Is Humanity On the Eve of Extinction?

According to NASA and NOAA scientists, 2015 was the warmest year ever for global land and ocean surfaces, dating all the way to 1880.

And it's not just American scientists who are reporting that last year was the warmest on record, British scientists reported that it was the warmest year since 1850, and Japanese scientists reported that it was the warmest year since 1891.

Keep in mind, 2014 had set the previous record for global surface temperatures, and 2015 just beat that record by a longshot.

Part of what's going has to do with an unusually warm Pacific Ocean due to an El Nino that's going on right now, but that doesn't explain it all.

As Dr. Michael Mann explained to the New York Times, if the global climate weren't warming, the odds of setting two back-to-back record years would be about one chance in every 1,500 pairs of years.

He added though, that because the planet is warming, the odds of setting back-to-back record years is really closer to one in ten now.

The really scary part though, is that there's good evidence that this is nothing compared to what's to come.

This graph shows how global temperatures have historically, for over 400,000 years, tracked with carbon dioxide and methane levels in the atmosphere.

There's a clear relationship between increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide and methane, and warmer temperatures in our planet's history.

On the other hand, during cooler periods in Earth's history, the "Ice Ages", the atmosphere contained lower concentrations of methane and carbon dioxide.

But, as this chart shows, those natural cycles were disrupted sometime around 10,000 years ago, right around the time that the last ice age ended.

Just as William F. Ruddiman argued in a paper from 2003, even though humans hadn't industrialized, we had already started having a major impact on the Earth's atmosphere and its natural cycles as far back as 8000 years ago.

And that makes sense, because 8000 years ago is about the time that early agriculture appeared in Eurasia and humans started clearing, and burning, forests to make more space for agriculture and human settlements.

In his research, Ruddiman points out that based on the natural Earth's natural cycles for methane and carbon over the last 400,000 years, we should see a decrease in both gases starting roughly 11,000 years ago and continuing for another several thousand years.

Instead, we see that carbon dioxide and methane levels started to rise in the atmosphere starting about 8000 years ago, marking a sharp movement away from what had occurred for over 400,000 years of Earth history.

Recent research from the Anthropocene Working Group at the University of Leicester shows that humans have almost always had a noticeable impact on the planet's natural cycles, but our impact has been exceptional since the start of the industrial revolution.

In fact, the 24 co-authors argue that we've entered a new and distinct geological era, just within the last 50 years.

They call it the "Anthropocene era" from the greek word "Anthropos" meaning "man".

The authors argue that even though we've been having an impact on our planet for thousands of years, it's only been during the last 50 years that human activity became the main factor driving almost every single natural process on Earth.

And that brings us back to the relationship between global surface temperatures, methane, and carbon dioxide.

Because as these charts show, if atmospheric temperatures continue to follow the same sky-rocketing trend that methane and carbon dioxide have during the last century, we could very well be approaching the eve of extinction.

And none of this is taking into account the greenhouse gases that are trapped in the Antarctic Ice Sheet, which could be up to 21 quadrillion grams of organic carbon, and up to 400 billion tons of methane gases.

If we continue on this course, if we continue to spew methane and carbon dioxide into the atmosphere in the pursuit of cheap and short sighted economic growth, we can guarantee that our planet will continue to warm.

And, as the planet warms, the Antarctic Ice Sheet will begin to rapidly melt, which means that up to 21 quadrillion grams of carbon, and up to 400 billion tonnes of methane would be released into the atmosphere.

At that point, if humans are even still around, there will be literally nothing that we can do to stop a planetary mass extinction and to save humanity.

More and more scientists agree that natural processes don't drive the climate anymore, human activity does.

And it's only human activity that can stop our march towards planetary extinction.

Which means we need to put a price on carbon.

And we need to aggressively convert our energy system to one that's 100% renewable, and we need to find carbon and methane-neutral ways of transporting our goods, building our infrastructure, and constructing our cities.

The technology to achieve all of those goals already exists, and we now face a choice as a global society.

We'll go extinct if we keep doing what's easy, and what's comfortable.

