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Is Global Collapse Imminent? Déar MFómh 25, 2014 05:24 | email@example.com (Alex Smith)
This is Turner's second review of the Limits to Growth. His first was in 2008: Turner, G.M. 2008 "A comparison of The Limits to Growth with 30 years of reality" Global Environmental Change, 18, pp. 397-411.
The original "Limits to Growth" study in the 1970's helped shape the entire environmental movement. It was remorseless trashed by pro-business writers, as proven wrong, and consigned to the dustbin of history. Now many of us sense we are teetering on the edge, so I'm really pleased to have this opportunity to talk with Dr. Turner.
It seems to me, reading this paper, Turner has returned to the Peak Oil scenario, saying the ever-increasing diversion of capital into more difficult to extract fossil fuels is, quote "the primary cause of collapse of the BAU [business as usual] scenario."
Keep in mind, Graham Turner is not absolutely PREDICTING an imminent global collapse. His research shows we are following a path that could lead there. I asked him what signs we should watch for, and one suggestion was infrastructure falling apart. You know, bridges falling down, sewers that don't work, things don't get repaired.
Why? Because governments, corporations (and you) will have to put more and more of our social capital into simply getting more fossil fuels. Think about the costly Tar Sands, deep water drilling, Arctic drilling - these are very capital intensive. As the cheaper easier oil (like from the Middle East wells) gets used up, it will cost more and more to get less and less. Richard Heinberg has released a study saying this applies even more to fracking, as wells run dry quickly, needing more and more expensive drilling.
At some point, there is not enough money left to you and I to consume, not enough money left to start new manufacturing, not enough to re-pave the roads. That snowballs, compounded by continuing climate-driven weather disasters, agricultural crisis and rising population (all part of the Limits to Growth, except climate change.)
The charts which Turner presents in his paper, showing predictions made by the MIT group in the 1970's Limits to Growth track very well with what has actually happened in the more than 30 years since. We don't have to guess.
We can measure what happened, and he does. All the signs point to an eventual collapse of our current system, perhaps our civilization as well.
Download or listen to this interview with Graham M. Turner in CD Quality or Lo-Fi
WILL WE BURN 30% MORE LIQUID FOSSIL FUELS IN 2040?
There is another world out there. That's the flow of business, oil, and governments toward an increasingly high-carbon future. It's stunning to consider, but the majority view is the world will produce, consume, and burn ever more oil, gas, and petroleum produced from coal. Check this out.
I'm on a ton of media press lists, including several from the U.S. government. An American government department has just predicted the world will increase the supply, demand, and consumption of liquid fossil fuels (oil, gas, and petroleum products converted from coal) as this century progresses. Is it a nightmare, or just the hot reality?
We are joined by Linda Doman, the lead energy analyst for their publication, the "International Energy Outlook". Their latest report, released September 9th, 2014, is from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the EIA.
You can download or read that EIA publication online as a .pdf here.
Jonathan Cogan from the EIA helps put this report in perspective when he tells me by email:
"The projections in International Energy Outlook 2014 (IEO2014) are not statements of what will happen, but what might happen given the specific assumptions and methodologies used for any particular scenario. The Reference case projection is a business-as-usual trend estimate, given known technology and technological and demographic trends. EIA explores the impacts of alternative assumptions about oil prices in a low-oil-price scenario and a high-oil-price scenario. The price cases examine a range of potential interactions of supply, demand, and prices in world liquids markets IEO2014.
All of the cases generally assume that current laws and regulations are maintained throughout the projections.
Thus, the projections provide policy-neutral baselines that can be used be used to analyze international energy markets.
Keep in mind that the U.S. Energy Information Administration is a policy-neutral statistical and analytical agency. We are not involved in formulating, promoting, or advocating energy policies."
So what does this report really say about coming oil and gas demand and production?
First of all, they don't foresee a huge rise in prices, which is an important factor in consumption. Oil may be $140 2012 dollars in 2040 they say, although several scenarios are contemplated. Production is expected to increase from the current 87 million barrels a day in 2010 to 119 million barrels a day by 2040.
That's about a 30% increase. When you consider we are already putting record amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere now, with extreme weather as a result, fires, floods, rising seas and all that - a 30% INCREASE as the century goes forward must be absolutely disastrous. But that's not the concern of the EIA, which is only concerned with plotting our trajectory from the now.
Linda Doman tells us production expectations have been raised from the 2013 report, due to the extra production from fracking. They expect fracking to expand from it's base in the United States to countries all over the world.
The EIA says use of oil and gas in developed OECD countries (U.S., Canada, Europe, Japan) peaked back in 2005. More efficient cars, savings by power companies, and an economic recession have all helped push consumption back in these countries. But that is overshadowed, in fact increased, by higher demand in Asia (China, India, Indonesia mainly) and in the Middle East.
Why the Middle East? 1. The young population is coming of age to get driver's licenses. 2. Oil producing governments subsidize fuel prices (like 25 cents a gallon for example) which doesn't limit demand. And 3. (which I will add) - there is a movement toward more industrialization in some Middle East countries. They will consume their own oil and gas in petrochemical refineries, and other manufacturing activities.
There is still a lot of uncertainty about how much oil and gas China and India will burn in the future. The EIA created three possible scenarios. In the highest use picture, BY 2040, India and China would consume about as much in liquid fossil fuels as the whole world does today. That is truly frightening if it happens.
Where will all this oil and gas come from? From fracking for sure. But the EIA also expects more millions of barrels from OPEC members. Plus countries like Iraq and Mexico have not developed their full potential, partly due to lack of investment and infrastructure from larger oil companies and international banks, Doman suggests.
It would be very interesting to get Richard Heinberg's response to this report. I'll send him a link, and see what he says. In the meantime, I thought you should hear what the experts are saying about our carbon-rich future.
