Beyond the Point of No Return

4 12 2016

Imminent Carbon Feedbacks Just Made the Stakes for Global Warming a Hell of a Lot Higher

Republished from Robert Scribbler’s excellent website……..

If EVER there was a need to start soil farming, this proves it beyond doubt.

“It’s fair to say we have passed the point of no return on global warming and we can’t reverse the effects, but certainly we can dampen them,” said biodiversity expert Dr. Thomas Crowther.

“I’m an optimist and still believe that it is not too late, but we urgently need to develop a global economy driven by sustainable energy sources and start using CO2, as a substrate, instead of a waste product.” — Prof Ivan Janssens, recognized as a godfather of the global ecology field.

“…we are at the most dangerous moment in the development of humanity. We now have the technology to destroy the planet on which we live, but have not yet developed the ability to escape it… we only have one planet, and we need to work together to protect it.” — Professor Stephen Hawking yesterday in The Guardian.


The pathway for preventing catastrophic climate change just got a whole hell of a lot narrower.

For according to new, conservative estimates in a scientific study led by Dr. Thomas Crowther, increasing soil respiration alone is about to add between 0.45 and 0.71 parts per million of CO2 to the atmosphere every year between now and 2050.

(Thomas Crowther explains why rapidly reducing human greenhouse gas emissions is so important. Namely, you want to do everything you can to avoid a runaway into a hothouse environment that essentially occurs over just one Century. Video source: Netherlands Institute of Ecology.)

What this means is that even if all of human fossil fuel emissions stop, the Earth environment, from this single source, will generate about the same carbon emission as all of the world’s fossil fuel industry did during the middle of the 20th Century. And that, if human emissions do not stop, then the pace of global warming of the oceans, ice sheets, and atmosphere is set to accelerate in a runaway warming event over the next 85 years.

Global Warming Activates Soil Respiration Which Produces More CO2

This happens because as the world warms, carbon is baked out of previously inactive soils through a process known as respiration. As a basic explanation, micro-organisms called heterotrophs consume carbon in the soil and produce carbon dioxide as a bi-product. Warmth is required to fuel this process. And large sections of the world that were previously too cold to support large scale respiration and CO2 production by heterotrophs and other organisms are now warming up. The result is that places like Siberian Russia, Northern Europe, Canada, and Alaska are about to contribute a whole hell of a lot more CO2 (and methane) to the atmosphere than they did during the 20th Century.

When initial warming caused by fossil fuel burning pumps more carbon out of the global environment, we call this an amplifying feedback. It’s a critical climate tipping point when the global carbon system in the natural environment starts to run away from us.

Sadly, soil respiration is just one potential feedback mechanism that can produce added greenhouse gasses as the Earth warms. Warming oceans take in less carbon and are capable of producing their own carbon sources as they acidify and as methane seeps proliferate. Forests that burn due to heat and drought produce their own carbon sources. But increasing soil respiration, which has also been called the compost bomb, represents what is probably one of the most immediate and likely large sources of carbon feedback.


(A new study finds that warming of 1 to 2 C by 2050 will increase soil respiration. The result is that between 30 and 55 billion tons of additional CO2 is likely to hit the Earth’s atmosphere over the next 35 years. Image source: Nature.)

And it is also worth noting that the study categorizes its own findings as conservative estimates. That the world could, as an outside risk, see as much as four times the amount of carbon feedback (or as much as 2.7 ppm of CO2 per year) coming from soil if respiration is more efficient and wide-ranging than expected. If a larger portion of the surface soil carbon in newly warmed regions becomes a part of the climate system as microbes activate.

Amplifying Feedbacks Starting to Happen Now

The study notes that it is most likely that about 0.45 parts per million of CO2 per year will be leached from mostly northern soils from the period of 2016 to 2050 under 1 C worth of global warming during the period. To this point, it’s worth noting that the world has already warmed by more than 1 C above preindustrial levels. So this amount of carbon feedback can already be considered locked in. The study finds that if the world continues to warm to 2 C by 2050 — which is likely to happen — then an average of around 0.71 parts per million of CO2 will be leached out of soils by respiration every year through 2050.


(When soils lose carbon, it ends up in the atmosphere. According to a new study, soils around the world are starting to pump carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. This is caused by increased soil respiration as the Earth warms. Over the next 35 years, the amount of carbon dioxide being pumped out by the world’s soils is expected to dramatically increase. How much is determined by how warm the world becomes over the next 35 years. Image source: Nature.)

The upshot of this study is that amplifying carbon feedbacks from the Earth environment are probably starting to happen on a large scale now. And we may be seeing some evidence for this effect during 2016 as rates of atmospheric carbon dioxide accumulation are hitting above 3 parts per million per year for the second year in a row even as global rates of human emissions plateaued.

Beyond the Point of No Return

What this means is that the stakes for cutting human carbon emissions to zero as swiftly as possible just got a whole hell of a lot higher. If we fail to do this, we will easily be on track for 5-7 C or worse warming by the end of this Century. And this level of warming happening so soon and over so short a timeframe is an event that few, if any, current human civilizations are likely to survive. Furthermore, if we are to avoid terribly harmful warming over longer periods, we must not only rapidly transition to renewable energy sources. We must also somehow learn to pull carbon, on net, out of the atmosphere in rather high volumes.

Today, Professor Ivan Janssens of the University of Antwerp noted:

“This study is very important, because the response of soil carbon stocks to the ongoing warming, is one of the largest sources of uncertainty in our climate models. I’m an optimist and still believe that it is not too late, but we urgently need to develop a global economy driven by sustainable energy sources and start using CO2, as a substrate, instead of a waste product. If this happens by 2050, then we can avoid warming above 2C. If not, we will reach a point of no return and will probably exceed 5C.”

In other words, even the optimists at this time think that we are on the cusp of runaway catastrophic global warming. That the time to urgently act is now.


Quantifying Soil Carbon Losses in Response to Warming

Netherlands Institute of Ecology

Earth Warming to Climate Tipping Point

This is the Most Dangerous Time for Our Planet

Climate Change Escalating So Fast it is Beyond the Point of No Return


Soil Respiration


Harquebus’ latest newsletter….

30 06 2016

Howdy all.

The state and quality of main stream journalism (MSJ), including that at our own ABC and despite what they might think of themselves, has deteriorated to the point of being totally useless. Instead of news, we get stories about cats in schools, fanfares about stupid celebrities making stupid remarks and any other triviality that might distract their audiences from the real world and the little that does resemble credible news, is either government propaganda, incomplete, misleading or a combination of all three. The credibility of MSJ is now non existent.

The collapse of Venezuela, shattered climate records, the release of Arctic methane and CO2, unsustainable global debt, Bilderberg meetings and the sixth mass extinction event currently under way are never mentioned. Our environment continues to be destroyed, the oceans polluted and fished to exhaustion, finite resources are wasted on corporate profits while poverty and overcrowding due to unsustainable population growth continue unabated and the fault lies squarely with MSJ which, has failed to hold those responsible to account.
Tony Jones, Australia’s most popular TV journalist, is the worst of the lot. For decades he has reveled in his popularity while all that sustains us is destroyed in the pursuit of growth and profit. He and his MSJ peers must change or we can kiss our sorry little behinds goodbye and if they think that they and theirs are somehow going to be exempt from the bloody mess that will inevitably befall us then, they are even more stupid than the ignorant fools who govern us.
Aussie journalists are only slightly more trustworthy than the corporate bought and paid for politicians that they serve. How proud they must be.

