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.

2,332 thoughts on “How Guy McPherson gets it wrong

  1. Landbeyond,

    The peace of death? The saying is, “Go NOT gentle into that good night”. Well crud, were already doing that and man is very much alive and kicking. A little gentleness might do us all good.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. SJ,

    Quick question. I was watching a video from the Lima conference and was, I’d say, a bit startled by a couple of videos the speaker exhibited to demonstrate the notion of methane release and it’s potential dangers. Here is the video. Please direct your attention to both the 4:58 mark and the 6:43 mark.

    These videos purport to show methane releases into the environment. Mr. Scott states that there are at least hundred of these plumes all over the arctic (and I presume the coastlines of the world). Are these other than what they appear to be? Are they faked?

    If these are genuine, in number and ongoing, they put to shame the paltry (by comparison) plume of oil released into the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. Such releases, if real, does strike me as rather concerning I should think. Your thoughts?

    Like

    • Ah, more from them, eh? Skimming through, I’ll just remind you that this guy has absolutely no idea what he’s talking about.

      Anyway, the bubble plumes are definitely real, and exist in more places than just the East Siberian Arctic Shelf. Most of them dissolve into the water column long before bubbling through the surface. (And much of that dissolved methane is oxidized to CO2 by organisms.) Methane is commonly produced by microbes in sediment (eating organic matter in zones with little oxygen), and the areas containing methane that has formed hydrates (basically methane trapped in molecular ice cages) are vast. The existence of these plumes is not, in itself, alarming, because we do not know how quickly the rate of emission may be increasing. Similar bubble plumes around Svalbard, for example, have been dated to be thousands of years old. The East Siberian Arctic Shelf has been thawing for around 8,000 years, when sea level rose out of the last ice age and inundated that area. (Even frigid Arctic Ocean water is much, much warmer than the cold Siberian air.) We don’t yet know how much of an impact modern warming has had on the methane coming from that thawing permafrost, but few think it will generate a large addition of methane this century.

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          • DRP, can you be specific about what Scott got wrong, since you seem so certain. Before answering, please re-read his post to see exactly what he has written, rather than what you think he has written.

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        • I like Dolphins R. Persons in this one. What are the feedbacks Hansen is talking about that will kick in at approx. +2C, rendering human mitigation efforts futile? The choices, I believe, are albedo effects from the loss of land ice and CO2 and CH4 feedbacks, largely from permafrost thaw. Please correct me on this, because I have not seen the references for Hansen’s claim, but I have heard similar claims from paleontologists like Michael Benton (I say similar, because, while he says +2C has been critical in other extinction episodes, he did not quantify that point as being an irreversible tipping point. Not to say he wouldn’t—he most likely does not consider himself sufficiently qualified as a climate scientist).

          The “this century” qualifier seems quaint and outdated at this point. We are going to be at +2C before you can blink, and the only thing that will change that is prompt, decisive action. The longer we delay, the more extreme the decisions and actions will have to be. There is also the possibility that events such as war or cascading, unexpected natural events, could relegate current options into the category of what could have been.

          “Strike while the iron is hot”.

          “Act now before the night blots out your light”. (JW von Goethe)

          If California runs out of water next year, I think that may provide an impetus for action.

          OTOH, there are those who until very recently were still saying climate change is not necessarily the culprit in the California drought. I mean, what are the odds??

          Probably Californians won’t be sympathetic to that type of opinion when they hit the road for wetter climes. They might even be angry about the pedantic foot-dragging.

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          • What are the feedbacks Hansen is talking about that will kick in at approx. +2C, rendering human mitigation efforts futile?

            Citation very much needed.

            […]similar claims from paleontologists like Michael Benton (I say similar, because, while he says +2C has been critical in other extinction episodes[…]

            Citation needed, along with justification for why 2C warming in, say, a Permian climate is equivalent to 2C warming above modern preindustrial in this way (but not 2C above Last Glacial Maximum), as well as showing that those changes occurred in less than a century.

            The “this century” qualifier seems quaint and outdated at this point.

            Forgive me for trying to keep things that could happen in the next 100 years separate from the things that could happen in the next several thousand (assuming continued warming).

            OTOH, there are those who until very recently were still saying climate change is not necessarily the culprit in the California drought. I mean, what are the odds??

            Please consider the things you say. It’s frustrating when I have to respond to lazy quips like this. That study itself suggested a role for climate change. But the details matter, and you can’t pretend that natural variability (like, patterns in that big ocean next to California) doesn’t exist just to make your narrative neater. Looking back, the last time you lobbed this at me, I was pointing John to one of the authors of the “worst drought in 1200 years” paper discussing it on Twitter.

            There was just a good modeling study looking at the effect of PDO on droughts in California very relevant to this, but I can’t find the damn thing now. I’m giving up after 10 minutes of searching, because I really need to get back to work.

            It’s really very tiring failing the Bill Shockley Purist Test every time I try to point out complexities that are important to consider. The world is complicated.

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        • bill shockley wrote:
          What are the feedbacks Hansen is talking about that will kick in at approx. +2C, rendering human mitigation efforts futile?

          sj wrote:
          Citation very much needed.

          As I said, I haven’t seen the references and that’s why I phrased by statement as a question. I presume they are included in his well-documented paper:, “Assessing Dangerous Climate Change…”.

          sj wrote:
          Citation needed, along with justification for why 2C warming in, say, a Permian climate is equivalent to 2C warming above modern preindustrial in this way (but not 2C above Last Glacial Maximum)

          I have wondered the same thing, but it seems to be taken for granted, judging by the way they speak. Check out Michael Benton’s “When Life Nearly Died: The Greatest Mass Extinction of All Time” (2005). He has also remarked that 2C is a common level for several of the extinction events. I’m not sure if he says it in that book, but he also said it in a password-only Youtube that I had access to. I believe Balan has seen it. It seens to be a widely held view, but like I said, I haven’t had the opportunity to investigate.

          sj wrote:
          (but not 2C above Last Glacial Maximum)

          Not sure I understand this. Aren’t we already 3 or 4C above that?

          sj wrote:
          as well as showing that those changes occurred in less than a century.

          Hansen seems to think this is the wrong question. If 2C is irreversible, then I agree with him.

          Regarding the NOAA study that included Hoerling as an author, I mistakenly responded to the wrong post. Here’s my reply: https://fractalplanet.wordpress.com/2014/06/21/general-climate-discussion-1/comment-page-3/#comment-4026

          Basically, his ludicrous response to Romm, defending his paper (“the farmers were asking about precipitation”), confirms the denialism in the paper, which is picked apart by Romm and other notable scientists—Trenberth, Mann, among others.

          sj wrote:
          It’s really very tiring failing the Bill Shockley Purist Test every time I try to point out complexities that are important to consider. The world is complicated.

          referring to my criticism of this earlier statement:
          Incidentally, the Francis hypothesis has not been implicated in last winter’s “polar vortex” and California drought, though climate change may not be off the hook

          Which I consider pedantic and, ironically, “purist” dithering.

          The laziness accusation is interesting, seeing as you just put me through several days of argument (not that I think it was time ill-spent) to show that your “lazy” assumption of equating Carana’s calculation with Wadhams’ is likely unfounded. Further proof forthcoming. Shall we endeavor to speak with our actions?

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          • As I said, I haven’t seen the references and that’s why I phrased by statement as a question. I presume they are included in his well-documented paper:, “Assessing Dangerous Climate Change…”.

            Long paper, but I read it for you. Your statement does not match the contents. You should have read it. The closest the paper comes to that is where he’s discussing thousands-of-years scale Earth System Sensitivity. He writes that a 1000 Gt C emissions budget (from the last IPCC report) would limit warming this century to 2C, but could ultimately result in reaching 3-4C much farther in to the future. That doesn’t “render human mitigation efforts futile”. It doesn’t make +2C an “irreversible tipping point”. It’s just an expression of the point that ESS>ECS.

            Not sure I understand this. Aren’t we already 3 or 4C above that?

            Right. So my point is that there’s not something magical about warming 2C in any background climate (Permian, Paleocene, Holocene, or Anthropocene) that crosses a tipping point. We’ve warmed 4-6C since the Last Glacial Maximum. You just can’t make that broad claim.

            The laziness accusation is interesting, seeing as you just put me through several days of argument (not that I think it was time ill-spent) to show that your “lazy” assumption of equating Carana’s calculation with Wadhams’ is likely unfounded.

            You’re kidding me with this, right? You’re telling a funny joke? Because I’m not sure I can process this if it’s not a funny joke.

            My “lazy assumption” was that when Carana wrote “Below are calculations by Professor Peter Wadhams, University of Cambridge[…] Based on these figures, Professor Wadhams concludes that a drop in albedo of 0.0039 is equivalent to a 1.3 W/sq m increase in radiative forcing globally.” it wasn’t an outright lie? And yet, I still wrote “Carana/Wadhams” as a nod to the fact that I couldn’t tell (and still can’t) if Carana was contributing anything. Later, in a master class in creative hyperbole, you described this as “not making the proper distinction between Carana’s work and Wadhams’ work and not noticing that they might not be the same” and “conflating of Wadhams and Carana into one analysis as presented by Carana, which I still find unfounded, troubling and provocative”. Puh-lease.

            You were all too happy to vociferously defend that number when you thought it should be ascribed to Wadhams, of course, leading to me repeatedly correcting your misreading of every other study to that end.

            Every time I sit down to respond to one of your comments when you go on a tear, I look at the clock when I’m done, and wonder why I do this over and over again. As long as I’ve been interacting with you, you have never had the demeanor of someone who wants to figure stuff out. You’re always fighting tooth and nail to hold onto whatever idea got into your head first, disregarding and defaming anything and everything else. Every single frickin’ thing is a knock-down fight. At some point I’m going to stop playing along. It’s draining.

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        • sj wrote:
          He writes that a 1000 Gt C emissions budget (from the last IPCC report) would limit warming this century to 2C, but could ultimately result in reaching 3-4C much farther in to the future. That doesn’t “render human mitigation efforts futile”. It doesn’t make +2C an “irreversible tipping point”. It’s just an expression of the point that ESS>ECS.

          AND,

          Your statement does not match the contents.

          Actually, he says exactly what I wrote.

          Danger of Initiating Uncontrollable Climate Change

          Slow Climate Feedbacks and Irreversible Climate Change [in bold!]

          Excluding slow feedbacks was appropriate for simulations of the past century, because we know the ice sheets were stable then and our climate simulations used observed greenhouse gas amounts that included any contribution from slow feedbacks. However, we must include slow feedbacks in projections of warming for the 21st century and beyond. Slow feedbacks are important because they affect climate sensitivity and because their instigation is related to the danger of passing “points of no return”, beyond which irreversible consequences become inevitable, out of humanity’s control.

          I believe this is not the only example of this type of statement in the paper.

          You could also look to the commentary on the paper. There are a few articles, such as:

          The PLOS One paper calls the safety of that compromise into question, however. Not only might the long-term effects of a 2 degrees C rise be worse than is commonly recognized, the authors say, but any circumstances that bring the world close to that limit by 2100 will most likely commit the world to further increases that might exceed 3 degrees C within another century. Such temperatures would make large segments of the globe virtually unlivable for humans.

          I apologize for not including a precise reference within the paper, to lessen the burden of finding it. I’m usually more considerate than that. Plus, having been through the paper a bunch of times, I guess I forgot how formidable it was for me the first time.

          sj wrote:
          And yet, I still wrote “Carana/Wadhams” as a nod to the fact that I couldn’t tell (and still can’t) if Carana was contributing anything.

          Glad I could help you clarify that.

          sj wrote:
          Later, in a master class in creative hyperbole, you described this as “not making the proper distinction between Carana’s work and Wadhams’ work and not noticing that they might not be the same” and “conflating of Wadhams and Carana into one analysis as presented by Carana, which I still find unfounded, troubling and provocative”. Puh-lease.

          How is this hyperbolic. Seems accurate to me.

          sj wrote:
          You’re always fighting tooth and nail to hold onto whatever idea got into your head first, disregarding and defaming anything and everything else.

          In a backwards kind of way this is true. I will defame someone/something if I think it is “denialistically” motivated. I can’t really help it and don’t wish to. And I’m called a hypocrite for this, because I object to people like Schmidt doing the same thing.

          I think this is almost a fair appellation, but I think an important distinction is that I’m willing to argue the facts and the logic. To the end. Schmidt throws (greatly distorted) stones and runs away.

          sj wrote:
          As long as I’ve been interacting with you, you have never had the demeanor of someone who wants to figure stuff out.

          You can’t prove a negative, so I guess it’s upon me to prove the positive: that I have, at least once, had an equitable demeanor. How about the present post?

          I’m sorry you feel stressed and burdened by my interaction here. It’s your blog. If you feel my comments are detrimental and not worthy of replies, you should say so, or just not post them. I’ll surely understand. It might be best for both of us. Just say something like [Moderator: Worthless garbage… deleted.] I’ll probably get the message. LOL

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          • I don’t need to read articles about the paper when I read the paper. The para you quote does not support your statement.

            Schmidt throws (greatly distorted) stones and runs away.

            Invented claim is invented.

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        • sj wrote:
          I don’t need to read articles about the paper when I read the paper. The para you quote does not support your statement.

          Scott, really. This quote is not from a commentary article, it is directly from Hansen’s full article, “Assessing Dangerous Climate Change… “. I don’t really care if you read the article or not. You asked me for a citation to support my claim and I gave it to you. If this is not what you were looking for, then please be clear about which claim you would like substantiated.

          Danger of Initiating Uncontrollable Climate Change

          Slow Climate Feedbacks and Irreversible Climate Change [in bold!]

          Excluding slow feedbacks was appropriate for simulations of the past century, because we know the ice sheets were stable then and our climate simulations used observed greenhouse gas amounts that included any contribution from slow feedbacks. However, we must include slow feedbacks in projections of warming for the 21st century and beyond. Slow feedbacks are important because they affect climate sensitivity and because their instigation is related to the danger of passing “points of no return”, beyond which irreversible consequences become inevitable, out of humanity’s control.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Yes, I know where that quote comes from. I was responding to two different things you said there. Should have added a line break, I guess.

            You said, “What are the feedbacks Hansen is talking about that will kick in at approx. +2C, rendering human mitigation efforts futile?” and earlier, “and Hansen is calling the point of no return, when ‘slow’ feedbacks begin to kick in and negate any possibility of mitigation.”

            There is nothing about 2C being a special threshold. There is absolutely nothing about mitigation being impossible at that point. This is the para relevant to your statement:

            Now let us compare the 1°C (500 GtC fossil fuel emissions) and the 2°C (1000 GtC fossil fuel emissions) scenarios. Global temperature in 2100 would be close to 1°C in the 500 GtC scenario, and it is less than 1°C if 100 GtC uptake of carbon by the biosphere and soil is achieved via improved agricultural and forestry practices (Fig. 9). In contrast, the 1000 GtC scenario, although nominally designed to yield a fast-feedback climate response of ~ 2°C, would yield a larger eventual warming because of slow feedbacks, probably at least 3°C.

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        • OK. I couldn’t find what exactly it was you wanted substantiated but here it is:

          sj wrote:
          Long paper, but I read it for you. Your statement does not match the contents. You should have read it. The closest the paper comes to that is where he’s discussing thousands-of-years scale Earth System Sensitivity. He writes that a 1000 Gt C emissions budget (from the last IPCC report) would limit warming this century to 2C, but could ultimately result in reaching 3-4C much farther in to the future. That doesn’t “render human mitigation efforts futile”. It doesn’t make +2C an “irreversible tipping point”. It’s just an expression of the point that ESS>ECS.

          Yes, Hansen’s paper exactly matches what I claimed (in bold type, as a matter of FACT) and therefore refutes your claim of an “accurate reading” of the paper and your insinuation that I didn’t read it.

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          • I took “As I said, I haven’t seen the references and that’s why I phrased by statement as a question. I presume they are included in his well-documented paper:” to mean you hadn’t read the paper.

