The US Chamber Of Commerce finally endorses global warming, saying “this is the greatest development in the effort to sell iceboxes to Eskimos.” (April Fools)
Homo sapiens is the first species known to have developed the intellectual sophistication to anticipate its own self-inflicted extinction, but it gives no indication of having the ability to advance its social behavior so as to prevent that outcome.
Our extinction will be a monument to our greed.
The last article intended for an Internet journal, which I contributed to, is “AGW And Malthusian End Times,” with Dr. Daniel P. Wirt, M.D., on anthropogenic global warming (AGW). We consider the impact of human-caused global warming on the well-being of the world’s poor, the political motivations of some global warming contrarians, and the prospects for global cooperation in response to the species-wide climate change crisis of probable human extinction.
AGW And Malthusian End Times
13 January 2014 (finalized 21 November 2013)
Dr. Daniel P. Wirt, M.D., and Manuel García, Jr.
Daniel Wirt (DW):
I am having trouble understanding why lefties and libertarians would see Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) as a conspiracy to promote “Malthusianism” (blaming poverty, misery, disease and famine on the poor because unchecked population growth among the poor outstrips resources — and taking measures to limit population growth among the poor). Critics of Malthus on the left blame the plight of the poor on capitalist exploitation.
If AGW is seen as a consumption problem, then why does controlling consumption necessarily fall on the backs of the poor? One could argue that the burden should be on the largest per capita consumers of fossil fuels — like the U.S., with 5% of the world’s population and 25% of consumption. If AGW science is accepted, then there are implications for disruption of habitat and agricultural production which will impact the poor more than the rich, and likely lead to even more imperialism and militarism in the scramble for increasingly scarce resources.
I suspect that AGW will lead to the deaths of tens or hundreds of millions in the not too distant future, from starvation, disease, wars for resources, and catastrophic weather-related events (e.g., Typhoon Haiyan, *). It may not be possible to radically reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and perhaps it is already too late, but it seems to me that the only hope for mitigating massive morbidity and mortality that will disproportionately burden the poor is to embrace AGW and radically reduce consumption, with per capita consumption limits for the rich and population control that is not class or race-based (like radically empowering women to control their fertility). I suspect that if the seeds of doubt and denial planted by left/libertarian AGW deniers take hold they will lead us to a more rapid and more adverse outcome.
* Growing Clamor About Inequities of Climate Crisis
By Steven Lee Myers and Nicholas Kulish
November 16, 2013
Manuel García, Jr. (MG):
The clock for a public policy response to the “energy crisis” (now enlarged to AGW) started ticking in October 1973 with the First Arab Oil Embargo (1973 Oil Crisis), and we’ve yet to get off our asses in response to the alarm (40 years later).
Four years later, the energy problem was serious enough for President Jimmy Carter to address the nation about it on the 202nd anniversary of Paul Revere’s ride (18 April 1977). See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-tPePpMxJaA
Peak Oil was the fear in 1977, not AGW, even though science had been certain about AGW since 1955-1957.
What follows is a very brief synopsis of the scientific development of AGW knowledge, along with incidents of the parallel world energy crisis. Quotes are noted as from one of:
(JEA): John E. Allen, Aerodynamics, Hutchinson & Co. LTD, London, 1963.
