The Well-Intentioned, Misguided Eco-Doomers

If you are a regular consumer of environmental news and commentary, you are familiar with the narrative of humanity’s downfall. The story, we are told, looks like this.




If we continue to ignore the danger signs while exceeding the planet’s carrying capacity, the future may get ugly.


For the time being, we are on a precipice.


Although our thought leaders and scholars have been giving us ample warning, we don’t seem to be paying attention. Maybe they should listen to the words of Jenny Price and try a new tack.

But that may be asking too much. Once someone starts down this civilization-is-collapsing road, like Guardian blogger Nafeez Ahmed, it’s hard to stop.  If you want a tour guide to the apocalypse, Ahmed is your guy. He is the erudite version of this fringe chararacter.

I must admit that I find the collapse junkies entertaining. I’m sure they believe the world is headed for a crash and their sincerity and eloquence is enough to scare some of us senseless. Who knows how many people built a bunker in Montana after seeing this film.


Others who drink too much from the ecocide well may sink into a fatalistic state of despair:

Every time I read the NBL [Nature Bats Last] posts, I get the feeling that there´s nothing to be done with our lives, and our future. We have no future. We just have to wait for catastrophe.

A widely circulated piece from the New York Times recently advised:

The biggest problem we face is a philosophical one: understanding that this civilization is already dead. The sooner we confront this problem, and the sooner we realize there’s nothing we can do to save ourselves, the sooner we can get down to the hard work of adapting, with mortal humility, to our new reality.

The problem that we are advised to confront is the very thing that has greatly advanced humanity in the last 200 hundred years: Industrialization. Indeed, the modernizing forces that shape our lives today are treated with contempt by many of the planet’s self-designated guardians.

Take industrial agriculture, for example. Do you believe that large scale mechanized farming, with its fertilizers and pesticides, has been a net plus for society? Now I’m not saying industrial agriculture is perfect; it has a major environmental impact that can’t be ignored or swept aside. But on the whole, are we better off today because of our industrialized food system (which still has plenty of room for improvement)? Or should we nix the tractors and go back to the horse plow? While we’re at it, should we go back to using cow dung instead of synthetic fertilizers? Should we nix the herbicides and go back to pulling out all the weeds by hand?

These are not trivial questions. For there are people who sincerely believe that organic farming is sufficient to feed the world. It is not a fringe view, either. The U.N. was touting agroecology a few years back, citing it “as a way to boost food production and improve the situation of the poorest.”

Evidence-based science tells us otherwise.

No matter, in a recent piece, Nafeez Ahmed told us of a new study that “raises critical questions about the capacity of traditional industrial agricultural methods to sustain global food production for a growing world population.” He then referred to that UN endorsement of organic farming:

Two years ago, a landmark report by the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food demonstrated that agroecology based on sustainable, small-scale, organic methods could potentially double food production in entire regions facing persistent hunger, over five to 10 years.

(This is the equivalent of those who insist that wind and solar and a heaping of hydropower could potentially meet the energy needs of the world by 2030. Nobody punctures that bubble more effectively than this guy.)

The problem with doomsday prophets like Ahmed isn’t so much their incessant warnings about imminent eco-collapse, but more the solutions they proffer, which, if carried out in the developing world, really would lead to societal catastrophe.

140 Responses to “The Well-Intentioned, Misguided Eco-Doomers”

  1. Uncle Al says:

    A tipping point is the promontory receding in the distance as you fall.

  2. J M says:

    The study Ahmad quoted was actually kind of funny itself. Scientists are really worried how crop yields are not increasing in Europe. Well, could it be that the increase in organic farming, EU-mandated cuts in pesticide and fertilizer use plus resistance to GM varieties might have an impact? 20% of Austrian farmland is organic and Danish farmers are complaining that fertilizing quotas are limiting crop yields.