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        • The latest and most recent data by Hansen et al strongly indicate a near term increased sensitivity as temperature rises. The bulk of the rebuttal of McPherson above is out of date. Certainly, the issue of sustainable supply and the order required to sustain a massive human population when agricultural trade collapses is not an extinction scenario, but it will probably do away with the majority of human beings in short order. The new US administration removes any hope of a timely and rational response to these realities. McPherson is being shown to be, in the final effect on human and mammalian life, more right than wrong. Very sadly.

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      • sj wrote:
        There is nothing about 2C being a special threshold. There is absolutely nothing about mitigation being impossible at that point. This is the para relevant to your statement:

        There are actually many relevant paragraphs.

        You could start with the abstract.

        Cumulative emissions of ~1000 GtC, sometimes associated with 2°C global warming, would spur “slow” feedbacks and eventual warming of 3–4°C with disastrous consequences.

        How does this not not satisfy my claim?

        Especially, when taken in conjunction with the statement:

        Slow feedbacks are important because they affect climate sensitivity and because their instigation is related to the danger of passing “points of no return”, beyond which irreversible consequences become inevitable, out of humanity’s control.

        The first statement says nothing about mitigation efforts becoming unfeasible at the 2C point. But the second statement uses the exact term, “points of no return”. So, what point does Hansen consider the “point of no return”?

        Seems to me this statement closes the gap:

        It will become exceedingly difficult to keep warming below a target smaller than 2°C, if high emissions continue much longer.

        This statement puts the missing 2C into the main statement. He doesn’t know the exact number where mitigation becomes impossible—thus the language “exceedingly difficult” and my qualifier of approx. +2C in my original claim. The point of no return might be before 2C and it might be after.

        Further comments related to mitigation possibilities:

        *Third, with our ~1°C scenario it is more likely that the biosphere and soil will be able to sequester a substantial portion of the anthropogenic fossil fuel CO2 carbon than in the case of 2°C or more global warming.

        The global warming and shifting climate zones would make it less likely that a substantial increase in forest and soil carbon could be achieved.

        So, yes, there are specific comments claiming 2C as a central turning point in mitigation opportunities.

        There’s is probably more evidence to support my claim within the paper.

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        • I’ve already explained this for you. You’re not making headway. I think you just started with a misunderstanding from the abstract, and then read the rest to fit that misunderstanding.

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      • sj wrote:
        I’ve already explained this for you.

        I’m not a big fan of lugubrious rhetoric. Provide quotes or links or a short summary so I at least have some idea what you are talking about.

        sj wrote:
        You’re not making headway. I think you just started with a misunderstanding from the abstract, and then read the rest to fit that misunderstanding.

        Ditto on the lugubrious rhetoric. What have you added here?

        Let me simplify things for you:
        If Earth’s albedo and feedback emissions INCREASE around 2C and mitigation can’t keep up or even goes to zero around 2C, then the situation is out of control. Around 2C.

        Please tell me how this is not the exact scenario presented in the Hansen paper.

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        • https://fractalplanet.wordpress.com/2014/02/17/how-guy-mcpherson-gets-it-wrong/comment-page-7/#comment-4032

          What’s the ESS response to 500 Gt C? 750 Gt C? Not given there. You’re assuming it’s a completely different trajectory from the 1000 Gt C scenario. That is your assumption, not a conclusion demonstrated by the paper. Go find evidence for that, or stop going on about it.

          There’s no carbon capture after emissions in that scenario. You think that can’t be done? (And yes, I’m fully aware of the note about reforestation/soil C effectiveness with rising T/GtC.)

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        • sj wrote:
          What’s the ESS response to 500 Gt C? 750 Gt C? Not given there. You’re assuming it’s a completely different trajectory from the 1000 Gt C scenario. That is your assumption, not a conclusion demonstrated by the paper. Go find evidence for that, or stop going on about it.

          Please tell me how I’m assuming something when I haven’t made any calculations. I’ve only quoted from the Hansen paper.

          Please tell me when you’ve figured that out and we can continue our discussion.

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          • I’ve already had to quote you to you once.

            You have said repeatedly that +2C is a special tipping point. If +2C is a special tipping point, then what I’ve just said about emissions scenarios follows.

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        • sj wrote:
          I’ve already had to quote you to you once.

          You have said repeatedly that +2C is a special tipping point. If +2C is a special tipping point, then what I’ve just said about emissions scenarios follows.

          Doublespeak.

          Never mind.

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  3. The globe is warming for some time, thawing ice and permafrost is one result of that. Accelerated warming will automatically trigger accelerated thawing; in combination with ever more CO2 (GHG) emissions caused by the human way of running its biotope the miss-balance of the remains of what was a paradisiac biotope before humans became more ignorant and more souls by the second will be enhanced; rate unknown but definitely looming within our horizon.

    We just experience another hot wave (8°C) and just another storm; that makes it four cycles of snow (cold) and rain(hot) in just 4 weeks of what is now a normal Winter in Scotland.

    caw

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  4. Pingback: The Twin Sides of the Fossil Fuel Coin – Guy McPherson | Klimakino

  5. Hi SJ,
    Glad to see there are others here who have some doubts as to the accuracy and motives of Guy McPherson. I haven’t yet read the comments about how he gets it wrong and will read about them in the next few days. In general, I am surprised at the level of belief McPherson fans are ready to endorse most of his positions. At first, I was mesmerized by the easy manner by which he delivers his message, as if there are no other ways but to admit that the end is already written in the wind and that we might as well face that fact. But then as time went on I began to notice some hesitations in responding to questions which had some weight as to the science used on which to base his position. He seems to solicit unconditional belief that Nature will Bat Last and all else should be discarded in order to maintain that in the end, only love remains. Although I liked his delivery, and also believe the proverbial message that if we don’t do something that nature will indeed bite us in the behind, his responses to McPherson doubters was much less gracious, if not antagonistic.

    Anyway, in short, I look forward to confirming that I am not the only person who has dou8bts as the condition that humans are faced with, which in my unprofessional opinion, is not as dire as McPherson suggests.

    Jean Turcot (Pronounced gen as in genre ) I am a 74 year old male who may have a few tidbits to contribute to this blog.

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  6. Jeremy Jackson has a new video up:

    Evening Lecture | Jeremy Jackson: Sea Level Rise is Dangerous

    Lowlights:
    We’re committed now to 3C global warming
    Most of the world’s ice will melt.
    Within a few decades we will see the WAIS break off => 180cm (6 feet) of SLR
    This breaking off will span a FEW YEARS

    I really love JJ. He’s a great presenter. He speaks from the heart.
    He takes a slightly radical stance and I think he does that calculatingly, to wake people up.
    You could probably nitpick some of his forecasts.
    Hansen is clinging by his fingernails to a more optimistic view. In a few years, even he won’t be able to hold on.

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    • Bill,

      Obama has no moral center… just like Clinton. That’s why he was able to attract, among other reasons, big money power centers like finance, technology and many others. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t still vote. You have to know what the system is, vote one day every four, and keep doing the change work everyday.

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      • Well! Your name’s Balan and my name is Bill, so I guess you must be talking to me! Thanks for the reminder and I do intend to get registered and prepare to vote. Even educate myself in the local political scene maybe.

        I’m especially motivated because I think Jesse Ventura will be on the ticket. It’s time we get an actual clown for President rather than these amateurs we’ve been having.

        Ventura/Hansen/(the newly remarried) Chomsky in 2016!!

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  7. my concern as a scientific lay-person with macpherson’s claims has more to do with his attitude toward the situation, and not only the specific details: scientists are commonly regarded as the group that represents the height of human attainment. no single human being can have all the answers to a problem, but the pursuit of knowledge , as examplified by the achevments of civilisaton, is fundamentally based on the desire to take charge of any situation as much as possible. if scientists today permit themselvs to say ” nothing can be done to save humanity and modern civilisation” therein lies true doom. any soltion to environmental problems that will call upon us to return to pre-electricity technology is also a betrayal of trust, as i see it. and there are far too many such visions out there.

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    • But if those visions were true, wouldn’t if be wrong not to warn people? I believe that a faith in the technology that got us into this mess will magically get us out is a fantasy. Civilization is on the ropes and will most certainly be destroyed because no one is wiling to really heed the warnings. Even the most sanguine assessment admits that. The only argument is how long it will take.

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  8. The problem we have today is that the power of money is so pervasive and omnipotent that it gets hard to trust what is being fed to us no matter where is comes from. Uncorrupted science is our best shot at winning the challenge of survival and sustainability on this planet so we need to get out of the current toxic paradigm as soon as possible.

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    • What!? Plenty of references here. McPherson also has plenty of references but they don’t always corroborate his story. Have you actually tried checking out, and reading, the references McPherson provides, Maggie? If you had, you’d realise that he’s very creative with his interpretations.

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  9. wow what a bunch of non-sense, it is obvious that you don’t have a freakin’ clue wtf is going on and yet you are spending a lot of time peddling this crap

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  10. Thank you for all of your work here. I haven’t accesed all of your links yet, I just read your main post refuting GM’s claim. It’s good to know it’s here to reference. I read GM’s stuff and freak out, but in the back of my mind I know it doesn’t jive with most if what I’ve read on the topic. James Hanson has also been known to be incredibly alarmist but has scaled back recently and is focusing on solutions. I do feel that by the end of this century this planet will change vastly but to what degree I’m not sure anyone can predict. I’m worried much more about my daughter’s future than I am about mine.

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  11. We just had Hansen speak at our UU in Warrington, PA and I’m well acquainted with his work having put in a year at Columbia’s LDEO. In 2000 Hansen said that we had ten years to get it together (not begin to do that but to have it together to do what it takes) to arrest climate change. At that time the Mauna Loa CO2 annual average was 369.48, a bit above what LDEO scientists considered a safe limit. In ’08 Hansen indicated that we were not doing well on that.

    Hansen is currently advocating a “Fee and Dividend” policy. I personally don’t believe that he’ll get Congressional support for that until Hampton Roads and the DelMarVa peninsula goes under at high tide. He didn’t get far with Congress since he testified in 1986 nor with 46 years at NASA Goddard. I’m at work on a documentary based on the UU event and planned interviews in his solar home in Bucks County, PA.

    As a long time member of the Post Carbon Institute, and involved with ASPO I can assure you that McPherson and Hansen are not voices in the wilderness. Yet the news is very bad, and we are loath to play Cassandra. It only triggers severe and unpleasant psychological responses from those in denial. You see, it’s not just the environment. It’s also about energy (yes, peak oil, resource depletion, and overshoot, etc.) and the economy. Looking from a systems perspective those three “E’s” interact as a perfect storm and those clouds are on the visible horizon.

    Note that Lawrence Livermore Labs determined that America wastes 61% to 86% of the energy we use. We waste perhaps 3/4ths of the $1.2 T we spend annually for that wasted energy, and emit more than twice as much CO2 than we would if we were less profligate. Those of us who own homes are likewise fiscally irresponsible in our energy use. (I’m already ducking.)

    The methane situation is growing worse, exponentially. When originally noticed and began to be studied the holes were a meter across, now measure in kilometers. We’re loosing most glaciers. Arctic Amplification (my field of study) has occurred and it IS irreversible, along with many other positive feedback loops. Studies have determined that a one meter sea level rise, which we will likely see in our lifetimes (and I’m 76), will overwhelm the financial ability of the world to cope. The world is already courting financial collapse.

    I once asked my teacher when I could tell if Washington is getting serious about this. He said to look for serious increases in funding for research. I checked in with him late last year and he confirmed that that hasn’t yet happened. My high level contacts confirm that a Manhattan Project like national program of energy efficiency and conservation will be the first step. I don’t see it happening in the near term. How are you doing at home and at work? I think that’s where it starts and the rest is empty rhetoric full of sound and fury….

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    • There’s no awareness. I blame that on the IPCC and the media. I was just talking to a young man, early 30’s, who was filling in for a friend at the food co-op in my town. He was watering trays of seedling vegetable plants and telling me about the community gardens they have in Albany, where he lives, and the outreach programs there to bring healthy food to poor people. He has a degree in environmental something or other, and is aware of global warming and thinks it’s real and that’s all he can say about it. He became uncomfortable when I went off on a tangent about it. Has never heard of James Hansen. If any “average man” should be aware there’s a crisis, it’s this man.

      Absent responsible media coverage, I think the best ambassador for climate awareness would be a carbon tax because it strikes right at the nexus of the multi-head monster, redistributing a log-jam of wealth concentration and educating as it goes, but it’s probably a chicken/egg thing.

      Your cordial host here on this blog covers climate change at ars technica but is luke-warm about it, pandering to the wealthy technophiles’ need for protection from reality. I would like to see a well-researched, strongly advocating article on the need for an honest price on carbon… a revenue-neutral fee/dividend carbon tax. Or at least coverage of what the smartest man in climate change has to say about it.

      The barbarians are ramming the gate, but no one hears them knocking.

      Have you seen Hansen’s contra-IPCC opus, “Assessing Dangerous Climate Change”, from December, 2013? It’s basically a condensation and refinement of what he’s been saying for years, and also an overview of where we stand today wrt climate change: what needs to be done (1C target /500GtC budget) and the contrast between what needs to be done and what the consensus (IPCC) thinks needs to be done, (2C target/850GtC budget).

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      • Your cordial host here on this blog covers climate change at ars technica but is luke-warm about it, pandering to the wealthy technophiles’ need for protection from reality.

        You guys can say whatever it is you want to say, but please don’t make ridiculous shit up about me. I’m really, really sick of this, Bill.

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      • This conversation is about to be about everything except what you post on ars.

        Show me some strong advocacy. Or deny that the situation is critical.

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        • This conversation is about to be about everything except what you post on ars.

          Not even remotely what I just said, and I know you know it.

          Show me some strong advocacy.

          My job is to clearly and accurately summarize new research. What is Bill Shockley’s Standard for me? Do I have to run for office? Distribute leaflets?

          Or deny that the situation is critical.

          Huh?

          After nearly 800 comments over 14 months, I think it’s really time for you to find a new blog to haunt. Your games are played-out with me. I’ve tolerated much more than I think I was obliged to, and given you far too much of my time.

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          • Scott, you have my permission to ban Bill Shockley for his conspiracy theory bent and antagonistic moralistic judgments lacking any basis and refusal to support his claims.

            Balan

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    • Our political leaders and economists are more worried about a financial collapse than climate related issues.

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    • Larry,

      Watch out for ideologue Bill Shockley who labels people like Scott “Koch-funded blogger” without any shred of evidence. His opinion and contributions here should be taken at your own risk.

      Balan

      >

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  12. So McPherson is an alarmist? What I have noticed is that, when it comes to climate change, the very worst-case scenarios kep getting worse. The most extreme predictions from 20 years ago have turned out to be inaccurate only because they weren’t bad enough. The people who’ve been labelled extremist all along have actually underestimated the pace of change.
    I’m glad that you’ve got this blog up because it will be really interesting to track how your mind changes. (If it can).

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    • Jon,

      I do sympathize with you regarding needing better climate models, and the models are improving with time. Climate scientists are doing their best to measure ice melt and methane emissions from hydrates and permafrost as we speak. Other feedbacks are being put into the models as well, and have been. Yes, the pace of change has been underestimated for a confluence of reasons, and that’s changing with time as we get better at modeling. Also, more political pressure is being put on fossil fuel companies as divestment protests ramp up, and more people realize what a 4-5 C world might look like by 2100 if we don’t change. Clearly, if we don’t change it will be species suicide.

      Balan

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    • Jon, do you not think McPherson is raising the alarm and, thus, is alarmist? However, your comment doesn’t address anything that Scott has written here so I’m not sure what value you think it has. In a sense, it doesn’t really matter what Scott thinks of McPherson, if he can show how McPherson plays fast and loose with the science that he tries to use to support his claims. If you think Scott has got anything wrong in his analysis of some of McPherson’s claims, feel free to explain what that is, because McPherson has resolutely refused to engage in a rational debate about this.

