‘Hell Is Truth Seen Too Late’: WWII And Climate Change

Journalist Bill Blakemore has another great piece on ABC’s website:

‘The Great Big Book of Horrible Things’: WWII and Climate Change

What our great failure in the 1930s may teach about facing the rapid assault of manmade global warming  (Or “Hell is the truth seen too late.”)

gty WWII dresden bombing jt 120520 wblog The Great Big Book of Horrible Things: WWII and Climate Change

Dresden (Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

It is the continuation of an essay he wrote about last week, which I blogged about here: ” ‘Hug The Monster’: Why So Many Climate Scientists Have Stopped Downplaying the Climate Threat.”

Blakemore cites the great quote from 18th century philosopher Thomas Hobbes, “Hell is truth seen too late.” Since I wrote a book on climate a few years back, Hell and High Water, that quote seems particularly apt to me for climate.

Blakemore’s piece starts by looking at The Great Big Book of Horrible Things: The Definitive Chronicle of History’s 100 Worst Atrocities by Matthew White, noting:

The world’s climate scientists are in effect telling us that one part of the truth we must now try to see is humanity’s ability — or lack of it — for collective prevention of enormous manmade disaster, atrocity.

The record is worrisome.

He then examines humanity’s problematic track record of not preventing catastrophes even when many powerful people were aware of what was happening or about to happen, including the great atrocities of World War II. And no, there is no direct analogy being made (see “Climate Science Disinformers Are Nothing Like Holocaust Deniers“).

Blakemore cites a presentation by Harvard historian and social anthropologist Timothy Weiskel — a colleague of mine 20 years ago at the Rockefeller Foundation. Weiskel in turn cites John F. Kennedy’s 1940s book, Why England Slept (a title JFK ‘borrowed’ from Churchill’s 1938 book, though JFK’s book was originally his senior thesis at Harvard titled, Appeasement in Munich):

“To say that all the blame must rest on the shoulders of Neville Chamberlain or of Stanly Baldwin, is to overlook the obvious.  As the leaders, they are, of course, gravely and seriously responsible.  But, given the conditions of democratic government, a free press, public elections, and a cabinet responsible to Parliament and thus to the people, given rule by the majority, it is unreasonable to blame the entire situation on one man or group…”

Blakemore notes, “But this time, say today’s climate scientists, the rapidly approaching climate catastrophe threatens to kill far more people than all of White’s 100 Deadliest atrocities combined.”

There is little question that if we continue to listen to the disinformers and the do-little crowd, we are very likely headed toward global warming in excess of 10°F, as the International Energy Agency and many others have made clear. That will destroy a livable climate (see “An Illustrated Guide to the Science of Global Warming Impacts: How We Know Inaction Is the Gravest Threat Humanity Faces“).

Indeed, that is “incompatible with organized global community, is likely to be beyond ‘adaptation’, is devastating to the majority of ecosystems & has a high probability of not being stable (i.e.  4°C [7F] would be an interim temperature on the way to a much higher equilibrium level),” according to Professor Kevin Anderson, director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change in Britain (see here).

Blakemore points out that a great many scientists are worried that this would lead to a staggering amount of misery and starvation:

The Rapidly Approaching Climate Catastrophe

… Estimates heard in private conversations with scientists and economists reach even into the billions of people who could perish well within this century if the warming is not somehow controlled.

This reporter has heard figures in measured conversation, for example, such as this: If humanity does not now manage somehow to drastically cut carbon emissions so that the global temperature levels off at around 2 degrees centigrade above pre-industrial times, but reaches instead 4 degrees centigrade, it could mean some 4 billion people dying within this century because the world couldn’t grow enough food in such heat and the drought it will bring — rice harvests, for one, would be decimated.

And remember, we’re on track to blow past 4C (7F), possibly even this century:


Humanity’s Choice (via M.I.T.):  Inaction (“No Policy”) eliminates most of the uncertainty about whether or not future warming will be catastrophic.  Aggressive emissions reductions dramatically improves humanity’s chances.

Steve Easterbrook’s post “A first glimpse at model results for the next IPCC assessment” shows that for the scenario where there is 9°F warming by 2100, you get another 7°F warming by 2300.  Of course, folks that aren’t motivated to avoid the civilization-destroying 9°F by 2100 won’t be moved by whatever happens after that.