“Sometimes I wonder whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on, or by imbeciles who really mean it.” — Mark Twain Here is my usual list of links which, also proves my point.



“As the economy unwinds, doctors are now stealing hospital food to feed their families.”
“”We want food!” Looting and riots rock Venezuela daily”
“With delivery trucks under constant attack, the nation’s food is now transported under armed guard. Soldiers stand watch over bakeries. The police fire rubber bullets at desperate mobs storming grocery stores, pharmacies and butcher shops. A 4-year-old girl was shot to death as street gangs fought over food.”

“Half of the world has passed the point of maximum energy consumption. This point is marked by large scale economic crisis. Asia Pacific is approaching that point now.”

Trans-Pacific Partnership will barely benefit Australia, says World Bank report”
The average Australian worker will not benefit in any way shape or form from this agreement.”

“The EPA states that methane is a greenhouse gas that could have 25 times the impact of carbon dioxide over the next century.”

“The melting of the permafrost represents one of humanity’s greatest fears for it contains vast amounts of methane, a greenhouse gas much more potent than carbon dioxide.”
“we are now experiencing the highest level of relative and absolute global inequality at any point in human history.”
“the 21st Century will be a new dark age of luxury for a few and barbaric suffering for most. ”
“the UN warns bluntly that world population, now well over seven billion ‘has reached a stage where the amount of resources needed to sustain it exceeds what is available
“Mexico’s wells are running dry.
You would almost not know if you took your news from television or the mainstream media. It is like a closely guarded secret — the aunt in the attic.”

“We have forgotten the lessons of the 1760s, 1850s, and 1920s. We have let Economic Royalists hijack our democracy, and turn our economy into their money machine. Now the middle class is evaporating, infrastructure is crumbling, and pressure is reaching a breaking point. Anti-establishment candidates are on the rise, and no one knows how things will turn out.”

“Australian scientists report that many surviving corals affected by mass bleaching from high sea temperatures on the northern Great Barrier Reef are the sickest they have ever seen.

“In 2009, Obama promised to help “rid the world of nuclear weapons” and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. No American president has built more nuclear warheads than Obama.”

“Thus, if tomorrow a war were to break out between the US and Russia, it is guaranteed that the US would be obliterated.”
“If attacked, Russia will not back down; she will retaliate, and she will utterly annihilate the United States.”

“Whether we believe that innovation and technology ultimately make the world better or worse, there is now overwhelming evidence that they are unsustainable in any case. Between economic over-extension, energy over-dependence, and the ruination of our atmosphere and other environments by our civilization and its technologies, it is now almost inevitable that we will soon see a collapse that will make the Great Depression, and perhaps even the five previous great extinctions of life on Earth, look like nothing.
“Modern technology requires cheap energy, and, notwithstanding the recent power games between the US and Russia temporarily and artificially driving down oil prices, we are quickly running out of it.”
“the evidence supports their theory that his death was in no possible way a suicide, as has been reported by police and the mainstream media.”

“Having successfully used the EU to conquer the Greek people by turning the Greek “leftwing” government into a pawn of Germany’s banks, Germany now finds the IMF in the way of its plan to loot Greece into oblivion .”

“All references to climate change’s impact on World Heritage sites in Australia have been removed from a United Nations report.”
“Australia’s Department of the Environment requested that Unesco scrub these sections from the final version.”

Peak oil mates, peak oil. Those that deny it do not understand it.
“when oil companies (and governments) talk about oil supply, they include all sorts of things that cannot be sold as oil on the world market including biofuels, refinery gains and natural gas plant liquids as well as lease condensate.”
“If what you’re selling cannot be sold on the world market as crude oil, then it’s not crude oil.”

“You’d think this would be pretty big news.  The Prime Minister of one of the biggest economies in the world just made a presentation saying we are on the brink of collapse not only in Japan but worldwide and it was mostly swept under the rug.
“The same globalist elites who are orchestrating the coming collapse own all the major media companies.  They don’t want Joe the Plumber and main street to get an inkling that something is wrong until it is too late… just like in 2008.”

“Neoliberalism hasn’t delivered economic growth – it has only made a few people a lot better off.”
“Ocean plastic has turned up literally everywhere. It has been found in the deep sea and buried in Arctic ice. It has been ingested with dire consequences by some 700 species of marine wildlife.”
“inflate another bubble. In other words, do more of what failed spectacularly.
This process of doing more of what failed spectacularly appears sustainable for a time, but this superficial success masks the underlying dynamic of diminishing returns:”
“If our leaders had made better decisions since the last crisis, things could have turned out differently.  But instead, they continued to conduct business as usual, and now we will reap what they have sown.”

“The high-profit, low-risk nature of environmental crime is matched by the low funds and uncertain priorities given to fighting it by many decision-takers.”

“That $1.3 trillion bubble was enough to bring down several major banks and cause cascading damage across the global financial system.
Today’s bubble is EIGHT TIMES the size of the last one”

“The Arctic is on track to be free of sea ice this year or next for the first time in more than 100,000 years”
“Scientists have monitored greenhouse gas methane – once frozen on the sea bed – bubbling up to the surface at an alarming rate.”
“We’re on a runaway train, scientists are blowing the whistle, but politicians are still shovelling coal into the engine.”

“A husband should be allowed to lightly beat his wife if she defies his commands and refuses to dress up as per his desires; turns down demand of intercourse without any religious excuse or does not take bath after intercourse or menstrual periods.”

“That has left economists and fund managers worried the unconventional measures are setting the stage for exactly what central banks are trying to prevent—another financial crisis.”

“Australia has amassed a huge pile of debt—over 120% of GDP—and most of it is mortgage debt on overvalued real estate. Now that Australia’s economy, which was driven by commodity exports to China, has tanked, a lot of this debt is being turned into interest-only loans, because Australians no longer have the money to repay any of the principal.”
“as conditions deteriorate further, the Australians will become unable to afford taxes and utilities.”

“the internet has fallen into the hands of large corporations and governments and become the “world’s largest surveillance network”.”

“if you care to avoid vaporization and, assuming we do avoid it, live a life other than serfdom, you must wake up and realize that your most deadly enemy is Washington, not the hoax of “Russian aggression,” not the hoax of “Muslim terrorism,” not the hoax of “domestic extremism,” not the hoax of welfare bankrupting America, not the hoax of democracy voting away your wealth, which Wall Street and the corporations have already stolen and stuck in their pockets.”

“We are heading into a very dark time…a time where technology will be used to enslave, not enlighten or uplift mankind.”

“Its fast-growing stalk yields one of the strongest and most useful fibers known, used in superior paper, canvas, ropes, insulation, cardboard, clothing, shoes and plastic — plastic that is, by the way, biodegradable. This one plant can provide many of the products an industrial society needs, sustainably, while drastically reducing pollution, energy consumption, deforestation, fossil fuel use and providing income for millions of farmers”
“Both hemp and marijuana are cannabis plants. Hemp is cannabis sativa and marijuana is cannabis indica. So when regulators wanted to prevent people from getting high on cannabis indica, they criminalized cannabis, which included cannabis sativa, which made it illegal to use one of the most useful and sustainable crops the world has ever known.”

“There is no such thing as sustainable agriculture. It does not exist.”