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  13. Hi, John. Can’t help buy notice that it seems like you have just come over from McPherson’s Nature Bats Last blog at GM’s request to do battle with us mere mortals. Not only is GM alarmist, but if you actually get around to reading the thousands of posts, you might just learn how GM is not only hyping methane, but misleading people into thinking it’s worse than it really is, which is extremist. It doesn’t sound like you are here to actually have a dialogue, but instead to “track how our minds change. (If it can).” I think from your remarks here you believe our minds are made up and won’t change. Well, I believe you are seriously mistaken. I started on this blog over a year ago, and it changed my mind. I was willing to believe GM, and realized over a year of investigation that GM is an ideologue, kinda like Bill Shockley and Bud Nye. They have their idea of what’s happening, say with methane, but are quoting and citing PhD students (ex. Paul Beckwith) who haven’t published anything yet on climate science yet alone methane, and retired oil engineers (ex. Malcolm Light) who know next to nothing about climate science either and are misreading data on charts and extrapolating doom from them. In essence, McPherson is presently a Conservation Biologist with an agenda to bring down modern civilization in order to save more species, and that’s not science, that’s ideology. There is a huge amount of passive violence in his approach when there are so many positive avenues that can still be taken.

    On this blog you will find people who are very worried about how things are going… SJ is worried and acknowledges that we must change, but doesn’t see the doomsday scenario in the next 20-30 years that McPherson is hyping with his pseudo-scientists or rank amateur scientists. GM makes a bad name for anyone wanting genuine change having adopted the same tactics as climate science deniers, et al.

    If you want to have any semblance of being taken seriously on these blogs, I recommend you change your tune immediately.

    Cheers,

    Balan

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    • I’ve followed this discussion from the beginning, and have learned much from Scott and others. I’m grateful for it. But as I’ve mentioned before, the striking thing about the “How Guy McPherson gets it wrong?” premise is that, apart from Scott himself, almost every regular contributor here hasn’t disagreed with McPherson so much about the severity of the climate crisis, as about the timing of it. The crux of complaints with McPherson is that he thinks doomsday will hit within 20 or 30 years, while Fractal commentators pretty much foresee doomsday (absent radical action) by the end of the century. Distinguished combatants: What the heck difference do a few decades make when we’re talking about something so epochal as possible human extinction? Let’s take the methane issue as a specific example. One of the genuinely reassuring aspects of Scott’s analysis has concerned Arctic methane deposits. In my opinion Scott’s shown that methane probably doesn’t pose an immediate threat. However: as I think he himself will acknowledge, by virtue of the sheer volume of the methane trapped in the Arctic, its release could be a very serious threat down the road. Scott in various ways has issued reassurances that we can probably handle it. But nobody else here has! There’s no need to name names. You know who are. I say this fondly–I myself agree with you–you’re a bunch of doomsday obsessives! Again, the difference between you & Guy McPherson is the question of when, not if. So please, give Jon Waldrup a break. He’s not out of line.

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      • No, no, no. I think very few here disagree with Guy only in the timing of extinction from climate change and environmental damage. Heck even his favourite “expert”, Paul Beckwith, doesn’t agree with him on extinction. Of course, in a sense, extinction is only a matter of time, given the history of life on this planet, but it makes a big difference if that extinction is a million years away versus 20 years away. I’m sure most here acknowledge climate change as a serious threat and many assume that the only way is down, for the foreseeable future, but environmental degradation causing total extinction of all life, or even of human life, within a few decades or even a couple of centuries, is not a given for most people here.

        So you mis-characterise what has been discussed here, which is odd given that you say you’ve followed the discussion from the start. If you don’t think the facts are important, then say so, but I think the facts are an important input to how we view the future. McPherson only entertains his own distorted version of the facts, to inform his opinion and it is bizarre, in the extreme, that so many people seem to follow unquestioningly.

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  14. Lewis, I’m a little tired of people downplaying the flaws in McPherson’s character and in his arguments. as a doomsday obsessive, the difference between me and Guy McPherson consists in first, that he doesn’t care about facts, and second, his insistence on claiming that near-term human extinction is inevitable. It is not a “question of when, not if”. I don’t know whether human extinction will occur within the next century, the next millennium, or in the distant future, and neither does McPherson. We know human beings, like every species, will not exist forever, but that is not at issue. The focus needs to be on the coming few decades, and McPherson is doing his best to distort that focus, seemingly driven by personal motives.

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  15. What’s the problem with the word “extinction”? I didn’t suggest that Fractal commentators have agreed with McPherson about extinction. I suggested that many commentators here at Fractal–in fact, most–have openly worried about dire climate prospects in the not-distant future. Within the century! Hey, it’s very easily checked: the archive sprawls in immediate proximity. Do I need to pull quotes? My comment stands: there’s a lot of McPherson-bashing going on here from people whose views differ from his in important particulars, but NOT in the wider context of climate emergency. To make a big deal about extinction is fussing at the margins, given that most on record here are scared stiff about human prospects and have repeatedly said so.

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    • Who mentioned a problem with the word “extinction”? Who said that many commentators here are not “worried about dire climate prospects in the not-distant future”?
      “To make a big deal about extinction [by 2040 or sooner] is fussing at the margins”, is it? That is precisely McPherson’s main (and baseless) claim, the one with which he’s making a name for himself, prompting fatalism in some and despair in others.
      You seem to be conflating “climate emergency” with NTHE. I suggest you pause for a while and consider precisely what it is about commenters here you are criticizing.

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      • Mike Roberts states that “environmental degradation causing total extinction of all life, or even of human life, within a few decades or even a couple of centuries, is not a given for most people here,” and adds, addressing me, “So you mis-characterise what has been discussed here.” What? I made one reference to “possible extinction,” in a particular context. I didn’t raise anyone’s views about extinction, animal or human. I did raise the fact that many commenters at Fractal have registered very high levels of alarm about human prospects. If Mike thinks that’s a mischaracterization, he should check the Fractal comments archive. What is it precisely that I’m criticizing? I wrote in today because of something Balan said to Jon Woldrup: “If you want to have any semblance of being taken seriously on these blogs, I recommend you change your tune immediately.” What a strident and high-handed rebuke that is. Here’s what Jon had written: “So McPherson is an alarmist? What I have noticed is that, when it comes to climate change, the very worst-case scenarios keep getting worse. The most extreme predictions from 20 years ago have turned out to be inaccurate only because they weren’t bad enough. The people who’ve been labelled extremist all along have actually underestimated the pace of change.” One might dispute some of the specifics of what Jon wrote. However, we all know that yesterday’s climate extremism all too often has indeed become today’s observed fact. It’s one of the biggest cliches in science journalism. So I’m wondering, Why jump down Jon’s throat? It occurred to me that it might have been because he dared to pose the rhetorical question, “So McPherson is an alarmist?” Here’s my question: Who cares if McPherson’s an alarmist? Who cares if he’s in left field about NTHE? Why is it such a high responsibility to denounce him that, in a fit of righteousness on a blog devoted to science, someone like Jon must “change his tune immediately”? What gives Balan the right to be so bossy? Meantime, even if it’s true–and I think it is–that available science strongly suggests that human extinction isn’t likely within a few decades, how confident should we be that relatively near-term extinction ISN’T a growing possibility? I’d suggest that we shouldn’t be at all confident, for reasons that Jon succinctly identified in his post: with climate-prediction history our guide we must expect bad developments sooner rather than later. In light of all that, worry about Guy McPherson inflicting fatalism and despair on the public seems, frankly, not terribly important. We have clearer reasons to feel fatalism and despair.

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        • What other people write is their affair. The only reason to “worry about Guy McPherson inflicting fatalism and despair on the public” is that he’s doing so with a fair amount of success, and not based on facts. If he would just keep quiet or start taking science seriously I would have no problem with McPherson. Meanwhile, too many people are willing to give him a pass because “worst-case scenarios keep getting worse”, which is irrelevant to his own conduct.

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        • Lewis, as this is a science blog, Scott is concerned about science. Guy McPherson’s interpretation of the science is flawed, as Scott has pointed out. I see no problem with Scott raising that issue. He has other blog posts, too.

          Balan is just a commenter here, he has no more rights than any other commenter. I personally think he went over the top with his condemnation but I think he apologised for some of it.

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    • Lewis, it was you who wrote, “What the heck difference do a few decades make when we’re talking about something so epochal as possible human extinction?” The inference is that many or most here think human extinction is inevitable within a few decades of McPherson’s estimate. The move the goalposts by using “the wider context of climate emergency” is unhelpful. A huge number of people who follow the science know that we have a climate emergency but very few think the science leads inevitably to a conclusion of extinction. It’s the interpretation of the science that is at the heart of this post. Surely you knew that?

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      • “Possible” human extinction. What I wrote doesn’t remotely mean what you think it does. Or are you saying that you believe that climate-related human extinction, sometime over the next 100 years or so, is impossible?

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        • No, I’m not saying it’s impossible. Nor am I saying it’s unlikely. I’m saying that McPherson doesn’t know the likelihood and doesn’t know the future, even though he states his opinions as certainty.

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          • Mike, I too have no problem with Scott criticizing McPherson’s science. I opened with an expression of appreciation for what I’ve learned at this site, particularly about methane. If Balan has stepped back from his attack on Jon, that’s good news. And I’m glad to see that you feel that Balan overstated his objections. My concerns about this discussion–they go back to the beginning, more than a year ago–are simple. I agree that it isn’t useful to distort science to produce hopelessness. But I also think that one must be careful not to encourage false reassurance. The overwhelming message from this blog is that Guy McPherson is an avatar of fake doom. Yes, he’s distorted some of the science to make his case. But I wonder–and Balan’s recent comments make me wonder anew–if ridicule of Guy McPherson verges on ridicule of justified alarm. Don’t throw all the doomsday babies out with the bathwater, is what I’m saying. Some of them–as you know–are all too real.

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          • I’ll just add this: the fact that Guy McPherson’s wild claims, on a Venn diagram, overlap with “climate change is serious” isn’t much of a defense of McPherson’s contribution to the conversation. That is the lowest possible standard.

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          • Except that–tell me if I’m wrong–the improbable thing about most of McPherson’s claims isn’t that they will happen, but that they’ll happen very soon, within a few decades from now. This doesn’t mean of course that his claims will at some point come true. Given current trends, however, it’s prudent not to take bets on that. We must plan for extremely serious developments. It’s not a good idea to conclude that climate catastrophe is unlikely. Yes?

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          • Sorry for the long delay— I was traveling for a few days.

            So, I’ve used this example before, but I think McPherson is no more helpful than someone claiming that an asteroid is going to destroy all life on Earth next Tuesday. He doesn’t have all the details of how that would work quite right, and his claim about timing is false, but he’s right that we may get hit by one at some point, and that it would be very bad news. (There’s no foil for projected climate change in this analogy, but I think you can see my point.)

            I feel like this is always posed as “isn’t it better to have McPherson than nothing”, which is kind of irrelevant as we have quite a lot of actual science being talked about. There are a thousand sane, serious voices out there. Nobody needs McPherson.

            There’s no science to support the idea that McPherson’s predictions are accurate, but just a couple decades early.

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          • Lewis, to add to Scott’s comment, I’d say that Guy’s modus operandi is actually counter productive to the effort to get people to see just what kind of trouble we’re in. I realise that every time a ultra doomer’s position is shot down (quite rightly), it can sometimes appear that the shooter is saying it’s all going to be OK, don’t worry (Guy often ridicule’s people who criticise him in this way). I don’t believe I’ve ever said that, nor do I think other’s have said that here. Sadly, Guy is utterly convinced of his own false analysis and,,given that NTHE is his primary message, I don’t think Guy worries too much that his approach might inhibit climate change action because humans will go extinct soon anyway; instead, he’d like us to live a life of excellence, whatever that means.

            So, yes, we’re in serious trouble and, in my view, very few people seem to realise that, being more interested in paying the next bill or piling up the next million or kowtowing to their mates. We’ve only seen lip service to the issue so far. But Guy is harming (admittedly, in a small way) the debate rather than enhancing it. I don’t believe Guy has been “ridiculed” here (at least not much), as you claim, but his poor interpretation of the science certainly needs to be ridiculed and marginalised, because he does the cause of action against our destructive tendencies no good at all.

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          • Wait a second. Don’t we have science to support the idea that McPherson’s predictions could prove accurate by the end of the century? Humor me for a moment and substitute “the collapse of industrial civilization” for “human extinction.” The IPCC is talking about 4C warming by the end of the century without a major & rapid change in BAU: and nothing now on the horizon remotely suggests a major & rapid change in BAU. Meantime, no one I’ve read has suggested that industrial civilization can survive 4C. The IPCC’s projections read like doomsday scenarios. That’s because 4C is a doomsday scenario. Yes, it probably wouldn’t kill us off in short order, but how about regime tip into 4C or hotter for 300,000 years? Humans and most other species now living have never experienced that hot a world. Etc. Etc.

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          • Don’t we have science to support the idea that McPherson’s predictions could prove accurate by the end of the century?

            Define “could”. Take a catastrophic release of methane from clathrates, for example, which is the heart of McPherson’s doomsday. Remember that the IPCC and NAS reports rate this scenario as “very unlikely” this century.

            nothing now on the horizon remotely suggests a major & rapid change in BAU.

            I don’t think this is fair to say, anymore. Look at the US EPA’s proposed carbon rule. Look at China’s pledge to peak emissions by 2030. Look at the G7 pledge from a week or two ago. These may not be enough to stay below 2C, but they would be significant departures from the BAU scenario that hits 4C.

            Meantime, no one I’ve read has suggested that industrial civilization can survive 4C.

            This is that squishy prediction, again. This isn’t a rigorous, scientific claim. It’s an opinion. And the only people writing about whether industrial civilization can survive are the people who are very interested in the idea that industrial civilization can’t survive. I’m not trashing the opinion, but it shouldn’t be treated as some reliable fact.

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          • I don’t think this is fair to say, anymore. Look at the US EPA’s proposed carbon rule. Look at China’s pledge to peak emissions by 2030. Look at the G7 pledge from a week or two ago. These may not be enough to stay below 2C, but they would be significant departures from the BAU scenario that hits 4C.

            sorry, Sj, but I had to chuckle a little at this. Yes, I suppose such statements of commitment might be taken as a glimmer of hope that serious action to reduce emissions significantly just might happen. However, the level of CO2 in the atmosphere keeps rising and governments making the statements are still supporting oil companies in the discovery of fossil fuels that we can’t possibly burn to have a chance at limiting warming to even the weak political limit of 2C above preindustrial. Actions speak more loudly than words. I still think there is no sign that significant action will be taken. Will that change in December? I doubt it, as nothing is due to be actually done until 5 years later.

            Lewis, though, seems to think that the end of industrial civilisation by the end of the century (a very real possibility, IMO) would be equivalent to McPherson’s claim of NTHE by mid-century. That is not remotely true.

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          • What you and Scott (above) say is so obviously true it’s hard to accept that others can’t see it. Who, indeed, needs McPherson? (Though I suspect that McPherson very much needs his followers.)
            It reminds me of peak oil. The first time I encountered the topic I grasped its significance, in outline at least, at once. I think many do, yet other apparently intelligent people are even now incapable of understanding it. Maybe the emotional component to accepting the validity of arguments is more important than at first appears. McPherson has a decidedly emotional appeal. Even some who accept that he is “wrong”, still can’t let go of him, as we see. Anecdotal evidence suggests that a lot of people find peak oil too scary to accept.
            I don’t know the solution to this “emotion” obstacle, but we should at least be aware of it.

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        • Lewis, think about what you’re saying, which is effectively: “Don’t we have science to support the idea of human extinction occurring by 2040 proving accurate by 2100”. Can you see the problem? NTHE is McPherson’s thing; it’s what gets him invited to so many places to put a scare into the locals and onto so many shows to boost ratings. It’s the prospect of a planet devoid of humans within what would otherwise be the lifetimes of his listeners or their children. If he was predicting human extinction or “just” the collapse of industrial civilization by 2100 he would just get yawns.
          If you take McPherson out of your own expectations for the future of humanity, does it make a scrap of difference?

