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Climate Change and Human Extinction – A Personal Perspective

“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. [] Watch Guy’s Climate Change presentation February 2014

22 Comments on "Climate Change and Human Extinction – A Personal Perspective"

  1. Davy, Hermann, MO on Tue, 25th Mar 2014 11:47 am 

    Very good interview and discussion I highly recommend it!!

  2. sandu on Tue, 25th Mar 2014 12:58 pm 

    these people are nuts. Human Extinction ?! complex society collapse and population collapse i can see in some extreme scenarios but Human Extinction no

  3. Davy, Hermann, MO on Tue, 25th Mar 2014 1:16 pm 

    Sandu, get a grip, nearly all species have gone through extinction. Extinction is nature’s way of evolution it is part of the cycles of life. In a similar thread if we did not have continental plate movement erosion would reduce all land to ocean. Change is the only constant. It seems to me you are claiming we are special as a species. I see no evidence of this. To the contrary I see an evolutionary dead end with a large brain. If we keep on like we are we as a species will commit global suicide and sterilize the world for nothing more than anaerobic bacteria on ocean vents, “Then” the whole cycle of life will begin again. What is a 100MIL years in the story of life.

  4. Charlie Bucket on Tue, 25th Mar 2014 1:19 pm 

    I second that motion!

  5. bobinget on Tue, 25th Mar 2014 2:05 pm 

    April Fool!

    One can’t help thinking about LT cigarette smokers, heavy drinkers, the obese, sexually promiscuous, coal burning power plant operators, AGW deniers, must all know they are shortening their own lives as well as the innocents around them.

    Extinction comes, once and for all to everyone.
    Mass extinction means only the process gets speeded up .

    This news junky can’t help wondering how we
    managed to survive as long as we have.

    Computers on board that doomed 777 knew enough to shut down all functions not needed, to keep flying
    long after human supervision ended. I see the the planet doing the same.

  6. J-Gav on Tue, 25th Mar 2014 3:15 pm 

    Been following McPherson for a few years (articles and presentations) with interest. I should say, though, that he outdooms me any day of the week. Not that I deny the tipping point trends he refers to, but personally I don’t see it all wrapped up by 2030. I’ve read a lot of the literature too and a substantial number of scientific writers put the 4°C temp rise between 2050 and 2100, some even later. Extremely uncomfortable for humans! But even that might not wipe us out entirely …

    Still, just the notion that he COULD be right should be food for thought for inquiring minds.

  7. ronpatterson on Tue, 25th Mar 2014 3:15 pm 

    @ Davy, Hermann and others who think human extinction is likely. Not a chance in the next hundred thousand years or so. The average span of existence for a species is around two million years, so saying “All species go extinct is not much of an argument as Homo sapiens have been around for less than one hundred thousand years.

    But primarily you are ignoring the reason most species go extinct. There are several reasons. They our out competed by other species. Their numbers dwindle to such low numbers that they are unable to find mates to procreate the species. Climate change and they are isolated and unable to migrate to a better suited climate.

    One thing all extinct species had in common, before the arrival of man, was that their habitat was not diverse enough and they were out competed by other species. Homo sapiens however occupy every niche on earth and we are winning the competition with all other species and we are winning big time.

    We are such winners that we are driving most other species into extinction. Of course we could become extinct, but only when we are the last species standing. Well large species that is. Cockroaches and other small vermin will easily outlast us.

  8. Davy, Hermann, MO on Tue, 25th Mar 2014 3:38 pm 

    Man, you have yourself fooled with some feel good scientific thought. I hope you are right but it won’t be 7BIL. You don’t believe that do you? Yea, maybe a few thousand in caves

  9. GregT on Tue, 25th Mar 2014 4:00 pm 

    “We are such winners that we are driving most other species into extinction.”

    So which species will it ultimately be, that collapses the food chain? An amoeba, a protozoa, a frog, a large carnivore? McPherson is an evolutionary biologist, he understands the symbiotic relationships between natural biological systems. We are dependant on an extremely complex, interconnected, natural biosphere, which took hundreds of millions of years to reach an equilibrium. We have already upset that equilibrium completely. Complex systems tend to reach tipping points, and then collapse suddenly, and catastrophically. Human beings, being at the top of the food chain, are most vulnerable to biological systems collapse.

    If we do trigger a runaway greenhouse event, which it is appearing more likely as every year goes by, the global mean temperature increase doesn’t magically stop at 4 degrees C. It feeds back on itself. We could easily see global mean temperature increases in the 10s of degrees C in a few decades, or less.

    Human beings are not exceptional, we are the only species that we know of, that has had the choice between taking care of it’s planet, or rendering it lifeless, and we are the only species that we know of, that has chosen our own greediness over the lives of our children, and all other species.

