Syria Today Is A Preview Of Memorial Day, 2030

Climate Wars by Gwynne DyerThe worst direct impacts to humans from our unsustainable use of energy — over the next few decades — will, I think, be Dust-Bowlification and extreme weather and food insecurity: Hell and High Water.

But all of the impacts occurring at once will have an even more devastating synergy (see “An Illustrated Guide to the Science of Global Warming Impacts“). This means the rich countries will be far less likely to be offering much assistance to the poorer ones, since there will be ever worsening catastrophes everywhere simultaneously so we’ll be suffering at the same time. Heck, the deep economic downturn and the record-smashing disasters of the past three years has already exacerbated media myopia and compassion fatigue to help those around the world staggered by floods and droughts.

And that suggests another deadly climate impact — far more difficult to project quantitatively because there is no paleoclimate analog — may well affect far more people both directly and indirectly: war, conflict, competition for arable and/or habitable land.

We will have to work as hard as possible to make sure we don’t leave a world of wars to our children. That means avoiding decades if not centuries of strife and conflict from catastrophic climate change. That also means finally ending our addiction to oil, a source — if not the source — of two of our biggest recent wars.

In November 2011, Nobel Peace Prize winner and former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan “said rising temperatures and rainwater shortages are having a devastating effect on food production. Failing to address the problem will have repercussions on health, security and stability.”

Last week, Tom Friedman described how warming-worsened drought has exacerbated political instability even now in Syria. His must-read piece “Without Water, Revolution” explains:

THIS Syrian disaster is like a superstorm. It’s what happens when an extreme weather event, the worst drought in Syria’s modern history, combines with a fast-growing population and a repressive and corrupt regime and unleashes extreme sectarian and religious passions, fueled by money from rival outside powers — Iran and Hezbollah on one side, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar on the other, each of which have an extreme interest in its Syrian allies’ defeating the other’s allies — all at a time when America, in its post-Iraq/Afghanistan phase, is extremely wary of getting involved.

I came here to write my column and work on a film for the Showtime series, “Years of Living Dangerously,” about the “Jafaf,” or drought, one of the key drivers of the Syrian war. In an age of climate change, we’re likely to see many more such conflicts.

Warming-worsened drought is causing problems all around the Mediterranean:

NOAA concluded in 2011 that “human-caused climate change [is now] a major factor in more frequent Mediterranean droughts.” Reds and oranges highlight lands around the Mediterranean that experienced significantly drier winters during 1971-2010 than the comparison period of 1902-2010.  [Click to enlarge.]

But, obviously, the poorer a country is — and the worse it is governed — the more warming-worsened drought is likely to drive instability:

“The drought did not cause Syria’s civil war,” said the Syrian economist Samir Aita, but, he added, the failure of the government to respond to the drought played a huge role in fueling the uprising. What happened, Aita explained, was that after Assad took over in 2000 he opened up the regulated agricultural sector in Syria for big farmers, many of them government cronies, to buy up land and drill as much water as they wanted, eventually severely diminishing the water table. This began driving small farmers off the land into towns, where they had to scrounge for work….

Then, between 2006 and 2011, some 60 percent of Syria’s land mass was ravaged by the drought and, with the water table already too low and river irrigation shrunken, it wiped out the livelihoods of 800,000 Syrian farmers and herders, the United Nations reported. “Half the population in Syria between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers left the land” for urban areas during the last decade, said Aita. And with Assad doing nothing to help the drought refugees, a lot of very simple farmers and their kids got politicized. “State and government was invented in this part of the world, in ancient Mesopotamia, precisely to manage irrigation and crop growing,” said Aita, “and Assad failed in that basic task.”

Young people and farmers starved for jobs — and land starved for water — were a prescription for revolution.

The NY Times reported in 2009, “climate-induced crises could topple governments, feed terrorist movements or destabilize entire regions, say the analysts, experts at the Pentagon and intelligence agencies who for the first time are taking a serious look at the national security implications of climate change.”

That’s a key reason 33 generals and admirals supported the comprehensive climate and clean energy jobs bill in 2010, asserting “Climate change is making the world a more dangerous place” and “threatening America’s security.” The Pentagon itself has made the climate/security link explicit in its Quadrennial Defense Review.

Sadly, the chance that humanity will avert catastrophic climate impacts has dropped sharply in the past few years (see “Obama Must Become A Climate Hawk To Avoid Dust-Bin Of History, Dust Bowl For America“). And that means it is increasingly likely we face a world far beyond 450 ppm atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide, which in turn means we likely cross carbon cycle tipping points that threaten to quickly take us to 800 to 1000 ppm — a world of rapid warming and a ruined climate far outside the bounds of any human experience.