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  16. We certainly do not “need McPherson” to understand anything about science. That’s one reason I find the focus on him here fairly odd. In terms of science, we already have abundant and incontestable evidence that greenhouse is a huge calamity. However, we do need to understand that we’re inflicting great harm on civilization unless we take profound actions that we’re not taking. This bears repeating in different form: We’re not taking actions we must take to prevent what we might as well call doomsday. (Another reason McPherson is mostly quaint: he’s not for actions on emissions.) Scott, you disagree. I gather that you think that we ARE taking adequate actions. You think we’ll be OK. That’s our main difference of opinion. Here is why I take exception to the anti-McPherson drumbeat in this discussion: his skewed science and his emotional motivations & failings–whatever they may be, and I couldn’t care less what they might be–are completely irrelevant. The relevant thing about McPherson is that he points out that we are destroying our world. That is what makes him relevant. He’s almost certainly wrong about the timing but he’s right about the basic fact. Very few people are willing to talk in public in such dire terms. It’s the strangest thing: there’s a kind of taboo. McPherson has violated the taboo, which I think is a good thing, but unfortunately he’s done it without using appropriate science to make his case. That’s a big mistake. It invites justifiable ridicule. But the REAL mistake is thinking that McPherson’s alarmism is foolish. That’s the issue at hand. This discussion is an even-tempered and reliable guide to much of importance but not to the main problem: we’re in an emergency so dire that we might indeed not survive it. I’m concerned that people read Fractal and conclude that, since Guy McPherson has wildly erred, we can breathe a sigh of relief. “Whew! Close call! But we’re actually OK!” It would be lovely if that were so. But it isn’t.

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    • That’s one reason I find the focus on him here fairly odd.

      It’s only a focus here because I very rarely write blog posts, and all you wonderful people are here because of the McPherson one.

      I gather that you think that we ARE taking adequate actions. You think we’ll be OK.

      No, that’s never been my position. But we’ll hang on a definition again, this time “OK”. No, I don’t think humans would go extinct in 2100 if we went BAU. I don’t even think industrial civilization could go away that quickly. So if that’s your definition of “OK”, then it’s fair. I do think we’d be in dire, ugly circumstances in 2100 though, and that this is the defining challenge of my generation. So I would never describe it as “we’ll be OK”.

      The relevant thing about McPherson is that he points out that we are destroying our world. […] But the REAL mistake is thinking that McPherson’s alarmism is foolish.

      I’ll just repeat myself: there is an absolute multitude of people pointing out the destructive environmental consequences of human activities without inventing facts, accusing scientists of lying, and distorting research. McPherson is no more helpful, or serious, or accurate, than a subway doomsday prophet. What McPherson is saying is absolutely foolish. The fact that there is a nugget of truth beneath his heaps of nonsense is not a redeeming quality when that truth is widely available in complete form. You might be sick of me talking about McPherson (which I do when people ask me about him…) but I guarantee I’m more tired of it than you are! The public conversation about climate and environment is much better off if his name never comes up.

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      • Hi, Lewis.

        I empathize with you for appreciating how McPherson brought to your attention the gravity of the problem, and how at the same time you’re grateful for Scott for getting the facts straight, and despite both, you are still lingering on how deadly dangerous things might be two decades from now if we don’t transition over to a 100% renewable energy system within the next 20-35 years. I’m with you! I am the same. Having said this, Guy McPherson and Paul Beckwith are utterly useless in the climate change debate as neither are reliable sources of information. Instead, I think you’d be wise to consider Climatecentral.org, climatecrocks.org, and for weather, Jeff Master’s blog at Weather Underground, and for general goings on in climate change activism, Bill McKibben on his Twitter feed at https://twitter.com/billmckibben. Of course, don’t forget our trusted fact-checker Scott Johnson. :-)

        Yes, we are in deep trouble. Can we get out it? Yes, if we act now. Are we acting now? Renewable energy is exploding at the moment providing in the US some 90% of new generating capacity, and is now competing at price with present subsidies in favor of fossil fuels. What about Congress? Nothing. The President? Yeah, he’s upping CAFE standards on automobiles, but then he’s letting Shell drill in the Arctic. He didn’t approve XL Pipeline, but he might change his mind, who knows. What about States? States are taking action like in California that very much attempt to become largely renewable energy by 2050. Hawaii aims to be 100% renewable sooner, and can do it as the price of oil imports there is sky high burning a whole in most consumer’s pockets. See new report by Stanford engineers on a state-by-state plan for all fifty states to go 100% renewable by 2050.

        http://news.stanford.edu/pr/2015/pr-50states-renewable-energy-060815.html

        The business model of solar and wind companies is disruptive to traditional energy companies because the costs are so competitive. Right now Solar City can come to many homes and put up the solar panels without any money down on the promise of reducing their electric bills.

        The price of renewables, solar and wind in particular, keeps falling because the economy of scale keeps increasing, with no end in site. This is disruptive, no doubt. Solar is scaling faster than cellphone adoption.

        http://www.thenation.com/article/176475/will-solar-save-planet/

        This is incredibly significant as the energy system is already electrified, making efficiency gains as solar has little energy loss compared to fossil fuels (not including transmission lines which are equal for all forms).

        Is it enough to just sit back and pop up a solar panel? Hell, no. The fossil fuel industry isn’t just going to drop dead without a fight. Settler-state USA and other nations aren’t going to just stop colonizing nations and its own citizens because we’ve gone 100% renewable. There will still be good and evil, good will still happen to bad people, and bad will still happen to good people.

        (excuse this for being so long… and thanks if you’ve made it this far…)

        If we are able to come out of this alive and relatively unscathed, on the bright side we can look forward to unprecedentedly clean cities with little noise pollution, new global environmental regulations which keep our ocean from acidifying, a redistribution of wealth and energy in which every home can generate it’s own electricity, or close to it, or even generate surplus and sell it back for a profit. We are looking at a convergence of technologies in sensors, internet, and vehicle transport in which auto accidents are dramatically reduced to computer assist driving, massive amounts of time saved having to drive, and more. While utopia doesn’t exist, we certainly can change our dream to consume less, and for those of us with means and time, invest that toward a livable future for my son and his children. That’s something I can and am doing now.

        To return to McPherson and company, I’m done with them. The only use I have for them is to remind of how far I’ve come in my own awareness and development. Yeah, I appreciate GM for waking me the F up, but he also did in a really F-ed up way. In my book, the cancel each other out. James Hansen? Michael Mann? Bill McKibben? Jeff Masters? They’ve got my attention now.

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        • Balan, it’s been interesting seeing your transition from someone who seemed to be supporting McPherson (or at least tending that way) to someone who recognises that GM has nothing to offer the discussion. I’ve followed a similar path. But you now seem to be giving prominence to those who believe industrial civilisation can go on with a transition to renewable energy. Maybe it can, but I don’t think so. However, one has to remember that we seem to be in the sixth extinction event, an event caused not (yet) by climate change but by industrial civilisation. Though I don’t think renewables can power industrial civilisation, the thought that it could continue for the rest of the century is a very scary thought.

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          • Hi, Mike.

            Yeah, I have changed, but I’m not attached to changing again based on the evidence. The discussion on EROEI is fascinating, including James Hansen’s insights Bill shared. I just saw an interesting talk Nick Breeze recorded of UK government scientist talking about how our home is a tiny part of our global carbon footprint and many assume that all they have to do is pop up a solar panel. I liked his wide view incorporating transport, food, commercial spaces, etc.

            With respect to human extinction, while we humans have managed to accelerate extinction rates of other species dramatically, when the end game comes is open to considerable debate, and there is no consensus in scientific literature as far as I know, let alone anything proving when it might happen…just vague pronouncements.

            I agree with you NTHE by 2050 is not realistic, and that collapse of industrial civilization by 2100 is a distinct possibility, though probably not human extinction, though I’m open to the eventual possibility.

            I think the Chinese and U.S. are serious about binding carbon reductions by 2030 as policy elites are starting to change, though the change isn’t nearly what it needs to be. I agree with Scott that these are signs that we won’t see BAU as time unfolds.

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  17. With some trepidation, I’m going to enter the discussion at this point. When I first encountered McPherson’s writings some time back, I was alarmed and upset. What, my own children didn’t have a future?! There was nothing we could do that would ever make a shred of difference? The planet had the equivalent of terminal cancer, and we were just fooling ourselves if we indulged in “hopium” for anything else? At the same time, I was bothered by the comfortably white, male and wealthy McPherson’s dismissal of the hopes and struggles of folks who were in the trenches fighting, despite the odds, to make a difference. It’s all very well to say “find your tribe” and “lead lives of excellence” to the comfortably well-to-do, but that advice means nothing to people fighting for survival. So it was a relief to come across Scott’s blog: he showed how McPherson used or interpreted scientific tidbits to support his central hypothesis (NTHE), rather than the reverse. He reaffirmed that neither McPherson nor anyone else can know the exact prognosis for our ailing planet. However: in retrospect, I’m glad to have come across NBL and become alarmed by the crazy prospect of no more human life in 20 (?30) years. Hearing McPherson’s perspective, valid or not, has added an element of urgency to my own efforts to understand our escalating crises and formulate an answer to the philosophical question, How, then, shall we live? McPherson throws out his perspective (agggh); Scott says, hold on a minute, you’re presenting things as facts when they’re not (thank you Scott). But I’ve really appreciated Lewis Gannett’s contribution to this thread. I agree with his take on the gist of the comments here. I remember being aware of deforestation and hearing the machine-sound of trees being clearcut when I spent several years in Sumatra in the early 80s, no matter how pristine the forest looked; I remember seeing elephants in Aceh, and orangutans (“orang hutan”, people of the jungle) in North Sumatra; have you seen the recent photos of the palm plantations in Sumatra, and of the dying orangutans whose habitat is being decimated?! What’s happening to our world is tragic, horrifying. Plants, marine life, amphibians, animals, indigenous peoples are losing their habitat and dying, even as our human population (=> resource consumption) grows exponentially and our politics get more dangerous and convoluted. This ongoing 6th extinction, and its causes, is the real issue – not our prophet of NTHE doom & his opinions. Most of my friends are oblivious. My kids are aware, but preoccupied with the concerns of the young, not the middle-aged (like me): which college? which job? which partner? Lewis, it seems to me you were acknowledging that McPherson’s schtick does indeed have some basis in reality; I completely agree. I appreciate your thoughtful tone & your persistence in making your point. Scott, sorry for the length of this entry and thank you for creating this forum & for always trying to focus on the actual science.

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  18. Hi Foggysunset, and thank you for your kind and graceful remarks. (I tried to “like” your comment and ran afoul of a sign-in requirement that popped up; wrong username, which I somehow can’t fix.) Scott, it may be that we have “an absolute multitude of people pointing out the destructive environmental consequences of human activities without inventing facts,” and so on, but to me the single most noteworthy aspect of this historical moment is that the multitudes you mention don’t speak with voices loud enough to stand out against the wash & noise of everyday life. Whose voice sounds an alarm that people actually hear? It’s a really strange state of affairs. I must mention that I’m astounded that President Obama has been so mild–to the point of near-inaudibility–with his climate statements. We are getting almost no sense of emergency from the president. It’s eerie: he does of course grasp the gravity of the situation. It’s almost as though he doesn’t feel that the public can handle the truth. But what a low-rent genre-fiction interpretation that is! Worthy of “The X-Files.” And yet! It’s not at all as though we have any luxury of time, that the president and other leaders at his level have room to improvise. Here we are with no assurance, for example, that the Paris conference will put teeth in 2C. In fact, we get signals that 2C is hopeless wishful thinking. Who is yelling about this? Audibly yelling? No one. (Maybe the Pope’s voice will carry.) Meantime, smart people like you, Scott, along with various of the regulars here, worry about fake doomsday from Guy McPherson. How many are concluding that Guy proven wrong is doomsday proven wrong?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey, Foggysunset. Welcome to the discussion.

      I know how you feel having felt the same myself. I completely concur with you about being awoken to the sixth mass extinction and the tragedy of what’s been going down in Sumatra with palm plantations, and 50% of all species destroyed in the past 40 years. Geez… no question, it’s sometimes too much to take in. One stands at the threshold of a massive precipice, and we wonder if we will fall.

      Guy McPherson isn’t just doomsday proven wrong, he willfully misleads people knowing full well he’s doing it. I think there is just no way in hell he could actually believe what he’s saying, with the educational background he has. I’m confident he wants you to have that reaction, so he does it as a “learning” device. I assume that Guy McPherson was hated by some of his former colleagues at the University of Arizona – who were happy to see him go (as McPherson told me himself) – because he wasn’t teaching science anymore, but ideology. Now, I understand how he could come to an ideological conclusion seeing so many species die at the hands of modern so-called civilization. It enraged him so much that he began to hate people to see what we are doing to the Earth. He transitioned from scientist to prosecutor looking for any kind of evidence that could prove his case, in science called “picking cherries”. Scientists aren’t supposed to do that, but just the facts, ma’am, please. But in his case, it was for him irresistible. His thrust, as with many Doomers, is to bring down modern civilization in order to protect what species he believes will remain.

      (kids just came home… to be continued…)

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    • Lewis said…

      Here we are with no assurance, for example, that the Paris conference will put teeth in 2C. In fact, we get signals that 2C is hopeless wishful thinking. Who is yelling about this? Audibly yelling? No one.

      I disagree. There is a rapidly growing climate justice movement led by the likes of Bill McKibben, Naomi Klein, and dare I say, The Pope. Millions of people are coming together to fight fossil fuel companies (First Nations people, especially, but see Kayaktavists in Seattle some of whom chained their bodies to anchors of Shell support ships and drill rigs), lobby politicians (see Citizens Climate Lobby), student-lead divestment campaigns on many college campuses in the US (Stanford gave in to student demands), States taking action Congress won’t due to Koch-brothers funding (see California’s efforts to go 100% renewable by 2050 – as goes CA, so goes the nation – and Hawaii even earlier), and renewable energy companies pioneering a distributive grid model that essentially democratizes power and takes it away from the energy oligarchs. Also, see Paul Hawken’s list of hundreds of thousands of environmental organizations around the world struggling for change.

      I know it can be overwhelming the obstacles involved and to feel alone, but you are part of the greatest environmental campaign of all-time, and it starts with you doing whatever you can to affect whatever you can. You are responsible for the predictable consequences of your own actions. As the tried and true quote from
      Gandhi, “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” We are in the fighting stage. Fight on.

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      • The Pope might be the first to yell audibly. McKibben, Hansen, the U.N. Secretary-General, and even Al Gore have all been canceled out by the white noise of everyday mass distraction. The most telling aspect of the fact that we don’t hear loud, authoritative voices on climate change: President Obama’s barely audible murmur. He doesn’t roar. He’s not at all Churchillian. Given the situation that’s pretty darn strange.

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  19. Thanks Balan for your generous comments. I’ve been a Bill McKibben reader for years and actually asked him to blurb my 1996 novel, Magazine Beach (HarperPrism), which concerns a mad MIT glaciologist with research projects in West Antarctica. He also has designs on coastlines worldwide. This wasn’t the first book I published, but the first I wrote; I started it in the ’80s. So I guess you could say that I’m an old hand at climate alarm. The news of a year ago that the West Antarctic Ice Sheet is “disintegrating”–irreversibly–hit me with a sense of deja vu. It’s true, however: truth is stranger than fiction. By the way, McKibben declined to blurb my book, on the grounds that he teaches Sunday School and the story includes themes that are “a little racy”; I think that’s the way he put it. I won’t distract from the solemnity of this page with details. Best to you, and thanks again.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi, Lewis. You’re welcome.

      Yeah, great to hear you follow McKibben, and it hit me too – the disintegration of the ice sheets. That ice melting is what Hansen has described as a tipping point, but then it’s one that lasts for decades and even centuries. I believe that 1.5C is the threshold we should not cross, not 2C. The 2C threshold is the most bottom of the barrel weak-kneed milk-toast limit, apparently, according to McKibben. That’s why they’re called 350.org, I suppose – although 350 ppm would be, I guess, more like .7C not 1.5C.

