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Practice English Speaking&Listening with: Abrupt Climate Change : Conversation With Guy McPherson

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My name is Francis Briere

I have the pleasure today to chat with Guy McPherson, professor emeritus in biology from University of Arizona to talk about climate change. As you will notice, his predictions are pretty dark.

thank you very much for being with us today we're going to be talking about

climate change and especially abrupt climate change so to start things up can

you maybe sum up what you think the next decade will be for life on Earth and

what will happen if we think about runaway climate change well I suspect

that we are headed for a near-term ice-free Arctic Ocean with no ice on the

Arctic Ocean which I strongly suspect will happen this year and perhaps as

early as this month July 2018 when that event happens whether it's this month or

next month or next year it will almost certainly be within the timeframe

projected in the 2012 paper in the annual review of Earth and Planetary

Sciences 2016 plus or minus three years when that happens we lose the albedo or

the reflectance associated with the white ice instead we're left with an

open dark blue body that begins soaking and an increasing amount of energy and

we're slight instead of reflecting that light back out in space there's almost

certainly will produce increasingly accelerating emission of methane from

the relatively shallow sea floor of the Arctic Ocean into the atmosphere of

Earth methane is more than 100 times more

powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide molecule for molecules so that's

kind of a big deal and also we in addition to losing the albedo we have

all that energy going into the ocean this is how important ice is if you take

a gram of ice and melt it into a

milliliter of water that requires seventy nine point two calories so just

to make the phase change requires a lot of energy

once that ice cube is melted and turned into liquid ice if you had seventy nine

point two calories now the temperature of the water heats up to seventy nine

point two degrees Celsius which is huge absolutely huge and I think most people

don't understand that aspect of latent heat the importance of having a little

ice as opposed to no ice is absolutely tremendous in terms of the subsequent

heating of the water so all of those things indicate to me that we over the

over the course of the next few years perhaps this year almost certainly next

year or the following year we will experience such rapid heating that we

won't be able to sustain grain crops because essentially all grains certainly

at the commercial level are grown in the interior of large continents in the

northern hemisphere like North America and Asia without that without those

grains civilization doesn't hold civilization depends heavily this

version as well as the previous versions depends heavily upon the ability to grow

store and distribute grains at large scale so if we lose that ability if we

lose grain production if it even declines significantly that's to me

spells the near-term demise of food on the shelves of the grocery store and

every civilization depends upon bread and circuses we're gonna have circuses

right till the end but without the bread that's when the things really starting

to fall apart so it would surprise me very much if at this late date in the

history of ice on their decotion it would surprise me very much if

civilization held together through this year

much less through the following year and now that we understand their radical

impact of global dimming or the aerosol masking effect one civilization Falls

all those sulfates all those particulate is fall out of the atmosphere in a span

of six weeks or so and then the planet heats up even faster

so that it almost certainly would not sustain humans on earth not just because

of the direct effects of the temperature obviously although wet bulb temperatures

certainly will reach catastrophic stage and places like Central America where I

live and even southern North America in the deep south but because we depend as

human animals upon so many other species for our own survival and when we when we

eliminate the habitat for those species things like flying insects that

pollinate so much of our food and animals that filter our water to provide

us with clean water and so on it's it's it's a whole bunch of little things that

when a system is perturbed a little bit the continued existence of those little

things is by no means guaranteed and when the insects go they're taking us

with a whistle so what it looks like to me over the course of the next decade is

that within the next few months maybe three months almost certainly 15 months

we have a collapse of civilization associated with the ice-free Arctic and

that spells such a very rapid rise in global average temperature that the only

survivors beyond a matter of weeks or months beyond the collapse of

civilization the only survivors are living in bunkers in in a way that

doesn't have any appeal to me because we've lost so much of

non-human organisms on the planet that we depend upon so heavily that sounds

dire I know and it sounds spectacular really it sounds like it's unbelievable

literally unbelievable because we look around and there's not really much sign

of that you know I walk down to the beach where I'm staying today and or

near San Diego California I walked down to the beach a couple hundred yards from

here there's not much people surfing out there and I I guess 95% of the people in