In 1896 Svante Arrhenius calculated the effect of doubling atmospheric carbon dioxide to be an increase in surface temperatures of 5-6 degrees Celsius. Meanwhile, another Swedish scientist, Arvid Högbom, had been attempting to quantify natural sources of emissions of CO2 for purposes of understanding the global carbon cycle. Högbom found that estimated carbon production from industrial sources in the 1890s (mainly coal burning) was comparable with the natural sources. (HCCS)
In 1938 a British engineer, Guy Stewart Callendar, attempted to revive Arrhenius’s greenhouse-effect theory. Callendar presented evidence that both temperature and the CO2 level in the atmosphere had been rising over the past half-century, and he argued that newer spectroscopic measurements showed that the gas was effective in absorbing infrared in the atmosphere. Nevertheless, most scientific opinion continued to dispute or ignore the theory. (HCCS)
In 1955 Hans Suess’s carbon-14 isotope analysis showed that CO2 released from fossil fuels was not immediately absorbed by the ocean. (HCCS)
In 1957, better understanding of ocean chemistry led Roger Revelle to a realization that the ocean surface layer had limited ability to absorb carbon dioxide. (HCCS)
In a seminal paper published in 1957, Roger Revelle and Hans Suess, **, argued that humankind was performing “a great geophysical experiment,” calling on the scientific community to monitor changes in the carbon dioxide content of waters and the atmosphere, as well as production rates of plants and animals. (HS)
** Roger Revelle and Hans Suess, “Carbon dioxide exchange between atmosphere and ocean and the question of an increase of atmospheric CO2 during the past decades.” Tellus 9, 18-27 (1957)
AGW became common knowledge among aerodynamicists and atmospheric scientists by the 1960s, as witnessed by the following passage from John E. Allen’s 1963 book surveying the field of aerodynamics “for the non-specialist, the young student, the scholar leaving school and seeking an interest for his life’s work, and for the intelligent member of the public.”
Scientists are interested in the long-term effects on our atmosphere from the combustion of coal, oil and petrol and the generation of carbon dioxide. It has been estimated that 360,000 million tons of CO2 have been added to the atmosphere by man’s burning of fossil fuels, increasing the concentration by 13%. This progressive rise in the CO2 content of the air has influenced the heat balance between the sun, air and oceans, thus leading to small but definite changes in surface temperature. At Uppsala in Sweden, for example, the mean temperature has risen 2° in 60 years. (JEA)
22 April 1970: On this first Earth Day, MG,Jr decides to aim for a career in energy research, for a brave new future.
October 1973 – March 1974: The first Arab Oil Embargo (formally known as the 1973 Oil Crisis) erupts in the aftermath of the Yom Kippur War (1973 Arab-Israeli War, October 6–25, 1973).
Evidence for warming accumulated. By 1975, Manabe and Wetherald had developed a three-dimensional Global Climate Model that gave a roughly accurate representation of the current climate. Doubling CO2 in the model’s atmosphere gave a roughly 2°C rise in global temperature. Several other kinds of computer models gave similar results: it was impossible to make a model that gave something resembling the actual climate and not have the temperature rise when the CO2 concentration was increased. (HCCS)
18 April 1977: President Jimmy Carter’s Address to the Nation on Energy.
The 1979 World Climate Conference of the World Meteorological Organization concluded “it appears plausible that an increased amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere can contribute to a gradual warming of the lower atmosphere, especially at higher latitudes….It is possible that some effects on a regional and global scale may be detectable before the end of this century and become significant before the middle of the next century.” (HCCS)
1979-1980: The 1979 (or Second) Oil Crisis erupts from the turmoil of the Iranian Revolution, and the outbreak of the Iran-Iraq War in 1980.
March 28, 1979: A nuclear reactor meltdown occurs at the Three Mile Island power station in Pennsylvania.
July 15, 1979: President Jimmy Carter addresses the nation on its “crisis of confidence” during its 1979 energy crisis (oil and gasoline shortages and high prices). This address would become known as the “malaise speech,” though Carter never mentioned “malaise.” See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kakFDUeoJKM. Have you seen as honest an American presidential speech since? “Energy will be the immediate test of our ability to unite this nation.”
November 4, 1980: Ronald Reagan is elected president and the “big plunge” (the neo-liberal shredding of the 1945 postwar social contract) begins. Poof went all my illusions about an American energy revolution.
April 26, 1986: A nuclear reactor at the Chernobyl power station in the Ukraine explodes, spewing radioactivity far and wide, and the fuel core melts down. The Chernobyl disaster was the worst nuclear power plant accident until the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster of March 11, 2011.
1986: Ronald Reagan has the solar hot water system removed, which had been installed on the roof of the White House during the Carter Administration. The official US energy policy was obvious to me: solar energy and conservation are dead.
