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

Rate of Antarctic Ice Loss Has Increased Three Times Since 2007

So, yeah. Again, as I have said for a long time, the consensus reports are always wrong and when new data comes in it is almost always worse than predicted. There appear to be self-reinforcing cycles involved. I expect that we will see significant rises in sea level well before 2100.

We will also see widespread droughts, large areas around the equator that are uninhabitable for months at a time due to being too hot for humans to cool down and entire current breadbasket regions no longer producing significant food.

This will be exacerbated by how much we have drained and poisoned our aquifers.

This will effect, among others, the United States, China and India, all of whom will take huge hits. I expect the death of hundreds of millions of Indians before the century’s end, in massive famines and droughts.

This will also lead to waves of migration like we’ve never seen–exceeding even the migration from Europe to the New World in the last half of the 19th century. There will be wars. I fully expect a war between Russia and China, over Siberia, because much of China’s cropland will become defunct.

Nothing we are doing is more effective than a spit into a hurricane. The Paris Accord is a joke: It wouldn’t be enough even if implemented, it’s not mandatory, and most countries won’t make their voluntary targets.

There are a lot of moving parts, the most important of which will be the arctic methane release (once that starts, it will self-reinforce and the game will be over), but for people on the ground it’s going to be about heat, rainfall, and water. Also, about water. And water.

This can no longer be stopped, in any meaningful sense, but we could prepare and try to mitigate. We aren’t even doing that.

If you have children, or if you’re young, you need to factor this stuff into your life plan. I’m 50 and unhealthy, I’ll probably miss most of it. But if you’re 20 or even 30, probably not.

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The North Korea Summit


Visiting the Hospital in Canada


  1. Anonymous

    Where in the (developed) world do you think is best protected against these issues, and why?

  2. Tom


    No place is protected. America will quickly descend into civil war once Sea Rise causes the coast lands to evacuate. We’re talking upwards of 100 million people, a third of this nation being outright displaced. Not only that, but the US Navy’s Blue Navy would effectively become extinct as all its dockyards, shipyards, etc would be lost.

    The resulting wars and disruption of trade would mean whoever has a game plan from the start and can swiftly set up a half-decent Governing Frame Work (ISIS, Hamas, Hezbollah, Taliban, etc) will become the new Governments and scramble to impose their control on the World.

    We’re looking at a prolonged 500 year Dark Age, perhaps even a 1,000 year one if nuclear warfare breakouts.

    If nukes come out, the Chinese basically become extinct, they are way too concentrated on the coasts and just 10% of Russia’s nukes can render the Chinese Race and Culture extinct.

    Japan would culturally survive and drop to around 30 million people or so before stabilizing on their west coast which wasn’t turned into a concrete jungle like its East Coast was.

    Korea will unify and drop to perhaps as few as 8 million people when all the dying is done.

    The Pacific Islands that didn’t get swallowed by the sea would most likely revert back to tribal lifestyles.

    South America will revert back to indigenous Tribal Rainforest People and Mountain Kingdoms.

    Europe will just fall apart. The Greater Middle East will see a final Sunni/Shia Reckoning. Whoever wins that struggle will be well placed to restart the main successor Islamic Empire.

    Russia would break up completely into warring statelets as Putin loses control and his life.

    Sub-saharran Africa will be a mess of warring states and any pretenses of central government will cease to exist.

    Indian Subcontinent will descend into religious wars/political wars/intra-tribal wars/civil wars/ grievance wars/war that make little sense to outsiders not familiar with some grudge from a long time ago , and nukes will fly. What is left will be warring states till a Conqueror comes along and straightens the mess out.

    Australia might weather the storm at first but lack of trade would cause its unsustainable population to drop.

    Most likely outcome is a new Islamic Empire (Who ever wins in the Sunni/Shia reckoning) emerges and conquers much of the Eurafroasian continent and re-imposes order and the rest of the world is warring states.

  3. Jay

    I hate to have to tell you, but Arctic methane release has been accelerating for over 10 years now.

  4. Webstir

    Tom says:
    “Most likely outcome is a new Islamic Empire (Who ever wins in the Sunni/Shia reckoning) emerges and conquers much of the Eurafroasian continent and re-imposes order and the rest of the world is warring states.”