    “Last week, Aarhus University published figures that show that Denmark under fertilises its fields and that yields could be increased by 3 to 5 hg per hectare. Low supply of nitrogen to the soil has also meant that the protein content in cereals has fallen by about two per cent over the past 20 years.” – See more at:

  3. jh says:

    What I find most interesting about the EcoPocalypse peddlers is their similarity to old-testament prophets. For most of them, the decline of nature is a moral problem first and foremost. They see nature as a God, Gaia if you like, which they believe will “strike back” at humans for humans’ transgressions against it, causing a collapse of corrupt Western society. Like their biblical brethren before them (as many scholars have shown), their moral proclamations are intrinsically mixed with their personal political interests. For the modern EcoProphet, the single most important driver of Western corruption and the Corruption of Nature is the oil and industry.

    Science is merely a tool for the EcoProphet. They seek science only to justify their beliefs to others and to provide social leverage for their “solutions”. But they readily reject any science that suggests their beliefs are erroneous, which is why they reject GMOs (these are an offense against Gaia) but embrace Climate Change (which provides justification for the collapse theory and, if suggested policies are implemented, will slay the oil dragon).

    The EcoProphet thrives today for two reasons: First, Western society is struggling through an economic rough spot. The general population feels decidedly unoptimistic about it’s future. Second, the “thought leaders” of the current generation (boomer and GenX) grew up with the very palpable Nuclear Apocalypse scenario as a part of every day life. The very idea of pending Apocalypse is baked into their brains like raisins in a muffin, such that even people that are educated and otherwise sensible fall easily for doomsday scenarios.

  4. mem_somerville says:


    First, Western society is struggling through an economic rough spot. The general population feels decidedly unoptimistic about it’s future.

    For a while I was hangin’ with peak oil doomers. I was interested in less consumption, less emissions, etc. But I wasn’t on board with the apocalypse/bunker doomers, which sometimes caused friction on the boards. One day I was expressing frustration with them once again, and another of the rare women on the board said something like this: Well, you have to understand that these folks aren’t cutting it in the current economy. They imagine they’d be on top with their blacksmith skills and weaponry, and their organic plot of land and cisterns, if it all actually did go to hell.

    That struck me as a pretty interesting idea of what the appeal of this narrative is.

  5. jh says:

    OMG, that’s so true!

    One person I bump into frequently commented to me not long ago that his guns and ammo will be a better investment than stocks when the market goes to hell and we have to survive in the post-apocalyptic world.

    A few years ago I was working in the mining industry, doing gold exploration work. Man, I thought I’d crossed into another universe. I call these people “Gold Bugs”. To them, inflation is about to explode, the US$$ is about to collapse, and gold will be the only currency of value left in the world. They were UBER pissed off when we bailed out the banks. It destroyed the entire foundation of their world. The banks were supposed to collapse because, in their minds, debt – and the entire concept of fractional reserve banking – is a sin against nature (sound familiar?) for which retribution is coming (sound familiar again?). They have their own special “Gold Bug Economics”, which draws on a few concepts from economics (inflation, debt) but otherwise has no relevance to the real world. Incredible.

  6. Thomas Fuller says:

    I struggle to find a single metric that supports the Collapsitarians. From the increases in agricultural production, longevity and health measures to the decreases in the number of the truly poor, the world keeps getting better.

    Three writers have come out with books filled with statistics that show this to be true–Julian Simon, Bjorn Lomborg and Matt Ridley. Their reception by the Collapsitarians lacks only a stake and a match.

    Things are getting better. They will continue to get better. They will continue to get better at an increasing rate. This will continue to be ignored.

  7. Mados says:

    Perhaps, but this article doesn’t raise a single solid argument that tells us why they are not right, neither does it suggest alternative solutions to replace the apparently idiotic ones suggested by doomsday prophets. So there is no point really, apart from the author expressing how he does not like to hear the doom and gloom and why, therefore, the people who say what he does not like to hear must be morons. So, although perhaps some of them are, this isn’t better.

  8. Keith Kloor says:

    On Simon, Lomborg, Ridley:
    In terms of these debates today and the role they play, I think that if Lomborg and Ridley didn’t underplay the legitimate risks posed by climate change, ecological degradation, etc, then they might have made greater headway with the enviro crowd.

    At least that’s my theory.

