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

Permafrost Tipping Point Almost Certainly Reached

As regular readers will know, for a long time I’ve emphasized what are now being called tipping points, and in particular the tipping point where permafrost melt becomes self sustaining. As a matter of politics, I’ve been quite sure this would occur, since we aren’t likely to do anything about it.

One model shows that the tipping point is already past. If we were to stop all emissions today, it would still happen and temperatures would still rise.

It’s possible this model is wrong on the margins, but I’d be rather surprised if it’s wrong on the fundamentals. The danger has always been passing the point where humanity was in the driver’s seat. We started global warming climate change, but we can no longer stop it short of, perhaps, some hail-mary geo-engineering.

Back in 2009 I said that runaway climate change was a sure thing, not because I thought then that the tipping point had been reached, but because it was clear that we were close to the tipping point and that politicians were not going to take action. I considered the 2008 election the last chance, Obama was elected and he was a disaster: not only didn’t he take the action needed, he vastly increased fracking, something he is very proud of, having said “that was me!”

Let’s run quickly thru what this means.

Water shortages in large areas of the world. We’ve depleted and poisoned the aquifers too. This is going to be ugly: most of the American southwest, large chunks of China and India, huge areas of Africa, and more. I’ve written about this many times, this is a 100% certainty.

Actual Famines. Right now we produce way more food than we need. We won’t continue doing so. The first famines will be distributional famines, but by 2050-60 at the latest there will be real subcontinental scarcity famines. Obesity isn’t going to be an issue for much longer, maybe 20 years.

Massive Refugee Crises. Like nothing we’ve every seen. Borders will be SHUT and refugees will be shot. I figure the best candidate for the first one that involves tens of millions of refugees in a short period is Bangladesh/India. And I give 50/50 odds the Indians will shoot a lot of them.

Supply Chain Cascade Failures. We’re already seeing this. We’re past the tipping point on economic collapse as well, though it will be quite uneven. My favorite current failure is that there’s a shortage of Siracha hot sauce, and there’s nothing that can be done about it because there aren’t enough materials to make it with.

This issue has a lot more causes than climate change, but climate change doesn’t help.

Ecological Collapse. The birds, the bees, the insects: they’re all dying and when their populations collapse, we’re going to be in a world of hurt. This is why I usually say “climate change and environmental collapse.” Some of this stuff is really scary, like the possibility of a collapse of the phytoplankton in the ocean which produce about 30% of our annual oxygen.

Large Chunks of the World Being To Hot To Live In. Yeah, sorry. At first it’ll just be in the summer, but in time it’ll be most of the year.

Will Spain, northern Africa and the southern Med even be inhabitable in the summer in ten to twenty years? The only solution would appear to be a ton of solar and/or nuclear and a lot of air conditioning, but you can’t farm in these temperatures, heck this is approaching wet bulb death temperatures.

Riots, Revolutions, Warlordism, etc… Yeah, sorry, when the famines and no water and heat and so on get bad, people will not sit there and just die and countries will break up. I would expect, in about 30 years or so, for half the world’s countries to be essentially descended into warlordism. In fifty years, 70% or so.

All of this was preventable, we knew in time and knew what to do and did not do any of it.

As a species we are responsible, but the people who are most responsible have names and addresses. One of the requirements of handling climate change and ecological collapse in the best way will be to remove them all from power, take everything they have, and throw them in prison for the remainder of their lives. They can be permitted to have no power and everyone must understand see that they did not benefit from their evil.

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Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – July 9, 2023


Police Abolition Principles


  1. StewartM

    I considered the 2008 election the last chance, Obama was elected and he was a disaster: not only didn’t he take the action needed, he vastly increased fracking, something he is very proud of, having said “that was me!”

    True ‘dat. However, even if he had tried, the result would have been politically doubtful. Any real meaningful change would have involved making significant (though short-term) sacrifices, and I’m afraid that 40 years of Reaganomics has eroded our moral character and willingness to sacrifice for either posterity or any common good.

    I once thought about writing a blog during my blog-writing times called “Why I hate Yellow Ribbons”. I hate yellow ribbons as I was commuting to work by bicycle most days, and would pass big SUVs and gas-gobbling pickups idling, parked in long lines at a drive-through to pick up fast food or coffee. And I thought “can’t they even get out of these gas-guzzlers and shut them off to WALK inside to get what they want? Moreover, the yellow ribbons were all “Support Our Troops” (this was Iraq, which was being fought because of oil “freedom”).

    Yellow ribbons (or whatever color) also annoy me because by invoking the original Tony Orlando song, they also perverted it. The Tony Orlando song was about a *criminal* returning home, not someone who is regularly being praised to the skies for their supposed wonderful character and deeds*, and the criminal in the song wonders aloud if anyone in his town still even wants to associate with him anymore. It’s a song about forgiveness and acceptance, and I’d say the people sporting those stickers aren’t likely the forgiving or accepting type.

    * — though with our boys in uniform, I’m sure at least a few were also war criminals, though that’s a fact never mentioned and I’m sure that wasn’t the intent of those stickers.

