Guy McPherson and the end of humanity (not)

Is climate change going to wipe out humanity over the next 10 years? Prof Jim Renwick doesn’t think so…

Ecologist Guy McPherson has been touring New Zealand for the past couple of weeks, explaining why humanity has only 10 years to live (a kind-of Ziggy message that has immediate appeal to me). After his appearance on the Paul Henry breakfast show, I was called by TV3/Newshub for comment. Based on my understanding of climate change science I said that though the situation is very serious — dire even — extinction in 10 years is not going to happen. When I gave my remarks to Newshub, I knew little about McPherson but I understood that he is a very knowledgeable biologist who should not be dismissed lightly.

So, what’s the story? Is McPherson right? Is the IPCC woefully conservative and keeping the truth from us all? I had the opportunity to hear Prof McPherson speak in Paraparaumu on Saturday (Dec 10th) to get more insight into what his views really are. It was a very interesting presentation, and a very interesting discussion with the audience of 50-odd Kāpiti coasters who showed up to hear him. As the old saying goes, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. What we heard was extraordinary for sure, but was not too convincing in terms of evidence.

McPherson’s presentation was as much philosophy as science. Much of his message is built around the undeniable truth that we are all, one day, going to die. Hence, we would do well to live in and for the present, express our love to those close to us, and act rightly according to our own beliefs and principles. Excellent advice, and a great philosophy for living well, what you would be told in any number of “life-coaching” books. Where he differs from most is in saying that all of us, i.e. all of humanity, and most other species, will be extinct in 10 years or so. Why is that, you might ask?

The detail on his view of the climate system can be gained by reading his “monster climate change essay”. A briefer overview, and what he bases much of the scientific side of his presentation on, comes from a blog post at the Arctic-News blogspot site,  written by “Sam Carana” (not his or her real name – you know why). This piece suggests that the globe will warm around 10°C in the next decade, and since such warming was associated with mass extinctions in past epochs, humanity and most vertebrates etc will be toast very soon.

The blog post starts by assuming the February 2016 global mean temperature represents the current average temperature of the earth, then throws in another 0.8°C for pre-1900 (0.3°C) and unavoidable future (0.5°C) warming. This is pushing it, as February was the warmest single month on record (in difference from normal terms), several tenths of a degree above the annual mean for 2016, and the amount of unavoidable future warming is small (maybe 0.1°C?), should greenhouse gas emissions stop now.

However, the next steps are where McPherson’s grasp of the science seems shakiest. Cutting aerosol pollution to zero (as would happen when and if industrial society falls over) will unmask another 2.5°C of warming. This is a factor of ten too large, as the actual amount would be around 0.25°C by current best estimates (see figure 10.5). Reduced planetary reflectivity (albedo) from loss of Arctic ice will add another 1.6°C (perhaps in the Arctic, but not in the global mean), plus the water vapour feedback, seafloor methane release etc will add an extra 3.5°C. So that’s another 7.5°C on top of essentially where we are at now, giving a total of about 10°C warming compared to pre-industrial, assumed to happen in the next 10 years. Then, all the world’s nuclear reactors melt down, and we are all extinct.

The way Guy McPherson talks about water vapour shows his sketchy grasp of atmospheric physics. He states that most of the water vapour in the atmosphere is above 6km altitude, where it “acts like a lens” to heat the earth. Most of the water vapour is actually in the lowest few kilometres of the atmosphere, as the upper troposphere is too cold to support much water vapour. Perhaps he’s thinking of the release of latent heat in the tropics, which does occur mostly in the upper troposphere, leading to a warming “hot spot” in the tropical upper troposphere as greenhouse gas concentrations rise (See AR5 WG1, figure 12.12).

Water vapour is of course a critically important part of the climate change story and is the main amplifying feedback of greenhouse gas increase. McPherson is trained as an ecologist, so it’s no surprise that he isn’t totally on top of the vertical profile of water vapour in the atmosphere. But, if your public profile depends on your image as an authority on “global warming”, you would do well to be clear on the science.

Now, the potential consequences of climate change, and the lurking feedbacks such as Arctic methane release and other carbon cycle changes, are an extremely serious concern, one that I think the governments of the world have yet to really take on board. The risks of severe food and water shortages, population displacements and conflict over resources, already has the potential to endanger hundreds of millions of lives – even with another degree or two of warming (as outlined in the last IPCC report). But truly catastrophic and extremely rapid climate changes do not look to be on the cards, at all. Earth’s climate is not poised for “runaway” change (as per Venus), nor is there any clear indication from the geological record that the climate system is so sensitive to greenhouse gas increase that 10°C of warming in 10 years is imminent, or even possible. The climate community of course does not know everything about past climate change nor about what the climate system is capable of if pushed hard. But, the extinction in 10 years scenario is really at the outer edge of speculation about the future.

Even without imminent extinction, the consequences of climate change are more than dire enough to galvanise us into action. My perception is that concerted global action within the next decade can avoid the worst consequences. The flip side is that business as usual, even for another ten years, could lock in changes that do indeed put global society at risk and threaten possibly hundreds of millions to billions of lives. Not instant death but a very unpleasant future for a very long time. I find that prospect plenty scary enough, and it leaves room for us to take action. Let’s take it.

Gareth adds: McPherson’s views are a good example of real climate “alarmism”. Deniers love to paint the IPCC or consensus position on climate change as alarmist, thereby implying that their rejection of that consensus is somehow sensible or moderate. McPherson’s stance shows that to be a mere debating trick. The truth, of course, is that by rejecting the consensus view on what we can expect, deniers are as extreme as McPherson — polar opposites, but just as guilty of exaggeration.

Author: James Renwick

I am a climate researcher with a background in atmospheric dynamics and statistics. I was involved in writing the 4th and 5th Assessment Reports for the IPCC and am also on the joint scientific committee of the World Climate Research Programme (WCRP).

80 thoughts on “Guy McPherson and the end of humanity (not)”

  1. Guy McPherson did say he doesn’t expect NZ to go downhill as fast as the rest of the world, due to our geographical position. But down we will go, eventually, according to his theory. Hmmm…
    Paul Henry had previously interviewed McPherson on his late-night show on TV3 a year or so ago. Two such very different men but to my surprise they seem to get along well.