this country don't have the slightest a would idea what I'm talking about and

would deny that something could happen so quickly you know I wanted to ask you

about sea ice because I heard Peter Ward from the University of Washington gave a

lecture back in 2013 and he seemed to only care about ice sheets because of

sea level rise now I know that Arctic sea ice is really really important so my

question is how bad can in affect the climate if it eventually completely

disappears well that's an interesting perspective from the guy who wrote under

green sky you know which which describes what happens during eat during the

increasing importance of hydrogen sulfate in the ocean leading to

effectively a dead ocean right and and we're headed there already

we've lost 40 percent of phytoplankton in the ocean in the last few decades and

that's that's half the air we breathe half the oxygen we breathe as a result

of phytoplankton in the ocean the other half comes from land plants for example

the Amazon I think that Peter Ward is massively understating the importance of

floating sea ice in the Arctic I don't think that there will be a lot of people

to experience the effects of rising sea level which results from melting of the

land ice from glaciers in Antarctica for example is that a significant threat yes

it absolutely is even in the near term but I I just have a difficult time

seeing for seeing many humans left on the planet because of lack of habitat

for human animals on the planet when the Arctic ice is gone because shortly after

that Arctic ice has gone the subsequent heating the planet will

take us well beyond the temperature which humans docufide the planet in the

past according to James Hansen that's only

about 2 degrees Celsius above the 1750 baseline

well we're 1 1 in 3/4 degrees Celsius right now about 1750 baseline so we're a

quarter of a degree away from the highest temperature experienced by

humans on earth and to me that suggests that habitats will begin to be

disappearing even faster than it already is climate change refugees are already

in evidence throughout the Middle East northern Africa islands in the South

Pacific and whether you believe it or not right here in North America right

here in the United States where people and I hear from them on a regular basis

people are moving because where they live there's they they don't think

there's gonna be enough water and it's already too hot and humid so they're

fleeing where they're living now in places like Southern California Peter

Wadhams is an alarmist according to some people but again he's saying that we

could see a four to five sea temperature rise by the end of this century correct

me if I'm wrong there and he seems to be concerned by by feedback loops such as

methane so how do you explain your difference in views a couple of things I

have great respect for Peter bottoms I haven't read his new book but I think

he is an amazing researcher he's conducted more than 50 expeditions on

beneath the Arctic ice I would consider him among the leading authorities on the

topic of Arctic ice in an email exchange with me dr. Wyden has pointed out that

he thinks I'm being too conservative in adding up the factors leading to a

global average temperature rise of at least eight and a half degrees Celsius

above the 1750 baseline by 2026 and so that came that little tidbit came across

his email I was included in the email exchange and he said you I think

Macpherson is being too conservative and adding up those various factors he says

I think it's more likely that they represent a positive interaction so you

should be multiplying those so what that indicates is that we aren't headed for

an eight and a half or so degrees Celsius global average temperature is

about 1750 baseline by 2026 it's gonna be much faster than that it's gonna be a

much higher temperature in a shorter period of time so it's interesting and

by the way he was called an alarmist as was I in an article in The Guardian just

today just today the I think it's probably England's largest distribution

newspaper and certainly one of the most respected The Guardian and we were both

called alarmists without any supporting evidence the article concluded that

contrary to the projection in the 2012 paper in the annual review of Earth and

Planetary Sciences that all the Arctic ice will be gone in 2016 plus or minus

three years and this article in The Guardian they concluded that it will

take several decades for the Arctic to be ice-free where they get dry quite a

regular basis now and in interviews and in press conferences he's telling people

that wouldn't lose the Arctic ice we lose habitats furred on planet earth so

on the one hand we have somebody who's obviously concerned the president of

Finland and who envisions an ice-free Arctic in the near term and think

that's utter catastrophe for Humanity and on the other hand we have the

Guardian in The Washington Post in the New York Times claiming that business as

usual is gonna carry on essentially forever and you've alarmists are just

