Climate Science’s Two Best-Kept Secrets

So, that’s it: A three-step plan to nirvana, starting with nuclear war. This is the kind of story that captures the wishful, wish-filled imaginations of people constantly misinformed by governments, so-called climate scientists, and media personalities. A far more likely outcome from nuclear war is loss of habitat for humans, and therefore loss of habitat for life on Earth. But that story doesn’t sell, does it? And in the United States of Advertising, as this country was called by American author, journalist, and comedian Paul Krassner, it’s all about sales.”—Dr. Guy McPherson

Planetary Hospice

By Dr. Guy McPherson

Craig Luck co-screenwriter of “Finch.”

“FINCH: A lion . . . (to the Dog) You know what a lion is don’t you? (beat) Well, it looks a little like you. Only bigger. Much bigger. So, a lion wakes up each morning thinking, ‘All I’ve got to do today is run faster than the slowest antelope’ and an antelope wakes up thinking, ‘All I’ve got to do today is run faster than the fastest lion.’ (The Dog cocks his head in puzzlement.) I remember [my Mom] looking at me and she said, “No matter which one you are, Finch Weinberg, you need to button up your running shoes. Because come sun rise each dayeveryone’s running for their life.”Craig Luck and Ivor Powell, from the Screenplay for Bios, later called Finch.

Guy McPherson

BELLOWS FALLS Vermont—Weekly Hubris)—1 December 2022—The best-kept secret in climate science is something I’ve mentioned previously in this space: the aerosol masking effect. The latest peer-reviewed paper I’ve seen that documents the impact of loss of aerosol masking was published in the open-access, peer-reviewed journal Nature Communications on 15 June 2021. It indicates a 55 percent increase in global-average temperature in the wake of aerosols falling out of the atmosphere. 

As professor James Hansen has said in many interviews and presentations, the aerosols fall out of the atmosphere in about 5 days. As the paper in Nature Communications indicates, the 55 percent increase in global-average temperature will be particularly evident on land . . . where most of us live. Specifically, the temperature will rise 133 percent over land. More about that shortly.

Interestingly, Craig Luck and Ivor Powell clearly understand the consequences of losing stratospheric ozone as a result of nuclear facilities melting down. Luck and Powell co-wrote the 2021 film, Finch, which subtly displays the consequences of losing aerosol masking. It’s not only Luck and Powell, though: I’m not a climate scientist, yet I understand what happens when stratospheric ozone is stripped away. I understand the importance of the rate of environmental change for all species, including human animals.

The second-best-kept secret in climate science is called nuclear winterI receive email messages every few days with links to papers indicating an abrupt cooling of Earth in the wake of nuclear bombs being dropped during war. The idea of a nuclear winter has been floating around for two or three generations, and it offers a simplistically optimistic message, the likes of which is absolutely loved by the masses. The wrongheaded narrative goes like this:

Step one: Military conflict will lead to the use of nuclear weapons. Never mind that exactly one country in the history of this planet has used nuclear weapons in wartime: the increasingly fascist country of my birth, the Divided States of America. Will we follow our own lead, more than 77 years later?

Nothing would surprise me, in light of politicians undoubtedly knowing what I know. As Canadian-American public figure John Kenneth Galbraith wrote on page 22 of his 1977 book, The Age of Uncertainty, “People of privilege will always risk their complete destruction rather than surrender any material part of their advantage.” Politicians are among the most privileged people on Earth. Quite a few of them are also sociopaths, because that’s what this society produces at the highest levels of government.

Step two: The hellfire resulting from nuclear weapons will block the sun. As an oversimplified result, this greatly accelerated and greatly exaggerated version of aerosol masking will cool the planet. Crop failures follow, thus leading to massive starvation. A few million people survive, of course, because everybody believes they are the stars of the show. These people live in remote locations, notably in the Southern Hemisphere. In these fairy tales, there is no mention of the stripping away of stratospheric ozone due to ionizing radiation. There is no mention of the loss of habitat for the myriad species that support the existence of Homo sapiens.

Step three: Having learned nothing from millennia of experience, humans go on to repopulate the stunningly bountiful Earth as it makes a stunningly rapid recovery back to the planet none of us knew before the ongoing Mass Extinction Event began as a result of exceptionally rapid planetary overheating. The final result is a minor inconvenience for a generation or two, after which our favorite species reproduces like hamsters in a cage.

So, that’s it: A three-step plan to nirvana, starting with nuclear war. This is the kind of story that captures the wishful, wish-filled imaginations of people constantly misinformed by governments, so-called climate scientists, and media personalities. A far more likely outcome from nuclear war is loss of habitat for humans, and therefore loss of habitat for life on Earth. But that story doesn’t sell, does it? And in the United States of Advertising, as this country was called by American author, journalist, and comedian Paul Krassner, it’s all about sales.

What’s this about temperature rising 133 percent over land, as indicated in the 15 June 2021 issue of Nature Communications? As professor Andrew Glikson wrote in 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 [sic] >2º C above pre-industrial temperatures, which constitutes an abrupt event over a period not much longer than a lifetime.”

