Guest Post: Three Paths To Near-Term Human Extinction

Tyler Durden's picture

Submitted by Guy McPherson of Nature Bats Last

Three Paths To Near-Term Human Extinction

About a decade ago I realized we were putting the finishing touches on our own extinction party, with the party probably over by 2030. During the intervening period I’ve seen nothing to sway this belief, and much evidence to reinforce it. Yet the protests, ridicule, and hate mail reach a fervent pitch when I speak or write about the potential for near-term extinction of Homo sapiens.

“We’re different.”
“We’re special.”
“We’re too intelligent.”
“We’ll find a way out. We always do.”

We’re humans, and therefore animals. Like all life, we’re special. Like all organisms, we’re susceptible to overshoot. Like all organisms, we will experience population decline after overshoot.

Let’s take stock of our current predicaments, beginning with one of several ongoing processes likely to cause our extinction. Then I’ll point out the good not quite so bad news.

We’re headed for extinction via global climate change

It’s hotter than it used to be, but not as hot as it’s going to be. The political response to this now-obvious information is to suspend the scientist bearing the bad news. Which, of course, is no surprise at all: As Australian climate scientist Gideon Polya points out, the United States must cease production of greenhouse gases within 3.1 years if we are to avoid catastrophic runaway greenhouse. I think Polya is optimistic, and I don’t think Obama’s on-board with the attendant collapse of the U.S. industrial economy.

Apparently — too little, too late — a couple people have noticed a few facts about Obama. This “awakening” might explain why his political support is headed south at a rapid clip.

But back to climate change, one of three likely extinction events. Well, three I know about: I’m certain there are others, and any number can play. With four months remaining in the year, the U.S. has already tied its yearly record for the most billion-dollar weather disasters. Russia is headed directly for loss of 30% of its permafrost by 2050. Tundra fires could accelerate planetary warming. This year, the Northeast Passage was open as of 27 July. This is a massively dire situation for the Arctic. In fact, we have passed a de facto tipping point with respect to Arctic ice. This latter outcome is stunning, but only to those who follow the horrifically conservative and increasingly irrelevant Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Nature is responding with hybrid bears, suggesting the near-term loss of all polar bears. Indeed, all Earth’s systems are rapidly declining. Many organisms can’t keep up as they try to stay ahead of an overheating planet.

As the living planet decays, we keep piling on. Examples abound. Here’s one tiny example among thousands, from that pesky BP well at Deepwater Horizon. It’s out of the news cycle, but it’s not done destroying life in the Gulf of Mexico. But perhaps this tidbit belongs beneath the heading of …

We’re headed for extinction via environmental collapse

Nature is bankrupt, just like Wall Street and the USA. Thanks for playing, but you lose. The banksters on Wall Street “win.” But only in the short term. In the long run, we’re all dead (as first stated by John Maynard Keynes).

Among the consequences of taking down more than 200 species each day: at some point, the species we take into the abyss is Homo sapiens (the wise ape). The vanishing point draws nearer every day. Our response, in the industrialized world: Bring on the toys. Burn all fossil fuels. Harvest the rain forests and strip-mine the soil. Pollute the water, eat the seed bank.

And, most importantly, figure out how we can make a few bucks as the world burns.

We have our hand in a monkey trap, and we can’t let go.

We’re headed for extinction via nuclear meltdown

Safely shuttering a nuclear power plant requires a decade or two of careful planning. Far sooner, we’ll complete the ongoing collapse of the industrial economy. This is a source of my nuclear nightmares.

When the world’s 442 nuclear power plants melt down catastrophically, we’ve entered an extinction event. Think clusterfukushima, times 400. Ionizing radiation could, and probably will, destroy every terrestrial organism and, therefore, every marine and freshwater organism. That, by the way, includes the most unique, special, intelligent animal on Earth.

Ready for some good news?

