SUMMARY: Retired ecology Professor Guy McPherson says extreme climate change will wipe out humans before 2050. Psychologist Carolyn Baker says grieve now for lost future. Environmental Horticulturist Kim Eierman on eco-beneficial home planting. Radio Ecoshock 140910
LISTENER WARNING: If you are feeling depressed or even considering suicide, this is not the program for you. People suffering from PTSD may want to think twice. The subject matter is very depressing. However, in next week’s show I will attempt to counter the argument made by our guests, with at least some bleak optimism, and why we may not be doomed.
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GUY MCPHERSON ON OUR EXTINCTION
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.com/2013/04/methane-hydrates.html
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”.
You failed to mention references to Paul Beckwith's work (16 C in a decade or two).
Jeremy Jackson describes the ocean apocalypse. He knows. http://youtu.be/u0VHC1-DO_8
Could you please post a link to that 16 C prediction by Paul Beckwith. I know you have it – you are so organized.
Regarding the ocean apocalypse, I may have overstated the not a single scientist. J. Jackson does say that will happen (but it isn't dead yet). We've had other ocean scientists warn about the degradation of the sea, including my broadcast of "Lament for Nation's Oceans" by Jeff Hutchins, and the prediction of an ocean stuffed with jellyfish as the main inhabitants by UBC Professor Dr. Daniel Pauly. But both these experts describe severe degradation and changes, rather than extinction in the ocean.
This is a debate nobody wins. We all lose, because the oceans are being clogged with our plastic, dead zones from our fertilizer, massive overkill by over-fishing, trawler damage, acidification, the list of threats is long and growing. We both can agree on that.
Keep in mind though, that Dr. Peter Ward, whose theory of sulfur-laden gases from ocean creatures, as a cause of land extinctions, still says there will be SOME kind of life in the ocean, even in the most extreme greenhouse world. It's just life that is hostile to our lives, and our lungs.
DEAD BIRDS, DEAD TURTLES DEAD HUMANS
Our hi tech, green energy world requires conflict minerals, rare earth elements, heavy metals, nano materials and graphite. Search for "rare earth mining in China" on YouTube and see what special hell your solar panels and wind turbines produce in outer Mongolia. Graphite is used for all our batteries and is mined in China emitting deadly fine air particles resulting in a lethal smog that washes down from the skies in an ash laden rain that covers crops and water. Graphene, a nano-material produced for batteries, is water soluble and can cut through human/animal cells. Both graphite dust and graphene are deadly to humans because of their small size. Solar cell manufacturing produces 3 green house gases that are over 10,000 times worse than C02. Solar panels lose efficiency at the rate of 1% per year. The expensive inverters have to be replaced every 5 to 10 years. The new thin cell panels are even more toxic with shorter lifespans. Manufacturing just five wind turbines produces 1 ton of radioactive residue and 75 tons of toxic water used to leach out the required neodymium. Wind turbines only work at 25% of their rated capacity 90% of the time. Over 2 million children died in the Congo for the conflict minerals green energy needs. Thousands of people die in Chinese mines every year for the minerals green energy needs. Prof. Jian Shuisheng of the Jiatong-University estimates the production of just 6 solar panels requires one ton of coal.
Did you know that the new $2 billion Ivanpah solar plant in the Mojave desert is a death ray that ignites birds in mid flight? When their bodies fall to the ground, they leave smoky trails in the sky called streamers. It is estimated up to 30,000 birds per year will die this way during migrations at just this one green power plant. Bigger solar plants of the same type are in the works. These birds are attracted to the bugs who are attracted to the shiny, pretty lights, just like us. During its construction, up to 3,000 endangered desert tortoises were killed by heavy diesel equipment. Thousands of slave workers die in China’s mines every single year to help produce the exotic minerals used in its construction. This is referred to as the “Green Economy”. If we changed the whole planet to green power, we would kill the earth we call home. Never mind national fucking defense. Greed has overtaken corruption. We are too stupidly greedy to live.
So who gives a fuck? Here are the reasons why you should care.
DEAD BIRDS, DEAD TURTLES DEAD HUMANS
the link in the previous post explains why China has us by the balls/ovaries.
► 10,000 years ago humans and our livestock occupied just 0.01% of all the land-air vertebrate biomass on earth.
► Now humans and our livestock occupy 97% of all land-air vertebrate biomass.
► Humans and our livestock now consume over 40% of earth’s annual green land biomass production. What have we done?
► 50% of All Vertebrate Species will be gone by 2040.
► 90% of Big Ocean Fish gone since 1950.
► 50% of Great Barrier Reef gone since 1985.
► 50% of Fresh Water Fish gone since 1987.
► 30% of Marine Birds gone since 1995.
► 28% of Land Animals gone since 1970.
► 28% of All Marine Animals gone since 1970.
► 50% of Human Sperm Counts gone since 1950.
► Extinctions are 1000 times faster than normal.
► Ocean acidification doubles by 2050.
► Ocean acidification triples by 2100.
► 90% of Lions gone since 1993.
► 90% of Monarch Butterflies gone since 1995.
► 93 Elephants killed every single day.
► 2-3 Rhinos killed every single day.
► Bees die from malnutrition lacking bio-diverse pollen sources.
► We are on track to lock in 6°C earth temp rise in just 13 years.
► Mass Extinction is unstoppable and irreversible in 40 years.