“The economic reality, evident to anyone who isn’t a spin doctor for the Coalition or a journalist for The Australian, is that we have a weak economy, unable to finance our expected living standards.”

“The last station on Earth without a 400 parts per million (ppm) [CO2] reading has reached it.”
“That’s the first time it’s passed that level in 4 million years (no, that’s not a typo).”
“the planet as a whole has likely crossed the 400 ppm threshold permanently”

“Seven climate records set so far in 2016”

“What will corporations blame when they can’t use “tighter money supplies” as an excuse?”


Harry aka Harquebus
Salisbury North.
South Australia.

How fossil fuel burning nearly wiped out life on Earth – 250m years ago

30 05 2015


Originally published in the Guardian, this article just blew me away, as it seriously contests ideas I had accepted as facts a very long time ago….

Do you want to know the real reason for the advances by Islamic State in Iraq and Syria? Changing light bulbs in America. This is the explanation given by John McCain, Republican chair of the Senate armed services committee. At the weekend he blamed Barack Obama’s inability to magic away Isis on the president’s belief that climate change is “the biggest enemy we have”. Never mind the role of the Iraq war – which McCain supported – in destabilising the region, destroying the Iraqi army and creating the opportunities Isis has exploited. Never mind the propagation of Salafi doctrines by Saudi Arabia, which McCain bravely confronts by grovelling before its tyrants. It’s the Better Buildings Challenge and the Solar Instructor Training Network that allowed Isis to capture Ramadi and Palmyra.

In fact there is a connection, but it strengthens Obama’s contention that “climate change constitutes a serious threat to global security”. One of the likely catalysts for the 2011 uprising in Syria was a massive drought – the worst in the region in the instrumental record – that lasted from 2006 to 2010. It caused the emigration of one and a half million rural workers into Syrian cities, and generated furious resentment when Bashar al-Assad’s government failed to respond effectively. Climate models suggest that man-made global warming more than doubled the likelihood of a drought of this magnitude.

But this is nothing by comparison to the real threats to global security, which make global security, as understood by McCain and Obama, look almost frivolous. As the evidence accumulates, it now seems that climate change was the commonest cause of mass extinction in the Earth’s prehistory.

In the media, if not scientific literature, global catastrophes have long been associated with asteroid strikes. But as the dating of rocks has improved, the links have vanished. Even the famous meteorite impact at Chicxulub in Mexico, widely blamed for the destruction of the dinosaurs, was out of sync by more than 100,000 years.

The story that emerges repeatedly from the fossil record is mass extinction caused by three deadly impacts, occurring simultaneously: global warming, the acidification of the oceans and the loss of oxygen from seawater. All these effects are caused by large amounts of carbon dioxide entering the atmosphere. When seawater absorbs CO2, its acidity increases. As temperatures rise, circulation in the oceans stalls, preventing oxygen from reaching the depths.

The great outgassings of the past were caused by volcanic activity that were orders of magnitude greater than the eruptions we sometimes witness today. The dinosaurs appear to have been wiped out by the formation of the Deccan Traps in India: an outpouring on such a scale that one river of lava flowed for 1,500km. But that event was dwarfed by a far greater one, 190m years earlier, that wiped out 96% of marine life as well as most of the species on land.

What was the cause? It now appears that it might have been the burning of fossil fuel. Before I explain this extraordinary contention, it’s worth taking a moment to consider what mass extinction means. This catastrophe, at the end of the Permian period about 252m years ago, wiped out not just species within the world’s ecosystems but the ecosystems themselves. Forests and coral reefs vanished from the fossil record for some 10 million years. When, eventually, they were reconstituted, it was with a different collection of species which evolved to fill the ecological vacuum. Much of the world’s surface was reduced to bare rubble. Were such an extinction to take place today, it would be likely to eliminate almost all the living systems that sustain us. When plants are stripped from the land, the soil soon follows.

The latest research into the catastrophe at the end of the Permian is summarised in two articles by the geologist John Mason on the Skeptical Science site. The strongest clues all seem to point to the same conclusion: that the extinctions were triggered by the eruption of an igneous belt even bigger than the Deccan plateau: the Siberian Traps. As well as CO2, the volcanoes there produced sulphur dioxide, chlorides and fluorides, causing acid rain and the depletion of ozone.

But because carbon dioxide’s residence time in the atmosphere is greater than that of these other gases, it’s likely to have been the major cause of extinction. The change of state – including a rise in oceanic temperatures of 6-10C – was too sudden and sustained to permit the majority of life forms to adapt. The onset of mass extinction coincides with a giant carbon spike “so distinctive that it serves as a marker-horizon all over the world”.

So where did the carbon dioxide come from? Some of it would have bubbled out of the magma. But, enormous as the eruptions were, this alone seems insufficient to account for either the total volume of emissions or the ratio of isotopes (the different atomic forms) of the carbon entering the atmosphere. Fossil fuel seems to fill the gap.

The volcanoes exploded through the Tunguska sedimentary basin,cooking much of the coal, petroleum and methane it contained. Particles of coal fly ash have been found in rocks as far away as the Canadian Arctic. Rising temperatures might also have destabilised methane hydrates – a frozen form of natural gas – causing the kind of runaway feedback that terrifies some climate scientists today. Yes: the geological record suggests that fossil fuel burning might have eliminated most life on Earth.

And today? According to a paper published in 2013, the current rate of ocean acidification, caused by the burning of fossil fuels, is faster than at any time in the past 300m years. During the Permian mass extinction, the eruption of the Siberian Traps through the Tunguska basin seems to have produced between one and two gigatonnes of carbon dioxide a year. Today fossil fuel burning produces 30 gigatonnes a year.

Isis? Global security? If anyone were to survive a mass extinction on the scale of the Permian catastrophe, they would look back and shake their heads, amazed that we could have considered such issues more important.

Are we already past dangerous climate change?

26 02 2014

Are we already past dangerous climate change? asks a Mark Cochrane follower over at Peak Prosperity dot com….. This paper (PDF) – not peer reviewed – he ads, is a critique of the AR5 WG1 SPM. David Wasdell lays out a case that the current situation is far worse than the AR5 posits. He uses a much higher value of Earth System Sensitivity to show that we have no carbon budget left, even for 2C. He also uses other sensitivity estimates to show that there is, at best, very little or no budget left to avoid dangerous climate change.

Wasdell is one of the climate scientists that Guy McPherson leans heavily on for his NTE scenarios, so this question is quite pertinent to How Guy McPherson gets it wrong..

Mark Cochrane

Mark Cochrane


Mark replied: Yes we are………But

I read through the 21 page document and it is a good expose of how the politics of the IPCC process shades an already conservative (consensus) representation of what the science indicates is likely to occur as a function of a given amount of greenhouse forcing. For those who do not know, the IPCC process requires 100% consensus of all the authors nominated by all the countries to agree on their interpretation of the data. This means that in the end, after marathon sessions of back and forth, the final interpretation depends on just how far the most skeptical scientists are willing to be moved. These are not ‘alarmist’ interpretations as some would have you believe. Furthermore, the public does not really look at the IPCC report, they look at the Summary for Policy Makers (SPM) which is a short Cliff Notes version. The short version is wrangled over by political appointees (not scientists) who literally argue over every word and every figure. They produce a sanitized version of the report that all governments can support. Again, not conducive to ‘alarmist’ or even the most likely scenarios.

