The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

Climate Change and Environmental Collapse (State of the World 2023 #2)

(This is second in the series promised during the 2022 fundraiser. For #1 (imperial collapse) read here.)

I’m going to keep this one brief.

This year has seen the constant shattering of temperature records. Temperatures in the high thirties, in winter, have been common.

The majority of the Mediterranean is going to be uninhabitable without air conditioning for months every year. This includes North Africa and the European areas. The same will be true of most areas of the tropics. Time scale is ten to fifteen years.

Because climate change includes weather instability, it will become impossible to get property insurance in increasing areas, starting with the coasts and areas prone to wildfires.

Wildfires will continue until the ecology of areas has changed to one suitable to their new temperature and rainfall pattern.

In the short to mid term, there will be a lot of river floods, then rivers based on snow pack or coming from glaciers will reduce in size or dry up. Most of the world’s aquifers are drained, and many are poisoned. This means vast areas will become unsuitable for agriculture, which will lead to genuine food shortages. We haven’t had those in a long time, our current shortages are because we can’t be bothered to distribute food, of which we have great excess. But by 2030 we’ll see some real famines, and by 2040 almost everyone’s going to be eating less, even if they aren’t going hungry.

The oceans will become increasingly lifeless, and most fisheries will collapse. Even sea farming will be difficult, as oxygen content drops and acidification increases. If you’re middle aged, you’ll see the start of the Sea of Jellyfish. The real danger is if CO2 fixing and O2 emitting plankton collapse, in which case we’ll see some real problems.

On land, the great rainforests will mostly die. This includes the Amazon and Congo. They will be replaced by wastelands, and will be almost impossible to regrow under the new circumstances. This will, again, lead to vast increases in CO2. The effect on Brazil will be catastrophic.

The first ocean inundations will come sooner than almost anyone thinks and low lying countries and areas which have not built sea walls and pumps will go underwater. Bangladesh is a good weather vane here, but the northern Chinese breadbasket is at risk in the second wave.

If this was only about CO2 and global warming the realist optimist types would be right that it’d suck mightily, but whatever. The danger is that we’ve also go ecological collapse going on. I can’t estimate the odds correctly, but collapse of food chains, and in particular collapses of microbes, insects, plankton and so on could lead to drastic issues. The old line is that if the bees go extinct, so do we, but there’s a lot more risk than that, and that’s the “apocalyptic” scenario.

In your personal life, you should be preparing. Find a way to get your own water, even if it’s condensation. Food is important but understand that growing it outside is going to be tricky because of climate instability. Food you can count on will have some form of environmental control.

Expect everything to come in faster than the consensus ICC estimates. They’ve almost all been wrong to the upside, so consider them the “best case scenario” and don’t plan for that.

Climate change and ecological collapse are going to play into geopolitics in a big way. Normally, as I wrote yesterday, the ascendance of China would be all over except the shooting, but China’s going to get hit hard. They’re not stupid, and they know this. They just penned an absolutely massive deal for food from Russia, for example. But they need to do a lot more, and they and everyone else are going to have to change lifestyles. An economy of millions of cars, with sprawling cities makes no damn sense if the future that is coming.

Refugee waves are going to be absolutely massive, with hundreds of millions of people on the move. Multiple countries will collapse into warlordism and anarchy. There will be real revolutions, with elite murdered en-masse, because when people start starving and going without water, they will freak.

There just isn’t going to be enough to go around, it’s that simple.

If you want to survive, beyond the obvious, make friends and join or create strong community groups. You want a lot of people to like you and want you to live. Find a way to be useful, if possible, too. Plumbers and handymen and makers will be taken care of.

This is still some ways off, but understand clearly, civilization collapse has started, we are past the peak and past the point where we can stop it with any actions which it is even slightly conceivable we are capable of taking politically.

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Notes On The Structure Of American Imperial Collapse (State of the World 2023, #1)


Ukraine Has Lost


  1. Purple Library Guy

    There’s been a lot of talk about how China’s efforts to curb its population growth is just terrible and a stupid mistake and will or is ruining them. But I think in a while they’re going to be damn happy they don’t have a couple hundred thousand more people to feed and provide for.

  2. Forecasting Intelligence

    Hi Ian,

    Going to ask you the same question I’ve asked John Greer.

    Given the above – and Greer broadly agrees with everything you say – although he has a darker view of the mass migrations from a Muslim world to Europe and thinks it will resemble the armed invasions that destroyed the western end of the Roman Empire – where does a European like me migrate to?

    I don’t want to leave it too late when the legal borders are shut around the world and I certainly don’t want to end up a refugee fleeing chaos, brutal armies raping, pillaging and killing us “kuffars” in Europe decades from now.