  2. James Renwick did a good analysis based upon his attendance of Guy McPherson talk and a limited review of his extensive blog site, Nature Bats Last. I’m glad Renwick pointed out some weak points in Guy’s arguments. Still, Renwick didn’t seem to understand the degree of differences between the IPCC evidence and what Guy has presented.

    Just as an ecologist might have different perspectives from someone who’s work is in the physical science field, someone who specializes in atmospheric dynamics and statistics is likely to be lacking in understanding of various organism’s sensitivity to relatively small climatic variations. They will likely have a limited understanding of human dependence on the stability of the other 30+ millions of species we share this globe with. Typically, physical scientist, studying Anthropogenic Climate Disruption (ACD) effects, do not cite the findings of the World Wildlife Fund reports that show extinction rates have increased rapidly.

    I would like to see a discussion on why it is that the vast majority of lay people, and even the scientists studying ACD, assume that things won’t really get grim until the year 2050 or even the year 2100. When one is totally surrounded by a society that is living in a profound state of denial it would be expected that some of that denial might also rub off on the scientists working in the field.

    Guy’s positions are based upon looking back at the history of climate warnings, that go back at least a half-century in the U.S. These warnings always came with advisories that stated we needed to take drastic actions soon. Reviewing the history shows that the actions taken have been way behind what was advised. Those, who’s worldview tends to be positive, are likely to ignore the benchmark failures and keep saying we still have time to turn things around despite evidence that suggests it is too late. Hopium springs eternal.

    Guy isn’t the only one who believes higher forms of life will soon die out. There are other sources, independent of Guy, that predict very major near term impacts on the Earth’s life support systems. Below are a few links worth looking into that most people simply brush off as inconvenient truths. As shown in the last link we are now experiencing rapid changes that are totally out of bounds from what occurred during the last 800,000 years. The last time the CO2 level was at today’s levels was 15 Million Years ago.

    A Horrifying New Study Found that the Ocean is on its Way to Suffocating by 2030

    Climate change could plunge tens of millions of city dwellers into poverty by 2031

    Scientists “too frightened” to tell truth on climate impacts

    The Threat of Global Warming causing Near-Term Human Extinction
    Temperature, carbon dioxide and methane

  3. Interesting discussion. I think James Renwick got it right, about the physical impacts and the speed of their progression. I do not subscribe to the view that humanity could become extinct on the horizon of decades, let alone one decade, due to the physical aspects of AGW. Such talk is unfounded.

    However, it is true that many climate scientists report on the aspects of their specific work, while the pressure on the entire system and its response is ultimately what will determine the fate of us and many species. The world’s ecology is a very complex web and we are probably still ignorant of many important connections and consequences.

    With regards to our human society, things look troublesome for another reason: due to the lack of resilience we are living with at the moment. A single week of stopped or seriously disrupted supplies to our ‘just in time’ and ‘profit optimized’ economy would cause serious trouble for many, and after a month of severe disruptions masses would be brought to starvation. Large parts of our urban populations can no longer feed themselves if required. We are now co-dependent on our industrial and highly efficient production and distribution systems.

    Trouble spots in the world that are regional can at the moment be assisted by an intact part of the system elsewhere. But if there were any truly global troubles, our high-tech and optimized systems would become a weakness. Optimized systems generally lack resilience as the potential reserves have been rationalized out of it for profit optimization. Storage and reserves are a cost factor and are removed. In times of troubles, past inefficiencies would have left room for resilience and improvements in a time of need.

    Further, our economy is indebted well over the limit as we speak. Even just a sustained loss of global economic growth would cause massive problems. A sustained global decline would likely provoke the rapid end to the economic and social fabric of our societies.

    For humanity to survive long into the future, we need for our current 7 billion people much more than a survivable physical ecosystem. And we are at this moment in time already balancing the proverbial pencil on its tip. What ecological decline will suffice, to cause the whole house of cards to come tumbling down? Will a 20% reduction of our food production due to a massive drought in food producing regions be enough? Will a surge in the sea level and the resulting collapse of confidence in coastal real estate cause our financial sector to collapse? Will a rapid end to some of the important fisheries be the stone that sets the heap tumbling? Will the ever more nationalistic world be even remotely able to act on such global challenges mindfully?

    While I have no doubt, that in principle people living off the land, in particular in NZ, could weather out the physical “storms” of the next centuries to come, I am much less hopeful for the bulk of the human enterprise….

    1. Economist generally have no academic backgrounds in the physical or the biological sciences so one should not expect them to delve deeply into the mountains of scientific evidence that has been provided by a broad spectrum of scientific disciplines that are warning of very near term consequences.

      Additionally, it is difficult for many of us to accept the concept that many of the environmental problems we are now dealing with stem from unintended consequences of the technological and economic improvements of the past.

  4. It is clear Guy McPherson is engaging in a publicity stunt. Before this “decade” projection, he was claiming runaway global warming would cause the earth to end up with the climate of Venus.

  5. Guy McPherson is well meaning, but his prediction is rather unhelpful in that his extremism plays into the climate sceptics hands. They will quote him endlessly now.

    I think climate change is serious, but its hard to see 10 degrees over a decade. However what the general public don’t understand is much smaller changes of temperature have bigger consequences than they realise, but I’m not sure how you get that across.

    Probably the biggest threats from climate change are more extreme weather, sea level rise and the unknown unknowns (as that guy Donald Rumsfeld used to quote). There could be some very nasty unknowns. Neither the physical science or ancient climate history is enough to uncover all the possible unknown unknowns. The only way to be 100% sure of anything to do with climate change would be to put the entire planet inside a laboratory and adjust CO2 levels, etc, but we cant do that so have to work around the problem, as best we can with modelling etc.

    Because of all this ultimate uncertainty I think the precautionary principle should apply. We should reduce emissions and transition to renewable energy.

