- this post will not be about programming, even though it is still about something you will most probably not learn at school,
- ignorance is bliss.
- global average world temperature increased by 0.85 degree Celsius against pre-industrial level.
|A 0.85 degree Celsius increase|
- In consequence, tremendous impacts are already being felt across the globe, in particular in the northern region: the arctic.
- So much so, that once frozen organic matter on land (permafrost) is coming back to life, releasing methane in the the process; simultaneously, methane molecules which were once trapped into ice cages (methane hydrates) at the bottom of the ocean are now escaping, moving up and entering the atmosphere.
- Methane, although shorter lived than carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, is an extremely potent greenhouse gas, thirty times as much.
|Methane hydrate or burning ice!|
- We hence find ourselves in the presence of a vicious cycle: global warming triggers methane releases, a strong driver for more warming and so on.
- Such cycles are called self-reinforcing (or positive) feedback loops in system dynamics. At the time of the video, Guy cites 4 feedback loops, in more recent talks he presents more than 20 of them (admittedly not all of the same importance).
- Widely accepted, conventional models of global warming (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, United Nations Environment Programme, Hadley Center for Meteorological Research, Nasa Goddard Institute for Space Studies...) predict a range of temperature increase going from 1 to 10 degrees Celsius by 2100.
|Slowly melting permafrost|
- As dire as some of these projections may seem, none of them take any of the feedback loops into account. Unfortunately, feedback loops are no small matter: Malcolm Light of the Arctic Methane Emergency Group, declares, probably a bit hyperbolically, in a 2010 paper that methane releases going exponential would lead to the demise of all life on earth by mid-century. He even pinpoints year 2031 for the northern hemisphere.
- insufficient food supplies: crop protein denaturation could be a consequence of severe heat shocks,
- impossible thermoregulation: higher temperatures will strain thermoregulation abilities to the limit for mammals as large as humans,
- no oxygen: if deserts replace forests on lands, and phytoplankton in the ocean is completely wiped out, then our two only sources of oxygen vanish, (for the record, phytoplankton is already 40% depleted in comparison to 1950 levels)
- global nuclear meltdown: a scenario where several meltdowns triggered by, unplanned for, extreme weather events would raise radiations to unlivable levels for terrestrial organisms.
Dire planetary status
- at 400ppm, CO2 levels in the atmosphere are now reaching a level unseen in the last 15 million years. (To put that statement in perspective consider that civilization emerged only 10,000 years ago, Homo Sapiens are only 200,000 years old, while Homo Habilis evolved around 2.3 million years ago.)
- In fact, since the industrial revolution, we drastically changed the composition of the atmosphere, dumping methane (now topping 1700ppb), nitrous oxide, ozone and even synthetic gases such as chorofluorocarbons (CFC), hydrochlorofuorocarbons (HCFC) halons...
- Unfortunately, this is an ongoing and worsening trend: carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels set a record in 2013.
|Dumping always more carbon in the atmosphere.|
- In the arctic, the volume of ice is inexorably spiralling down and will reach zero within a few years; Antarctic ice fares no better; while glaciers around the world are retreating at accelerating speed.
|The arctic Death spiral.|
- Forests too are declining. Worst of all, primary forests are cut down. The hunger for fresh agricultural land is unsatiable. Don't you think carbon neutral schemes smell dubious? In any case, climate models most probably over-estimate the extent of future forests and thus their real ability to sequester carbon. Even more devastating: atmospheric pollution, especially ozone, seems to be killing trees worldwide.
- We are now living a mass extinction of life on earth as reported in this documentary. The population numbers speak for themselves: land animals are down 28% since 1970, marine birds are down 30% since 1995, big ocean fish are down 90% since 1950, freshwater fish are down 50% since 1987, marine animals are down 28% since 1970 and songbirds are down 50% since 1950. In the same vein, Paul MacCready, in this excellent TED presentation shows the evolution of the mass of all land based vertebrates. The share of wild animals went from being 99.9% to a tiny 3% in the 10 thousand years since the start of civilization.
|Homo Sapiens (?) is winning the war...|
This is all without talking about the miserable state of the ocean, soil erosion, natural resources depletion, garbage (such as plastic, radioactivity...) accumulation. And the list just goes on, endlessly... Blinded by desire, we produce what destroys us in far greater quantity than the rest of the creation can instantaneously balance.
Reversing global trends?
- Burning of coal and other fossil fuels should be stopped.
- Our numbers should be decreasing (ideally via access to education, contraception, financial incentives, and equitable one child policy). Population is the multiplier of everything else.
- Forest cover should be increasing: trees should be planted, forest let to grow.
- Human population should retreat from cities to be given the opportunity to learn living hard but more sustainable and decent agricultural, pastoral or forager lives.
- In short, our current economy should come to a halt, thus reducing the count of all our energy-consuming machines: cars, planes, phones, computers...
- The production of several synthetic substances should be totally banned. In particular products that can not be naturally decomposed in realistic time-frames should never see the light: plastic, composites, nuclear wastes... Similarly, substances that potentially pose irreversible risks to the biosphere, ecosystems, animal or human health should not be put in circulation. Think: CFC, pesticides, most genetically modified organisms, nanoparticles. The burden of proof should be carried by the producers rather than the consumers and any new product considered toxic before being demonstrated as safe.