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      • I’d be interested to hear what Scott might say about the feasibility of 1.5 vs. 2C or hotter. Actually Scott, you’ve suggested that you doubt we’ll cap warming at 2. As I understand it, there’s the question of momentum, and of stored heat taking its time to manifest. But there’s momentum of another kind, which has to do with style of living; consumerism, in a word. It’s great to think that the world economy might simply jump tracks from fossil fuels to renewables, with the train barreling onward without much of a jolt, growth continuing more or less, and so on. But this isn’t possible, as various kinds of analysis have shown. Simply put, we can’t transition to non-carbon fuels without a drastic decline not only in the rate of power-use growth, but also of actual present-day use. Electricity use must decline from present-day levels: by a lot. (Puts a damper on the electrification of poor parts of the world: a major political problem.) Some wonder if nuclear might come to the rescue. I favor a close look at nuclear. It’s a horrible fix, but frankly, I don’t see a realistic way to cut power demand to the level we need, to get off carbon as massively and as rapidly as we must in order to avoid 3C or whatever the hell it’ll be. So let’s say the U.N. under U.S. leadership launches a crash nuke program worldwide, using the new Lockheed tech maybe, which apparently is a little less poisonous than current nuke tech. How fully would that replace carbon, in a drive to preserve our present way of life as best we can? I suspect that even that would fail badly. Which raises an unsettling prospect. In order to get off carbon we need some form of economic shrinkage, and in a hurry. This is what you call a crash (esp. given the nature of market economies: they must grow, or else). To be plain about it, it’s what you call economic collapse. In other words, Balan: we may be facing some form of phase-out of industrial civilization no matter what. If, that is, we want to keep things from boiling over. This, in short, is what President Obama isn’t telling us. Why? Because he doesn’t want to precipitate mad market panic. I suspect that we all know, at some dismal level of repressed rage, that this is true. But we don’t know how to deal with it. Not yet. But we have to try! What do you say, Scott? Let me guess: geoengineering here we come. But be honest. Doesn’t geoengineering take us to the very cusp of molten-magma doomsday all by itself? Seeing as we don’t yet have the technology and don’t have the faintest idea if any conceivable tech would actually work? Oh, take a break, and put on your sci-fi hat. I know you have one.

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        • In order to get off carbon we need some form of economic shrinkage, and in a hurry. This is what you call a crash

          I don’t think this is true. Everyone loves to argue over economic models, but the <2C pathway in the last IPCC report isn’t remotely so bleak. I agree that it would be tremendously difficult to actually turn the ship that quickly, but you don’t need to blow up the ship to do it.

          What do you say, Scott? Let me guess: geoengineering here we come.

          My guess is that we never touch the solar radiation management geoengineering I think you’re referring to, but that carbon dioxide removal has an important role to play. But I will say that SRM isn’t really all that difficult (but yes, there are side-effects that would probably cause even more disagreement). For example, I think this paper is worth reading: http://keith.seas.harvard.edu/papers/174.Keith.MacMartin.ATemporaryModerateandResponsiveScenarioforSolarGeoengineering.pdf

          And since you seem to be assuming otherwise, my personal wish is that we don’t do that.

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  20. I give McPherson great credit for having the prescience to forgo reproducing (he wrote about this in early posts before going off the rails with near-term human extinction). I can’t, however, commend him for much else.

    A great comment I read recently and an example of McPherson’s strange, detached viewpoint towards misery in general:

    “… I do know that his cavalier, clueless attitude about human reproduction in a time of suffering, NTE or not, has prevented the average population activist in my group from giving him any credence. And it’s too bad too because he once wrote in his blog about his decision to remain child-free at age 20 in 1980. Here is the quote that killed what little was left of his reputation:

    Dahr Jamail/Truthout, 12/01/2014, ‘Are Humans Going Extinct?’

    Jamail: What would you say to young couples now who are having children, or are trying to get pregnant?

    McPherson: We have means of preventing that. [McPherson smiles and pauses]

    I try to encourage people to pursue their passion, to do what they love, and apparently some people love having children. Obviously I think that’s a terrible strategy, given how little time we have on this planet as a species, but who am I to interrupt somebody else’s reproductive rights?

    So if you love having children, have children and love them, and no matter how long their lives are, try to make them be joyous years. I think that goes for all of us, and if that means you want to bring children into the world, who am I to stop you from pursuing what you love? That’s what I try to encourage people to do.”

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  21. Thanks for sharing that, CFPA. Since McPherson has many parents involved in his group, my guess is that he can’t afford to offend them since he requires their support financially and emotionally.

    Here’s an interesting response by an atmospheric/climate scientist to one of McPherson’s recent presentations (apparently, this scientist took a dislike to being told that we may have only 18 months to live, McPherson’s new possible drop-dead date):

    http://www.cowichanvalleycitizen.com/news/global-warming-hysteria-or-reverse-climate-denialist-1.1973851

    Facebook quotes:

    McP: “If even 10% of the people in this country acted on my message, the whole house of cards would come down. Your life is short. Stop buying crap you don’t need. Stop working your meaningless job. Yesterday [sic] person who has been trying to promulgate my message was hacked. His/her life was threatened. S/he quit promulgating my message.

    Al Gore promotes (false) solutions. I know this is a predicament: There are no solutions.

    The science says 18 months to about 20 years. I’d guess on the short end of the spectrum.”

    Follower: “Wait…so are we talking about the natural end for homo sapiens, or capitalism??? Confused…”

    McP: “Human extinction”

    Follower: “Did I hear him correctly… we will all die in 18 months?”

    McP: “It’s possible. It’s not a prediction.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for posting this, John S.!

      I especially liked how in the linked article there was a juxtaposition between GM and a real atmospheric climate scientist. I’ll forward that article to those I believe will benefit from it. Also appreciate the GM quotes and observable feedback.

      Cheers!

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    • I see GM linked to that article on his NBL page, claiming that it’s “littered with incorrect and ignorant statements”. Characteristically, he does not elaborate, but some of his followers also attack it, quite comically, there and on his “Extinction Dialogs” Facebook page. Fanatics take a lot of convincing.

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  22. Via email I received a post of Mike’s (I can’t find it here) in which he remarked that I seem to equate mid-century human extinction with the collapse of industrial civilization by century’s end. I did not mean to suggest that idea. Nothing is the equivalent of human extinction; at least as far as we humans are concerned. But I certainly think that we should take seriously the possibility of human extinction, and not that far down the road. Of course we should. How can any knowledgeable person not take that possibility seriously? As Elizabeth Kolbert and others have pointed out, extinction is fairly routine. It’s the fate of most species, and the 6th mass extinction is apparently underway. But there’s another aspect that specifically has to do with human meddling with climate. The Holocene, now receding in the rear-view mirror of geological time, has been quite stable climatically speaking. We know that the emergence of civilization came in the wake of the end of the last ice age, about 11,000 years ago. Was that an accident? Probably not. I fondly think of the Holocene as the Garden of Eden. Humans mastered agriculture, animal domestication, etc. What happens if we seriously destabilize the garden’s fertility, so to speak, with a major climate-regime shift? Another ice age, or something not merely hotter than the Holocene, but also far longer? As I understand it the climate could abruptly tip hotward for hundreds of thousands or even millions of years. So of course we must be concerned about the possibility of extinction as a consequence of AGW. As to the timing. As previously mentioned, I doubt we’ll get wiped out within a few decades. But we are playing with forces beyond our control. The chief reason we must launch a crash program to reduce and essentially eliminate carbon emissions is the specter of human extinction.

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    • Hi, Lewis. I agree, we must consider that the consequences of our actions if we don’t change is human extinction. Of course, the devil is in the details. How long do we have? I think it’s reasonable to assume that the IPCC report is conservative as it still is playing catchup with the Cryosphere, as well as methane, etc. Thus, 4C with BAU is probably optimistic. Scott might disagree. However, BAU is probably not going to happen as renewables are gaining traction, among other factors. Ultimately, it’s up to everyone doing whatever they can to contribute to solutions on the personal and structural levels. Talk with your local city mayor lately on divesting from fossil fuels by 2050? When I do this I feel so much better… Worry doesn’t help anyone, but action can be a great antidote to fear and hopelessness. I think working with local cities and municipalities is far more realistic than trying to launch a global crash program. Hope these words help a little.

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      • Thanks Balan. Have you heard the latest from Bill McKibben? He has a new line of analysis, in which he stresses that although personal efforts to reduce carbon consumption are a good idea, they won’t make a significant dent in emissions. He’s calling for political organization with campaigns to shake up government policy. He’s all about grass-roots muscle now. Movement politics, in a phrase. The reason is pragmatic: the business community won’t voluntarily make the massive changes we need in fuel infrastructure. They must be forced to make those changes. I completely agree with this outlook.

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  23. I’m really skeptical of NTHE. I’m glad I came across this blog. One question though is about geoengineering and climate/weather modification. Is it real? There’s an individual by the name of Dane Wigington who has devoted his life to the cause. I’m also skeptical with regards to that as well.

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    • Howdy.

      No, there’s absolutely nothing to the conspiracy theory that the government is controlling weather (and according to some, our minds!) with “chemtrails”. For everything you could ever want to read about that, see here: http://contrailscience.com/

      Now, there is the actual research into ways we could manipulate the climate in the future to reduce global warming (geoengineering). Specifically, there’s either the removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere or the injection of aerosol particles in the atmosphere to reduce the amount of sunlight reaching the Earth. Research into that latter option (what’s called “Solar Radiation Management”) is all modeling at the moment. There haven’t even been any miniature pilot projects.

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        • Sorry for forgetting to reply to this.

          I can’t say anything about Ukraine because I don’t know the weather patterns there, but tornadoes are weird, fine-scale phenomena that require just the right conditions.

          The drought in the western US, and Alaska’s nasty spring/summer are related to something with a larger scale— the meandering of the jet stream. It’s possible that the jet stream has recently gotten more wiggly because of warming in the Arctic, and it’s possible that the events of the last decade are related more to other, natural patterns. The action in the west, in particular, could well be influenced by the “Interdecadal Pacific Oscillation” of sea surface temperature patterns in the Pacific. That said, there’s also a good case to be made (particularly in California) that the long-term warming there has made whatever else is driving the drought worse.

          We’ll have to wait for some studies on Alaska’s weather. Was it just a chance wiggle of the jet stream that persistently brought warm air north? Was it related to the growing El Nino conditions in the Pacific? Or a transition in that Pacific oscillation? I don’t know.

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  24. I like it when a McPherson follower decides to think it through for himself.

    A comment I left on Radio Ecoshock:

    “Since McPherson offers a mode of living and thinking in which folks don’t have to do anything at all but compliment themselves for avoiding ‘hopium,’ I can understand his popularity for those who can’t give up their comfortable lifestyles but need to see their choice in a positive light. His preaching ‘it’s too late to change our downward course’ is perfect for those who need an excuse to do nothing. I’ve said all this before, but there’s nothing new to add since his cold, little world is rigid and unchanging (except for the fact that we’re all going to be dead in 18 months, haha!).

    I’ll check in again 18 months from now, but before I go, I’ll leave this comment from NBL…some fans do wake up:

    ‘Guy, for what it’s worth, a little more doubt (humility) about your certainty of NTE in 20 years would be refreshing (keeping in mind that you were wrong about your assessment of the collapse of human civilization); you were wrong (or at least regretful) about leaving the university; you were wrong (or at least regretful) about creating a homestead; and you were wrong in accepting the 40-year lag time previously espoused by ‘science.’ I’ve noticed that you updated your presentation with the shorter CO2 time lag, and I’ve heard you say many times ‘mistakes have been made.’ However, these mistakes don’t seem to inform your certainty about NTE. Ahh, well.'”

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Strong Arguments Against McPherson’s Claims at British Columbia Presentation

    Ok, folks and friends, and Guy McPherson lovers and all…

    Here is the telling story of an exchange that happened with Guy McPherson and an atmospheric scientist named Geoff Strong, and two blog posters at guymcpherson.com named Tony and Balan – yes, the latter being yours truly. I believe it is emblematic of the general vibe and orientation of Guy McPherson and what seems to be rapidly becoming the cult of NTHE, as Scott touched on so presciently in his Radio EcoShock piece some time ago.

    On Sunday afternoon, June 14th, 2015, atmospheric scientist Geoff Strong attended a talk by Guy McPherson at the Duncan Island Savings Centre in Duncan, British Columbia, titled Responding to Abrupt Climate Change. [No recording of this talk was made that I know of, but if someone finds one, I’d love to get it and upload it to YouTube for further discussion and analysis.] After having watched McPherson’s presentation, Strong published the following piece in The Cowichan Valley Citizen, presumably the local newspaper.

    http://www.cowichanvalleycitizen.com/news/global-warming-hysteria-or-reverse-climate-denialist-1.1973851

    In response, McPherson responded on his blog…

    …saying “I’m featured in an article based on a presentation in British Columbia. It’s littered with incorrect and ignorant statements. Read it here.” The “here” refers to the article above. However, McPherson fails to point out anything approximating clarity on just what Geoff Strong’s “incorrect and ignorant statements” might have been, leaving it to the readers to guess. To avoid guessing and in order to find certain clarity, two bloggers attempted to reach out to McPherson on his website at guymcpherson.com to learn more, only to be rebuffed. Here are the details.

    Tony’s comment is to me a polite and straight-forward inquiry. But McPherson instead insults him by calling him a child and insinuating that he’s stuck on Santa and the Easter Bunny. Additionally, he is evasive by asking Tony to prove where McPherson is wrong, instead of McPherson showing where Strong’s comments “are littered with incorrect and ignorant statements.” He also slanders Scott Johnson by calling him Tony’s hero, as to whether or not that’s true, only Tony can say, but my guess is that it is not so. Speculating, he probably appreciates his informative analysis. I don’t know Tony and this is the first time I’ve read anything from him, so I do not know his history on guymcpherson.com, but from his comments I can’t detect any vitriol or attack language.

    Next, Tony does his best to respond attempting to put the record straight as he sees it. McPherson approved his post to be posted.

    Tony again points out the McPherson that he did not show not only where Tony was wrong, but where Strong might have been wrong. He very intelligently stated that he can’t point out where McPherson is wrong without any information. True, indeed.

    Next, McPherson replied as follows…

    Tony asks legitimate questions regarding McPherson’s moralistic judgements of Strong’s article, and instead is called a “troll” by McPherson and accused of wasting his time and setting a trap.

    Finally, Balan lays out the entire conversation in a single post between McPherson and Tony for context, and added the two primary specific points McPherson might have had issues with, then Balan took a screenshot of it in the event it wasn’t approved, which is wasn’t, for what reason no one knows, but one can guess.

    McPherson never approved of the post, so it was never published on guymcpherson.com for discussion. This was several days before comments were closed.

    Next, Balan sent another post requesting that McPherson identify where in his writings he addresses Strong’s criticisms. Again, his post was never approved, but was recorded via screenshot here.

    Ultimately, if McPherson would like to continue the dialogue on this topic he is welcome to do so my emailing balanverse@gmail.com, or post here in reply to this post. This author is doubtful McPherson will ever do such a thing, but one still hopes.

    In addendum, I think it’s valuable to note that when comparing Scott Johnson’s comments on his blog Fractal Planet with McPherson’s on guymcpherson.com, I see a marked contrast. Whereas Johnson is considerate and patient with nearly all posters, especially those who disagree with him, McPherson attacks those who question his research in serious ways, while allowing anyone to post attacks if he’s in agreement with them. One can find tons and tons of posts engaging in shoddy scholarship, using foul language, and calling people names toward those that are in alignment with McPherson’s views. Those posts are approved! Here’s an example.

    In contrast, you don’t see any of this much on Fractal Planet, as it’s focus is on understanding the science of climate change and discussing it in extreme detail, going deep into papers, even collecting papers together to find common threads, and examining the IPCC reports in all sorts of ways, and even criticizing the entire IPCC as too conservative.