Download or listen to this short interview with Linda Doman here.
If you REALLY want to dig deep into fossil fuel projections, here is the You tube recording of a presentation September 22nd 2014 by Adam Sieminiski, the Administrator of the EIA, on this very report (the International Energy Outlook for 2014).
NORTHERN CANADIAN FIRES "A MAJOR EVENT IN THE LIFE OF THE EARTH SYSTEM"
Slate Magazine is running a stunning story "Why Greenland's 'Dark Snow' Should Worry You." Don't miss those photos from Danish scientist Jason Box. They show what should be the white ice and snow of Greenland have turned dirty black. That means the surface absorbs far more heat from the sun, instead of reflecting light back into space. Expect record ice melt, and another jump toward rising seas.
Where does that dirt come from? Certainly from coal power plants in America and China. From polluting industries in Europe and Russia. But I suspect the largest amount comes from soot. Siberia has plenty of fires, but northern Canada just experienced the greatest fire season ever recorded. A Canadian scientist calls them "a major event in the life of the earth system".
The soot from these fires may be a primary cause of Greenland turning from white to dirty black.
Photo by Jason Box.
FIRE EXPERT MARC-ANDRE PARISIEN
Regular Ecoshock listeners know wildfires in the Arctic are bigger and badder than ever. Scientists predict a huge increase over the coming decades due to changes in climate, and various feed-backs triggered by global warming. Could the whole boreal forest burn down?
New research has taken us deeper into fire behavior in the far north. The paper that caught my eye is titled "Resistance of the boreal forest to high burn rates." Our next guest is one of the authors. Marc-Andre Parisien is a research scientist for the Northern Forest Centre of the Canadian Fire Service, located in Edmonton Alberta.
Along with scientists at the Centre for Northern Studies in Quebec, Parisien is an author of the new paper "Resistance of the boreal forest to high burn rates" published in PNAS, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on August 4th, 2014. You would need to be a paid member of PNAS to read this, but find the abstract here.
Marc most of us can barely imagine the size and condition of the great Boreal forest. It runs from Alaska right across the whole of Canada to Labrador - and that's just in North America. There is more in Scandinavia and Siberia.
Television doesn't report on fires in Canada's far north. Most of these blazes run their course with no one trying to put them out. How large can a fire get? A single large fire can be bigger than the island of Manhattan, which is 9,000 hectares, or more than 22,000 acres. One fire in the Canadian province of Quebec was 560,000 hectares, or 1.3 million acres.
This summer of 2014, Parisien tells us, over 4.6 million hectares of forest burned (11.3 million acres) - that is larger than Switzerland. It's a stunning amount of carbon taken from trees and forced into the atmosphere. That is when forests become a carbon source, rather than a carbon sink. It's also a huge burst of black soot, a global warming agent on it's own, and a contributor to the blackening of Greenland.
There are very different estimates for the increase in northern fires as the planet warms. By 2100, some scientists suggest forest fires in that region will increase by 30%. Others have suggested they might increase by 500%. If that becomes reality, we can doubt whether northern forests will continue to exist.
The one possible saving agent, and the point of the paper by Parisien and scientists from a Quebec University - statistically, forests that burned within the last 40 or 50 years are LESS likely to burn again in our time. It looks like there is a kind of negative feedback loop at work here, at least for forest fires. However, I feel all that is uncertain as the Boreal and Tundra continue to heat up much more than the rest of the planet. We're running a big experiment here on planet Earth.
In this interview, Marc-Andre notes that fires are not the only threat to northern forests. As the permafrost melts, trees can lose their hold in soil, tipping over in a phenomenon known as "drunken forests". These can already be seen in Alaska and the Yukon. We may also see changes in hydrology (when it rains or snows) as the planet warms. And forests have already been hit hard by changes in insects, like the Rocky Mountain Pine Bark Beetle which is killing off whole valleys of pines. These were enabled in such great numbers by a continuing lack of winters cold enough to kill them off.
We didn't have time to talk about the other big threat: logging the Boreal forest. It's huge, all for toilet paper and other items we throw away. Find out about endangered Boreal forest logging at Greenpeace here, Forest Ethics here, or Canopy here.
Marc-Andre listed other Canadian scientists who are studying the impacts of climate change on fires and the Canadian northern forests (despite Stephen Harper, the Prime Minister of the Tar Sands). He also recommends this web site: the Canadian Wildlands Information System. There you can find all kinds of helpful maps, charts and information. It's a super resource for those who care about what happens in the North. Since the future of the world may be partly determined by what happens there, that's you and everybody else in the world.
Download or listen to this Radio Ecoshock interview with Marc-Andre Parisien in CD Quality or Lo-Fi
Next week we'll find out why the U.S. government, and governments around the world, are lying to themselves, and us, about the true threat of methane gas. A group of top climate scientists have written a powerful letter to change that.
Join us next week on Radio Ecoshock. You can find all our past programs, as free mp3 downloads, at our web site, ecoshock.org. Don't forget our Soundcloud page.
My special thanks to the hardy band of people who support my reporting with a monthly $10 donation. Find out how you can help here.
I'm Alex Smith. Thank you for listening, and thank you for caring about your world.
Human extinction? Not so much. Céad MFómh 17, 2014 20:12 | firstname.lastname@example.org (Alex Smith)
Scott K. Johnson
I begin by clearing on thing up. Some supporters of McPherson seem to think that anyone who disagrees with him is a climate denier. Scott Johnson is not. He thinks climate change is a clear and present danger to us all.
Although not strictly speaking a scientist, Johnson has plenty of academic training, with a specialty in hydrology. He is a teacher, and as he says, a science journalist.