But we can save the planet, if we make bold decisions and take immediate action to minimize human impact, and thus restore the planet's own natural processes and the balance that existed for hundreds of thousands of years before the first human settlements.


stecoop01's picture
stecoop01 7 years 2 weeks ago

Hopefully, by now, the Universe has realized that Humanity was a bad idea; those of us alive today may well witness the correction of that mistake, however briefly. It's all the Universes' fault - bad Universe, bad, bad Universe...don't do it again!

Hephaestus's picture
Hephaestus 7 years 2 weeks ago

But, don't you know that the 1% will be okay because of their wealth... they think (?)

Whilst bleeding mother earth sending the rest of us into poverty, destitution and (hopefully) revolution al la 1789

They have no idea do they?

We have some education and communication now

They never really wanted that

Inhuman self-centred "black flag" bums

Suze O's picture
Suze O 7 years 2 weeks ago

If the people who are refusing to change their industrial ways to move to non-polluting, renewable resources (especially if they persist purely out of greed), I see no reason NOT to accuse them of 'reckless endangerment' or 'attempted genocide' or other outrageous crime. After all, extinguishing mankind - and other forms of life that are here with us - is the supreme crime, greater than all others yet committed. Maybe civil unrest and resistance should continually be worded in terms of self-defense - since the situation IS actually that serious.

Old_Curmudgeon 7 years 2 weeks ago

Suicide by Policy-stupidity

[re Earth-warming]

{… a rhyme …}

The Right is dumb,

hurting even themSelves.

Their brains are numb,

as the Right-wing delves

into policy-thinking

which themSelves too is sinking: -

- They’re committing su-i-cide,

standing at their Right-wing altars

where Reason is cast aside

and hope for their future falters.


ckrob's picture
ckrob 7 years 2 weeks ago

Rule of thumb number 58,342:

A tipping point is only seen in our rear view mirrors.

stecoop01's picture
stecoop01 7 years 2 weeks ago

The climate change deniers in Congress are about to get a personalized greeting card from Mother Nature in the form of 2 to 3 FEET of snow falling on Washington DC this weekend.

The funny thing about this is that DC will be paralyzed for several days...and no one will even notice. Truly a do-nothing Congress.

PaulHosse's picture
PaulHosse 7 years 2 weeks ago

I have no doubt the ManKind is on the edge of extinction, but it won't be the result of climate change. While our continually changing climate has and will continue to play a key part with life on this planet, Man will eliminate himself long before Mother Nature gets around to it.

pbarnrob's picture
pbarnrob 7 years 2 weeks ago

Time again (as Governor Jerry Brown recited in Congress, that changed voting age) to pull out the lyrics (by the recently lost, and lamented, P. F. Sloan) to Eve of Destruction!

(Barry McGuire's still with us, but older, NO Hair, and still energetic, BTW!)

Not our skill at wars, but thirst for fuel, may be our ironic fate now in sight.

Burning question of our century: Can we dodge this bullet in time?

Willie W's picture
Willie W 7 years 2 weeks ago

The blizzard cometh. The global warming jokes out of DC will start. I was beginning to wonder if the deniers would be able to take a shot.

Ou812's picture
Ou812 7 years 2 weeks ago

Good morning Willie W, (I'd call you W, but that letter is taken:)). I'm relaxing here in MD in 20°F, high winds, an 20+ inches of snow (and growing) covering my photo voltaic panels. I've had pv for over a year, with limited success, it doesn't work at night or when covered with snow and has limited output on cloudy days. One thing pv is good at though is making money. Because of all the government rebates, SREC's, and the utility company buying my exccess electricity. I have a 14% ROI--- pretty much impossible to achieve with normal investments. However, because of the intermittent generation of electricity, I would not be able to function without the fossil fuel burning utility company. In order to achieve a smooth, continuous output of non CO2 producing electricity there is only one answer.....Nuclear.

