response, weight management, allergies, tooth decay, cholesterol, arthritis, longevity, but also brain function, emotional behavior and instinctive reflexes.
Gut bacterial imbalances have been linked to autism, depression, and eating disorders, as for instance, when genetically modified crops designed to be RoundUp-Ready through the glyphosate mechanism of destroying soil microbes that feed weeds at their roots are ingested by humans and make mayhem of human intestinal microfauna communities.
We don't yet entirely know how bacteria communicate, much less how they communicate with our brains or what effect that has, whether it occurs by physical linkages or through faster-than-light quantum phenomena, but we have to acknowledge the entanglement.
"Is the future of humans a beehive? We can't say, but it looks more and more likely that some old ways of seeing the future are now wholly obsolete. Likely, our descendants will have no flying cars; no spaceships, no robot butlers bringing the martinis to them as they relax on the pool's edge. But the powers of a human hive could still be impressive even without the gadgetry of our times. Maybe the 'super-intelligence' that some see as developing in our computers could actually appear in an eusocial human organization (this is one of the themes of Frank Herbert's novel Hellstrom's Hive).
"Will these super-intelligent entities avoid the mistakes that we have done? We can't say; of course, it is a future that none of us will ever see. But it is a fascinating future and the interest in the future is part of the fact of being human. Perhaps, our hive descendants will think in the same way."
We can feel a little more assured that even though we humans evolve very slowly and face monumental, existential challenges from our pollution profligacy, the wee beasties that co-evolved in our guts adapt much faster to challenges and may yet decide we are worth hanging onto, assuming they did not engineer our planned obsolescence to begin with.
Evolution may not be the only thing microbes are fast at. Like Gaia, they exhibit a kind of quantum intelligence, with multiple states of knowledge simultaneously appearing, and no apparent time or means to communicate. We, who treasure our autonomous egos, are fortunate to exist in community with a verschränkung hive mentality.
Fortunately, we clever apes have also hedged our bets by delaying new spacecraft sterilization protocols until after we sent unclean probes to Mars. If our hive community did not exist on Mars before (and wasn't that the discovery mission of the probes?) chances are very good that it does now.
First published at The Daily Impact February 16, 2015
The closer a person or a society comes to the end of its life, the more attractive magical thinking becomes. Clearly this is not going well, the thought process goes, but I can avoid the inevitable outcome if I 1) pray real hard, or 2) pay enough money to the shaman/priest/doctor, or 3) take lots and lots of Vitamin X while bathed in a strong electromagnetic field, or 4) sacrifice plenty of virgins to a volcano. The more hopeless the situation becomes, the more attractive becomes the idea of a magical, easy solution, and the lust to find one often intensifies until death intervenes. Thus now, in the dotage of our society, we are hearing a rising, insistent chant from the shamans of technology, a promise of an easy fix for the climate that is turning against us: “geoengineer it, geoengineer it.”
Geoengineering is an offer — from the industrial wizards who have virtually destroyed the ability of the planet to support human life — to complete the job. Spewing billions of tons of carbon dioxide (from burning fossil fuels) into the atmosphere has worked really well if you disregard the fact that it is slowly bringing the world to a boil. To counter that downside, the supergeeks are now — I am not making this up —proposing to spew millions of tons of sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere to create aerosols that would reflect sunlight and presumably turn the burner down. And then what will happen to the toxic, rotten-egg gas and precursor to sulfuric acid? We’ll figure that out when we get there.
Another brilliant idea from a self-styled geoengineer named David Keith is to substitute 200 million tons of aluminum particles for the rotten-egg gas, thus avoiding the smell and the acidity, but unfortunately coating the world in toxic aluminum when the particles, as they eventually must, fall back to earth.
No one in their right mind would actually support doing such things, which is why they are gathering increasing support around the world. The din has prompted the National Academy of Sciences to weigh in, just last week, with an authoritative opinion that said, after due consideration, the proposals have been found to be dangerous to the point of utter madness and we ought to continue to consider them, at government expense.
