In The Coming ‘Instant Planetary Emergency’, Dahr Jamail summarizes what climate scientists at the edge fear.
… “the Permian mass extinction that occurred 250 million years ago is related to methane and thought to be the key to what caused the extinction of most species on the planet.” In that extinction episode, it is estimated that 95 percent of all species were wiped out.
We are currently in the midst of what scientists consider the sixth mass extinction in planetary history, with between 150 and 200 species going extinct daily, a pace 1,000 times greater than the “natural” or “background” extinction rate. This event may already be comparable to, or even exceed, both the speed and intensity of the Permian mass extinction. The difference being that ours is human-caused, isn’t going to take 80,000 years, has so far lasted just a few centuries and is now gaining speed in a non-linear fashion.
According to a NASA research report, “Is a Sleeping Climate Giant Stirring in the Arctic?”: “Over hundreds of millennia, Arctic permafrost soils have accumulated vast stores of organic carbon—an estimated 1,400 to 1,850 petagrams of it (a petagram is 2.2 trillion pounds, or 1 billion metric tons). That’s about half of all the estimated organic carbon stored in Earth’s soils. In comparison, about 350 petagrams of carbon have been emitted from all fossil-fuel combustion and human activities since 1850. Most of this carbon is located in thaw-vulnerable top soils within 10 feet (3 meters) of the surface.”
NASA scientists, along with others, are learning that the Arctic permafrost—and its stored carbon—may not be as permanently frosted as its name implies.
Research scientist Charles Miller of NASA’s Jet Propulsion … told NASA, “Permafrost soils are warming even faster than Arctic air temperatures—as much as 2.7 to 4.5 degrees Fahrenheit (1.5 to 2.5 degrees Celsius) in just the past 30 years.
Between the summers of 2010 and 2011, in fact, scientists found that in the course of a year methane vents only thirty centimeters across had grown a kilometer wide, a 3,333 percent increase and an example of the non-linear rapidity with which parts of the planet are responding to climate disruption.
A study published in the prestigious journal Nature this July suggested that a fifty-gigaton “burp” of methane from thawing Arctic permafrost beneath the East Siberian sea is “highly possible at anytime.” That would be the equivalent of at least 1,000 gigatons of carbon dioxide.
Miller revealed another alarming finding: “Some of the methane and carbon dioxide concentrations we’ve measured have been large, and we’re seeing very different patterns from what models suggest,” …
“Economic growth is the biggest destroyer of the ecology,” Dawe says. “Those people who think you can have a growing economy and a healthy environment are wrong. If we don’t reduce our numbers, nature will do it for us.” And he isn’t hopeful humans will be able to save themselves. [emphasis mine]
“Everything is worse and we’re still doing the same things. Because ecosystems are so resilient, they don’t exact immediate punishment on the stupid.”
… Could some version of extinction or near-extinction overcome humanity, thanks to climate change—and possibly incredibly fast? Similar things have happened in the past. Fifty-five million years ago, a five-degree Celsius rise in average global temperatures seems to have occurred in just thirteen years, according to a study published in the October 2013 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
While the human body is potentially capable of handling a six-to-nine-degree Celsius rise in the planetary temperature, the crops and habitat we use for food production are not. As McPherson put it, “If we see a 3.5 to 4C baseline increase, I see no way to have habitat. We are at .85C above baseline and we’ve already triggered all these self-reinforcing feedback loops.” [emphasis mine]
He adds: “All the evidence points to a locked-in 3.5 to 5 degree C global temperature rise above the 1850 ‘norm’ by mid-century, possibly much sooner. This guarantees a positive feedback, already underway, leading to 4.5 to 6 or more degrees above ‘norm’ and that is a level lethal to life. This is partly due to the fact that humans have to eat and plants can’t adapt fast enough to make that possible for the 7-to-9 billion of us—so we’ll die.”
… David Wasdel, director of the Apollo-Gaia Project and an expert on multiple feedback dynamics, says, “We are experiencing change 200 to 300 times faster than any of the previous major extinction events.”
Wasdel cites with particular alarm scientific reports showing that the oceans have already lost 40 percent of their phytoplankton, the base of the global oceanic food chain, because of climate-change-induced acidification and atmospheric temperature variations. [emphasis mine]
I believe that 40% phytoplankton extinction applies to the Southern Ocean, not globally. The entire article is worth your time for a fuller perspective.
So how alarmed are you, Ruth? Are you only alarmed at the social action level? Or do you take personal measures to protect yourself and your family, just in case? What should regular people be doing as precautions? Would we need to live in climate-controlled bubbles? Should we be at that level of alarm where we should be thinking about such things?