But Johnson does see a strange parallel between Guy McPherson's approach to facts, and the way climate deniers tend to use them. Scott says it involves cherry-picking some parts of a paper or report, without consider the rest of it, or even the conclusions reached by the author(s). Johnson notes that McPherson is caught in a double-bind. On the one hand, he presents his array of reasons why we will go extinct as based on science. On the other, he dismisses scientists who don't agree with his bleak prognosis as being too afraid to talk about the awful truth they know.
I point out to Scott that I have talked with scientists, often after an interview, who will say privately they are more worried than they admit publicly. That does happen. But that doesn't mean that all scientists are afraid. We have plenty of outspoken scientists, and I haven't found any that publish peer-reviewed papers who say we will become extinct in the next 25 years.
We discuss the central role played in Guy's dating scheme, the time of our extinction, by a single "paper" (which turns out to be just a blog post) by Malcolm Light of the Arctic News. I've written extensively about the unreliable nature of Malcolm Light's pretty wild prediction, including the very month and year all humans will be gone from the Northern Hemisphere.
In what looks like a scientific paper, complete with complex graphs and charts, we find this stunning announcement: "The absolute mean extinction time for the northern hemisphere is 2031.8 and for the southern hemisphere 2047.6 with a final mean extinction time for 3/4 of the earth's surface of 2039.6."
Well that's pretty precise isn't it? In August 2031, say goodbye for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere. There is a lot in this article. I won't call it a scientific "paper" until I can find evidence it was peer-reviewed or published in an official journal.
This reminds me more of religion than science. If you haven't already read that piece, please check it out here. I won't go over all that again, except to say it's a very weak spot in Guy argument, and he's sticking to it.
One thing alarmed me talking with Scott. He's had emails from spouses or relatives of people who made major life changes - quit their jobs, their relationships, or sold off their possessions. They seem fixated only on everything about our up-coming demise as a species. It seems like a kind of parallel to religious conversion, or maybe the most extreme preppers.
Guy is also aware of the mental health risks of considering our extinction. He told us last week it's been hard on him personally. His blog "Nature's Bat's Last" has had a warning, right on top, "Contemplating Suicide? Please Read This". As I say to KMO, I sometimes worry about the negative impacts of Radio Ecoshock as well. I try to balance the really bad news, at least a little, with some more positive lifestyle changes that can help us personally, and help the planet too. As you will know by the end of this program, I am not ready to grieve for the future, and in fact, I will never give up.
Download or listen to this Radio Ecoshock interview with Scott K. Johnson in CD Quality or Lo-Fi
ANOTHER CRITIC: MICHAEL TOBIS
Another key part of Guy McPherson's case for our near-term extinction is the long list of positive feed-back loops (37 by his last count). I've said to Guy and to others, I think he's performing a service to us all by repeatedly bringing these to our attention. Guy also points out these feed-back loops can interact with each other, making climate change worse and faster. True enough, I think.
But a retired research scientist from the University of Texas has looked at all these positive feed-back loops, and say they cannot possibly amount to human extinction in the 2030's. They are bad, but not that bad.
Michael Tobis blogs at Planet3.org. He's active in the Global Warming Fact of the Day Facebook group. His detailed examination of the extinction-level possibilities of feedback loops is found here.
First of all, once again, Tobis is not a person who downplays the developing impact of climate change. He's obviously deeply worried about it, and follows the science closely. It's just that he sees nothing scientific in the claim that positive feed-back loops add up to our extinction, much less our extinction in the next few decades.
One place I'm not sure about Tobis' argument is the way he seems to discount the interaction between feedback loops. He says they are "additive" rather than "multiplicative" the way McPherson claims, and makes a big deal about that. Maybe. But if one feedback loop, like Arctic fires, feeds another, like darkening snow on Greenland, I don't have much trouble seeing the result could be larger than the sum of it's parts. You need to check this out for yourself.
One thing for sure, as I point out in this radio interview: Guy McPherson does not give us the whole picture when he fails to tell us about negative feedback loops. These are the "brakes" in the natural system which can limit runaway climate change (so far). I've run into one recently, which you'll hear about in an upcoming show. That is the way Boreal forests, once burned, are less likely to burn again within a few decades, even if they regrow. There is a limiting factor at work, a negative feedback loop. Our picture of science is not complete without these, and we need to hunt for them as hard as we do positive feedback loops. Otherwise we are just in the business of frightening ourselves.
DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS
I've just realized I said Malcolm Light's essay about flaming death and our extinction is posted on the web site of AMEG the Arctic Methane Emergency Group. Actually it is found on the Arctic News blog. Bloggers Sam Carana and Malcolm Light were part of AMEG, but left over a year ago. AMEG and Arctic News are separate.
I was also puzzled last week to hear Guy McPherson say University of Ottawa climate scientist Paul Beckwith predicts we will see warming by as much as 16 degrees Centigrade in the next couple of decades.
The exact quote from Guy McPherson on the Radio Ecoshock show last week:
"The likes of Paul Beckwith, for example, that we are headed for the abyss. Although Paul would not use those words, and perhaps doesn't even believe that we are headed for our own extinction, even though he predicts up to 16 C temperature rise within a couple of decades, and that prediction was made more than year ago.... "
I checked this out with Paul Beckwith, and here is what he told me in an email, quote:
"During the past, around 30,000 to 40,000 years ago the Earth periodically cycled between cold glacial conditions and much warmer temperatures in so-called Dansgaard-Oeschger Oscillations (DO oscillations). Typically the temperature rise was 5 to 6 degrees C over one or two decades. The temperature would stay high for a century to millennia and then drop down again. However there was one case where the temperature rise was 16 degrees C over a few decades. This data was obtained from the Greenland Ice core records. Thus, the climate of the Earth has undergone very rapid temperature swings in the past, and is therefore capable of such changes again. I have also said that I think we are presently in early stages of abrupt climate change, and could see temperature rises of 5 to 6 degrees in a decade or two."