Another category of geoengineering, which the NAS studied separately, is less dangerous and could work if done on a large enough scale. It’s called carbon sequestration, which involves preventing the carbon dioxide from being released into the atmosphere in the first place. Although it would work, is extremely expensive, and you have to pay the costs up front in order to get the benefits later. The other schemes probably wouldn’t work, and probably have hideous downstream expenses, but it doesn’t cost very much up front. So we like it better.
(What about the Third Way, did I hear someone ask? What about simply refusing to emit any more pollution? Or at least drastically reducing emissions? Would that not solve the problem? Well, sure, but it’s a non-starter.)
The NAS panel’s disdain for the whole subject of geoengineering is palpable, and begins with its refusal to call it “engineering” at all, substituting the world “intervention.” A spokesperson explained, “we felt ‘engineering’ implied a level of control that is illusory. The word ‘intervention’ makes it clearer that the precise outcome could not be known in advance.” Whoa. You’re tinkering with the whole planet, and the precise outcome is unknown.
So why then, given its unconcealed contempt for the whole idea, did the NAS study recommend more research into atmospheric reflection projects? Well, there will be a lot of grant money for a lot of scientists willing to shake the medicine rattle and chant “geoengineer it.”
Having stated that we would be nuts to pursue “albedo management,” then saying that we should, just for the sake of knowledge, the NAS study says emphatically and in conclusion: “There is no substitute for dramatic reductions in greenhouse gas emissions to mitigate the negative consequences of climate change.”
Whoops, sorry, that wasn’t actually the conclusion. They also felt they had to say: geoengineering “could contribute to a broader portfolio of climate change responses with further research and development.”
Looks like we had better start recruiting virgins.
Thomas Lewis is a nationally recognized and reviewed author of six books, a broadcaster, public speaker and advocate of sustainable living. He also is Editor of The Daily Impact website, and former artist-in-residence at Frostburg State University. He has written several books about collapse issues, including Brace for Impact and Tribulation. Learn more about them here.
Off the keyboard of Brian Davey
Published on FEASTA on October 7, 2013
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The 5th Assessment Report of the International Panel on Climate Change was published while I was writing this book. It is the consensus assessment of the world’s scientists of the state of their knowledge about climate change and what they think is likely to happen. What happened in the mass media at this time, and even in statements by a government environment minister in the UK, Owen Paterson, was a clear attempt to downplay the message of the scientists and the impact of the report. In the opinion of Paterson:
“People get very emotional about this subject and I think we should just accept that the climate has been changing for centuries…I see this report as something we need to take seriously but I am relieved it is not as catastrophic in its forecast as we had been led to believe early on. What it is saying is that it is something we can adapt to over time, and we are very good as a race at adapting.”
Climate scientists responded angrily – for example, Professor Kevin Anderson of Manchester University and the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research:
“It’s a deliberately partial reading of the report. Either that or he has not read the report properly or does not understand the significance of the emissions scenarios. These tell us that business as usual will give us a 50:50 chance of a 4C temperature rise. His view that we can muddle through climate change is a colonial, arrogant, rich person’s view. Many people will die in the developing world where the changes will be felt the most and it is irresponsible and immoral to suggest that we as a species can adapt to climate change,”
– Independent, 1st October, 2013.
If we are, as neo-classical economists claim, “rational individuals” then you would think that all of us would put a lot of weight on the opinion of such a large number of scientists and the rigour of the process that is gone through. The diagram below shows the IPCC Process for the scientific report (click to enlarge).
There were 209 Lead Authors and 50 Review Editors from 39 countries. Over 600 Contributing Authors from 32 countries. Over 2 million gigabytes of numerical data from climate model simulations. Over 9200 scientific publications cited. The final draft for governments received 1855 comments from 32 Governments. In total there were 54,677 comments from 1089 Expert Reviewers from 55 countries and from 38 Governments. That is a lot of “rationality” that has gone into the process. 