    So, in conclusion, it would seem that in this instance McPherson, despite his warm and personable demeanor before audiences, has a very different persona when dealing with those that question his research and assumptions regarding his abrupt climate change predictions, or near term human extinction beliefs. Instead of engaging in serious argument and discourse worthy of a formerly tenured professor of Conservation Biology at The University of Arizona, he evades, slanders, and attacks those who do want to think critically.

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    • Yes, that is very similar to many exchanges with McPherson. It sometimes amazes me that he links to criticism, since he never addresses that criticism directly, instead just parroting the notion that he’s addressed the points in his monster climate change essay, even though others (Scott included) have explained in detail many areas that he’s got wrong.

      In this case I recall seeing other commenters do exactly the same thing in lambasting Strong’s article, without substantiating what he got wrong. In the blog comments, he acts in a way that’s is totally at odds with his supposed consideration of others. It’s as though he is a completely different person when writing, from when he’s speaking. His responses are crude, rude, disrepectful and completely lacking in substance.

      I’ve also had many responses remain unpublished. So many that I’m surprised he publishes any, though I’m glad he does, as I always try to be polite and never (at least I think it’s never) descend to ad hominems, and that should be obvious to anyone who doesn’t just soak up everything Guy says without thinking.

      Like

      • Hi, Tony.

        Thanks for contributing here. Are you the Tony I cite in the piece above? Just curious. I’m guessing so. If so, welcome to the party (…if I can say that…) Cheers!

        Balan

        Like

    • You nailed it, Balan. This guy just hasn’t got an answer to serious critics.

      What surprised me recently was a chat with Paul Erlich that Guy put up on his site (sorry, don’t have that link right now). Paul seemed to be congratulating Guy on his work. I must find Erlich’s email address and ask him if he thinks Guy has it right.

      Like

      • Hey, Mike.

        Thanks.

        I strongly suspect the story with regard to Paul Erlich is that he’s not reading Fractal Planet, and he’s not aware of Guy’s other side at all – the one that evades, slanders and attacks, and might I add misleads. If Erlich were aware of Mcpherson, he’d put a healthy does of distance between himself and GM for the sake of his own credibility. I have admired Paul Erlich and found a lot of his past analysis worthy of serious consideration, but can see that he’s not aware of what has been discussed on this blog. As things get worse, as they will before they get better, IF we make the changes necessary, McPherson’s routine will increasingly gain attention from more people, making this blog all the more important as a source of information making clear what is and isn’t accurate. This is why I put so much of my time into posting above with mechanically precise pin-point accuracy. It will be posts like that which really show people what’s really going on, forming a pattern, which can be noticed and repeated. I’m really in debt to everyone on this blog who thinks so critically over the past 1.5 years I’ve been here. Scott, I think as time goes forward, it will be increasingly important to condense what we’ve all gleaned and make it even more accessible to ordinary everyday folks.

        What I’m more interested in now that I’ve finally got clarity on what Guy McPherson is really doing, his extremist prognostications lacking in substantive evidence on this issue and others such as methane, is finding a way out of the mess we’ve created for ourselves. Like Scott, who is sick to death of the whole McPherson thing, I too want to start focusing on more productive activities such as how the hell we turn this thing around in the short amount of time we have left. For more on that, I will be posting at Home / Discussions / Climate Change Solutions #1. I hope to see you there. :)

        Like

      • The Paul Ehrlich video has been deleted, I think quite recently. I would like to think it was at the insistence of Ehrlich, when he realized just who he appeared to be endorsing. The non-video is still embedded at NBL, here:
        http://guymcpherson.com/2015/02/a-conversation-with-paul-ehrlich/

        Snippets of it are still at these locations:

        I imagine GM thought it was quite a coup to be seen chatting with such a big name.

        Ehrlich seems to think civilization could collapse sometime this century – a rational position to hold. Maybe he thought McPherson was on the same page. I don’t recall extinction being mentioned in their exchange, and GM usually holds back when in the presence of scientists. Ehrlich had heard some of GM’s stuff, but maybe not enough to take in the NTHE prediction.

        Closing some kind of circle, last year Paul Ehrlich co-authored “Hope on Earth” with Michael Tobias. The latter does know what GM is saying, and was highly critical of it early on in this comment section.

        Like

        • In broken English from Extinction Dialogs on FB:

          Fan: How come Paul Ehrlich back down on human extinction, do you think he received a few phonecalls that frightened him to loose his office or with the media importance of his report made him afraid, what do you think happened?

          GM: No clue

          Like

          • That prompt “No clue” response from GM appears to imply agreement with the fan on Ehrlich’s alleged backing down on human extinction. It seems to fit well with the video deletion. I wonder what prompted the fan’s question – something Ehrlich has said or written?

            Like

          • I sure would like to get a comment from Erlich on GM… Anyone out there up for the task? He he he.

            Like

          • I gave it a go and got a brief reply from Ehrlich. Not sure if I can reproduce but, paraphrasing, he said he doesn’t think there is much chance of NTHE, though it’s not zero. He thinks GM is entitled to his opinion but it is extreme.

            Like

          • Tony!

            Wow, that was fast. Thank you!

            To make it air tight, can you get his permission to quote him and share it publicly on this blog? Hope so.

            In much appreciation…

            Like

          • Balan, Ehrlich replied quickly, on the road. I don’t think it’s worth getting his permission on reproducing, though, as the paraphrasing is close enough; I’ve captured the essential meaning, completely.

            Like

          • From your paraphrasing, Ehrlich sounds like a scientist, whether you agree with him or not. A complete contrast with GM, but we see who the media likes to engage with, and who appeals to a significant proportion of the population.

            Like

  26. Balan, thank you for doing all that work. You are truly “living a life of excellence”! Best regards…

    Like

      • John, I think you mean to say “pursuing a life of excellence”, as GM would prefer…for what that little distinction is worth. GM doesn’t believe that one can actually live a life of excellence, but only pursue one, apparently. I suppose for him it might be like the pursuit of happiness or something like that. Only he knows for sure.

        Like

        • You’re right. I’ll take my error as a good sign: I’m more involved now, on the computer and off, with those who have turned their backs on GM or have never had any interest to begin with, so I’m starting to forget his nonsense. However, I appreciate dark humor, so I’ll continue to check in on him, especially for his latest money-making schemes. I know we’re in deep trouble. I just can’t stand his turning our current and future suffering into a sideshow, a cult of death celebration.

          Like

  27. Landbeyond, the above quote from Extinction Dialogs about Ehrlich connected to this video, which I hadn’t noticed before:

    Like

    • Thanks. And Ehrlich says: “Human beings hopefully won’t go extinct, but civilization very well may.”. Somehow apparently sane people interpret that as supporting NTHE. I note that it’s had only around 800 views on YouTube in 10 days.

      On a side note, I’ve never fully trusted Thom Hartmann since he abruptly, without explanation, stopped all references to peak oil, I suspect for financial reasons.

      Like

      • Yes, I lost interest in Hartmann for the same reason. And I lost respect for McPherson because of situations like this from his FB page, playing with people’s minds (the second comment, which McPherson “liked”):

        Guy McPherson

        A reminder from XXXX and me

        ABRUPT CLIMATE CHANGE: A WORKSHOP

        Abrupt Climate Change: How Will You Show Up During Humanity’s Final Chapter?
        onlyloveremains.org

        1st fan: ”A conclusion that interferes with many relationships” Ain’t that the truth. Good work #TeamMcPherson.

        2nd fan: Suicide is not painless. We almost lost someone we deeply cherish over losing the support from a life mate who is in hardcore denial.

        Like

  28. I asked him to supply references, that backed up a doomsday statement that he made in a public talk. He pointed his elbow patches around the room and said “See these, I’m a professor.” Least impressive reference I ever checked.
    Most of the people in the audience lapped up his every word.

    Like

  29. Hi,
    I’m an infrequent visitor to this blog, and was attracted to it some 6 months because of its premise of denying the positions held by Guy McPherson regarding NTHE. I was an occasional participant in discussions with other posters on Nature Bats Last and more often than not disagreed with the general consensus that we’re all done for. I especially got in deep differences with Ehrlich’s premise in his books dating back to the eighties, a few of which I read, and which I now disagree with. But no worries, I get in trouble with members of blogs on a regular basis as I can’t seem to find enough common grounds on which to agree, and so my disagreement portfolio far exceeds the former.

    Scott Johnson has written quite a bit about McPherson, which is essentially the heart of this on-going debate about McPherson’s dire predictions. I’ve read most of the comments above and save for the obvious opposite views regarding the nearness of human extinction it resembles some of the rhetoric of McPherson’s blog in that it mostly addresses potential extinction with an almost exclusive correlation with global warming.

    If there exist a blog in which the quasi-total array of our offences against our existence is presented, I would dearly like to find it. I must admit that I have been concerned about human extinction as the result of a nuclear war since Moses floated down the Nile but for all intents and purposes, although it could spell the end of our existence in short order, and that it could erupt before your next meal, it has not been mentioned even once on this blog. This condition is tantamount to walking on a highway in heavy traffic and only dodging trucks.

    I am aware that the focus of this blog is on McPherson and human extinction in the near future, but all of the arguments that are for or against his position are only part of our problems. Moreover, the reasons why we are in such dire straits are really much more connected than not. Climate change, nuclear proliferation, environmental destruction and the rising threats of fundamentalism are all traceable to the same basic needs for all life… i.e., survival…

    Anyway, thanks for reading….

    Liked by 1 person

      • Better late than never I’m told… But in essence The Dark Mountain seems to lack the substances that could change things in any meaningful way. With all of the dangers that humans have created with respect to our presence in life, most of which if not all were preventable, it seems that very few people address the status quo and why we have come to these precarious positions with respect to human existence. In its present manifesto, ‘Dark Mountain’ won’t solve much.
        While Guy McPherson goes out on many thin limbs, he at the very least gets my nod for risking his neck, which not too many in his position risks. Again, as I mentioned before, and still do, our existence as a species is threatened by 25,000 nuclear weapons, and yet no one on this blog even gives that condition a passing nod, as if Oh-well-what-else-is-new mental position should be regarded.
        The reasons why we are unable to address climate changes, environmental destruction, or nuclear weapons for that matter with any constructive ideas, is that we still can’t identify the reasons why all of these dangers are there in the first place… not a word.

        Like

        • Er… I think you’re on the wrong blog. This is not focusing on nuclear arms reductions or disarmament, though most of those who post here are probably all for it. Having actually really read 90%+ of all posts, you are to me obviously not aware of the reality behind your weak observations. The root causes have been explored at great length over the past couple years. Having said that, most focus is on climate science, not philosophy or critical social analysis. There’s tons of places to go to for that if you want it, and I do…just not necessarily here.

          Like

    • I agree with the read on McPherson being made over there in those comments. Clearly there’s some sort of psychopathy or sociopathy involved. The overt lying, the hypocrisy, the two-faced personality, all wrapped up in this pious self-righteousness. It’s all a pretty rich stew.

      Like

      • After his fans brought up broken relationships and suicidal thoughts concerning NTHE, he provided this 43-second explanation that it was their fault, not his (classic blame-the-victim stuff, straight out of “The Secret” and other New Age material):

        Like

  30. hi,
    i’ve read most of this today. I am recalling the recent publication of the article on James Hansen’s plan to publish his paper for a non-traditional peer review (in order to meet the deadline of the meeting this fall with global negotiators in Paris). I’m curious what people’s thoughts are about the degree to which his research on global sea levels changes the parameters of the discussion on climate change– in particular on how “dire” are the predictions, and whether his research on a new antarctic feedback loop changes any of your own conclusions. http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2015/07/earth%E2%80%99s-most-famous-climate-scientist-issues-bombshell-sea-level-warning

    Like

  31. This may not be the place for these questions, but I am going to throw these out into this forum anyhow. Human-related-methane contributions to GHG atmospheric GWP (Global Warming Potential) assessments typically are evaluated by governments and scientists using a GWP constant of 21-25, over a 100 year interval, maybe up to 28 or 33 if they decided to take the IPCC 2013 5th Assessment seriously. Would it not be prudent to evaluate the likely heat-trapping effect of atmospheric methane using 20-year-interval-associated-methane- GWPs instead? Does not using a 100 year interval methane GWP tend to dilute the actual impact
    of methane as an intense, short-term, atmospheric heat-trapping agent? While McPherson probably does overestimate the feedbacks and timescales at which our planet is slowly baking, is it unreasonable — given what is indisputable concerning global heat levels and potentially-emerging feedback loops — to insist that GHG inventories represent methane CO2 equivalencies on the basis of methane’s actual, intense, short-term atmospheric heat-trapping impact (which would imply using a much higher methane GWP associated with a 20 year interval)? Any thoughts and replies by this group of related questions by the highly intelligent writers on this blog would be greatly appreciated. I would especially like to see a reply from the moderator and creator of this blog, whose journalism I highly respect.

    Like

    • Hi Todd-

      Well, when the IPCC puts together its summary of the warming and cooling influences contributed by various things, it doesn’t use one of those shorthand comparisons.

      But you’re right that the 100-year equivalent gets used when totting up emissions, for example, which is an imperfect product of necessity.

      Some scientists see the 20 year methane comparison as unimportant, by the way. See second-to-last paragraph here: http://arstechnica.com/science/2014/02/methane-burned-vs-methane-leaked-frackings-impact-on-climate-change/

      I generally think too much can be made of the 20 vs 100 year GWP stuff. Here are a couple relevant studies you might find interesting: http://www.pnas.org/content/110/35/14202.full.pdf , https://www.ethz.ch/en/news-and-events/eth-news/news/2014/11/No-quick-fix-for-global-warming.html

      Others should feel free to chime in.

      Like

      • While I am waiting for feedback from some others that I respect concerning this issue, I thought that I would, at the least, provide the following to elicit further comment. The chunk of
        text below is from:

        Claims that Livestock Grazing Enhances Soil Sequestration of Atmospheric Carbon Are Outweighed by Methane Emissions From Enteric Fermentation: A Closer Look at Franzluebbers and Stuedemann (2009)

        Mike Hudak, mike.hudak@gmail.com, http://www.mikehudak.com 7 April 2015 Revised 29 July 2015

        Page 2:

        Current studies peg the GWP of CH4 at “34” over a 100-year interval (GWP100) and at “86” over a 20-year interval (GWP20) [5]. Stated otherwise, over a 20-year interval, a given mass of CH4 would have the same effect in the global climate system as a mass of CO2 that is 86 times greater than that mass of CH4.

        But in 2013, the IPCC noted that “there is no scientific argument for selecting 100 years compared with other choices.”[6] Moreover, the IPCC found that at the 20-year timescale, total global emissions of CH4 are equivalent to over 80% of global CO2 emissions.[7]In that light, Howarth (2014) argued for focusing on the 20-year, rather than the 100-year, period based on “the urgent need to reduce methane emissions over the coming 15–35 years.”[8]

        Page 6:

        [5]. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Climate Change 2013: The Physical Sci¬ence Basis, 714, Table 8.7, https://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar5/wg1/ (accessed 13 July 2015).
        [6]. Ibid., 711.
        [7]. Ibid., 719, Figure 8.32.
        [8]. Robert W. Howarth, “A Bridge to Nowhere: Methane Emissions and the Greenhouse Gas Footprint of Natural Gas,” Energy Science & Engineering, (2014) doi:10.1002/

        I also want to quote more from Howarth concerning this issue (see pages 8-9 of “A Bridge to Nowhere . . . (2014)”:

        “The model published in 2012 by Shindell and colleagues [41] and adopted by the United Nations [42] predicts that unless emissions of methane and black carbon are reduced immediately, the Earth’s average surface temperature will warm by 1.5°C by about 2030 and by 2.0°C by 2045 to 2050 whether or not carbon dioxide emissions are reduced. Reducing methane and black carbon emissions, even if carbon dioxide is not controlled, would significantly slow the rate of global warming and postpone reaching the 1.5°C and 2.0°C marks by 15–20 years. . .