Meanwhile, back on Wall Street

The Securities and Exchange Commission is busily covering up Wall Street crimes, just as they did during the last presidential administration. And, as it turns out, they’ve been performing this trick for two decades. Finally, though, the S&P is taking the U.S. to the woodshed.

The S&P knows what the media and politicians know: U.S. national debt isn’t really $14 trillion and change, as we’ve been led to believe. In fact, it exceeds $200 trillion. And, back when it was a mere $10.5 trillion, it exceeded the value of all circulating currencies as well as all the gold ever mined. It cannot be paid off, ever. The response will be default. With luck, it’ll happen quickly and completely, thus sending us directly to the new dark age (with the post-industrial Stone Age soon to follow).

The ongoing crash of the stock markets differs from prior events because, for one thing, the Fed is about out of ammunition. At this juncture, there are no easy solutions. In fact, there are no solutions at all. We have just about used up all our “rabbits in the hat” as far as fiscal and monetary policy are concerned. Economics pundit Graham Summers agrees: The Fed is about to find itself completely powerless as 2008 redux appears.

Think of 2008 as an economic teddy bear, and 2011 as a grizzly. And I think I mentioned this one already: The hunters are out of bullets.

The all-too-expected political response from the final remaining superpower: ratchet up covert wars. Maybe, while we’re at it, launch another World War.

The bottom line

You’ve been warned repeatedly in this space, and the Guardian finally joins the party: The industrial economic system is about to blow. This burst of hope, our remaining chance at salvation, will undoubtedly be greeted with the usual assortment of protests, ridicule, and hate mail I’ve come to expect from planetary consumers who want to keep consuming the planet.

The underlying predicament — reduction in available energy — is described graphically by Gail Tverberg in this essay. She then tacks on fine analysis in this subsequent essay. Jared Diamond adds a dose of complexity, as described by Erik Curren at Transition Voice.

But these warning shots are only the most recent in a rich history dating back to Marcus Aurelius (and probably further). For materials only slightly older than me that focus on our energy predicament, take a peek at M. King Hubbert’s 1956 paper and the text of Admiral Hyman G. Rickover’s 1957 speech.

And then, let go.

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Cassandra Syndrome's picture

We are going to have Global Cooling for at least a decade because of weak solar activity. The weakest since the Dalton Minimum 200 years ago. 

Ahmeexnal's picture

"global climate change"

He must be one of Al Gore's interns.

Fuh Querada's picture

Yeah, with world government, superbureaucrats and global taxation to fight it

spiral_eyes's picture

my (far less cartoonish) take on self-anointed self-destruction...  

but really tyler, this environmental apocalypticism is pretty counter-factual... not everything that comes bundled in sixteen shades of doom and gloom is true. 

Thomas's picture

Totally counterfactual. Although those may or may not be problems, with the exception of thermonuclear war or pandemic, we are here for awhile. The oddest part of all is that "we're made of meat"...

grekko's picture

Global warming is HOGWASH!  Is the planet warming, YES, is it the fault of man, NO!  Please explain why Mars and Venus are heating too.  I'm sure they have real bad traffic congestion with alot of cars and trucks spewing all those terrible emissions.  Mankind's contributions to grenhouse gasses are lesss than 1%.  Please give me a break on AGW.

Industry.  is it imploding?  Yes, due to Wall Street greed (as well as all of those politicians they own, lock, stock, and barrel).  Put a few big ones in jail, and it'll end.  Business will thrive once again as long as we do away with a heck of alot of regulations and reform the tax policy so they don't get a deduction for shipping jobs to China.

Nuclear meltdown?  Unfortunately, we have no way to make up the necessary power for consumption without them.  Like them or not, Nuke plants are here to stay.  The only way they will all go into meltdown at the same time is if the Nibiru swings close enough to this planet that it causes massive worldwide earthquakes all at the same time.  I'm not having toomuch worry about that one happening.   Is it possible?  Ya, but highly unlikely.