scaring the people to make money you should just back off though it's the two

ends of that spectrum are bizarre let's talk about infinite growth when I was a

kid I used to think about infinite growth without really knowing it I was

thinking that if we keep building so many houses and roads and cars and stuff

that we would eventually run out of space given that we live on a finite

planet even though we had the the meadows report we had the population

bomb from Ehrlich it appears that not much has been done to stop this madness

so how you explain the fact that no one seems to worried that there could be a

shortage of anything well you know I think Edward Abbey the desert a

anarchist was right when he wrote civilization like an airplane in flight

remains aloft only as it is moving forward so what that means is

civilizations grow until civilizations grow

in a time throughout history why would it we expect this one to be any

different you know I still see the projections from the United Nations

claiming we'll have nine billion people on the planet by 2050 and yet if

biosphere 2 the sort of experiment north of Tucson Arizona if it has anything to

teach us at all it's that the human caring capacity of Earth in the presence

of infinite availability of fossil fuels is somewhere somewhere between six and

eight billion people oh we're at seven point six billion people and we don't

have infinite access to fossil fuels so that tells me that consistent with the

1972 report from the kaabah Rome we have reached the limits to growth we're there

and and unfortunately there's no money to be made and no power to be had no

position to be gained by pointing out that not only or with the end of the

limits to growth but what that means is the set of living arrangements teeters

on the brink and when it goes the rapid heating the planet is almost certainly

going to occur too rapidly to support humanity much longer there's there's no

money in any of that and so I think there's a reason that the corporate

media and the corporate influenced governments of the world are not on that

page they aren't even going to admit that we have a traffic jam until there's

a 30-7 pile 37 car pileup on the interstate and that makes sense when you

think about it from the perspective of money and maintaining the dominant

narrative right I mean if you tell people we have problems then people are

going to maybe start living differently and in a way that reduces the money flow

hence the tax base and the ability of corporations to make lots of money off

people buying things they don't need to impress people though they don't know

you know I heard you say once that sustainability is a myth can you expand

you know at this point we're trying to sustain what is absolutely unsustainable

it's no civilization has been sustainable in any way because once you

start storing food and that's the hallmark of all civilizations the

ability to store grains and distribute them at large scale once you start doing

that it allows the civilization the group of people the society whatever you

want to call it to go into human population overshoot and in fact it

almost requires you to go into human population of shoot now now that we have

a bunch of food stored we can get through the hard times it used to be a

hard winter would kill ten percent or fifteen or twenty percent of the people

used to be that a drought would thin the herd as it were and after all we are

human animals but once you have all that food stored then those problems go away

suddenly we can get through the hard times and the outcome is in this

civilization entirely as expected completely consistent with what has

occurred in previous civilizations human population overshoot what happens when

you get an overshoot and then you have a year of crop failure what happens with

human population overshoot when you have two years or three years or five years

of crop failure what happens is ugly and previous siliceous civilizations offer a

warning to us had we been able to listen that this civil there's no guarantee

that the civilization will carry on beyond another three days much last

three weeks three months three years you know every big buck grocery store in the

country and probably in the world is it has a three-day inventory for their

customer base

today and you just thinking about that for me the absurdity seems profound when

we depend so heavily upon being able to go down to the nearest grocery store and

pick up all the food we need deep today tomorrow until the next week speaking of

Agriculture another argument that we often time here is that if it gets too

warm south all we have to do basically is grain grow grains northward so

essentially we can move plants and they will add that do you think that it's

possible to do so absolutely not you know there's a reason the tall grass

prairie in North America was converted into grain growing region so that now

the corn and wheat and soybeans are found in this very rich fertile area in

the interior of North America and that's because those are the soils that support