  9. thinkahol says:

    The report links global security and escalating conflicts with the urgent need to transform agriculture toward what it calls “ecological intensification.” The report concludes, “This implies a rapid and significant shift from conventional, monoculture-based and high-external-input-dependent industrial production toward mosaics of sustainable, regenerative production systems that also considerably improve the productivity of small-scale farmers.”

  10. thinkahol says:

    Here are the metrics:

    According to a NASA research report, “Is a Sleeping Climate Giant Stirring in the Arctic?”: “Over hundreds of millennia, Arctic permafrost soils have accumulated vast stores of organic carbon—an estimated 1,400 to 1,850 petagrams of it (a petagram is 2.2 trillion pounds, or 1 billion metric tons). That’s about half of all the estimated organic carbon stored in Earth’s soils. In comparison, about 350 petagrams of carbon have been emitted from all fossil-fuel combustion and human activities since 1850. Most of this carbon is located in thaw-vulnerable top soils within 10 feet (3 meters) of the surface.”

    NASA scientists, along with others, are learning that the Arctic permafrost—and its stored carbon—may not be as permanently frosted as its name implies. Research scientist Charles Miller of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory is the principal investigator of the Carbon in Arctic Reservoirs Vulnerability Experiment (CARVE), a five-year NASA-led field campaign to study how climate change is affecting the Arctic’s carbon cycle. He told NASA, “Permafrost soils are warming even faster than Arctic air temperatures—as much as 2.7 to 4.5 degrees Fahrenheit (1.5 to 2.5 degrees Celsius) in just the past 30 years. As heat from Earth’s surface penetrates into permafrost, it threatens to mobilize these organic carbon reservoirs and release them into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide and methane, upsetting the Arctic’s carbon balance and greatly exacerbating global warming.”

  11. Barry Vacker says:

    My apologies for self-promotion, but my book explains why apocalyptic scenarios (plausible or not) replicate in media, science, and culture. Check it out:–+again

  12. thinkahol says:

    the choice isn’t between tractors and hoeing by hand, it’s between monocultures that erode natural capital and leads to collapse and biodynamic systems that rebuild natural capital and sustainably create healthier products.

  13. thinkahol says:

    These are my personal preference:

    Robots Will Steal Your Job, but That’s OK: Federico Pistono at TEDxVienna

    Dan Barber: How I fell in love with a fish

    Allan Savory: How to fight desertification and reverse climate change

    Dan Nocera: Personalized Energy

  14. J M says:

    The first page of this report states that the views expressed in articles are those of authors, not UNCTAD.

    And guess who has written the article on biotechnology in this report? Jack Heinemann, who is well-known in anti-GMO circles:

    “Genetically engineered wheat contains an enzyme suppressor that, when consumed by humans, could cause permanent liver failure (and death). That’s the warning issued today by molecular biologist Jack Heinemann of the University of Canterbury in Australia.

    Heinemann has published an eye-opening report that details this warning and calls for rigorous scientific testing on animals before this crop is ever consumed by humans. The enzyme suppressor in the wheat, he says, might also attack a human enzyme that produces glycogen. Consumers who eat genetically modified wheat would end up contaminating their bodies with this enzyme-destroying wheat, causing their own livers to be unable to produce glycogen, a hormone molecule that helps the body regulate blood sugar metabolism. This, in turn, would lead to liver failure.

    “What we found is that the molecules created in this wheat, intended to silence wheat genes, can match human genes, and through ingestion, these molecules can enter human beings and potentially silence our genes,” said Heinemann in a press conference on the threat of GM wheat

    Learn more:

  15. Barry Vacker says:

    Thoughtful post, Keith. Interesting comments by readers. We should remember that apocalyptic scenarios reach way back in human civilization, to at least Plato’s “Atlantis,” and continue today, only in much greater quantity and diversity. The question is: why? I have written on this topic and teach a course on “Media, Culture, and the End of the World” at Temple University in Philadelphia. The reasons for the
    replication of apocalyptic scenarios are complex and go beyond mere paranoia or collapsitarianism. This is true regardless of whether the scenarios are plausible (Cold War warnings about nuclear war) or absurd (Maya 2012 “prophecies”), scientific predictions (climate change, rising sea levels) or Hollywood blockbusters (from 2013: Oblivion, World War Z, Gravity, The Hunger Games).