    You know, because, of course the region with the fewest natural resources and sustainable infrastructure will somehow dominate those regions which are much better suited to weather the coming catastrophe.

    Frankly, I’m thinking being surrounded by all the preppers and “redoubters” up here in N. Idaho next to plentiful water, natural resources, and hydropower is the place to be. Did I mention folks around here are armed to the teeth and highly suspicious of outsiders.

    Silly urbanites …

  5. nihil obstet

    I’m not sure about all the rampant mass wars. There will probably be group violence where two states can fight over contiguous resources, as China and Russia may in Siberia. States may respond to attempts at mass migration with violence — it’s almost going on now.

    But two things mitigate against wars in lots of places. First, the resources that will be in demand aren’t portable. However many wars the U.S. might win, if it ever gets around to winning another war, the land and temperatures in Siberia are going to stay there. Even if the U.S. took it over, it wouldn’t solve the problems with global climate change here. Second, wars require lots of surplus over subsistence. There are those of us who think the whole endless war policy of the U.S. is to drain off surplus that the population might otherwise demand so that power remains vested in an elite. With climate change, the surplus disappears. How do you support the soldiers and war materiel in a subsistence state?

  6. Tom


    The Middle East is the cradle of Civilization for a good reason:

    It is the most fertile land in the world despite everything thrown at it, and hasn’t been showered in artificial oil based fertilizers to the point the soil can’t live without said fertilizers. Also the area is rich in natural resources even after thousands of years and has a large pool of educated engineers and other professionals to draw upon once the corrupt central governments give way to whoever wins the resulting successor wars.

    If the winner of the successor wars is Turkey, you have a Secular Islamic Empire with a large minority of other groups all living under a Constitutional Republic. Best Case Scenario and most desired outcome. Also the most likely if Erdogan’s reforms hold. It also helps that Turkey controls the Bosphorus, has the second largest NATO Army and is sheltered from Sea Rise while its main rival in the successor war Iran isn’t and would lose its main refineries to keep its industrial base running.

    If say ISIS, which is reforming rapidly in Iraq and retaking control of areas after dark, resurrects for the fifth time and wins the successor wars, you’ll have a Theocracy. Worst Case Scenario. Given entire cities had to be leveled to dig them out, except when Turkey fought them, their ability to be the main successor can’t be discounted outright.

    Iran wins the Successor Wars, you have an Islamic Technocracy. Middle Case Scenario. If they can stay intact after losing its coastline and defeat Turkey and Pakistan, it has a viable chance of coming on top. Most likely it will implode.

    Europe has gutted itself, lacks unity, military strength without massive US logistical support, and is over-populated. Sea Rise would wipe out its trade with the US and leave it unable to feed itself leading to war.

    Putin is the only one holding Russia together, he did it by bribing the Oligarchs with fiefdoms they could loot and he is running out of places to let them loot blind and running out of lifespan with no one of his ability to manipulate the state apparatus to keep Russia going. A nuclear exchange with China would destroy Central Russian Government control and plunge the nation into a warring states period.

  7. Synoia

    If China and Russia are fated to fight over Siberia,
    then it follows the US will invade Canada.

  8. someofparts

    From what I understand about climate change, droughts and rising sea levels are just the first stages. When we finish destroying the oceans, the oxygen cycle ends, and breathing becomes impossible.

    After the planet recovered from the mass extinction that took out the dinosaurs, the flora and fauna that died left us a legacy of oil. Maybe centuries from now long after we are gone some new species will find a way to exploit the geologic strata of plastic that we will leave behind.

  9. Hugh

    The thinking in the most recent IPCC report (5th) from 2014 was that in Antarctica coastal ice shelf loss was being compensated for by increased snow fall in the continent’s interior. This was based on sketchy data. As a result, the report says, “Abrupt and irreversible ice loss from the Antarctic ice sheet is possible, but current evidence and understanding is insufficient to make a quantitative assessment.”

    The Nature article upon which the NYT story is based reflects improved monitoring and what it is showing is that snow falls in the interior are not as great as expected. So what is called the surface mass balance of ice is not neutral but going negative. Antarctica is losing ice mass, and this water is ending up in the oceans and contributing to sea level rise. The process is accelerating, and as the 2014 IPCC report does note sea level rise is not easily reversible and current sea level rises could last centuries.

