The World’s Most Radical Scientist – Part II


Interview With The World’s Most Radical Scientist
Part II
“Welcome back Dr. McPherson.”

“Thanks for having me.”

“Dr. McPherson, last week you were explaining the pillars of a movement you coined ‘Near Term Extinction’ –– that humanity is in the 6th great extinction event, that self-reinforcing feedback loops have put us past the tipping point, that you see this accelerating even further once we have an ice-free Arctic. What else has you concerned?”

“Permafrost thaw and the exponential rise of atmospheric methane. Permafrost––soil that stays continually frozen for at least two years––is melting, and the Arctic submarine permafrost stores 1,500 billion metric tons of carbon in the form of methane and methane hydrates. To put that number into perspective, the total amount of carbon we’ve released into our atmosphere since the beginning of the industrial age is 350 billion metric tons. Right now, the permafrost of the upper latitudes is melting, and as a result huge quantities of methane are being released, the scale of which we are only beginning to understand.”

 

 

 

“What’s so bad about methane, and how much is being released?”

“As a gas which traps heat in our atmosphere, it is at least 100 times more powerful than C02 when first released. If even a small percent of methane stored in the Arctic is released, that’s an extinction level event. In July of 2013, NASA satellites reported methane plumes bubbling out of the Arctic Ocean as large as 93 miles across. According to Natalia Shakhova and colleagues, a 50 gigaton release is possible at any time.”

“What would that do?”

“A 50 gigaton release would cause a rapid rise in local temperature, and within months would heat the planet 0.6 to 1.3 degrees Celsius. At a minimum, we would lose our ability to grow grains.”

“Let’s talk about that. You state that our current average temperature is 15.2 Celsius, which is 1.73 above the 1750 baseline. One degree isn’t a lot on a local level, barely perceptible, why does it matter so much on a global level?”

“Humans could survive an increase of a few degrees, but our habitat­­––animals, plants, trees––cannot survive rapid rises in temperature. This is a very fragile ecosystem. The difference between where we are now and an ice age is only 3.23 degrees. Just 120,000 years ago, the Earth was less than 2 degrees warmer than it is now, and sea level was 6-8 meters higher, so one degree can make a huge difference.”

“So now mainstream science says we are between 1.6 to 1.9 degrees above the 1750 baseline; you believe we are at 1.73 degrees above baseline. What happens once we reach 2 degrees above baseline?”

“The hallmark of civilization is the ability to grow, store, and distribute grain at scale. Without that, civilization cannot exist. And you can only grow grain at scale in a few places on this planet: the interiors of America, China, and Russia. For every 1 degree increase in global average temperature, the interior of continents––the only place where grains grow––increases by 2 degrees, so the effect is doubled. Once we reach 2 degrees above baseline, we lose the ability to grow grains, wheat, rice, and corn at scale.”

“Why?”

“Because the weather will be too hot, too variable, and too dry for grains to survive.”

“Tell me about 3 degrees.”

“This would be a full degree hotter than anytime humans have persisted on Earth, according to a legal brief by James Hansen. I suspect it exacerbates the absence of habitat induced by 2 degrees Celsius.”

“And 4 degrees?”

“I doubt there’s a single tree left on the planet. Human survivors are relegated to bunkers. The living envy the dead.”

“Well I’m glad I asked.”

“It gets worse from there.”

“I’ll take your word for it. Dr., isn’t there a way out? Seems to me at some point in that death spiral, society would take drastic action. With the governments of the world attributing the problem to greenhouse gases, and in the face of annihilation, they’d likely cut emissions to zero overnight. Wouldn’t that reverse the process?”

“No, that would actually make the problem worse.”

“Worse?”

“Yes, because of a phenomenon called global dimming. Civilization produces particulates into the atmosphere, specifically aerosols associated with burning coal. These particulates act as an umbrella deflecting energy. If we stop pumping out these particulates, the globe will heat up 1.2C to 3C, and it will happen in a matter of weeks.”

“So the same emissions that the IPCC rail against for warming the atmosphere are actually also cooling the atmosphere?”

“Yes. Civilization is a heat machine, and at this point if you turn it off, it only heats up faster.”

“What about geo-engineering? Some have proposed ideas––building giant screens in space to block sunlight from hitting the Arctic for example––couldn’t ideas like that make a difference?”

“It’s too late for any of those things to make a difference. Geo-engineering won’t work, and that’s according to the National Academy of the Sciences and a European body of similar stature. As for your space shield, even if you could build it, it wouldn’t make a difference at this point. Winters in the Arctic are void of sunlight for three months. Last winter, despite three months of no sunlight, there was no increase in Arctic Ice. Think about that.”

“Well, more fantastic news. What about volcanic eruptions? I understand large eruptions in the past have lowered global temperatures.”

“Sure. Volcanic winters… I can’t discount miracles.”

“Dr. McPherson, the vast majority of climatologists and scientists have a drastically different view than yours. Even within the Near-Term Extinction movement you founded, most are not calling for the apocalypse anytime soon. Are there any scientists that share your dire assessment, timewise?”