Let’s conservatively assume the current planetary temperature, so far, is only 2º C above the 1750 baseline. In that case, the global-average temperature resulting from loss of aerosol masking will hit about 4.7º C within a few days after aerosol masking is lost. If we conservatively assume the temperature rise occurs during the winter in the Northern Hemisphere, and therefore the full impacts are not realized until the following spring and summer, this exceptionally rapid rise in global-average temperature will cause loss of habitat for humans within the few months to follow. The follow-on effects, including the rapid increase in global-average temperature leading to the acceleration of dozens of self-reinforcing feedback loops, will take Earth quickly to a 5- to 6-degree Celsius temperature rise.

Dr. Giovanni Strona.

This idea of 5 or 6 degrees causing the extinction of all life on Earth comes from an open-access, peer-reviewed paper I’ve mentioned previously in this space. I refer specifically to the 13 November 2018 paper by Strona and Bradshaw in Scientific Reports. Titled, “Co-extinctions annihilate planetary life during extreme environmental change,” the paper points out that a global-average temperate increase of 5-6º C above the 1750 baseline within a few centuries will doom to extinction all life on Earth. As ecologists Strona and Bradshaw report in this paper, the ability to adapt to environmental change is critical for the continued persistence of all species here on Earth. The ability to adapt to such rapid changes applies to all organisms, including human animals.

Several species in the genus Homo have already gone extinct, primarily from rapid changes in the temperature of Earth. If Homo sapiens turns out to be as “special” as the previous species in our genus, then we, too, will soon disappear.

There are plenty of other secrets held by the climate-science community. Consider, for example, the critically important and seldom-discussed rate of environmental change. Only ecologists and conservation biologists seem to understand this important facet of life on Earth. There are far too few ecologists and conservation biologists conducting research in the domain of climate science. On the other hand, there are many engineers, physicists, and astronomers studying climate change. Apparently, the exponential function is poorly understood by these folks.

Another point of misunderstanding is the importance of methane as a greenhouse gas. How important is it? Methane is many times more powerful a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. The numbers I commonly see are in the range of 12 to 80 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. These figures are accurate only if the source of methane stops emitting the methane. If emissions continue, as self-reinforcing feedback loops typically do, then methane is easily 100 times more powerful a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.

I’ll quote again from the ultra-conservative political body known as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The IPCC concluded the following in its 8 October 2018 report, Global Warming of 1.5o: “These global-level rates of human-driven change far exceed the rates of change driven by geophysical or biosphere forces that have altered the Earth System trajectory in the past . . . ; even abrupt geophysical events do not approach current rates of human-driven change.” 

Fast-forward to the IPCC and its 24 September 2019 report, IPCC Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate: “Ocean acidification and deoxygenation, ice sheet and glacier mass loss, and permafrost degradation are expected to be irreversible on time scales relevant to human societies and ecosystems.” This IPCC report indicates an overheated ocean was responsibility for the irreversibility of climate change. In other words, in two reports published less than a year apart, the IPCC concluded climate change is extremely abrupt—more abrupt that at any other time in planetary history—and also irreversible.

There are many more secrets, of course. There are lies of commission. There are lies of omission. There are certain pieces of information deemed too important for distribution to the masses. If you’re looking for yet another reason we’re headed for extinction, I think this will do.

I mentioned Craig Luck and Ivor Powell, the co-writers of the 2021 film, Finch. While I’m commenting on films that portray reality more accurately than some climate scientists and media personalities, I’ll turn to the 2007 film No Country for Old Men. My favorite line came from actor Barry Corbin playing Ellis: “You can’t stop what’s coming. It ain’t all waiting on you. That’s vanity.”

No, you can’t stop what’s coming. Neither can I, as much as I wish otherwise. What we can do is live with integrity. I’d recommend it. We can also find joy by bringing happiness to other people in our lives. I’d recommend that, too.

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Dr. Guy McPherson is an internationally recognized speaker, award-winning scientist, and one of the world’s leading authorities on abrupt climate change leading to near-term human extinction. He is professor emeritus at the University of Arizona, where he taught and conducted research for 20 years. His published works include 16 books and hundreds of scholarly articles. Dr. McPherson has been featured on television and radio and in several documentary films. He is a blogger and social critic who co-hosts his own radio show, “Nature Bats Last.” Dr. McPherson speaks to general audiences across the globe, and to scientists, students, educators, and not-for-profit and business leaders who seek their best available options when confronting Earth’s cataclysmic changes. Visit McPherson’s Author Page at (Author Head Shot Augment: René Laanen.)


  • John

    Solid writing and evidence as always Guy. Well done sir.

    Have a good meal, kiss and hug those you love, and face the future with as much dignity as we can. That’s all we can do at this point. I’ll keep trying to craft a perfect homebrew beer before the end comes, damn them all.

  • John

    Welcome any time Guy. I’m just over in NH we’ll lay on a feed for you both. Firepit, calm mellowness, and good conversations abound at our place. We intend to enjoy and value the time we have left. I think other people are slowly and unconsciously realizing this because I see less “busyness” locally around here and lots more just staying home. Interesting times.

  • Alex S.

    @John. I too believe the reality of our predicament is starting to sink in, especially with younger folks. Telling the truth about our situation and, as Guy urges, pursuing excellence and acting with integrity, are the only actions that make sense at this point.