In June 1988, James E. Hansen made one of the first assessments that human-caused warming had already measurably affected global climate. Shortly after, a “World Conference on the Changing Atmosphere: Implications for Global Security” gathered hundreds of scientists and others in Toronto. They concluded that the changes in the atmosphere due to human pollution “represent a major threat to international security and are already having harmful consequences over many parts of the globe,” and declared that by 2005 the world should push its emissions some 20% below the 1988 level. (HCCS)
All that AGW scientific research has done since 1988 has been to add more decimal places to the numbers characterizing the physical effects. That was a quarter century ago. So, I take it as a given that the American and even World consensus is in favor of probable extinction sooner (by waste heat triggered climate change) rather than later (by expansion of the Sun into a red giant). And, yes, the course of the extinction will proceed inequitably. Not what I want, but what I see as the logical consequences of what is.
For more along this gloomy vein see these four by MG:
Changing Climate For Unchanging People
28 January 2013
Climate Change Mental Inertia
29 November 2012
Obama’s Less Bad Arctic Oil Drilling
30 May 2012
The Righteous And The Heathens of Climate And Capitalism
12 March 2012
Humanity will continue for a long time after both you and I are gone, but it won’t continue as efficiently, happily and equitably as we each know is possible.
OK, [on all the above]…But still I wonder, if the adverse effects of AGW will disproportionately affect the poor, why would those on the left who say they are for social justice be hostile to AGW science, when embracing AGW would be a potential mechanism for protecting the poor? In other words WHY do some on the left see AGW as a conspiracy to harm the poor, when letting AGW proceed unchecked is very likely to increase harm?
I think this is something more than just their idea that AGW is a conspiracy to promote nuclear power. But I cannot understand their AGW-Malthus link…
For example, see the excerpt quoted below from:
A Defense of Alexander Cockburn’s Libertarianism,
John V. Walsh (16 August 2013),
Walsh’s article is a response to this line in a Vijay Prashad review (August 9, 2013) of Alex Cockburn’s last book: “Alexander would take contrary positions that were totally inflexible (I once tried to raise the climate issue with him, only to be swatted away impatiently).”
On the second point, global warming (GW), Alexander [Cockburn] is characterized as skeptical, the proper attitude for a radical or scientist, but now a term of opprobrium. He was put off by the stench of Malthusianism in the Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming (CAGW) movement and its flirtation with the gravest environmental danger of all, nuclear energy. And he quite rightly pointed out the decade long pause in warming, grown to 15 years by the time of his death [21 July 2012]. The pause was not predicted by the models used to justify the ill-defined “Catastrophe,” and it means that the direst predictions of the CAGW crowd are, let us say, a fantasy. And if [Vijay] Prashad feels that Alex was inflexible on this count, I have found that discussing the issue with the CAGW gang elicits the same level of open mindedness as mentioning the virtues of blood transfusion with a hawker of Watch Tower.
A fantasy? Not. Here is an interesting graphic (global surface temperature change versus year):
The psychology of the merchants of doubt and science deniers is fascinating. Why would those presumably trained in the scientific method [e.g., John V. Walsh, M.D.] be so motivated to deny AGW science?
Why would Cockburn and Walsh see it as a Malthusian attack on the poor?
DW: “If the adverse effects of AGW will disproportionately affect the poor, why would those on the left who say they are for social justice be hostile to AGW science, when embracing AGW would be a potential mechanism for protecting the poor?”
Because they are doctrinaire. They hold a principle, or doctrine, to be more important and to be maintained as an absolute, than any practical effect such rigidity (if implemented in policy) might have on individuals.
That assumed absolute is: “the gravest environmental danger of all, nuclear energy.”
Is this true? No. But to those for whom this is an absolute, whatever happens to people as a result of blocking all avenues of thought and action that might lead to the use of nuclear power, is by definition better than the feared alternative.
The elevation of an absolute idea above individual human needs is religion. Raymond Aron wrote a famous book about the Marxist religion, called The Opium Of The Intellectuals (1955 in French, 1957 in English, reprinted by Transactions in 2001).
The fact is that however clumsy, mismanaged, and wasteful the nuclear power industry is, and however dangerous and unnecessary nuclear power is (we could do solar on a big scale ***), it could be implemented with more care, and combined with better conservation to keep the modern lifestyle going without the burning of coal for quite some time. I would prefer pure solar and really imaginative (practical, not sci-fi) conservation. But regardless, the gravest environmental threat is the possibility of losing both livable environments and climate within a period (of uncertain beginning) lasting only decades.
