Science: Doing it Wrong

How Guy McPherson gets it wrong

Recently, a few Ars Technica commenters have been posting references to the work of Guy McPherson on climate articles. McPherson is a retired professor of ecology at the University of Arizona, and he runs a blog called Nature Bats Last. In recent years, he has turned his energies to dire warnings of impending climate catastrophe. Those warnings go far beyond what you’ll find anywhere else: McPherson believes humans will go extinct in as little as two decades.

Now, lots of people run blogs that make wild claims, so why am I spending time on this one? McPherson claims to simply be passing along scientific data to the public— data that most scientists are unwilling to talk about and governments are trying to keep secret. As a result, his followers (I mean to use that term more in the Twitter sense than a religious one) seem confident that they have the weight of science behind them. It takes careful examination of McPherson’s references, and a familiarity with the present state of climate science, to uncover that his claims aren’t scientific at all. I also get the feeling that his internet following might not be insignificant (as noted by climate scientist Michael Tobis) and could be growing, yet I couldn’t find any direct challenges with a web search. This makes one.

Bizarro denial

First, I want to go over general problems with McPherson’s claims and talk about what climate science is really telling us. For those wanting specifics, I’ll post a list of point-by-point corrections of McPherson’s main “Climate Change Summary and Update” post in the third section.

In many ways, McPherson is a photo-negative of the self-proclaimed “climate skeptics” who reject the conclusions of climate science. He may be advocating the opposite conclusion, but he argues his case in the same way. The skeptics often quote snippets of science that, on full examination, doesn’t actually support their claims, and this is McPherson’s modus operandi. The skeptics dismiss science they don’t like by saying that climate researchers lie to keep the grant money coming; McPherson dismisses inconvenient science by claiming that scientists are downplaying risks because they’re too cowardly to speak the truth and flout our corporate overlords. Both malign the IPCC as “political” and therefore not objective. And both will cite nearly any claim that supports their views, regardless of source— putting evidence-free opinions on par with scientific research. (In one example I can’t help but highlight, McPherson cites a survivalist blog warning that Earth’s atmosphere is running out of oxygen.)

McPherson bills himself as a scientist simply passing along the science (even as he dismisses climate scientists and their work), but he cites nearly as many blog posts and newspaper columns as published studies. When he does cite a study, it’s often clear that he hasn’t taken the time to actually read it, depending instead on a news story about it. He frequently gets the information from the study completely wrong, which is a difficult thing for most readers to check given that most papers are behind paywalls (not to mention that scientific papers aren’t easy to understand).

McPherson leans heavily on claims from people associated with the “Arctic News” blog about a catastrophic, runaway release of methane that supposedly is already underway in the Arctic. Unfortunately (or, rather, fortunately), the data don’t match their assertions. The latest IPCC and NAS assessment reports, in fact, deemed such a release “very unlikely” this century. One reason for that is that the Arctic has been this warm or warmer a couple times in the last 200,000 years, yet that methane stayed in the ground. Another reason is that scientists actually bother to study and model the processes involved. One thing McPherson and others like to point to is the recent work by Natalia Shakhova’s group observing bubbling plumes of methane coming up from the seafloor on the Siberian Shelf. Since we’ve only been sampling these plumes for a few years, we have no idea whether that release of methane is increasing or if these are long-term features. Similar plumes off Svalbard, for example, appear to be thousands of years old. (More to put this methane in context here.)

That’s exactly the kind of detail and  nuance that’s absent from McPherson’s claims. Instead, he’s content to link to YouTube videos or blog posts (some ludicrously unscientific— see below) and run with the idea that catastrophic warming is guaranteed as a result. He just latches onto anything that sounds scary. McPherson is especially fast and loose with timeframes. He likes to point to the magnitude of past climate changes (which took thousands of years or more) as proof that we are about to undergo similar changes in the next couple decades. That’s quite clearly a fallacious argument, but McPherson never concerns himself with the details. All the casual reader learns it that there was a huge change in the past analogous to the present that shows just how screwed we really are.

And that’s McPherson’s thing— despair. We’re absolutely doomed, he tells us, and there’s nothing we can do about it. Everything is lost. He derides any sort of optimism or action as “hopium”. He notes in one recent post that “With an eye to improving my ‘bedside manner’ when I deliver presentations, I’ve recently become a certified grief-recovery counselor.” With such an extraordinary view, you would expect him to make the scientific case for extinction very clearly. But he does not. His argument fundamentally reduces to “positive feedbacks exist, ergo extinction”. That is, he lists examples of positive feedbacks (things that amplify change, like the added sunlight absorption of ocean water that has lost its sea ice cover) for a while, intending to overwhelm you with the number of processes that could add to global warming. And that’s it. There are no numbers explaining how big an effect each could have, no analysis of likely warming impacts, nothing. The fact is that climate scientists know about all these processes. But instead of throwing their hands up and saying “Oh, shit”, they actually do science.

Again, specific examples of these things are given in the last section of this post. If you take a look at some of his mistakes and demonstrably false claims, you’ll have a hard time thinking of him as a credible source of information.

[Update 3-13-14: Michael Tobis has covered some of the points I skipped over—namely, McPherson’s discussion of feedbacks— in a new post.]

Just the facts

So let’s briefly lay out the central claims of McPherson’s position, and review what the science really says. I think those are 1) positive feedbacks imply runaway global warming, 2) we will experience at least 3 to 4 degrees C warming in the next couple decades, and 3) on a 4C warmer planet, humans are dead.

Numero uno. While the concept of a positive feedback (a little change triggers an addition that makes the change bigger, triggering another addition that…) sounds like snowballing without end, that’s not actually the case here. These positive climate feedbacks (and there are negative feedbacks, by the way) amplify warming, but only to a certain extent. After all, these same processes were in play when the Earth warmed out of the last glaciation (over the last ~18,000 years), which obviously didn’t scorch the planet. Without any of these feedbacks, the glacial/interglacial differences would be much smaller, but they do not cause runaway warming.

There is such a thing as a runaway greenhouse effect– just ask the planet Venus. However, a recent study looking at what it would take to trigger such an event on Earth ballparked the requirements at around 75 times the amount of CO2 currently in the atmosphere, 5.5 times the methane, and some other greenhouse gases. The “business-as-usual” scenario in the latest IPCC report, where we do nothing to curtail greenhouse gas emissions, ends the century at about 2.3 times today’s CO2 and 2 times the methane. We have a lot of things to worry about, but a runaway greenhouse isn’t one of them. (McPherson, by the way, cites this same paper as if it shows that we’re about to trigger a runaway greenhouse.)

So what are we facing if Arctic methane releases increase? Climate scientist David Archer shows some back-of-the-envelope math here. If the release increased by a factor of 100 and lasted for a century, it would be the equivalent of increasing today’s CO2 by 25-90%. Bad? Yes. Extinction? No.

Nummer zwei. The latest IPCC report projects roughly 0.3 to 0.7C of warming by 2035. (The exact numbers are a little complicated, but I explained it here.) Farther into the future, the different emissions scenarios diverge. The “business-as-usual” scenario results in about 2.6 to 4.8C warming by 2100. Rosier scenarios involving moderate efforts to stabilize greenhouse gases yield warming of about 1.1 to 3.1C by 2100. There are precisely zero scientific studies projecting several degrees of warming by 2035, as McPherson predicts. (In fact, he cites one blogger’s childish prediction of a whopping 20C increase by 2050.)

Numéro trois. So what are the impacts of 4C warming? Here’s a handy summary of the many impacts described in the 2007 IPCC report (this section of the newest report isn’t out yet). They include increased droughts, more extreme rainfall, rising sea levels, serious problems for many ocean organisms, real problems for many terrestrial species, lowered agricultural yields… It’s not pretty, and we very much want to avoid it, but it’s not human extinction.