As regards climate science more generally one study searched the university accessible “Web of Science” for peer reviewed scientific articles about climate change published between 1 January 1991 and 9 November 2012 that had the keyword phrases “global warming” or “global climate change.” The search produced 13,950 articles. Only 24 of these rejected global warming – 0.17% of the studies. 
The fact that a large number of people do NOT accept the overwhelming scientific consensus in these circumstances is therefore interesting because it is evidence that challenges the neo-classical economist’s view of what people are like. Clearly a very large number of people are NOT rational. Ironically, a key reason that people appear unable and/or unwilling to accept the science is connected to markets supplying pseudo confirmations of non scientific views of reality.
This can be put in another way – there is a market for delusion. The market supplies a stream of messages that create “doubt” about the climate science, even when none exists among the scientists themselves. There is a lot of money in it. According to a 2007 study by the US Union of Concerned Scientists, (ExxonMobil) has spent more than $19 million to promote skepticism about global warming, funding think tanks, publications and web sites that are not peer reviewed by the scientific community. The report shows how the company
– raised doubts about even the most indisputable scientific evidence
– funded an array of front organizations to create the appearance of a broad platform for a tight-knit group of vocal climate change contrarians who misrepresent peer-reviewed scientific findings
– attempted to portray its opposition to action as a positive quest for “sound science” rather than business self-interest
– used its access to the Bush administration to block federal policies and shape government communications on global warming. 
Many other fossil fuel companies do the same thing. For example, the Koch Brothers are notorious as donors to organisations attempting to throw doubt on climate change science .
Given the scale on which it being funded there is now a lot of delusionary ideas out there: the climate has changed before; it’s the sun; it’s not bad; there’s no consensus; its cooling; the models are unreliable; the temperature record is unreliable; animals and plants can adapt; it hasn’t warmed since 1998; Antarctica is gaining ice….the contrarian arguments are generated in a factory whose aim is to mislead and confuse. All of them have been refuted – but how is the average citizens to know or keep track of the barrage of misinformation that big money keeps generating? .
In the current situation the IPCC Assessment Report 5 draft has generated a huge controversy around the idea that “it has not warmed since 1998”. In the 15 years 1998 to 2012 the actual surface temperature increase was 50% slower than the average on the model runs, although well within the anticipated range of the runs. No one expects the temperature to be bang on the average of all the model runs – this average is not an exaction “prediction”. There are a range of projection of what will happen under various assumptions. Things are going seriously wrong with the science only if actual temperatures over a longer period deviate outside the range of simulated projections. To that should be added that 1998 was a particularly hot year to start measuring a trend from. If the trend between 1992 and 2006 had been chosen it would have shown a surface temperature increase that was much faster than the IPCC average of model runs. Climate scientists refer to natural variability – temperature fluctuations around the trend over relatively short time periods. This natural variability can be accounted for by things like the way that the ocean has absorbed a lot of the heat , as well as variability of the amount of ‘aerosols’ – particulates in the atmosphere from industrial pollution and volcanic eruptions that reflect solar energy back into space. 
These are complex issues for a lay person to assess and it is easy to understand that people would feel bewildered by the arguments. It is clear that such bewilderment can and is exploited by people who ought to know better. In fact, there is a whole topic of “civic epistemology” which can guide approaches to these questions. For people who are concerned to maintain a rational approach to controversial matters, when they are not themselves experts in the specialist field concerned, there are criteria, shall we say “diagnostics”, that can be used to assess the issues. In this connection the evidence that underpins any belief can be examined from “procedural” as well as “substantive” grounds.
“Procedural” means looking for consistency of the evidence with due scientific process – this is the quality control in academic production. Is the evidence appearing in a peer reviewed journal? Has the evidence bee replicated by other peer reviewed research processes? Is the research by a scientist operating in the field in which they have been trained and in which they have expertise?