It is a world not merely of endless regional resource wars around the globe. It is a world with dozens of Syrias and Darfurs and Pakistani mega-floods, of countless environmental refugees — hundreds of millions in the second half of this century — all clamoring to occupy the parts of the developed world that aren’t flooded or desertified.

In such a world, everyone will ultimately become a veteran, and Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day may fade into obscurity, as people forget about a time when wars were the exception, a time when soldiers were but a small minority of the population. And if we don’t act swiftly and strongly to stop it, the worst impacts could last a long, long time (see NOAA stunner: Climate change “largely irreversible for 1000 years,” with permanent Dust Bowls in Southwest and around the globe).

So when does this start to happen on a grand scale?

Thomas Fingar, “the U.S. intelligence community’s top analyst,” sees it happening by the mid-2020s:

By 2025, droughts, food shortages and scarcity of fresh water will plague large swaths of the globe, from northern China to the Horn of Africa.

For poorer countries, climate change “could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back,” Fingar said, while the United States will face “Dust Bowl” conditions in the parched Southwest“¦.

He said U.S. intelligence agencies accepted the consensual scientific view of global warming, including the conclusion that it is too late to avert significant disruption over the next two decades. The conclusions are in line with an intelligence assessment produced this summer that characterized global warming as a serious security threat for the coming decades.

Floods and droughts will trigger mass migrations and political upheaval in many parts of the developing world.

For the latest literature review and projections, see my Nature article, “The Next Dust Bowl,” my post “Hansen Is Correct About Catastrophic Projections For U.S. Drought If We Don’t Act Now” as well as the 2011 study, Michael Wehner et al., “Projections of Future Drought in the Continental United States and Mexico.”

The figure below is a rough representation of where one major analysis projects things will be around mid-century — if we are so self-destructive as to let this happen:

The PDSI [Palmer Drought Severity Index] in the Great Plains during the Dust Bowl apparently spiked very briefly to -6, but otherwise rarely exceeded -3 for the decade (see here).

And, of course, we’ve seen that even areas expected to become wetter can experience an extreme heat wave so unprecedented that it forces the entire country to suspend grain exports:

Significantly, the UK government’s chief scientist, Professor John Beddington, laid out a scenario similar to Fingar’s in a 2009 speech to the government’s Sustainable Development UK conference in Westminster. He warned that by 2030, “A ‘perfect storm’ of food shortages, scarce water and insufficient energy resources threaten to unleash public unrest, cross-border conflicts and mass migration as people flee from the worst-affected regions,” as the UK’s Guardian put it.

You can see a five-minute BBC interview with Beddington here. The speech is online. Here are some excerpts:

We saw the food spike last year; prices going up by something in the order of 300%, rice went up by 400%, we saw food riots, we saw major issues for the poorest in the world, in the sense that the organisations like the World Food Programme did not have sufficient money to buy food on the open market and actually use it to feed the poorest of the poor….

So, what are the drivers? I am going to go through them now very briefly.

First of all, population growth. World population grows by six million every month — greater than the size of the UK population every year…. I am going to look at 2030 because that’s when a whole series of events come together.

By 2030, looking at population terms, you are looking at the global population increasing from a little over six billion at the moment to about eight billion…

you are going to see major changes but particularly in the demand for livestock — meat and dairy.;.. By 2030, the demand for food is going to be increased by about 50%. Can we do it? One of the questions. There is a major food security issue by 2030. We’ve got to somehow produce 50% more by that time.

The second issue I want to focus on is the availability of fresh water…. The fresh water available per head of the world population is around 25% of what it was in 1960. To give you some idea of this; there are enormous potential shortages in certain parts of the world…. China has something like 23% of the world’s population and 11% of the world’s water.

… the massive use of water is in agriculture and particularly in developing world agriculture. Something of the order of 70% of that. One in three people are already facing water shortages and the total world demand for water is predicted to increase by 30% by 2030.

So, we’ve got food — expectation of demand increase of 50% by 2030, we’ve got water — expectation of demand increase of 30% by 2030. And in terms of what it looks like, we have real issues of global water security.

…. where there is genuine water stress [in 2025 is] China and also parts of India, but look at parts of southern Europe where by 2025 we are looking at serious issues of water stress….

So, water is really enormously important. I am going to get onto the climate change interactions with it a little bit later but water is the one area that I feel is seriously threatening. It is so important because a shortage of water obviously interacts with a shortage of food, there are real potentials for driving significant international problems — what do you do if you have no water and you have no food? You migrate. So one can have a reasonable expectation that international migration will occur as these shortages come in.