That said, the author (Wasdell) of the document you linked and the IPCC authors are talking about two different outcomes with regard to the made up 2C line in the sand for “dangerous” climate change. The SPM is focused on the so-called fast feedbacks (e.g. radiative forcing of greenhouse gases) and the likely temperature impacts within this century. Wasdell is making the case for including both fast and slow feedbacks and using a final equilibrium temperature as the metric of “dangerous” temperature changes. The slow feedbacks include things like changing albedo values from melting ice sheets and methane release from melting permafrost. These slow feedbacks stretch out for hundreds (maybe thousands) of years. So even if we manage to keep increases under 2C this century (unlikely), the planetary temperatures will certainly rise above that value over the following centuries. Though everything we see shows the 2050 and 2100 outcomes of the model projections the IPCC also does some analyses of “Long-term” changes out to 2300. Here is the figure from the AR4.

The unrealistic goal of 2C is pretty obvious even on the sanitized Figure 10 in the SPM of AR5 (AR5 SPM link; figure is on page 28). Every scenario but the fantasy RCP 2.6 blows past 2C  by 2100 and the trajectories are shooting even higher into the future.

The IPCC and especially the SPM make use of the Equilibrium Climate Sensitivity (ECS) for a doubling equivalent of carbon dioxide concentration, which basically accounts for fast feedbacks and is taken to probably be between 2 and 4.5C, with 3C used as the most likely value (note some models show it to be >5C). Wasdell is arguing to use what is termed the Earth System Sensitivity (ESS) which includes both long and short term feedbacks. It is poorly constrained but may be twice as large as the ECS values.

In the near term there is not a huge difference in using one over the other and what needs to be kept in perspective is that both approaches are postulating an outcome for a doubled CO2 equivalent that is held constant which is not actually a realistic model of what is likely to happen. It does give a measure of sensitivity though. If you are going to try to make mitigating attempts, going after the fast feedbacks is the most reasonable approach since doing things like reducing methane emissions from fossil fuels (or cows!) could make meaningful changes in the short term that have long term significance, while trying to shade glaciers to mitigate long term feedbacks would be ludicrous.

Ultimately though, the 2C threshold is just a chimera created to give policymakers and the public a figure to hang their concerns on. Barring a miracle or a global catastrophe, we are not likely to reduce emissions by the >80% necessary before 2020 in order to maybe squeak in under 2C this century.  In any case, the climate change (0.8C) that we’ve already experienced has led to numerous extinctions and many thousands of human deaths (e.g. 80,000 in 2003 Europe, 50,000 in 2010 Russia). Surely this has already reached “dangerous levels”.

The time has come to spread the message

7 12 2013

I just found this.  IF this doesn’t scare the pants off you, then I don’t know what will.  The time to turn “Western Civilisation” OFF has arrived.  It may in fact be way too late, but only time will tell.

Reblogged from Arctic News.

[ click on image to enlarge ]

Above image shows methane rising from the seafloor of the Arctic Ocean on December 3, 2013, and entering the atmosphere, reaching levels as high as 2425 parts per billion (ppb). Last month, on November 9, 2013, methane reached levels as high as 2662 ppb.

The image below gives an idea of the height of this level, compared to historic levels, and how fast levels of methane (CH4) have been rising compared to levels of two other greenhouse gases, i.e. carbon dioxide (CO2) and nitrous oxide (N2O).

While CO2 levels are in ppm and CH4 in ppb, they are directly comparable, because a CH4 cloud that, 5 years after its abrupt release, has shrunk to 20% its original size will over those 5 years have exercized local warming more than 1000 times stronger than the global warming potency of the same mass of CO2.

Why worry about methane rising from the seafloor in the Arctic? Sediments underneath the Arctic Ocean hold vast amounts of methane. Just one part of the Arctic Ocean alone, the East Siberian Arctic Shelf (ESAS, see map), holds up to 1700 Gt of methane. A sudden release of just 3% of this amount could add over 50 Gt of methane to the atmosphere, and experts consider such an amount to be ready for release at any time.

The 5 Gt of methane that currently is already in the Earth’s atmosphere is responsible for almost half (42%) the global warming caused by people. As the IPCC puts it, methane is responsible for 0.94 W/m2 of radiative forcing, while total warming caused by people adds up to 2.26 W/m2 of radiative forcing.

Imagine what kind of devastation an extra 50 Gt of methane could cause. Imagine the warming that will take place if the methane in the atmosphere was suddenly multiplied by 11. Recent calculatations by Whiteman et al. show such an event causing $60 trillion in damage. By comparison, the size of the world economy in 2012 was about $70 trillion.

Smaller releases of methane in the Arctic come with the same risk; their huge local warming impact threatens to further destabilize sediments under the Arctic Ocean and trigger further methane releases, as illustrated by the image below.

Victor Hugo

In the light of these figures, there is no question that this is important and that dramatic changes are needed to reduce such dangers. Indeed, the only question is what kind of changes are needed.

The challenges may seem huge, the opposition to change may seem formidable. Yet despite the saber rattling of armies, and despite covert efforts by powerful conglomarates and vested interests to resist change, common sense will prevail, because nothing is as strong as an idea whose time has come. [“On résiste à l’invasion des armées; on ne résiste pas à l’invasion des idées.” — From: Histoire d’un crime, Victor Hugo.]

As the prospect of climate catastrophe becomes ever more apparent and as the political imperative to take comprehensive and effective action becomes ever more urgent and obvious, this message will spread and the winds of change will grow stronger day after day. Be part of the solution and spread the message!

Arctic Death Spiral and the Methane Time Bomb

18 11 2013

I wasn’t convinced about Guy McPherson’s assertion of Near Term Human Extinction…….  but now I’m not so unsure.  This really scary movie made me feel like blowing up coal railway lines and assassinating a few dickhead politicians. We are TOAST. IF you haven’t got the download bandwidth, let me know;  leave an address in a message, and I’ll send you a CD…. but the time to revolt has well and truly arrived.

The start’s a bit crap in my opinion, they even misspelled SPIRAL in the title…….  I recommend skipping the first ten minutes.

What I have learned, what we should be thankful for, what remains to be done

28 10 2013

This is a three part essay by Dr Geoffrey Chia whose other essay If we can’t save Society, we must save ourselves I posted here last year…..

I got this as a pdf file, so editing it here is time consuming and somewhat difficult. Some of this appeared on Guy McPherson’s blog as jpg files, which made it almost unfathomable…! I’ll endeavour to make this more readable, fingers crossed… It’s a long piece, so I appeal to your attention span, because it’s a darn good read. Go make yourself a cuppa your favourite poison, and enjoy……
What I have learned, what we should be thankful for, what remains to be done
PART 1: WHAT I HAVE LEARNED (parts 2 and 3 to follow later)
I have been convening D3SJ (Doctors and Scientists for Sustainability and Social Justice) meetings for eight years now, the main purpose being to promote the idea that policy should be determined by evidence, reason and fairness, to achieve the greatest amount of good for the greatest number of people on a long term basis. A medical model for rational and humane decision making in society. A personal goal of mine was to learn as much as I could about what is truly happening in the world, particularly regarding sustainability and social justice issues, from those deemed to be experts in their fields. I believe these meetings have now run their natural course and we have failed miserably in our primary goal which in retrospect, was probably always doomed to failure.
Nevertheless you never know unless you try. Not to try because you believe beforehand you will fail, will turn that failure into a self fulfilling prophecy. We have learned a great deal from our discussions and established great contacts and relationships within the sustainability network. It is now time to draw our meetings to a close and focus our limited remaining time and energy on the vital urgent actions we need to take.