Of course there are a lot of other sources of information out there – academic monographs; investigative journalism; data and reports from government agencies; data collected by corporations; research and reports by NGOs, charities and think tanks, consultants reports and press, radio, television and internet blogs. All of these are potential sources of accurate information – or potential sources of errors and deliberate obfuscation. A politically literate person will sift these sources of information according to quality control criteria. Thus a newspaper article written by a scientist who has published peer reviewed articles in the field, who is highlighting findings from peer reviewed literature can be taken as credible – whereas someone who has no qualifications as a scientist, or who is “a scientist”, but not from the field in question, who has not written peer reviewed articles in the field in question, and/or who has retired and ceased publication – who then casts doubt on peer reviewed literature is a highly dubious source. Especially if you find, as is very often the case, that they are being sponsored by money from fossil fuel companies.
In the tobacco companies war to deliberately create doubt about the health consequences of smoking, politically sympathetic physicists published articles in non peer reviewed journals to help the tobacco companies hold off regulation .
However, if climate science wrecks your religion then obviously you are not going to believe in it….In the world of ancient Greece, the world “idiot” was used to refer to people who did not contribute when they were entitled to do so in the democratic process. Instead the idiots devoted their time to their own private interests and wealth. From Adam Smith onwards mainstream economists have told people that, by pursuing their private interests, a greater social good is brought about by the “invisible hand of the market”. After Smith the idiots – naturally I am using the word in the ancient Greek sense – could feel reassured and work to accumulate private wealth. They could feel secure in the idea that, while the state was there to protect them, it was supposed to keep out of their self interested dealings because their “self love” was being converted into social wellbeing quasi-automatically – particularly by stimulating clever technologies. This simple mantra is what I earlier described, following Richard Norgaard, as “economism” and it has become the religious faith of the modern age with the economists as the priesthood.
Actually it is not at all the case that the market works as a socially co-ordinative system because people are pursuing their self interest. What makes the market ‘work’, to the extent that it does, as a co-ordinative system, is only that everyone is playing the same life game. The drive for money as a common criteria for social action leads to a common life style. The way people play or are obliged to play the same money making game glues society together on a particular path of development. Because everyone is playing the same game in terms of motivations, criteria and measures of success, interdependency in capitalist social relationships is made possible.
With economism functioning as a foundational religion underpinning the general orientation of market based society, it is incredibly unsettling to the faithful to hear the message of climate science because it implies that the free market does not, after all, automatically deliver collective well being. The evidence for this is provided by psychological studies which show that the more people identify with “free market principles” the more likely they are to reject the findings of climate scientists. A study in the USA surveyed the views of a representative 1000 people and found that a market based worldview constituted an overwhelming barrier to the acceptance of climate science. A similar finding applies to the science associated with smoking. The study, by a team led by Professor Stephan Lewandowsky chair of cognitive psychology at the University of Bristol in the UK, is titled “The Role of Conspiracist Ideation and World Views in Predicting Rejection of Science” and is published in the journal PLOS ONE. Commenting to a Guardian journalist about these findings Lewandowsky says:
“I cannot be sure of the causality, but there are multiple lines of evidence that suggest that the involvement of worldview, such as free-market principles, arises because people of that worldview feel threatened not by climate change or by lung cancer, but by the regulatory implications if those risks are being addressed by society. Addressing lung cancer means to control tobacco, and addressing climate change means to control fossil-fuel emissions. It’s the need to control those products and their industries that is threatening people with strong free-market leanings.” (“Planet Oz” Guardian, 2nd October 2013  )
Faced with a choice between what science is telling them or a fantasy, a large number of people prefer the fantasy and there are plenty of vested interests from the fossil fuel industry keen to fund publicity for their delusions. The irony here is that while economists model reality on the assumption of rational individuals market ideology appears to be a powerful influence in favour of irrationality – while powerful vested interests are happy to fund a variety of dangerous delusions.
In the 1999 film, The Matrix, the chief character is asked whether he wants to take a red pill that will show him the painful reality or take the blue pill and remain in the simulated reality that the establishment wants him to see. The economics profession are mostly in business helping to produce the blue pills. Economics is a menace – it is a generator of collective psychopathology, a society dangerously out of touch with reality.