Now, the third one I want to focus on is energy…. For the first time, the demand of the rest of the world exceeded the demand of energy of the OECD …. Energy demand is actually increasing and going to hit something of the order of a 50% increase, again by 2030.

Now, if that were not enough … those are three things that are coming together. What will the world be like when that happens? But we also have, of course, the issue of climate change. Now, this is a very familiar slide to you all but we are shooting for a target of two degrees centigrade, a perfectly sensible target….

Shooting for two seems a perfectly sensible and legitimate objective but there are enormous problems. You are talking about serious problems in tropical glaciers — the Chinese government has recognised this and has actually announced about 10 days ago that it is going to build 59 new reservoirs to take the glacial melt in the Xinjiang province. 59 reservoirs. It is actually contemplating putting many of them underground. This is a recognition that water, which has hitherto been stored in glaciers, is going to be very scarce. We have to think about water in a major way….

The other area that really worries me in terms of climate change and the potential for positive feedbacks and also for interactions with food is ocean acidification…. The areas which are going to be hit most severely by this are the coral reefs of the world and that is already starting to show.

Coral reefs provide significant protein supplies to about a billion people. So it is not just that you can’t go snorkelling and see lots of pretty fish, it is that there are a billion people dependent on coral reefs for a very substantial portion of their high protein diet.

… we have got to deal with increased demand for energy, increased demand for food, increased demand for water, and we’ve got to do that while mitigating and adapting to climate change. And we have but 21 years to do it….

I will leave you with some key questions. Can nine billion people be fed? Can we cope with the demands in the future on water? Can we provide enough energy? Can we do it, all that, while mitigating and adapting to climate change? And can we do all that in 21 years time? That’s when these things are going to start hitting in a really big way. We need to act now. We need investment in science and technology, and all the other ways of treating very seriously these major problems. 2030 is not very far away.

Some of this can be avoid or minimized if we act now. Some of it can’t. But if we don’t act strongly now, then by Memorial Day 2030, many of the global conflicts will either be resource wars or wars driven by environmental degradation and dislocation. Indeed that may already have started to happen (see “Report: Climate Change and Environmental Degradation Trigger Darfur Crisis and “Syria: Climate Change, Drought and Social Unrest“).

For one discussion of the kind of wars we might be seeing, albeit for the year 2046, here is a three-part radio series on Climate Wars by Gwynne Dyer, a Canadian journalist and historian of warfare.

For all of the above reasons, veterans and security experts and politicians of all parties have begun working together to avoid the worst. A key leader on climate and energy security has been the conservative Virgina Republican, John Warner, who pushed hard to pass the clean energy bill — because he is a former Navy secretary and former Senate Armed Services Committee chair and because he is a former Forest Service firefighter now “just absolutely heartbroken” because “the old forest, the white pine forest in which I worked, was absolutely gone, devastated, standing there dead from the bark beetle” thanks in large part to global warming.

Warner has been trying to build grass-roots support for congressional action to limit global warming,” as Politics Daily reported. “He is traveling the country to discuss military research that shows climate change is a threat to U.S. national security.” Here is part of PD’s interview:

PD: Does the responsibility fall to us to respond to the consequences of climate change?
JW: Not exclusively, but we’re often in the forefront of response to these things. We’re the nation with the most sealift. The most airlift. We have more medical teams which are mobile, more storehouses of food and supplies to meet emergencies. And throughout our history, from the beginning of the republic, America’s always had to respond to certain humanitarian disasters.
PD: What are some examples of destabilization due to climate?
JW: One clear case of it is Somalia. [In the early 1990s] the prolonged drought began to tie up the economy, the food supplies. There was a certain amount of political and economic instability. Where you have fragile nations . . . a serious climactic problem will come along, with a shortage of food or water, and often those governments are toppled. And then they fall to the evils of . . . terrorism or others who try to exploit these fallen governments. You saw it in Darfur. You saw it in Somalia. This political instability and weakness is given the final tilt by a problem associated with climactic change.

Our choice today is clear. We can continue listening to the voices of denial and delay and disinformation, assuring that everyone ultimately becomes a veteran of the growing number of climate-related conflicts.

Or we can launch a WWII-scale effort and a WWII-style effort to address the problem as Hansen and I and many others have called for. That is our most necessary fight today.

This post is an update.

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74 Responses to Syria Today Is A Preview Of Memorial Day, 2030

  1. Colorado Bob says:

    Retail beef prices are widely expected to set new records in coming weeks after wholesale prices, or the amount meatpackers charge sellers for beef, hit an all-time peak this past week.