I do know some experts who think that a great many people will die if we are so self-destructive as to keep near the worst-case emissions scenario — even if the carbon cycle feedbacks and soil moisture projections are merely in the middle of their projected range (see “James Hansen Is Correct About Catastrophic Projections For U.S. Drought If We Don’t Act Now“).

But it’s not what I think is going to happen. I actually believe that even if we do let the disinformers sucker us into another decade of delay, we are still going to get WWII-scale serious about climate sometime in the 2020s and avert the worst-case scenarios — even if the feedbacks really start to kick in.

I also believe that if the bad-case scenarios kick in post-2040, the world is going to reorganize much of its activity to prevent billions of people from dying. Oh, yes, billions of people are going to needlessly suffer a great deal if the deniers triumph, but stopping billions from starving to death this century will be well within our capability even if we ruin a livable climate.

We waste over 1/3 of our food globally, and the U.S. burns 1/6 of the world’s corn crop in its vehicles. Oh, and then there is the use of staggering amounts of grain for meat. We could feed the world on under half the acreage we use today.

Now that doesn’t mean we will definitely do what is needed, of course, but I remain an optimist in this regard. Still, if we blow past 3C, and then 4C, then unimaginable catastrophe is unavoidable.

Blakemore ends:

What if we don’t try to report or explain the full scale and challenge of the climate problem?… just as a number of professionals in the 1930s apparently didn’t with the challenge they faced.

Knowing the general size of the problem, painful or frightening as it may be, would seem clearly necessary for any professional journalist or government leader trying to report on or assess the chances of any realistic hope we think we may glimpse amid all the bad news.

It would obviously help us get our minds around it, at least.

And that’s a beginning.

To be continued…

Hear! Hear!

It’s not too late for the truth, not too late to avoid Hell and High Water.

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55 Responses to ‘Hell Is Truth Seen Too Late’: WWII And Climate Change

  1. SecularAnimist says:


    Club of Rome sees 2 degree Celsius rise in 40 years

    “Rising carbon dioxide emissions will cause a global average temperature rise of 2 degrees Celsius by 2052 and a 2.8 degree rise by 2080, as governments and markets are unlikely to do enough against climate change, the Club of Rome think tank said.”


    Looking Back on the Limits of Growth

    “Recent research supports the conclusions of a controversial environmental study released 40 years ago: The world is on track for disaster. So says Australian physicist Graham Turner, who revisited perhaps the most groundbreaking academic work of the 1970s, The Limits to Growth.”

  2. Andy says:

    “I also believe that if the bad-case scenarios kick in post-2040, the world is going to reorganize much of its activity to prevent billions of people from dying.”

    And is that why Washington (those who are elected, those who choose who get elected, and those who tell the elected what to do) fails to act on climate change? Because they know that by 2040 we’ll change our ways and only the world’s poor will die and what’s left of nature will be lost and they don’t happen to care about those things?

    You’re making me into a cynic, but I guess you’re right. It’s easier for me to believe that they’re smart enough to see the future rather than being truly ignorant of climate change. Yes, I can see the CEO of Exxon Mobil and the company’s major shareholders sitting at their desks, looking out their windows, and weighing their immediate well-being against a billion future lives in sub-saharan Africa and Indonesia, our coastal wetlands and beaches, our forests and most of our world’s plants and animals.

    Sure, what they hell, go for it. They never get out to see that stuff anyways. They’ll never miss it.

  3. Lou Grinzo says:

    Thanks very much for helping draw attention to Blakemore’s writing, Joe.

    I wish I could share your optimism that we’ll initiate a WWII-scale response in the 2020’s, and that it will be enough to avoid a horrific loss of life. I strongly suspect that we’ll keep creeping further into the red zone, with uneven but mounting impacts, until after the 2020’s. And by then we’ll have locked in so much more warming from our emissions and not-yet-triggered feedbacks that we’ll pay a a terrible price for not listening to scientists now or in the 2000’s or the 1990’s or the 1980’s or…

  4. How could humanity possibly be both so clever as to develop civilization in the first place and so dumb as to burn all the fossil fuel?

    What explains this basic contradiction?

    My theory is that an evil alien is hypnotizing humanity, so that he can watch the planet burn for his amusement.