    I also agree with comments by Thomas that are technological, highly specialised and integrated urbanised culture would find it difficult to cope with a major shock. We saw some of these issues with the Kaikoura earthquake where the town was cut off and its tourism income has been decimated which leaves them with nothing, but welfare support. In theory in a truly global disaster people would end up going back to the land and a subsistence life style and able to progress back from there, but this would take time to organise. Millions of people would be in desperate conditions in some half way situation with nowhere proper to live.

    We did cope with the Cantebury earthquake, however partly because we had good financial reserves and a support system which does have good technology and equipment. However a more major global shock could strain backup systems, and send our global systems into melt down, and society could find itself falling back into the stone age. The great economic slump of the 1930s opened a doorway where the economy plummeted into oblivion with no sign of self correction, until the government of the day took charge with make work schemes etc. The slump showed how fragile advanced human systems are.

    Again its hard to say one way or the other, but it would be best to avoid such situations happening especially given climate change affects the whole planet.

    1. “They will quote him endlessly now.”

      No they won’t.

      No one on any sceptic blog is vaguely interested in him.

      1. Come off it. The denier sites — and don’t give me that bull about “sceptic”, you have to display some understanding of the evidence to be a sceptic — are forever throwing up some 0ff-the-cuff remark: “Children won’t know what snow is” and “ice-free Arctic by … ” and “New York flooded in …” and gloating when the crystal ball turns turtle, completely ignoring the fact such claims have never reflected the balance of informed opinion.

        Claims too that science is never settled and consensus is not science show no understanding of science and how it works.

        Furthermore, these people often claim they know what science is and the Royal Society, National Academy of Sciences, American Association for the Advancement of Science, American Physical Society, American Chemical Society … don’t.

        They “dream” their own reality and select only “facts” that fit.

        If their delusions didn’t affect the rest of us it wouldn’t matter. But they do and time is running out.

        1. Well thanks for the strawman Dennis, but there is as yet no evidence of any “denier’ or otherwise sites that are interested in McPherson, who I can only assume has some kind of attention seeking need.

          He has been on Paul Henry twice, which would seem evidence for my assertion.

          In any case, if there was any suggestion that civilisation will end in 2026, then I would assume we would see some market signals to this effect. e.g hedge funds.

            Arizona Professor: Forget Climate, Humans “Don’t Have 10 Years”
            Eric Worrall / November 25, 2016
            Professor-emeritus Guy McPherson of University of Arizona, speaking in New Zealand, thinks we don’t have to worry about climate change, because the “6th mass extinction” will finish us all off in the next 10 years.

            Humans ‘don’t have 10 years’ left thanks to climate change – scientist

            There’s no point trying to fight climate change – we’ll all be dead in the next decade and there’s nothing we can do to stop it, a visiting scientist claims. Guy McPherson, a biology professor at the University of Arizona, says the human destruction of our own habitat is leading towards the world’s sixth mass extinction.

            Instead of fighting, he says we should just embrace it and live life while we can. “It’s locked down, it’s been locked in for a long time – we’re in the midst of our sixth mass extinction,” he told Paul Henry on Thursday.

            But Professor James Renwick, a climate scientist at Victoria University, says people should not use his words more as an excuse to give up. While he agrees that climate change is possibly the “biggest issue humanity has ever faced”, he says “giving up is not really helpful”. Instead, Prof Renwick says he hopes Prof McPherson’s 10-year claim will encourage people to take action.

            (337 comments to date. Let me know if any don’t mock all climate science and scientists.)

            1. Consider the following. Humans have developed an enormous sense of superiority over all the other 30+ million species on Earth. Most humans will do almost anything to prevail, even in the face that our efforts are seriously damaging this planet’s life support systems for all life, including our own species.

              I believe humans will attempt to prevail despite increasing mountains of evidence indicating we a are rapidly heading into a 6th mass extinction event, largely caused by our species.

              Our efforts to remain on top will cause the extinction of millions of other species we evolved with. Many humans don’t see that as something immoral since they believe other species shouldn’t have to survive if humans are not around to admire them.

    2. A mainstay of Guy McPherson’s position is that humans will die out if there no longer exists a habitat for them, just as many other species are dying out due to habitat loss. The vast majority of the 7.4 millions humans occupying planet Earth are so overwhelmed, by their sense of great superiority, that we don’t fully understand how dependent we are on much more than just the stock animals and plants we feed ourselves with.

      The tiny percent that have academic backgrounds in ecology, conservation biology and evolutionary biology are likely to have a better sense for these sensitivities.

  6. I went to a Guy McPhereson meeting in Whangerei and what he said was largely correct but the bit that is open for debate (as always with climate change) is the timing. His main concern is the methane locked up in the shallow water off the Siberian coast and also the methane in the permafrost. Both of these areas are of huge concern and may well prove fatal to our way of life but for it to happen within ten years is a bit of a push.

    1. If you further examine Guy’s “Nature Bats Last” blog you will learn that though Guy sees the methane hydrate situation to be very important he has listed dozens of other positive feedback mechanisms that are also currently at work.

      He also states that we long ago passed the tipping point beyond which we could turn the situation around. It seems that most humans have an aversion to accepting that we have gone beyond the point where technological fixes can save us.

    2. The following video largely points to the extreme nature of the methane hydrate problem. This is only one of the dozens of self-reenforcing feedback mechanisms that Guy McPherson has noted in his blog and presentations. These are issues the most folks feel a need to avoid if they want to keep a hopeful attitude.

      If We Don’t Fight Like Hell On Climate, We’re Screwed!

  7. I am deeply disappointed that a NZ academic should so egregiously misquote Prof. Guy McPherson ascribing to him the statement that it would be business-as-usual until the very last minute – he actually said THE DIAMETRIC OPPOSITE.

    In addition Prof. Renwick has relied for some of his negative response on information from the IPCC that is already ten years old.

    He also does not provide a single reference for his claim while every single written statement by Prof. McPherson is backed up by reference to the scientific literature that is up-to-date.

    It seems clear to me that Prof. James Renwick does not keep up with the latest research. Perhaps he relies solely on the IPCC reports?

    In general, I regard this article as being unprofessional and disrespectful and in one particular instance slandersous.