  2. Andy Hultgren says:

    I have followed CP for four or five years now, and Joe this is one of the hardest hitting posts I’ve seen you write. It is what Americans need to hear, not what we want to hear. Thank you for describing in detail the chaos we face if we do not act now.

    It is unfortunately true that “it is too late to avert significant disruption over the next two decades… [This conclusion] in line with an intelligence assessment produced this summer that characterized global warming as a serious security threat for the coming decades.”

    However, we all know that action now will reduce the severity of climate change disasters both over the next two decades as well as beyond.

    I have seen you writings, Joe, as a “call to arms” for action on climate change. This post encapsulates that call. I for one have been and will continue to head that call, and have been and will continue to sound it as honestly, caringly, and boldly as I can. I owe it to my children, and to my family and friends the world over.

    Peace and hope to all.

  3. Jim Baird says:

    NWAPA and the GRAND Canal would bring water from those blue areas in Alaska and Quebec to the dust bowl. They would also produce hydro electricity, the carbon free energy with one of the highest EROI.

  4. Mike Roddy says:

    Another excellent post, Joe, thanks. Climate Progress should be required reading in high school science and civics classes. You summarize our predicament with clarity and detail.

    War is going out of style in the sense that includes diplomats, uniforms, and standing armies. Future conflicts will respect neither borders nor negotiated peace agreements, but will consist of desperate refugees and almost equally desperate defenders of their territory.

    We think of WWII or the first Iraq war as modern conflicts. Actually not- Afghanistan is the future, with endless violence, shifting alliances, and little interest in international boundaries. National government armies will mostly consist of massive police forces, charged with suppressing desperate immigrants and starving natives.

    All so that banking and fossil fuel investors and executives can upgrade their art collections and redecorate their fourth homes. Their descendants will have quite different concerns.

  5. fj says:

    Failing states is a major concern as a crisis amplifier and the reason why “poor people first” is an extremely important strategy for both mitigation and adaptation.

  6. Paul Magnus says:

    KNOW YOUR HISTORY: Memorial Day was started by former slaves on May, 1, 1865 in Charleston, SC to honor 257 dead Union Soldiers who had been buried in a mass grave in a Confederate prison camp. They dug up the bodies and worked for 2 weeks to give them a proper burial as gratitude for fighting for their freedom. They then held a parade of 10,000 people led by 2,800 Black children where they marched, sang and celebrated.

    Thanks to Abstrakt Goldsmith for this nugget of history

  7. prokaryotes says:

    Imho, this entire “planning” will fail because of underestimating of impacts. Now is the time to act in unity, to solve a collective problem which can only be solved on a global level – not by building walls.

  8. Ed Leaver says:

    Two not unrelated links: Renewable energy, a land guzzler in India, relates how good farmland is being bought preferentially over poor land for solar farms because the good land is nearest the installed grid. (Well, duh.) Congo Waits on Funding for Largest Hydropower Project relates how the 40 GW (!!!) eventually projected will mostly go to rich mining regions and South Africa, again because that’s where the grids are. The rural poor, on the other hand…

  9. Dave S. Nottear says:

    “if we are so self-destructive as to allow this to happen”

    patience… patience

    “We” are not in control. “We” are all just observers who are confused. Good luck to you if you insist on believing this “someone will do something about this if we yell and make a lot of noise” delusion.

    How about we skip that nonsense and get to reality – just accept it like these people did:

    “… U.S. intelligence agencies accepted the consensual scientific view of global warming, including the conclusion that it is too late to avert significant disruption over the next two decades.

    It is long past time to quit arguing with thunder storms and figure out how you are going to feed yourselves locally.

    We do not have a decade left (2025/30 my arse)- quit lying to yourselves.

    Unfortunately, it takes at least a decade under ideal conditions to learn how to live the way we are going to have to live.

  10. Leif says:

    ” And throughout our history, from the beginning of the republic, America’s always had to respond to certain humanitarian disasters.”
    It would be inspiring to have the USA start to address the slow motion humanitarian disaster of climatic disruption caused largely by our own, (and exported), socially enabled capitalistic paradigm.

    However enabling peace instead of war would mostly help “We the People” long term and war enriches Wall Street, Arms Manufacturers and ecocide fossil Barons short term. So it goes.

  11. fj says:

    2023 is a mere decade from now when we will be seeing clear signs of our rapidly failing global civilization.

    Action at wartime speed.must be now.