        Why should we care about this warming over the next few decades? At temperatures of 1.5–2.0°C above the 1890–1910 baseline, the risk of a fundamental change in the Earth’s climate system becomes much greater [41–43], possibly leading to runaway feedbacks and even more global warming. Such a result would dwarf any possible benefit from reductions in carbon dioxide emissions over the next few decades (e.g., switching from coal to natural gas, which does reduce carbon dioxide but also increases methane emissions). One of many mechanisms for such catastrophic change is the melting of methane clathrates in the oceans or melting of permafrost in the Arctic. Hansen and his colleagues [43, 44] have suggested that warming of the Earth by 1.8°C may trigger a large and rapid increase in the release of such methane. While there is a wide range in both the magnitude and timing of projected carbon release from thawing permafrost and melting clathrates in the literature [45], warming consistently leads to greater release. This release can in turn cause a feedback of accelerated global warming [46]. . .

        An increasing body of science is developing rapidly that emphasizes the need to consider methane’s influence over the decadal timescale, and the need to reduce methane emissions.”

        Any comment from anyone about these claims and arguments?

        Like

        • Bad timing for me to get a backlog of comments.

          Howarth has been grinding a fracking axe for a few years. He actually features in the story I linked previously: http://arstechnica.com/science/2014/02/methane-burned-vs-methane-leaked-frackings-impact-on-climate-change/

          From the first block, again, the 20yr/100yr GWP numbers are just for convenience. There’s nothing magic about them or any other window.

          From the second block, I think this must be the Shindell paper that is referenced: http://isites.harvard.edu/fs/docs/icb.topic1325972.files/SLCPs/Science-2012-Shindell-183-9.pdf Take a look at Figure 1. The obvious take-home is that you should be cutting emissions of all greenhouse gases, not that methane is the most important one. (Compare the “CH4 measures” and “CO2 measures” curves, for example.)

          Like

          • Greetings SJ. Thanks for your reply. Concerning Howarth, he has more recent stuff out than the 2011 stuff. He had a broader review of this issue published in 2014 after the 2014 ARS Technica piece came out, and he has even more recent stuff, which I can forward to you if you are interested. I agree with you (concerning your interpretation of Shindell) that all GHGs should be cut, and I work to do that. Still, from what I see, methane emissions tend to get to downplayed in annual CO2 equivalency inventories (primarily through the use of methane GWPs of 21 or 25). When something gets downplayed, then institutions (like the California Air Resources Board) tend to focus elsewhere concerning what needs to be controlled, regulated more rigorously, or cut. California has done much concerning CO2 cuts. It has done relatively little concerning methane emissions, and lots of it is produced annually in California, which translates into large numbers of CO2 equivalencies for a 20 year period. I have a hard time believing that such numbers (in the billions of pounds of CO2 equivalencies for a 20 year interval — 43 billion pounds of CO2e per year for CA milking cows and steers alone) should be considered as negligible.

            Like

          • Yeah, I see Howarth’s stuff go by.

            I guess I don’t disagree with your point that methane cuts could be neglected for these reasons, but I don’t really think that’s happening. And I don’t think the 20 yr GWP is any less (potentially) misleading than the 100 yr, so I wouldn’t advocate a switch.

            I’m glad you brought it up, though. It’s one of those things I’ll stop to think about more often because someone here asked interesting questions.

            Like

    • ps, i know nothing about the author of the article linked to above, & if “chemtrails” are nonsense I trust scott will enlighten me. just found the article interesting for what it revealed about GP.

      Like

    • Some… “interesting” comments on that post, too. Like:

      I’m seeing an increasing pattern in the type of response Guy gave…I’ve been told this is typical of mind control. You’re likely aware of quantum frequencies which can be sent out to targeted individuals via wifi signals.

      Like

      • GM versus Dane Wigington – didn’t see that coming. Assuming that Dane’s supporters are incorrect in thinking that GM is being coerced into opposing the chemtrails notion, it raises the question of why GM is so vehemently against the idea. Maybe it’s just because it competes for the attention he wants; maybe even for the same audience. Also, of course, it seems to offer a measure of the hope that GM is so keen to extinguish.

        Is Wigington an actual scientist? His qualifications seem rather vague. If he is, then ironically he’s a scientist who kind of agrees with the NTHE idea. In the middle of the comments on Wigington’s piece there was this exchange on 22 March:

        Bruce Tanner wrote: Hi Dane, you write “…available data indicates it is every bit as bad as Guy portrays it to be.”
        Does that mean you agree with his assessment that human life on Earth will end by the mid-21st Century?

        Dane Wigington replied: Hello Bruce, mathematically speaking, if we stay on the current trajectory, it will end much sooner than that. At best we face challenges as of yet unimaginable to almost any. If we are to have any chance, climate engineering must be exposed and halted.

        So, when GM might finally have a name to throw at pesky challengers in forums, it’s someone he wouldn’t dream of promoting.

        Like

    • Well, Guy doesn’t like to answer serious questions about his beliefs. But the chemtrails business is bizarre. I seriously doubt such a conspiracy taking place. However, Dane is wrong that AMEG is against geoengineering. In fact, they are all for it, to prevent an ice free Arctic.

      By the way, Guy is winding down his involvement in his blog. He claims to have “lost critical support”. I don’t know what he means by that.

      Like

      • Mike, I think that when Dane says “In regard to the climate engineering issue, the AMEG group is also in total denial.” he means that they don’t believe it is happening, not that they oppose it.

        Like

      • Loss of “critical support” means both loss of financial and moral support from various former supporters and “special friends”.

        For more, see various comments here: http://goo.gl/t0YNMJ

        Apparently, not a few of them have just grown bone tired of his nonsense, even if they share his views on NTE.

        A good example is a guy named Peter Melton, who was on Guy’s travelling and logistics team, and has apparently jumped ship to work for and with Carolyn Baker.

        She interviews him on her podcast, without a single mention of their friend and colleague Guy: http://goo.gl/qdapaG

        She in turn was a co-auther of one of his books, “Extinction Dialogues”, and a key contributor on Guy’s Nature Bats Last blog. Not a word of appreciation from her after he announced his “fading away”.

        Like

      • Thanks for this small detail on GM’s direction! Glad to hear it… I just hope he doesn’t do a Michael Ruppert!

        Like

  32. Climate change is only one facet of a, let’s say for the sake of economy, three-faceted erosion of the health and stability of the biosphere. Another, perhaps even more dire and threatening problem is species loss. We’re losing 200 species a day (a not-uncommon estimate from any number of explorers). This is mass extinction, underway. Then, there is the chronic toxification of ecological systems from the crud we leave behind us, which has demonstrably diminished the capacity of the planet to feed us, among other things.

    There is also the seemingly intractable persistence of a socioeconomic organizing principle – capitalism – that absolutely must consume more resources tomorrow than it did today, the only option being death. This is the strategy of a tumor.

    So, whether or not it is climate change, per se, that does us in, the point that Mr. McPherson is echoing in his own way is that, by any means there is to measure such a thing, we are behaving like an organism that is hard-wired to self-destruct. Picking nits about who got the “science” right is, well, irrelevant.

    Like

    • Yet again… If someone is declaring that an asteroid will end life on Earth next Tuesday, in flat-out contradiction of all observations and calculations, is that person making a useful contribution to the idea that asteroids should be studied and deflection techniques developed?

      Do we have loads of environmental problems? DUH.

      Does that mean that we should invent nonsense about methane killing all humans in a decade or two? That these made-up claims are somehow helpful? That a history of failed nonsensical predictions wouldn’t weaken the scientific argument in the public’s eyes? That it’s “irrelevant” to point out that these claims are invented so we can get on with the business of understanding and responding to reality like adults? This view makes absolutely no sense to me on any level.

      Liked by 1 person

    • It’s not “picking nits”. It may well be true (and it appears to be) that humans, collectively, are incapable of altering their behaviour and so catastrophic environmental changes do seem to be inevitable. That doesn’t mean extinction of humans (in the near term) is inevitable (though it does mean that human extinction in the medium term is a distinct possibility and that near term extinction is probably a non-zero possibility), nor is any predicted dated outcome inevitable. So there may be things that humans could collectively do that would at least make the situation slightly better. There is also science to be done (such as understanding that process in the Arctic which may be a negative feedback) and science to be reviewed objectively (not subjectively and incorrectly, as McPherson does). All is not quite lost, yet, and pounding out a message that it is, is not helpful given that Guy does not have a perfectly functioning crystal ball (despite his beliefs). After all, it’s obvious (to me) that all responses are valid if one believes in near term human extinction. So there appears to be no point to Guy’s message.

      Like

  33. This has been some very informative reading Scott, thanks for keeping up with this blog and all the myriad of responses. For a farmer like me delving into the science of climate change through the internet and books has been fairly overwhelming at times. I recently stumbled across Guy McPherson and some other like minded folks who are talking near term extinction, and have been seeking out folks like yourself from, shall we say, the other side, because that’s just how I roll. I like to hear differing opinions, seek out who has facts behind them and who has bullshit, then draw my own conclusions from there.

    Big picture, I don’t think anyone knows for sure what’s going to happen, or when. But I damn sure think we need to change our ways quickly and get better prepared for whatever may be coming. Thanks again.

    Like

    • Hi, Darcy.

      As a farmer what do you grow and where? I ask because I was considering changing careers to something akin to farming.

      Cheers!

      Like

  34. At least this is accurate: “McPherson’s stark hopelessness has earned him ire from some fellow scientists, who accuse him of cherry picking data to fit his terminal prognosis. And it’s hard not to wonder whether McPherson’s ego compels him to find pupils for his message.”

    Like Dahr Jamail, who also is a member of FB’s NTHE Love, the group mentioned in the article, this young writer has zero science background:

    http://motherboard.vice.com/en_uk/read/the-climate-change-stoics

    Like

    • Thanks for posting this!

      Dhar Jamal…good grief! He’s throwing his career away!

      I think Vice nailed the tone of the group, and the back-and-forth “debates” that go on there. Didn’t know about upcoming book endorsed by Elizabeth Kolbert. Interesting approach… But ultimately telling people activism doesn’t matter bc we r all doomed anyway makes our situation far worse. I’m happy to die opposing carbon emissions – with my boots on – and still have a positive vision for humanity. Can we hold both possibilities at the same time? I think so!

      It’s essential for all of us, IMHO, to know the bad (carbon emissions and their effects) and at the same time keep to the good (transition to 100% renewable economy asap, hopefully before 2050, like 2035). A new world of abundance is possible, if only we fight, agitate and make it happen.

      Let’s get to work starting now…

      Like

      • A new world of abundance? Good grief, Balan, what have you been reading? A 100% renewable economy is possible only with a vastly reduced economy. Our complex industrial society can’t be run on renewables, at least not from what I’ve read. And remember that the sixth extinction event already underway hasn’t even factored in climate change.

        Like

        • The key goal from a practical point of view isn’t a 100% renewable economy, but a near-zero carbon economy. Carbon is the enemy. Renewables aren’t inherently spectacular–their great virtue is that they’re not carbon. And there’s the great drawback of renewables, the fact that pound-for-pound, so to speak, they’re so much less powerful than carbon-based fuels. Mike’s absolutely right. In order to have a 100% renewable economy, the economy must shrink very dramatically, which, by the way, probably means profound economic collapse. The market economy does not do well with negative growth. Karl Marx demonstrated this a long time ago. If it’s not growing–much like a shark not swimming–it goes kaput. But there is, of course, the snake in the garden, which I hope doesn’t frighten sensitive readers: nukes. I’m continually amazed that the energy debate rarely addresses the fact that solar and wind are dismayingly feeble. How do you power a jet airplane with solar? I don’t think it’s possible even with super-Tesla batteries. Could we power airplanes with nuclear? I don’t know. But if we’re to keep the economy going and at the same time cut carbon to the degree we must in order to survive, we probably will find out.

          Liked by 1 person

        • I don’t think nuclear is any kind of option. Though some are optimistic about the speed with which a nuclear build out could be made, we are seeing severe delays in many of the current builds and plans (which are few). But nuclear is a fossil fuel extender. Without fossil fuels and cement making, nuclear is not possible, even if it was a potential answer. What makes things worse, for me, is that there is no way to keep this modern industrial complex civilisation going for ever (and god help us if it does, as extinctions would accelerate) and what happens to those thousands of reactors when it does finally start to crumble? Of course, there are many who may argue that there are ways to build reactors to be fail safe and designs that produce little waste, but we aren’t building those. I hope there isn’t a rush to nuclear as the last best hope to maintain this edifice for a while longer.

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          • I agree that the nuclear option is a bad idea, and I very much doubt it will go forward. But I mention it in discussions where people effuse about the impending renewable-only boom economy. To maintain the economy at remotely its current size and vigor and also abolish carbon, requires a major expansion of nukes. Without the nukes, the economy crashes. But the idea of a crash doesn’t alarm me nearly as much as a 3C world transitioning to a 4C world by 2085. Let us return to a modified Bronze Age. Who needs airplanes? The transition would be very tough on lots of places with dense populations and not enough local resources. By the way, about the the problem of unattended nukes if tech infrastructure deteriorates. That’s a Guy theme! As of course you know. Damn. Should we say it’s “just a Guy thing”? I don’t mean to be snarky. I agree with you about nukes.

            Liked by 1 person

        • Oh yeah. Me and Guy are like that. No, it’s a worry, certainly, though I’m not convinced it would be as bad as Guy thinks it will be. However, a few thousand more reactors might be a different story.

          I think we’re in agreement on this. economic collapse is far preferable to 3 or 4 or more degrees (probably preferable to 2 degrees). Mind you, it’s very possible that we’d get both!

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          • A minor clarification. A “guy thing” in American vernacular carries no suggestion of homosexuality. It’s more in the sense of “Women are from Venus, men are from Mars.” A “guy thing” is actually a “Martian thing,” so to speak. But here at WGMGW I guess it’s no surprise to think of Guy as native to the Red Planet. And now that we know at last that water flows freely on Mars–what could it mean? Hopium springs eternal, perhaps.

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        • Last year was the first year, Mike, that the economy expanded while carbon emissions decreased. The belief that a reduction in emissions equals a collapsed economy is not necessarily true. Not sure what you’ve been reading, but Elon Musk and others like Greenpeace seem to think differently. Building a green economy is a huge job creator, yes?

          There is little question that the challenges before us are daunting, we know all very well. We must adopt a total industrial ecology policy that addresses on all levels the sustainability of our way of life, and make it sustainable. This includes apart from carbon emissions, a ban on plastics being substituted with other materials, strong emphasis on a vegan and vegetarian diet, zero carbon transport, hyper-energy efficient homes, offices and industry, and much more. Yes, we are waist deep or more into the 6th mass extinction, but we can turn it around. If we have done what we did during WWII, in just a few short years, we can make the change. If there is a will, there is a way.

          Lewis below mentions a near zero carbon economy, I’d even advocate for a negative carbon economy, where homes, urban design and more are sequestering carbon instead of just hardly consuming much. Maybe instead of having said ‘100% renewable economy’, I should have said something more like ‘a negative carbon economy fueled by 100% renewable energy’.

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        • Call me skeptical, Balan, but I don’t necessarily believe all official figures on economies, or emissions. But I do feel that measuring station data is quite reliable and I see no lessening of the Keeling Curve. Even if such a claim could be verified, that doesn’t mean it’s possible long term.

          I hope people like Elon Musk and organisations like Greenpeace are right but I just don’t see it. I try to read independent assessments of this stuff and I don’t see any way that all of the optimistic claims and dreams can become reality. You mentioned sustainability but that’s a hard nut to crack – it means not consuming resources at a greater rate than their renewal rate. If one thinks seriously about that, any society resembling this one is a non-starter (or an early finisher). I really think we need to get a dose of reality on what is possible, what is sustainable and aim for it, in a controlled measured way. Something like the oil depletion protocol for all resources might be a way to go. But I don’t expect it.

          It’s great to have hope but when one examines the characteristic behaviours of the species Homo sapiens, by looking at the past and present, it’s hard to imagine a miracle occurring and that characteristic behaviour changing. If there is abundant energy then the full behaviour comes out (as with fossil fuels). We’ll eventually have to live with a lot lower energy flow and that means a very different world for humans.