    If we think of the apocalyptic scenarios as memes, then what perceived “survival advantages” do
    the apocalyptic memes confer to believers. At the broadest level, they provide: 1) warnings about possible “Ends” and offer 2) hope for “New Beginnings.” “Ends” provide warnings, fears of the future, and visions of our suicide or murder by the cosmos (asteroids, meteors, supernovas). Ends are complemented by the promise of New Beginnings, such as a transformation of human consciousness,
    a clean slate for starting anew, and the awe of the sublime total destruction followed by something new. Finally, at the philosophical level, envisioning our demise poses the question of human significance in the vast cosmos of space and time. So, we see some combination of these reasons and patterns in media, movies, science, and wherever there is an apocalyptic scenario, no matter how plausible or implausible. All this and much more is explained in my book published in 2012.–+again

  16. Buddy199 says:

    After a while, the public just tunes out the hysterical End-of-Days types, especially since their track record has been spotty at best:

    The Population Bomb (1969) – world-wide famine and civilizational collapse by 1980’s, didn’t happen.

    Energy Crisis (1973) – the world will soon run out of oil, gasoline will cost $20 a gallon by 1990.

    Killer Bees (1974) – B-movie type invasion of aggressive South American insects stinging us into submission, didn’t happen.

    Global Cooling (1974) – goes without saying.

    Nuclear Winter (1982) – not

    AIDS Pandemic (1985) – prediction that HIV would rival the effects of the medieval bubonic plagues. No.

    Global Warming (1988) – world wide devastation within 20 years, blah, blah, blah…we’re still here and global temps have stalled for the last dozen years or so(?). Maybe, some day.

    Y2K (1999) – no.

    WMD’s in Iraq (2003) – nooooo.

    Then again, while they were waiting for the Killer Bees to get here none foresaw 9/11 or the sub-prime mortgage-fueled economic melt down of 2008. After the novelty of the latest apocalyptic prediction wears off people just go back to their lives and business as usual. Your song and dance was entertaining for a bit, but we’ve heard it all before and have bills we need to figure out how to pay.

  17. jh says:

    significant shift from conventional, monoculture-based and high-external-input-dependent industrial production toward mosaics of sustainable, regenerative production systems…

    Wow! That’s some impressive verbage! Note how it lacks any reference to what happens on the ground. We don’t need to know that, right? Just be impressed and nod knowingly.

  18. Buddy199 says:

    Maybe they go a little to far, but a stock market driven to new highs by being force fed $85 billion printed out of thin air each month is nothing to hang your hat on either.

  19. mem_somerville says:

    Yeah, sadly, Jack’s record of being totally wrong on that wheat claim should make them question other conclusions of his.

    He really should be more careful with his claims. And here’s another tip: if you think Natural News is a credible source of anything, that’s also 100% wrong.

  20. Matt B says:

    Agreed about gold nuts; there was a time when gold had a real value due to its ability to be easily shaped with minimal force and heat, plus it never corroded and could be easily divided/assimilated. That was useful in centuries past to create metallic items that would last for generations yet still be transformable.

    Now, with stainless steels, aluminum alloys, titanium alloys etc, the uniqueness of gold properties is gone. The irony is that the supposed “value” of gold vs paper/electronic currency is built on similar dubious faith of inherent value,but don’t expect any awareness from the gold nuts on that one…..

  21. mem_somerville says:

    Oh, how nice to see you here. I just tried to get your book from my library last week. But it’s not in their system. If they don’t buy it for me I’ll get it myself soon.

  22. Matt B says:

    The problem with the enviro crowd is, any risk assessment shorty of catastrophic is unacceptable…..

