Not Even A Spoonful Of Sugar Could Help
By Guy McPherson
10 August, 2012
Image: Sammy Slabbinck via Flickr.
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.Guy McPherson is professor emeritus of natural resources and the environment at the University of Arizona, where he taught and conducted research for 20 years. He's written well over 100 articles, ten books, the most recent of which is Walking Away From Empire, and has focused for many years on conservation of biological diversity. He lives in an off-grid, straw-bale house where he practices durable living via organic gardening, raising small animals for eggs and milk, and working with members of his rural community. Learn more at guymcpherson.com or email Guy at firstname.lastname@example.org
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