The writer of this article seems to me to be a bit paranoid.  I think he should just kick back and have a couple of Mai Tais.  He'll sleep better and hopefully stop wasting our time with this rubbish.  We kow how to fix the troubles in the world, we just need the "paid for" politicians to get on board.  Have a nice day everyone.

FEDbuster's picture

Nukes would warm things up for awhile, then cool things down (nuclear winter?).  Since over population and a big wave of senior citizens owed money and healthcare, I am thinking global man made pandemic aimed at 60+ population.  Thin the herd with pandemic or WW3 (maybe a few strategic nukes).

Spirit Of Truth's picture

We will nuke ourselves long before global warming becomes a world-ending issue IMHO.  In fact, implausible concerns (e.g., Planet X, pole shifts, etc.) may be mass psychological diversions from what should be the obvious fact that Russia is planning to unleash an all-out nuclear war against the U.S. and Western powers, possibly in short order:


Russia's Secret War Plans


eisley79's picture



good try though, "i am for his doom and gloom policy", but "i am against his belief in pseudo-science quakery policy"



For you belief in baseless eco-facist propaganda with no real scientific evidence you win:

JW n FL's picture

The billionaire Koch brothers, who are buying the US election through the Citizens United decisions held another one of their get togethers.

Attending were two supreme court judges - the same judges who allowed corporations to give unlimited donations to any political candidate of their choice - Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas.

Also attending were Fox News Channel's Glenn Beck, as well as reliables like Haley Barbour and Bobby Jindal (no surprise there).

Interview of Matt Taibbi by Keith Olbermann.

The Koch Brother are super-rich global warming sceptcis. Which would all be fine, except for the names and fronts they seem to hide behind. The Koch's are a case study in faking it on a massive scale.

The Koch's are pro-free market, except when they benefit. Every year they take $123.6 million US dollars in subsidies from Hugo Chavez's socialist government.

Three weeks ago the Koch's were caught employing PR firm, New Media Strategies, to santise their Wikipedia entries and distance themselves from the Tea Party.



moregoldplease's picture

Who bought the Obama election?


JW n FL's picture

Daily Kos: Global Warming is real say the Koch Brothers - Cached You +1'd this publicly. Undo

Apr 4, 2011 – Global Warming is real say the Koch Brothers. The Climate Change Denier Scientist the Koch Brothers paid to debunk Global Warming has come ...


  • The Koch Brothers' Vast Right-Wing Media Conspiracy | Mother Jones

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    Feb 4, 2011 – The Koch brothers are outraged—outraged!—that people were tricked into believing they care about global warming. ...

  • Koch Industries: Secretly Funding the Climate Denial Machine ...

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    Charles and David Koch have quietly funneled over $55 million to ... that are working to delay policies and regulations aimed at stopping global warming. ... The Koch brothers, their family members, and their employees direct a web of ...

  • Koch Industries multibillionaire Koch brothers bankroll attacks on ...

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    Mar 18, 2010 – The Koch brothers have stepped forward with deep pockets to bankroll ... Red Hot Lies: How Global Warming Alarmists Use Threats, Fraud and ...

  • New Yorker exposes Koch brothers along with their greenwashing and ...

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    Aug 24, 2010 – TRENDING: Global Warming · Climate Change Deniers · Election 2012 · Science ... Koch Brothers Fund Bogus Study Bashing Offshore Wind ...

  • Billionaire Koch brothers back suspension of California climate ...

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    Sep 2, 2010 – A company owned by oil billionaires Charles and David Koch has contributed $1 million to Proposition 23, a November ballot initiative to ...

  • Smiddywesson's picture

    In a century where there are EMPs, who needs nuclear warhead.

    One well placed EMP and everything from Ontario to Miami goes dark, including the control systems of nuclear power plants.  If power can be brought back up, no problem.  But in an EMP attack, the power stays off and the nuke plants all melt down.  End of game.