  23. Graham Strouts says:

    I dont think you are right about that. For one thing, in what way does Lomborg for example “underplay the legitimate risks posed by climate change” ? He is generally much closer to giving an accurate summation of the science than many enviros; he merely points out that their proposed solutions are hopelessly ineffective. The problem is, enviros routinely exaggerate risks of AGW for exactly the reasons you give here- but their aim is to impose their own “solutions” which tend to involve down-scaling and localising. CCS, nuclear, geo-engineering, shale gas- these are the approaches to AGW that can actually make a difference, but nothing that allows the continuation of industrial society and human progress is part of the game-plan.

  24. Steven Bissell says:

    The movie ‘Collapse’ was about the financial crisis of 2009. My guess is Kloor saw the title and assumed it was about environmental issues. That’s kind of interesting isn’t it?

  25. Psyclic says:

    Some econuts never heard of the canary in the coal mine.
    Hey! I’ve got mine, jack!

  26. Matt B says:

    Buddy199, I agree with you on that, at least with gold there is a tangible and somewhat useful product being exchanged for goods and services as compared to stacks of paper or large binary numbers……

  27. thoomfoote says:

    Who me worry?

  28. kkloor says:

    I saw the movie. It was about more than that. And the dude hawks peak everything in his writings, videoes, etc.

  29. J M says:

    The zombie that won’t die—permafrost methane.

    Zero evidence that it has happened during warmer times in the Holocene or much warmer times in the Eemian. East Siberian coastal areas were up to 10 degrees C warmer in July during Eemian than today, according to pollen and fossil (plant remains) evidence.

  30. Blankenstein says:


  31. jh says:

    Name one system that’s “collapsed” because of monoculture. One.

  32. jh says:

    Excellent point.

    One of the big problems in the ClimApocalypse scenario is that the planetary geophysicists who promote it know so little about geology.

  33. jh says:

    The problem with gold is that, lacking a gold standard, it – like any other medium of exchange – has no intrinsic value. It’s just a commodity.

    All currency comes out of thin air. That’s why you need a central bank to control the supply of currency. When money is tight, you print more to avoid deflation. When its available in excess, you print less to prevent inflation.

    The gold standard fprevents you from doing that. If you have a gold standard, then the amount of currency you have is limited by gold production capacity. As we’ve seen lately with oil, production capacity of resources, at least at the longer term scale, is controlled by technological advances. So, suppose you have a period of 30-50 years with no significant improvements in gold production capacity and you’re on the gold standard. Your population, and therefore the need for currency, grows, but gold production doesn’t keep pace. More and more people with less currency to divide among them. You get a currency squeeze, and the value of currency shoots through the roof. Prices rise, wages fall. People can’t afford the basics to live. They scrape every corner of the landscape for something to live off of. If you’re the US in 1870, you can get by on the gold standard, because during a currency squeeze people can move into (supposedly) uninhabited land and live off that land. If you have a fully developed modern economy where no resources are freely available, people have no where to go.

  34. J M says:

    Well, what do you expect?

    Remember, apocalypse in Biblical sense does not mean catastrophe but revelation. Revelation of John actually tells how good triumphs over evil and how God’s kingdom will finally come. The wicked will be punished and the righteous glorified. Sort of a religious climate court, you might say 😉

    The “things are getting worse” meme is also important when you consider bringing about a social revolution. Marx and Engels predicted that capitalism and industrial revolution would create a growing underclass whose plight would only get worse. An economic crisis would then initiate a revolution and new order.

    So, for people who want to reorganize the world, catastrophe is a necessity. It is a catalyst for change.

  35. harrywr2 says:

    The problem is the fundamental need to have a purpose beyond sex,drugs and rock and roll.

    If civilization isn’t coming to an end, then what is there to ‘save’.

    How do I get to be the hero Bruce Willis in Armageddon if there is no asteroid the size of Texas hurtling towards Earth?

    The death tolls from the big killers..plagues ,war and famine have been on the down slope for 60 years regardless of the impression the 24 hours news channels may leave.

  36. Aiolus says:

    Well I guess I would agree except you ignore all the rational reasons not to use fracking. This article of course is about non rational apocalyptic types. I would say jh that it must be nice to know more then the scientists 😉 you come across a little like a shill. We KNOW oil is not sustainable, the future should be planned for even if we will be dead before it gets here.