If you think the IPCC reports are lying about the state of the science, feel free to do a Google Scholar search for “climate change projections” in published studies.

[Note 4-7-14: A comment from Paul Beckwith has revealed that I incorrectly attributed some statements and materials to the Arctic Methane Emergency Group, either due to Guy McPherson’s attribution or misunderstandings of my own. I considered preserving these statements for transparency, but don’t want to make the post too hard to read, so I will simply make the appropriate edits. I am grateful to Paul for bringing it to my attention.]

Errata

Okay. These corrections and notes apply to this post on McPherson’s blog, which I took to be the most complete explication of his views available for fact-checking. The point of this tedious list is to back up the points I raised above and illustrate the untrustworthy and unscientific nature of McPherson’s claims.

As his post appears to be updated over time, I’ll note that I accessed it on 2-13-2014. I’ll just go top to bottom.

–Guy McPherson (I’ll abbreviate as “GM”) cites the Brysse et al “side of least drama” paper to support his claim that climate scientists are simply unwilling to speak out about the imminent and existential threat of climate change. The paper absolutely does state that “scientists are biased not toward alarmism but rather the reverse: toward cautious estimates”. However, it’s more than a stretch to extend this to the idea that civilization is collapsing and we’re going extinct but climate scientists are saying everything is fine.

–GM writes, “Ever late to the party, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) admits global warming is irreversible without geoengineering in a report released 27 September 2013.” This can only be seen as a new “admission” if you know nothing about the carbon cycle. Warming is irreversible because CO2 remains in the atmosphere for centuries to millennia— this has always been known. Irreversible does not mean unstoppable, however, as GM seems to be implying. Reducing emissions stabilizes greenhouse gas concentrations, limiting warming. In order to lower temperatures, CO2 will have to be removed from the atmosphere— geoengineering. Old news.

–Now we get to “On a planet 4 C hotter than baseline, all we can prepare for is human extinction.” The reference for this pretty important statement? An opinion piece in the Guardian.

–GM references the paper I mentioned above about a runaway greenhouse effect on Earth being easier to trigger than previously thought. Of course, we saw that it requires far, far more warming than any realistic scenario of anthropogenic climate change— a point that is explicitly made in that paper.

–GM notes the discovery of a recent greenhouse gas (perfluorotributylamine) that is 7,100 more potent than CO2, molecule-for-molecule. This seems to be included only for the scary number. How much of it is in the atmosphere? At about 0.18 parts per trillion (in Toronto), it’s completely irrelevant to questions about the climate change we’re currently undergoing.

–GM cites a Geological Society of London release about climate sensitivity— the amount of warming we get from a given increase in CO2. GM describes it by saying that “Earth’s climate could be twice as sensitive  to atmospheric carbon as previously believed.” But that’s not what the release says. The climate sensitivity values that are usually discussed (around 3C for a doubling of CO2) are specific measures over specific timeframes, developed to create a standardized comparison between models. The release describes an analysis of longer-term change, as the climate system comes into equilibrium over millennia. It’s that long-term change that the release says could be double the shorter-term sensitivity . If we’re discussing what we’re facing over the next few decades, that is completely irrelevant.

–Here’s where the Arctic methane stuff gets hot and heavy, as one person is quoted as saying, “The world is probably at the start of a runaway Greenhouse Event which will end most human life on Earth before 2040.” There’s simply no evidence for this. You won’t find any published studies to support it. GM goes a step further, citing an “analysis” on the “Arctic News” blog, predicting a 20C warming by 2050. What is this prediction based on? Curves drawn on a chart. If you fit the right polynomial (a dangerous activity) to the Arctic temperature data that shows roughly 2C warming from 1980 to 2010, you can get it to skyrocket to 20C by 2050. (Well, actually you can’t quite, so a steeper line is simply drawn on.) No climate model. No physics. Just a line. This isn’t science. This is the kind of thing that lazy climate “skeptics” do (the smarter ones won’t).

–GM includes a graph from the same “Arctic News” blog showing methane data. First, it claims that methane is 1,000 times more potent than CO2 (it isn’t) and thus responsible for the vast majority of global warming (it isn’t). Beyond that, it plots a single measurement of atmospheric methane from a single spot in the Arctic (>2,600 parts per billion) on a chart of global average atmospheric methane (currently about 1,800 ppb).  This sudden “increase” is assumed to represent a catastrophic release. Unfortunately, this is simply ignorant. Methane concentration varies quite a bit around the world— highest in the Arctic, lowest in the Antarctic. Absolutely no effort was made to create an apples-to-apples comparison like, at the very least, calculating an average concentration for the Arctic for that week.

–GM reports that the US Navy “predicts an ice-free Arctic by summer 2016”. What does the linked post actually say? The lower bound of the predicted decline in a sea ice model run by Navy researchers was 2016. The researcher calls this “an aggressive interpretation”. What was the central date in the projection? Or the upper bound? We aren’t told. How does this sea ice model compare to others? GM isn’t interested in helping us find out. I would guess this means he hasn’t looked.

–GM quotes climate scientist Jason Box from a newspaper story, saying, “In 2012 Greenland crossed a threshold where for the first time we saw complete surface melting at the highest elevations in what we used to call the dry snow zone.” He uses this to support his contention that the climate system reached a tipping point— a threshold to runaway change—  in 2007. But what Box was actually talking about was a freak event several days long in which melting conditions existed across the entire ice sheet. This was viewed as a weather event, not a significant climate event.

–In a note dismissing biofuels, GM describes them as “the nonsensical notion that industrial civilization can be used to overcome a predicament created by industrial civilization”. This is obviously an axiomatic assertion that makes you worry about GM’s objectivity.

–GM provides a timeline of climate “predictions”, ostensibly showing that they have become more and more alarming over the past few years. (We’ll leave aside, for the moment, that he doesn’t seem to understand the difference between projections— predictions contingent on scenarios of future emissions— and actual predictions.) An updated version of this list can be found here. [Update: I’ve been told that version is actually not the most recent.] The list is flat-out wrong. I dug up the actual numbers on several of them for an Ars commenter. GM claims the IPCC predict 1C of warming by 2100 in their 2007 report. It actually projected roughly 1.8 to 4C, depending on the emissions scenario. These numbers were equivalent to the projections from the previous report in 2001. Next, GM claims the Hadley Centre predicted 2C by 2100 in 2008. The document he links to provides no projections of global temperature of any kind. At the other end of the list, GM claims that the International Energy Agency predicted 3.5C warming by 2035 in 2013. The link goes to a poorly re-written press story from 2010. What did the IEA really say? Their 2010 report described a scenario in which the trajectory of growing emissions by 2035 was such that we would eventually hit 3.5C warming before greenhouse gases were stabilized. [Update: GM had already removed the IEA “prediction” from his post.] So does this list show climate projections becoming rapidly more dire? That’s a big, fat no.

–GM writes, “These assessments fail to account for significant self-reinforcing feedback loops (i.e., positive feedbacks, the term that implies the opposite of its meaning). The IPCC’s vaunted Fifth Assessment will continue the trend as it, too, ignores important feedbacks.” It’s not true that these assessments ignore positive feedbacks. It is true that not all processes are included in climate models, which continue to be developed. The link GM provides is to a story relates to the fact that the generation of models used for the latest IPCC report do not simulate thawing permafrost. For reference, one model that does simulate this process now projects that it would add an additional 0.1 to 0.7C warming by 2100 due to a release of CO2 that would raise the global concentration by 40 to 100 ppm. My guess is that those numbers aren’t scary enough for GM to want to mention them. (To be fair, that’s probably a conservative estimate, but it’s nowhere near the kind of thing GM is talking about.)