    Here is Guy McPherson’s response to the above article

    1. The “last-minute” remark in the media was a misunderstanding. I haven’t tried to go back to get a correction printed as in my experience it’s hard to get such things actually taken on board and put in print. Perhaps you need to follow the links in my hot-topic piece to get at some of the references. I have not intended to be “slandersous”, in fact I spoke to Prof McPherson on Saturday and he agreed that he may have overstated the magnitude of some of the feedbacks he discusses. When I mailed him later in the day he refused any further correspondence. His choice of course, but not an especially open-minded response.

      1. “When I mailed him later in the day he refused any further correspondence. His choice of course, but not an especially open-minded response.”

        If you were more familiar with how McPherson operates, you would know that he generally refuses to defend his claims, beyond pointing to his monstrous website essay and suggesting that anyone questioning his extinction prediction must have nefarious motives. Rational public debate is out of the question.

    2. Just checked the link above. I see Guy McPherson says “No fireworks. He admitted his ignorance about climate change. But only one-on-one, not publicly.” Amazing how differently two individuals can recall the same event! I said I thought he’d overstated the feedbacks and he essentially agreed.

  8. I watched some McPherson meetings. Much talk about being a born teacher getting the sack. About a former student who claimed he had been spying on him; this accepted without question or evidence. This is more than proselytising.

    Catastrophic abrupt changes? There are uncertainties and I am not absolutely reassured by people whose judgement I trust, like James Renwick and Richard Alley.

    1. I agree with Dennis. When you also have giant sinkholes opening up in the Siberian tundra like this:

      I think it would take a certain amount of hubris to assume that there are no uncertainties and that nothing catastrophic could possibly happen in 10 years. To my knowledge, no scientist predicted the appearance of these giant sinkholes, and yet there they are in plain sight.

      Secondly, in such a contentious area if two experts have different opinions on the severity of the potential outcomes, when it comes to public opinion and government bureaucracy, the expert forecasting the least severe climate scenarios will always win. In my humble opinion it should be the other way around assume the worst and act accordingly, with urgency. When we play Ireland at rugby, we assume at our peril that they will field their weakest team and have an off day.

  9. The Huffington Post put the whole Climate Science Denial (the sort of Trumps) into a rather succinct form:

    Citing from the Huffington Post:

    Trump’s open disdain for truthful speech shows clear signs of authoritarianism, as Jacob Levy points out. Trump’s lies in the face of clear facts [on climate change] are a demonstration of power, characteristic of totalitarian leaders.

    As Levy writes:
    “Saying something obviously untrue, and making your subordinates repeat it with a straight face in their own voice, is a particularly startling display of power over them. It’s something that was endemic to totalitarianism. ”

    1. To add a comment to my own post: Levy’s observation on making subordinates repeat untrue statements in their own voice as means of displaying and enforcing absolute power over them has a tradition dating back thousands of years: It is called “Religion”, in the name of which, humans have committed and are still committing some of the worst atrocities against each other imaginable as directed by unscrupulous leaders. And of course, the overlap between the American Bible Belt (people conditioned since childhood to repeat untrue statements in their own voice or face ‘hell’) and the Trump voting sorts, is pretty obvious and without this hotbed of childhood conditioning to unquestioned acceptance of things said from the pulpits, Trumpism would have little chance. Trump’s planned takeover of the public education system by private enterprise bodes badly for how this will evolve. And once the nutters can control the indoctrination of their children outright and with no state institutions introducing critical thinking, the age of ‘enlightenment’ will be in serious trouble.

          1. Critical thunking skills seems to be on the wane in education these days.

            A recent case in Canada involved a teacher in a private school using his personal opinion of abortion to illustrate a point about morality and the law. A student was so “triggered” by the teacher’s view point that she complained and the teacher was sacked, just for having an opinion

            Critical thinking and challenging orthodoxy can cost you your job these days

            1. You said it was a Private school?
              You make my point: I was commenting on the importance of public schools where religious prejudice or other political drifts are at least moderated and where for example Islam can be studied in history besides other religions, evolution is not ‘just a theory’ and climate change is discussed with reference to the actual science….

            2. Yes it was a private school. A very “progressive” one that pushes the LBGTQI agenda and that gender is a social construct independent of biology. So not a “right wing” conservative in sight.

              If you object to the gender and sexuality narrative, then you too will be hounded out of your job

            3. Well, knowing how “liberal” you are with cherry picking and spinning facts to suit your agenda, we can’t comment further on your teacher’s case we do not know the full facts of the story. Plus this has nothing do to with the topic of this blog, while Alt-Right agendas to do is something very worrying and is right on topic:


              “Donald Trump has shown a contempt for science, a willingness to play fast and loose with the very idea of truth and an absence of intellectual curiosity,” says Laurence Tribe, professor of constitutional law at Harvard Law School.

            4. Andy and Thomas. I take a big interest in education ideologies, so hope its ok if I poke my nose in.

              I think the original point Thomas made was cultivating students to have critical thinking skills? Surely there is merit in getting students to think critically, logically analytically? We should push for this. Both public and private education may resist this, each for their own reasons. However I went to both a public and private secondary school in NZ, and critical thinking got a bit more attention at the state school.

              The issues about teachers questioning the conventional scientific wisdom, or general curriculum is another matter. It depends how its done. I think its unacceptable for teachers to be promoting their own fringe beliefs, religious beliefs, or so on. Teaching should basically teach mainstream science and this happens to be saying sexual identity is more complicated than simple biology.

              However its probably ok for teachers to at least “discuss” both sides of science issues, like evolution versus creationism. Students will ask anyway.

              We just have to require teachers to be balanced, logically critical of both sides, and not promote creationism above evolution. Im being idealistic but I think this is possible at least in the final years of secondary school.

            1. Andy, obviously not. Isn’t that list of 72 genders some list of gender identities on facebook? Im not aware that its made it into the formal scientific literature, or American Psychiatric Associations guidelines. However I dont see any great harm in it either.

              However gender identity issues are very real. It’s called gender dysphoria. It appears to me a person may be biologically one sex, but the sexual identity part of the brain is saying something else. Its the conflict that is the problem.

              We dont know how to change the sexual identity part of the brain. This itself may be deeply biologically coded. So the alternative is sometimes a sex change operation.