  5. We can’t possibly be so stupid all on our own.

  6. Alex says:

    The same could be said for the coming dismantling of the government by the Republicans. It’s coming. The barbarians are at the gate, and nobody’s sounding the alarm.

  7. Jim Powell says:


    Remember that our “WWII-scale” response did not really begin until Dec. 8, 1941. By that time, Europe had been at war for more than two years and the Axis powers had seized the entirety of Europe except for the Neutral Countries. The German advance had reached the outskirts of Moscow and still the U.S. had not fired a shot. Ask yourself what would have happened if the Japanese had NOT attacked Pearl Harbor. When would the U.S. have entered the war? Ever? At some point it would have been too late and the only option would have been a negotiated settlement.

    You can’t have a Pearl Harbor response unless and until there is a Pearl Harbor. My fear is that we may not have a catastrophe or set of catastrophes bad enough to qualify in the minds of the public and the deniers in Congress.

  8. D. R. Tucker says:

    Thomas Mann, co-author of “It’s Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System collided With the New Politics of Extremism” joins D.R. Tucker and Betsy Rosenberg for a lively conversation on the self-destructing Republican machine, especially as it relates to climate change denial! The Brookings Institution Senior Fellow does not hold back in putting most of the blame on conservatives and Tea Party extremists for today’s legislative logjam. The wheels are really coming off for The Heartland Institute. Brad Johnson, Campaign Director for Forecast The Facts, is just back from HI’s incredibly shrinking annual conference! Last, but not least, KFC and its parent company, YUM Brands, are the target of a worldwide Greenpeace protest. Forest Campaign Director, Rolf Sklar, tells us why.

  9. Joan Savage says:

    I am uneasy when otherwise well-informed people act as if the US will be spared the worst of BAU climate change. There’s no model that clearly supports that assumption, yet people believe. This is similar to the US’s policy to sit out the first years of WWII, thinking it could just pass us by.

    One journalistic challenge is addressing that placid inertia.

  10. Joe Romm says:

    No argument here.

  11. Paul Magnus says:

    There is definately a war going on here in Canada. I hope we can rectify the situation….

    Climate Portals shared a link.
    2 seconds ago
    An Open Letter to the World on the Governmental Destruction of the Environment in Canada
    Dear Everyone, My name is Naomi. I am Canadian. I worked for Environment Canada, our federal environmental department, for several years before our current Conservative leadership (under Stephen Ha…
    Like · · Share

  12. Paul Magnus says:

    This is an example of why there hasnt been any action by the US until now. People don’t react on any reasonable scale unless they are directly affected.

    Well the last 2yrs have started to open the amarican eyes. Extreme events are just starting to escalate… Avoiders will relent, but hopefully it isn’t too late for 3C +

  13. Tom Grizzle says:

    Einstein once said something that seems appropriate here. To paraphrase, ‘the universe and human stupidity are infinite, and I am not sure about the first one.’

  14. Lou Grinzo says:

    I strongly agree, Joan.

    One of the most destructive beliefs is the bizarre, lingering notion that there’s such a thing as an “away” or “somewhere else” in a world we’re filling with human beings and our waste.

  15. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    The Club of Rome’s predictions have turned out remarkably accurate, as one can tell from the fact that Rightwingers, who could sleep comfortably on a cork-screw, endlessly assert that they got it all wrong. The crucial element in global systems collapse was, I believe, not simply resource depletion, but rising pollution, what Erhlich has called ‘the general toxification of the planet’. They certainly got that one right.

  16. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    If the Right still dominates the planet post 2040, they will not only do nothing to avert mass death amongst the global poor, but will actively facilitate it. You can bet the house on that.

  17. Bill Dundas says:

    I’d like to believe that, when faced with imminent disaster, the world will come together to save humanity from the ravages of global warming. But considering the fact that the previous efforts of our species to master the natural world have utterly failed, I wonder whether we’ll have any grasp of the steps necessary to halt or reverse the great damage we’ve already done.

  18. Mike Roddy says:

    Joe, you are getting really good at this, thanks.

    A lot of us are overwhelmed, but it doesn’t stop us from being inspired to act. This is no time to give up, in spite of the odds against a happy ending.

    For comfort, think about what a Zen monk once said: “The evolution of the human species is so rudimentary that we won’t be qualified to make any judgments for thousands of years”. An as yet unknown epiphany or event is going to have to occur in order to overcome this.