–GM cites a paper showing that Earth may have lost its moderate climate to a runaway greenhouse if it were more than 1% closer to the Sun (though it also notes that their analysis doesn’t account for clouds, which might broaden the range). He believes this supports a claim that “A minor change in Earth’s atmosphere removes human habitat. Unfortunately, we’ve invoked major changes.” How does one square this with warmer climates in Earth’s history, none of which triggered that runaway greenhouse? The Cretaceous period, notably, was far warmer than the present day. It wasn’t until an asteroid impact wreaked havoc on the climate system that a mass extinction took place. GM’s definitions of “minor change” and “major change” are fuzzy.

–GM brings up a temperature record from Concord, Massachusetts, in a very interesting parallel to climate “skeptics”. Individual records that show cooling over some period are often cited as proof that all this global warming stuff is hooey. Or the accuracy of a particular record is called into question in some way, as if climate science is a house of cards that can be brought down by the exposure of a single flaw. In this case, GM claims that while the instrumental temperature record indicates about 1C warming there since 1840, an analysis of the flowering dates from Henry David Thoreau’s journals indicates a warming of 2.4C. First off, it’s interesting to note GM implying that instrumental records are woefully inaccurate, when it’s this very information that helped climate science work out the anthropogenic nature of climate change. Second, if GM had bothered to read the paper, he would have discovered that the 2.4C number comes from the local instrumental record, not the flowering dates. The instrumental record was used to study how the flowering dates changed with temperature. I have no idea where he got the 1C number from.

–GM claims that the Next Generation Science Standards (for public schools) “buries the relationship between combustion of fossil fuels and planetary warming”. “The misadventures of the corporate government continue”, he complains. In a post about evolution and climate change in those science standards by the National Center for Science Education, they quote from the standards: “Human activities, such as the release of greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels, are major factors in the current rise in Earth’s mean surface temperature (global warming).” Why did GM make this up?

–GM cites a briefing from the UN talks in Copenhagen saying that the past shows sea level should be 23 meters higher at today’s CO2 concentration. What does this briefing, from a Jamaican reef biochemist, note about this? “IPCC projections are based on modes for a time period of 20, 50, or 100 years, when the response of the climate system to increased CO2 takes thousands of years, so models miss more than 90% of the long term response…” Again, we’re up against timeframe details. GM equates long-term equilibrium changes with short term, decadal ones. Here’s a study looking at the same thing: they estimate the long term sea level rise at today’s CO2 at 9-31 meters, noting that would take 500 to 2,500 years. The reason for this is that these studies are based on estimating past sea levels and CO2 concentrations (which is complicated). These records are necessarily at long term equilibrium, because that’s what the geologic record preserves for us that far back in time.

–I don’t think I need to comment on this claim: “In other words, near-term extinction of humans was already guaranteed, to the knowledge of Obama and his administration  (i.e., the Central Intelligence Agency, which runs the United States and controls presidential power). Even before the dire feedbacks were reported by the scientific community, the administration abandoned climate change as a significant issue because it knew we were done as early as 2009. Rather than shoulder the unenviable task of truth-teller, Obama did as his imperial higher-ups demanded: He lied about collapse, and he lied about climate change. And he still does.”

–“Arctic News” returns, along with a YouTube video, to claim that “Arctic methane release and rapid global temperature rise are interlinked — including a temperature rise up to about 1 C per year over a decade,according to data from ice cores“. The “analysis” is someone looking at data from a Greenland ice core, deciding that methane looks more important than CO2 (physics need not apply), and noting the abrupt warming at the end of the Younger Dryas, an interesting period about 12,000 years ago and is thought to have been brought about by a disruption of ocean circulation. (Questions remain.) First, temperatures calculated from Greenland ice cores are local temperatures, not the global average, and the change during the remarkable event was less elsewhere. Second, the methane increase in the ice cores they point to as the cause of the warming is from about 450 to 750 ppb— a difference of 300 ppb. Remember that the global average today is about 1,800 ppb. Methane has increased about 150 ppb since 1985. Has that had a similar effect to what they’re proposing? The first link in GM’s statement contains this ludicrous extrapolation: “The atmospheric temperature increase in Australia this year (0.22C) indicates that in 10 years it will exceed 2.2C and in 30 to 40 years, 6.6C to 8.8C.” I’m not sure you can get more unscientific than that. Australia, by the way, has warmed about 1C since 1950.

–For the sake of my sanity, I’m going to skip over the list of positive feedbacks. Suffice to say, some of them are just more “Arctic News” claims and several others are mis-reported. Others are fine. [Michael Tobis took a look at this list in this post.]

–GM finally comes right out and says “the scientists writing official reports on climate change are lying”.

–GM writes “And never mind that warming in the interior of large continents in the northern hemisphere has outstripped model predictions in racing to 6-7 C already, according to a paper that tallies temperature rise in China’s interior in the 15 May 2013 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.” What does that study really say? “Here, we show central China is a region that experienced a much larger temperature change since the Last Glacial Maximum than typically simulated by climate models… We find a summertime temperature change of 6–7 °C that is reproduced by climate model simulations presented here.” The Last Glacial Maximum, remember, is the peak of the last “ice age” around 20,000 years ago. Why is GM pretending that parts of China have experienced 6-7C of anthropogenic warming, and that this shows projections of future warming to be too conservative?

–GM writes “Through late March 2013, global oceans have risen approximately ten millimeters per year during the last two years. This rate of rise is over three times the rate of sea level rise during the time of satellite-based observations from 1993 to the present.” Sounds like it’s accelerating rapidly, doesn’t it? Even his link is to a post showing why this is not a sign of acceleration. The tremendous La Nina of 2011 dumped tons of rain on Australia and the Amazon, adding so much water to continental storage that sea level fell over 5 mm. As that water drained back to the oceans, sea level rise increased. You can see the most up-to-date data here. This is cherry picking. This is what climate “skeptics” do.

–GM writes “On a particularly dire note for humanity, climate change causes early death of five million people peach year.” This links to a story about an NGO report. The summary from the actual report states, “This report estimates that climate change causes 400,000 deaths on average each year today, mainly due to hunger and communicable diseases that affect above all children in developing countries. Our present carbon-intensive energy system and related activities cause an estimated 4.5 million deaths each year linked to air pollution, hazardous occupations and cancer.”

–GM writes, “The Guardian‘s headline from 13 November 2013 announces, ‘Global warming since 1997 more than twice as fast as previously estimated, new study shows.'” Sounds like global warming is accelerating beyond scientist’s projections! The story refers to a study (which I covered here) showing that one particular global temperature dataset (there are several) was underestimating recent temperatures, primarily due to a lack of measurements in the Arctic. That bias (by which I mean measurement bias, not bias in the political sense) made the recent slowdown in atmospheric warming (related to some action in the Pacific) seem a little larger than it really was. Other datasets had less of this bias. Accounting for this still leaves the last decade of atmospheric warming slower than the previous one. (Again, this is natural variability— warming of the ocean hasn’t slowed.)

–GM writes, “Global loss of sea ice matches the trend in the Arctic. It’s down, down, and down some more, with the five lowest values on record all happening in the last seven years (through 2012).” This may seem like a nit-pick, but this is a pointless statement. The global sea ice trend depends on two places- Antarctica and the Arctic. In Antarctica, there’s been a slight increase recently, while the Arctic has seen a large decrease. Therefore, the reason that global sea ice is down is that Arctic sea ice is down.

–GM writes, “[T]he 13 September 2013 issue of Science contains another surprise for mainstream scientists : The Pine Island Glacier is melting from below as a result of warming seawater.” It’s well known (and bloody obvious) that warming seawater melts marine-terminating glaciers. Calling this “another surprise for mainstream scientists” is just a mindless pot-shot.

