Climate Change and Human Extinction — A Personal Perspective (262)

pm262_560“Just one source, methane from the arctic…leads us [by 2030] to…a temperature beyond which humans have never existed on the planet.” Guy McPherson, professor emeritus of University of Arizona in Environmental Studies, shares highlights from his compilation of recent reports on climate change effects. Their number and extent have grown exponentially since he began five years ago. In this interview, he shares his personal journey through despair and deep grief to recent acceptance. “I suspect we get to see the end of this movie… Nobody else in human history [has]… We get to see how humans act in the face of their own demise.” Episode 262. Guy’s blog is Nature Bats Last, [].

Watch Guy’s Climate Change presentation February 2014.
Read his frequently updated Climate-change summary and update

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  1. No one has mentioned the consequences of the 40 year lag between emissions and their climatic effect. Some “deniers” are so set in their position, I can’t help but wonder if they are paid to do so.

  2. Ed Adamthwaite says:

    As usual, the deniers come out with all sorts of bluster. So far I have seen no credible counter to the evidence that Guy McPherson puts up, and have seen plenty in my own lifetime that supports his position. I suggest that the deniers look up from their PC screens and look at the world around them before they fire off.

  3. Graham Wells says:

    Guy McPherson should be asked to justify saying: “Just one source, methane from the arctic…leads us [by 2030] to…a temperature beyond which humans have never existed on the planet.” The scientific community rejects that position.

    This is not a trivial issue. Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas, and it goes into the atmosphere from a number of sources, including the slowly melting permafrost of the East Siberian Arctic Shelf (ESAS). ESAS is not a new source of methane.

    However, beneath the water there is a massive amount of methane in the form of methane hydrates, or clathrates. McPherson claims that this methane is also being released, at a rate sufficient to cause extinction. But his grounds for saying this are not plausible. He appears to have two sources. The first is the non-peer-reviewed writing of retired petroleum geologist and geo-engineering advocate Malcolm Light. The second is Light’s collaborator and blogger “Sam Carana” (as far as I can tell a pseudonym), who makes no claim to be a scientist of any kind. This is no basis on which to tell people that humanity will vanish in a couple of decades.

    Climate change is real and may have devastating effects before long, but McPherson has no credibility in this area.

    • “The scientific community rejects that position.”
      I’ve not seen any evidence rejecting this position. Have you?

      • Graham Wells says:

        Of course, since your position is based on methane coming from the clathrates. The methane from the permafrost is not sufficient, and is likely not a new phenomenon.
        All the scientists in the first link are concerned that the methane clathrates WILL melt at some stage. Only the anonymous voiceover over the Carana-sourced/used video says they ARE melting.

        The second link spells it all out.

        I showed you this, from the third link, before:
        From The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS):
        Destabilizing of Sea Floor Methane
        Frozen methane in the shallow shelves of the Arctic Ocean represents an UNLIKELY but POTENTIALLY strong feedback loop in a warming climate. Methane is a short-lived but potent greenhouse gas. While the release of these deposits due to global warming is likely to be slow and mitigated by dissolution into the sea, these deposits are large and vulnerable to warming expected on the higher emission pathway.
        The release of Arctic methane hydrates to the atmosphere WOULD further increase, and perhaps substantially, the rate of global warming.

        And what supports your position? A paper by a retired petroleum geologist and an anonymous blogger.

        So, are you going to actually address the evidence, make a real case, or just close your eyes? Did you block me from your Facebook page for asking questions? I used to respect you. I hope you’re not losing it.

    • I suspect that Dr. McPherson has more sources than Light and Carana. A quick search pulled up these two sources. I’m short on time right now or I’d offer you more.

      To dismiss the possibility of near term human extinction with no counter evidence and little more than an ad hominem dismissal of Light and Carana’s work isn’t convincing.

      • Graham Wells says:

        My second comment still says: “Your comment is awaiting moderation.” Is it visible to you? If so, you can hardly say I offer no counter evidence.

        Thanks for the links. As far as I am aware, Natalia Shakhova (first link) has made no claim that methane hydrates in the Arctic have been destabilized. Like other scientists, she is worried that it could happen, and we see from the “Conclusion” in your second link that it deals with ‘a “what if” scenario for release of methane from Arctic clathrates’. Nothing conclusive; but McPherson makes out it’s a done deal; although I think in this interview he just talked about methane leaking from the ocean, when he knows it’s the methane hydrates that are the real potential threat.

        If there is a credible source saying that Arctic clathrates are releasing methane currently, as in NOW, I’ve yet to see it. If Guy McPherson has more sources than Light and Carana, as you suspect, he’s keeping them to himself, as he’s already been asked for them.

        I looked at your site. You take Malcolm Light’s work at face value. Others do not, not least because of the unproven geo-engineering approaches he is pushing. Carana appears not to exist at all.

        I don’t “dismiss the possibility of near term human extinction”. I question the basis for believing it to be inevitable, and convincing the gullible that it is so. If my words seem a little harsh to you it’s only because it’s time McPherson stood up and defended his position, instead of avoiding debate and ignoring questions and being rude to those who don’t just accept his opinions as fact.

