In a civilization gone mad with delusions of grandeur, we’re left with tatters of human sociability held together by rancid mythologies.
Despite human fossil fuel burning recently reported to be “flat”, CO2 levels have been on a tear for the last six months, reaching new worrying levels which have some wondering whether permafrost melt may be contributing to the unusually high spike if no decline happens soon. The giant holes in Siberia serve as an ominous sign. Considering that the current El Niño is contributing only 10% to what we are now seeing, runaway global warming may be accelerating worldwide. But don’t worry, Warren Buffett says climate change is no more of a problem than the Y2K bug and will be profitable through increased premiums and inflation.
Ever dire studies continue to reaffirm worst case scenarios, making clear to anyone paying attention that Earth in the next century will be unrecognizable from its current state. Basic planetary geography and atmospheric conditions will be altered through warming oceans and rising sea levels which are now increasing faster than at any time in the past 2800 years. On average, sea levels were between 50 and 82 feet higher the last time CO2 levels were at 400ppm. Glaciologist Jason Box expects ice melt from the West Antarctic to become the biggest contributor to sea level rise in the coming decades due to a feedback loop not in the climate models. CO2 levels have been increasing around 3ppm per year, a twentyfold increase since pre-industrial times when the highest recorded increase was 0.15 ppm per year. We’ve long since passed the tipping point of melting Arctic summer sea ice; 300-350 ppm of CO2 was the threshold for many parts of the climate. These changes are irreversible on a timescale of human civilizations. Even if all human industrial activity magically ceased today, the footprint man has already left will be felt for eons.
In our warming world, the hydrologic cycle is changing and creating extreme weather; crop-destroying droughts and floods are becoming more frequent. The Jet Stream is transforming into something different, becoming wavier with higher ridges and troughs prone to stagnating in the same region. As global temperatures rise over time, hotter air will be trapped under these layers of high pressure from a mangled Jet Stream, cooking everything to death. Rising winter temperatures are beginning to destroy the “winter chill” needed for many fruit and nut trees to properly blossom and produce maximally. Climate change is also disrupting flower pollination and pushing fish toward North/South poles, robbing poorer countries at Equator of crucial food resources. In a new study, marine scientists are surprised to find a disturbing trend in the increasing numbers of a specific type of phytoplankton, coccolithophores, which have been “typically more abundant during Earth’s warm interglacial and high CO2 periods.”
Homo sapiens have only been on the planet for the equivalent of a few seconds in geologic time but have managed to overwhelm and foul up all of earth’s natural processes and interdependencies, leaving a distinct layer in the sedimentary record. There is nothing modern humans do that is truly sustainable. Here are a few glaring examples:
- Techno-fixes are built into the IPCC’s projections for maintaining a habitable planet for humans.
- Money megacities spend for adapting to climate change linked more to protect valuable capital than vulnerable people (Capitalism is doing an outstanding job of converting the planet into dead dollars.)
- Nuclear Power: “Even if there were no issues like meltdown or waste proliferation, the cost and time for planning, permitting, and constructing nuclear plants is prohibitive. The Arctic ice will already be gone.
- Japan prime minister: We came within a “paper-thin margin” of nuclear disaster and the evacuation of 50 million people in 2011
- Germany’s carbon dioxide emissions increased by an estimated 10 million tonnes from 2014 to 2015, in a blow to the country’s claims to climate leadership.
- New study published in the journal Environmental Pollution shows that urban soil can emit up to 72% as much CO2 as fossil fuels burned within a city and at a rate of up to twice that of rural soils.
- 90% of Indigenous in Brazil’s Amazon Suffer Mercury Poisoning: A new study shows that water and food sources for 19 Indigenous communities have been massively affected by illegal mining.
- Satellite images suggest tropical forests from the Amazon to the Philippines are disappearing at a far more rapid pace than previously thought, a University of Maryland team of forest researchers say.
