“A global economic depression will cause an even faster rate of environmental change. Will it be sufficient to reduce aerosol masking enough to cause loss of habitat for human animals? If not, will enough employees walk away from their jobs at nuclear power plants to cause the nuclear facilities to melt down? After all, several decades are required to safely decommission a nuclear power plant. If we want to avoid superheating the planet by stripping away stratospheric ozone, we had better start the process of decommissioning nuclear facilities right now. If we fail, at least we will have tried.”—Dr. Guy McPherson
By Dr. Guy McPherson
“This issue bears a similarity to Pascal’s Wager on the Existence of God. Pascal, it may be recalled, argued that if there were only a tiny probability that God truly existed, it made sense to behave as if He did because the rewards could be infinite whereas the lack of belief risked eternal misery. Likewise, if there is only a 1 percent chance the planet is heading toward a truly major disaster and delay means passing a point of no return, inaction now is foolhardy. Call this Noah’s Law: If an ark may be essential for survival, begin building it today, no matter how cloudless the skies appear.”―Warren Buffett, Chairman’s Letter―2015, Berkshire Hathaway.
BELLOWS FALLS Vermont—(Hubris)—November 2023—From Axios on 7 August 2023 comes a story with this headline: “The climate wrecking ball striking food supply.” Here’s the lede: “Extreme weather events and our warming planet are primed to strike commodities and the food supply like never before.” The paper in Axios quotes Dr. Roderick M. Rejesus, agricultural economist at North Carolina State University: “The literature is pretty clear” that if the observed increased frequency of extreme weather events continues, it will hurt crop yields in particular. “It’s possible we could face unprecedented market impacts if we don’t do anything in terms of mitigation and adapting.”
As usual, “market impacts” are an important factor (as opposed to survival, for example).
Moving on, the paper in Axios indicates “that human actions may have rendered the Paris Agreement’s 1.5 o C target, and possibly even its 2 o C benchmark infeasible.”
Considering we have already passed the 2 o C benchmark, I’d say adhering to it is infeasible.
As pointed out by Professor Andrew Y. Glikson on page 31 of his 9 October 2020 book,The Event Horizon: “During the Anthropocene, greenhouse gas forcing has risen by more than 2.0 W/m2, equivalent to more than >2 o C above pre-industrial temperatures, which constitutes an abrupt event over a period not much longer than a lifetime.”
The idea behind retaining a relatively cool planet is simple: doing so will prevent triggering self-reinforcing feedback loops. Unfortunately, we have already triggered several self-reinforcing feedback loops, any one of which makes climate change irreversible. Even the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has admitted we have triggered a self-reinforcing feedback loop in its 24 September 2019 IPCC Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate. This IPCC report indicated—more than four years ago—that an overheated ocean was responsible for the irreversibility of climate change.
The outcomes expected to result from abrupt, irreversible climate change are already being revealed. Consider, for example, the long-predicted reduction in grain production. According to the paper in Axios, the Indian government banned exports of non-basmati white rice on 20 July of this year. Not surprisingly, considering the importance of India as a supplier of rice, international prices are going up. According to Dr. Seungki Lee, an agricultural economist at Ohio State University, “We should be anticipating some drastic supply shocks.” Again, the supply shocks are already happening. How drastic do they need to be before members of the dismal science take notice? I know something about the dismal science. After all, I received a PhD minor in agricultural economics in August 1987. If you’re keeping track, that’s more than 36 years ago.
According to Cornell University economist Arial Ortiz-Bobea: “Temperatures are higher, productivity is lower. The impacts are already here. They’ve already happened.” That’s quite an impressive admission from a professor at a major university. Ortiz-Bobea is further quoted in the Axios paper: “With all the lip service that people are giving [development of drought-tolerant crops], I don’t see it in the data.” Ortiz-Bobea led a 2021 peer-reviewed study that demonstrated global farming productivity is 21 percent lower than it would be without climate change.
A climate scientist and research associate at Dartmouth College, Corey Lesk, offers the final quote in the Axios paper: “It’s pretty much every summer now that a record-breaking heatwave is happening, not just in one breadbasket, but multiple breadbaskets around the world. We are currently heading into a climate regime that we have never seen before.”
None of this sounds promising for a future with more than 8 billion people on Earth. That’s a lot of mouths to feed. I suspect many of them will go unfed in the near future. At some point, of course, they will all be unfed.
How soon will we all face starvation? Consider that the following list of informed individuals is anticipating a Global Depression in 2025 slated to be much worse than 1929: Warren Buffet and his renowned, long-time assistant Charlie Munger, Robert Kiyosaki, Elon Musk, Rebecca Patterson, Simon Hunt, and others. If even one of these folks is correct, then we are headed for some serious hard times. In addition, we are headed for a significant loss of aerosol masking. Never mind the ongoing rate of environmental change, reported by the IPCC to be the most rapid in planetary history in its 8 October 2018 report, Global Warming of 1.5° C.
A global economic depression will cause an even faster rate of environmental change. Will it be sufficient to reduce aerosol masking enough to cause loss of habitat for human animals? If not, will enough employees walk away from their jobs at nuclear power plants to cause the nuclear facilities to melt down? After all, several decades are required to safely decommission a nuclear power plant. If we want to avoid superheating the planet by stripping away stratospheric ozone, we had better start the process of decommissioning nuclear facilities right now. If we fail, at least we will have tried.
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