I’ve pasted below, verbatim, an essay originally posted in this space on 30 January 2014. It was and is titled, “Picking Cherries.” I begin with a few introductory words and an embedded song.
I cherry-picked the clathrate gun, which was fired several years ago. I still do. Ditto for moistening of the upper troposphere and its effects on global warming. And let’s not forget global dimming and the consequences when it is removed.
David Suzuki identifies me as a cherry picker in the video embedded immediately below. It’s from a recent interview, and he fails to mention my name.
My work quotes actual science, supported by actual evidence. The evidence has grown considerably since I posted the essay below more than two years ago. I’m not making up this stuff. I’m not, to quote one of the more impolite, misinformed readers here, “advocating highly unscientific specific dates for NTE.” No evidence is presented, as usual, to support the insult, which included the charge of charlatan. Considering I don’t earn money from my work, calling me a charlatan seems nearly as absurd as making accusations without supporting evidence. Indeed, one could argue that I once was “a person who falsely pretends to know or be something in order to deceive people.” But I left my high-pay, low-work position at a major university to pursue honest country living nearly seven years ago.
In contrast to the baseless charges to which I’ve become accustomed, I provide evidence in my attempts to educate the clueless masses. I realize this approach is contrary to the dominant thinking (sic) in this culture. And I realize the difficulty in this culture of distinguishing charlatans from purveyors of evidence. A culture based on lies and patriarchy is appreciated, even though the lies and patriarchy are not recognized, by lying patriarchs.
Consider, as a minor and recent example of evidence in support of my conclusions, the video embedded immediately below, which includes an assessment from the uber-conservative Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Note particularly the quote at the 3:30 mark: “The bottom line is that we are basing our collective future safety on this planet on pure science fiction.” Note, too, that IPCC assessments ignore relevant self-reinforcing feedback loops. The situation is far direr than can be expressed by focusing only on atmospheric carbon dioxide.
The scientific evidence beyond YouTube is much worse than I’ve stated. It’s probably worse than I’m capable of stating, notwithstanding my ongoing efforts to synthesize relevant information. The limitations on my use of the English language and the lack of evidence about abrupt climate change pose serious constraints on our ability to peer into the future.
Peering into the future is one of the goals of science. Imagine medical science or astronomy without prediction. Imagine, in other words, no diagnoses and no notification of the next eclipse, respectively. The typically ignorant American simultaneously depends upon such predictions while also believing science ought to be devoid of predictions.
As always, I welcome any corrections of my errors, although they are rarely offered. I’d love to be wrong about near-term human extinction, not to mention habitat loss for the many non-human species this culture gleefully drives to extinction. I’d love to believe the Sixth Mass Extinction is a myth. But I know better.
Comprehension is rare, understanding rarer still. Knowledge often brings isolation in a culture characterized by denial. It also brings liberation. Most prefer the self-induced shackles that ignore or pacify these feelings.
Few things are more painful than describing the reality unseen by the willfully ignorant masses. Few appreciate a truth-teller in his own time. Evidence is deemed irrelevant in a culture constructed from lies. Ad hominem comments prevail, and those who launch insults suffer no consequences. Such is the online, “civilized” life.
I’m routinely accused of cherry picking information about climate change. I plead guilty, with the following 1,000-word disclaimer and recognition that everybody else picks cherries, too. One of the differences between me and the others: I admit my bias, and they claim to have none.
I’ll start with a line from recently deceased professor emeritus and long-time teacher Albert Bartlett: “The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function.” When I speak and write about climate change, most members of the audience are stuck in fifth grade, unaware that nature often exhibits non-linearity.
I pick cherries because I see nobody else connecting the dots on climate change. I see nobody else making an honest effort to describe our predicament. So, by default, I’m The Connector. I collate, summarize, and synthesize information about climate change. And in the process of serving as host for the finest reality show on the Internet, I connect people, too.
In return, I’m the dark-horse candidate for Golden Horseshoe liar award. This planet has become so Orwellian that those who collate the facts and pass them along are hated as liars.
I see plenty of support for denying the obvious. Almost everybody reading these words has a vested interest in not wanting to think about climate change, which helps explain why the climate-change deniers have won. According to a December 2013 paper in Climatic Change, the climate change counter-movement is funded to the tune of nearly a billion dollars each year. That’s just in the United States, where we continue to brag about our prowess in destroying the living planet long after a few of us recognized the irony in the following advertisement from Life magazine in 1962. The story is similar in other countries.
