The McPherson Paradox (updated)

Feinstein tells off future voters.

So THIS happened–a group of earnest committed young people went to Senator Dianne Feinstein’s office to ask her to sign on for the ‘Green New Deal‘ program being pushed by progressive Democrats like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Bernie Sanders (technically not a Democrat, but Progressives will take you if you’re warm). Things went badly. Someone took some video, and in the viewing, Feinstein doesn’t… come across like someone who’s speaking to future voters or even the children of current voters. Reminds me of an article I wrote recently where I said the leadership all knew that we’re facing extinction in a very near term.  Feinstein’s statement that IT’S NOT GOING TO GET TURNED AROUND IN TEN YEARS (she’s referring to global warming) is certainly an interesting tell… 

One of the reasons I’ve signed on to the Extinction Rebellion campaign here in NY is a quest for transparency. I think we all sort of understand we’re facing calamity. And XR’s first demand (in the US and the UK) is simple transparency. All you jackass Congresscreatures and MP’s–Tell us what you really know instead of pretending we have 81 years left before the ca-ca hits the oscillating device. That seems a reasonable demand to make of one’s government. You’d think so, right?

The Government must tell the truth about the climate and wider ecological emergency, reverse inconsistent policies and work alongside the media to communicate with citizens.

Simple, right? And Feinstein told the Sunrise kids a terribly inconvenient truth about the future. Oh well, she was just being cranky. Surely we have more than ten years to…. Oh.

Which leads me to a discussion about Global Dimming aka Aerosol Effect. The issue is whether we can really turn off the fossil fuel monster and make everything go back to ‘normal’. This has become something of an issue for Extinction Rebellion, and it’s problematic insofar as motivation. If you’re fighting to save the planet, and the peer reviewed science is that leaving the oil and gas burning will doom us BUT turning them off will also doom us, that’s a …predicament.

The bad news is still the bad news, but the issue is now called the MCPHERSON PARADOX, named after the one and only Guy McPherson, a man who’s been warning of this disaster for the better part of nearly two decades. The name for the phenomenon  slid into the Internets a few weeks ago courtesy of ‘Tim Bob’, someone who’s been working with the good doctor. The issue is simple.

A) if we don’t stop burning fossil fuels and cut out the CO2 going into the atmosphere, runaway greenhouse will kill us;


B) if we DO stop burning fossil fuels, particulate will stop going into the atmosphere and reflecting sunlight back into outer space. Once it goes away,  temperatures will go up at 1.3 C in a matter of weeks, which will push us over the 3 C temperature limit.  

And that’s where we are at the moment. Maybe we all owe Senator Feinstein a debt of gratitude for being the one who let slip the most inconvenient truth of the human epoch. I’d personally rather someone else had been the one to give us the news. But the Paradox’ namesake, Dr. Guy McPherson, is the one who conveyed the message. He has  dubbed this  condition (or a writer named ‘Tim Bob’ has done it, it’s not clear.)  

Here is the five minute version

And here’s a longer YouTube overview, courtesy of Tim Bob, who I do not know. This has lots of fun graphics and cut-scenes in it. They don’t make the message any smoother, but it’s more interesting to watch. 

I’m not here to tell you that we should all abandon any attempt to fix the climate damage we’ve done. I don’t think anything will work at this point, but I don’t want to be sitting in a rocking chair as my oxygen (actually, the planet’s oxygen) runs out saying to myself ‘gee, maybe that Paul Beckwith idea about blowing up the Sahara with small nukes… we shoulda tried that…’  Even if the action is futile, isn’t that kinda the modus operandi of Natural selection? Try a dumb thing a few million times and it doesn’t work until it does.

So anyway, giving credit where it’s due. It’s probably more worthwhile than having Strigiphilus garylarsoni (a chewing louse that feeds on owls) named after you, as is the fate of cartoonist Gary Larson. 







  1. Pax Interra · · Reply

    Your alternatives in the Paradox are absurd. First, there are numerous alternatives and mixed responses. 2nd, that whole idea of particulate reflectivity is nonsense. There are several very viable paths to recovery that do not destroy economies and are achievable with currently known technology. If there really is an “Extinction Rebellion”, they need to get their science right or they will be dismissed along with the Flat Earthers.