What have I learned? The ultimate conclusions I have reached, particularly since the election of the extreme right wing knuckledraggers to government in Australia last month, is that civilisation is irretrievably doomed, that the horrific and chaotic dieoff of billions of people this century is guaranteed and we have no hope in hell of averting these events. These outcomes are entirely consistent with mainstream scientific thinking, which may be surprising to the casual reader of this essay who will not have encountered such information in the mainstream media (MSM)1. The MSM tell half truths and outright lies to keep the sheeple passive and compliant: yes problems exist, but one should not be “alarmist” and furthermore whizbang technofixes are just around the corner which will make things just fine and dandy! Flying cars for everybody! I myself have extensively researched the scientific publications for potential technological solutions to our problems for more than 15 years (especially biofuels from algae and also the ultimate holy grail of artificial photosynthesis) and have concluded that they are either dead ends or are too little, too late. The awful truth we now face is just too horrible to contemplate for most people, who live in utter denial.

The proximate factors, elaborated in detail in the peer reviewed scientific publications, leading to the demise of human civilisation are: climate chaos, resource scarcity (particularly petroleum2) and ecosystem destruction, which have now converged to crisis point. These problems have been accelerated by the exponential increase of human numbers to plague proportions, coordinated by a rapacious, indiscriminately polluting, de-humanising, fossil fuel driven Government-Industrial-Military-Media-Economic cabal which I hereby abbreviate to “GIMME”. Indeed the motto of this establishment and all who participate in it could well be “GIMME, GIMME, GIMME”, reflecting the unrestrained pursuit of self indulgent over-consumption and immediate gratification without regard for any future consequences.

Our internationally interdependent economic/banking system in particular is based on confidence trickery and fraudulent accounting3and it seems most likely that some unforseen event will be the proverbial straw breaking the back of this bogus financial system (vis a vis Lehmann Brothers and subprime mortgages) which will trigger the cascading events leading to the collapse of civilisation. Rome did not collapse primarily because of external invasions. It collapsed because of Imperial overreach and corruption, leading to bankruptcy and hence failure to fund their infrastructure and pay their soldiers. The collapse of our modern world will play out in different ways at different rates in different parts of the world. Those nations most dependent on petroleum which face abrupt curtailment will fare the worst. We now see early symptoms of collapse in the form of internal conflicts because ordinary people have no jobs and cannot afford basic necessities, as exemplified by the uprisings in the Middle East (Syria being the worst case) and the unrest in Greece. We will in due course see more international conflicts (AKA resource wars), including the possibility of global nuclear war.

The various interacting mechanisms leading to our collapse may be complex, but there is just one single underlying cause for all the problems mentioned above. It is the pathologically dysfunctional nature of one particular species of hairless ape, arrogant and delusional enough to call itself “homo sapiens”. The fact of the matter is the majority of humanity are not “good”, whatever that means, and certainly not sapient, but are basically greedy selfish primates with an underlying streak of nasty brutality ready to surface given the slightest excuse. Primates which may be quite clever in rationalising and justifying their despicable behaviour and quite clever in devising technodevices to kill each other (and all other species) more effectively, but utterly lacking in wisdom. If this were not the case, the invasion of Iraq would not have happened. If this were not the case, Tony Abbott would not have been elected Prime Monster of this country and be monstrously pursuing his perfidious agenda of environmental vandalism, demagogic non-science (AKA nonsense) and refugee abuse. If this were not the case we would not be in our present collective predicament.

The way we are destroying the Living Planet is irrefutable proof of our nature. Am I personally any different? I must accept that my underlying nature must be the same, being a reluctant member of homo stupidus myself. One difference however is that I acknowledge this fact and at least try to restrain it and attempt to use my neocortex to pursue more constructive strategies. Could this woeful state of affairs ever have been avoided? In theory yes, but in practice, in retrospect, probably not. The remedies were available and were entirely feasible once upon a time, but were viciously opposed and corrosively sabotaged by the GIMME establishment. It is too late now, we are past the point of no return. Foremost among those remedies would have been the reduction of population numbers, reduction of individual consumption and more efficient use of resources. Restructuring from an endless growth delusional economy to a steady state reality-based economy. Technological innovations such as biofuels from algae could have played a role, but only secondarily. Without primarily adopting the fundamentally important measures of restraint, ie. population reduction, reduced consumption and greater efficiency, no number of technofixes would help. This was clearly demonstrated by the updated analysis by the Limits to Growth scientists.

Their 40 year anniversary conference was held in the Smithsonian Institute in March 2012 and the news was all bad. The LtG scientists no longer perform any more projections, because all credible inputs (using our present situation as baseline), even using the most optimistic scenarios such as limitless energy or markedly reduced pollution ALL result in industrial collapse and the dieoff of billions, euphemistically described by them as “overshoot”. Right now we are dead on track, following nearly exactly, the trajectory of their standard model of Peak Everything followed by collapse, a track they predicted we would follow 40 years ago if we did not change our ways.
As a Physician I have likened our situation to that of an obese sedentary patient addicted to cigarettes and fatty, sugary foods who develops hypertension, diabetes and heart disease4.Yes, it is possible to diagnose and treat many cases of advanced heart disease. However even after successful expensive lifesaving heart surgery, it is merely a futile temporary technofix unless we address the underlying causes of his problem: sloth and addictive behaviours driven by the wish for immediate self gratification. Thankfully most of the patients we bring back from the brink of disaster who are given this new lease on life realise they need to change their habits if they want to live much longer.

Of course, the patients we are able to save represent just the tip of the iceberg and there are many more out there in the community in complete denial of their problems who simply drop dead. If a person dies from self inflicted disease there may be some natural justice in that outcome. There is no natural justice however in the Poor of the world suffering most from the environmental devastation and climate chaos caused by the rapacious over-consumption of the Rich. Game theory however suggests that perhaps there was never any way out. Many concepts in game theory are useful when pondering our present situation such as the tragedy of the commons
and the parable of the tribes5.

As the great unravelling proceeds, I take little comfort in the fact that I did my best to play my part to try to avert or mitigate these events, efforts which proved hopelessly futile and feeble in retrospect. As late as December 2011, I considered engaging in greater activism and particularly of promoting the feasibility of large scale renewable energy initiatives to the public by personally funding sustainability programs on local community TV. However my watershed epiphany year was 2012. A New Scientist article in January 2012, relegated to just a brief report, casually mentioned the catastrophic projections of the updated LtG analyses. This prompted deeper research into the
implications of that article (in particular, viewing all the proceedings of the LtG Smithsonian conference mentioned above), which utterly horrified me. Unfortunately New Scientist magazine has since gone the way of the MSM and this year, in 2013, was even promoting the completely insane idea of harvesting undersea clathrates to burn. Just as well I cancelled my subscription. I had previously intellectually “accepted” the idea that the death of billions was likely this century, but now had to emotionally grapple with the realisation that the death of billions was certain, it was guaranteed, it was now impossible to prevent this runaway train from crashing and exploding, there was just too much momentum behind it.