I don't see any personal measures being adequate to a Planetary Emergency of the scale predicted, Jedi Wanderer. Could you try to secretly save enough preserved food for decades to come, because starvation is likely to be the biggest impact? But there's the social collapse/wild weather angle. Won't your stash be overtaken by floods, hurricanes, hoards of refugees, or a hard-pressed local government? Remember how the buses paid for in advance to evacuate nursing home residents were confiscated by local government during Hurricane Katrina.
I'm donating to 350.org this year instead of having a holiday gift and birthday gift.
I think the only precautions regular people can do is to get involved in effective change, and most traditional environment groups don't face up to the magnitude of change required. I dropped out of Sierra Club and Environmental Defense Fund and others because they try to work within the system.
We asked our financial advisor to divest anything even secondarily connected to fossil fuels, but I have no control over my pension fund, which invests in Exxon/Mobil. Yeah I wrote a letter to them. A lot of good that will do. When the carbon bubble bursts we'll likely be penniless too.
The sci-fi scenario of a climate controlled bubble, such as in Buck Rogers in the 21st Century is naive.
We eat from our habitat.
Our only hope is organizing to force the fossil fuel companies to relinquish their death grip, their economic power, their control of our politicians and mass media. No traditional disaster preparation will save a family or community or nation in isolation.
We face humanity's ultimate test. We will either join together to transition from fossil fuels to sustainable energy, or we will all perish from this Eaarth.
If we manage to overcome inertia, ignorance and stupidity, we have an opportunity to emerge as mature planetary managers. It would be more magnificent than The Enlightenment.
Ruth, a powerful statement based on evidence. One can't dispute what you say and if we deny or delude ourselves, we will not take seriously the inevitable future. One person, one family, or one nation cannot make a difference. There needs to be a worldwide awareness of what is realistically happening; I find that highly unlikely.
It's nice talking to two of my favorite people here, and indeed, anywhere. I wonder if you two remember me? In any case, if Joan is correct, and I am correct, and you, Ruth, are also deeply skeptical that humanity will ever actually get its act together and usher in a new era of enlightenment and transcendence as a species, then the only course of action that actually makes sense is for some (hopefully large) segment of humanity to go it alone. We should start organizing according to the principle that whoever escapes ignorance and wants to take concrete action should get together and start building refuges where we can escape from extreme weather and provide ourselves with clean water and energy and farm what we can best live off of until we can rebuild civilization. If enough of us get together in a community with shelter and access to water (perhaps a desalinization plant) and each of us has our own greenhouses, we could keep enough plant diversity to provide us with all the food necessary to allow humanity to survive. Giant geodesic domes are not the real plan here - we just need the basics, enough to make the inhabitants of such a community feel that we are doing something for self-protection and for the protection of our culture and our species, lowly as it may be.
Jedi, of course I remember you, welcome back!
Do you remember back in the 1950s-60s when people built shelters in the ground to protect from a Soviet attack on the USA? I was just out of highschool and barely into college and I thought the designs of those shelters were shortsighted. People on the sides of Brown's Mountain east of Spokane built into ground that had no water access, and were fully exposed to air attacks. Those who built over an aquifer that had non-potable water sources and no filtration system would suffer from water borne sicknesses. Simple things like that. It is not enough to build a concrete bunker with reinforcing wire.
Becoming a survivalist may be an option and that is problematic because if one raises his/her own food, has storage facilities for extended supplies of food and water, and a good sanitation system, and if disaster hits, it is just a matter of hours before the unprepared try to take over the resources. That means self-protection with guns or whatever one chooses to protect supplies needed for survival. Then it becomes survival of fittest, strongest, the one with the most powerful weapon, or the one who can outsmart the survivalist.
Individuals could collect into gated communities, with armed guards, trained militia and animals, and sooner or later, the number outside will outnumber those inside. Back to survival of the fittest and largest numbers.
What other options are there? As long as a threat exists, one can educate oneself for self-preservation and attempt to educate others about the risks of being unprepared. By joining forces with others in learning as much as possible, by creating food growing options, by creating water filtration systems, by developing ways to manage sewage, and working together as a community, there might be time to gain influence and numbers to the point of making a difference.
As far as I can determine, those who profess a belief in god and believe god will spare them the horrors of Earth change to the point of no longer being able to support life, they will not be assets. They will be hinderances. Their vision of Armageddon, and of heaven and hell is too real to jog their thinking and acting in effective, efficient ways. That population relies on their faith and beliefs based on ancient fables that do us, or them, no good today, in spite of what those deluded leaders tell them.