              Im glad this stuff doesn’t affect me. I feel sorry for people who have this internal conflict. Let them identiify with the sex they are comfortable with being. It hurts nobody.

              Obviously sex change operations should not be undertaken unless theres real certainty on the issue.

              Sexual preferences, homosexuality, etc seem fixed by genetics or very early conditions in the womb. People are stuck with how they are born.

    Arctic temperatures have hit levels last seen long time ago … pace of change outstrips ability to understand what’s happening.

    Professor Peter Wadhams, Polar Ocean Physics Group Cambridge warned loss of snow cover (which has hit a record low) and sea ice was speeding up global warming. “I calculate that between them they are causing the effective heating of the planet to be 50 per cent higher than would be caused by the added greenhouse gases alone …”

    Arctic sea ice was “well and truly set on a collapse”. And this could have a dramatic and sudden effect on global temperatures. “The warm sea water melts the offshore permafrost, which releases methane trapped in the sediments below,”

    “There is potential for a catastrophic methane pulse which cause immediate warming of up to 0.6C, according some calculations which we did in Nature a couple of years back.”

    (Some think Wadhams over-eggs the cake and tends to end up with some on his face.)

    1. As it happens your roving reporter here was in Norway last week, at 61 degrees N. (Lillehammer), which is 5 degrees south of the Arctic circle
      There was plenty of snow, the temps were around zero to -3. Further north the temps were around -10

      I don’t know if this is unusual or anomalous. It is colder than this time last year in the same place.

      1. Well Andy, you can all find out here:
        On this site are many charts showing the data gathered for the arctic region and you can spot the Lillehammer region on this map and it’s only a bit above normal…., oh and don’t even look at that big red blob up there, again, that is the Chinese red flag showing through, which is proof positive that Trump is right: It is all a hoax mad up by the Chinese. No critical thinking needed (which I am sorry again you missed out on), just repeat after Trump!

        1. Thanks for the map. I note that the whole of the UK and Norway has neutral or negative temperature anomalies

          The big red blob that is the Arctic is exaggerated by the Mercator projection

          The apparent 36 degree anomaly in the Arctic is matched by a -36 degree anomaly over Asia
          I find both numbers hard to believe

            1. If it is a “fact” that most of Asia is currently 20 degrees Celsius colder than usual (assuming I am reading the map correctly) why haven’t we heard about it in the news?

      2. Personally, I tend to put more faith in the data, presented by a broad spectrum of scientific disciplines, then in personal observations at a given point. It is well known the palar vortex is bringing cold arctic air down into areas where it is rare to get such frigid air.

        The North Pole is an insane 36 degrees warmer than normal as winter descends

        From pole to pole, twin sea ice records have scientists stunned

        Watch 26 Years of Arctic Ice Disappear in Seconds

  11. The following article is worth a read and is quite chilling. It is slightly off topic but you will understand its importance when you read it.

    Its by Eric Holthaus writing in the Washington Post, reprinted in our local newspaper. He is a meteorologist and journalist concerned that the Trump administration may delete public / government data bases of climate data. He has taken extaordinary steps to archive this material and so have others. He cites examples where other governments have removed data.

    His concern is Trump may want to make as difficult as possible to access information so as to stop further understanding of the climate, and to reinforce the interests of the fossil fuels industry as a consequence.

    Back to the article, I do think there are many potential positive climate feedbacks like methane related issues. I read last week about research showing that a warmer climate causes ordinary soil microbes to increase activity that leads to more CO2. Not one person in a million could really work out what it will add up to, and those are just the ones we know about. The precautionary principle should apply surely.

    Positive feedbacks appear to operate over decadal and century timescales that will affect humanity. Some negative feedbacks are short term, but some like the carbon cycle or geological processes operate over millions of years and wont save humanity.

    1. The Earth Itself Is Now Accelerating The Demise Of The Human Species

      Scientists “too frightened” to tell truth on climate impacts

      A Horrifying New Study Found that the Ocean is on its Way to Suffocating by 2030

      World needs $90tn infrastructure overhaul to avoid climate disaster, study finds
      Report by Global Commission on the Economy and Climate says world needs ‘urgent’ shift away from carbon-heavy infrastructure over the next 15 years

      CIEL Statement on the Nomination of Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State

  12. i`m probably stating the obvious here but Andy, you won`t see facts about climate change related events or any other weather events even if they are of extreme nature in the news unless there are blood stained bodies or at least traumatized zombies wandering through the ruins of their homes pleading for international aid that can be associated with such an event. As they say `If it bleeds, it leads.`
    There`s far to much footage to be had from the Syria conflict etc at the moment and probably for some time and if not there then some other misery stricken conflict to be at all concerned about a bit of an Asian cold snap.
    Climate change already is killing people but not so you would notice. Its over there and we don`t care and if they live in those crowded shanty dwellings in the path of massive cyclones what can you expect ahh. 🙂 🙂 🙂
    There is now an enormous wealth of `facts` relating to climate change out there Andy and thanks to people like James Renwick they are very understandable and measured but if people like you choose to ignore the `facts` in preference for some form of sudo skepticism then you are irretrievably lost in the abyss of ignorance, and thats a FACT.

    1. The problem with the mental state of the world is this:

      Truth and facts in the age of the “Trump -> Twitter -> Right Wing Dumbf..k Brains -> election success” do no longer matter. A majority of voters is incapable and not educated enough to tell lies from truth. They, in fact, they seem to prefer a strongman dictator who demonstrates to them that even the search for truth, hard and difficult at times, does not matter anymore anyway, now that they are dictated too. They even jubilate in delight of being absolved from the burden of making sensible decisions about complicated global events and the state of the planet.

      The dictator will now try to ensure on all fronts to grow the herd of the dumbf..kers and diminish the power of ‘Truth’ on all fronts. America and also Brexit has heralded the brave new world for the rest of us where we will live under Puninesque dominance. Andy is one of the many agent-provocateurs of the alt-right movement that brought all this about.

      What remains is simple Physics. No dictator can stem the tides or cool the planet. He can lie about the observations, hide the evidence and blind us by destroying our capability to look. But the planet will do what it will in reaction to the human failures. And in due course, this evil will vanish, downed by its own arrogance and criminal hubris. Unfortunately, it will take most of the rest of us with it.