  2. coloradoblue

    And there is this from a June 26 Guardian article.

    Even if the world stopped emitting greenhouse gases tomorrow, ocean levels would continue to rise. It’s absolutely guaranteed, and the increase will continue for centuries or millennia. The reason for this is crucial. The thermal expansion of the ocean and the melting of glaciers and ice sheets has a centuries-long time lag, and it takes centuries for a new equilibrium to be reached.

    Read the whole thing:

  3. Although I can’t argue with the failure of the Obama admin to alter the trajectory of climate caos, it seems to me there is a fundamental misunderstanding of the Bush regime’s (dynasty, really, as the plan was laid before the 1’st Iraq War) attack on Iraq. I just read Juan Cole’s description of said fiasco, and he still believes that war was commenced to get Iraq’s oil, but I strongly disagree, countering that it was waged for exactly the opposite reason, namely, to keep Iraqi oil shut in so as to enable the fracturing of the North American craton. Only by driving the price of oil to stratospheric heights (oil was ~ $11/bbl when GW took (literally) office … by the time he left it was approaching $150/bbl). By the time Obama was elected, the monies already invested by the Texas mafia and its cohorts amounted to enormous sums, but the payback was going to be enormous, and no Democrat was going to be allowed to derail that gravy train. If Obama wanted an economic recovery from the disaster Bush left him, he needed the energy resources only fracturing could make available. Together with the ecologically disastrous food-to-fuel program, GW left us the Twin Towers of methane seepage from fracturing and the unsustainable production of ethanol: what was cynically referred to as “renewable” fuel, despite its being totally dependent on all of the forms of fossil fuels: oil, coal, and gas, with the depletion of the Oglala aquifer thrown in for good measure.
    Love your blog/site.

  4. Willy

    I tried explaining Donald Trump as our current poster man-child for the mediocre malignant narcissist grifter member of the self-entitled lucky sperm club. (why is it that the offspring of wealth are such assholes?). And that he is utterly unfit for national power. If getting 3 corrupt supreme court justices big into reversing progressivism wasn’t enough, then what about his “climate change is a hoax” attitude?

    Yeah, he’s gonna burn it all down. With help from the fossil fuel companies. But people would rather bitch about Obama and Biden.

    What we need is somebody from the lucky sperm club who’s passed through the gauntlet of ass kissing supplicants (who’re often expert corporate influencers full of “facts and figures” and FUD), seen through their pro-fossil fuel machinations, and then been smart enough to defend themselves from any retaliations. Obama and Biden were just being weak. Let ye who have never been weak cast the first stone.

    Off topic but to my point, I saw the Frontline show about revisiting Uvalde. The host was interviewing a Texas conservative pro-gun nut politician who kept repeating that violating the 2nd Amendment would be unconstitutional, for not allowing the baby step of going from AR-15 buying age 18 to 21. And then the host just went with it. Now, little old me doing the interview would’ve repeated: “Please quote the 2nd Amendment in its entirety, then explain the ‘well-regulated militia’ part as well as the political history behind that Amendment”. And then I would’ve repeatedly accused him of being in the pocket of Big Guns when he didn’t or tried to flounder his way out of it.

    Regarding climate change, maybe people need to endlessly repeat actual facts and figures and even FUD against our big fossil and their denier supplicants, and then threaten when they don’t comply, exactly as they do to us.

  5. Ian Welsh

    Obama was not “just being weak”. He deliberately slammed the accelerator to the floor and was proud of it.

    But that’s irrelevant, the point is that there was a deadline to make the necessary changes and Obama was the last President who could have in time.

    In any case “being weak” and “not casting the first stone” don’t apply to people who have the American presidency and who refuse to save a billion or more lives.

  6. VietnamVet

    There are three hubs of instability that are merging into the Global Ending Epoch. 1) The Climate Changes listed in this post, 2) The proxy World War III in Ukraine, and 3) Western debt financialization that is so enormous that the principal can never be paid off but drives everyone relentlessly over the cliff making the interest charges.

    Current history started with the forming of the Western Empire on November 22, 1963. The reemerged Southern Plutocracy and Global Oligarchs merged Corporations with the State making today’s future inevitable. Look at New York.

    The Twin Towers were the first strike back at the Empire on September 11, 2001.

    In 2020 Governor Andrew Cuomo ordered that the COVID infected be moved out of the NY ERs, to make more room, back to their privatized assisted living facilities. This increased the elderly death toll — simple eugenics. But instead of murder, he was removed from office for coming on to a female State Cop in his detail. New York City’s air turned orange on June 6, 2023. This weekend, NY highways and railroads were washed out due to a deluge of rain in the Hudson River Valley that has moved on to devastate Vermont.

    The current western economic political system cannot redistribute wealth to conserve energy, save human lives, or mitigate the pollution of the earth’s air, water or ground. Mitigating Western and Canadian wildfires simply is not mentioned. Malaria has returned to the US South after being eliminated for 20 years. The West has directed more than 75 billion dollars to Ukraine to move its weapon stockpiles there without the industrial base to replace them.

