After extensive email exchanges with Pieter Oosterhoff, I have decided to make a change in my predictions. Rather than withdraw this essay, or scribble within it, I have posted the new material below it.
However, the latest evidence-based prediction is climate breakdown in 10 years. Getting closer to mine, I’m afraid.
And this diagram bears out my original predictions:
It comes from Arctic News, where Malcolm P.R. Light stated, “I have been working on Arctic methane induced global warming for about 14 years. There are massive deposits of methane gas trapped in the undersea permafrosts in Russian waters and onland in Siberia as well and if the global warming boils of just 10% of what is there, there is enough to cause a Permian style extinction event that humanity will not survive.”
He has devised a brilliant system by which methane can be turned into nanodiamonds, stabilising the carbon. I hope it is put into effect urgently.
Comments are welcome.
This is what I wrote in January, 2012, welcoming the new year by forecasting the future:
- During the northern summer of 2011, a Russian ship noted methane bubbling up from the water, in an area once under the icecap.
Even now, with far less ice, traffic there is scarce, and few of the seafarers of the region have the equipment and competence to note the emergence of methane. If it happened in one place, it’s certainly happened in many others.
For eons, methane has been locked up in the permafrost. Huge quantities stayed there, frozen. Now it is liberated by the warmer waters of the Siberian rivers, by sunshine on water instead of being reflected by ice, by warmer north-flowing currents.
Methane is 25 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide over a 100 year time scale. The shorter the time scale, the more powerful its effects. What escaped already has started a positive feedback cycle, which raises temperatures, which accelerates the process. This northern summer, the rate of methane release will start at a higher level, and increase exponentially.
I predict that the effects will be terribly obvious by about August 2012. This could be the end of civilization, if not this year, then during the summer of 2013, and almost certainly within 5 years. But 2012 is already risky.
What will the effects be?
- There will be periods with air temperatures in the high 40s C (around 100-120 F), killing vulnerable people (the old, the very young, the homeless); causing widespread power outages because of the overuse of air conditioning; and leading to equipment failures of many kinds.Why? The increased greenhouse effect exaggerates weather patterns that always lead to hot days.
- All the places subject to wildfire, e.g., the Russian Steppes, the American Midwest, the Mediterranean coast, will have worse fires than ever. Places with ready fuel like the German and Scandinavian forests may suffer devastating fires even if they’d been previously safe from these.Why? The heat dries out fuel, and the increased pole-equator temperature differential generates stronger winds. Windstorms will uproot ancient trees and unroof houses.
- This coming monsoon, or the one after it, certainly one within 5 years, will break all previous records, even the terrible floods of 2009 that destroyed 20,000,000 homes in Pakistan alone.Why? The monsoon is fueled by the temperature differential between hot inland desert and the cooler sea.
- Hurricanes will be more frequent, more powerful, and reach further north than ever before. 2012 could possibly be the year when a hurricane devastates New York or even Boston.Why? Cyclonic storms are powered by rising water vapor. Warmer sea energizes the giant spinners. With surface sea temperatures warmer further north, they’ll proceed further toward the pole.
Disasters have costs. The insurance industry is already staggering from the disasters of the past few years. Infrastructure like powerlines, roads, airports, railways will be wrecked on a large scale. If enough disasters strike in enough places, the machinery of society will stop. If this doesn’t happen in 2012, then the even more severe disasters of 2013 could do it. And each summer will be worse, so survivors will be struck, again and again, harder and harder.
So, this year, or possibly next year, with very high probability within the next 5 years, many places will be without:
- electricity in the grid;
- gasoline in the pumps;
- food in supermarkets.
What will happen then? People in cities won’t cope. Within weeks, there will be cannibalism, temporarily extending the life of the brutal, who will then swarm out into the countryside. There, they’ll destroy the possibility of survival of those who could otherwise manage some self-sufficiency.Then winter will come, severe in many highly populated places. With technology extinguished, the survivors will die. Some will escape south, to overwhelm those still alive in more moderate climates. There won’t be many left there, and any that are will be cooked by the following summer, hotter and more devastating than the one before it.
Of course, the southern hemisphere isn’t exempt, merely out of phase by six months. Because the methane is being liberated in the Arctic, there may be a year or two of grace there, but then again, maybe not.
Any survivors will probably be hunter-gatherers in remote alpine valleys, Himalayan subsistence farmers, perhaps New Guinea highlanders.
As I write in July, the evidence is coming in. My prediction is on target.
In April, NASA confirmed that methane is released wherever the Arctic sea surface is exposed. And 2012 has been a record Arctic ice melt, with significantly less ice than the previous record year of 2007.