In all reality, if Earth is unable to sustain life as we know it, whether it is human caused or by other means, when we hit the tipping point, it probably will be curtains for all living things.
Therefore, it seems to me that it is to my benefit if I do all I can to educate myself and others, take those actions that will help sustain life as long as possible and live a life so rich and full, there will be no regrets. Express love and attention to those that matter. Be a good example for those generations that come after us, and as my dear friend, Michael Richter from China says, prepare for the worst, enjoy the best, and get on with life.
I've thought about the same security issues, Joan. And no I don't remember the 50's or 60's, as I hadn't been born yet! :) But as far as security issues go, yes, there would need to be a security force, which would provide jobs as a benefit. And yes, it would mean that we have "resorted" to a survival of the fittest, and with no guarantee that we would even be successful or that others wouldn't in the end be able to kill us and take all our stuff. But we take security precautions even now, because that is just the way the world is - violent and ugly at many times. This is no reason for us not to try. Someone has to try and plan for a world where humanity in general has lost its gourd and cannot be depended upon for reason, and the best way I know how to live, and live by the same credos as those you mention, is to prepare for the future according to what the present most indicates it will be like. Perhaps if we start "going it alone", as I suggest, and preparing for the life that awaits us if the rest of humanity doesn't want to lift their heads out of ignorance, many more people will join us or start preparing in the same way, and follow our lead, and this act itself could be the key to persuading the mindless masses to live sustainably as well, thus averting the disaster we fear. I just can't in good conscience live as though my survival, and the survival of those I care about, depends upon the rationality of others. I think we all know that that cannot be depended upon.
I think the survivalist approach will be part of the problem, rather than a rational solution.
I just can't in good conscience live as though my survival, and the survival of those I care about, depends upon the rationality of others. I think we all know that that cannot be depended upon.
Throughout our deep past, well before human beings evolved, going it alone under harsh conditions made sense. It's instinctive to protect your close group in competition for scarce resources. But what we face today is a quantitatively different challenge than our predecessors faced. This is the first time that we're collectively causing planet wide harsh conditions within a few decades, which would take 100,000 years for recovery. This challenge is several orders of magnitude more severe than our ancestors faced.
Being divided against one another generates this problem, as much as overpopulation does.We won't survive unless we unite to cope. Only an inclusive solution in which all genders, nationalities and classes participate will do. I don't see other people copying survivalist tactics as a path to unity, because this exceptional problem is not addressed by survival tactics. Only drastic changes in how we run our civilization will suffice. Focusing on personal and family survival is a way of denying responsibility for being an activist for sustainable change. It allows us to turn our thoughts to actions which we imagine we can control, instead of thinking about the larger picture in which we feel helpless. This is controls anxiety, but it's a form of denial. I am not free of denial myself. I'm still working on it.
Overcoming Climate Destabilization Denial is more complicated than feminist consciousness raising, overcoming homophobia, or becoming aware of one's own racism. I found that Climate consciousness raising has many stages, as I gradually discover deep seated assumptions and perceptions "protecting" me psychologically from full responsibility.
This transformation to becoming a mature Planetary Manager so much more than being rational and recognizing climate facts. We're in the process of uncovering assumptions which supported the stability of our lives and minds, which are no longer valid. The possibility of surviving by going it alone is one of these.
We have to live as though our survival and those of the ones we love depends on the rationality of others, even though we despair that enough people will become rational in time. It's possible that in the end the vast majority will do the rational thing for irrational motivations, as long as those in charge comprehend the problem rationally. It's our job take global leadership out of the hands of fossil fuel elite, and the politicians and bankers supporting them. We don't need 7 billion people to see reason. We just have to change how the system works.
Ruth, you are incorrectly characterizing my suggestion as "survivalist". I am all for top-down changes for societal change, but more often than not, triggering those changes requires grass-roots changes as well. Neither am I interested in only looking out for personal or family survival, or withdrawing from social and even global activism. I do not see taking individual action as exclusive of social action, and I think setting a good example for others to do the same approaches the problem from both ends.
I will clarify my position for you by saying that any way you look at it, there will always be some people acting for good and others acting against it. I want to take as many people along with me as possible. This is in no way "going it alone", despite the fact that there will always be many others who resist coming with. If enough of us organize and build our own sustainable cities and habitats, and prepare them as best as we can for changes which may or may not be inevitable, then we are providing a source of good in the world which stands at least an equal chance of saving the planet as purely political activism does, and probably a much better one.
Thank you for clarifying your position. I misinterpreted what you'd said.
I agree that top-down changes require grass-roots changes too.