*** MG’s most extensive effort to make suggestions about that is:
The Economic Function Of Energy
27 February 2012
DW: “Why would those presumably trained in the scientific method be so motivated to deny AGW science?”
With or without scientific training, some people view everything in society “politically” and very much dualistically (either-or). With such thinking any situation always has two teams of combatants, one in power pulling the strings, and one in opposition. It is the exception rather than the norm for such thinking to be critical of conspiracy theories.
DW: “Why would Cockburn and Walsh see it as a Malthusian attack on the poor?”
The concern for “the poor” is determined by the guiding absolute doctrine.
Political direction set by a doctrinaire vanguard intelligentsia is the same as that in a theocracy: “the people” must be made to conform to the guiding principle rather than allowing the monolithic principle to be fragmented into streams of deviation so as to accommodate the myriad needs and divergent wants of a diverse population.
The lack of concern for the diversity of human needs (and desires) as compared to hewing to “principles,” which really only serve the elites that enunciate them and are always justified as being in the public interest, is characteristic of both the far right and hard left. That is where the “far” and “hard” come from: uncompromising. Hence, religion: the opium of the intellectuals.
Your problem is that you are a medical doctor, with a concern to “do no harm” and then measure success on the basis of reducing individual human suffering regardless of whether an original hypothesis and diagnosis was preserved as an absolute truth or rejected as flawed. Doctrinaire doctors must surely be less successful. Doctrinaire politicians, on the other hand, are not motivated by the Hippocratic Oath.
MG discusses Raymond Aron in:
Political Belief And Self Image: Aron, OWS, And Libya
7 November 2011
Have you seen this by John W. Farley? I just discovered it today while taking a break between cases.
The Scientific Case for Modern Anthropogenic Global Warming
John W. Farley
From Farley’s article:
Most Americans today believe that the burning of fossil fuels is causing global warming, but not everybody agrees…as a physics professor who has lectured on global warming since 2001, I emphatically disagree with [Alexander] Cockburn’s perspective on global warming…[Farley’s] article consists of: (1) a summary of the scientific case for modern anthropogenic global warming, (2) a summary of the contrarian case advanced by Cockburn, (3) an assessment of global warming in greater depth, and (4) my detailed critique of the contrarian arguments advanced by Cockburn. The scientific case is not dependent on citation of authority, no matter how distinguished the authority may be. The case is dependent upon experimental evidence, logic, and reason.
I’m glad Dr. Farley did this. And he updated the article in a 2010 essay:
Cockburn on Global Warming: A Rebuttal
For Walsh to write his 2013 article despite the massive scientific consensus and the ready resources, including Farley’s 2008 article (and 2010 update), indicates strong doctrine overrunning science reality.
I saw the escalator graph you cited, and a very good visual it is.
My version of Farley was posted in 2007, it is a description for a general audience of the physics and chemistry of AGW.
Climate and Carbon, Consensus and Contention
4 June 2007
I originally wrote my AGW article with Alex Cockburn in mind, and sent it to him before it went anywhere else. But, I have learned that people believe what they want to believe.
Here is my own memorial to Alex Cockburn, where I discuss his views on AGW (and my AGW article in response):
Memorial to Alexander Cockburn (MG,Jr.)
There are lots of people out there with preferences at variance to reality, and a will to bend everyone to their views. [I have to remind myself of this periodically, to keep my own sense of balance.]
Some view AGW as a ruse to promote Malthusianism. But, I think it is exactly the other way around: global warming science denial ensures unmitigated Malthusian catastrophe.
Anyway, as you say, we’re done for. That is Guy McPherson’s thesis. Have you seen this:
Sleepwalking to Extinction
14 November 2013
I find it interesting that Richard Smith does not mention nuclear power.
Smith’s article is spirited, but without any new suggestions. It recommends a global insurrection leading to socio-economic and energy nirvana. I poured water on this topic (at heart an appeal to marxist-religious fantasy) in a recent article (for which one of the faithful called me “the misanthrope”):
Black Gold, Maximum Entropy
21 October 2013
The difficulty for most people is as Smith describes, we have to keep up our roles in the system (capitalism) in order to survive on a daily basis, but the system as a whole is toxic. So given a choice between voluntary immediate social suicide of the individual, and a gradual slide to the distant extinction of our whole species, perhaps past our own lifetimes, the natural choice is: I’ll burn fuel to live as I like and climb the social ladder now, and let everybody else die all together later.