–GM writes, “The climate situation is much worse than I’ve led you to believe, and is accelerating far more rapidly than accounted for by models.” The link goes to a YouTube video from David Wasdell of the “Apollo-Gaia Project” telling a parable. He’s not a scientist, but his videos are used as evidence several other times, as well.

–GM cites a Peter Wadhams prediction of ice-free Arctic summers by 2015 or 2016 (more than once, I think). Apart from Wieslaw Maslowski, you won’t find other sea ice researchers making such a dire prediction. As you can see, it would take a truly incredible change in the next couple years for this prediction to come true.

–Back to the pointless pejoratives, we get “In a turn surprising only to mainstream climate scientists, Greenland ice is melting rapidly.” First, this link just refers to the freak surface melting weather from July 2012 I mentioned above. Second, the rate that Greenland ice is melting is no surprise to climate scientists, who have been the ones documenting it year in and year out. GM uses the phrase “mainstream climate scientists” like Sarah Palin says “lamestream media”.

–Here’s a hum-dinger I mentioned way up above. “As one little-discussed example, atmospheric oxygen levels are dropping to levels considered dangerous for humans, particularly in cities.” Yes, that link goes to a survivalist blog. No, we’re not going to suffocate because burning fossil fuels is using up all the oxygen in the atmosphere. It’s true that fossil fuel combustion has sightly lowered the concentration— this is one way we know humans are responsible for rising CO2— but it’s not even remotely close to a significant decrease. Between 1990 and 2005, the proportion of oxygen in the atmosphere decreased about 0.02%.

–GM writes, “An increasing number of scientists agree that warming of 4 to 6 C causes a dead planet. And, they go on to say, we’ll be there by 2060.” The link goes to a blog post by writer David Spratt, who was used as a reference before. Spratt gets the 4-6C comment from a reference to warming in 2100. He invents the “as early as 2060” himself. The “dead planet” part of the statement refers to this World Bank release about the dangerous impacts of 4C warming. Spratt describes this as ending “the world as we know it”, which GM flips into “a dead planet”. You won’t find any such description from World Bank.

–GM cites a video of a PhD student talking about the possibility of 6C warming in a decade and uses this graph to support it, presumably because the spike at the end looks scary. Apart from the fact that the graph doesn’t actually come from the paper he cites, but rather data from two papers (one of which he cites) combined with a business-as-usual projection for the next century (which he does not explain), the scary spike at the end is just the same ~3C warming by 2100 IPCC projection he was discounting earlier. To tidy up the math here, 3C/90yrs =/= 6C/10yrs.

–The end of the post claims that the Pentagon is surveilling us online in case finding out that we’re going extinct turns us into ecoterrorists. Just sayin’…

–Lastly a quote from another post of GM’s, which he explains why he thinks the collapse of human civilization can’t get here quickly enough. “Yet, seemingly contrary to these simple, easy-to-reach conclusions, I work toward collapse. Largely unafflicted by the arrogance of humanism, I work on behalf of non-human species. Industrial civilization is destroying every aspect of the living planet, and I know virtually nobody who wants to stop the runaway train. Yes, collapse will kill us. But our deaths are guaranteed regardless, unless I missed a memo.”

Update: I’ve discovered some interesting comments on GM’s post. A poster named Eric took issue with some of GM’s claims, and pointed out a few of the same errors I’ve outlined above (like reports not saying what GM claims they say). To make sure his criticism came across correctly, Eric noted, “I’m not saying climate change is a non issue- In fact I happen to think that it is humanities BIGGEST issue. However hyperbole and exaggerated threats serve no purpose but too slow down the response and make people lose hope. I appreciate your time and I hope I have contributed to the discussion in a meaningful way.”

After another poster asked if GM was going to respond, he wrote, “I will not take time to deal with Eric the denier. No amount of evidence will convince deniers of anything, so I’ll not waste my time. If you’re interested in evidence, there’s plenty in this post to support all I’ve written and said.” This appears to be a representative exchange.

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2,586 thoughts on “How Guy McPherson gets it wrong

  1. Sam. What’s with the “not safe to post comments here”on SJ’s blog? I have never felt censored, blocked, or otherwise mistreated in any way on this site. I have always appreciated the spirit of rational inquiry that prevails here.

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    1. You haven’t explained why scientists whose predictions aren’t as dire as GM’s are simply smoking “hopium”.

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  2. Why do people still believe in GM? There are still people that admire and/or worship the guy, and they change and adapt their lives around whatever he says. I don’t understand it.

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    1. To me it’s more about those believers than GM. Think Jonestown. Think flatearthers. Think fundamentalist Christians who believe Earth was created in less than a week and can’t see the ridiculousness of such an assertion in light of modern science. It’s typical of the long arc of ignorance to illumination. Get used to it. Otherwise you won’t understand the fear that so many have going against their parents or “tribe’s” beliefs. Its sad, but it gives me hope that people do change. I’ve met many GM followers who changed their minds and broke free thanks to my honest disagreement and debate. Have courage to engage your heart and mind with them.

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  3. Thank you so much. I deeply appreciate that you have provided this article. Please update it soon if possible as this is now getting outdated. Also could you talk more about the “McPherson Paradox”…this is where GM says b/c of global dimming if we stop burning fossils fuels we die due to increased heat, but he also says we die of course if we keep buying fossil fuels. Whats up with that? What about solutions like this?

    Some solutions for those who prefer smoking hopium to suicidal doom cult!

    http://www.theevolvingplanet.com/trees-natural-cloud-seeding/

    https://www.motherjones.com/environment/2018/10/science-says-saving-the-planet-could-really-be-as-simple-as-saving-trees/?fbclid=IwAR1NNvtvsFJGwHC-1lqZ4V_k8dtVgCcCMl3ygy9TiVwAgRsUApzmnitkUjw

    http://www.aesopinstitute.org

    https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/cloud-seeding-surprise-could-improve-climate-predictions/

    https://rewilding.org/what-is-rewilding/

    http://hot-topic.co.nz/guy-mcpherson-and-the-end-of-humanity-not/

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    1. Sorry for the super slow response—conveniently, you can get a pretty good answer to the “global dimming” question from the recent IPCC 1.5C report. It noted that we were at about 1.0C warming right now, but concluded that it was unlikely we’d reach 1.5C if we eliminated all emissions today and lost the dimming effect of aerosols. (That is, 1.5C is not yet “locked in”.)

      My feeling is that any intentional aerosol injection or cloud seeding is still in the “pretty unlikely” bucket. The research is getting better on them, but a lot would have to happen before they became a reality. Techniques to remove CO2 from the atmosphere, or at least remove it from smokestacks, seem better bets to accompany other emissions cuts. Certainly, all the model scenarios that limit warming to 1.5 or 2C rely on some carbon dioxide removal, but none of them are including other geoengineering techniques yet.

      Like

      1. Are you kidding me? The super conservative IPCC report called out by multiple renowned scientists such as Michael Mann,Peter Wadhams and others, that doesn’t factor in multiple feedbacks and deviously, criminally even I would say, shifts the pre industrial baseline to what 1950? We are very close if not past the 1.5 C above the original 1750 baseline already!

        Techniques to remove CO2 from the atmosphere to mitigate global dimming. Well we better get started on this huge project to build these installations worldwide then.

        We absolutely need mass geo engineering to salvage the situation. How on earth you can postulate that more than 1.5c warming isn’t already “locked in” with all the ongoing feedbacks, the speed at which we are warming and the planet’s natural carbon sinks increasingly off gassing more carbon than they take in.
        There was just another study suggesting we’ve vastly under estimated the unbelievable heat the ocean’s have stored from anthropogenic activity.
        http://fortune.com/2018/10/31/climate-change-ocean-warming-ipcc-report-global-warming/

        Your comment really doesn’t sound very encouraging.