That the end of a quote from scientist Paul Beckwith. You can see the difference from what Guy McPherson told us. Guy was careful to say UP to 16 degrees, but we are left thinking Paul predict that WILL happen. He says it has happened in the geological record, and we are on the brink of some kind of jump in global mean temperatures, perhaps 5 or 6 degrees in a decade or two. That's far more than most scientists are willing to suggest, but I think Guy took some liberties to say Beckwith absolutely "predicts" anything like 16 degrees will happen. The picture we get is different from what the original scientists said in full, leaving us with in incorrect impression. That's why we have to be careful with Guy's communication of what the science says.
In a post on this Radio Ecoshock blog for last week's show, Guy then wrote this:
"Beckwith incorrectly believes (1) the U.S. will employ its military to cool the Arctic when the situation becomes obviously severe, and (2) humans will survive a 16 C rise in temperature. Believe his fantasies if you like. I prefer reality."
The U.S. military may well act to cool the Arctic. They just sent troops to fight Ebola in Liberia, so it's not inconceivable that after a climate panic, the Pentagon will be called to fight climate change.
The second part of that statement, that Beckwith believes humans will survive a 16 C rise in temperature is just ridiculous. Again, I checked with Paul Beckwith. He did not say that, and does not believe that. Frankly, I find it strange that Guy McPherson makes such statements, that can easily be checked and found out. Who is believing in fantasies, and who in reality?
KMO - host of the C-Realm Podcast
In my opinion, you haven't tasted alternative media until you've tuned into the c-realm podcast. Host KMO holds in-depth conversations with an amazing roster of serious guests, some of them very well known. And by the way, "c" stands for consciousness.
Maybe it's serendipity, maybe it's a strong movement in the counter-culture. But completely independently, KMO and I were both preparing shows on the growing number of our listeners asking whether we humans are about to go extinct. That's mostly in response to presentations and speeches by Dr. Guy McPherson, formerly a Professor of natural sciences at the University of Arizona.
KMO is one of the pioneers of podcasting, starting out around the same time I did, in 2006. He's now at almost 500 podcasts. I've listened to dozens of them, as KMO goes in-depth with some really great minds. KMO was early into Peak Oil, and now into climate change as well. He's interviewed all kinds of doomers - but he thinks McPherson has gone too far. He contacted me, after reading my criticism of using Malcolm Light as a credible source. Our discussion will be jointly broadcast on Radio Ecoshock and on the C-Realm Podcast. Members of the C-Realm podcast can also hear another hour of our chat, on a wide range of topics, in the members-only "Vault".
KMO knows Guy McPherson more personally than I do. He first met Guy when McPherson was pretty certain Peak Oil was going to bring down civilization as we know it, really soon. That may have been one of the reasons McPherson chose to leave the University of Arizona and develop his self-sufficient homestead. When the oil-based civilization kept going, KMO saw Guy McPherson switch to climate change as the reason the evil empire was going to fall.
Incidentally, KMO offers some real wisdom here, when he says if you are waiting for, and expecting, the rest of the world to admit they were wrong, and you were right all along.... don't. It's never going to happen. I agree.
We have a spirited conversation about what the whole near-term extinction movement means. Does it fit within our culture, rather than being the end of all culture? How does this end-of-days group compare to others, like the early Christians, of the Seventh Day Aventists (who had to keep moving the final date forward, when it didn't happen as predicted..)?
Download or listen to this Radio Ecoshock interview with KMO in CD Quality or Lo-Fi
WHO IS RIGHT?
Well there you go, first a program making the case that we will go extinct, and now two voices who disagree. Of course, you will make up your own mind.
At this point, it's impossible to prove who is right. As you can tell, in my untrained opinion, which isn't worth any more than yours, our problem is not that we risk near-term extinction, but that we will have to struggle on for generations, through a terrible shift in our climate, a growing shortage of energy and materials we now take for granted, and the general degradation of the natural world, including the extinction many species. That is bad enough.
There is no way to prove Guy McPherson wrong, except waiting until 2030. It comes down to who you want to believe. And whether he is "right" or "wrong" I think Guy deserves to be heard. It is worthwhile chasing down his references, so long as you remember there are other valid points of view.
It's also my hope this debate will stick mainly with the science, rather than personal attacks, and whether we "like" Guy McPherson (or Alex Smith) or not. We are all under a lot of stress. I've heard some climate scientists act badly from time to time. So do politicians, lawyers, teachers... all humans. Let's stick to the arguments and facts, as well as we can.
I can't explain why I believe humans will continue, and even find pockets of happiness in the decades and centuries to come. Maybe I should just cite this blog entry as though it were science? (Smith, 2014)
I can't even explain why, in the face of scary news all around, I feel happy most days.
It's harvest time, and our kitchen and canning pots are flooded with food. I get to phone up some of the brightest minds in the world, and talk with them, on your behalf. Computers let me write the music I've always dreamed of. My family is doing well. Maybe I'm a simpleton?
Some people say I should be grieving, but I feel joy. Others say we should give up, and right from my core, I say "Never!"
I'm Alex Smith. Thanks for listening, and thank you for caring about our world.
Near-Term Human Extincton: Making the Case Déar MFómh 11, 2014 05:35 | email@example.com (Alex Smith)
Let me ask you: Do you have days when you feel we are doomed as a species? That's every day, for our next guest.
When a successful Professor of Natural Resources, Ecology, and Evolutionary Biology left the University of Arizona, for his mud hut retreat, he probably didn't intend to stir up the world. But that's just what Guy McPherson has done. He's becoming a voice for the worst fears of many people.
In fact, McPherson says climate change has gone so far, so fast, humans will become extinct before 2050. Dr. McPherson makes his case, and offers ways to cope with the ultimate bad news, in a new book co-authored with psychologist Carolyn Baker. It's called "Extinction Dialogs: Living with Death in Mind". That's coming out this Fall.
