I interviewed Guy McPherson today, and I asked him some questions about what lies ahead, what to do with hope, and what people can do to better themselves in what could very well be the end times for most of the planet. Guy McPherson is professor emeritus from the University of Arizona, specializing in conservation biology. Guy has been speaking about the topic of near term human extinction for many years now. Along his path he has been faced with unfair criticism, and many personal attacks. He is ringing alarms, and being the messenger. Sadly, most of the human race is not ready to understand, or even consider the possibility of our near term demise.
I care deeply about the planet, and I despise those that destroy it. That is why I write about these issues. I have been gifted the opportunity to interview Guy and below is our discussion. He has provided links to several points throughout the text. We have not given up, we have sought for the truth.
What is abrupt climate change, and how does it relate to the present?
According to Wikipedia: “An abrupt climate change occurs when the climate system is forced to transition to a new climate state at a rate that is determined by the climate system energy-balance, and which is more rapid than the rate of change of the external forcing. Past events include the end of the Carboniferous Rainforest Collapse, Younger Dryas, Dansgaard-Oeschger events, Heinrich events and possibly also the Paleocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum. The term is also used within the context of global warming to describe sudden climate change that is detectable over the time-scale of a human lifetime. One proposed cause of such events is feedback loops within the climate system both enhance small perturbations and cause a variety of stable states.”
In other words, abrupt climate change involves a rapid transition from one geological state or condition to another. Instead of the transition occurring over thousands of years, it occurs over decades or even years. In the current case, as I mentioned in my recent writing, Earth is achieving not a new normal, but rather a new Cretaceous (https://guymcpherson.com/2018/12/ocean-deoxygenation-as-an-indicator-of-abrupt-climate-change/). The rapidity of change guarantees extinction of many species, including Homo sapiens, as I have described (https://guymcpherson.com/2018/11/extinction-foretold-extinction-ignored/).
Why is it bad to use more recent baselines when we talk about how much the planet has warmed?
Using recently invoked baselines gives the impression the climate-change situation is not as bad as it actually is. For example, the commonly used baseline of ca. 1980-2010 ignores the initial 230-260 years of the industrial revolution. A lot of planetary warming occurred between 1750 and 1980. Ignoring this earlier warming is lying by omission.
What kind of events in the near-term, could lead to large increases in temperature?
The most-rapid rate of change I can imagine would come from an asteroid striking Earth. The nearly immediate addition of particulates into the atmosphere would quickly cool the planet.
The second most-rapid rate of change I can imagine would come from the diminishment or loss of the aerosol masking effect (global dimming). A decline of industrial activity will produce an increase in global-average temperature within a few weeks. Such a transition will badly outstrip the ability of organisms to keep up with the temperature rise.
Besides climate change, what is the next most concerning threat to humanity?
There is no consensus on this question. My long-stated opinion is the combination of human-population overshoot and consumption. Too much demand for finite materials has taken us directly to the Sixth Mass Extinction on Earth.
Why is hope a bad idea?
Hope is, quite simply, wishful thinking. Hope induces paralysis rather than action. Hope assumes the future will be wonderful, and thus implies no action is warranted.
The messenger often gets shot. Is it really worth it?
Integrity is worth the price for few people. Ergo, integrity is rare.
Inspired by Giordano Bruno rather than the better-known Galileo Galilei, I believe the acquisition and promulgation of evidence is worthy. How worthy? Death is the guaranteed outcome of life. I have no interest in death with dishonor. I prefer integrity regardless of the cost.
What are some things a person could do to better themselves in the remaining time?
Complete relationships. Pay debts that matter (beyond monetary). Comfort the afflicted. Afflict the comfortable, if you are willing to pay the cost. Be kind (cf. being nice). Be honest. Demand justice. Seek inner peace. Smile.
Based off your research, how much temperature rise do you expect by 2026?
At least 8.7 C above the 1750 baseline, about 22 C global-average temperature (https://guymcpherson.com/2016/08/the-politics-and-science-of-our-demise/). The current global-average temperature is the highest in Earth with our species present, according to James Hansen and colleagues (2017).
How do you expect civilization to collapse? what will be the main cause?
I believe one of two causes will cause a near-term collapse of civilization: (1) inability to produce, store, and distribute grains at scale, or (2) financial collapse leading to economic, governmental, societal, and cultural collapse. The two sources might interact, of course.
Collapse will transpire differently in different locales, as we have been observing for decades. Privileges will disappear, to the great surprise of many people. Eventually, privileges will be joined by necessities such as shelter, food, and water.
What is the best and worst case scenario for the humans species?
Best: An astonishing combination of heretofore unimaginable miracles appears just in time to protect human habitat on Earth for another two decades.Worst: Financial markets collapse this week, along with an exponential temperature rise.