      But before this happens, there is a high likelihood that dumb Trump will have embroiled us in WW3 anyway, looking by his elephant in a glass house diplomatic skills….

      1. Whilst you are defaming me Thomas, here is a quiz for you.

        Which of the following is “fake news”?

        1 Russians hacked into DNC emails and influenced the US election
        2 there is a child sex trafficking ring run from a Pizza parlour in DC
        3 US campuses have a “rape culture”
        4 US cops are black killing homicidal maniacs

        My answer is “possibly all of them”
        How many of these originated from the MSM?

        1. Oh come on Andy, thats a confused, silly list.

          The Russian hack is not fake news. The CIA and FBI have asserted they have clear evidence of a Russian hack of democrats data, and an agenda against them, so its obviously not fake news. We have to have at least some faith the cia get things mostly right. Otherwise you are descending into the trap explained by Thomas, where truth and facts no longer matter and nobody can be trusted. This is a dangerous state which will lead to bad decisions. There is no evidence that the cia or fbi are corrupt, or consistently get things wrong. The occasional mistake does not make them corrupt.

          Sadly the cia did have weak evidence of Iraqs weapons of mass destruction, but it was that fool G W Bush and Tony Blair that made the silly decision to trust what was obviously weak evidence. Sadly its this one blunder that has created lack of trust in both politicians and agencies of the state. Its an over reaction.

          There was never any evidence, not even superficial evidence, for a child sex ring, so yes this is fake news.

          Rape culture is not even in the news category. Im not aware they are sayingin the news section that a rape culture has been proven. It is purely the opinion of opinion writers. You are floating a strawman, and confusing fake news with peoples opinions (to which they are entitled). I do personally think the rape culture claim is somewhat exaggerated and applies to a small minority of perverts.

          Wheres your source for the homicidal maniac claim? It does not sound like language you would normally find in the news section of the media and sounds more like some shock jocks opinion. That does not make it fake news.

          It could also be true or false, but show me the detail of where you got this quote. However also use some commonsense, there are probably a couple of cops who have a nasty agenda against black people, but in the Trumpian world where truth and facts dont matter and the only science that counts is science signed off by President Trump, we will never get to the bottom of whats really going on with the police, so people will believe whatever crap they want to believe.

          1. The Russian hack story is fake news. There is no evidence for this whatsoever

            It seems more likely that Podesta was a victim of a phishing scam

            1. Ha! You wish! You clearly need to get out a bit more – or at least get your news from somewhere other than Breitbart.

              Anyway: this is off-topic in this thread. No more from anyone, please. We’re supposed to be talking about McPherson’s doom mongering.

            2. It is fashionable, among many sectors of society to automatically dismiss any form of doom mongering and those who are behind such things.

        2. “Andy is one of the many agent-provocateurs of the alt-right movement that brought all this about.” In your world surely is a compliment you are proud of.
          It cannot be a defaming comment in the light of your year-long trail of statements by yourself that show the vigor and persistence of your agitation for the “alt-right’s” cause, certainly with respect to climate change obfuscation and denial.
          So being named an agent-provocateur for the “winning party” after the US and Brexit votes, surely must be an accolade in your ears.

          Of cause, now you have Britain withering in pain from the internal bleeding after shooting themselves in the foot (and holding the barrel now with a trembling hand to the head for the article 50 coup de gras…) and you have the US slithering into isolation and wrecked international relationships weeks before Dumb Trump even gets the bomb trigger bag man following him around 24/7…. The concept of “winning” is a relative one, the grinning “Pharage” being utterly bedazzled by the golden Wonkavator notwithstanding.

          Still Andy, well done to your part in the latest great successes of this year!! You will surly be remembered for what you did to aid it along….

          1. Thomas. Evidence for being an agent for the Alt Right would include an active Twitter following
            I have no Twitter following, therefore you claims are a lie

            By the way Thomas , since you hate democracy so much, would you have taken a similar line on the Scottish independence referendum, if they had won, or is it a different set of rules for the Scots ?

            1. Andy, you need to take a class in logic man. Twitter ist just one of many forms of agitation and not twittering is not absolving you from the rest of your agitation, certainly not from climate denial, which is a significant part of the general system of lies with which democracy has been put on its head. Democracy will produce negative outcomes if the electorate is being willfully misled by demagogues, charlatans, and selfish populists and too incompetent to realize what they are doing to their country and the world.

  13. The following linked article will likely be dismissed, by many people who bother to read it, as being too extreme. The human brain is configured to automatically reject or filter out information that has the potential to make us feel very uncomfortable.

    The following linked article again points out the need to take immediate concerted actions while it fails to point out that such warnings have been around for about a half-century. History shows that the degree of actions that have taken place are not nearly enough to avoid approaching the “Tipping Points” noted in this article.

    Warning of Global Havoc as Possible Arctic ‘Tipping Points’ Pile Up

    1. Gasbuggy, you make the comment that the human brain filters out things that make us uncomfortable. I think this is very true, and you see people who are basically intelligent going into a sort of rage over climate change, where they just don’t want to know, or start believing the most absurd sceptical claims. They sometimes get quite enraged, but are clearly unaware how they are reacting, yet I can see it plainly.

      I presume its partly because they see their personal interests and petrol based lifestyle being threatened, or they have an ideological or political dislike of the environmental movement. You see the reaction more strongly with conservative leaning people.

      Personally I dont have this reaction to climate change. I guess I just accept the science on its merits, as they seem obvious, and see it as inevitable that humanity will move away from oil based energy sources for all sorts of reasons.

      However I would be the first to admit I go into denial about some other sorts of issues. Its interesting how we seem “inherently” open to some things but defensive about others.

      I certainly dont dismiss your article on the arctic and the emerging extreme rates of change. Its well worth a read and seems plainly factual. In fact theres not even anything surprising in it really, as we have seen this building for a while.

      I suspect the enhanced warming in those northern regions is one reason the surface data is showing a bit more warming than the satellite data of the middle to upper atmosphere. However I dont have enough technical knowledge to be sure of this.