the growth of those plants you get up into the extremely acidic soils the

spodosols underneath the coniferous forests in Canada you absolutely cannot

take corn that is reasonably well adapted to growing in say Nebraska or

Oklahoma you can't take those corn seeds stick them in the ground under these

trees even if you cut down all the trees which isn't that great an idea by the

way and expect that corn to grow and produce in in its 90 day or 120 day

lifecycle produce a bunch of corn because the soils are completely

different the microorganisms are completely different there's there's a

completely different set of fungi in the soils up north and there are in the

extremely rich mallow cells that support the grain crops throughout the world

today so this is you know this notion of habitat I remind

people during almost all of our presentations now that we are human

animals and we depend upon habitat and so an example comes to mind of course

humans can live at the International Space Station of course humans can live

at mcmurdo station in Antarctica of course humans can live in nuclear

submarines but are those habitats for humans

no all the food for each of those three containerized environments has to come

from outside has to come from places where there actually is habitat for

humans so all the food that is in those places is grown someplace else because

there's no ability to grow food to support the many people that are in each

of those locations within each of those locations there's there's not a lot of

hydroponics going on in nuclear submarines

I have heard a ferocious comment saying that you are against vegans and also if

you dare pronounce a word against Ellen musk you see rather rather our style

reactions on social media as to those people would eventually save the world

I'm sorry but the electric car will not save the world but how do you actually

deal with such resistance and insults on social media you know this kind of

resistant hit pieces in the Washington Post in New York Times The Guardian and

so on character assassination attempts by my

former friends these have become so commonplace that the act of betrayal it

now serves as a source of amusement for me rather than something that angers me

I apologize for the helicopter going over in San Diego here you know no none

of these people present any evidence

they pursue defamation Victor in evidence free and I rely heavily

essentially exclusively on evidence from extremely conservative sources there's

there's no comparison how do I deal with the with the insults with the assaults

thrown my way I'm largely forced to ignore them

because what else could I do I know you have been asked many times and it's

probably hard to predict how things will fall apart at this point in time but you

know we've seen the the price of food for example going up for quite some time

now but what do you think that the the very first signs of a collapse event

will be is that crops failure or even the price of food going going completely

out of reach for some for most people or could it be something else such as a

collapse of civilization causing people not showing up at work or no water all

of the municipal taps yeah you know it's pretty clear that in places of enormous

privilege like the United States that Western Europe Japan and so on it's

gonna take more than a significant increase in the price of food to cause

anything resembling concern much less panic so as I suspect is gonna require a

disruption in the food supply and speaking of food let me address the

comment you made earlier about vegans I don't dislike vegans I dislike

proselytizing or evangelical vegans just as I just like proselytizing or

evangelical Jehovah's Witnesses when those people come to my door I don't

want to spend my time with them I have friends wonderful friends who are vegans

I've been a hosted on tour by vegans and I would never even know that they're

vegans because they're not in my face telling me that I'm a horrible person

because I eat meat or because I eat cheese or because I drink milk I know

I'm not judgmental about people for the most part fascist being a notable

exception but for the most part I'm not judgmental about the way people eat or

what they put in their mouth or or as long as it doesn't harm me and I I'm

indifferent who I was and who I am there's more to me more to my identity

than just what I eat or just what I teach or just the interactions I have

with certain groups of people and I would I would think and to the extent

that I hope I would hope that for other people the same was true that we are we

are comprised of a lot of emotions and activities and none of those things

define us wholly they contribute to our whole being but to throw somebody into

the box of professor or teacher or vegan or socialist or Democrat or Republican

or Green Party or on and on and on and to then assume that that is that

person's entire identity I think is really short sighted and and the in fact

insulting I am more than my external appearance and everybody recognizes that

of course you aren't who you appear to be a supermodel isn't a supermodel and

that's yet there's an actual person behind the face we reach that one

conclusion when it's politically correct to reach that conclusion but other times

it seems like it's too difficult for us guy McPherson thank you very much for

being with us today thank you Francis is pleasure

The Description of Abrupt Climate Change : Conversation With Guy McPherson