    I have written before about the likely effects of overpopulation and climate change. Again you can go to the Census and look at its international data. As a rule of thumb, you can take the numbers from 1950 as the upper limit for sustainable population. You can then look at the current population levels and the projections for 2050. Add in the effects of climate change as projected by the IPCC and current political conflicts. Africa, minus perhaps South Africa, is already gone. There is a very high likelihood of a nuclear exchange between India and Pakistan as well as interior disintegration. Any country in the Himalaya watershed will be severely stressed, most notably China. I give the US and Europe better chances of survival in some form, about 60%. Northeast Asia would have a similar chance except for the destabilizing effect of North Korea. Potential mass migrations are yet another stressor, especially toward Europe. South and Central America are question marks. The slide toward authoritarianism is a negative. The Middle East is a disaster already unfolding, a witch’s brew of overpopulation, climate change, oppressive regimes, weak civil institutions, sectarianism, and meaningless wars.

  10. We are fucked no matter what The nuclear power plants will not be dealt with in any meaningful way. This means massive radiation issues for a long time. Never mind nuclear war.

  11. Webstir


    It would appear the experts don’t think the cradle of civilization holds up too well.

  12. tony

    Tom also fails to realize that the fertile crescent has not been fertile for thousands of years. It was once covered in lush forests, but those were cut down and the climate became impoverished and arid as a result.

    Although, desperate population will often go to war to conquer new resources, and at this point Europe pays every Middle Eastern man that arrives to Europe. Which could create a base of support in Europe.

  13. V

    tony PERMALINK
    June 16, 2018

    Very good point.
    The cedars of Lebanon come to mind…

  14. Ché Pasa

    The tendency to overstate the Looming Doom has long been a feature of the Internet, indeed it’s a foundation of Western literature going back thousands of years.

    For doom is always looming for some people, somewhere. There is no real escape from it so the stories of Future Doom can never be entirely wrong. 

    The current situation of course is unsustainable. As the political, economic and environmental instabilities mount, efforts to deny the reality increase. Clearly there is catastrophe on the horizon, no? Certainly. But historically, the catastrophe never comes quite as it has been predicted, nor does it necessarily affect those who have been the designated targets.

    You can be sure, for example, that Our Rulers and their owners are well prepared for whatever comes, and they fully intend to survive any and all upheavals. The issue of climate change is no mystery to them, nor are most in denial about it and its effects. The eliminationists among them — perhaps including all of them — have already mapped out the losses of lands and people due to sea level rise, desertification and so forth. Note: they don’t care. If they lose their sea-side estates, so what? They’ll just build new ones on the new shorelines. No worries. If millions, tens of millions, hundreds of millions of surplus untermenschen perish, so what? They were going to die anyway eventually. They’re better off dead, right?

    And so it goes. And so it will go.

    The thing is, humans are remarkably adaptable. I think we’ve seen ample evidence of the human survival instinct and adaptability in the ongoing horror show in the Middle East, North Africa, the Arabian Peninsula and so forth. But you will find it everywhere that peoples have faced down Doom and survived.

    I think we passed the climate change tipping point many years ago. The is no Global Effort that would have stopped it anyway. Some things have been done and continue to be done to mitigate it and slow it, but the current regime simply declares “Fuck it”. OK then. What are you going to do?

    So. Some of the Doom predictions have proved and will prove true. Many won’t.

    The survivors may or may not ponder what we said about it back in the day. But there almost certainly will be survivors, and they will care not a bit about those who were lost.

  15. nihil obstet

    People in charge are remarkably able to ignore the potential consequences of their actions. Their sense of entitlement blinds them to any change that will affect themselves. The aristocracy of the ancien regime had not prepared to escape revolution. I’ve seen it at the management level in business and government — the managers think everything will go according to their sometimes nutty plans. So I don’t think our Rulers are prepared for whatever will come. Our societies will change radically, and we should be working on defining how.

  16. bob mcmanus

    “India, home to 14 of the world’s top 20 most polluted cities, has the highest rate of respiratory diseases of any country. A leading lung specialist, Arvind Kumar, says the cancer patients he sees Delhi are younger, more often female and more likely to be non smokers than those outside the city.