But is there not a chance that climate science is wrong? Might it not be the case that climate change is not the result of human activities and that it does not repay the effort to do anything about it? While the climate scientists go to immense trouble to express their degree of confidence in their findings the climate deniers don’t bother to do the same thing. So yes, even the climate scientists admit that they might conceivably have got it wrong. There is a chance, but on the core issues that chance is a very small one indeed.
Thus, if one reads the IPCC 5th Assessment Report Summary for Policy makers there are a mass of findings about climate change – in regards to atmospheric changes, ocean temperatures, the cryosphere (ice sheets), sea level, carbon and geochemical cycles, drivers of climate change, quantifiying the system and so on. Each of the findings under these headings are assigned a confidence level. For example, when it comes to the attribution of climate change there is this statement:
“Human influence has been detected in warming of the atmosphere and the ocean, in changes in the global water cycle, in reductions in snow and ice, in global mean sea level rise, and in changes in some climate extremes. This evidence for human influence has grown since Assessment Report 4. It is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century.”
– Working Group I Contribution to the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis Summary for Policymakers
Note the words “extremely likely”. This is defined elsewhere in the same report in this way: “extremely likely: 95–100%” . So yes, the scientists are acknowledging that there is a small chance that they might have got it wrong. But think of it this way – would you get on a plane that is 95% likely to crash because there is a 5% chance that it will not do so? No rational person would if they had a choice – unless they were being misled by a criminal misinformation.
There are other senses in which some predictions based on climate science might be wrong. There has been some argument about whether, or how much, the rising energy and money costs of extracting fossil fuel resources because of depletion might lead to a future fall in emissions because the fossil energy might not be there in sufficient quantities, extractable at an commercial cost, to lead to the worse emissions growth scenarios coming about. Perhaps depletion will mean that carbon energy prices will go so high anyway as to crash the economy, undermining the financial sector. This is another kind of argument, about the other limits to economic growth kicking in faster than climate change.
No one has a magic ability to completely accurately predict the future. Yet we are condemned to make predictions in order to manage our lives. As we reach the limits to growth some nasty surprises – and perhaps even some nice ones – may be waiting to take history in an unexpected direction. At the time of writing the United States government appears to be self destructing because Tea Party market fundamentalists in the USA are unwilling to pass a budget. Were this to go on I dare say it could damage global economic activity seriously and lastingly – and thus perhaps bring down emissions. A war in Syria which might have escalated into a major global conflict was only narrowly averted – that too might have disrupted the flow of fossil fuels. Various diseases are becoming a major threat because the declining effectiveness of antibiotics. Perhaps that might create a population crisis and again bring down emissions. The future is one that no one can foresee. None of these things make climate change any less important as a major threat to humanity that justifies being taken any less seriously.
Many thanks to Nick Bardsley, lecturer in climate economics at Reading University and Feasta member, for his help in regard to “civic epistemology”.
7. Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway Merchants of Doubt. How a handful of scientists obscured the truth on issues from tobacco smoke to global warming Bloomsbury 2010
- “Fresh approaches to tackling climate change” FEASTA climate group workshop
- “Fresh approaches to tackling climate change” – Feasta/WinACC workshop
- Climate Change and Peak Oil: two sides of the same coin?
- New Feasta submission to the Consultation on Climate Change Policy
- Two Climate Change Presentations – Brian Davey and Professor Mark Maslin
Off the Keyboard of Guy McPherson
Published originally on Transition Voice on August 10, 2012
Television anchor Edward R. Murrow is credited with this expression: “Just because your voice reaches halfway around the world doesn’t mean you are wiser than when it reached only to the end of the bar.”
Murrow understood the power of television to misinform the masses. This strategy has worked brilliantly on every front, but none more pronounced than the all-important issue of global climate change. Seeking “balance” on the idiot box has meant presenting two sides to a one-sided issue until it’s become too late to address the crisis.
It’s now too late.