Just as I thought humanity’s outlook was as bad as it could possibly be, in September 2012 my eyes were opened to another realisation which horrified me even more. We were privileged to have Richard Heinberg, the American Peak Oil and Energy expert, visit us in Brisbane. He was highly respected by us because of his cogent, wise and accurate analysis of what was truly happening in the world and where we were headed, particularly with regard to the end of economic growth. Being a polymath big picture thinker, he had of course extensively researched the climate change science as well. A shocking slide he fleetingly displayed during his University of Queensland presentation described a projection by some climate scientists that the global average temperature could reach or exceed 10 degrees C by the end of this century if we were to continue with business as usual. Such a number was unthinkable to me as we were already seeing unprecedented extreme events at “below” 1 degree C rise6. In a private meeting subsequently, we asked him if he thought human extinction was a possibility. He then admitted it was very much a real possibility, but he felt there was no point in talking about it in public. Ordinary people had to be given hope, no matter what the data indicated. Obviously by his honest answer to us, he was willing to discuss the topic of human extinction with a select group of people in private, just as this essay of mine is going out to a select group of people. People mature enough to base their judgements on objective data and rational analysis. People who accept that human beings are biological organisms who depend on the ecosystem in which we evolved for our survival, that we are not some spooky product of supernatural creation but are subject to the laws of Physics, Chemistry and Biology.

Two other major findings in the science media contributed to my epiphany of 2012. One was the unprecedented summer melt of the arctic ice cap, which according to the IPCC was supposed to remain intact till the end of this century. The denialists are quick to point to the slight “recovery” of arctic ice this year – but that does not mean we are “saved” – because arctic ice levels remain around historic lows – and we continue on this relentless bumpy ride downhill to perdition. British scientist Professor Peter Wadhams is of the view there could be complete collapse of the arctic ice by September 2015. The other dismaying report last year related to the summer release of methane from the arctic coast. Methane bubbles had been observed in huge plumes, over 1 km across in shallow sea, when only a couple of years before the methane vents were just about a metre wide. That represented a more than thousand fold liberation of methane from the arctic coast alone, not even considering other sources such as permafrost in the tundra or peat from tropical soils.

Methane has a 105 times greater GHG potency than carbon dioxide over a 20 year period and when it is broken down it oxidises to carbon dioxide and water vapour – both greenhouse gases. My ongoing research last September 2012 led me to the website of Professor Guy McPherson, a US conservation biologist who is convinced that we face near term human extinction (which now goes by the abbreviation NTHE in the blogosphere) before the middle of this century. One of his most comprehensive video presentations was “The twin sides of the fossil fuel coin”. He put forward a well researched and logically argued case which was difficult to refute. Faced with this horrific disclosure, the most memorable response by one blog reader was, “…er…yikes?” Why do I think that McPherson is more likely to be correct than wrong? Why should his lone voice, albeit the voice of a bone fide scientist with nothing to gain from his assertions (indeed he has suffered substantially because of his opinions) be more valid than, say, the “consensus” views of all the scientists of the IPCC?

Firstly let us be clear that IPCC have a hopeless track record of consistently underestimating the severity of the effects of climate change time and time again. Real world observations (eg melting of the Greenland iceshield) so far have been far worse than the worst case scenarios outlined by each iteration of their reports. We can understand the reason for this by looking at the process by which the IPCC publications are produced – government officials pore over every single sentence and water down the narrative to the most palatable, politically acceptable lowest common denominator. Hence the true seriousness of our situation becomes severely downplayed. It is after all an intergovernmental panel, with a message controlled by and contaminated by governments and is not a true peer reviewed scientific document. Knowing this, any sane person must conclude
that things will be worse than the worst case scenarios of the latest IPCC AR5, which stated that “Global temperatures are likely to rise by 0.3C to 4.8C by the end of the century depending on how much governments control carbon emissions.”

A rise of 4.8C on top of the existing “less than” 1 degree C rise means human extinction is guaranteed before the end of this century. The plants and animals on which we depend will not be able to adapt in time to such rapid temperature changes and the accompanying severe weather events.

Secondly and most importantly, the IPCC only looks at human greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, ignoring the numerous (more than 20 now) positive (ie self reinforcing) feedback loops which we have triggered so far which have irreversibly spiralled out of control, carrying the potential to exponentially release many times more GHG than humans have ever done. Business as usual will trigger more positive feedback loops and more firmly guarantees our extinction.

Thirdly we must ask what type of scientist is best able to advise us regarding the possibility of human extinction. Is it a climate scientist, who is the best person to tell us about temperature projections and possible extreme weather events (but who knows nothing about the mechanisms by which species go extinct) or is it a conservation biologist who uses the information about those temperatures and extreme weather events to look at their effects on biological organisms, habitats and food supply? A biologist who has spent a lifetime documenting species extinctions and learning about the mechanisms of those extinctions?

Fourthly we must be aware that McPherson’s view has been arrived at by painstaking analysis of proper peer reviewed scientific sources undistorted by government interference. Furthermore, having resigned from fulltime work and being no longer tenured (=tethered) and constrained by the purse strings of his university, he is at liberty to say what others within the establishment fear to say. It is impossible to get a person to admit what they believe if their paycheck depends on them not admitting it.

I would say that those who dismiss McPherson as a crackpot are themselves crackpots. He is not perfect however and has been wrong before, as he admits. The biggest problem is not predicting what may happen but predicting when events may happen, which is virtually impossible to do and is always prone to error. I view McPherson as analogous to an experienced cancer specialist who after careful consideration has made the diagnosis that we face terminal cancer with a 99.9% likelihood of death fairly soon. I may hate the message he conveys but that does not mean the message is wrong or that he is a bad person.

What does near term human extinction mean? It means that human beings will never colonise outer space. It means we will never download the human mind into self replicating machines to enable human consciousness to persist indefinitely, even as our biocorporeal encapsulation becomes extinct. Such science fiction fantasies might have become technologically feasible given another thousand years, but now we know they will never ever come to pass. We don’t have another thousand years. We don’t even have another hundred years. NTHE means that
the sum total of all human achievements since the dawn of civilisation will amount to….nothing at all, very soon. A meaningless blip, the blink of an eye in the immensity of time. The only value this failed human experiment could possibly provide would be if an alien intelligence were to visit our toxic radioactive ruins and archeologically piece together the ludicrous, almost unbelievably idiotic story of our self inflicted demise. Our only value to the universe will be to serve as a cautionary tale to others, a tale of outrageous hubris accompanied by infinite stupidity and unrestrained greed.

