Methane Feedback: “Instant Planetary Emergency”

The outline shows the normal extent of Arctic sea ice. This is where it was in the summer of 2012. But wait there's more. (NASA Goddard photo)

The outline shows the normal extent of Arctic sea ice. This is where it was in the summer of 2012. But wait there’s more. (NASA Goddard photo)

A cascade of recent studies concludes that warming Arctic permafrost and ocean floors are on the verge of emitting massive methane eruptions that will quickly load the atmosphere with many times more greenhouse gas than has been produced during the entire Industrial Age. The ensuing warming will so destabilize the climate that a mass extinction may follow that could be the worst in 300 million years — since the so-called “Great Dying” of the Permian Period wiped out 90 per cent of sea life and 70 per cent of land animals. (Please insert the latest “how-could-there-be-global-warming-when-it’s- so-cold?” joke here.) Continue reading

Apocalypse When, Again?

Never mind the iceberg. Should we steer mostly to the left, or to the right?

Latest from RMS Titanic:  Nothing bad has happened yet.

Do prophets of doom grow tired of warning against a doom that never seems to happen? Of course we do. But what really saps our spirit is not the jeering from the Business-as-Usual advocates, but the inadequacy of their thinking. It’s not the heat, you see, it’s the stupidity. To reason that because a thing has not happened yet, therefore the prospects of its happening are diminished, is not supported by any accepted rules of logic, and is a staggeringly dumb idea to cling to along the San Andreas Fault. (Of course, delay does not make a thing more likely to happen either, except in earthquake country.)

Other evidence must be consulted, and a review of the things that have not happened in 2013 may help us to decide whether they are more or less likely to happen in 2014. Continue reading

Egypt: Apocalypse Now

What do the Egyptian people want? Islam? Democracy? Or is it just bread, and a way to survive? (Photo by Jerry Jackson, globaltechfirm/Flickr)

What do the Egyptian people want? Islam? Democracy? Or is it just bread, and a way to survive? (Photo by Jerry Jackson, globaltechfirm/Flickr)

Disregard anything the poets and pundits are saying about current events in Egypt as long as they are rhapsodizing about such irrelevancies as democracy vs. tyranny, secularism vs. radical Islam, or when a coup is not a coup. Listen only to those who recognize that Egypt is being sledge-hammered by a perfect storm of peak oil, peak food and peak water, exacerbated by a strong dose of climate change. Egypt is a failing state, whose failure not only will destabilize an entire region, but foreshadows the similar failure of every state whose existence depends on cheap and plentiful oil, food and water. Continue reading

9/5/2000: Apocalypse Rehearsed

Hurricane Sandy brought New Yorkers a brief taste of Apocalypse Then, bit it wasn't close to 9/5/2000.

Hurricane Sandy brought New Yorkers a brief taste of Apocalypse Then, but it wasn’t close to 9/5/2000.

A fascinating retrospective by Kathy McMahon, a clinical psychologist who blogs as “Dr. K., the Peak [oil] Shrink,” details the little known (in this country) and little remembered (anywhere) story of what happened when the oil supply of some industrial European countries was briefly interrupted by their own citizens. The breathtaking speed with which the grocery stores emptied, the gas stations closed and the economy flatlined are instructive, and predictive. Too bad nobody knows the story. Continue reading

Phoenix Falling

By the time you get to Phoenix, it might not be there. (Photo by Jack Leeder/Flickr)

By the time you get to Phoenix, it might not be there. (Photo by Jack Leeder/Flickr)

“It’s true,” says the perky physical therapist with a giggle, “my boyfriend and I are moving to Phoenix. We’re really looking forward to it.” Really, responds a crotchety elder in for an attitude adjustment, you’re looking forward to living in a city besieged by a years-long drought, obscured by dust storms not seen since the 1930s, surrounded by wildfires, setting record high temperatures, running out of water, a strong candidate (with Las Vegas and Miami) to be the first US city abandoned because of climate change. [from the Los Angeles Times: “Heat, drought, violent winds turning Phoenix into hell.”] Which part are you looking forward to the most? When did you decide to opt out of the Age of Information? Continue reading

Brace for Impact Featured in Major e-Magazine

Front cover only jpeg[The following article, a condensation and adaptation of the arguments presented in my book Brace for Impact: Surviving the Crash of the Industrial Age, appears as the lead article in the May issue of the emagazine livebetter , published by the Center for a Better Life. Click on the above link to read their presentation, or read it here. ]

What if it were too late to save the world?

What if rising threats to the natural support systems on which all our lives depend, posed by our industrial way of life, have already done so much damage that collapse of the global industrial economy is inevitable? Continue reading

When Highways, not Vehicles, Crash and Burn

On a normal night, the Capital Beltway around Washington DC looks like this; it’s going to get worse. (Photo by trekkyandy/Flickr)

On a normal night, the Capital Beltway around Washington DC looks like this; it’s going to get worse. (Photo by trekkyandy/Flickr)

Its merits as a highway aside, the Capital Beltway (the 64-mile-long ring road around Washington, DC) has served this nation well, for more than half a century, as a metaphor. There simply is no better, quicker or less obscene way to describe a political hack than to invoke “inside-the-beltway thinking.” Or to plead for common sense than to suggest someone take a look at things “outside the Beltway.”  Now the Beltway is dying, and in doing so is providing an even better metaphor, for the entire crash of the industrial age. It’s almost as good as the Titanic. Continue reading

“Canaries in Coal Mines” Dying Fast: Evacuation Recommended

Warning: The conditions that killed this (parrot) canary are detrimental to your health, too. (Photo by Secret Tenerife/Flickr)

Warning: The conditions that killed this (parrot) canary are detrimental to your health, too. (Photo by Secret Tenerife/Flickr)

In case you missed the memo: when you are mining coal, and the canary in the cage you brought with you to the work face indicates the presence of deadly methane gas by dying, you are directed to get the hell out of the mine. The canary’s death gives you time to save yourself. Ignoring the canary’s death would be really stupid. Now, consider the number and variety of “canaries” that have been dying in such droves, in the past few weeks, as to command headline treatment here and there:
Continue reading

Renowned Scientist Says Global Collapse “Likely”

(graph by net_efekt/flickr)

(graph by net_efekt/flickr)

According to a paper appearing in the March Proceedings of the Royal Society, “Now, for the first time, a global collapse [of civilization] appears likely.” The paper makes, in a scholarly, peer-reviewed manner, many of the same points about the existential threats that I made in my book Brace for Impact:Surviving the Crash of the Industrial Age. According to Paul R. Ehrlich’s paper, titled “Can a collapse of global civilization be avoided?” the threats include  toxic pollution, land degradation, scarcity of water and oil, plagues, resource wars (perhaps nuclear), over-consumption, overpopulation and the overarching threat multiplier, climate change.

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1,000 Risk Experts say: Brace for Impact

Superstorms, such as this 2012 typhoon photographed from the International Space Station, are according to risk analysts the new normal.

Superstorms, such as this 2012 typhoon photographed from the International Space Station, are according to risk analysts the new normal.

More than 1,000 experts on risk, consulted by the World Economic Forum for an upcoming annual meeting, agree that a perfect storm of rising risk, primarily driven by global climate change, and declining economic resilience pose mortal threats to governments, businesses and society in the near future. Continue reading