Monday 4 February 2019

The Climate Crisis - End Times, Dead Ahead

Written by Richard Burke and first published at Green Social Thought

“It is time we consider the implications of it being too late to avert a global environmental catastrophe in the lifetimes of people alive today.” (Jem Bendell)
In other words, the world is coming to an end.
Of course it is… but when?

Professor Jem Bendell’s brilliant seminal work, “Deep Adaptation: A Map for Navigating Climate Tragedy” d/d July 27th 2018, claims the time is now, within a decade, not sometime in the distant future. Not only that, he suggests embracing this transcendental experience that’s colloquially known as “End Times.”

Along those lines, a powerful intimately conceived film by produced by Stuart Scott captures Bendell’s inner thoughts about “what’s important” in the face of near extinction:

Bendell’s 15-minute video monologue should be viewed in the context of the current status of the world’s climate crisis, which is a mindboggling steroid-enhanced-CO2-laced trip to nowhere but trouble, and it’s smack dab on target (actually ahead of target) for a grim, bleak world that alters all life and contorts the socio-economic compact, meaning sudden death for the “neoliberal brand” of capitalism, which will not survive once the world comes to accept and recognize its inherent villainy, notably its massive extensive disruption of the earth system of life, or Gaia.

Even worse yet, total annihilation of almost all life is a probability, a scenario that a small minority of scientists embrace. Those scientists believe that an extinction event is baked-in-the-cake, inevitable, inescapable within current lifetimes because of excessive human-caused greenhouse gases such as CO2, which, in turn, disrupts James Lovelock’s Gaia hypothesis, meaning the biosphere has a self-regulatory effect on Earth that sustains life. 

Destroy one ecosystem and all others will fail in time and most of Earth becomes uninhabitable.

Decidedly, as well as factually, the planet has a long history of uninhabitable epochs known as extinction events (five times in the past), although the past occurrences were much slower than today’s zip zap exponential speedway to obliteration that literally takes one’s breath away! Never before has impending cataclysm been on such a rapid ascent as the 21st century.

On the other hand, who really believes it (“extinction”) will happen? Answer: Almost nobody believes it. As for the world at large, the “big it” isn’t remotely possible. All of which makes Bendell’s essay and monologue so intriguing and compelling as an alternative viewpoint. He embraces the “what if the worst-case scenario” really (surprise, surprise) happens?

Meantime, as things stand today, the world has come to its senses about the relentless severe dangers inherent within excessive CO2 emitted by power plants, cars, trucks, and planes. After all, greenhouse gases cumulate in the stratosphere, similar to layers of heavy woolen blankets, which, in turn, traps global heat which otherwise would escape into outer space, but no, it’s trapped. 

Assuredly, excessive greenhouse gases with concomitant global warming compelled a gathering of nations at Paris 2015 in agreement to limit global warming to 1.5-2.0C?

But honestly, come on now! Are humans omnipotent enough to “control the climate” to +1.5-2.0C from baseline post-industrial without unintended blow-back and/or f/ups of major proportions? Is it really so simple? Answer: No.

Some knowledgeable sources claim it’ll be 10-20 years, or more, before technology is perfected and fully implemented to alter human-caused climate damage with any degree of proficiency, but that presumes an engineered concept sizeable enough in-scale to do the trick, which is the bane of on-going geoengineering efforts.

Although, eleventh-hour rescues seldom succeed within enough time.

Already, the Paris 2015 climate accord is poignant proof that the world recognizes the dangers of abrupt climate change and a lot of very smart people are scared as hell! Still, the problem remains: Nobody seems to know what to do other than theorize, experiment and talk, which is notoriously cheap.

As it happens, nothing of major consequence is being done to stop an extinction event. As of today, fossil fuels emitting CO2 remain at 80-85% of energy consumption (Source: U.S. EIA, Washington, D.C.) the same as 50 years ago. Nothing positive has happened for decades!

Come to think of it, is it really too late?

Yes, according to Bendell, it is too late. He carefully reviewed the scientific literature as well as accessing research institutions to get to the bottom of the current status of climate change. What he discovered is basic to his conviction that society is headed for a train wreck of enormous proportions.

Deep Adaptation offers examples of likely outcomes, to wit: “With the power down, soon you wouldn’t have water coming out of your tap. You will depend upon your neighbours for food and some warmth. You will become malnourished. You won’t know whether to stay or go. 

You will fear being violently killed before starving to death.”

Professor Bendell concludes: “Disruptive impacts from climate change are now inevitable. Geoengineering is likely to be ineffective or counter-productive. Therefore, the mainstream climate policy community now recognizes the need to work much more on adaptation to the effects of climate change… Societies will experience disruptions to their basic functioning within less than ten years due to climate stress. Such disruptions include increased levels of malnutrition, starvation, disease, civil conflict and war – and will not avoid affluent nations.”