  19. Merrelyn Emery says:

    All those time lines need to be moved forward. As we have constantly seen, events are moving faster than any predictions, ME

  20. nyc-tornado-10 says:

    There is a similarity between the appeasement of tyrants like hitler or stalin, and the appeasement of wall street interests, especially fossil fuel. The nuances are certainly different, bigotry is different from greed, but both evils must be fought against, there is no chance for peace in the long run. I believe the greatest threat to america is the internal threat of wall street, and especially the fossil fuel interests. No dought the intentions of foreign enemies like al quaida are worse, but we recognize the threat and deal with it, most americans do not recognize the threat posed by wall street to our national security.

  21. Leif says:

    Capitalism, as we have come to know and hate, has a long way to fall but it is teetering for sure. It looks like all bluff and violent throws from here in. Ecocidal Fossil can do a lot of damage still. It is beyond me why they do not capitalize on a sure thing, the green economy. They have the capital to be the major player. Still, the game they are playing is for all the marbles it is against their grain to share. Humanities options IMO are to take the money and put it in a public trust, with humanity at the helm. Give the vermin a living wage and send them to pasture. My pick. Or off with their heads. Like the old days. My Viking ancestors would have done far worse. I have come a long way and seen too much death to vote for the “off” option first. I have lots to atone for in the history of the Norse folks. However, in the end, it might prove to be the humane option. Beside the fact that it most likely wouldn’t work.

    Please help stop profits to the few by polluting the commons of the whole. Give humanity a seat at the table. At least a public funded lobbyist or two.

  22. Richard Miller says:

    Here is an article I published, which includes my attempt at trying to show people the climate impacts on the US over the next 90 years.

    We will be a nation under siege.

  23. Pythagoras says:

    Remember that the key thesis of “Limits To Growth” is that the price signal is not sufficient to prevent the misallocation of capital and over-investment in the wrong types of industries, e.g. chasing deep-water oil or shale oil instead of investing in solar and other renewables.

    Hence we are subject to overshoot on a macroeconomic scale just as we are prone to investment bubbles on the microeconomic scale .

    While there are true “Limits” to economic growth, we are not destined to overshoot provided that there was better price signals or disincentives to prevent over investment.

  24. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    The ‘price signal’. ‘the invisible hand’, ‘rational expectations’ and all the other mambo-jambo of classical and neo-liberal economics have varying degrees of veracity. They all work best, where they work at all, where ‘the iron laws of supply and demand’ operate properly. For them to work efficiently, and, (more important and irrelevant to neo-liberalism)more justly, the ‘market power’ of individuals (ie their income, wealth and opportunity) must be as equal as possible. Of course this is not the case, not now, not ever and certainly not in the future, in neo-liberal economies. The very basis of neo-liberalism is the cultivation of as great a degree of inequality as possible, and as great concentrations of wealth as society can tolerate. The prime neo-liberal task, of enriching the few by impoverishing the many, means that ‘price signals’ remain the plaything of rich plutocrats, whose money power perverts all markets.

  25. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    The answer, in my opinion, is that humanity is plainly not uniform. Individual human beings are distributed across ranges of intellectual capacity, moral understanding, spiritual insight, empathy for others etc. The type that dominate humanity, now and for millennia, are those best able, by dint of certain pathopsychological features, to utilise violence, fraud, deception and intimidation to gain relatively greater amounts of wealth and power. They have fashioned the world and created an operating system cum religion known as capitalism, that advantages their interests and which converts all living matter into the dead stuff of money. In a way, as is being demonstrated now, it is a death cult, where all that is alive merely awaits conversion into commodities and money, to be accumulated by as few as possible. That process with its inescapable and brutal inequality, immiseration and destruction of the natural world is entering its end stage, and this auto-genocide is being driven by a tiny clique of human monsters, aided and abetted by a slightly larger cadre of collaborationist enablers, politicians, managers, media operatives etc. The vast majority of humanity has no say in their destruction.

  26. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Not ‘barbarians’-barbarians were paragons in contrast. These creatures are morons. This is the ‘March of the Morons’.

  27. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    It’s a particularly morbid expression of ‘American Exceptionalism’. How can America be destroyed by climate destabilisation when it is ‘under God’, and has a ‘Manifest Destiny’.