- Nuclear power-plants should be shut down before the next radical accident.
- Real economic growth has already or will stop before 2020. Resources availability will decline dramatically.
- Major industrial systems (nuclear reactors, skyscrapers, roads, sewers, water supply systems, electrical grids, computer networks, cities) will fail because of lack of maintenance, nature impacts, or human induced chaos. Large non-tangible systems (health care, government, retirement plans) will break down too. All these symbols of our hubris have continued growth as a first requirement.
- Human population trends will then quickly reverse. Death rates will increase. Maybe through large scale epidemic or starvation. Great migrations will be unstoppable.
- Geoengineering will be tried and fail. Technical Progress Raises More and Greater Problems than It Solves. With hindsight, doesn't this axiom stated by Jacques Ellul in his Technological Bluff sound painfully true?
- By 2040, I expect our numbers to be no more than 1 billion. War for the last habitable places (the poles? underground?) will have started.
- By the end of this century our species will have gone extinct.
- In the longer run, will planet Earth then go Venus or still be habitable (by complex life-forms)? I don't know. Does it really matter?
|Total catch of southern bluefin tune. A quota system was introduced only in 1980.|
|Arx tarpeia Capitoli proxima!|
BibliographySome hand-plucked links, organized by topics.
- A short video on the extremely pressing methane risk: http://lasthours.org/.
- Methane end? http://motherboard.vice.com/read/if-we-release-a-small-fraction-of-arctic-carbon-were-fucked-climatologist.
- Real-time CO2 concentration at Mauna Loa: http://co2now.org/.
- Nature bats last, Guy McPherson site and presentations are here: http://guymcpherson.com/. I would more specifically recommend these reads: http://guymcpherson.com/2013/01/climate-change-summary-and-update/ and http://guymcpherson.com/2012/03/the-cost-of-affluence/.
- Latest news about what is going on in the Arctic: http://arctic-news.blogspot.co.nz/.
- The Arctic Methane Emergency Group is here: http://ameg.me/.
- The current state of the north pole: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9euZ6q4bEKs.
- Debunking of most climate denialists' myths: http://www.skepticalscience.com/argument.php.
|A slowed down, meandering jet stream has been causing all sorts of bizarre weather patterns in the recent years all over the northern hemisphere. A bit of theory here.|
War against the Environment: scale of the Human impact
- Reaching the limits of mining: http://damnthematrix.wordpress.com/2013/08/09/conventional-thinking-is-over/.
- Trees suffering from air pollution: http://www.deadtrees-dyingforests.com/ and accompanying blog http://witsendnj.blogspot.fr/.
- The miserable state of the oceans: http://sackler.nasmediaonline.org/2007/ile/jeremy_jackson/jeremy_jackson.html.
- The curse of radioactivity: http://endthelie.com/2012/04/21/fukushima-is-falling-apart-are-you-ready/.
- Daily environmental news. Homo Sapiens' self-esteem takes a blow: http://www.desdemonadespair.net/.
- The flip side of industrial civilization: http://collapseofindustrialcivilization.com/.
- Human/nature ratio: http://xkcd.com/1338/.
Understanding the models, predicting the future
- Professor Al. Bartlett explaining the exponential: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e_VpyoAXpA8.
- Population demographic and crash theory: http://dieoff.org/page80.htm.
- Revisiting Limits to growth, by Charles Hall: http://www.theoildrum.com/node/5330.
- According to Ron Patterson, collapse has already started, just open your eyes: http://peakoilbarrel.com/collapse-inevitable/.
- Predicting a population of 1 billion for 2080: http://www.theoildrum.com/node/6924.
- Explanation of the Venus Syndrome by famous climatologist James Hansen: http://www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/mailing/2013/20130415_Exaggerations.pdf.
- Humptydumptytribe (I love this hardcore guy) talks about Dr. Frank Fenner predicting human extinction in 100 years: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z5eaJMuXwrc.
- Paul Beckwith reviews several human extinction dates and advocates geoengineering: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p3Eb4k0BL8I.
- Human extinction is near (2030) for Guy McPherson: http://vimeo.com/78610016.
Numerous others have made equally dire predictions:
- For Stephen Hawking, we need to leave the planet before 200 years.
- James Lovelock expects 80% of humans to perish by 2100.
- Paleontologist Peter Ward believes global warming will drive us extinct, similarly to previous mass extinction episodes.
- James Hansen warned against the burning of coal.
- Some models of IPCC predict a 10 degree rise by 2100, thus making the planet unlivable.
- Jay Hanson and despair: http://dieoff.org/.
- Paul Cherfuka and Buddhism: http://www.paulchefurka.ca/.
- Derrick Jensen and deep green resistance: http://deepgreenresistance.org/en/.
- Carolyn Baker and cultural redefinition: http://www.carolynbaker.net/.
- Les U. Knight and et the voluntary human extinction movement: http://www.vhemt.org/.
- Ted Kaczynski otherwise known as unabomber: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ted_Kaczynski.
- Prof. Bartlett and educating: http://www.albartlett.org.
- Prof. Eric Pianka, also educating, a bit more on the doom side: http://uts.cc.utexas.edu/~varanus/eric.html.
- Chris Jordan and art: http://www.chrisjordan.com/.
- and more (up to 7 billion and growing...)