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      2. They quite obviously did not use 1950 as the preindustrial baseline, so you can save your accusations of criminal behavior. It, again, used the standard 1850-1900 average as the baseline. You can find good academic debates on the merits of different baselines. No period is perfect—trying to use ~1750 comes with considerably larger error bars since instrumental data coverage dies out long before that. And estimating older baselines only adds 0.1-0.2C, not 0.5+.

        Finally, the planet’s carbon sinks are NOT currently acting as net sources.

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      3. Oh, I’m pretty sure that 1.5C is baked in. Surely you don’t think all emissions will be cut tomorrow? If the only way to avoid 1.5C is to do the impossible then it’s clearly impossible to avoid 1.5C. We might already be at 1.1C or 1.2C above true preindustrial (Michael Mann has hinted at this, explicitly saying the Northern Hemisphere was at about 1.2C a couple of years ago). But warming from already accumulated emissions won’t stop if all emissions stopped (though I think I’ve read an argument that suggest CO2 levels might briefly drop if emissions did stop), so the 1.5C limit might already be baked in even if the impossible did happen, especially with the boost from the lack of aerosols.

        Now, 2C is a different matter. It’s just vaguely possible that a rapid decline in FF use could avoid 2C but, again, I’d rate that as impossible in our growth driven economies, especially when many governments are continuing to subsidise and encourage FF exploration.

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      4. Welcome to http://ScientistsWarning.TV where Peter Wadhams and I discuss the grave threats to human survival, from Trump’s pernicious attack on Nature, to the Paris Agreement mightily kicking the can down the road. And Peter discusses what he considers our last ditch hope.

        Like

      5. I certainly don’t think all emissions will be cut tomorrow—I think it’s almost impossible we’ll stop at 1.5C. But a central goal of the report was to determine whether it is physically locked in, and they concluded it is not.

        Like

      6. Well, according to Gavin Schmidt (admittedly, only one scientist), the report doesn’t give a direct answer as to whether or not 1.5C can be avoided (and he thinks it can’t be). I don’t think it’s in the least bit helpful to suggest that 1.5C is not physically locked in. Like it or not, it gives the impression that 1.5C can be avoided, and that is impossible. It’s also hard to accept that it’s even physically possible (in a technical sense – humans are also physical so it’s not really physically possible), given that the effect of the carbon already in the atmosphere will not be fully realised for quite some time and that it’s likely we’re even closer to the 1.5 than a baseline of 1850-1900 average suggests. I think all climate scientists need to be realistic about this. The longer we pretend that some impossible target can be reached, the longer we avoid taking the drastic actions needed to avoid 2C, or even 3C. We also need to stop putting that 2100 date as an endpoint. People (and members of other species) will, hopefully, be alive long after 2100 and they will have to contend with continued warming and environmental degradation. Avoiding 2C by 2100 would not be “job done”, though it would be an incredible feat.

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      7. The report emphasizes the difference between “geophysically possible” and “feasible”. I feel the way Gavin feels about the latter (as you do), but it’s a different point that is worth not conflating.

        For example, the topline conclusions in Chapter 1 include:

        Past emissions alone are unlikely to raise global-mean temperature to 1.5°C above preindustrial levels but past emissions do commit to other changes, such as further sea level rise (high confidence). If all anthropogenic emissions (including aerosol-related) were reduced to zero immediately, any further warming beyond the 1°C already experienced would likely be less than 0.5°C over the next two to three decades (high confidence), and likely less than 0.5°C on a century timescale (medium confidence), due to the opposing effects of different climate processes and drivers. A warming greater than 1.5°C is therefore not geophysically unavoidable: whether it will occur depends on future rates of emission reductions

        and

        There is no single answer to the question of whether it is feasible to limit warming to 1.5°C and adapt to the consequences. Feasibility is considered in this report as the capacity of a system as a whole to achieve a specific outcome. The global transformation that would be needed to limit warming to 1.5°C requires enabling conditions that reflect the links, synergies and trade-offs between mitigation, adaptation and sustainable development. These enabling conditions have many systemic dimensions—geophysical, environmental-ecological, technological, economic, socio-cultural and institutional—that may be considered through the unifying lens of the Anthropocene, acknowledging profound, differential but increasingly geologically significant human influences on the Earth system as a whole. This framing also emphasises the global interconnectivity of past, present and future human–environment relations, highlighting the need and opportunities for integrated responses to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement.

        If you watch the press conference from the report’s release, you’ll see this coming up a lot. Jim Skea repeatedly answered questions by saying that the scientists’ job was to present governments with the physical facts, and that feasibility is really a political question more than a scientific one.

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      8. The report’s title is Global Warming of 1.5°C, an IPCC special report on the impacts of global
        warming of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways,
        in the context of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change, sustainable
        development, and efforts to eradicate poverty

        Is it useful to offer an opinion (medium confidence) on whether, geophysically, it’s possible to avoid 1.5C? I don’t think so, but, in any case, the report only said that a total cessation was “likely” to not result in a further warming of 0.5C by the end of the century, with medium confidence. So, not only did it not say that 1.5C above preindustrial (it didn’t comment on what the likely current warming, above preindustrial, is) is not baked in, it only had medium confidence that a further 0.5C was unlikely to be realised if all emissions ceased today. I don’t recall the mathematical meaning of both “medium confidence” and “likely” but using both in the same sentence suggests that there is only a slight chance of further warming not exceeding 0.5C by the end of the century. If we add to that the likelihood of at least an extra 0.1C of warming had occurred from true pre-industrial times, then I don’t think that the report says a limit of 1.5C above preindustrial is not baked in. Isn’t this what Gavin was referring to?

        As the report’s title indicates, it was not in their remit to answer the question of whether 1.5C above preindustrial can be avoided at all, never mind the caveat of “if all emissions ceased today”. But it would have been helpful for them to have pointed out that, in reality (that’s what we should be concerned with) 1.5C can’t be avoided. That might have at least triggered help for those nations that would disappear at that level of warming.

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      9. Likely is >66% statistical probability. (There’s “about as likely as not” for ~50%, “very likely” for >90%, and “extremely likely” for >95%, and “virtually certain” for >99%.) The low/medium/high confidence is qualitative, and is meant to describe how much evidence supports that number. Likely obviously does not mean “we don’t know” or “probably not”. It means that is what the evidence points to, but the uncertainty is significant.

        The geophysical possibility is not an opinion, it’s a simple adding up of all the numbers. Feasibility is an opinion (or at least a fact that depends on ethical considerations and complex choices of priority), which is why they avoided it.

        I’d actually argue the opposite of what you’re saying—that it’s more powerful when the numbers line up this way and the report can clarify that 1.5C is not technically impossible. While the report is pretty clear that meeting that goal would require an unprecedented global effort, it doesn’t let governments off the hook. If the conclusion was that it was mathematically impossible, governments could throw their hands up and say “Oh well, I guess we can’t.” But this way, if we don’t stop at 1.5C, it’s ultimately because governments didn’t care enough.

        Or think of it this way: The whole 1.5C thing started because vulnerable countries (like low-lying island nations) stood up to say that 2C wasn’t good enough to save them. The inclusion of a 1.5C goal in the Paris Agreement passed the question off to scientists. If scientists had said we’re already past the point where 1.5C is possible, wealthier nations could say to the vulnerable ones, “Sorry, but there’s no point whining about it now.” But instead, the vulnerable nations get to say, “You could save us if you try.”