Thank you Tony Abbott and your ilk for serving as examples of the worst of the worst. We should embrace the recent election of the lunatic right-wing nuts to government, who are already exposing themselves for the vile, smarmy and incompetent charlatans they are, completely lacking in any substance or worth, who if anything will hasten the haphazard implosion of industrial civilisation and failure of large scale agriculture7.Because of them, our collapse is more likely to be sudden and dramatic rather than gradual and stuttering. Rapid demise may actually be more desirable if any parts of the natural ecosystem we are now destroying are to be saved. Most people will be taken completely by surprise by events and will default to their reptile brained mentality of laying blame on vulnerable scapegoat subgroups eg refugees, asylum seekers, immigrants, minority religious or ethnic groups. We are seeing this in Greece with the popular rise of right wing extremists as their economy disintegrates. Democracy at work in the homeland of Democracy8. The psychopathic politicians (with their corporate and media cronies) will enthusiastically fan the flames of such internecine hatred, being an effective strategy to divert attention away from themselves, the true culprits. It worked for Hitler, up to a point.
Geoffrey Chia, 10 October 2013
1. There is a huge difference between the mainstream scientists and the mainstream media who only share the adjective “mainstream” in common and nothing else. Who are the mainstream scientists? They are those who have conducted painstaking research, measurements and analysis over many years and have published their findings in the peer reviewed scientific literature. They are those with a good track record of well validated discoveries and inventions. Their conclusions are honestly derived from evidence and reason. The occasional fraudulent studies by black sheep who are then appropriately weeded out does not invalidate the overall integrity of the mainstream
Who are the mainstream media? They are journalistic hacks and cash for comment muckrakers who spout the propaganda dictated by their editors who themselves are driven by commercial and political agendas. The occasional truthful piece by a courageous and honest investigative journalist does not change the overall fact that the MSM are fundamentally misleading and disingenuous. Dmitry Orlov said that the MSM are 100% bogus and they function only to sell product and to prop up the existing structures of power. I largely concur. I would personally say the MSM are 99% bogus and add that their other major function is to keep the brainless masses distracted with meaningless trivial drivel, such as sports, reality shows and celebrity scandals. Hence for those of
you who are dismayed, as I previously was, that the MSM have utterly failed in their role to inform the public of important issues using reliable information, please dispel any more illusions you may have. The MSM are actually functioning precisely as designed according to their appointed role, which is NOT to inform.
2. You may recall the Peak Oil deniers crowing loudly in “victory” after George Monbiot’s article in 2012 “admitting” that the “theory” of Peak Oil was “wrong” of Monbiot’s research and articles have been written to educate the public about the serious effects of climate change and he has made valuable contributions in that respect. However he is not an expert on Peak Oil. Monbiot based his article on a Harvard paper published by the oil executive and economist Leonardo Maugeri who is not a scientist, he is an embedded propagandist for the GIMME establishment who has weaseled his way into academia. Peak Oil is not wrong, Peak Oil is not a “theory”, it is an observation. It has always been an indisputable observation ever since the very first oil well was drilled, that every well goes through an initial phase of exponential rise in production leading to a peak or plateau, followed by an exponential decay in output. Saying the “theory” of Peak Oil is wrong is like saying that the “theory” of the Round Earth is wrong. What happened in recent years is that after the plateauing of output of the majority of conventional giant oil fields in the world, the bean counters added other hydrocarbon liquids such as biofuels and natural gas condensates to their accounting tallies which had not been included before. More importantly, oil companies have shifted towards extracting unconventional oils such as oil shale and tar sands to maintain the appearance of static or slightly higher total liquid hydrocarbon output, even as conventional oilfields continue to deplete. We have moved from the cheaper, easier, cleaner oil to the dearer, harder-to-get and dirtier oil, entirely in keeping with the predictions by the Peak Oil experts. This shift is a fool’s errand, not least because of the poor EROEI which will be unable to support industrial civilisation in the long run. We will see the inevitable failure of unconventional oil output to match the depletion of conventional oil in the next few years. Probably the best dialogue with Monbiot on this issue was by Nicole Foss, one of the most wise, thoughtful and qualified experts in sustainability matters who I have great respect for:
The sad implication of this desperate shift to unconventional oils and the major point of Monbiot’s article, is that rather than carbon emissions declining as a result of the depletion of conventional oil (remember that oil drives other carbon emitting activities such as land clearing and the mining and transport of coal), instead we are seeing a further rise of carbon emissions due to the harvesting of unconventional oils. It was the hope, the idea, that we could be saved from climate chaos by Peak Oil which was wrong. Indeed our goose is now well and truly cooked, and at a much faster pace than expected, because of the shift to unconventional oils. Trying next to harvest arctic oil and clathrates will be suicidal madness. We can only hope the global financial system collapses, thus removing funding from such utterly insane schemes, before they can commence.
3. The high priests of endless growth economics, a delusional religion which continues to be preached in institutions of “higher learning”, have based their edifice on false assumptions (eg human beings are rational players) and have refused to take into account the realities of Nature, particularly the fundamental requirement of adequate net energy inputs (EROEI) for economic activities to occur. They disregard the laws of thermodynamics. Furthermore they also fail to consider the harms caused by economic activities which are “externalised” because, of course, the death of sweatshop workers in Bangladesh or the poisoning of Nigerian villagers by toxic
hydrocarbons is of no interest to us. Dishonest accounting. To the economists’ credit, they have managed to create the most highly effective greed driven incentive scheme in the history of Mankind to facilitate rapid extraction of resources from Nature to turn them into either military hardware or consumer crap destined for landfill. In this respect American Capitalism was able to outcompete the Soviet Empire in the Arms Race, rendering the latter bankrupt (once again, we see bankruptcy as the trigger for Imperial collapse). The end of the Cold War has resulted in unopposed American hegemonism and US Imperial overreach which is now bankrupting America itself and the
emulation by China of this deeply dysfunctional system, which will be the final nail in our coffin.
4. See my slides regarding Mr F.B. and “the Gaia hypothesis of the ecosphere” compared with “the
Homer hypothesis of the econosphere” at the end of my peak oil presentation
5. The paradigm of the “tragedy of the commons” works in two ways. First in terms of grabbing natural resources – first in best dressed / the early bird gets the worm and stragglers lose out. Second in terms of refusing to repair environmental damage (or refusing to take the time/effort to prevent such damage), hence the burden of harm is borne disproportionately by other parties, particularly those not benefiting from the economic activity.
An example of the first type of tragedy was the total deforestation of Rapa-Nui by its Polynesian settlers. Many have pondered what was going through the mind of the person who was cutting down the last tree on Easter island, even as he was cutting it down. My suggestion is this, “I’d better cut down this last tree and use it for myself before the other guy does”. The second type of tragedy is exemplified by the smallminded selfish short term greed of the
Australian right-wing nuts, particularly John Howard’s previous coalition government – now continued as policy by the current Prime Monster. Their argument was they would not put a price on carbon pollution “until other countries do so” (they did not specify which other countries and how many other countries). Many other countries and states have long since imposed a price on carbon including China, but Abbott still wants to go backwards and repeal the carbon tax.

What is the solution to the problem of the tragedy of the commons? It is the vigorous defence of our common resources (eg forests, icecaps, coral reefs) by the power of a central authority, with severe penalties enforced against defectors. The problem is that no such powerful central authority exists nor is ever likely to be created. Even if such an authority can be created, it will be easily corrupted by the flawed nature of Man anyway. There is no solution unless the psychopaths currently perverting policy can be extirpated from all proceedings – which is
unfortunately not going to happen.

The other paradigm which explains why the culture of violence and domination was bound to become universal is Andrew Bard Schmookler’s “The parable of the tribes”, nicely summarised by Ran Prieur (skip to 01:16:20). We have seen this played out time and again in real world history. Take for example a peaceful tribe which discovers a better method of killing but chooses not to use it. Given sufficient passage of time, that method can be stolen from them and used against them, ultimately subsuming the peaceful tribe in the paradigm of violence and domination. This was briefly alluded to in Kurt Vonnegut’s bittersweet essay “Cold Turkey” which so profoundly struck a chord in me that I felt compelled to share it aloud with some selected people. Most of them did not appreciate Kurt’s irony when he wrote “The (ancient) Chinese also gave us, via Marco Polo, pasta and the formula for gunpowder. The Chinese were so dumb, they only used gunpowder for fireworks”. Only one of my friends responded with the witty and equally ironic retort, “of course, we know the only intelligent way to use gunpowder is to kill other people with it”.