  12. Dave S. Nottear says:

    “Dont you hear my call
    Though youre many years away
    Dont you hear me calling you
    Write your letters in the sand
    For the day Ill take your hand
    In the land that our grand-children knew

    Dont you hear my call
    Though youre many years away
    Dont you hear me calling you
    All your letters in the sand
    Cannot heal me like your hand
    For my life still ahead pity me”

  13. Mike Roddy says:

    Feasibility is critical for solar to replace coal. Major transmission lines cost $3-10 million per mile in the US. Plants can’t pencil if they have to be located in remote areas.

    Nobody wants to decommission farmland, but there is likely to be other suitable land available, especially in sparsely populated and arid Rajastan.

    The coal to solar land ratio is not correct, since it overlooks all the land lost from mining and transporting coal. For example, here in the US we have 12 million acres actively leased by fossil fuel companies, with another 38 million acres spoken for but inactive. We can power 40% of the US on 3 million acres of solar farms.

  14. fj says:

    Living in failing civilization will not be beneficial to anyone.

  15. MarkF says:

    Very powerful Joe, thanks yet again.

    Let’s hope somebody such as Pres. Obama finds his way to reading this.

  16. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Pro, you are absolutely correct, probably because you actually feel concern for other human beings. Unfortunately the planet’s owners, therefore rulers, do not, and they will use climate destabilisation to undermine and destroy countries, as is the real cause of the disaster in Syria.

  17. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    India remains a brutally unjust, unequal and unfair society. The poor and tribal people are treated with extraordinary cruelty, and are thrown off their land for forestry, mining, infrastructure development etc. The Rightwing MSM makes no fuss in the West, unlike when such events occur in China, when it is of course, a sign of the swinish ChiComms’ extraordinary wickedness. India is seen as a more or less compliant stooge of the Empire, so its social atrocities are ignored.

  18. Yes, the Third World is at grave risk for horrible climate-triggered conflicts. But so is the US.

    Joe alludes to this when he says that the “deep economic downturn and the record-smashing disasters of the past three years has already exacerbated media myopia and compassion fatigue to help those around the world staggered by floods and droughts.”

    The economic downturn also made it much harder to talk about the climate crisis, let alone finance the changes we have to undertake. Waxman-Markey died in that period, for example.

    The inward turn of the Tea Party is just the latest manifestation of a deeply embedded mentality, mostly in the South and in rural areas with Southern affinities, that pre-dates the Civil War. In fact, that mentality was the Civil War’s seedbed. We can see it in the disdain and contempt many Tea Partiers have for “climate change,” “liberals,” and “Al Gore.”

    It’s a mentality of pugnacious entitlement. It’s a rigid moral outlook that puts white Christian males at the center of things, as decreed by a paternalistic, Old Testament God. In this view, there is a divinely ordained moral order, and deviations from that moral order are why we have problems.

    “Freedom” in this view applies to the dominant class. It justifies that domination. Antebellum Southerners demanded to be “free” to own slaves. That is the crux of the mentality: freedom to dominate others. It’s the “freedom” to spoil the environment without interference from outsiders who “don’t belong here.” It’s the “freedom” to conduct business without regulations to protect consumers. It’s the “freedom” from taxes. It’s the “freedom” to alter the world without pushback from foreign countries. It’s a peculiar American chauvinism.

    There’s a nexus between that mentality and one of blame. People who oppose this view are lesser Americans who are causing its problems. If everybody just got right with God and accepted a social structure that institutionalized this dominance, then America’s way would be clear. If you suggest measures that interfere with the above “freedoms,” then you have chosen sides-the wrong side.

    Fingar’s timeline is likely to be right. We won’t have to wait for 2046, barring some sudden, massive change of heart in the hardcore Southern/Tea Party/Libertarian attitude. My novel A Change in the Weather is set in the 2020’s of Fingar’s world.

    When the ice cap disappears, and the jet stream whips the globe like an unattended firehose, agriculture will collapse, followed by the economy. With income inequality already getting worse every year, there will be many, many people who will go over the edge. It’ll be like the 2008 crisis on steroids, and with sky-high food prices and empty supermarket shelves. Today’s Congressional loggerheads will seem trivial. The “freedom” people will angrily oppose the needed measures as “tyranny” just as they opposed Obamacare as tyranny, only much more so. Congress will look the way it did in 1860.

    There are many plausible pathways this could take in the next 10-15 years. My novel lays out one. I wrote it to help people visualize that we don’t have time.

