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GCC speaker: Climate changes already dire

GREENFIELD — Rather than getting caught up in the dire predictions of what climate change will do to planet Earth, conservation biologist Guy McPherson cut to the chase: none of the increasingly sophisticated computer modeling shows the dramatic consequences of feedback scenarios that will lead to “rapid, unpredictable and non-linear responses” from nature itself.

Ultimately, said the former University of Arizona professor and author of 10 books, along with a blog, “Nature Bats Last,” the environmental catastrophe will likely make the Earth uninhabitable in a matter of decades.

“I’d actually be shocked if it weren’t too late,” McPherson told Wednesday’s gathering of more than 100 students and community members at Greenfield Community College in a talk sponsored by the college’s Green Campus Committee. “But if we act as if it’s too late, then that actually becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.”

The National Center for Atmospheric Research predicted in January 2011 that global temperatures are likely by the end of the century to cause irreversible feedbacks. He said methane that will be released when rising global temperatures trigger melting of the Siberian permafrost and decomposition of the Amazon forest soil and boreal peat.

“An ice-free Arctic Ocean hasn’t happened for 3 million years, since before there were humans on this planet,” McPherson said, who called it “horrific” that politicians, the media, and the general public has ignored the mounting evidence of dramatic natural releases of methane such as spontaneous Russian forest and bog fires.

“These are irreversible,” he said of these natural releases of greenhouse gases that have already been documented. “You can’t put the cap back on the soda bottle. Once it’s open, that carbon dioxide starts coming out.”

“Our human bodies can handle profound temperature fluctuations, said McPherson, who lives in the southern Arizona desert. “The ecosystems on which we depend for our lives, on the other hand, are incredibly sensitive. Positive feedbacks from a 2 (centigrade) warming lead quickly and undoubtedly to a 6 degree (43 F) warmer world. The last time it was 6 degrees warmer on this planet, there were snakes the size of yellow school buses living in the Amazon, and the largest mammal on this planet was the size of a shrew.”

Oceans 6 degrees warmer “would support no phytoplankton at all. The ocean is dead at 6 degrees. Fifty percent of oxygen on this particular planet is produced by photoplankton in the ocean. The other 50 percent is produced by land plants. And 6 degrees warming I suspect would kill nearly all land plants. We’re going to have a hard time getting along without oxygen.”

Climate researcher Malcolm Light of the Arctic Methane Emergency Group went so far as to warn in February, “This process of methane release will accelerate exponentially, release huge quantities of methane into the atmosphere and lead to the demise of all life on earth before the middle of this century.”

University of Utah physicist Tim Garrett wrote in 2009 that only complete economic collapse will prevent runaway global climate change and destroy life as we know it. McPherson, producing a list of 80 economic forecasters, from Arthur Laffer to Bill Clinton and George Soros have predicted a global economic collapse in the near future.

McPherson told the gathering that he hopes that comes to pass, and that we begin to take seriously the implications of climate change in lieu of a “drill, baby, drill” mentality for depleting fossil fuel reserves. With a 15 percent gap expected by 2015 between world production and global consumption of oil — “the lifeblood of the world’s industrial economy” — he said the economy will unravel and make the environmental reality more apparent.

“What’s it going to take before Americans notice and actually resist?” he asked, calling an economic collapse “good news” to slow climate change and end human “population overshoot” that leads to extinction of more than 200 species a day and continued environmental degradation of the planet.

“We’re driven by consumption,” he said, adding that the petroleum-driven lifestyle leads to “full-scale destruction of the living planet on which we depend for our very lives.”

McPherson said “We should be preparing for an ambiguous future, so that we aren’t dependent on fossil fuels for water … for our food. You want to start a revolution? Start it in the backyard. … Let’s do something.”

You can reach Richie Davis at:
or 413-772-0261, Ext. 269

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