John_mulkins123's picture
John_mulkins123 7 years 2 weeks ago

Could the richest 10% be planning for a catastrophe? Capital has been monopolized by the extraction class and they control most of it now. Our police have been militarized as if bracing for the disorder this will bring on. The media continues to give these developments their blessing. It looks to me like those with power and resources are using, this time, to consolidate their power and leave everyone else to the mercy of mother nature.
That said, we, the 90% have done nothing to self-organize and defend our position, because in large part we are overly dependent on this fraudulent system of representative democracy, and we do not believe in our power any longer.

We can keep hoping that "the system" will correct itself in our favor, but it cannot.

The way we avert total disaster is simple. Call for a national referendum on James Hansen's Fee and Dividend Plan.

See Example 5.

Willie W's picture
Willie W 7 years 2 weeks ago

Good morning, or afternoon to you too, OU812. I'm still a big nuclear fan despite all the doom and gloom warnings. I think that all it's problems are caused by neglect, indifference and politics. The few remaining problems could be fixed to the benefit of all, if experts would just be given the time and money to sit down and figure things out. We're 90% there. Solving the waste problem would pave the road ahead for clear skies.

Ou812's picture
Ou812 7 years 2 weeks ago

Willie, I agree with you 100%. If nuclear hadn't been made so politically unpopular, I believe we would be using it today. Small nuclear units like those used on aircraft carriers and subs would be able to power small to medium size cities. But the pro fossil fuel crowd doesn't want nuclear. They've managed to convince a bunch of vocal 'greenies' that nuclear is dangerous.

2950-10K's picture
2950-10K 7 years 2 weeks ago

Take the words "relentless profit" out of the energy sector, hand over control to, "We the People," and witness a green revolution. The Carbon Fascists have a big pimp hand, and the power of their money can only be defeated with Democratic Socialism. It's do or die at this point, and Bernie understands more than anyone what time it is, unlike his big money, business as usual competition.

c-gull's picture
c-gull 7 years 1 week ago

It seems that "only the ignorant despise education"- a problem noticed in the old Roman empire as it began to degenerate.

Genuine ecological science is still not heard on the main stream media. An ecologist could make a good case for taking better care of the planet by exposing the continuing drop in Net Primary Productivity (NPP or photosynthetic biomass production at the primary level) in the earths ecosystems but who in the main stream media would listen. As the NPP drops, the production in all the higher levels must also drop. You can't make predators like tuna at the top of the food chain if the production at the base of the food chain is going to hell.

So the corporate solution is not to ease up on the earth but to gain direct control over the food production by farming fish etc.. However, it takes at least 5 pounds of ocean caught forage fish (like sardines) to make a pound of farmed fish. It takes a lot of carbon rich fuel to run the boats to catch the forage fish, but who cares, its providing jobs for corporate boats and is still making oil companies happy -for at least little while.

Since stocks of traditional food fish and crustaceans are dwindling some fisherman are trying to get ahead of the depletion game by harvesting jellyfish. If you told a fisherman he'd have to harvest jellyfish 25 years ago, he would have thrown you overboard. But as an example, shrimp fisherman in Georgia have switched over to jellyfish because they are so plentiful and there is a good market for them in China. At 7 cents a pound it takes a lot of jellys to make a profit but jellyfish love warm water and low oxygenation and can stand a lot more pollution than other species. One fishing operation in Georgia caught about 5 million pounds of jellys in one year and made $350,000.

Thus it seems that no one with the power really wants to help our broken ecosystems but would rather sit by and allow business to take advantage of catestrophic changes in our planets systems.

So with no real change or regulation on the horizon mass starvation looms closer.

Bon Appetit

sheilach2's picture
sheilach2 7 years 1 week ago

WHAT 100% renewable exists that can produce electricity? There is NO "renewable" that can do that! NONE!

Only WOOD, FIRE, WATER WHEELS, MUSCLE & WIND ON SAILS are renewable, solar panels & wind turbines are a product of the FOSSIL FUEL AGE, they are made with & by OIL, they depend upon a functioning high energy, high technology civiliazation to exist & when those fossil resources become too expensive & difficult to extract, that will be the end of all those high technology "renewables" & it will be lights out forever.

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