“As far as I know, it’s only myself and Sam Carana that are looking at the whole picture right now.”

“Who is Sam Carana?”

“Sam Carana is a pseudonym for a scientist––more probably a group of scientists––who publish anonymously at www.arctic-news.blogspot.com. If I knew then what I know now, I would have done the same thing.”

“Really? Why?”

“Because it ruined my career. I had a high-paying, prestigious job as a professor in Academia.”

“But you had tenure. Twenty years at the University of Arizona. What could they possibly do to a tenured professor?”

“They censored me. Yes, it is possible for a tenured professor to be censored. My colleagues within the department waged a war against me, at the university and publicly as well, even in the Arizona newspapers. It culminated with the university barring me from teaching any classes in my department, or my field of study.”

“Wow. So academia tells us to believe in global warming, and ostracizes those who don’t. But if you believe in global warming too much, then you’re also kicked to the curb.”

“Unfortunately, yes. Which is why the scientists behind Sam Carana publish under a pseudonym.”

“Do you suspect there are more like them, scientists that share your view but don’t voice it?”

“I suspect there are many scientists coming to the same conclusions we are, but are not in a position to speak out. You can’t go outside the lines like that in academia without repercussions. High salaries, prestige, a comfortable living, there’s a lot to lose, don’t rock the boat…”

“So Sam Carana and the Arctic News Blog, a WikiLeaks for climatologists?

“In a manner of speaking, yes.”

“And Sam Carana’s view? They agree with you?”

“My findings are actually more conservative than Sam Carana’s.”

“Oh, do tell.”

“Well as I said earlier, as far as I know Sam Carana and myself are the only two considering the entire picture. Modern scientists are highly specialized, focusing only on a narrow piece of the puzzle. Combine that with a culture of conservative reporting & fierce resistance to anything outside the status-quo… the result is a highly understated version of our true situation.”

“Give it to me straight Doc. How long do we have?”

“Well, I’d refer you to Sam Carana’s work. In 2016, they released a chart which considered the combined effects of the major self-reinforcing positive feedback loops: water vapor, global dimming, sea ice decline, and methane release.”

“What was Sam’s conclusion?”

“A 10 degree rise by 2026.”

 

 

 

“Wow. So to recap here, at 2 degrees we lose the ability to feed most of the planet. At 3 degrees, the destruction of our habitat. At 4 you’re out of luck save an underground bunker. And Sam is calling for a full 10 degrees by 2026?”

“Yes.”

“But, as you said, your projections are more conservative. What are you calling for by 2026?”

“An increase of only 8.7 degrees.”

“Well that’s reassuring. What does that mean for this year, and for 2019?”

“Sam Carana says we will hit 2 degrees Celsius this year. That coincides with an ice-free Arctic by September, historically the point at which the Arctic sea ice is at its lowest.”

“And you agree with Sam’s assessment?”

“I’d be stunned if it didn’t happen this year, but if not this September then September of next year, so one more growing season.”

“And then?”

“The collapse of civilization.”

“I imagine you and Sam are the life of cocktail parties.”

“Don’t shoot the messenger.”

“Doctor, I’m sure many agree these feedback loops are cause for concern, but your timetable is what’s hard to believe. Can you tell us what kind of metrics you’re using to calculate this timeframe?”

“Between 1998 and 2012 warming in the Arctic was 6 times the global average, positive feedback loops have already triggered, and over a dozen more kick in once the ice goes. Factoring in just the carbon already locked into the atmosphere and the ocean…even if you remove global dimming, melting permafrost alone is enough to calculate 2-3 degrees.”

“What’s your margin of error?”

“A few years maybe.”

“What’s your best-case scenario?”

“Best-case scenario, beyond an unforeseen miracle, is an ice-free Arctic delayed until 2019. Bunkers only starting in 2020. But, if a miracle overcomes global dimming, then we won’t go extinct as a direct result of climate change for at least a few more years.”

“So what then, a small miracle or a feat of geo-engineering buys us till 2035-ish, or longer?”

“No, sorry. Melting terrestrial permafrost is an extinction-level event. Ditto for methane hydrates. Ditto for albedo loss. Combined, the results of an impending ice-free Arctic indicate we have a few years at most.”

“But, you could be wrong.”

“I’ve been wrong before. But I’m surprised we’ve made it this long.”

“What’s the weakest part of your argument? If you end up wrong, what will be the reason?”

“The weakest part of my argument? I don’t account for the rupturing of volcanoes or other miracles. If I’m wrong? I suspect the reason would be I underestimated our cleverness as a species.”

“Well then, something to cling to. Dr, McPherson, any final message for our readers before you go?”

“Hmmn…brace for impact!”

“Well thanks for scaring the hell out of everybody. Let’s follow up next year, assuming Revelation has yet to hit and all.

“Sure thing.”

—————————————
On another note, corn and wheat futures are up…
 

-Christoph Grizzard, The Fat Cat Investor

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