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      10. I agree with a lot of that, Scott. But, effectively, we are already “past the point where 1.5C is possible”. I can’t see the purpose of stating that a humanly impossible target is still geophysically possible. It might as well have stated that it’s impossible. I use the word “impossible” when taking all factors into account – it is simply not possible (and I don’t think “feasible” is a strong enough word) to cease all emissions today and, therefore, it is not possible to stay under 1.5C. But, note that the report doesn’t explicitly say it’s geophysically possible (unless both Gavin and myself has missed something), as I pointed out. However, that’s a silly game because it is, in reality, impossible. But that doesn’t let any country off the hook. Clearly, 2C is better than 2.5C and 2.5C is better than 3C but acknowledging that 1.5C is now off the table could also concentrate minds. “Look, we hoped that warming could be limited to 1.5C, in order to help safeguard a number of nations, but that it no longer possible; let’s plan for at least 1.5C but make all efforts to avoid 2C.” I have my doubts about 2C, given the still huge year on year cuts necessary, but at least it may be possible to argue that it is possible.

        Unfortunately, nations who signed up to the Paris Agreement are still not pursuing policies that could make 2C look within reach, not even policies to ensure warming is no more than 3C (because they are not even trying to achieve their so-called INDCs).

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      11. THANK YOU SJ FOR BEING A VOICE OF REASON AGAIN AND AGAIN HERE!

        For the record, I am no more afraid of death than I was afraid to get born.

        I really am more afraid that we are doing nothing and letting this beautiful planet and its species be harmed by the actions of an organism at war with itself (Carl Sagan)…

        I am afraid that this is what McPherson and Trump and other deniers are up to – confusion games to distract us from wright action and right mind and the work we need to do here. I am just trying to help point that out. I really just want to talk about how GMPs global dimming theory is way off base because his followers use this in their forum to say this is how they know its the end of times as any cult…and anyone with any kind of alternative discussion is smoking hopium.

        SJ I think you know what I am talking about and my message is really only for you as the author of this piece. I don’t have time to go into everyone’s psychoses and just want to stick to the facts myself! Just lol tho!

        PLEASE UPDATE THIS BLOG AND ADD OR DO A PART 2 WITH A DEBUNK GMP ON GLOBAL DIMMING POST OR VLOG IF YOU CAN!!! THE WORLD NEEDS IT. I HAVE THE FACTS TO HELP YOU DO IT TOO. I SEE WHERE HE IS WRONG NOW AND CHERRY PICKING DATA. NZ scientitsts are posting about his wonky thoeries and data misusage.

        http://www.scientistswarning.org/stressors/

        In doing nothing, in simply stopping, we can live freely and true to ourselves and our liberation will contribute to the liberation of all beings.

        —Thich Nhat Hanh, “Simply Stop”

        Sorry but after reading the posts here I am not interested in this as a forum. I am not looking for random replies. Only to get a message to SJ.

        MYRIAD BLESSINGS OM SHANTI. DEATH IS ONLY A DOOR. WE WERE BORN TO DIE. THIS DOES NOT EXCUSE CLIMATE INACTION AND DENIAL.

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  4. Great debate, but I still don’t get the McPherson Paradox and what to do about global dimming. Are we truly damned if we do and damned if we don’t? GMP claims that we should keep burning fossil fuels because if we stop then all these particles will fall out of the sky. But then we will lose this cooling cover and immediately go into a hothouse zone with soaring global temps and boiling seas! This sounds insane and for anyone to argue that we should burn, baby burn in this day and age seems suspect – please address this. What is up with this? What’s the alternative? Wouldn’t it be better if we just let the trees and forests do the job they were put here to do, ie cloud seeding to keep us cool?

    Please note in your replies keep it simple while still being complex, I mean boil it out where possible because not everyone here is a scientist of any kind and some have only highschool educations and are trying to understand all this!

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    1. If McPherson is claiming that, it’s very, very stupid. We’ve known for decades that cleaning up our fossil fuel use came with the price of losing the aerosol cooling. A “ripping off the bandaid” analogy has been around for a long time. It’s not a massive and catastrophic warming that results from losing the aerosols, and it’s a one-time temperature change (as opposed to a continual source of warming). The only rational thing to do is eliminate greenhouse gas emissions ASAP.

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      1. Thanks again SJ! Here is the video [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tmi3T3_G93E] in which McPherson says that if we cut industry emissions by as little as 35%, within 3 weeks time, all the aerosol particles will fall out of the sky and we will see a 1 degree temperature rise and immediately go extinct! Is this a joke?

        Seriously, masses now in the thousands of his worshipers (we call him Thulsadoom at my house in honor of Conan, ca 1982) are now citing this as the main reasons GMP says we are damned if we do, damned if we don’t and so we should party like there’s no tomorrow, burn fossil fuels like crazy, and make as much profits as wen sucking the last resources and life out of the planet! His worshipers may even include Trump who uses this defeatism as an excuse to do nothing and to refrain from any attempt to stop burning and polluting.

        Seriously, someone needs to DEBUNK THIS NOW. Can you do a video? Or someone you know…It needs to speak to the level of those who are not scientists too because most of GMPs worshipers don’t have a clue what he’s talking about and are following his jargon science without any understanding of the bigger picture.

        The inherent defeatism amounts to the same denial as Trump’s own administration. We need people better educated than this if we are going to solve this crisis and this does a huge disservice to Michael Mann and others still saying we can avert this disaster if we take action now.

        Climate Nihilism

        According to eminent climate scientist Michael Mann “‘we can still prevent many of the worst impacts of climate change from playing out”. Still others are saying we can maintain hope, as long as it’s wise hope.

        Michael Mann says its NOT TOO LATE!
        https://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/what-on-earth-newsletter-climate-change-1.4866240?fbclid=IwAR0pdu2V7n2Nk2MSuG-JqwHNSlZ_AOxritlMdR_k-gvfp9OXmTKvtGYzBrM

        A rant against the term “hopium/hopeum” used to defeat any attempt to discuss solutions is also badly needed!!!

        WISE HOPE!
        https://www.lionsroar.com/yes-we-can-have-hope/?mc_cid=950a89b9f5&mc_eid=6d294c15cc&fbclid=IwAR39ee59w9nBXco1r6_9cTkF0oABCLKP8J7LpRN4ttrtUzOoFU18mCdGrsY

        Please do a write up and debunk on this. It’s extremely destructive and someone with a real science background needs to clearly debunk this crap jargon defeatist science of the NTHE GMP CULT!

        This is the heart of darkness and it needs to be DEBUNKED. Defeatism is the new denial. Let’s fight it!

        Please do what you can and Thanks!

        WHY McPherson’s NTHE IS A CULT

        The Cult of Trump, and more…
        (Era of Cult of Personality)

        “Steel isn’t strong boy” – Conan the Barbarian (1982)

        Chris Hedges On Cult Leaders
        https://www.truthdig.com/articles/the-cult-of-trump-2/

        Many are trying to help in really manipulative ways now, so we really have to get smarter. Keep in mind that even Thulsadoom feels he is helping to save his worshipers in Conan ca 1982, and he is the ultimate example of a cult leader!

        He offers his worshipers freedom from personal responsibility, “helps” them rationalize inaction and forget reality. He convinces them that hopelessness is the answer, and tells them to give up all “hopeum”! He turns their most terrible insecurities into his play things and then he then exploits them by telling them that the antidote to their personal weaknesses (which he has fabricated) is submitting to his authority and ultimately sacrificing themselves completely to false power outside themselves.

        Look up Thulsadoom!

        Suicide/End Times cults are not the answer and they are playing right into he hands of trumps own cult of defeatism and death…People should be aware by now that the main climate change NTHE cult has a direct connection to a Japanese suicide cult called SHIBARI.

        STAY SMART OUT THERE!

        There are many manipulation games afoot!

        Beware of end of times defeatism, its quite pernicious and narcissistic. Its also causing many to excuse inaction and debauchery.