Already in June, terrible wildfires raged in the USA, and India was devastated by flooding. Recently, a derecho (straight-line windstorm) ripped its way along a long stretch of the USA, indeed uprooting ancient trees and removing roofs. I’ve seen a photo of an airplane stuck in the melted tarmac of an airfield.
I stand by my prediction: human civilization, perhaps the entire species, will be destroyed within 5 years.
Climate change is only a symptom of the actual disease. Other symptoms include:
- Species extinction. Recent studies have shown that more species are dying out than at any time since the demise of the dinosaurs. One-fifth of all vertebrates and one-fifth of all plants are at risk.
- Resource depletion. For example, humanity is using more fresh water than global rainfall over all land areas.
- Insane wars. Calhoun’s famous study in 1962 showed that mammals fight wars under extreme population pressure. We’re doing it.
- Emotional distress. Depression, anxiety, addictions, relationship breakdown are all increasing.
The real problem, what is killing us, is the global culture. It is based on the values of a toddler: “Mine!” and “No!” A childish culture of greed and conflict rules. Like toddlers, it is preoccupied with immediate gratification, with no consideration for longer term consequences. Those consequences have caught up with us.
Then why not despair?
In the famous Desiredata is the statement: “…whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.”
It is. The end of humanity is a minor event in the growth of the universe. Someone has to witness it — why not us?
I’m a professional grandfather, who loves many children. My natural reaction is grief for their future. But if the end came 1000 years later, there’d be darling children then too. They also deserve my love.
I protect my sanity by exercising both sides of a paradox, one that works for all problems. It’s best explained with regard to cancer.
Everyone who has achieved a “spontaneous remission” holds two contradictory beliefs: acceptance and determination. They’re determined to do their best to beat it, while accepting all its nasty features.
If you only have determination, then all the worry, anger, fear and stress handicap your immune system, and the cancer kills you. If you only have acceptance, you’ll turn your face to the wall and die. When you choose positive, strong action while simultaneously having peace in your heart, then you have a chance, although there are never guarantees. So, you need to believe, deeply and truly: “The cancer may kill me. I’m suffering great pain, disability, losses — and it’s all right.”
Economic growth multiplied by population explosion is the cancer killing us. We need to apply the same paradox. So, we should do two things: work for a miracle; and grow through adversity.
What can we do?
My team is 50 points down with 10 minutes remaining. I’ve got the ball. Should I bother to go for a goal? Of course. It’s never too late to do our best.
We must address symptoms such as climate change: live simply so you may simply live. Personally minimize your environmental footprint.
However, the main change needed is in the culture. We must replace a toddler culture with an adult culture: “No!” with “Let’s cooperate,” “Mine” with “Ours. ” Instead of caring for things, we need to care for each other.
Only two things matter: what you take with you when you die, and what you leave behind in the hearts of others. Everything else is Monopoly money.
What do you take with you? Lessons learnt, gained wisdom; or the opposite: hate, bitterness, self-pity, blame, envy. So, you either advance in spiritual development, or go backward, or of course some of each.
Look after the heart, the Love, and you can let go of everything else.
The Economy is the enemy. Economic growth is the cancer. We need to cure our addiction to it. Now. If all humanity pulls together against this common enemy, we can save a future.
Of course, we can’t leave this to the people in power. They get the most benefit, at the most cost to others. Sure, they’ll die like everyone else, but they blind themselves to the fact.
But leaders become isolated loners if they go in a different direction from their followers. So, if you, I, millions of people change course, we can transform the world. Change “I want happiness now” to “I want a decent life for me, you and everyone else in perpetuity,” and we’re on the way.
Greed, the toddler’s greed, is deadly. I’ve found a great deal of joy and satisfaction through living by the rule: THE MORE YOU GIVE, THE MORE YOU GET. Try it. It might save your life.
I offer a belief system that puts peace in your heart regardless of what hell you’re in. It is the basis of all the great religions, but is not a religious view. It’s the second half of the paradox we must follow.
Two months after I dislocated my shoulder, my rehabilitation was to play basketball with myself, enjoyably improving strength, flexibility and confidence. OK, I score a basket. I shoot again and miss. Is there a difference? No, I’m still rehabilitating my shoulder.
This is a model for life.
Gandhi was assassinated because he said, “Suppose your beloved little son was killed by Muslims. Go and find a Muslim boy of the same age, both of whose parents were killed by Hindus. Take him into your home, into your heart, and raise him as a good Muslim.” This is the ultimate Lesson, Jesus’ Lesson of Love.
We need to transform society into one based on this message, which is also the Hippocratic oath: “Above all, do no harm.”