    New_Meat's picture

    dude: two words: gauss shield.

    You don't get  out much, do ya?

    - Ned

    snowball777's picture

    That'd be one big ass Faraday cage and there'd be some part of it visible in the reactor buildings, don'tcha think?

    Calmyourself's picture

    Sagan all but repudiated nuke winter before his death..  There was no science behind it just a really, really firm view on how things should be just like MMGW scientists.  TD, please no more of this persons greeniac, luddite, malthusian gibberish.

    Oh bust the Fed +.

    JW n FL's picture
  • [PDF]
    Redefining What's Possible for Clean Energy by ... - Gigaton Throwdown

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    File Format: PDF/Adobe Acrobat
    With such a policy, we can achieve gigaton scale by 2020, stabilize the climate, and create a new industry. While we did not prepare this report, ...


  • Introduction - Gigaton Throwdown

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    Download the Introduction (PDF: 491 KB) or the Entire Report (PDF: 9 MB ...
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  • Young Buckethead's picture

    We will not be here "for awhile". Fukushima alone will kill hundreds of millions of people within a few years. Who will be left to keep the cooling pumps running at the other nuke plants in Japan when everyone there dies and the whole country is declared a 'hot zone'? Fukushima was only Act I.

    The rain from the radioactive oceans will slowly kill off the rest, through increased infant mortality rates. In Iraq alone, the DU dust we left has created an infant mortality rate around 80%. Israel is now experiencing similar results from their use of DU munitions against the Palestinians and Lebanese. The old folks die, no new kids to replace them. Three generations, max.

    Start your bucket list. Everything else is irrelevant.

    WebWeasel's picture

    There is a reason we find the remains of formerly great civilizations. They were all "immune to history", just like us.

    Thomas's picture

    But they didn't necessarily died; they moved on. That's a far cry from extinction.

    old naughty's picture

    Ah ha, they moved on; so we will? Because we are special?

    IMHO, all three paths will converge, plus something else(anyone care to make predictions?), and this path is the "Y" where no return is "allowed".

    Help, we are getting, returns from our future (yea, future ---and them, no more)...

    No, we are not special. And the path we are on, not "allowed" !!!

    Thanks for sharing.

    steve from virginia's picture


     - First of all, interesting to see Guy McPherson on ZH, I guess Jeremy Grantham has made doomers a cultish fav

     - Don't cry little children over your lost cars, they won't be missed after they are gone.

    SPADOC4's picture

    Fukushima alone will kill hundreds of millions of people within a few years.

     That's quite a claim. Hyperbole? And all within "a few years?" Just how many years? Three?

    I'll agree the north eastern quadrant of Japan has a serious problem and that problem can/probably is spreading toward Tokyo. But compare your claims with those made during Chernobyl and TMI.

    Young Buckethead's picture

    Here's one of the international experts who made these claims: Chernobyl and TMI are well covered.

    Dr. Caldicott's CV:

    Anything by Arnie Gundersen or Dr. Chris Busby. That would get one started.

    CompassionateFascist's picture

    Helen Caldicott is a globalist-socialist. One of the original "better Red than Dead" crowd.

    JimBowie1958's picture

    CF, I understand your concern, but that doesnt change the scientific facts she relates concerning the internal damage caused by metabolized radioactive material.


    Smiddywesson's picture

    Experts?  Everytime I hear "expert" I prepare myself to hear a bunch of malarky.  This time IS different.  We have no exprets anymore (if we ever did, I would be surprised)

    Golden monkey's picture

    You sound like a troll sponsored by a dumb monkey. 

    IronShield's picture

    Darn you, I hate blowing soda out my nose...

    grekko's picture

    I agree with SPADO.  Fukishima will be brought under control.  This is really bad in Japan, but they will eventually get it under control.  Is it a disaster?  Yes, but they are throwing all the money they have to at it to make it better.  give the physicists and engineers time to do what they must.  As for the gloom and doomers here...stay out of the sun and far back from your TV and computer screens...they give off radiation as well.