It goes without saying Bendell’s contention may or may not play out accordingly. And in sharp contrast to his forlorn viewpoint, human ingenuity has been a powerful force over millennia and hopefully comes to the rescue. But then again, it’s human ingenuity that got into this mess in the first place.
Is it too late?

Ecosystems are already starting to crumble where no people live so nobody sees it. 

Meanwhile, a lot of very smart well-informed people are scared as hell, but hush-hushed. Indeed, a few scientists, but very few public voices, believe society is fast approaching “lights out.” It’s why Jem Bendell wrote Deep Adaptation.

Postscript:The Australian Bureau of Meteorology said mid -January 2019 marked the hottest days on record. Authorities are blaming the pounding heat wave for massive die-offs of bats on biblical scale and fish, as well as farms with “fruit still on the trees cooked from the inside out.” Ominous? Oh, Yes!


  1. The PIOMAS Arctic sea ice minimum will reach zero in 2024, when before it was 2022. So it could slip forward again. However, many don't think it has to reach the zero point for warm water intrusion at the shelf depth of 50 meters over 1500GTs of methane hydrate. The idea being that increase in temperature of just 2*F or several pounds of seismic or kinetic sympathetic energy will cause it to suddenly expand 170 times in volume and reach the surface as very large fountains. The seaswere reported to be "boiling" with loss of buoyancy bt Alaskan Yupik fishermen in 2016 and a sea expedition of the Russians the same year reported hundreds of up to 1 km wide methane fountains, to the Siberian Times. Previously they had been much smaller and in lesser numbers. Latent heat when the sea ice is gone is thought to work fast, probably within a year to warm the deposits into mass release in a positive feedback loop going up exponentially. Enough to raise northern hemisphere temperatures 1*F per year until killing food crops (at +3*F), increased flooding, wet bulb events, and increasing forest fires. A six to 30 month lag to the southern hemisphere. Extinction of surface life comes at +10*F from 1750 pre-industrial global temperature, and we are already at +4*F with half masked by soots of combustion, increased humidity contrails with 50% more flights than 2000, and purposely enhanced contrails since 1997 in a multi-national secret program for business as usual until the ultra rich escape to their underground stocked and powered fortresses and cities in an attempt to outlast a 2 million year geologic event. The first 100+K years with global reflective cloud cover and continuous violent global storms and ignition of deeper and deeper methane deposits. There is the problem of safe shutdown of all the Gens 1 through 3 nuclear reactors and safe storage of wastes, fuel rods and weapons. After that for a short time there is the ocean cooling to refreeze the Arctic ice cover on the hydrates before the positive feedback loop is completed by an artificial aerosol event from buried nekes and sufate ores on top, for a global winter long enough, that would also starve surface humans and put trees in dormancy with other plants and some animas. Other species would need care underground. The survivors would have to build a hundred thousand or more factories that convert CO2 into carbonate, thousands of drones to replant trillions of trees, and OMTEC refrigeration units in the oceans enough to keep them cool until the CO2 level of less than 350 ppm is reached or better yet 300ppm, in several hundred years. A bottleneck being preferable to a worse than Permian Great Dying type ELE. Those survivors would also have to ensure the attitude of non-replenishment, greed, lust, jealousy, and sloth never happen again with a moral and spiritual change. Of course, that is only a possibility. The greater probability is a recovery of full diversity of species longer than the 50 million years of the Permian End.

  2. extinction of humans seems unlikely, though certainly there will be massive suffering and deaths of humans, animals and plants from climate change. why not human extinction? because when the majority have died, there will be less carbon released and other species will increase. (a little ice age followed the mass deaths of N American Indians due to European invasion; forests recovered). dystopia for humans, yes. Exrinction - probably not.

  3. People need to know about The Purple Non-Sulfur Photosynthetic Bacteria.

    I keep hearing that the methane feedback from exposed permafrost will accelerate the end of times, yet we have a stable bacteria that can manage that and seems to propagate to satisft demand.

    Is this a known bacteria by many in climate research?

  4. "Come to think of it, is it really too late?"

    It appears to be the case?

    "the problem is that carbon
    00:35 dioxide which is the main human cause
    00:39 greenhouse gas that's contributing to
    00:41 the global warming lasts a really long
    00:43 time in the atmosphere on the order of
    00:45 hundreds of years so the carbon dioxide
    00:48 that we've already put in the atmosphere
    00:50 we really haven't seen there was the
    00:53 full response of the climate system to
    00:55 all that extra carbon dioxide yet . . . "