6. In 2010 the Russian drought destroyed a quarter of its wheat harvest and the heat waves killed more than 50,000 people. The floods in Pakistan destroyed half a million tons of their harvest, killed around 2000 people and displaced millions. We remember the Brisbane floods of January 2011, relatively unimportant by international standards. In February 2011 a single event, cyclone Yasi, destroyed the entire banana crop in Queensland. In May this year atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration hit 400ppm, which in the paleo record was associated with about a 3.5 degree C temperature level higher than preindustrial modern times.
According to the IPPC, this late into 2013 we are still supposed to be under a 1 degree C rise compared with our preindustrial temperatures. Correcting for factors such as aircraft contrails and sulphate and particulate pollution however, we are already past 1 degree C rise right now, according to Clive Hamilton’s study of the peer reviewed science. In the last calendar year, more unprecedented and extreme weather events have been occurring around the world. We all recall Superstorm Sandy steamrolled its way across the Eastern seaboard of the US in early November 2012. Estimate of damage to date? 68 billion dollars. Few people know or care it wreaked havoc in the Caribbean islands before reaching America. The news cycle has little interest in the unimportant Caribbeans. According to meteorologists, Sandy was extraordinary in several ways.
Extraordinary for occurring that late in the year. Extraordinary for its gigantic size (about a quarter of the continental US). Extraordinary for reaching so far North yet not turning back to sea (as such Northerly storms that time of year usually did). Extraordinary, but nothing to do with global warming according to the denialist hacks of the Australian newspaper. In January 2013, Southern Queensland was beset by further “one in a hundred year” floods which had affected similar areas only two years before. This time more than a thousand people in Bundaberg had to be winched off the roofs of their submerged houses by helicopter. Any sane person now has to admit that North Bundaberg must be regarded as uninhabitable in perpetuity. January 2013 was memorable for heat records being shattered all around Australia and new colour coding for the maps was required for temperatures never seen before. Tasmanian bushfires started in November 2012 and only settled in April 2013, an unprecedented duration in Tasmanian history. Other extreme weather events around the world in 2013 since then have just been glossed over or simply ignored by our MSM:

– The horrific floods affecting central Europe in May/June which the insurer Munich RE declared as the most expensive non wartime disaster ever to affect Germany.
– The horrific floods affecting Northern India and Nepal in June in which more than a thousand people died.
– The horrific floods in Alberta, Canada, in June in which more than 100,000 people had to be evacuated from their homes, also estimated by insurers to the be costliest event in Canadian history. Furthermore toxic waste water from the tar sands projects of Athabasca were flushed by floodwaters into the pristine Arctic ocean.
– The horrific floods in Szechuan province, China, in July, among the worst in living memory and further horrific floods in the North and South of China in August disrupting
millions of lives
– The horrific floods affecting Colorado on 12 September in which 1500 homes were
destroyed and 1000 people had to be airlifted out

Any single one of the above events was a newsworthy major disaster. Why have we heard little or nothing of them in the Australian MSM? We will soon be looking upon the above as “the good old days” because there is far worse to come. Even as severe climate events have exponentially worsened, shrill global warming denialism propagated by the MSM has correspondingly increased in volume, like King Canute screaming louder in the face of the incoming tide. Canute was only pretending to behave like an idiot in order to make an ironic point to his people. Global warming denialists are in fact genuine idiots. They are liars and fools (or both) and should be regarded as the enemies of humanity. How else can you regard people who are willing to drive humanity headlong toward extinction for the sake of a few pieces of silver? These psychopaths are intent on briefly extending their reprehensibly self serving way of life at the expense of killing humanity and most other species. Such sickeningly egotistical people place their own short term convenience and personal luxury over the lives, wellbeing and survival of their own children and grandchildren.
7. I previously described former Resource Minister and global warming denialist Ian MacFarlane version 1.0 as an impenetrably stupid coal company stooge and sadly, I remain vindicated. Current Resource Minister Ian MacFarlane version 2.0 now states his aim is to unlock every molecule of coal seam gas in Australia because it is good for the economy. As such, we should recommend that MacFarlane, a treated former sufferer of throat cancer, should now smoke 100 cigarettes per day, because it is good for the economy – he should set an example by supporting the tobacco industry. Furthermore, the “scientists” of the George C. Marshall Institute, the centre of global warming
denialism of which he is a disciple, have also “proved” that cigarettes have nothing to do with cancer. As a former farmer who now wants to wreck Australia’s farmland, MacFarlane is a traitor to his own origins.
8. I won’t repeat Churchill’s overused quote regarding Democracy. I will however state that a better system, what I call Sophocracy, rule by wisdom, is possible. The main benefit of Democracy is to facilitate the peaceful transition of power from one party to another, at designated intervals, according to the prevailing mood of the people. This has reduced the incidence of violent revolution to a large extent. However true Democracy, rule by the majority at its most basic (and unconstrained by other more important principles such as transparency, accountability and laws based on social justice), is a recipe for disaster. If the majority of the population are stupid and nasty then true Democracy becomes rule by the stupid and nasty. It can and has led to tyranny, totalitarianism and genocide, after all Hitler was voted in democratically. Ben Franklin said that democracy was two wolves and a lamb voting for what to have for lunch. True democracy in Saudi Arabia will result in a Sunni/Wahabi/Salafist Muslim fundamentalist regime which will tyrannize minority groups, worsen the oppression of women and intensify their export of terrorism around the world. The USA no longer has a democracy, they have a “fraudocracy”, their democracy has been hijacked and perverted by corporate interests resulting in obscene disparities of income (the 99% are NOT being represented), banking fraud with none of the culprits brought to justice, foreign wars of exploitation and climate change spiraling out of control.

Even rabid advocates of “democracy” can and do willingly give up their “democratic rights” much of the time. In an aircraft, decisions are not made by the majority of the passengers who are invariably ignorant of aviation. Decisions are voluntarily entrusted by the passengers to the pilot, who autocratically goes about his/her job, to the benefit of everyone. We trust he/she will do a proper job because the checks and balances in our system ensure only a fit and proper person who has passed all medical checks and training criteria and who is utterly accountable for what he/she does will be flying the plane in the service of the common good (pilots are the ultimate in
accountability as they will pay for their incompetence with their own death). Sophocracy, rule by wisdom, should incorporate some aspects of democracy with certain caveats: only those who understand the issues should be allowed to vote. This may require potential voters to go through a test for minimum intelligence and knowledge before being allowed to vote.

Only competent individuals with a proven track record who have been deemed to be fit and proper people and who are capable of making sensible decisions in the service of the common good should be allowed to stand as candidates. Pilots go through an exhaustive process before being deemed fit to steer a plane. Our leaders should undergo no less stringent a process before being deemed fit to steer a country. The principles of transparency, accountability and rule of law according to social justice, must hold priority over democracy. If a democractically elected leader in active office is found to be a war criminal eg he has taken the country to war on the basis of lies causing the death of innocent people, he must be immediately removed and thrown in jail, along with his cronies.
Further elaboration of sophocracy will require another 12 page essay (at least) and is beyond thescope of this article.