    I suggested Bahamas and Greers response was to factor in sea level rises which is a valid point. He thinks the New England area of north-eastern America is the most promising place that European emigrants will feel happiest in longer term.

    Yes, America is facing a very tough time and could split up, but longer term, it is better positioned than Europe to avoiding the worst of the Long Descent over the course of the next 50 years (my realistic timeframe to live).

    My thinking, based on my own macro models is wars/chaos will erupt in north-western Europe by the 2040s so have 15 to 20 years to prepare. Southern Europe, Balkans and eastern Europe will face earlier shocks, whether from a revived Russian Empire, civil wars and/or increasingly violent mass refugee/invasions from a Muslim world on Europe’s borders.

  3. Curt Kastens

    If you have food and water it will be taken. The only thing to do now is to recognize that you and everyone that you love is going to die, with an expiration date of civilization of 2040. There may be people still alive after 2040. But there is no point in doing jack shit to prepare because all preperations will be insufficient.
    Other than continuing on the treadmill that most people are stuck on It seems to me that the only other thing to consider at this point is, is there anything that you would be willing to die for?
    If so what? If so why? If not just watch the end unfold.

  4. Eric Anderson

    No lies detected, Ian. Your peeps over on #Mastodon will reposting for circulation. They miss ya …

    @Forecasting Intelligence: the Alaska archipelago is the place to be. Glad for my son’s sake I have my commercial fishing and wildland firefighter chops to fall back on from my alcoholic days. Good times to be a jack of all trades and master of none — urban specialists will be the first to go.

    I have an M.S. in bioregional planning and community design. So I’ve read all the literature on how much more resource efficient cities are and all that. It never resonated with rural roots. Sure, perhaps in an “ideal” world. But, a city is a finely tuned machine subject to collapse from the smallest perturbations. Rural life will always be more resilient to those same disturbances.

    Instead, my thoughts always went back to: Why do we need so many people?
    I guess we’re going to find out.

  5. Jan Wiklund

    It seems that Nato agrees. They have already started to plan, see Nick Buxton: Primer on climate security – The dangers of militarising the climate crisis,

    Of course it is not Nato’s business to stop heating. So they focus on “keeping stability” – i.e. bombing refugees and the like.

  6. Forecasting Intelligence

    Why does civilisation die in 2040? Have you looked at the LGT BAU model? Your thinking is utterly wrong.

    Making even modest preps to clear debt, grow a bit of food, become self-sufficient and learn some useful skills are invaluable.

  7. GrimJim

    For the longest time I calculated the expiry date on Global Western Civilization at about 2050.

    The ridiculous growth of the power of the Christofascists with the rise of Trump moved that forward to 2040.

    Developments since the 2020 election have moved it forward to 2030 on the outside.

    The current opening salves of World War III on the Ukraine and Israel Fronts have pushed it up to, “As soon as someone naked a big mistake or a big breakthrough,” because that’s when all He’ll breaks loose.

    On the outside, now, it is the 2024 US election. If Trump wins, we end up with a complete collapse of international order, a worldwide Greater Depression, and domestic purges that would put Stalin to shame; if Trump loses, we end up with ACW II, plus a complete collapse of international order, a Greater Depression, and domestic genocide a la Hitler.

    Either way, we all lose.

    I think we need to start a pool on when we willsee the first definitive Christofascist terrorist militia action. Not just some incel wannabes getting into a scrum, I’m talking real attempt at military action.

    Sooner than later, to be sure…

  8. different clue

    @Forecasting Intelligence,

    I am not a European, nor am I Ian Welsh and you did not ask me. But I would say the best areas to go to for retaining some European culture would be far northern Norway or Sweden or Finland. Or far northern European Russia if they are letting any Europeans in.

    Or Alaska if you can stand the culture shock. Northern Canada might be less of a culture shock.

    Or far southern South America. Or the South Island of New Zealand. Or maybe Tasmania.

  9. different clue

    If anyone can build a Great Seawall of China, it will be China.

  10. Steven Schmidt

    It needs to become common knowledge that the present Western Elite are the worst people to ever live. The worst ever known. The worst generations of “humans” who have ever lived, and ever WILL live.

    The worst mass murderers to. ever. live.

    Think of all of humanity’s worst crimes and genocides. They all pale in comparison to the omnicidal ecocides that are coming. I hope I get to watch them die. I want them to suffer horribly for as long as possible first.

  11. Willy

    I think of Gazans being in their desperate situation with nowhere to go. Some of their dynamics are different from a climate apocalypse, but there are enough similarities to suggest the way things could possibly go.

    I don’t see them rising up en masse to change their situation, let alone to kick out Hamas and Israelis. They’re just hanging in there the best they can manage. There doesn’t seem to be any organization, focus, or goals that are compelling enough to stampede that mob into cohesive action. And so they’ve never been able to build a PTB system which best benefits them.

