Sunday, January 15, 2017
10 Years. 20 Years. 30?
I succumbed and listened to a recent Guy McPherson radio appearance on what I think was an Australian station.
McPherson, a professor emeritus climate scientist from the University of Arizona, truly is the "voice of doom." As he sees it, you, and everybody you know, are now living in your tenth last year on Earth. He gives mankind a decade, max.
I don't like McPherson's claim and I don't want to believe it. I cannot bring myself to accept it. What would be the point in that?
He's at odds with everyone, even other climate scientists. Nobody else is talking ten years and then over the cliff. How does Dr. McPherson explain it?
For starters, he withdrew from active research several years ago. He needed the time to assemble, collate and analyze all the research flooding in from other climate scientists around the globe. He wanted to make sense of them all, collectively.
The science of climate change is a multi-disciplinary effort. It spans the range of physical and Earth sciences - geology; geography; atmospherics; hydrology and oceanography; glaciology; meteorology; paleontology; physics and chemistry; botany; biology; epidemiology; medicine; and, I'm sure, many more that elude my limited knowledge of sciences. There are two or three central theses against which the best and brightest in each of these individual disciplines do research to test the theory. If X then geology should show this, physics should show this, biology should show this - that sort of thing. You look for dissent, repudiation, refutation that challenges or even disproves the theory. Only that's not really happening. Just the opposite. This is the research that McPherson has made it his work to digest.
As he boils it all down, McPherson seeks to identify and log climate change "tipping points." These are man made changes, feedback loops, that may be the triggers of runaway global warming in nature. I can't bring myself to visit McPherson's web page "Nature Bats Last" but the last time I did I think he had documented just over 60 feedback loops underway.
McPherson says most scientists are approaching climate change from a narrower focus, just their own discipline and maybe one or two companion disciplines. To him a different picture emerges when you take all the pieces and assemble them in a mosaic. Only then, he claims, can you see what's really happening.
I hope he's wrong, way out in left field. I have to hope he's wrong. I have to count on it. Yet I cannot, with confidence, dismiss his views.
I couldn't begin to put a number on how many times I've argued, on this blog and elsewhere, that we can't solve climate change on its own as some stand-alone crisis. The only survivable solution to climate change requires that we simultaneously solve its two companion, existential challenges - our massive over consumption of Earth's resources and mankind's overpopulation. There are common threads that run through all three and those threads lead to a common solution. It's a path that we show not the slightest inclination to follow.
I hope McPherson's wrong. I hope he's just desperately trying to shake us up, to make us think about what we're doing. I hope we've got a good twenty, maybe even thirty years left. With what's at stake you wouldn't think that rational people would fail to act. Don't count on it.