      Quite apart from various potential positive feedbacks in the arctic gaining rapid traction, temperatures at the pole are a basic part of the basic global circulatory system that distributes heat energy from the equator to the poles. We are changing this flow pattern, and given this basic system generates weather, who knows where it will lead or what the implications could be. It would be very hard to predict because weather processes are somewhat chaotic in nature.

      I dont like uncertainty like this especially when it could well lead to big problems. The precautionary principle should apply, and we should be reducing emissions before things gain any more traction.

      The world will eventually run out of oil anyway, so change is inevitable sooner or later.

  14. Back to McPherson: Climate change doom will not affect all parts of the world equally fast and hard obviously. For many that lack of sufficient access to water for drinking and irrigation will become a driver of doom:
    And with melting glaciers and the lack of trans-seasonal water storage in form of winter ice, the Winter-Summer water balance will become difficult to maintain.

    1. This just looks at the cause of collapse from the standpoint of ecological and human habitat loss. When the Earth’s population of around 7.5 billion people find themselves starved of other resources, such as economic stability and other societal resources that will likely likely cause major social instabilities that may trigger nuclear weapon exchange wars. Because these weapons of mass destruction have been kept so well hidden most people have forgotten that there are well over 10,000 of these warheads on launch alert. Additionally, a rapid breakdown in industrial infrastructure will mean that the fresh spent nuclear fuel, located in reactors and spent nuclear fuel pools around the world, will overheat causing the contained fission products to be emitted into the Earth’s atmosphere. The design of nuclear reactors has always assumed that following the ending of the fission reactions the fuel rods will be kept cool for at least the following five years by a robust industrial civilization.

  15. I do agree climate change is likely to cause conflicts between countries, and possibly within countries. Given speed of change in the arctic I think this will come sooner than maybe expected, so Guy Macpherson has a point, although not within ten years.

    I think the largest realistic source of potential war and conflict from climate change will result from sea level rise. This could be pretty serious. A lot of people live in coastal areas and countries like Bangladesh are mostly very low lying and they will want to escape. However I dont see nuclear conflict given the countries likely to be affected.

    We can expect big changes to immigration patterns and pressure on more secure western countries less affected by sea level rise to accept refugees. Refugee issues are already a global problem, so climate change can only make it much worse. Dealing with this wont be easy.

    This also raises ethical and economic issues. Western countries are privileged partly through their own hard work, but also partly by good fortune and good local geography. What do we do about refugees? Do western countries have a right to ignore extreme hardship of refugees who are often a victim of forces outside their control? What is the morality of all this?

    We have also embraced an economic philosophy of free markets. Strictly speaking this should mean a borderless world. Either all markets are free or none are. You have to have consistency.

    Or do we tightly regulate immigration numbers etc, preserve stability, and our privileged way of life? Immigration puts huge pressure on infrastructure. These are valid concerns.

    The more we ignore climate change and reducing emissions, the more acute these difficult questions will become.

    1. I’m glad you are now considering the impacts of climate change impacts from a broader prespective then just impacts on things like water availability and food sources. The vast majority don’t bother to look at the situation from a holistic perspective. Guy McPherson’s perspective comes from looking at a broad range of impacts driven by multiple reenforcing feedback mechanisms.

      By focusing on sea level rise you’ve chosen to look at a rather slow change. Below I’ve posted a video showing some early impacts on the southern portion of the U.S. State of Florida. Note, that despite obvious impacts the building boom continues in the Miami metropolitan region. Many human minds simply can’t grasp the meaning of what they are seeing.

      You mentioned low lying Bangladesh. I assume you are aware that India and Pakistan are nuclear weapon powers with many such weapons in their arsenals. They have regular border conflicts. India also views China as a threat and you must know China is one of the major nuclear weapons powers.

      The free market model is largely based upon the concept of constant growth and financial loans that extend around 30 years into the future. Have you considered what unrest will be generated when that model breaks down?

      The warnings, about the acuteness and difficulty of addressing the concerns you mentioned, have been with us for many decades. History has shown that we haven’t come close to addressing them fast enough. Again, McPherson’s perspective has come from examining that history.

      As Seas Rise, Miami Development Continues Unabated

  16. Gasbuggy, I didnt make any comments specifically on water supplies. However I agree Guy McPherson does look at the big picture. This is something that personally interests me. I look at many issues from how things interrelate.

    Unfortunately he does go off the deep end though with his predictions of quite such rapid change. However sometimes I probably have unrealistic expectations of peoples perceptions and ability to be rigorous in their assessments. He is making his style of contribution and this has value at some level.

    Yes Florida is already experience sea level issues. You could say its the canary in the coal mine, and its mindboggling how people just keep on building on very low land, or not even considering adjusting the floor level settings of their new homes. I’m undecided whether this is ignorance, climate scepticism, or supreme arrogance. I think its part of the conservative mindset in America of suspicion of science.

    However people from Florida can easily move to other states. People in Bangladesh or the pacific islands wont find things so easy. The third world is going to be the big victim here.

    Yes I agree climate change could cause particular problems in hot climates like India and Pakistan, and this could exacerbate nuclear tensions. The drought in Syria is linked to climate change and was a major cause of the social unrest and resultant civil war. However the link between climate change and nuclear war seems slightly tenuous, and we just have to be careful not to start catastrophising about all these issues, as it can alienate middle NZ.

    The capitalist model and free market model is indeed based around endless growth. The huge debt built up recently requires levels of growth to pay it off that are simply looking impossible. Something is going to break economically. Too many people also see capitalism as justifying greed and unlimited personal self interest.

    However I dont see a better basic alternative to capitalism and at least moderately free markets, and nobody has articulated one.

    All we can do is push for a more sensible form of capitalism, one that accepts there have to be sensible rules and some social justice. One that accepts that free markets haven’t voluntarily reduced emissions, so some government legislation is required in the way of carbon taxes or regulation. This is philosophically justified because markets havent solved the problem.

    We are being held back by deluded climate sceptics. The trouble is humans are biologically programmed to seek warmth, and may see a warmer world as preferable. Well they are sorely mistaken.