  28. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    The situation in Australia is precisely the same. The Rightwing MSM propaganda system is becoming ever more extreme in its brainwashing. The Climate Commissioner, Tim Flannery, is vilified daily. Reports on coming climate change by climate scientists, are immediately and viciously lampooned by the Murdoch sewer, based on the ‘testimony’ of ‘the man in the street’ who can see through the water-melon conspiracy. The ABC reports the climate change will be good for Australian agriculture, contrary to all previous research. Letters and web comments are ruthlessly censored with the most deranged Rightwing garbage (rising CO2 will be a ‘boon’ for us all, rising temperatures will make life wonderful, CO2 is plant food etc)published in their droves. ‘Equivalence’ is long gone. The Murdoch cess-pit is uniformly denialist, anti-renewables, abusive of climate scientists and environmentalists and ferociously pro-coal, and Fairfax, the other MSM group, has its flagship, The Financial Review, rapidly approaching Murdochian levels of denialist zealotry. Rightwing state regimes are destroying all environmental advances and the deracinated thugs that populate their ranks are openly and sinisterly abusive of environmentalists. In other words, as expected, the Right is reacting to losing the scientific argument by increasing the venomousness of their abuse and aggression. Nothing new under the sun.

  29. Peter says:

    Many people still believe in ‘American exceptionalism’ and that God will save a ‘people’ so blessed and who have accomplished so much. I have met man y who have this incredible belief. AGW is something ‘made up’ by those who are UN-american, or ‘socialists’, scientists looking for grants. Many actually believe the stuff they here at FOX as being the ‘truth’, offering ‘fair balance’. These people all of them are going to be in for a rude awakening. And soon.

  30. Sime says:

    How can America be destroyed by climate destabilisation when it is ‘under God’, and has a ‘Manifest Destiny’.

    Easy because it self delusional smoke and mirrors. That is to say isn’t and it doesn’t and nature won’t give hoot about their delusion as it destroys their country along with the rest of the planet.

  31. fj says:

    Like this dreadful in-our-face reality, we must be in the face of our so-called leaders, neighbors, and even acquaintances when discussions move to even the merest idea of the future that does not include climate change; keeping minds focused and feet-in-the-fire; plain and simple.

  32. fj says:

    It is absolutely crazy to ignore the accelerating extreme crisis we’re in the middle of and continue to cause.

  33. Paul Magnus says:

    Action Needed Now to Prepare for Severe Drought

    Wehner said he was surprised the study received very little media attention, given the serious implications for the future. 

    What this means for future generations is “a very difficult issue for me to talk about” at a personal level, Wehner admitted. 

  34. Paul Magnus says:

    “the Conservative government has been laying off thousands and thousands of full-fledged scientific employees that have been performing research for decades at Environment Canada, Department of Fisheries and Oceans, and Parks Canada (e.g. ,, ), shutting down entire divisions and radically decimating environmental protection and stewardship in a matter of a couple years.”

  35. Paul Magnus says:

    Hopefully he covers the great civilizations which have fallen due to climate change. This time we have a global crisis threatening a global civilization.

  36. SecularAnimist says:

    Joe wrote: “… we are still going to get WWII-scale serious about climate sometime in the 2020s and avert the worst-case scenarios …”

    Joe, my understanding of the current science — which you document so well here — is that if we wait until the 2020s to “get WWII-scale serious about climate”, it will be too late to avert scenarios that will entail not only the collapse of human civilization and a mass die-off of the human species, but very probably the collapse of major global ecosystems and the mass extinction of most life on Earth.

    And indeed there is a plausible scientific case that it is already too late, thanks to the effects of the warming that has already occurred and that will continue to occur, from the GHGs we have already emitted.

    So, I wish you would elaborate on the scientific support for the idea that “getting serious” in 10-15 years will be sufficient to “avert” such scenarios.

  37. Tom L says:

    Indeed SA. How does the current ‘Arctic Death Spiral’ not represent a feedback already in ‘runaway’ mode? How does the heating in the ‘pipeline’ along with the already operant feedbacks not guarantee an ‘out of control’ situation by 2030? Seriously, how much control do we really have?

  38. Joan Savage says:

    What public practices regarding climate change resemble the community involvement in a WWII metal can drive or rationing?