I referred to the collapse of the ancient city-building Maya civilization (1000 years ago) to make the point that if the individual has the option to move out of the society — drop out, leave the rat race — and that option gives him/her a BETTER chance of preserving and propagating his/her family, as opposed to doing so within the organized social-economic system, then individuals will gladly move to “simpler” lifestyles. Our problem is that we have not found, or been able to imagine, such individual “simplicity” options (http://www.radicalsimplicity.org/radical_simplicity.html) for ourselves that would be able to function independently despite the omnipresence of the existing industrial paradigm. That is, as individuals we can’t see how it is possible to “leave” the system; there are no isolated islands or planets for us to become Pacific Island or Star Trek pioneers. We are on a global Titanic without any lifeboats, and jammed at full-speed-ahead, with icebergs at every heading (and despite AGW the icebergs in this metaphor won’t melt in time to save the ship).
If seeking a worldwide consensus for abandoning fossil fuels quickly and radically conserving energy to significantly reduce CO2 production does not advance, then it might be better to urge people to seek international agreement to quell political disturbances and equalize economic/human development (as measured by the Human Development Index, http://hdr.undp.org/en/statistics/hdi/) worldwide by liberally applying the world’s fossil fuel resources for social betterment, so we can enter the end-times in as homogeneous a socio-economic condition as possible, so that our species’ extinction is minimally fraught with strife. In other words, plan for our extinction by equalizing its experience. There were people trapped by fires in the upper stories of the doomed World Trade Towers on September 11, 2001, who jumped to their deaths holding hands. I suppose if we can’t be disciplined enough to individually and collectively change our energy-use behaviors permanently (as in successful weight loss), to rein in carbon dioxide production and share out energy resources with equitable frugality, then the next best option would be to share a big bonfire of an industrialized world economy to make everybody as comfortable as possible for a while, and then hold hands all around when our time is up and it’s “lights out.”
Not being an optimist, I suspect humanity will be obdurate in sticking with the “not sharing” option, and that regardless of the specific sequence and distribution of economic developments, political entanglements and natural catastrophes, that humanity will ensure for itself the most painful, lingering and inequitable demise possible given the resources.
Gloomy. Better drink more wine tomorrow, and read Mad Magazine, to cheer up.
Actually, what I hear you describing in your response is the possibility/probability of mitigation. That is why I used the word “unmitigated” in my sentence, “global warming science denial ensures unmitigated Malthusian catastrophe.”
Nor am I an optimist. But, I am nearly through the 5 stages of grieving of Elisabeth Kübler-Ross (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance). In fact, I think that many of those on the left who deny global warming science are stuck in the denial stage, stuck in the psychological defense mechanism of denial. They cannot accept AGW because it runs counter to their guiding ideology and doctrine (or so they think). Instead they view AGW as a ruse perpetrated by the elite to further oppress and exploit the poor in the context of capitalism and imperialism (Malthusianism).
Paradoxically and ironically, AGW is perhaps the greatest sin of capitalism, the greatest crime of capitalism, and mitigating AGW is perhaps the most monumental anti-capitalist task in human history. So, AGW really does fit within the ideological framework of the leftist deniers of global warming science — they just fail to recognize it. AGW is the capstone of capitalist exploitation, adversely affecting all classes of humans (and hundreds of thousands of other species), but disproportionately affecting the poor. I think Karl Marx would agree.
People believe what they want to believe. That, more than anything else, will be the ultimate cause of humanity’s passing.
To paraphrase Derrick Jensen, being out of touch with reality is the most basic definition of insanity, ****. With regard to AGW, the bottom line description of reality has been written by a physicist, Arthur P. Smith (http://arthur.shumwaysmith.com/life/content/the_arrogance_of_physicists). In the end, physics trumps the small fringe group of global warming science deniers of all political stripes and rigid political doctrines who create much heat and smoke, but no light.