► Permian mass extinction of 95% of life took 60,000 years 250 million years ago.
► Dinosaurs mass extinction took 33,000 years after asteroid impact.
► Anthropogenic mass extinction will take 300 years max.
► This mass extinction is 100x faster than anything before us.
► 1 million people born every 4½ days. People live longer.
► It takes 10 times as much “green” energy to displace 1 unit of fossil energy.
► Efficiency and conservation only causes more growth within current system.
► Antarctic meltdown now irreversible and unstoppable.
► Arctic methane burst is irreversible and unstoppable within current system.
► World Bank says we have 5-10 years before we all fight for food and water.
► We combine bacteria DNA with plant DNA and eat it.
► We put massive pesticides and herbicides into our food.
► We put nano metals and particles into our food.
► We put man-made, computer designed, synthetic DNA into our food.
► There are thousands of different chemicals in our foods.
► We are eating stuff that never, ever existed on earth before.
► We are turning into mutants because of our food.
► We are wiping out all life on earth because of our food.
► After mass extinction, mutant trees may be all we leave behind.
► 2 million children were killed in the Congo for our conflict minerals.
► 1 million children were killed in Iraq for our cheap oil.
► Thousands die in China’s mines each year for your solar-wind green dreams.
► Asian child slaves fish in empty oceans for our seafood dinners. Fishermen become pirates in times of shortages.
We have to use thorium to clean up uranium corruption, especially if we are going to fail. how do i know? I'm a Leafs fan.
while comments rountinely automatically silenced, Alex is some kinda weirdo
obviously guy has a protocol for his own extinction not ours, none of us do, there is nothing wrong with an extinction club as long as it doesn't include the survival of the stupidly clever and the cleverly stupid
in the future sentient trees will laugh at the folly of grass claiming there were cereal killers called cows around they may surmise it the seed of vertebrate retroligion
Outreach – call me a weirdo if you must, but obviously your posting (and even reposting the same things) has not so far been silenced.
There are several places where I do draw the line. If person uses my blog to constantly and massively promote their cause (rather than commenting on shows) – I ask the person to start their own blog. That's only happened once so far. Otherwise what could be a conversation gets cluttered with one voice drowning out all others discouraging readers.
The other think is if someone posts libellous information, smearing someone with information that can't be proved. I have to remove that.
I can't recall banning anyone from this blog – but certainly I would warn a person first. I like free speech and believe in tolerance, so long as it leaves room for others to practice the same.
th3 ivanpah is only chinatown
"th3 ivanpah is only chinatown"
Is that supposed to mean something? C'mon, I respect all your past work, but you appear to be posting incoherent stuff… It just becomes noise confusing the signal.
Off your coast, Alex, climate change is killing the ocean
Pacific Ocean acid levels jeopardizing marine life
Vancouver Island researchers use artificial tide pools to study threat
The Pacific Ocean is growing more acidic at a much faster rate than anticipated, scientists say, putting everything from corals to mussels in jeopardy.
Researchers say carbon dioxide from the atmosphere forms carbonic acid in the ocean, changing the seawater enough that it can dissolve the shells of coral and shellfish.
Alex and guests – thank you all very much.
I had to listen to Guy's segment three times. It was just so difficult to hear. It is going to take me some time to process and research – but I wanted to say thank you for your courage and leadership.
Guy McPherson draws attention to Paul Beckwith's work. Paul has emphatically distanced himself from the belief in near-term human extinction.
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.
Care to dish on the guest list for the coming show? I'm hoping it will be someone more substantial than John Michael Greer, telling us that fast collapse and extinction are crazy talk and that we are one with the Heaven's Gate crowd for believing it.
I have been in Guy's camp for a while, although somewhat hesitant to pitch a tent. Then I read a couple of Tim Garrett's papers, and now I'm a believer. I wish were something wrong with Garrett's reasoning, but if there is I can't see it.
Interesting that Garrett kind of shrugs off his work as "interesting physics," because to me it seems very deep and says a lot about what we really are (if only we would face the truth, which doesn't seem to be our strong suit as a species).
Needless to say, I can't wait to read Guy's new book.
Alex, re. Your link #4. Above:
The proposal to shut down a nuke plant in my state projected a 60-year timeline.
"SAFSTOR is a method for delayed decommissioning of a nuclear plant. With SAFSTOR, fuel is taken out of the reactor and put in the fuel pool. Then the plant remains basically intact for some years. After some time (up to 60 years after fuel is removed from the core) the plant is fully decommissioned."
From a pro-nuke site:
I assumed this to be common knowledge.
The NRC allows three decommissioning approaches:
Immediate decontamination and dismantlement (DECON): Under the DECON option, soon after the nuclear facility closes, equipment, structures and portions of the facility containing radioactive contaminants are removed or decontaminated to a level that permits release of the property and termination of the NRC license.
Safe storage (SAFSTOR) (also called delayed decontamination): Generally, this involves placing the facility into a safe storage configuration, requiring limited staffing to monitor plant conditions, until the eventual dismantling and decontamination activities occur, usually in 40 to 60 years.
Entombment (ENTOMB): Under the ENTOMB option, radioactive contaminants are permanently encased on site in structurally sound material, such as concrete, and appropriately maintained and monitored until the radioactivity decays to a level permitting restricted release of the property. To date, no NRC-licensed facilities have requested the ENTOMB option.
Duke Energy has selected the SAFSTOR decommissioning option.