    At the moment we have an abundance of privately expressed patriotic practices, like installing CFC light bulbs or buying energy from sustainable sources.

    The baby boomer generation and younger have not experienced a WWII-type national unity behavior. The Vietnam War affected the disadvantaged while others went to college. In the first Gulf War and post 9-11-2001, government pushed the costs of war off onto future generations, and that left expressions of unity to what? those lapel pins and the plastic car flags and a lack of outrage at losses of civil liberties.

    I would welcome a program like Victory Gardens that are highly visible expressions of “Can-Do” energy confronting the climate change issues. Planting a yard for maximum carbon sequestration might be a step in the right direction. “Hypermiling” one’s car with a bumper sticker to match the behavior could be another.

  39. M Tucker says:

    “Hell is truth seen too late.”

    Yes and since we have no record of preventing catastrophe, especially for a catastrophe of this magnitude, it will take a lot of hell, “Hell and High Water,” before our “WWII scale serious” effort begins. Will we be frantically addressing disaster after disaster with nothing left over for that monumental effort? Or, will we be able to address the near-term calamities and still be able to mount an effective solution to extreme climate disruption? For Joe the glass is half full and history is on his side. Even with our crappy record of preventing catastrophe we have managed to survive. Even with the unimaginable destruction caused by WWII, civilization survived. Even in the face of total war where civilian populations and cities became targets of aggression and, at the same time, strategically important objectives of victory, civilization survived. Even with historic levels of civilian and combat deaths, civilization survived and world population continued to increase. It is just that we have never had to face a situation like climate disruption before and the resource that helped the Allies win WWII is no longer a resource we can depend on. I hope Joe is right. No way to tell now. I may have another 10 or 20 years left and so I might at least live to see what that monumental effort might look like but I can guarantee we will see a lot of mistakes along the way.

  40. Philip Pease says:

    There is ample evidence that global climate is changing even faster than predicted just a few years ago. We have had heat records broken, more frequent severe weather events than ever before, and now we have observed methane gas being released in the arctic regions. In short to those who are paying attention the effects of global climate change is apparent.

    Both Republican and Democratic politicians are completely focused on economic growth including producing ever greater amounts of fossil fuel resources. In short, they are not just ignoring the issue of global climate change, they are actively making it worse. Only the Green Party recognizes the urgent need to act to reduce our use of fossil fuels; but the corporate owned main stream media chooses to ignore any political party except Republicans and Democrats. With both major political parties plus the main stream media owned by big money interests they choose to pretend there is no problem with climate change caused by fossil fuel use.

    The speed with which climate change is happening requires urgent action on a scale that matches world war II effort to reduce fossil fuel use. With the propaganda and political climate that exists today I do not see any such action that will avoid catastrophe.

    Commenting on the religious point of view – perhaps the apocalyptic visions will happen as global climate changes trigger ecological disasters and the use of military forces fighting to preserve law and order in a world where billions of refugees are fighting for survival. At the conclusion of the collapse of civilization those that are left will choose compassion and peace and the meek shall inherit the Earth.

  41. Joe Romm says:

    Avoiding worst-case scenarios isn’t the same as avoiding catastrophe.

  42. SecularAnimist says:

    I’m not sure what you mean by that. Could you compare and contrast what you mean by “worst-case scenario” vs. “catastrophe”?

    It’s hard for me to imagine that a society that presently appears collectively unwilling to do the relatively easy things needed to prevent its own demise will, in 10-15 years, faced with its by then inevitable demise, thirsting for vanishing fresh water supplies, starved by drought and ocean acidification, and battered by weather of mass destruction, will undertake the far more challenging (and entirely altruistic) task of changing its behavior to protect whatever then remains of the Earth’s biosphere from collapse decades or centuries after human civilization has passed away.

  43. Paul Magnus says:

    Apocalypse Soon: Has Civilization Passed the Environmental Point of No Return?
    May 23, 2012; 9:07 AM ET
    Remember how Wile E. Coyote, in his obsessive pursuit of the Road Runner, would fall off a cliff? The hapless predator ran straight out off the edge, stopped in midair as only an animated character could, looked beneath him in an eye-popping moment of truth, and plummeted straight down into a puff of dust. Splat! 