    I think the prevailing PTB will as always, be calling the shots in a climate apocalypse. And they’ll always be making sure that their own are being taken care of first and foremost.

    Idealistically, the common culture needs to be changed. Just because somebody is a PTB doesn’t automatically mean that they deserve that position. You be worthy or you be gone, no matter your bullshit.

    I once theorized that political, religious, or cultural systems are minor variables compared to the quality of the PTB since every system can be corrupted. But then we have the metrics. How do we rate them? Against who or what? How do we keep the emotional mob focused on objective results?

    Against their own words, would be a start. If one’s promises, rhetoric, and plans turn out to be bullshit fail, for good reason, then somebody else gets a chance.

  12. GrimJim

    Soon enough, we will all be Gazans.

    Our choices in life will be reduced to being murdered in war, starving in the desert, or drowning in the sea.

  13. capelin

    We’re gunna take us out directly, before the weather does.

    Westerners still think they own the earth and are entitled to plunk their clueless butts down wherever they want.

  14. Curt Kastens

    Hello Forecasting Intellegence;
    What is this LGT BAU model that you mentioned. I did a google search and did not find anything that clearly matched that acronym.

    Also, I hear people say get out of debt all of the time. But if hyper inflation is comming to your town or country being in debt because you invested in tools is a very smart thing to do. Hyper inflation is the same as a debt jubilee which is sometimes suggested.

    As for learning to grow some food and learning some skills both are at this late stage a complete waste of time, unless you do it just for the pleasure.

    Your food will be taken. And what are you going to do with with your skills? Build a farmer or even a fisher a boat for some imaginary food?

    Knowledge of plumbing, electricity, medicine or pretty much everything else will be useless once international supply chains break down.

    One thing that I can imagine that will be of a bit of use is knowing what types of things can be eaten when one forages. That knowledge might help you live longer than your neighbors. But you are still going to die even if you are 25-40 years old and cancer free.

    You can run but you can not hide from the monster that is comming.

  15. Eric Anderson

    Curt Kastens —

    Our cushy lifestyles will certainly die … together with a whole lot of people who have no clue how to rough it. Many of us, however, have seen this coming for years and have positioned ourselves accordingly. We have wood stoves for heat. Easy access to rivers and are surrounded by forests still filled with wild game. We know how shoot, hunt, reload. And this old forest service trail crew dog and some of my local friends I’ve worked with over the years know how to blow things up like bridges to keep the riff raff out. If forced, we can, and will, do pre-industrial society. Rough, yes. Impossible? No. And we have young children … everything to live for.

    Those of you on here who “know me” know how to get in touch. You’re welcome any time.

  16. bruce wilder

    the evident inability of the U.S. Federal government to marshal resources and expertise to manage crises and, particularly, to build infrastructure effectively and efficiently is as concerning as the prospect that climate change will accelerate the magnitude and number of crises going forward.

    climbing the upslope of political cycles of institution-building and infrastructure expansion, a country can find and apply surplus to solve problems and realize further gains. at some point, the infrastructure and associated social structures age and deteriorate, the deterioration erasing surplus just as that surplus is needed to make repairs and do restoration.

    we’re like someone who has inherited rental property from an industrious, thrifty parent. the “free” income is welcome, but the challenges of maintaining or restoring the property are just unwanted expenses. there’s no pride associated with the achievement building the property, nor any hard-won expertise from building or managing it through its early days. faced with the choice of giving up the additional income to fund repairs or letting the property deteriorate while continuing to net cash, the choice taken is likely to be to let it go to seed, so to speak.

    it is theoretically conceivable that we might collectively act politically to free surplus from the death grip of rentier finance and apply it to mitigating climate change.


    the reality of the zeitgeist is that reactionary conservative forces are in motion to question and oppose anything that might effectively counter or alleviate the consequences of adding massive amounts of fossil carbon to the carbon cycle

    and those reactionary conservative forces make common cause with techno-optimists as well as the complacent and ineffectual “left” who are all-in for greenwashing schemes and optimistic declarations along the lines of “solar is now cheaper than [fill-in-the-blank] as if Mr. Market Price is going to solve this or any problem”.

  17. mago

    Apocalyptic end of the earth thinking on full display.
    We might see the end of Starbucks and McDonald’s hooray!
    And the collapse of toxic institutions and their creators deaths, go man go. Can’t happen fast enough.
    But life will go on, crippled and haphazard as it may be.
    The cancer’s not strong enough to kill everyone and everything.
    La cucaracha. . .

  18. Eric Anderson


    I’m with you. The great reset cometh. Whether it involves lobbing nukes at one another will be a big factor in whether la cucaracha is the only thing that survives.