  19. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Great analysis Change, ME

  20. Merrelyn Emery says:

    The equations over the next 10-20 years are impossible. Eight billion people is impossible and I doubt we will see it. Babies need certain conditions to survive the first 2 years and those conditions will not be present in many places. We have already started to see spikes in infant mortality and they will becomes mountains, ME

  21. Rabid Doomsayer says:

    Tumbleweed Thinker joined the Tea Party in late 2013, a simple man or so he claimed. He rarely mentioned his degree frome Yale and never mentioned his first degree was from the London School of Economics.

    Sometime late in 2014, or maybe 2015, the Tea Pary members started to realise they had been manipulated, that they had brought a pig in a poke. Naturally angry with their anger built on over many years by Fox and well armed, the last American Revolution began in 2016.

  22. catman306 says:

    Centuries-old frozen plants revived
    Eastern margin of the Tear Drop glacier Glacier retreat has markedly accelerated in the period since 2004 – and many new species lie beneath

    Plants that were frozen during the “Little Ice Age” centuries ago have been observed sprouting new growth, scientists say.

    Samples of 400-year-old plants known as bryophytes have flourished under laboratory conditions.

    This regeneration could have major effects in areas of melting glaciers.

  23. Paul Klinkman says:

    I recoil whenever I hear the slightest trace of the argument that soon there won’t be enough to go around, and step two of the argument is that “they” will go to war with popguns against “us”.

    In Syria, dictator-for-life Bashir Assad wanted lots of money, so he stole everybody’s water and gave the water to his crooked friends. He also kept up the repression of majority Sunni Muslims in his country to cover up the theft. When people are greedy to high heaven, yes, there’s not enough to go around.

    In terms of manufacturing, our world is amazingly rich. Robots make our cars. Robots are starting to work cheaper than foreign near-slaves at many jobs. Sooner rather than later the business of agriculture will be largely roboticized. There’s almost no limit to the amount of food that our world will be able to grow in climate-controlled environments.

    Of course, greed still extends to high heaven. If you have too little food or too little anything, your problem is entirely a political problem. Catastrophic climate change may destroy most of the species on eaarth, but having no food isn’t related. It’s just a handy excuse used by the greedy to get more for themselves.

  24. prokaryotes says:

    A failed state will not be helpful, the inhabitants will stick to fossil energy, keep on logging and have no clue about child birth rates.

  25. Mike Roddy says:

    Nice story, Paul, thanks. I recommend a book on that general subject: State of Jones. It’s about a Mississippi county that basically became a part of the Union, and fought Confederate soldiers throughout the war, including assassinating officers and bushwhacking patrols that had been sent to pick up deserters.

    Jones residents had a tradition of intermarrying with blacks, and holding few if any slaves, since most were small yeoman farmers. They held off Confederate companies by hiding in the swamps, and using hit and run tactics.

    Made me feel better about my mother’s Mississippi ancestry.

  26. Mike Roddy says:

    If he did, he would smirk and go to the golf course again with his buddies from Exxon and Chevron. Our President is beyond hope, and the best we can do is hope for Whitehouse or Inslee to inspire us in 2016.

  27. In my darker moments, I think the prolific human race has simply replicated itself to the edge of the Petri dish, consumed the agar-agar (oil) that supported this artificial population explosion, and is now being swamped by its waste products. The Great Reset is imminent.

    Even if we manage to curb the waste, we have a lot of people to support. Without oil, that implies economic contraction, at least for a generation or two.

    And what about future population growth? Is that sustainable? There are many, many parts of the world that are inhabitable at their current densities solely because of fossil fuels. Even, perhaps especially, big cities like New York. How does one operate a 60-storey apartment building with solar and wind power? An elevator motor draws a LOT of energy. Not to mention that as the world warms, air conditioning will become more of a necessity in these buildings–many of which do not have windows that open.

    Just the economic contraction implicit in a sudden climate disruption, setting aside reducing fossil fuel use to combat it, is enough to destabilize any society.

    Our only hope is to persuade people that this risk is real and high, and that we need to undertake the WW2-style effort to head off the worst.

    Barring that, we are in for some very, very trying times, very soon. By 2025, certainly.

    Hm–I sound like Superman1, who’s been conspicuous by his absence. The difference is I want to keep up the fight, and have a small hope we can succeed in avoiding the worst. Hence my dark novel, which is a perverse act of optimism.