    Four decades ago, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology computer model called World3 warned of such a possible course for human civilization in the 21st century. In Limits to Growth, a bitterly disputed 1972 book that explicated these findings, researchers argued that the global industrial system has so much inertia that it cannot readily correct course in response to signals of planetary stress. But unless economic growth skidded to a halt before reaching the edge, they warned, society was headed for overshoot-and a splat that could kill billions.

  44. Richard Miller says:

    There is a common argument deriving from evolutionary psychology that we are not equipped to deal with threats in the future. We evolved to deal with this particular lion, etc., coming after us. There is truth in this, of course, but this is hardly the whole story.

    I am interested in historical cases where we acted proactively to avoid a horrible threat. These are the cases that we should focus on because when you present people the climate diagnosis they freeze up and shut down and think we are doomed. We need to have examples on hand to show how human beings can rise to threats that are not immediate but are in the future. The most obvious example relating to the environment is the Montreal Protocol. Does anyone know of a book that provides examples of threats we avoided because of our foresight?

  45. Paul Magnus says:

    “Turner and, separately, the PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, conclude that the global system is closely following a business-as-usual output curve. In this model run the economy continues to grow as expected until about 2015, but then falters because nonrenewable resources such as oil become ever more expensive to extract.”

    I agree a crunch is coming before 2020 due to some respects to resource depletion, even as we bump along the depression threshold.

    However, climate change is also going to equally contribute to global civilization collapse by or around 2020 due to extreme climate and weather.

    I an confident that at the current frequency and intensity thing are not sustainable. Events are returning before communities are able to recover from the previous one. And we are seeing an acceleration on all fronts of these episodes.

  46. Raul M. says:

    Delusion is increased by “channeling” the power of God so to speak. Power of God is there but maybe a little to wacky with the manmade forcing and feedbacks.
    Believing those feedbacks increases mans power is delusional.

  47. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    If the Right doesn’t like the facts, they suppress them, or invent ‘facts’ of their own. There absolutely must be a Rightwing war on science because science deals in observable, testable, falsifiable facts, whereas the Rightwing pathopsychology deals in egomaniacal, greed and dominance driven phantasies.

  48. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Good Lord a’Mercy-it’s too late now, let alone the 2020s. When the proverbial collides with the fan, the globally dominate psychotic class will react with violence and rage, in order to protect their ‘precious’- their money. For them the 99% are ‘the expendables’ and they would far rather exterminate them to save their loot than surrender a brass farthing. I’d say ‘beware the zoonoses’ the ‘mysterious’ mass killers that will emerge ‘out of nowhere’ in particular.

  49. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    ‘Patriotism’ is the very last thing we need. It is usually expressed in jingoism, chauvinism and xenophobia, and is a perennial favourite tactic of the global Masters to ‘divide and rule’. As at no other time in history, humanity is and must be united in facing auto-genocide of our species. Either we hang together or we will all hang separately.

  50. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Military forces-certainly not those of the USA or NATO- do not ‘fight’ (it’s slaughter really)to protect ‘law and order’. They operate to maintain dominance and control by the global elect.

  51. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    In my opinion the Unholy Trinity is ecological collapse, which is synergistic between multiple individual crises and accelerating, resource depletion, of both non-renewables and supposedly renewable (like fisheries and forests)resources and the economic implosion under unrepayable debt. Chuck in a little geo-political stress from the eclipse of the West and rise of the East, season with several thousand still extant thermonuclear weapons, massive biowarfare research on such arcane subjects as ‘ethnically specific’ bioweapons and global military spending of roughly two trillion a year, and who but a believer in miracles really thinks that we will be around in 2100?

  52. Raul M. says:

    Could also be said to be delusional to think that war is an option in later years when without eyesight (cause of clear sky UV rays) if man goes into daylight he will become blind. I think to a large extent it will happen without the men knowing what is happening. That children are exempt from UV rays is a bizarre concept.

  53. Raul M. says:

    Nah, we’ll never see it coming cause we think we will be able to deal with or adapt to clear sky UV rays. There is some research into how plant leaves can get burned by UV rays. And with the bouncing of rays into the shaded areas? Nah, no chance.

  54. Bob Doublin says:

    Thomas Hobbes is a 17th century philosopher not 18th cent.(unless you meant David Hume)(2 years graduate work in philosophy 1977-1979 University of Washington.)