  19. Curt Kastens

    While someone who lives on the North Shore of Lake Supirior might live a few years longer than someone who lives in central Berlln or Rome they are not going to live much longer.
    Why do I say this? Because it is as obvious as hell once we reach 2° of warming, what ever humans do, warming will not stop there. It is as obvious as hell that once the earth reaches 3° warming it will not stop there, even if there are few if any humans left. And it is also as obvious as hell due to the feedback loops involved that the speed of warming will continually accelerate.
    I do wonder if there were a massive nuclear war if a few people in the southern hempispear might survive. Would the short term effects of a nuclear winter off set the long term effects of global warming enough to allow for a window of survival?
    I myself think that human extinction is the best news that humans will have in 300,000 years. But I recognize that most of the people that I come in contact with think human life is a positive. The predominate thinking is that even though human life might not be a bowl of cherries for everyone it could be, if it were done right. I on the other thing think that even if it were done right the suffering that some people would have to endure would never compinsate for the pleasure that other expirience.
    I arrive at this conclusion because my expirience is that the best sustainable pleasures in life, which does not include crack or heroin use, are at best pleasent expiriences where as the negative expiriences can be absolutely hellish expiriences. Therefore sentient beings can only win when there are none.

  20. i'm lovin' it

    Speaking of fast food, last night Wendy’s forgot to put the chili I ordered in the bag. I didn’t check the bag upon pulling away from the drive through, nor at at any point on the trip home…though it was on my mind to. So I didn’t notice until I got home.

    I got a Dave’s Double Combo, large size, and I opt for a chocolate Frosty for my beverage. It satisfies the sweet tooth. I don’t think there’s any dairy in it. It’s just like a chemical amalgamation of flavorings, sweeteners, and texturizers concocted in a lab.

    Anyway, the fries were fresh out of the deep fryer so they were nice and crispy, with the right amount of salt. The burger, being two patties, has a lot of beef, but that’s all I eat these days – this one order from Wendy’s at night. I eat fast food, take vitamins, and fast. So I have to get my calories when I can.

    Also, the young lady who took my card at the first drive-through window where you pay before you pull up to the next window to get your food…I think this girl thought I was a creepy old guy or something because I smile and I’m friendly. I guess I should have made a little joke to divert her attention from the whole charade.

    Anyway, I really wanted that chili, especially after I smoked a bit of marijuana.

    And to think, if Dave Thomas’ daughter was better with her pronunciation at a young age, none of this would have happened:

  21. Willy

    Post apocalypse I’ll be hanging with the scientists. Yes, there’s a chance we’d all be stuck in our tunnel with Neal deGrasse Tyson, endlessly yapping about how humanity came to such a pass. Not to mention his bad jokes.

    “So a photon checks into a hotel. The bellhop says: “’Can I get your bags?’ The photon says: ‘That’s ok, I’m traveling light.’” Then he makes the rimshot noise with his mouth. We all sigh.

    Since he wouldn’t be very good at helping us create our steampunk weapons, we’d be keeping him around for nostalgic reasons.

  22. Soredemos

    Speaking of Gaza, I’m just going to say this, outright: at this point Israel is a nation of pigs posing as humans.

    If Israel wanted to deliberately manufacture global anti-semitism, they couldn’t possibly come up with a better strategy. They’re really going to murder the entire Gazan healthcare system. The cancer patients are dying, next will be the babies on lifesupport, if they haven’t already started dying. And now Israel is targeting evacuating medical convoys while they’re still in the crowded courtyards of major hospitals. When Israel finally directly bombs the hospitals themselves (again) it’ll be largely academic.

    If they started to let fuel for hospitals in tomorrow (which they won’t), it might not matter much given all the damage they’ve already inflicted. And that’s clearly part of a deliberate plan. No hospitals to provide either care or shelter (the UN today outright said UN designated shelters no longer provide any guarantee of safety) will drive people to flee south (good luck not getting bombed while doing it though). It’s beyond disgusting. It’s all the bullshit Russia was accused of, only actually true and vastly more widespread.

    (I for one never again want to here any crap about how Putler is committing genocide against Ukraine. 10-15k dead civilians in a full scale war over two years is a shockingly low number. Israel is going to pass that in six weeks.)

  23. Willy

    It looks like some see nations as little different from a human body.

    Millions of cells and dozens of organs expected do their little duties, so that the brain can control all and define the entire body. For these people, Bibi and Haniyeh and Putin must live well in safety because they are Israel and Hamas and Russia.

    Yet if Putin or Bibi or Hamas bombs civilians, it’s always the civilians own damned fault.

    The left has no power because it has no coherent focus. This isn’t about “the nations”, but the inability of any citizenry, regardless of belief or existential philosophy, to control their dysfunctional elites. Be easier to just keep corrupt fascist fucks out of positions of power.

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