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.


Marie Snyder said...

Your comments remind me of this image:

I'm going to just quietly hope he's wrong as well, but even thirty years is daunting. And before that, at what point will the violence in our communities start and never end. And, if we can't prevent the end of our species, can we at least prevent the insanity typical of endings?

The Mound of Sound said...

That slide with Mr. Speth is right. We do indeed need a spiritual and cultural transformation. The common threads I describe as running through these three main existential challenges lead to those very solutions and they are indeed cultural and spiritual - not to mention incapable of overcoming ur selfishness, greed and apathy.

Anonymous said...

There is always hope.
Could be in a virus (engineered or not) with mortality of ~95%.
About 10 years ago I saw the light... and started to live according to "Après moi le déluge."

The Mound of Sound said...

I agree, A..non, there is always hope. If we can avoid a cataclysmic (nuclear) war there should be six countries (Canada is one) where human life should continue for a good while longer than most of the world.

Northern PoV said...

It's the end of the world as we know it and I feel .......

James Lovelock said much the same thing eight years ago. Today he is eating humble pie. Timelines are way off. This kind of collapse is many decades, more likely centuries away. (Which is still lightning quick in a climate scenario sense.)

That said, there is a strong argument to be made that the tipping point has passed and we are now in the runaway phase.

Failing a massive double-headed (positive) Black Swan (clean energy/massive carbon capture) our descendants are f**ked.

Toby said...

We cannot return to a non-harmful life style; there isn't enough land. There are too many people to live as close to nature as even our great, great grand parents did. To live in small hunter-gather groups is not feasible. Small family farms look like a good idea but they won't feed 7 1/2 billion people.

Anonymous said...

Just in


Dana said...

Human Extinction By 2030 -The Crisis of Civilization!

The Mound of Sound said...

NPoV, Lovelock gave it away when he said that he felt terrible that his conclusions had caused so many people to feel personally responsible, guilty, and distraught. Then again he foresaw humanity reduced to several million by the end of the century.

From there Lovelock switched to "don't worry, be happy." His argument was that, back when we might have made a difference we simply didn't know any better so we might as well just carry on without fretting.

His last position is just an extension of the previous one. Lovelock sees the science that keeps rolling in. He knows what it means. He understands the early onset impacts that are already being experienced. I think he just doesn't want to be seen as a Debbie Downer.

The Mound of Sound said...

TB, they've shelved 85 coal plants. How many does that leave that are still going ahead?