Eventual human extinction may not be as impossible as it sounds. In addition to James Lovelock, two of the world's top scientists, Professor John Schullnhuber in Germany, and Dr. James Hansen, formerly of NASA, have worried we'll blow past any survivable limits to climate change. In a speech to the "4 Degrees of More" conference in Australia, Schullnhuber suggested that if we reach 4 degrees, the whole thing could easily slide to 8 degrees, which most of us would agree is beyond human tolerance. Hansen wondered if we might blow off the atmosphere altogether, as apparently happened on Mars. That possibility has since been discounted by other scientists.
Most of the big name scientists, other than James Lovelock, hedge their warnings with the idea that we could still save ourselves IF we mount a huge campaign to switch energy to renewable sources, and stop our carbon-wasting ways. Guy says it's too late for all that. We have already committed the Earth to a severe shift in climate, beyond the survival limits of not just our civilization, but of our species.
Let's find out why Guy McPherson thinks we are finished.
I ask Guy what he means by extinction. Does he mean most humans die, but there would be a few left in caves or around the Arctic ocean, as Dr. James Lovelock once suggested? His exact reply was: "I'm a conservation biologist, and when I say extinct I mean every member of the species is gone."
McPherson has woven the risk of nuclear power into his story of our end times. He's right to say that if the global electric grid goes down, for any reason, whether due to a massive collapse, or a solar flare or big nuclear war - then up to 400 nuclear reactors could melt down like Fukushima.
However, we don't know for sure that even those events would bring all electricity down, all over the world. So we may add a lot of radiation, leading to millions or even a billion cases of cancer, but that's not enough to depopulate the world, much less cause our extinction. That's my opinion, and I'm dead-set against nuclear power. I think they should all be shut down as soon as possible.
Guy says the oceans are dying. Anyone who lives near the ocean, as I did for 25 years, knows that isn't true - yet. A growing chorus of the best oceanographers do say ocean acidification from our carbon pollution can change the whole food chain in the seas, hugely reducing an essential source of human food. The oceans may fill up with acid tolerant plants and animals, lots of jellyfish. But I haven't found one ocean scientist that says the ocean is dying right now.
It's a serious worry though. Up to 96% of all ocean life did die off in the planet's greatest mass extinction event, the Permian, known as "The Great Dying." That was about 248 million years ago, and may have been due to global warming. But we think it took a long time, perhaps happening over a couple of million years. Certainly it didn't happen in a couple of decades.
THE CLATHRATE GUN
We talk about the threat of methane erupting in large quantities from shallow sea beds, and the melting permafrost. The sea-bed methane is frozen in a watery cage - the technical name for them is "clathrates". Some scientists have suggested that previous mass extinction events occurred when clathrates melt in such quantities that a methane burst destablized the climate into a rapid heating. Methane is at least 20 times more powerful a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. Some scientists say for short durations (a few years) methane may be hundreds of time worse than CO2.
This extinction-level emission of frozen methane is called "the clathrate gun". Guy McPherson says the clathrate gun has already fired. He talks about recent explorations into the Arctic measuring methane, and maps released by the Arctic News blog, showing very high levels of methane around the northern polar region. Other scientists, such as climate scientists David Archer, and Gavin Schmidt - both previous Ecoshock guests, disagree, saying the amount of methane released so far in the Arctic is not signficant, compared to our CO2 emissions. David Archer interview here. They also note that methane emissions being discoverd in the Arctic may not be new, but may have been venting for a long time. We don't know all that yet.
WHEN HUMANS GO EXTINCT?
Nevertheless, Guy McPherson insists the clathrate release has begun, meaning it is too late to do anything about climate change. Our fate is sealed.
I ask Guy how he arrived at the date of 2030 as the time when humans would be extinct. Guy said he had not calculated the date himself. He relied on outside sources. The only other person he pointed to making that prediction was Malcolm Light, who posts on the Arctic News blog. The exact date humans will go extinct, according to Malcolm Light, is found in this blog posting.
I've broadcast and blogged about the serious problems with accepting Malcolm Light's predictions as science. His blog posts are just that - not papers that have been published in a peer-reviewed journal. His methods are suspect, as I outlined in detail in this blog posting last year.
In this interview, Guy gave us a scenario which leads to extinction. It involves:
* a dying ocean
* extreme weather killing off plants, and with them, agriculture
* a burst of heating due to methane
* a list of 37 positive feedback loops which ratchet up the speed of warming
* emissions of radiation from the world's 400 nuclear plants, when the world's power grids fail (partly due to climate chaos)
That isn't a very good summary. You need to listen to the interview to get Guy's explanation properly.
We also touched on the difficulty of facing this end-time, and the recent suicide of the iconic figure of the collapse movement, Michael C. Ruppert. In his last months, Ruppert accepted near-term extinction as a reality, and had Guy McPherson on his Lifeboat Hour radio show. Most of Mike friends though, say he had discussed suicide many time in the past, long before discovering near-term extinction. His closest associates think Mike's own personal problems overcame him. Still, I think human extinction is not a discussion for unstable or stressed out people.
I wanted to give Guy (and Carolyn Baker) a full opportunity to explain their case, without my interrupting with objections. That's the purpose of this show. I've reserved my reservations for next week's program.
You can download or listen to Guy McPherson's interview here in CD Quality or Lo-Fi.
If you are tracking the development of various streams of our future and deep climate thought, this is going to be an interview of record and importance. Its' a hard interview to hear if you love life. Don't sell your possessions or make that good-bye video just yet. Be sure and tune in next week when my guests and I try to make the case that humans won't go extinct any time soon. Think deeply about what Guy McPherson says, but don't miss next week's show.
FOLLOW-UP LINKS FOR THE GUY MCPHERSON INTERVIEW
There were a couple of points where I asked Guy to send me his sources. That happened quickly, as Guy appears to keep an exhaustive database of his sources - something he's had to do for his new book.