        Let me throw a couple of links back at you that you might find enlightening:

        • Graham,
          I read the Scott Johnson blog post several day ago and before that Michael Tobias’ article of the same nature (from which I suspect that Johnson plagiarized a bit). I’m not convinced by their emotional arguments.
          McPherson actually states that it’s both of the main arctic stores of CH4 (permafrost and clathrates) that combined will cause warming to go non-linear and be a problem. I get your point on the difference between potential and kinetic (happening now) but methane venting (which, as you note, has been ongoing forever) has increased exponentially in recent times. The amount of stored carbon in the clathrates dwarfs the carbon in the permafrost. The permafrost stores rely on bacterial anaerobic digestion of stored carbohydrates whereas the clathrate are already CH4 and could be released in a major “burp”, if you will. That is the basis for the concern.
          McPherson’s assertions might prove to be a bit premature but if we don’t address this situation (and I don’t see that happening) then extinction may well be in the cards for us. I think that the prudent course of action would be to change course where the burning of CO2 producing fuels is concerned. Would you like to lay me odds on that happening?
          I also looked up that Bluefield Daily Telegraph article (letter to the editor it seems) and what I found telling was the closing paragraph where James H. “Smokey” Shott used the liberal epithet as a basis for his counterargument. The potential for human extinction is not a partisan issue and needs to be taken seriously.
          Best Regards,

        • Graham Wells says:

          Your reply is much appreciated. You may have noticed that McPherson did not deign to follow up on his earlier cryptic comment. That is typical of his hit-and-run approach to “discussion”. When he finds himself on shaky ground he gets aggressive. When he fails to intimidate he runs away, e.g. failing to respond or, as recently, blocking me from his Facebook page without notice.
          Strange, the very last word I would use about Scott Johnson is “emotional”: in fact, while I appreciate his “the facts, just the facts” approach, he comes across as somewhat “cold”. With Tobias, on the other hand, even though I largely agreed with him, I didn’t care for his tone at all.
          On the substance: McPherson definitely rests his near-term extinction argument on the so-called “firing of the clathrate gun”, which he claims began in 2007. Trouble is, he doesn’t have the evidence. I’m unaware of any scientist in that field (including the much-cited Shakhova, who, with her husband, seems to have first reported increasing quantities of methane venting from the Arctic ice) who says that melting clathrates are an issue today. That the rise in CH4 from the Arctic has been exponential and the “burp” concept are other things that get stated as facts, but I don’t know what they’re based on; the studies don’t seem to have been done. If you know of any evidence for any of those I’m always willing to learn.
          When you say “McPherson’s assertions might prove to be a bit premature”, I think that’s the point. If (some of) his assertions have no foundation, then he’s either a liar, incompetent or delusional. That wouldn’t matter if there weren’t an apparently growing number of people who accept everything he says without question.
          No, I don’t see a change of course on burning CO2-producing fuels. Extinction in the cards? Maybe. (One could argue it’s desirable, but that’s a whole nother issue.) In the long term almost certainly, but some are focusing on that rather than on what comes before.
          Yes, the liberal epithet. I’m afraid it will continue to be a partisan issue. But it’s discouraging that so many McPherson fans (I think that’s the right word) see no distinction between someone who questions the specifics of what he claims and the likes of “Smokey”.

    • David J Otness says:

      You only need check the extensive work of Drs Igor Semiletov and Natalia Shakhova of the University of Alaska Fairbanks and their work on the Siberian Shelf.
      And the potential methane bomb they describe that will likely get us.
      And you deniers.

      • Graham Wells says:

        David, you said it yourself: “the potential methane bomb”. That’s POTENTIAL, not actual, not NOW- McPherson claims, with very little evidence, that it’s NOW, and not just POTENTIAL.
        Do you see the difference?
        When you reply, perhaps you would like to take back that insulting reference to “you deniers”.
        I look forward to your next comment.

  4. erin rian says:

    Amazing how science no longer means observation of data and rejecting contamination, but plausible explanations and rejecting fraud, bias, deceit and a political agenda
    now it is draw the target around the agenda, and convert the data..
    10000+ years of warming and flooding ..
    45 million centuries of climate change ..
    and the history deniers and alarmists still claim we’re all gonna die

    • Matt Fehrens says:

      Meanwhile, I was just reading a report today about all the wonderful things increased CO2 levels have given this planet, such as:

      “With higher CO2 levels, plants thrive and become more efficient in their use of water.”

      ”The greatest benefits in improved agricultural production have occurred in Africa, with one-third of that continent’s countries growing at 6 percent, and the poverty line dropping from 51 percent to 39 percent.”

      “The increase in CO2 added .8 percent to GDP due to the boost it produced in agricultural production, and the warmer temperatures reduced the demand for heating, adding another 0.4 percent to GDP.”

      But none of this fits the alarmists’ agenda. They can’t ever admit there’s anything good associated with a slightly warmer earth. How could they get their hands on all of our money if they did that?

      • Well Matt, where did you read that? In an Exxon or maybe a Peabody brochure? There are more issues other than photosynthesis, slightly lower heating costs or a small bump in GDP. It’s the climate stability that all of those alleged benefits rely upon that is what concerns climate scientists.
        As someone who is truly alarmed about the future (because I actually understand what’s taking place) and am ringing the alarm bell, I take personal offense at your suggestion that I’m doing so for your, or anybody else’s, money. I have grandchildren and that is my primary motivation (agenda if you will) to speak out and hopefully spur so action to mitigate planetary warming. You need to do some actual research and perhaps you too will be able to take off your blinders.

        • Graham Wells says:

          Ed, he got it from a columnist with the “Bluefield Daily Telegraph”, WV. I trust you’re suitably impressed. 🙂


  1. […] on their Nature Bats Last podcast. It’s fun to turn the tables: I’ve interviewed Guy twice: Climate Change and Human Extinction – A Personal Perspective (2014) and Living Each Moment in the Face of Abrupt Climate Change […]

  2. Red Coral says:

    […] McPherson is interviewed for Peak Moment TV. Catch the action here. […]

  3. Alaska Roads says:

    […] update: McPherson is interviewed for Peak Moment TV. Catch the action here. […]

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