Jesus was crucified, Gandhi was assassinated, both for the same message. It is more than likely that try as we might, we’ll miss that goal, and society as we know it will destroy itself, soon.
We are not here in order to make money, gain status, power, fame. We are not here to seek happiness, but to have our soul trained to eventually become like that of Gandhi, of Jesus, to be able to believe the ultimate lesson of Love deep within our being.
If we can save enough culture as the start of a new social order, that’s a goal. But if we miss, and humanity goes the way of the dodo, so what. “Whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.”
When I manage to hold this attitude, I can face the worst, endure hell, and yet have peace in my heart, live in contentment. So, truly, there is no need for despair.
We need to work for survival, and more, for a just, compassionate, generous society that is sustainable. But success or failure is immaterial if we can hold to the second part of the paradox: acceptance.
The promised revision
This essay is actually not about climate change. It uses climate change as the most serious of many consequences of our global insanity, to demonstrate the need for urgent change. Even more importantly, it shows how to live with the terrible things of our world with peace in our hearts.
I stand by everything I said in the essay in January 2012, except for the time scale. Pieter Oosterhoff has convinced me that I have insufficient evidence for setting the time of likely demise of humanity for approximately 2017.
He is right, in part because we are talking about probabilities, which means that no firm prediction is possible. Please read my other essay on how to predict disaster.
He is also right in saying that it’s unscientific to get ahead of the evidence. The trends and processes I have based my estimate on are real and progressing, but the time scale is impossible to specify with the confidence I did in the essay.
The last IPCC report stated that if “business as usual” continues, the excrement will irrevocably hit the impeller within 30 years; that is, about 2044. Since its release, this report has been widely criticised as way too optimistic, and obviously, I agree with the critics.
But even if we have as much as 30 years, that’s within the expected lifetime of most people alive now. Don’t you think we should be on an emergency footing?
The new evidence is in.
2014 is officially the warmest year globally, ever.
Second, read this essay from Dahr Jamail on the latest information regarding Arctic methane. ‘A 50-gigaton “burp” of methane from thawing Arctic permafrost beneath the East Siberian sea is “highly possible at anytime.”‘
Third, Read this essay in Scientific American. It confirms what I’ve been saying for years: the IPCC reports are inevitably over-conservative. Things are a LOT worse than the official predictions.
Fourth, Don Mickulecky has described a previously unnoticed feedback loop affecting the Greenland ice. The models have to be tightened up again to include the new information.
Fifth, Antarctica is heating up too. The Antarctic Peninsula has reported its hottest temperatures, ever, on two successive days.
Sixth, there are now at least 30 methane vents in Siberia, some of them huge. During the Permian, the worst extinction event of our planet occurred when volcanic activity caused huge releases of methane and carbon dioxide here. During historical times, the vents have been plugged by ice and methane hydrate. Those plugs are melting.
THIS is the positive feedback mechanism I stated in my article.
Seventh, here is the latest post on Mike Stasse’s blog: Mark Cochrane setting out the statistics on global warming in a form that even idiots should understand. You can only ignore the evidence by wilfully lying to yourself.
I’m sick of counting. Another essay about the Antarctic warming, and losing lots of ice. Yes, some of it is growing, but…
Ground-level methane in the arctic is rapidly rising. I predict this will prove to be an exponential, just as I said in the essay.
To understand what we are threatened with, you need to understand the role of methane in past extinction events. The worst was the end of the Permian, some 250 million years ago, when about 96% of all species died out. Read this fascinating book, free on the web about it.
There is a a peer-reviewed article co-authored by James Hansen, which presents strong evidence that sea level rise of 3 metres plus is likely within decades, instead of the less than 1 metre by 2100 predicted by IPCC.
This is still way slower than my prediction, but, unfortunately, moving in the same direction.
And here is the predicted result: Greenland melt never seen before
Maps show the current melt area centered around southwest Greenland. The graph shows the current melt season in blue and the average in black. Photo credit: Polar Portal
What does this mean?
At least in that part of Greenland, there is already as much melting as is average for the end of May.
Arctic News has a very well-documented analysis of the progression of March global temperatures. March, 2016 is soaring UP compared to the previous. The author, Sam Carana, shows that on current trends, by 2026, land temperatures will be between 3.9 and 10.4 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial revolution levels.
Here is the next bit of evidence. Methane is now forming bubbles under the summer growth of grass, and the blowholes are enlarging.
Wake up, shall we?
But, remember, there is no need for despair. It’s good to be in touch with reality instead of hiding from it. We need to do our best, but with peace in our hearts.