1. First I asked for the title and author of paper in Geophysical Letters published March 2013 showing warming has accelerated. Here it is:
Magdalena A. Balmaseda, Kevin E. Trenberth, and Erland Källén, 2013, Distinctive climate signals in reanalysis of global ocean heat content, Geophysical Research Letters 40(9):1754-1759. (viewed 5 September 2014, dx.doi.org/10.1002/grl.50382)
2. I wanted the title, date, and link to the analysis by Sam Carana on the effects of exponential release of Arctic methane.
Sam Carana's analysis from 1 April 2013: http://methane-hydrates.blogspot... 3. What is the journal article mentioned, where the author suggests we could lose all of the ocean's phytoplankton?
Stephanie L. Hinder, Mike B. Gravenor, Martin Edwards, Clare Ostle, Owen G. Bodger, Patricia L. M. Lee, Antony W. Walne, and Graeme C. Hays, 2013, Multi-decadal range changes vs. thermal adaptation for north east Atlantic oceanic copepods in the face of climate change, Global Change Biology 20(1):140-146. (viewed 4 September 2014, dx.doi.org/10.1111/gcb.12387)
4. Guy mentioned "David" Jaczko, former NRC Chairman. He meant Gregory Jaczko. While I found news articles with Jaczko saying the Indian Point reactor should be shut down, I didn't find one where Jaczko suggests it could take 60 years to do it. Guy tells me that time estimate by Jaczko is "within this clip, shot by citizen journalist and filmmaker Pauline Schneider: https://vimeo.com/83563406 "
You can follow Guy McPherson and a large debate about near-term human extinction at his blog "Nature Bats Last" (guymcpherson.com). He has a Facebook page here.
There is also a members-only Facebook page devoted to near-term extinction. Find that here.
THE PSYCHOLOGY OF EXTINCTION: CAROLYN BAKER
I've been in contact with Carolyn Baker for years. We've talked in private and on the air about collapse, transition, the incredible flash-floods around Bolder Colorado where she lives, and the psychology behind our ability to deny many big changes are happening. Carolyn also sends me daily news links, from her news service. Some of the stories I've received through Carolyn led me to Radio Ecoshock interviews.
So when Carolyn Baker agrees with Guy McPherson, and co-authors a discussion about how to handle their realization that we are too far gone to hope for a way out, I have to pay attention.
Carolyn is less willing to put any date on when human extinction might occur. She's more concentrated on how people can handle this ultimate knowledge. Her solutions include offering life counselling, and leading workshops on how the hospice movement applies now in the last days of the human race. Hospice, if you don't know, is defined in Wikipedia as "a type of care and philosophy of care that focuses on the palliation of a chronically ill, terminally ill or seriously ill patient's pain and symptoms, and attending to their emotional and spiritual needs."
Human civilization is, Baker contends, terminally ill. Most of us just don't know it yet.
With that position in mind, Baker says we should start caring for one another. Her starting point, it seems to me, is to help people experience the grieving process. What are we grieving for? Everything that will be lost from a formerly bountiful planet. All the plants, the birds, the bees, the animals, the landscapes, and then finally humans, which will go extinct as our ecology spins out of control.
Once we grieve, then there is the work of living in a caring and meaningful way. Then even joy is possible, in our golden years, so to speak. Although Baker knows they will be difficult years.
Personally, I'm starting to think that Baker's process is probably worthwhile, even if we don't go as far as believing humans will become extinct. It is certain that gorgeous creatures are already going extinct, maybe daily. As things are going we are likely to lose iconic animals, like lions and elephants, but also countless species we don't even know about. We are already losing landscapes like the glaciers in Glacier National Park, and maybe soon a lot of the Amazon and Congolese rainforests, with all those species therein.
If we keep polluting at our current rate, it's also possible our descendants will be buffeted by outrageous storms, failing agriculture, rising seas, and many other things. So we may grieve in advance for them as well. Our recent guest from the Australian Psychological Society, Susie Burke, agreed that grieving is appropriate at this time. But she says "don't stop there" and turn that grief into activism. Find that S. Burke interview here.
Carolyn and I have a thoughtful conversation that might stir up a few people. You can listen to or download this interview as a separate item here, but I think it's better as part of the whole program, with Guy McPherson as well.
Carolyn Baker interview in CD Quality or Lo-Fi.
Carolyn Baker is a one-woman whirl-wind. She produces a daily news service with the bleakest headlines from around the world - plus some tips for more positive living. She's the author of several books, including "Sacred Demise", "Navigating the Coming Chaos, A Handbook for Inner Transition" and "Collapsing Consciously, Transformative Truths for Turbulent Times". She's been a leader in the Transition movement. Following the untimely death of Michael C. Ruppert, Carolyn is the host of the popular Lifeboat Hour radio show, every Sunday night on PRN.
Follow Carolyn Baker at her "Speaking Truth to Power" web site here.
Her latest book with Dr. Guy McPherson is "Extinction Dialogs, How to Live with Death in Mind". You can pre-order the book at carolynbaker.net.
DOWN TO EARTH WITH KIM EIERMAN
Leaping from such a tall building as extinction, at the close of this program we land in our own backyards with environmental horticulturist Kim Eierman. She tells us how to live with nature, instead of creating the "green desert" of lawn-culture.
Sometimes big changes come one yard at a time. You know we need to move from lifeless lawn culture toward letting nature - yes messy nature - occupy our landscapes and our lives.
That's why I've called up Kim Eierman, the eco-beneficial gardener. Kim teaches at the New York and Brooklyn Botanical Gardens, and gives talks and workshops across America. She's an award-winning Environmental Horticulturist and Master Gardener. It was a relief to here this level-headed person cram so many useful down-to-earth tips into such a short interview.