  28. Merrelyn Emery says:

    You have convinced me that I have to read that book. Thanks, ME

  29. Paul Magnus says:

    “An astounding 1050 EF-1 and stronger tornadoes ripped though the U.S. for the one-year period ending that month. This was the greatest 12-month total for these stronger tornadoes in the historical record, and an event so rare that we might expect it to occur only once every 62,500 years. Fast forward now to May 2012 – April 2013. Top-ten coldest temperatures on record across the Midwest during March and April of 2013, coming after a summer of near-record heat and drought in 2012, brought about a remarkable reversal in our tornado tally–the lowest 12-month total of EF-1 and stronger tornadoes on record–just 197. This was an event so rare we might expect it to occur only once every 3,000 – 4,000 years. And now, in May 2013, after another shattering EF-5 tornado in Moore, Oklahoma, residents of the Midwest must be wondering, are we back to the 2011 pattern?”

  30. BobbyL says:

    This could indeed get unbelievably nasty. As far as America goes I think we will have a robot army ready so few if any of us have to die. The new stealth bomber drones that were just unveiled and which should be able to take off and land on aircraft carriers will surely be a powerful weapon that may eventually make real live pilots obsolete. Certainly robot soldiers must be on the way soon. And who knows what else the US military will come up with as it replaces humans with technology.

  31. Omega Centauri says:

    There is significant disruption. And then there is Significant disruption. And then there is SIGNIFICANT disruption. Some of us might designate these as 2C, 4C, or 6C. Others might use terms like 450ppm, 600ppm 900ppm….

    We are fighting over which severity of “significant”.

  32. BobbyL says:

    Didn’t mean to reply to catman306. Was supposed to be a new comment.

  33. That’s interesting. But if the implication is that there’s an upside for humans to losing the Arctic ice cover, it’s like saying that there’s an upside for humans to becoming extremely ill.

    Whatever speculative benefits the little plants present can’t offset the catastrophic changes in atmospheric flows and temperatures, and later sea levels.

  34. Tea Partiers recoil at the notion of climate change.

    Did you know that most countries import much of their food? The US is one of the few that exports. France, surprisingly, is the largest food exporter in Europe.

    When food production declines by 30 or 40%, that trade will stop. We won’t need greed to amplify the problem–although it will. The distribution systems and food processing systems will not cope well with a 40% shortfall in inputs.

    Robots need power. It’s all connected. Complex systems fail in complex ways. We almost fell off the edge in 2008, and that only involved finance. When a major underlying system like food production and distribution goes kerflooey, there’ll be enough recoiling to go around for everyone.

  35. prokaryotes says:

    Kind of related


  36. prokaryotes says:

    No reply either… just shows the situation in developing countries.

  37. prokaryotes says:

    Explain to these people what climate change is…

  38. prokaryotes says:

    How far away are we in the developed world from a situation like in Syria?

    Sweden riots spread beyond Stockholm despite extra police

  39. Paul Magnus says:

    China Peaking

    Recent media reports said China’s greenhouse gas emissions might peak before 2025.

  40. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    No doubt there are many on the Right, in the USA and elsewhere, who imagine that they can kill their way out of this deep trouble. After all it has always been their favoured tactic.

  41. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    If there were malignant foreign powers, hitting Sweden with sanctions, enlisting and financing ‘activists’ to overthrow the Government, and sending armed terrorists into the country, to foment sectarian hatred and killing, by murdering and disappearing (and filming their atrocities, including cannibalism, onto Youtube)innocents, then Sweden would be in deep trouble. Any country attacked in such diabolical fashion would be.

  42. Dave S. Nottear says:

    I understand your point, and appreciate the efforts of people like Joe, James Hansen, etc.

    But going forward, I think competition for resources and economic growth will continue to easily trump climate mitigation efforts.

    The window of opportunity for global cooperation on climate has come and gone.

    Think Adapt, think Local, or just let FEMA take care of you if they have the time and resources available when your community needs it.

  43. Spike says:

    Agreed, and it will be exposed to severe climate impacts as shown on Joe’s maps above. At present its heatwave continues, unreported in the west.

    “Incidentally, the state has recorded the highest number of heat wave deaths in the country during one summer. In 2003, of the 4,600 deaths due to heat wave across the country, AP alone accounted for more than 3,000 deaths, said disaster management department officials. Rattled by the deaths, the state government had appointed a committee to study what were the changes that had led to increase in temperatures. Scientists including CVV Bhadram, BVS Amatya, K Krishna Kumar and GB Panth studied environmental changes between 1986 and 2002 and concluded that heat wave conditions which would normally exist for seven days across the state during summer extended to 19 days after 1994 due to urbanization and changes in environment.”

  44. Merrelyn Emery says:

    It’s worse than that. Most of our systems are centralized and inherently fragile/ unstable, pull one pin out and we can scramble to repair. If two go down, so does the system. We need to move to distributive, networked systems fast, ME

  45. fj says:

    2013 would be nice.