        This is just a metaphor, but everyone will need to get a lot smarter to uncover hidden agendas, narcissism, defeatism, hypocrisy and dysfunction in leadership today. It abounds! Its not that we don’t have compassion for these leaders and Trump. We do. But we must understand the sickness to heal it and so that we too, don’t fall prey to it.

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      2. See also James Renwick, a true climate scientist, argues this is GMP claim about global dimming not even true…
        “Cutting aerosol pollution to zero (as would happen when and if industrial society falls over) will unmask another 2.5°C of warming. This is a factor of ten too large, as the actual amount would be around 0.25°C by current best estimates (see figure 10.5).”
        http://hot-topic.co.nz/guy-mcpherson-and-the-end-of-humanity-not/?fbclid=IwAR3Bl8TkCR3zSfxYntE6mPyx5N9Wto5XpdBWjOKEXZzUFe1Kh9FJHcpSE54

        We just need to let the trees do their job and stop cutting them down and start planting them everywhere and reforesting the world…No technology required, just planet a tree!!!!
        LOLOL KISS principle! OK this needs to be on a massive scale, but necessity is the mother of invention. Let’s do this!
        http://www.theevolvingplanet.com/trees-natural-cloud-seeding/

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      3. “…we will see a 1 degree temperature rise and immediately go extinct!”

        He doesn’t say that. Exaggerating his nonsense might even help him.

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    2. My thinking on this is that aerosols don’t alter the proportion of GHGs in the atmosphere so we ultimately get the same amount of warming that this concentration would cause, regardless of whether aerosols are there or not but the removal of aerosols will cause warming to accelerate the warming for a while. I’m sure there are likely to be further complexities (like an even more rapid warming would probably put increased pressure on other species) but this is a simplified view.

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      1. EcoNazi, I find what you wrote here extremely confusing. How so? Based on the values and reasoning you express here, you must believe that we should ALL (1) “…party like there’s no tomorrow, burn fossil fuels like crazy, and make as much profits as when sucking the last resources and life out of the planet!” And (2) “…use this defeatism as an excuse to do nothing and to refrain from any attempt to stop burning and polluting.” Why do I point to and emphasize this corollary? Because, IF we are reasonable and pay attention to massive amounts of compelling evidence we ALL know with ABSOLUTE CERTAINTY, we will soon die. And we DON’T know when that will happen. It might very well happen tomorrow, or in the next hour. (I know very well that not many people do pay much attention to such evidence and reason inductively based on it.) Meanwhile, this holds doubly true for anyone who has a “terminal” illness, such as cancer or a serious heart condition, or who is, say, 60 or older: perhaps your mother, father, son, or daughter, at any age from conception to 100 years old. Per your reasoning, these unfortunate people—literally all of us!—really have no point in living, not unless we can reliably plan to live, what, another 20 years? 30 years? Forty? Fifty? (I wonder: What DO you consider your human-focused longevity requirement to make life worth living and fighting for? It must be much longer than five or ten years for you so emotionally to rail against McPherson’s supposedly horrific idea that we will probably have a human-viable climate on Earth for only another five or ten years.) On the other hand, perhaps you resolve this existential terror of death problem, which we all face, by joining about 90% of Americans in their strong belief that they won’t really die, ever. They won’t REALLY die if they live according to the right rules, in which case they know their “soul” or “non-physical consciousness” will live forever at the right hand of God in heaven. If you really believe that, then why would you care much about what happens to everyone else, or to Earth’s biosphere as a whole? In that case, nothing of importance, or at least no human of importance, really dies anyway. I guess all living souls (including plants? bacteria?) live forever in some special place in the universe after they “die” on Earth? Sorry. I find what you have written here extremely confusing and self-contradictory. I hope you will help me correctly understand “the bigger picture” that you refer to, because, clearly, I presently don’t understand it very well at all.

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      2. I’ve noticed that GM as well as those who follow him always make vague statements about massive amounts of compelling evidence. Strangely enough, they never seem to elaborate.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Gail Justice
    You sound confused beyond all help.

    What you quote above in points 1) and 2) are directly from Guy Mcpherson (GMP), NOT ME. I was quoting him…AND HE IS ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN.

    You need to do your homework on Near Term Human Extinction (NTHE) and GMP before ranting like this nonsensically. McPherson literally says this in his videos and writings everywhere. He is very clear that we are damned if we do and damned if we don’t. AND HE IS ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN. And he is indirectly telling his followers that they should all (1) “…party like there’s no tomorrow, burn fossil fuels like crazy, and make as much profits as when sucking the last resources and life out of the planet!” And (2) “…use this defeatism as an excuse to do nothing and to refrain from any attempt to stop burning and polluting.”

    He says don’t stop burning fossil fuels. He all solutions and discussion of them is hopium. This is the worst denialism and defeatism I have seen since TRUMP! This is completely in keeping with all the points in SJ’s blog post here already and only asking him to add more about HOW GUY MCPHERSON GETS IT WRONG ABOUT GLOBAL DIMMING, HIS OWN MCPHERSON PARADOX!

    I did not read the rest of your rant because you are ranting out of control emotionally and it is unclear and nonsense to me. I don’t know what you are talking about 90% of people think they aren’t going to die.You must mean religious nuts. That has nothing at all to do with what I said or what I am saying. You need to go back to the beginning on this. I think you are going off on tangents and starting out with incorrect inferences that this is what I am saying is your first wrong assumption. I think you should give up and go home. It was a question for SJ anyway.

    Therefore my question to SJ is a request for him to further debunk this “MCPHERSON PARADOX” in his blog here because we should now all be upset by anyone spreading such a mess. It does a disservice to all those like me working on solutions.

    You read the question wrong and you are clearly quite confused. I don’t think I can help you. Please ask elsewhere. Start over. Good luck.

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    1. Sam, seriously? You haven’t noticed that to the very best of our empirical knowledge (not abstract, deductive reasoning, philosophical and religious claims to the contrary), EVERY living thing dies, no matter how simple or complex, and including all humans? How can anyone carry on any kind of reasonable conversation with anyone who denies the obvious, massive, and compelling evidence of this reality? Meanwhile, this site that claims reliance on scientific evidence? Are you really complaining that I have not—and will not!—present a list of peer reviewed Ph.D. theses and papers confirming the reality of death on Earth? Even though few of us, indeed, actually accept it in any emotionally meaningful way, most of us have noticed this unfortunate reality from the time we were about eight years old. Does this really come as a shock to anyone reading this?

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      1. What on earth are you even talking about? In what world am I arguing against the reality that is death? I never insinuated that at all. Obviously everyone is going to die one day. That wasn’t what I was contesting.

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      2. You’re being a bit hostile, but okay.

        What you said was “IF we are reasonable and pay attention to massive amounts of compelling evidence we ALL know with ABSOLUTE CERTAINTY, we will soon die.”

        That is what I was arguing against. I took this as you arguin in GM’s favor. Was I wrong in the assumption?

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      3. No, not arguing pro or con regarding any of McPherson’s arguments here. Just emphasizing some unfortunate existential realities about life and death—many of which many people, here, SEEM to wish to deny and avoid. I do think that this terror of death, ubiquitous for all humans in all cultures, probably drives much of the highly emotionally charged anti-McPherson sentiment that occurs here and in other places—just as it has driven SO MUCH human behavior for most if not all of our existence as a species. For much more concerning this, see “The Worm At The Core, On the Role of Death In Life” by psychologists Sheldon Solomon, Jeff Greenberg, and Tom Pyszezynski, as well as “The Righteous Mind, Why Good People Are Divided By Politics and Religion” by moral psychologist Jonathan Haidt. The idea of human extinction is VERY emotionally charged, just as is any discussion of our own, personal death, so people will often want to kill any messenger bearing such an existentially dangerous ideas. Death is, by far, THE most important taboo subject in our rich, supposedly death-avoiding society.