We are going to have to call Kim back, because I sense a wealth of information in her. Meanwhile you should check out her web site.
You can download or listen to this short interview with Kim Eierman here.
I hope you can tell I respect both Guy McPherson and Carolyn Baker. But at a gut level, and in my brain, I object and disagree with their conclusions. In next week's Radio Ecoshock show, we'll take a look at the other side of this argument, - whether the impacts of climate change will move that fast, and how worth-while human lives could continue into the long future.
Find all our past programs at the web site ecoshock.org. My Facebook page is here, and I tweet out a notice about each new show - follow @ecoshock A growing number of people access the show from this Soundcloud page.
Listener donations make this show possible. If you feel like giving, and can afford it (don't go into debt for me!) - please click on the donate button on this page, or go to our donor information page at our web site, which has more options, including my address. My thanks to everyone who contributed over the past couple of weeks. You don't know it, but you helped launch yet another season of Radio Ecoshock.
Meanwhile, I have two pots of home-grown tomatoes stewing on the stove, and a big box of ripe pears waiting in the basement. I have to can them tonight, or they will go bad by morning.
The first frost is threatening to strike here, and I have about 20 tomato plants with lots more green fruit still waiting to ripen. I guess I'll be out there by tonight's bright moon, hanging old sheets over my plants. It's busy, busy time around the harvest.
As one of next week's guests would say: "stay well".
The High Arctic and Eco-Anxiety Céad MFómh 03, 2014 01:43 | firstname.lastname@example.org (Alex Smith)
PAUL BECKWITH, UNIVERSITY OF OTTAWA
So much climate change is taking place in the Arctic, and those giant events could soon sweep the world into a hotter age. There are a few good blogs, like Arctic News and Robert Scribbler, but really we need a full-time Arctic TV news station. Until that comes, let's get some of this summer's top climate stories in the north, from Paul Beckwith. He's the University of Ottawa climate undergrad, with two Masters degrees already to his credit. As it happens, Paul has just returned from a visit to Alaska.
Here are some of the big stories out of the Arctic we talk about. One that got a lot of eyeballs was that crater that blew up in Siberia. Apparently it was caused by a methane explosion - another sign that the melting tundra is removing the frozen cap from methane created millions of years ago. It's not a climate-changer in itself, but the start of something unpleasantly big.
We think the largest and worst amount of methane is similarly sequestered under the shallow Arctic sea of East Siberia. A multi-country research ship went up there this July, and found many methane vents bubbling up to the surface. The Arctic News blog is reporting methane from the ocean went up even further, after that research vessel left. I've also been reading some reports about much warmer ocean temperatures in the Arctic, another reason sea-bed methane could be released.
The well-known ice scientist Jason Box used the F-word in a Tweet, to describe our situation if Arctic methane gets released in quantity. Scientists are really worried about this, while the public has barely heard about it.
There have been heat waves again in the Arctic this year of 2014. Planetary warming may only be around 1 degree on average, but around the North Pole it's up to 8 degrees above normal. That reduces the amount of thermal tension between the Pole and the tropics, which many scientists think has slowed the Jet Stream. Dr. Jennifer Francis of Rutgers University has led research into this theory, with new support from a scientific paper released this summer by the Potsdam Institute.
A Jet Stream with less power tends to meander and stall, like a river in a big delta. The weather experienced in the Northern Hemisphere is greatly influenced by that. Jet Stream bends and weather blockage resulted in a generally cooler, wetter summer in the Eastern part of North America, with a hot dry summer in the West. That means soggy floods in the Mid-West and New England, and forest fires and drought from California north.
We had a week or two of forest fire smoke where I live in British Columbia, and a listener from Montana says it was even worse there. I know Washington State experienced its largest wildfire EVER this summer. Perhaps you've seen coverage of the continuing fires in California. Everybody has been warned food prices will go up, due to the drought there. Photos comparing reservoir levels in Northern California to past years are shocking.
There were huge fires in the Arctic this year, including some fires reported burning in the Tundra, where there are not even any trees. Smoke from those fires went around the world, but the soot particles falling on ice, especially in Greenland are a big concern. The darker surface helps the ice melt faster. Some scientists estimate up to half of the rapid ice melt of glaciers in Greenland are due to soot from industry and forest fires make the snow darker.
Arctic fires are fast becoming a positive feedback loop for global warming. More fires lead to a faster snow melt, extending the fire season, leading to more fires. The darker snow and ice lowers reflection of the Sun's energy into space (the planetary "albedo") leading to more heating, leading to more fires. I'd love to see the science that quantifies this feedback effect, now that runaway Arctic fires are common every year, from Alaska through Canada, and especially in Siberia.
Meanwhile in Canada, home of the Tar Sands, our Prime Minister Harper is giving photo-ops on board a military ship searching for the Franklin Expedition, lost in the 1800's. If the explorers had set out today, they probably would never have been trapped in the ice. They might have sailed right through the newly melted Northwest Passage! Prime Minister Harper doesn't see the irony of pushing more oil drilling in the Arctic, now that fossil fuels have melted the sea ice. Maybe he should spend that money re-hiring the climate scientists he's fired...
As always, Paul Beckwith has lots of stories and insight into developing climate change, especially in the Arctic.
You can listen to/download his 24 minute interview here in CD Quality or Lo-Fi
If you want to pass on a link to Paul's interview in social media, here is a tiny URL to save precious space in a Twitter or Facebook post: http://tinyurl.com/nf67hkz
Keep track of Paul's many blog postings, videos and You tube videos on his Facebook page here.
BECOMING PREPARED FOR CLIMATE DISASTER - CLIMATE "PREPPING"
Has knowing about climate change hurt your mental health?
Susie Burke is with the Australian Pyschological Society. She's made a specialty of studying the impacts of climate change on mental health. Susie has a lot of useful tips for keeping our own sanity, despite knowing the serious troubles we face in the future.