    The best option left is an Armistice, a DMZ, and Peace but this ends the dollar’s reign as the reserve currency and creates a tri-polar world. A total Apocalypse now looms unless the West agrees to live within its means.

  7. Willy

    “Weak” in the sense that the earth needed an unconquerable hero and got a kinda-sorta dude.

    Like the boss I helped get promoted who later when I needed him to be an actual boss and show some courage (for a guy who could fire anyone he wanted), instead did a personal cost benefit political analysis and turned his back on the situation. He did give me a top referral for a job a hundred miles away (in private to that guy) but he never took another call from me ever again. That kinda-sorta dude.

    A good lesson for the kids might be to help them figure out people like that before they can do any real damage. We’ve got “Dunning-Kruger” as one way to explain Trump. Maybe there’s a name for a psychological condition where somebody thinks he’s far more the unconquerable hero than he actually is. Me, I got suckered by both boss and Obama so what the hell do I know.

    These were the two that I saw:

  8. JBird4049

    We have ginormous arguments over abortion and guns among other emotional issues; while I get the passion of both sides when there is a climate catastrophe with society, the economy, ecosystem, and healthcare all collapsing at the same time with massive corruption and a pandemic that has killed or crippled millions just in the United States, all those passionate issues sure seem to be purposely crafted distractions.

    Covid in the recent past has killed more people than opioids, which was partly the creation of the unpunished, wealthy Sackler Family and has killed more people than guns, most of which are suicides done with hand guns and much of that is from the despair caused by the looting and hollowing out of both society and the economy by the elites. Then there are the wealthy, unpunished génocidaires of the fossil fuels companies that stopped the anti-global warming movement with their lies and bribes for profit. And Medicare4All is socialism and so is bad. Unlike Big Pharma and the hospitals run by private equity, which are good. Somehow.

    Sometimes I feel like I am going insane or am living in a world gone mad. Anyways, I slowly accepting that violence, if not revolution, will be needed to remove the elite génocidaires, but anyone who wishes for not just war, but a civil war, is a fool or mad, or both. Does this means that I really am mad, even insane?

  9. Curt Kastens

    Vietnam Vet,
    Global, or National Debt is not something that we should lose any sleep over. I saw just yesterday that the debt of the entire planet, debt of private individuals, debt of businesses and the debt of governments is 300 Trillion Dollars. But the assets of the planet are 1 Quadrillion dollars. That is more than 3 times as much. So in reality there is no “global”. Economists, and therefore media outlets do not mention assets of the accounting books though for 2 reasons, one assets are harder to put a definitive number on, and two then they could not scare us with how high debt is to annual GDP.
    Something very simple to remember is that one person’s or nation’s debt is another’s asset.
    When considering debt is good for a nation or a family on has to consider it on a case by case basis. Key considerations are what will the debt be used to purchase (will it increase income), and will future inflation rates be higher or lower than the intrest rate on the debt.
    There is an easy way, though I did not say painless way, to pay off all national debt. It is called inflation. With an inflation rate of say 20% a year even the most odious debts can be paid off fairly quickly. Another word for inflation is, a tax on money held in checking and savings accounts.
    Something that flows from fiat currency situation that has existed since around 1970 is that taxation is not needed to fund a national budget. Taxation is needed to control inflation. But economists, and the media still spread old outdated ideas about economics and currency trying to confuse the public in to thinking that a national budget works under the same constraints as a family or state (provence) level budget.

  10. Mark Level

    Well, thanks, Ian, now I’m glad that Covid-19 blocked my decision to try to emigrate to Spain when I retired in 2021!! Much safer where I am in Duluth, MN, half a mile from Lake Superior, here in midsummer today, mid- to high 60s (67 degrees F as actual noon at one p.m. approaches, chilly winds) . . . I’d like to think that small colonies of flora, fauna and even yoomins (so-called) will survive as the shit-show cascades. But what I think doesn’t matter, you are correct about Obama and “hope” is generally delusional and anti-survival in value.

  11. different clue

    Obama deliberately designed and engineered the vacuum of hopeless despair which Trump was sucked into. And of course the DemParty in general ratified and doubled-down on supporting that vacuum by engineering the nomination of the most hated and reviled Democrat in the country, Mrs. NAFTA Clinton. So I think a few minutes of bitching may be indulged in. ( I see your point to a point about Biden, who by now is just a sad sundowning encore act).

    The human species is responsible? No. The Western-Civilization subdivision of the human species is responsible and most specifically its Modern Industrial Civilization expression and membership. Eagerly joined by China and lusted after by India. And others too. The North and South American Indians, Tibetans, Ba M’buti Pigmies, etc. did zero to cause any of this global warming. Unless we wish to say they are not part of the human species. But would they agree to such a statement?

    About hail-mary counter-warming attempts . . . . I think China and India will start geo-engineering . . . probably surrounding the world with high-altitude sulfate particles . . . pretty soon now. Without permission and daring the rest of the world to go to war to stop them from doing it.

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