    Young Buckethead's picture

    Money doesn't matter. The technology to clean this up does not exist, and will not exist before we're all gone. How do you clean up the plutonium that's already circled the Northern Hemisphere? How do you pull out all the radionuclides in the water from emergency cooling operations, out of the world's oceans, before it turns to rain and destroys the world's crops?

    I hope I'm wrong, I really do, but 30+ years of studying these things tells me we're fucked as a species.

    samslaught's picture

    Your last sentence gives you away.  It's a qualifier that inferior people use when they aren't able to prove their point with evidence, facts, or knowledge.  The amount of time that you have spent studying a subject is not relevant.  If we had a time machine I could summon someone that spent 50 years studying the Earth and concluded it was flat.  If you have a point to make, make it.  If you know what you’re talking about you should be able to convince the rest of us without leaning on qualifiers.  

    Young Buckethead's picture

    Well, I was a nuke in the Navy, but then again, I could be lying, so who's to say?

    Again, I hope all the international radiation contamination experts are wrong on this. I've got kids that I don't want to see die from cancer. But the only people that say this is going to be ok are people from the nuke industry. It's like trusting gang bangers to tell me that they aren't guilty of drive by shootings. You do the math.

    BigJim's picture

    Fukushima probably will kill quite a few people. But the radiation and radionucliides it has and will release are considerably less than what was released by literally THOUSANDS of nukes detonated between 1945 and 1980.

    monkeyboy's picture

    If there's a massive increase in birth deformities/defects/etc in 9+ months from the disaster, it will be hard for authorities to deny that the radiation levels aren't a problem.

    Pay Day Today's picture

    1) Quite a few of those tests were conducted underground

    2) The amount of radioactive material in a nuclear warhead is measured in pounds. There are many many tons of uncontrolled radioactive material at Fukushima.

    Hugh_Jorgan's picture

    Hey there, Mr. Navy Nuke. I was qualified EWS, SRO, RADCON QA Inspector, EDPO and I was an instructor for 4 years, and I can say unequivically that what you learned in the Navy in no way qualifies you as any kind of authority on the Fukashima disaster's long term effects to Mankind, period.

    NumNutt's picture

    If things are as bad as you say why don't you just kill yourself and spare the rest of us from listening to your crying.

    Smiddywesson's picture

    I love radiation.  

    SOMETHING mutated me from a grumpy old man with soon to be worthless stocks,

    into to a grumpy old man with a lot of gold and silver.

    Radiation = Yum, Yum

    Missiondweller's picture

    "In Iraq alone, the DU dust we left has created an infant mortality rate around 80%."


    That's a remarkable statement. Can you cite a source?

    bonin006's picture

    Shame on you. The Onion is much more realistic than that.

    MrJoy's picture :

    A medical survey, "Cancer, Infant Mortality and Birth Sex Ratio in Fallujah, Iraq 2005–2009" published in July 2010, states that the “Increase in cancer and birth defects…are alarmingly high” and that infant mortality 2009/2010 has reached 13.6%.

    Source is in the wikipedia article.

    OldPhart's picture

    We did a shit load of openair nuclear testing up until the early 70's.  I don't have three eyes, nor do my adult kids.  My sisters multiple grandchildren seem funtional also.

    While radiation is a concern, and many do die of inoridantely high levels, I don't think that is our immediate problem. 

    Thomas's picture

    So you are saying we will be extinct or you are saying there will be a big die off? If it's the latter, I have no problem with your thesis. If the former, that is where I disagree. The global population might go below a billion. I doubt it goes below 1.

    trav7777's picture

    this is just the dumbest hysterical shit ever

    Pay Day Today's picture

    Interestingly, that's exactly what a lot of mainstream economists and financial journalists think about ZH.