Feel the burn
By the end of June 2012, the U.S. had witnessed its hottest 12 months and hottest half year on record. And July 2012 was the hottest month in U.S. history, with records dating to 1895. Extreme events have arrived:
“The kind of blistering heat we used to experience once every 20 years, will now occur every two.”
Even as the sun cools, record high temperatures exceeded record low temperatures by a ratio of 2:1 in the last decade, relative to an expected ratio of 1:1. The ratio hit 9:1 in 2012.
As was pointed out in this space last year, I concluded a decade ago that we’d set into motion climate-change processes likely to cause our own extinction by 2030.
I mourned for months, to the bewilderment of the three people who noticed. And then, shortly thereafter, I was elated to learn about a hail-Mary pass that just might allow our persistence for a few more generations: Peak oil and its economic consequences might bring the industrial economy to an overdue close, just in time.
Like Pandora with her vessel, I retained hope.
Stick a fork in us. We’re done. Broiled beyond
hope wishful thinking.
It seems we’ve experienced a lethal combination of too much cheap oil and too little wisdom. Yet again, I’ve begun mourning. It’s no easier the second time.
As always, I’m open to alternative views — in fact, I’m begging for them, considering the gravity of this particular situation.
But the supporting evidence will have to be extraordinary.
By the way, irrationally invoking Al Gore doesn’t count as evidence. Ditto for unsubstantiated rumors about global cooling. A small dose of critical thinking might be required rather than the ability to repeat lines touted by neo-conservatives and their puppet-masters in the fossil-fuel industries.
We know Earth’s temperature is nearly one degree Centigrade higher than it was at the beginning of the industrial revolution. And 1 C is catastrophic, as indicated by a decades-old cover-up.
Already, we’ve triggered several positive feedbacks, none of which were expected to occur by mainstream scientists until we reached 2 C above baseline global average temperature.
We also know that the situation is far worse than indicated by recent data and models (which are reviewed in the following paragraphs).
We’ve known for more than a decade what happens when the planes stop flying: Because particulates were removed when airplanes were grounded, Earth’s diurnal temperature range increased by more than 1 C in the three days following 9/11.
If the change in range leans toward warming, in other words, Earth’s temperature is already nearly 2 C higher than the industrial-revolution baseline. And because of positive feedbacks, 2 C leads directly and rapidly to 6 C, acidification-induced death of the world’s oceans, and the near-term demise of Homo sapiens.
That would be people. Us. You and me. Your kid. And your little dog, too.
Suicide isn’t painless
We can’t live without life-filled oceans, home to the tiny organisms that generate half the planet’s oxygen while comprising the base of the global food chain (contrary to the common belief that Wal-Mart forms the base of the food chain).
So much for the wisdom of the self-proclaimed wise ape.
With completion of the on-going demise of the industrial economy, we’re there: We’ve crossed the horrifically dire 2 C rubicon, as will be obvious when most of the world’s planes are grounded.
Without completion of the on-going demise of the industrial economy, we’re there: We’ve crossed the horrifically dire 2 C rubicon, as described below.
Joseph Heller, anybody?
I’ve detailed the increasingly dire assessments. And I’ve explained how we’ve pulled the trigger on five positive-feedback events at lower global average temperature than expected, while also pointing out that any one of these five phenomena likely leads to near-term human extinction.
None of these positive-feedback events were expected by mainstream scientists until we exceed 2 C warming above the pre-industrial baseline.
My previous efforts were absurdly optimistic, as demonstrated by frequent updates (for example, here, and here, and here, in chronological order in this space). Yet my frequent writing, rooted in scientific analyses, can barely keep up with increasingly terrifying information about climate change.
Every day, we have more reliable knowledge about the abyss into which we’ve plunged. Consider, for example, the International Energy Agency’s forecast of business-as-usual leading to a 6 C warmer planet by 2035.
Malcolm Light, writing for the Arctic Methane Emergency Group, considers one of the many positive feedbacks we’ve triggered in one planetary region and reaches this conclusion:
This process of methane release will accelerate exponentially, release huge quantities of methane into the atmosphere and lead to the demise of all life on earth before the middle of this century.