Proof of the Atmospheric Greenhouse Effect (PDF)
29 February 2008
Arthur P. Smith
**** A psychological disorder is: “Any personal construction which is used repeatedly in spite of consistent invalidation.” — George Alexander Kelly (1905-1967), http://oaks.nvg.org/george-kelly.html. Kelly’s definition is the oldest likely source of the several quotes that have been blended into the well-known saying attributed to Albert Einstein (1879-1955): “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.”
<><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><>[end of AGW & Malthusian…]
Some recently published items related to AGW are noted below.
Former BP geologist: peak oil is here and it will ‘break economies’
(Industry expert warns of grim future of ‘recession’ driven ‘resource wars’ at University College London lecture)
23 December 2013
Dear Arctic News (http://arctic-news.blogspot.com/):
Your interesting website posted the article
Act Now On Methane
21 December 2013
in which a scheme to break down the methane bubbling out of the ocean surface, by oxidizing it with OH radicals created by crossed beams of lasers and microwaves, was described.
The argument was made that if such a scheme were applied on a large scale (over a wide area of the Arctic Ocean) it might succeed at mitigating (neutralizing?) the global warming potential (the infrared absorptivity) of the erupting plumes of organic vapors.
Some years ago, I conducted an experiment that attempted to produce OH for the purpose of breaking down trace amounts of NOx in moist air (idealized auto exhaust pollution). Part of that work was a chemical kinetics model of the proposed system. The paper describing this work is here:
OH Generation In Steam-Air Pulsed Corona
21 August 1995
Our findings hinged on two facts:
– the target pollutants (whether NOx or organic vapors) occur in trace amounts, molecules of N2, O2 and even atmospheric moisture are far more numerous, and
– OH is so extremely reactive.
OH is formed very promptly upon the occurrence of ionization (from an electrical or electro-optical pulse). Because of the extreme reactivity of OH, and the overwhelming abundance of N2 and O2 molecules, dissociation occurs producing N and O atoms, and other radicals like HO2 and hydrogen atoms.
Subsequent reactions between this soup of many species has the atoms recombining (the dominant species being N2, O2, H2O), and the intermediate radical species diminishing (H, OH, HO2, O3, etc.), so that the ultimate trace products are NO (and NOx), CO, CO2, HNO3 (nitric acid), H2, and H2O2 (hydrogen peroxide). Over a long time scale these stable species reduce to NOx, CO2, H2O, and HNO3 bound to water molecules.
While it is true that OH combining with a pollutant trace species (NOx or a hydrocarbon vapor) will oxidize it, such molecular collisions are rare events. Each OH molecule has a much higher probability of collision with a dominant species (N2, O2, H2O). So the chemistry that determines the fate of the atoms initially bound into pollutant molecules is overwhelmingly determined by the intermediate radicals produced by the OH oxidation of N2, O2 and H2O. For NOx pollutants this leads to an ultimate chemical sink of nitric acid; for hydrocarbon pollutants this leads to an ultimate chemical sink of CO2 (carbon dioxide) and water.
So, I don’t think chemical kinetics will favor the scheme described in Malcolm Light’s article.
Another difficulty with the proposed crossed-beam sea-surface ionization scheme is that the production of OH molecules is very energy intensive. For the conditions of our experiment (a steam-air mixture at 1 atmosphere), it required 456 joules/cc to produce 3 to 4 ppm of OH. The ionization streamers in our experiment were of 38 kV and 60 A for 20 ns, and of volume 10^-4 cc. This pump energy density is equivalent to 456 MJ/m^3 (delivered at the ionization volume). If such an ionization volume could be formed as a sheet 1 mm thick then its area would be 1000 m^2 (requiring 456 MJ). The pump energy required to ionize a 1 mm thick sheet of 1 square kilometer would be 456 GJ (giga-joules). The electrons liberated by an ionizing pulse (~20 ns) would disappear by recombination and attachment (forming molecular negative ions) within 100 ns.
I think it would be very difficult to produce ionization volumes of sufficient size, and with sufficient frequency, to intercept most of the methane continuously billowing out of the Arctic Ocean and surrounding coastal areas.
Much as I would like to see the development of an efficient technology to neutralize the arctic methane plumes, I do not think the scheme suggested in Light’s article will succeed.