  17. “The end of Humanity…” Perhaps McPherson is right, but in a different way than he thinks:

    It would seem that the fatal current drift of our Western democracies to the right and towards a world of denial of facts is connected more to Russia and the right wing state of affairs in Putin-land than we might realize:

    This excellent background article sums matters up in an interesting way. And it introduces us to this shady figure, Dugin, who is the right wing nexus in Russia:
    and who is deeply connected through his ideology and influence to the Western Alt-Right movement.

    It seems that Dugin is fighting for the very same stance as the Western Alt-Right: An end to the “tyranny” of facts and an end to ” truth as a concept, as it is in the way of the Right Wing philosophy:

    “truth is a matter of belief … there is no such thing as facts”[Dugin]

    It would seem that we are well on the way of fulfilling the wet dreams of the world’s Nazi resurgence:

    It is also becoming now clear that Western right-wing organizations have been funded by Putin and his conspirators for a long time:

    Western intelligence has known for some time that Vladimir Putin bankrolls significant elements of Europe’s far-right. Just as the KGB clandestinely supported Western left-wing radicals and terrorists during the Cold War, today the ideological tables have turned and now the Kremlin is backing militant right-wingers, who share much of Putinism’s nationalist and traditionalist worldview.

    Putin has realized that right wing movements are currently the best lever he has to destabilize the West.

    In all this action on Climate Change seems perhaps at the moment the lesser of our problems. The unmasking of the direct attack on the very fabric of our society to function and to fight for what is true is our most important task.

    1. You seem to be spending an unhealthy amount of time reading fake news about “Far Right” movements, Thomas.

    2. Yes I have heard of this Dugan character. He appears to be yet another extreme conservative, authoritarian, minority hating, paranoid nutbar. And dealing with climate change wont be on his horizons, as he sees it as some sort of elite scam, simply because he doesnt understand it or want to understand it.

      When you get the cia, fbi, and other governmental organisations all stating they have clear evidence Russia interfered in the election, only a fool would dismiss this. Of course the nature of things is the cia cant release everything they have, but they have released a couple of documents that certainly look like smoking guns. Sorry Andy but its not fake news.

      Sadly we had Hilary Clinton making agressive noises about Putin, but America has decided to go with Trump who wants to get into bed with Putin and make agressive noises about China. Andy, how is this a step forwards? I mean seriously its a mess.

      In fact for all his faults Obama had a more sensible approach to foreign policy that was more priniples based, and had a cool detachment rather than deliberately provoking leaders. America will miss Obama.

      This deplorable, hard right wing, anti truth movement expemplified by Putin, Trump and elements of Brexit is like a vulture feeding off the carcass of some genuine problems. There are no proper answers from these vultures, only fear, paranoia and hate.

      The vultures are in it for themselves and their kicks. Putin and Trump talk about so called liberal global elites making money out of globalisation. They completely ignore the fact that globalisation, even with its faults, has lifted millions in developing countries out of poverty.

      And ironically, Putin and Trump are the very people that are part of the global elite and have made money out of globalisation / privatisation etc. They are cynical hypocrites, that were parasites on the system. They have made their money, and now see an opportunity to break globalisation, to further other personal power agendas that they have.

      Putins grip on power is based on demonising America, or certainly liberal America. Trumps grip on power is based on demonising certain minority groups. They speak the same nutty language.

        1. Do you really need to ask that andy?
          Take his “stance” on abortion…
          as an example
          One could find exactly the same “stance” on LBGT…
          Then again muslim immigrants – who knows what his “stance” is on that issue is anymore?
          Or hispanics…
          At any one time he will make outlandish statements, off the top of his head, without a thought to how they might be perceived by others, and the next minute he will change his position entirely.
          Now that may not be demonising, but for those groups involved it can be very unsettling, and certainly make people afraid of which way he will act, and how his liver is feeling in the morning.

          1. I happen to find it “unsettling” when Jihadists murder people in Europe on an almost daily basis and governments either ignore the issue, or blame the victims

            This is the reason for the rise in populist movements, and calling people ‘racist” isn’t making it go away

            1. We all find the Berlin incident unsettling Andy. Europe has probably let in too many moslem people too fast without enough background checks. However Angela Mercel is quietly tightening up on this. This is preferable to some silly knee jerk reaction which could inflame things further.

              But it has nothing to do with climate change, or Donald Trump and his connection to climate change, or to Americas immigration issues.

              I would worry more about climate change because we have some reasonably clear options of how to deal with this. Its a bit easier than solving complex religious conflicts between people.

      1. How has globalisation helped the poor? Can you give some specific examples?

        By the way, I am sure Thomas is proud of his country and the “progressive” government that has given us the cultural enrichment that we see today. Other than ISIS inspired truck murders of Christians and other “far right” groups out doing their Christmas shopping, we now have a Syrian HuffPo writer blaming women for the sexual assaults against them

        Only far right groups think that women should be able to walk freely, obviously

        1. Andy wants to know which groups Trump demonises. Talk about pleading ignorance. He has verbally attacked women, disabled reporters, black americans, greenies, just to name a few. It couldn’t be plainer to witness.

          Andy says back in the cold war leftists were on the side of Russia. Really? Well anyway we arent in the cold war any longer. I don’t like Putin, but neither do I think we should aggravate him like Hilary Clinton tended to do.

          But Trump getting into bed with the guy is just too much! Can you not see how this can go really bad for everyone?

          Andy can’t work out how globalisation has helped the poor. Talk about living in ignorance. Free trade has lifted millions in China, India etc out of poverty.

          Free trade has also indisputably made America more wealthy overall. The downside is this wealth has been captured by the top 10%, just as Reagons so called economic reforms led to wealth capture by the elite. Trumps policies don’t fix these problems, they just sell false hope.

          Read some books on economics Andy, even mainstream material acknowledges these problems.

          Like I said above Trump and Putin, and this Dugan character are hard right, authoritarian nutbars feeding on global problems for their own twisted personal goals. They don’t have any decent policies or ideas.

  18. OK, you lot. You clearly can’t stay on topic. Take this discussion to an open thread. In deference to Jim’s wishes (he’s been dutifully reading everything), comments here are now closed.

Comments are closed.