    1. ‘Extinction Rebellion’ is a civil disobedience group organized to ‘save the planet’ that is currently spreading to the US after protests disrupting bridges and traffic in the UK. Actually, many of their supporters do not ascribe to the McPherson paradox, and I’ve had lively debate about the problem with some members. As for the global dimming/aerosol effect theories at the heart of the McPherson Paradox, I’d direct you to a BBC documentary on the subject from 2005 currently available on Vimeo ( the science behind the Global dimming assertions was first discussed in the early 1950’s and was confirmed by the 9/11 attack, when global average temperatures went up after all commercial airlines in the US were grounded over a period of several days.

      Overall, the question of earth’s survival (or more precisely the survival of species on earth including humans) can be part of a discussion of Tim Garrett’s work in 2007 (published in 2009), which postulates that civilization itself is the heat engine that will doom humans. We’ll know who’s right about this in a few years. I’d like for Dr. McPherson and his colleagues to be wrong but I’m not confident.

      1. Pax Interra · ·

        A TV documentary proves nothing. In the US, it is common to see documentaries that support wild ideas like aliens, flat earth, angels, global cooling, big foot, etc..

        Global dimming after 9/11 was caused by the reduction of contrails left by jets. Other dimmings of note have been caused by volcanoes. There is no support for dimming or increased reflection (albedo effect) of any significant amount to occur as a result of reduction in CO2 or methane.

        I believe in global warming and know it is happening and why. It may, indeed, cause a lot of weather-related deaths as a result of extreme events, loss of fresh water and resource wars but it is not an extinction event.

        We, especially in the US, are science ignorant and it will take some harsh lessons to get the attention of the masses but once that happens, there are lots of ways to mitigate and eventually correct this problem. We are not THAT dumb.

  2. I didn’t put the documentary in front of you because it proves what is being said. The scientists who’ve done the research and written the articles are featured. That’s what Google is for. Look up the papers or other research. I should have known that you didn’t know what you were addressing when you said you’d never heard of Extinction Rebellion.

  3. Anthony Morrow · · Reply

    You’re welcome to your own delusion Pax, but I think Brooklyn and Dr. McPherson are most probably correct. Dr. McPherson’s work speaks for itself but since you haven’t backed any of your ascertains with anything beyond you refusals to look any further, do Brooklyn, myself and anyone else who finds this blog a favor and go away. Thank you, Brooklyn, for posting this. I just listened to that interview of the California Senator and those kids and then remembered an interview Dr. McPherson with Peter B Collins and it all fell into place. THEY know and are slow walking the information as long as possible. Last one to bed, turn off the light.

  4. […] a diminution of even 30% of all fossil fuel use would  cause temperatures to spike. This is the ‘McPherson Paradox‘. and I’ve explained it before. Long story short, the particulate by product of burning fossil […]

  5. Confused · · Reply

    If persistent contrails can warm the Earth why don’t particulates from fossil fuels warm the Earth?

  6. Confused, I wanted to look up the information you cite, but was unable to at first. The data is FIFTEEN YEARS OLD (released April 2004) and isn’t being maintained very well. NASA has a disclaimer on the page:”Disclaimer: This material is being kept online for historical purposes. Though accurate at the time of publication, it is no longer being updated. The page may contain broken links or outdated information, and parts may not function in current web browsers.” If you can find a citation on this assertion that’s only five or so years old,” So maybe if you could find a newer link on this, it would be worth discussion.

  7. Brigit Zent · · Reply

    Has there been only one paper done on this idea? Any other research to back it up?

  8. Brigit Zent · · Reply

    What other research has been done to back this up? Has there just been this one paper? I want to see more on this before I start pulling my hair out in despair.

  9. As you might note above, I linked to the BBC documentary on global dimming and the Aerosol effect. The scientists who’ve written about it (including peer reviewed papers) are in the documentary talking about their research. You can also look to Dr. Guy McPherson’s roundup of climate news ( If you do a page search under ‘aerosol’ or ‘dimming’ you will find links to individuals who’ve written peer reviewed papers. if it means anything, James Hansen was a co-author on one of the papers. Finally, Climate Change Basics ( lists ‘Human-made tropospheric aerosols’ as item 7 and explains the effect.

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