Please read that sentence again.
Light is a retired earth-systems scientist. As nearly as I can distinguish, he has no hidden agenda, though he believes geo-engineering will save us (an approach that would take several years to implement, and one that we’d almost certainly FUBAR).
Forecasts by the International Energy Agency and the Arctic Methane Emergency group match the recent trend of increasingly dire assessments based on collection and interpretation of more data and increasingly powerful models. If these forecasts are close to accurate, we’ve only a requiem to write for human beings on Earth.
Even mainstream scientists writing in Science have finally noticed that ocean acidification threatens all marine life with near-term extinction. In the very near future, coral reefs will disappear. Think of the deprivation we’ve brought to the world as we rape, pillage, and plunder Earth’s glorious bounty for a few extra dollars with which to purchase the
food high fructose corn syrup that’s killing us and tons of toxic toys to titillate.
Deniers take note: “Recent warming of the top 2300 feet of the ocean alone corresponds to an energy content of more than one Hiroshima atomic bomb detonation every second over the past 40 years.”
This “remarkable warming can only be explained with man-made greenhouse gas emissions.”
According to fancy sensors, those greenhouse gas emissions are responsible for a temperature increase of about 1 C in New England since the beginning of the industrial revolution (graphical depiction is here).
The plants paint a considerably more dire story, indicating average temperature in the region has increased 2.4 C during the same period. If you trust plants more than human sensors, as I do, this single statistic is sufficient to induce despair.
In cold blood
Climate chaos is only a small part of the big story, though it is among the phenomena poised to cause our extinction within a single human generation. In addition to triggering climate chaos, we’ve initiated the Sixth Great Extinction, and we revel in its acceleration as one more sign of progress.
Furthermore, we continue to ratchet up the madness of human-population overshoot on an overpopulated, overheated, increasingly depauperate planet.
Environmental degradation proceeds apace as we gleefully trade in living soil for smart phones, clean air for fast computers, potable water for high-definition televisions, healthy food for industrial poison, contentment for exhilaration, decent human communities for hierarchical death camps, and life for death.
All the while, we take truth-tellers to task while looking to corrupt governments for leadership. Truth is treason in an empire of lies, so we don’t protest governments that spy on their citizens and then kill them.
The people, largely convinced they are consumers instead of citizens, keep seeking guidance from the television and nourishment from GMO-tainted faux food, all while seeking happiness from exhilaration instead of introspection.
My heart aches to the breaking point. Industrialized humans are destroying every aspect of the living planet with all the joy one would expect from homicidal maniacs. We don’t think about what we’re doing. If we did, we wouldn’t. Or perhaps, driven by a culture of madness promoted by our contemporaries, we would.
I’m guilty, too, of course.
The thought of continuing to stare, alone, at the world of wounds, causes the terror to rise in me. Walking away from empire doesn’t mean I’ve done enough to terminate the omnicidal set of living arrangements known as industrial civilization. Haunted by the wonder and beauty of nature and fully recognizing my efforts as insufficient, bitterness nearly overshadows my overwhelming, debilitating sadness. How could I
have been be so self-absorbed?
What irreparable damage have I wrought?
Revolting for real
I feel nature slipping out of my grasp as we rush to destroy every species on Earth. With no decent solutions, my mind wanders between sadness and madness, between reality and the despair induced therein.
What, then, shall we do?
As I contemplate the shackles we’ve created for ourselves, the words of Albert Camus come to mind:
The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion.
In terms of action, I hardly know what that means for me, much less for you. But I encourage any and every act of liberty and rebellion, particularly as the world burns.
I’m often asked why people living in industrialized nations shouldn’t relent to hopelessness and party like hedonists as the world burns. My typical response is to ask how our lives would be different if we suddenly starting acting like hedonists?
With the words of Edward R. Murrow in mind, curse your television. Then shoot it. It’s not much, and it’s too little, too late. But it’s a therapeutic start to a much-needed revolution.