SUSIE BURKE, Australian Psychological Society
I first found Susie in an article titled "A Climate of Despair" in the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper. It begins with an environmental scientist with a developing depression about the future. I would think climate scientists are on the front lines, possibly encountering a kind of "pre-traumatic stress disorder." Are psychologists finding more people having difficulty imagining a positive future?
Think about leading climate scientists like Kevin Anderson in the UK, or the German expert John Schellnhuber, who spoke at the "Four Degrees or More" conference in Australia in 2011. I wonder how can they can cope knowing the extreme threats we face? Kevin Anderson has talked about this, and he finds it difficult. Former NASA lead scientist James Hansen is so concerned for the future of his grandchildren, he was forced to become an activist, including an arrest to oppose mountain-top removal coal mining.
What should we call a fear and sadness about wrecking the future for our descendants? Some call it "eco-anxiety". The Australian environmental Philosopher (at the University of Newcastle) Glenn A. Albrecht invented a new word for this condition: "solastalgia"
Here is his official explanation for the term:
"Solastalgia is the pain or sickness caused by the loss or lack of solace and the sense of desolation connected to the present state of one?s home and territory. It is the 'lived experience' of negative environmental change. It is the homesickness you have when you are still at home. It is that feeling you have when your sense of place is under attack. While I claim responsibility for creating the concept of solastalgia and its meaning, I am aware that that the existential experience underlying it is not new ... only that it is newly defined in English (but possibly represented in many other languages). The experience of solastalgia might well be ancient and ubiquitous and under the impact of relentless environmental change, ecosystem distress and climate chaos, it may well become much more common. It is my sincere hope that the negative experience of solastalgia can be overcome by the restoration of ecosystem and human health via every form of creative enterprise at our disposal."
Our radio guest Susie Burke recently gave a presentation at the Climate Reality Project hosted in Australia by former US vice-president Al Gore.
If someone comes to a psychologist or psychiatrist saying climate change is going to wipe out our future, and they are really down about that, would they likely be diagnosed with a mental problem and a drug prescription? Susie doesn't think so. It's more likely a person would get counselling to help them handle their feeling "down" and then get pointed into activism to get going again.
That seems to be the three point method:
1. Allow yourself to experience your real emotions, which may be painful once you admit them. These may include fear, a sense of mourning for what we have lost in nature, or even grief. More about that next week.
2. Find others who feel the same, and share what you are feeling.
3. Then turn outward into activism, in whatever way you can find, preferably with others.
In Australia, the Psychological Society has already had to deal with climate-related disaster victims. There have been extreme fires, including the deadly Black Saturday bush fires where 173 people died. The Murray-Darling River Basin experienced such a horrible long-term drought that many farmers killed themselves, as other Australian farmers have done due to drought. Australians also endured some of the freakiest of freaky flash floods.
You don't have to live in Australia, or wherever climate-driven disasters strike, to feel the pain. I talk to Suzie about "vicarious" climate anxiety. We'll all be feeling that watching TV news as this decade unfolds.
The Psychological Society prepared a pre-disaster planning guide. The main point is that we can think through what may happen, which helps us keep our cool during the actual event. Otherwise people tend to panic, and make bad decisions that endangers lives.
You can find their disaster guide on the Society web site, here.
Here is a link to their .pdf booklet on Psychological First Aid, An Australian guide ot supporting people affected by disaster.
This is where you can find the Psychological Society tips sheets on being mentally prepared - metnal "preppers"!
Next week, I'll talk with American psychologist Carolyn Baker. She's been counselling people to experience the grief of climate loss now. I ask Susie Burke about that - and find she endorses that idea, so long as people don't stop with climate grieving, but go on to climate action.
We also discuss the sad state of Australian climate denial, where the current government is disbanding previous efforts to combat climate change, including study institutes and the carbon tax. Burke reports that surveys show most Australians know climate change is real, and think something should be done about it.
You can download or listen to this interview with Susie Burke here in CD Quality or Lo-Fi. I think it's going to become one of my favorites.
Is it possible the whole world might enter not an economic depression, but an unexpected viral mental depression, as we see the climate deteriorate, with things like repeated extreme weather, countless storm incursions on coastal cities, and so on? I wonder how often people can rebuild their homes and their lives without becoming angry about life, or their leaders.
A SHORT INTERVIEW WITH ALEX SMITH
During the year you will hear little about me, and lots from the scientists, authors and experts that define Radio Ecoshock. In this 2014 kick-off show, I added one short piece with a bit about myself as host, and the vision behind this program.
This is part of an interview I did for the EcoCentric show for community radio in Nelson British Columbia. It followed the Mount Polley mine disaster in that Canadian Province. On August 4th, a giant tailings pond burst, wiping out wide swaths as it raced toward pristine Quesnel Lake. It's one of those mega-mining disasters that keep happening all around the world, in our quest for cheap metals and big profits. Here is that chat during August, hosted by Bruce Edson of Kootenay Co-op Radio. The program is called "EcoCentric".
As always, we've ran out of time, almost before we began. There is lots more to come in the coming year of new Radio Ecoshock shows.
NEXT WEEK: CAN WE SURVIVE EXTREME CLIMATE CHANGE?
Next week we'll ask the big question: can humans survive the big climate shift we are creating? Dr. Guy McPherson says "no". His co-author in the coming book "Extinction Dialogs", Carolyn Baker, tells us how to keep on living, despite knowing the worst is yet to come.
Then I'll be finding more answers for you, as we try hard to avoid wrecking the world we were born in. Expect strong voices and tough choices, right here on Radio Ecoshock.
I'm Alex Smith. Thank you so much for listening.
Alex returns from vacation with a whole new season starting September 3. Céad Lún 27, 2014 16:03 | email@example.com (Alex Smith)
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