How obvious is ongoing climate change induced by anthropogenic global warming? If you’re unwilling to look outside, consider the following graph from Climate Central.
And even as abnormal is the new normal, we’re just getting started. A paper in the 3 December 2014 issue of Environmental Research Letters indicates that maximum warming from carbon dioxide emissions occurs about one decade after a carbon dioxide emission. Rising emissions during each of the last many decades points to a truly catastrophic future, and not long from now. There is nothing to be done today to undo what we did during the last decade. And, as pointed out with numerous scientific articles at my comprehensive summary dating back to February 2003 from the folks at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, abrupt and dramatic changes in climate aren’t out of the question.
This knowledge brings with it horror and relief. I’m horrified by what’s to come, which includes the near-certainty of human extinction by 2030 as we surpass 4 C above baseline. I’m relieved to know that today’s consequences result from emissions dating to the 1970s, when I was excitedly learning to drive an automobile. I experience no teenage guilt from youthful, ignorant actions.
I recognize that collapse of industrial civilization leads to a world 2 C warmer than baseline within a few days post-collapse. Where I live, in the southwestern interior of a large continent in the northern hemisphere, that means we’re headed for ~5 C locally shortly after collapse is complete. And that means no habitat for humans: Welcome to the dust bowl that never ends within a matter of months post-collapse.
Yet, seemingly contrary to these simple, easy-to-reach conclusions, I work toward collapse. Largely unafflicted by the arrogance of humanism, I work on behalf of non-human species. Industrial civilization is destroying every aspect of the living planet, and I know virtually nobody who wants to stop the runaway train. Yes, collapse will kill us. But our deaths are guaranteed regardless, unless I missed a memo.
I’ve given up on civilized humans making any effort to take relevant action. Never mind our stunning myopia: The money to be made is clearly more important than the extinctions we cause, including our own.
As pointed out in March 2012 in Nature Climate Change, several psychological reasons explain why people have a hard time dealing with the stark reality of climate change (David Roberts comments at length in his article at Grist:
1. To the extent that climate change is an abstract concept, it is non intuitive and cognitively difficult to grasp.
2. Our moral judgement system is finely tuned to react to intentional transgressions — not unintentional ones.
3. Things that make us feel guilty provoke self-defensive mechanisms.
4. Uncertainty breeds wishful thinking, so the lack of definitive prognoses results in unreasonable optimism.
5. Our division into moral and political tribes generates ideological polarization; climate change becomes politicized.
6. Events do not seem urgent when they seem to be far away in time and space; out-group victims fall by the wayside.
At considerable risk of pummeling the dead equine, I’ll reiterate a couple paragraphs I pointed out before:
Leading mainstream outlets routinely lie to the public. According to a report published 11 January 2014, “the BBC has spent tens of thousands of pounds over six years trying to keep secret an extraordinary ‘eco’ conference which has shaped its coverage of global warming.” At the 2006 event, green activists and scientists — one of whom believes climate change is a bigger danger than global nuclear war — lectured 28 of the BBC’s most senior executives.
Mainstream scientists minimize the message at every turn. As we’ve known for years, scientists almost invariably underplay climate impacts. I’m not implying conspiracy among scientists. Science selects for conservatism. Academia selects for extreme conservatism. These folks are loathe to risk drawing undue attention to themselves by pointing out there might be a threat to civilization. Never mind the near-term threat to our entire species (they couldn’t care less about other species). If the truth is dire, they can find another, not-so-dire version. The concept is supported by an article in the February 2013 issue of Global Environmental Change pointing out that climate-change scientists routinely underestimate impacts “by erring on the side of least drama.”
In other words, science selects for conservatism (aka picking cherries long after they are ripe). Science, after all, is merely the process of elucidating the obvious. Climate-change scientists routinely underestimate impacts “by erring on the side of least drama” (aka looking for the cherries long after they’ve fallen off the tree, onto the ground, and been consumed by rodents).
The feedbacks are too numerous, the inertia too strong. We fired the clathrate gun by 2007 or earlier, coincident with crossing the point of no return for climate change. The corporate media and corporate governments of the world keep lying, and too few hold them accountable.
McPherson is quoted, albeit without attribution, in this essay from the UK Progressive. It was posted 16 March 2016.