    Children are the most vulnerable: a 2015 study concluded about half Delhi’s 4.4m schoolchildren had stunted lung development and would never completely recover.”

    Not here, but I have seen estimates of 2.5 million dead a year cause pollution

    The horror is already here, and I happen to think its absurd to talk about 2100. If we make it 5-10 years without an 9-figure death event I’ll be shocked. After that the bombs start falling.

    And Mary McCurnin makes an important point above about nuclear sites. Guy MacPherson, who also talks in years not decades, of Nature Bats Last emphasizes this.

    We’re already dead and in denial.

  17. StewartM

    Tom and Webstir

    I agree with Webstir about the ME’s fate–with future ME temperatures possibly soaring to 130 F, it may become simply as liveable as Death Valley. There will be a tidal wave of emigration from the ME.

    Don’t know if I agree with the map Webstir referred to. With polar ice melting, China (yellow) loses most of the land where its population lives. Parts of Russia may fare better, and much of Europe could get ice-bound if the Gulf Stream calls it quits.

  18. jomaka

    Meet you all on the coast of James Bay

  19. Webstir

    Ok, while granted, many scientists/prognosticators don’t do themselves any favors by placing time constraints on their predictions. However, I’ve always been baffled by the backlash when some prediction doesn’t occur as scheduled. Does this make the prediction wrong? Does it rationalize doubling down on the behavior predicted to lead to our demise?

    Was Malthus wrong? No. Ehrlich? No. Is Ian? I think not. All of their predictions come down to a fundamental paradox that nobody in mainstream thought can ever answer: We live in a finite system in which our population growth will sooner or later outstrip the ability of the finite system to support us.

    We’ve literally been living on the credit the planet accrued prior to our breakout as a species. The bill will come due. Microeconomic theory explains what the results will be. But unfortunately, economists don’t really care about economy. They care about rationalizing away the inconvenient truths that their theories predict so that everyone can continue a business as usual model wealth accumulation through resource extraction.

    What a fun world we live in. And for those that would question how we got to this point, and why we’ll never change, I give you this:

  20. Hugh

    I agree with nihil obstet. The modus operandi of our powers that be is to loot to disaster and then loot the disaster. Consequences are for rubes. The Trumps are poster children of this. They aren’t bright. They aren’t principled. They are super entitled. Laws and effects are for little stupid people, not them. They lie like they breathe because they always have and have always gotten away with it.

    One of my favorite vintage sci-fi novels is When Worlds Collide. There is a scene where after the first passage of a large rogue planet destroys most of civilization, a billionaire flies into a compound where a group of scientists are planning an escape to a new world. He has a plane stuffed with cash and seeks to buy a place on their rocket with his now worthless money. This too reminds me a lot of our powers that be. They have always gotten their way, have always been able to buy their way out of any situation, if they needed to, that they can not comprehend doing anything else. Advanced planning? A plan B? You have got to be kidding.

  21. Some Guy

    I think there is a (big) part of me that just doesn’t believe it is going to turn out the way all indications are pointing to it turning out (as Ian describes). This part of my brain believes that we will figure out a cheap way to neutralize all the Co2 and methane, and carry on.

    Another part of my brain wonders just how we will react en masse if this internal belief (I suspect that it is much stronger in most people than it is in me) becomes untenable in the face of massive climate related disasters and rapid sea level rise. I suspect the reaction will be horrific, not sure if I will live long enough to find out or not.

  22. The Stephen Miller Band

    This too reminds me a lot of our powers that be. They have always gotten their way, have always been able to buy their way out of any situation, if they needed to, that they can not comprehend doing anything else. Advanced planning? A plan B? You have got to be kidding.

    This reminds me of a great movie I watched a couple of weekends prior. Woody Allen has tamed & tempered himself and in the process has perfected his art of movie making because he’s mostly kept himself out of it. The acting in this movie is fantastic and the plot and script are great. It speaks to what Hugh is speaking to. The end of the world for an individual from this caste, or an end to her world and her paralytic reaction to it. She’s capable of nothing else and therefore Bag Lady is her ultimate fate. Not all Bag Ladies, or Homeless People, were created equal. Some, and maybe many more in the not too distant future, have fallen long and hard because they only knew and know one way and cannot adapt.

    When you come into great wealth, you must remember to be generous.

    Blue Jasmine

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