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      4. You’re doing the thing again. That’s the exact thing I just asked you not to do. Stop telling people that the reason they disagree with you is they live in denial of their fear of death, when those people don’t even know what it is you think they disagree with you about. It’s incredibly rude.

        I’m so sick of being told that x, y, and z mental/moral deficiency must be the reason why I would be driven to the extreme action of… noting that a study did not say what McPherson claimed it said. Deal with the facts in civil discussion.

        Leave out all assertions that you know others’ internal thoughts—just make your point.

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      5. Sweet double standard, Scott. It’s quite okay for people here insultingly to psychoanalyze Guy McPherson and his (psychoanalyzed) “worshipers”, as EcoNazi and others do so often, and as much as anyone wants to do that. And it’s okay for people to thank you for your having relieved them of some of their many psychological and emotional anxieties about death, which McPherson, bad (psychoanalyzed) person that he supposedly is, has elicited by pointing to the high probability of a mass human die-off coming soon. All that is fine. Even encouraged. But it’s a very bad no, no for a commenter, here, to point to and emphasize the terror of death issues that so powerfully drive all of us as human beings, including all human cultures from our beginnings. We’re all supposed to be “scientists”, here, who are, presumably, emotionally disconnected from, “beyond”, and/or “above” these death and dying issues, so that remains a taboo subject not allowed for discussion. We’re supposed to focus exclusively on science that suggests death will NOT come soon, not point to the fact that death WILL come to ALL of us SOON, science or no science.

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      6. If Scott’s essay was just an ad hom attack like GM claims then yes I suppose it would be a double standard. This isn’t the case though. Scott didn’t rely on any psycho-analysis to come to the conclusions that he did. It’s also not as though he can control what other people decide to comment.

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      7. You’re being a bit hostile, but okay.

        What you said was “IF we are reasonable and pay attention to massive amounts of compelling evidence we ALL know with ABSOLUTE CERTAINTY, we will soon die.”

        That is what I was arguing against. I took this as you arguin in GM’s favor. Was I wrong in that assumption?

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    2. EcoNazi, you have either purposely or mistakenly completely misunderstood and misrepresented the points I made. Perhaps it would help if you looked up the meaning of “corollary”? On the other hand, you acknowledge that you did not even carefully read what I wrote, so I suppose you won’t do that. Do you want to carefully read what I wrote and then respond to those points, or would you prefer to continue to avoid the whole personal terror of death issue, which exists for ALL of us—yes, including for you, your spouse, parents, and children no matter how much you may wish to deny and avoid it?

      Like

      1. I am raising questions based on confusing statements made, and their implications, and ASKING FOR CLARIFICATION regarding what people think and feel, not telling nor “psychoanalyzing”. Is it not okay to ask for clarification here?

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      2. Thanks for saying this, SJ. Refraining from attacks of each other and keeping to discussing what GM claims or doesn’t is focus here. That’s kind of dialogue, discussion & exploration that woke me up to actual reality and severity of problem, and solutions on all levels. Thank you.

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    3. As a note GMP: discusses his suicide cult connection on his own website. GMP is connected with a shibari cult in Japan and he writes about it himself at https://guymcpherson.com/2017/10/alls-fair/

      I had no intention of psychoanalyzing this NTHE of GMP as a Cult, only factually pointing out that it leans that way with direct connection to both suicide and end times cults. GMP is openly discussing this and each of his website pages sport a link to a suicide hotline as a reminder.

      TO me this is factually important forensically, because the science here is that much more cherry picked toward a culture of death and destruction. I am not against anyone choosing ot participate in that. Everyone is welcome to make their own choices in life and death as far as I am concerned.

      ****What I don’t like is that the inherent defeatism in this message is also being used to excuse climate inaction by many of the followers in this cult that I know personally.*****

      My only issues with GMP are 1) being sure his science is correct 2) pointing out that this message lends itself to defeatism.

      We may be speeding towards our death as I type. I am not denying that because I am a life long nukes activist and I know how bad it is out there and how close we are to midnight by the atomic clock. I am not denying its dire. But I want 1) the science to be very clear here and 2) those who can do something to do it….

      According to eminent climate scientist Michael Mann “‘we can still prevent many of the worst impacts of climate change from playing out”.

      Please be sure to watch the GMP video fully in which he states:

      “We are damned if we do, damned if we don’t and even if we reduce our emissions by as little as 35% we will see up to a 1°C temperature rise…” This is a direct quote!!!!!

      GMP’s video “EVERYTHING YOU EVER WANT TO KNOW
      [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tmi3T3_G93E]

      PLEASE DEBUNK THIS!!Thanks again SJ!

      NOSTROMO SIGNING OFF!!!

      Like

  6. I think commenters need to be more careful about their postings. Read through it before pressing the “Post Comment” button. Unfortunately, comments filled with grammatical and spelling errors will be difficult to parse. No-one is expecting perfection but, sometimes, I can’t really work out what someone is saying, or else I have to make a guess.

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    1. Mike, exactly. Communication is, to grossly understate the situation, difficult. Indeed, it seems miraculous to me that we can communicate as well as we do as often as we do. That’s why we need to: (1) state our present understanding of what another person wrote or said (after carefully reading what they wrote!), (2) ask for clarification concerning where we feel confused or may have gotten it wrong, and then (3) change our understanding accordingly. Unfortunately, many people find all of that too much trouble—especially if they find out that they did not think or write very clearly. Then, far more often than not, Leon Festinger’s self-justification and rationalization takes over after one has experienced some cognitive dissonance.

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      1. Well, yes, make sure you understand the comment you’re replying to, but my point was about comments in general. Make sure they are at least grammatically correct and don’t have spelling errors. Getting both those things wrong can affect the meaning of a comment or make it quite unreadable, or, at least, difficult to read. So re-read your own comment (I’m talking to all commenters, here) before clicking the Post Comment button. Again, I’m not looking for perfection but comprehension.

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  7. Gail Justice said,

    I do think that this terror of death, ubiquitous for all humans in all cultures, probably drives much of the highly emotionally charged anti-McPherson sentiment that occurs here

    Like Scott, I hate this attribution of drives for giving some opinion. You can “think” what you like but I know that, in my case, I criticise McPherson for his lack of understanding of the science, his poor logic, and his supposed ability to predict the future accurately.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I do think he’s correct to point out this inherent bias in our interpreting and drawing conclusions based on volumes of empirical scientific data with regard to humanities chances of survival in the near term. There are such vast challenges that we face that I can’t help but conclude that our chances for surviving through the century are probably fairly slim.
      That is however an opinion of mine and none of us can process or have enough data to make accurate predictions.
      We have no idea for example where the culmination of exponential technologies will lead us, the interactions are just too complex.

      Climate change is just another amplifier for all those challenges. Which I think Guy MC Pherson assumes will result in some rapid cascade of events beyond our control that will ensure our near term extinction. Even though there isn’t sufficient understanding of the data to conclude that. But I get your point about Guy Mc Pherson having misrepresented some of the data with regard to abrupt climate change. Which is damaging to the conversation and has to be shown to his followers.

      Like

    1. I’m not aware of “research” by that blog. If you mean “opinion” then that is not credible because it very often doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. Like using two data points (which aren’t actually data points) to project the future. Like using a handful of data points (which were subsequently found to be erroneous) to make projections about the medium term future warming. Like mixing data from different sources to plot a graph. And so on. The main poster is anonymous and doesn’t allow comments that are too critical. It cherry picks just as much as climate deniers, to paint a gloomier picture than is reality. Because its methods are so easy to refute, it can provide fodder for deniers to show how ridiculous the global warming “alarmists” are.

      Like

      1. So, the data points they use for a lot of their stuff aren’t actually data points? What do you mean? (Not arguing with you. Just genuinely curious.)

        Like

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