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        • Mike, as I like to say, fear of death is a great motivator, even better is a prolonged agonizing death, which is exactly what’s on offer. So, change or die. That’s mother nature at work, and she’s working over-time these days, yes? I think the Keeling Curve is an excellent way to measure results, and I’m hopeful that we will start to see not only a reduction in the speed of its acceleration, but an eventual deceleration. This is a top priority and dove-tails nicely with Lewis’ comments in WGMGW post about needing to focus on reducing carbon emissions.

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      • Am I wrong in thinking Scranton’s ideas are utter bilge? One cannot possibly know what will happen to civilzation, and the new report by Climate Action Tracker that current Paris pledges will get us to between 2.2 and 2.7 degrees celsius is encouraging. Not to mention, SRM could be useful as a last resort sort of thing.

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        • Perhaps encouraging but perhaps not. The climate tracker estimate is for 2100, not the total rise. The Copenhagen Accord didn’t specify a time period for the 2C limit, only to keep warming below 2C. Even if the pledges give a chance to limit warming to 2C by 2100, that will not help avert dangerous warming for generations after the end of this century (and, of course, 2C may not be the dangerous limit – it might be much lower). Still, I suppose getting under 3C by century’s end would be an achievement or sorts, but only if words are matched by action that is effective.

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  35. Pingback: Entrpreneurship Means I Give Up | More Crows than Eagles

  36. I just watched “Earth Transformed” series of videos from the University of Arizona. I must say that though we are not looking at extinction, it does appear that we are in uncharted territory. It looks like a most uncomfortable future in the best case scenario, with any of the 6 speakers presented. It does also seems that the next 25-30 years will bring us to very unpleasant conditions; “business as Usual” looks really bad! Worse, I was given to understand that even if we brought carbon emissions to zero tomorrow, temperatures would continue to rise. Each speaker tried to end their talk on an optimistic note but my impression was that all of them believed we are in a great deal of trouble and the optimism was very guarded. I, personally, find it very difficult to feel much optimism, given humanity’s proclivity to keep “negotiating” and talking (perhaps until we are beyond hope). I also lack confidence in Nations ability to work in a cooperative way and Big Money seems to still be setting the course. We have known the problems for the whole of my adult life and I am getting old, yet have seen minimal real action on the part of policy makers, consumers or Corporations as compared to what the consequences of inaction are. I do wonder if the truth lies someplace between McPherson’s doomsday and the “optimism” spoken of by each of the 6 presenters. I support the “Leap Manifesto”, live my own life as well as I can but I do lack real hope for my children by the time they reach my age. Am I deluded, is there real hope for a reasonably comfortable future. (Our general extinction is assured at some point in the future anyway. We were never destined to be here in perpetuity.)

    Liked by 2 people

    • I don’t think anyone disputes that our species will have considerable hardships to deal with no matter what we do. The way I look at it is that there’s a mixture of reasons to be hopeful and pessimistic at the same time. Even so, co2 emissions have stalled over the last two years, which means that fossil fuel emissions may have already peaked. Considering what China, the EU, and the US to some degree are doing better with reductions. If the Democrats here continue to hold the power in the White House, which it looks like they will, then the pressure to keep with Cop21 will continue. The question is, will it be enough? Perhaps, perhaps not. But it’s possible that geoengineering would have to be turned to.

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      • FYI, If indeed emissions have declined as the gvt suggests, why did the rate of change increase? For many years, the rate of increase was 1ppm, then it was 2ppm for decades, then in the last two or three years, the rate of increase in global CO2 concentrations have been 3ppm/year.

        The only way this could happen would be if the gvt is incorrect and emissions have not declined or if feedbacks are now adding ghgs to the mix. There is good arguments for either. Research has shown that gvt figures have grossly understated emissions in the past. But yet we can certainly see feedbacks such as permafrost thaw expanding in real time.

        I suspect the difference is due to gvt figures being wrong since their figures are supplied by the fossil fuel industry. Living in western PA allows me to see first hand the sheer scale of the play. However, as a soil scientist, I am also acutely aware of the feedbacks.

        A simple isotopic analysis would clear this discrepancy up. Let’s hope its the usual lying game by the fossil fuel companies at work here, otherwise, we be sunk.

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      • Why do so many people express relief and even jubilation that the rate of CO2 emissions has slowed, or in some countries even peaked? It’s not as if gigantic tonnages of CO2 aren’t continuing to cram into the sky. The key point is that “carbon sinks”–oceans, vegetation–aren’t keeping up with this steady pumping of carbon into the atmosphere. The “drains” are “narrowing.” So of course, atmospheric parts per million will continue to increase: we can’t get rid of the stuff fast enough. It’s crackpot optimism to think that “peak” emissions represent significant progress.

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        • Again, atmospheric co2 concentrations have gone up. There’s a difference between that and anthropogenic emissions, which as a soil scientist, Wolf, you should know. Atmospheric co2 won’t slow until zero carbon emissions take place, if it ever happens.
          Lewis, crackpot optimism? It’s stupid comments like that and wolf’s that the government is always lying that makes me angry. If you want to go promote doomerism, then go join Mcpherson.

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          • I do know that. Look at The Rate of Change in the increasing concentrations! If emissions decreased, the rate of change in the concentrations should of declined. But they increased. That’s my point. The rate of change should have decreased too. Remember your calculus.

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          • To be clear, a decrease in emissions does not mean that the rate of concentration change must decline, because the anthropogenic term is not the only one in the equation. El Nino/La Nina conditions add a significant source of year-to-year variability, for example.

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          • Bobcobbblog: You really should be careful with how you use the word “stupid,” given your statement that “atmospheric co2 won’t slow until zero carbon emissions take place.” What do you imagine you mean by that? Not what you think you mean, I’m pretty sure. Scott: is it not true that the capacity of carbon sinks to absorb CO2 from the atmosphere is a prime reason that atmospheric CO2 concentrations don’t rise (or fall) in direct correlation with anthropogenic emissions?

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          • Lewis,
            I know exactly what I mean. In order to stabilize atmospheric co2, zero emissions must occur.

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          • And what would you have people do? Moan and despair? That’s not helpful or intelligent. Have you looked at what China ha done regarding emissions? Apparently not…

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          • BobCobb, I agree that zero emissions (as close to it as possible) is the goal. My point is that China’s apparent emissions reduction and those of other countries are scarcely grounds for breathing a sigh of relief. The world economy is still dumping vast quantities of carbon into the atmosphere. A few downticks here and there aren’t significant. To think that the emissions reductions are significant, is to be in a state of denial about the larger climate picture. But actually, I don’t think we really disagree, despite your having taken offense at my comment about “crackpot optimism.” It seems to me that we’re actually on the same page: let’s stop emitting CO2. I say right on with that.

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          • Lewis,
            I second that sentiment. Also, I’m not saying that we’re in the clear. Far from it. What I do think is that what China, the US, the EU, and India to some extent have done is a halfway decent start. Much more needs to be done, but at least it’s a foot in the door.

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          • Lewis: I think what you’re saying is right. Natural sinks absorb around half of the CO2 we emit, so in that sense it’s not a 1:1 correlation. But obviously the annual cycle shows how significant the terrestrial source/sink is… So anything that modifies that can influence the annual growth rate of CO2. (Hopefully I haven’t missed your point…)

            I had posted a version of this before, but the conversation yesterday made me revisit and improve it: here’s a reasonable illustration of how El Nino/La Nina affect the annual growth rate of CO2. I’ve tried to remove the trend of that growth rate, so you’re basically looking at just the variability in the growth rate. With the interesting exception of the years around 1992 (hypothesis: that’s because of Pinatubo), the biggest jumps in CO2 came during stronger El Ninos, and the smallest jumps in CO2 came during stronger La Ninas.

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          • Most interesting. I’d been wondering about the Nina/Nino role in atmospheric CO2. Clearly though, much more to learn. About the sinks, I’ve gotten the impression from a few non-specialized news items that the oceans in particular have absorbed so much CO2 that they are now absorbing it at reduced rates. There’s a question of declining ability to take in carbon. One metaphor I’ve seen involves the bathtub drain. If the drain for any reason narrows, the tub will drain more slowly. If the drain is sufficiently narrowed, the tub will fill up and overflow–even if the faucet pouring water in is turned down (to extend the metaphor to reducing CO2 emissions into the atmosphere). Hence, another reason that we must do considerably more to reduce emissions, than simply to stabilize the rate of increase and make cuts, even large cuts. I’m quite curious about this. I’ve also seen references to declining ability of plants–I think the decline might be a function of heat rise–to absorb CO2. We are literally clogging the sinks–but maybe that’s taking too much liberty with the metaphor. Maybe it’s throwing in the kitchen sink.

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          • I’m skeptical that the ocean’s ability as a carbon sink is declining. In fact, the evidence, paricularly for the Southern Ocean, seems to suggest the opposite. I do think the terrestrial carbon sink is declining, but there is some variability there.

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          • Bryant, the oceans ability to absorb CO2 decreases as temperature rises, so I’m not sure why you’re skeptical that oceans’ as a sink is likely to be a decreasing factor, as the oceans warm.

            As for slowing CO2 atmospheric concentration, it won’t take zero carbon energies to slow the increase, though it would take that to stop any anthropogenic increases.

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          • Mike,
            Then how do you explain the Southern Ocean absorbing more carbon, or the general trend of the oceans continuing to absorb Co2. Your statement of a decrease is simply not true.

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          • Southern seawater might be cooler, because of hemispheric differences in atmospheric CO2 (I recently saw a mainstream-news story with the theme that the Northern Hemisphere is heating more quickly than the Southern because of CO2 imbalance, on account of more industry in the Northern; I’d never before seen this idea, and wonder if it’s true). As to oceans continuing to absorb CO2: it’s not an on/off switch. Of course the oceans continue to absorb CO2. The question: are the oceans absorbing it at a reduced rate?

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          • The reason the Northern Hemisphere is warming faster than the Southern Hemisphere is largely down to the distribution of continents rather than a CO2 gradient, which is slight.

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  37. I live in india and I am not in a privileged position like you guys in USA. For me it’s goddam real and i could perish in the next heatwave (though good luck with engineering the planet)

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    • Well, it would help if you guys practiced birth control over there and your government actually worked on improving it’s infrastructure. That said, I am sympathetic to your plight, but it’s not our fault we have to deal with Republican assholes.

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    • Anil! So great to get some feedback from someone on the front lines of climate change, and someone suffering dramatically from its effects. It’s rare to hear from someone on this blog in your position, if it’s ever happened, which I don’t think it has.

      I think what Bob was trying to say, but it came out differently, was that he really values the practice of population control and investing in infrastructure, and would like India to practice it even more than it is already, and that he’s really frustrated with Republicans blocking progress in the US Congress. As for me, I’d love to see the USA investing in more infrastructure AND practicing more population control too – actually, I’d like to see the entire planet reduce population. I’ve done that by having only one child. I just reduced the population by half. Yes! Bob?

      I’d enjoy hearing more from you if you’d like to share what it’s like knowing you could die in a heatwave, and what you’re trying to do to change things where you are. I’m really hoping your able to dialogue with us.

      Thanks so much for sharing your comments here,

      Balan

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      • Yes, I certainly did not intend to sound callous. Anil, I do hope you and your family stay healthy. PM Modi has done a good job so far and I hope he turns his attention to facilitating air conditioning across the country

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  38. So the footage of methane vents bubbling up through the water is fake? How about the giant craters with traces of methane?What about the other 58 feedback loops?

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    • Sorry, I lost your comment in the pile for a bit there. (A note to everybody else: this is a different John from John #1 and John #2 who have posted here…)

      I hope you’ve read the entirely of the post you’re commenting on, as it touches on some of this. Methane bubble plumes exist in a number of places. Their existence does not tell you that that they are recent or that they are increasing rapidly. (For example.)

      The unique Siberian “craters” may have been caused by warming. That doesn’t tell you they are a significant or significantly growing contributor to atmospheric methane. We have lots of measurements of atmospheric methane to study this with. (For example.)

      Guy McPherson’s long list of positive feedbacks (some of which aren’t) is a useless rhetorical exercise that doesn’t replace real climate science. That’s why I rely on climate research to understand where things are headed rather than the website of one random guy (or Guy).

      Liked by 1 person

      • Hi, John.

        I boiled down and condensed GM’s feedback when they were at 45 or so, and I came out with nine of them, and some which weren’t feedback S at all. It’s HM’s way of making a rhetorical point.

        SJ, please feel free to repost my old research alluded to here, if you can find it. I’d enjoy updating it as its been a year at least. I concur with Scott that GM’s piling on feedback loops is no substitution for real climate science.

        Balan

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  39. Thank you for this article and the extensive discussion in the comments. Very helpful and interesting, I really appreciate all of your time!

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  40. SJ- Thank you so much for bringing real and disciplined science discussion to this Guy McPherson phenomenon. I am afraid that his growing popularity on YouTube may be causing many people to give up hope of fighting climate change. Yes, the obstacles are great, but we must do what we can do, and begin ramping up our efforts globally. First must come accurate reporting of the extensive research and observation that is coming from so many reputable members of our worldwide community of scientists. Sloppy thinking and bogus logic backed by inferior motives simply must be called out and condemned in the strongest possible terms. You do us all a service, sir.

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  41. 2 years on, still think McPherson is wrong? I dont. I mean he may for all I know be wrong on the odd thing, and I concur with the comment above that if we do have a chance of survival we need to fight it and not give up hope. But really, the climate events of the last two years have been staggering. If warming increases at anywhere near the level of the last year and half for much longer we’re doomed likely by mid century. 20 degrees warmer in the arctic recently. 13 degrees at midnight tonight in Newcastle in the north east of England, after the hottest december ever last year when many countries practically did not have a winter. Dont get me wrong I know anecdotal stuff isnt data, but we all know these temperature departures are now the norm and not the exception. And with the political situation being one of zero action, even without methane hydrates, I can only see total carnage ahead followed by extinction. Tragic

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    • Hey, there are always surprises in climate change but the point is that McPherson tries to persuade via the science and the science doesn’t support his main conclusion. If he turns out to be correct, no-one will care (because we’ll all be dead) and there is nothing we could have done, anyway. If he turns out to be wrong, the few people he’s managed to convince could reasonably be expected to do nothing in response to that information. So, in the end, I’m not sure what he thinks he’s achieving, unless he’s getting more work as a grief counsellor.

      There is no doubt in my mind (currently) that we are headed for disaster but the timelines are very vague. Will the change be undeniable in 5 years, 10 years, 20 years, 40 years? Who knows; certainly not McPherson. Who can guess? Anyone.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Not sure about “the few people he’s managed to convince”. You see him mentioned in comments alongside serious scientists quite often, and his “message”, often with familiar wording, also appears, even when his name doesn’t. Hard to know how many he’s influencing, directly or indirectly; and the attention he gets should be going elsewhere.

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        • The number of names of reputable climate scientists McPherson appears with on academic papers? Ha. Answer: next to zero. If you doubt me, cite sources where he appears. Guy McPherson, while indeed trained as a conservation biologist, has devolved into an eco-extremist hell-bent on bringing down industrial civilization even if it means cherry-picking and out-right distorting the science to his own ends. He is absolutely not to be trusted on anything related to ecology except as an example of death-cult leader unrepentant. I’m happy to engage with anyone on this blog who might have a different opinion. Thanks.

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          • No argument here, Balan. I’m guessing you didn’t read my comment carefully, or to the end.

            I’m not, of course, referring to “academic papers”, but rather to what regular people with at least some interest in climate change say in comment sections, or sometimes what people write in blogs, or even articles by journalists. GM has become a successful self-publicist, and if his name comes up often enough, usually with no one challenging his credibility, it’s not surprising if the less-informed assume his views should be taken seriously.

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          • Agreed.

            It’s now my very part-time hobby debunking his deception. Doing so helped me grow a lot in climate science understanding and why I’m really grateful to all on this blog, especially SJ.

            Happy Holidays, everyone.

            Like

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