  46. fj says:

    2030 is way too far in the future for meaningful projections and plans.

    2020 is much more relevant.

    Action at wartime speed at maximum scale must be in months and weeks even better.

  47. fj says:

    The livable environment has been tanking for a number years and civilization is starting to do the same.

    This must be the call to action.

  48. fj says:

    Civilization must hope to go net zero in 5 years or faster and be able to hunker down for the coming rough climate decades while sophisticated geo science, engineering, and technologies can be developed and deployed to stabilize and restore to a livable environment.

  49. fj says:

    The world’s major cities can be the most important centers of major climate action if they can remain viable entities for long enough, which is not guaranteed.

  50. fj says:

    Since the world’s oceans naturally sequester about 40 percent of atmospheric greenhouse gases, heat, and have terrific amounts energy, massive energy production build out in the world’s oceans must serve to fuel engines converting greenhouse gases to more benign states and providing urgently needed clean water.

  51. catman306 says:

    I was thinking of the rapid change to the northern albedo from dirty white snow/ice to rock/dirt and then quickly to plant life. This might be another positive forcing.

  52. fj says:

    A Poor People First initiative must provide universal healthcare, food, shelter, advanced education while stopping deforestation and provide the human power to achieve reforestation on a global scale at wartime speed.

  53. catman306 says:

    Nuclear winter would solve the global warming/human overpopulation problems for quite a while. Obviously not a desirable solution nor outcome.

  54. fj says:

    . . . while giving the poor full two-way access to the advances of civilization.

  55. fj says:

    As humanity and the interacting global environment rapidly advance to a much simpler living machine, extremely large amounts of waste will be eliminated with front-end costs rapidly recouped through accelerating Eden effects reducing the costs of living and the quality of lives.

  56. fj says:

    . . . and show the future’s generations how to build a civilization.

  57. Colorado Bob says:

    Price of spuds to soar as extreme weather hits potato crops

    He has “just a few pallets” left at his farm in South Somerset. One Devon food retailer specialising in jacket potatoes said: “The price of jacket potatoes has gone through the roof in the last two weeks. A box that used to cost £8 now costs £19. I have never seen the price of raw materials rise as fast as we have seen in the last few weeks.”

    Read more:

  58. Superman1 says:

    Right. The way that we hoped Obama would inspire us in 2008. If we wait for inspiration from politicians, it will be a long wait, indeed!

  59. Superman1 says:

    “Hm–I sound like Superman1”. View that as the first step on the long path to Enlightenment. When you realize that our civilization has been a series of battles we have won (technologies developed) and a war we will ultimately lose (inability to control the unintended consequences of these technologies), then you will have achieved Nirvana.

  60. Superman1 says:

    Mentioning the name of Superman1 is enough to make you want to read the book? Congratulations!

  61. Paul Magnus says:

    I think at the current level of disruption we have seen over the last few years we can say that the collapse has started. Its going to be an interesting now on…

  62. David Goldstein says:


  63. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Not to you, catman, but there are others…

  64. fj says:

    Dave S. Nottear, ”
    . . . too late to avert significant disruption over the next two decades”

    Indicates that immediate urgent action must happen to avert significant disruption beyond two decades.

  65. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Wrong! Again! ME

  66. fj says:


    . . . and advancing the quality of our lives.

  67. kermit says:

    If the politicians don’t change things, who will? Obviously it is up to us to force their hands, but I cannot stop subsidizing oil profits; I cannot establish a moratorium on new coal plants; I cannot fund a smart grid int he US. I can help pressure the folks who can do this.

    All of us going hippie and dropping off the grid would tickle the Koch brothers to no end. Get the irksome gadflies out of their hair…

    There is benefit to our doing that; personal survival is one possible outcome. But while it is necessary, it is not sufficient for saving civilization.

  68. Superman1 says:

    “If the politicians don’t change things, who will?” As Roosevelt once said in this context, ‘force me to do it’. He was telling constituents it is their responsibility to exert enough pressure to force the politicians to act. The problem today is that the electorate doesn’t want to make the sacrifices that saving the biosphere will entail, and the politicians realize that.

  69. prokaryotes says:

    No, it would not help to solve the crisis, because nuclear winter lasts only a few years.

  70. Robert In New Orleans says:

    “Dark Novel” ?
    Who,what,where,why, & how much?
    Web link?

  71. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Not guaranteed and in fact, improbable. Our cities are centralized systems which are far more fragile than decentralized systems. Their inhabitants are also less skilled in the arts of survival, and the arts of negotiation honed through years of living in small communities where cooperation, a sense of togetherness and belonging are the rule, ME