- African elephants ‘killed faster than they are being born’
- Desertification in China is a major problem for Beijing, as the country’s deserts are growing, threatening environmental, economic, and political stability.
- The environment is now being destroyed by corporations in the name of green growth. Sham greenwashing projects are created, funded, and enforced by the IMF and World Bank.
- Unknown continental-scale process is dumping phosphorus into streams and lakes across the U.S.
- According to a new study, efforts to curtail world temps will almost surely fail: “A person living today uses about four times as much energy as a person did in the early 1900s.”
- Greenpeace says China increasing coal-fired capacity: “There is a very rapid and accelerating net increase in coal-fired generating capacity”
- UN envoy warns of environmental activist murder ‘epidemic’
- Remember this headline from 2013?: Arctic methane release could cost economy $60 trillion -study. Our response was to go on a fracking binge which increased our methane emissions by some 30%.
- While the resource intensity of GDP may be falling (less resources needed to produce 1$ worth of goods/services), the absolute decoupling of resource use, emissions, pollution, etc from GDP growth is the only thing that matters and that is not happening. If the world’s population continues to grow as projected and current lifestyles do not change, global resource consumption will increase anywhere from 2 to 5 times by 2050. It defies logic that a continually growing economy would be able to reduce its resource intensity down to near-zero to achieve a sustainable ecological footprint.
- According to recent research, even if we converted 100% of farmland to reforestation projects it would only lower temperatures 0.45C by the end of the century. Converting half of global farmland to reforestation would result in just a 0.25C drop. Other recent studies have come to the same conclusion:
No amount of reafforestation or growing of new trees will ultimately off-set continuing CO2 emissions due to environmental constraints on plant growth and the large amounts of remaining fossil fuel reserves,” Mackey says. “Unfortunately there is no option but to cut fossil fuel emissions deeply as about a third of the CO2 stays in the atmosphere for 2 to 20 millennia.
Relying on machines for answers to the existential problems of a species run amok with planet-destroying tools and weaponry is rather ironic and tragic. We’re locked-up inside a complexity trap of our own making. The human propensity for tool-building coupled with our discovery of fossil fuels has created a set of living arrangements in which we are now enslaved to those machines and tools. The globalized capitalist economy externalizes its destruction and atrocities, keeping the masses in a state of ignorance and denial. Our corporate overlords are not conscientious citizens, but mindless organizations whose sole purpose is to grow profits no matter the external damage done to society and the environment. Between the economic oil hitmen who ensure that profits flow smoothly and GOP politicians who openly espouse their science illiteracy, a hospitable climate for future humans seems remote. Hopeful delusions have given way to the stark reality of our predicament as scholars like Noam Chomsky who originally started his career fighting for a modicum of social justice have now set the bar at just the chance of human survival. Despite the best efforts of scientists, environmentalists, and activists, the wealthy countries most able to do something won’t “get it” until famine, disease, and war come to their country. All is being left for the almighty ‘free market’ to sort out at the same time that climate change, a conflict multiplier, ramps up.
The sixth mass extinction gathers steam and climate inertia works to catch up to the catastrophic ecological collapse already baked-in. All the while, modern man engages in the spectacle of tribal politics(building walls, exuding military strength, recapturing past glories of their nation) and presidential candidates discuss the size of their penis.
For those who come to understand modern man’s predicament, it can either be the ultimate mind fuck or an epiphany that helps a person appreciate the fragility of life, the urgency of living in the here and now, and the grand cosmic joke of a global, hi-tech civilization that arose from the burning of ancient fossil remains only to have those fumes become a deadly curse, extinguishing any trace of our lofty accomplishments…
The fossil record, Plotnick points out, is much more durable than any human record.
“As humanity has evolved, our methods of recording information have become ever more ephemeral,” he said. “Clay tablets last longer than books. And who today can read an 8-inch floppy?” he shrugged. “If we put everything on electronic media, will those records exist in a million years? The fossils will.”