    If a few thousand of us do survive somewhere in caves, or even in human made bio-domes, I wonder what the point would be? With nature destroyed, would survival really be something that we would want to endure?

  10. Davey on Tue, 25th Mar 2014 4:04 pm 

    Well put Greg!

  11. ghung on Tue, 25th Mar 2014 6:23 pm 

    “…would survival really be something that we would want to endure?”

    “He who laughs last, laughs best”,, or something like that 😉

  12. FriedrichKling on Tue, 25th Mar 2014 11:21 pm 

    The history of Easter Island represents in microcosm the global history/future of mankind. When the first human arrived they discovered a Garden of Eden- rich volcanic soils, forests teeming with unique and exotic flora and fauna, and all surrounded by an ocean over-filling with marine protein sources. As a consequence the human population exploded and for some time there was plenty for all, which allowed for the construction of the ghostly stone figures that now dot the island. However, humans wrecked the soil fertility, forced the extinction of many of the island’s plant and animal life. They went so far as to cut down the last tree on the island, which as a consequence no fishing vessels could be built and no ocean protein harvested. When Captain Cook arrived he discovered the few human clans left living in filthy conditions and just barely eking out an existence through the use of cannibalism.

  13. rollin on Wed, 26th Mar 2014 12:53 am 

    Massive drops in population is a common event in nature. Then the population will rise again as it adapts and food sources regain population.

    The difference with the insane omnivore called homo sapiens is he is using fossil fuels as a crutch and when that energy goes down, so does population.

    I don’t quite believe extinction will occur, not yet. We may evolve into a new form due to environmental stresses and thus radiate our way out of homo sapiens to some other creatures.

  14. Davy, Hermann, MO on Wed, 26th Mar 2014 1:18 am 

    Rollin, if not extinction then a bottleneck like humans experienced 70,000 years ago:
    The Toba catastrophe theory suggests that a bottleneck of the human population occurred c. 70,000 years ago, proposing that the human population was reduced to perhaps 10,000 individuals[3] when the Toba supervolcano in Indonesia erupted and triggered a major environmental change. The theory is based on geological evidences of sudden climate change and on coalescence evidences of some genes (including mitochondrial DNA, Y-chromosome and some nuclear genes)[4] and the relatively low level of genetic variation with humans.[3]

  15. PapaSmurf on Wed, 26th Mar 2014 1:36 am 

    There are a few areas of the planet above their population limits if there are no fossil fuels.

    But there are also many areas of the planet (such as North America) that are well below their population limits.

    The classic example is China circa 1900. On a per capita basis the population of China in 1900 is about where North America is in 2013.

    If China could support a population of 400 million in the year 1900 with their amount of arable land, then North America does not have an over population problem in terms of food supply potential per capita.

    It remains to be seen if India and China can survive a worst case scenario.

  16. rollin on Wed, 26th Mar 2014 1:37 am 

    Yes Davy, I assume the Toba event was caused by sudden lack of food sources due to global dimming. A short term “winter” effect. Not by an actual long term climate change like happened several million years ago when many forests shifted to savannah.

    We are going to experience both at the same time. Short and long term effects, thus setting the stage for an evolutionary change as well as population reduction. Maybe the new version will not be so delusional.

  17. Davy, Hermann, MO on Wed, 26th Mar 2014 1:51 am 

    Maybe a new human species homoluminus

  18. meld on Wed, 26th Mar 2014 10:38 am 

    Human extinction my arse. He’s just a doom peddler looking for cash. Huge population collapse? yes, human extinction? highly unlikely. We are third only to rats and cockroaches in our ability to adapt to shitty environments (funny how we hate those two species with a vengeance isn’t it)

  19. Davy, Hermann, MO on Wed, 26th Mar 2014 11:17 am 

    Meld you cannot discount his message. Our existence is “ONLY” with astrological, geological, and climate acquiescence” Most likely if climate trend continue we will reduce the environment Humans can live in to a very small area living as small bands in widely dispersed locations of minimal survival conditions. Knowledge and culture can be quickly lost and before you know it we are in the Stone Age. We have been in bottlenecks before and will most likely see another. The problem is this time the ecosystem and climate will be altered and sterile for a few thousand years. Our rebirth as a species will be without hydrocarbons so industrial man is soon to be extinguished forever in human terms because I doubt we will last forever.

  20. Guy McPherson on Wed, 26th Mar 2014 2:12 pm 

    Meld, you’re misinformed and probably a troll. I speak and write for no charge. Looking for cash? That’s libel. In my opinion, your libel makes you the arse.

  21. ghung on Wed, 26th Mar 2014 2:34 pm 

    It’s OK, Guy. You can say “ASS” here 😉

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