When Habitat packs it in

nothing sprouts

From a FB friend Catie Moore. I’ve alluded to this factoid here before, but this puts it in perspective. UPDATE. there’s an article on the inability of plants to photosynthesize at warm temperatures.

Election is out of my system for the most part, so I thought I’d post this. As you know (if you’ve followed my posts), I’m doing a funny little play called PLANET HOSPICE come November and it’s about human extinction. People in denial about how far we’ve passed the tipping point seem to forget that humans are animals–and as animals, we need livable habitat. There’s demand for 700 MILLION new air conditioners by 2030 in countries like India and China, where growing income and higher temperatures are dove-tailing to create huge demand. 

And the bad news is this. You can  air-condition the indoors environments of a few billion humans but not without heating the outdoors. The hydrofluocarbons  now used in most chillers aren’t as bad for the environment as the freon and other chemicals replaced, but they still have a heating effect in the upper atmosphere. Add that to the thousands of extra tons of carbon dioxide that will be put out by the power plants supplying the new energy demanded (and the not insignificant cost of building new plants–you’ll need new plants wherever air conditioners come online). And remember, the hot air exhaust from AC’s is itself a factor in heating. NY’s famed subway cars are now air conditioned, but there’s no system to get rid of the hot exhaust, which now bakes waiting commuters. Platforms are actually far hotter than when the system was first implemented.

But none of the discomfort (and worse) being caused by global heating is as big a problem as the one identified by the above meme. All the foodstuffs we rely on are temperature sensitive. Absent the vegetables and grains we grow, we’re going to get very skinny very fast. And livestock don’t do well in hot climates either. In fact, nothing is prepped for the weather we’re facing. The Amazon Rainforest is no longer acting as a carbon sink thanks to drought (exacerbated by record high temperatures) and is now shedding c02 as its trees and plants die. Fish aren’t in great shape either. It’s a race to see whether we run out of breathable air or edible foodstuffs first.

Last week, Dr. Guy McPherson wrote of a massive rejigger (that’s a highly technical term in the part of Ohio I grew up in) in estimates of future temperature increase based on new analysis. The recalculation is based on new work from Sam Carana and the Arctic Methane Emergency Group, an organization I’ve cited before. Carana estimates a temperature increase of 10.02 C (Centigrade) by 2026. Voila–the chart.


Latest estimate for warming including breakdown of where the warming happens. Courtesy of the Arctic News Blogspot.

If these numbers are confusing to you, consider: The Paris COP21 meeting decided that the most we could allow our temperature to go up is 1.5 C above baseline. These predictions (and the record high temperatures we’ve experienced over the last year) indicate that we’ve blown past the 1.5 C mark already and  will blow past survivable habitat temperatures in a matter of a few years.

McPherson has some issues with the numbers, and (leaning on the cautious side) predicts 8.21 C increase instead. I suspect this is all academic if we accept the idea that we lose all our tree-cover (and all their carbon sequestration) at temperatures 4 C above baseline. Dr. McPherson includes this note about predicting imminent demise and disaster and how doing so tends to leave one pretty lonely. I’ll make it personal, while quoting Elisabeth Kübler-Ross from her famous book, On Death and Dying: “Those patients who were told of their fatal diagnosis without a chance, without a sense of hope, reacted the worst and never quite reconciled themselves with the person who presented the news to them in this cruel manner.” In the latter pages of her 1969 book, Kübler-Ross warned me not to steal hope from my audience. The outcome as I ignored her advice: most of the people previously part of my life have failed to reconcile themselves with the person who presented the news to them in this cruel honest manner.

I’m also reminded of the Midnight Oil song ‘Beds are burning’: “The Western Desert lives and breathes at 45 degrees“. I always believed that a bit of water and the desert would bloom. But it’s clear that the temperature of the desert is the problem for greening it more than the lack of water. Meanwhile the lizards who live in deserts are falling victim to the heat as well. And 45 degrees is clearly where we’re headed at BEST.

Back to politics. The 2016 DNC platform announces breathlessly (and by breathless, I mean without any life to it) that the US needs a WWII style mobilization to combat climate crisis: We believe the United States must lead in forging a robust global solution to the climate crisis. We are committed to a national mobilization, and to leading a global effort to mobilize nations to address this threat on a scale not seen since World War II. In the first 100 days of the next administration, the President will convene a summit of the world’s best engineers, climate scientists, policy experts, activists, and indigenous communities to chart a course to solve the climate crisis.

I’m sure they’ll mention it soon now that the campaign has begun.


  1. Don Graham · · Reply

    “Overshoot and Collapse,” expected no later than 2024, has already begun. All the resources of the 1% combined are incapable of preventing what our children won’t survive.

  2. Erik Kowal · · Reply

    The world’s nations are united in steadfastly doing nothing to curb our own species’ propensity to keep breeding, and to keep growing our own numbers and our economies — with all that that implies in terms of savaging the planet and plundering its resources — in the monstrous Ponzi scheme that is our current economic/demographic set-up. Otherwise we’re just pissing in the wind: every mitigation strategy will be offset or neutralized by population growth that takes up the slack. It’s rather similar to the way that the gains represented by the adoption of low-energy light bulbs or high-efficiency appliances are nullified by people buying more electrical or electronic gadgets, installing additional lights etc.

    1. No disagreement on population issues.I’m thinking of the euthanasia lounges in the Vonnegut story ‘Welcome to the Monkey House’, but we’d have to roll a helluva lot of those out in short order. There’s nothing humans do that doesn’t assume increase in wealth or population.

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