  37. Aiolus says:

    It sounds familiar cause you literally said it in your first post….

  38. Aiolus says:

    Getting rid of taxes..? We need taxes for the Government to run. The USA just needs to close loop holes and regulate/run the tax system better. Also when you say those dollars would flow home you mean to the very rich who are storing them over seas and hiding them to maximize their profit. Do you follow the disproved trickle down theory?

  39. Aiolus says:

    The binary numbers if you mean bitcoin is a tangible (albeit computationally) product being exchanged. Take a look at the wiki. Also bitcoins have a cap in how many will be made and thus their scarcity is assured. Unlike unbacked currency. The problem with decrying unbacked currency is there is little we can do to fix it.

  40. Aiolus says:

    Global warming cannot be compared to 80% of those. I admit I do not know enough about global cooling to say that is dissimilar too. At this point in time the research showing a good deal off evidence supporting it means we can’t ignore it. Also many of the fixes will be need when non renewable fuels run out so may as well start now.

  41. Aiolus says:

    When oil runs out there will be an impact. The world’s has been getting better yes. The USA took a down turn in the 80s but overall there have been many promising trends. Having said that many things need to be fixed. Some like non renewable fuels running out or climate change can cause drastic events (I don’t think anything will wipe out mankind aside from some freak event no one can fortell, maybe jesus coming back lol) but drastic evennts should be avoided, I think.

  42. Aiolus says:

    TONS of evidence from the scary scientists (see sarcasm) says you don’t know what you’re talking about.

    The real zombie who won’t die are science deniers. Then again zombies are already dead.

    NASA = good science.

  43. Aiolus says:

    It was half insane as a point.

    Also keep in mind the geophysists, climate scientists AND the science community all support the UN report and NASA.

    Not to mention if they don’t know enough then You surely and unequivocally do not.

  44. Aiolus says:

    The point is those are finite solutions….. also I love industrial society but think capitalism has gone to far from any sense of humanity. Human progress is stalling for a large portion of the world.

    What is done needs to be done for thw people, not only for the company and the dollar. Some sort of regulated social democracy would be nice (I think).

    Even though you and I will be long dead and rotting doesn’t mean can’t look out for future generations.

  45. Aiolus says:

    Good point about rampant capitalism. Though in America the religous nuts tend to not believe in science, the climate, evolution etc.

    The world needs reorganizing because as we grow and learn we change and adapt. That is why we are great.

  46. Aiolus says:

    I read all the comments and holy jesus they have a bunch of nicknames for people who like our environment. They also heavily blur the line between ration science and doomsayers (who are silly).

    The fact is population growth, consumption,.climatechange and non renewable fuels will cause problema down the line and we should care and prepare.

    If you don’t care about others you don’t know and future generations.

    Remember all the awesome things science has brought us, so don’t flip out and call them names when you don’t like what is happening. I really think people who hate on science shouldblose the scientific privlages O:-)

  47. Aiolus says:

    True but just because he was wrong doesn’t mean GMOs don’t need to be tested and studied and regulated.
    We used to say tobacco was safe lol…

    I know. Luckily scientists and the government have made headway in tobacco regulation.

    GMOs are not proven one way or the other and further study is needed which doesn’t mean they should flood the market.

  48. J M says:

    Anybody who has ever done any farming knows that farmers try to grow just one crop per field. Have done so since Biblical times (or the warring kingdoms in China). Planting many different plants in the same field is work-intensive.

    Crop rotation is practiced everywhere as means to revive soil and break pest cycles.

  49. jh says:

    “Getting rid of taxes..? We need taxes for the Government to run”

    No, getting rid of taxes on foreign profits made by US companies that have already been taxed in the country of origin.

    “Also when you say those dollars would flow home you mean to the very rich “

    A) It’s corporate cash. It doesn’t go to individuals.

    B) The corporations have already reported the profit. Stockholders have already made their money on it.

    C) If the profits from US companies are staying in India, they’re not generating any taxes for the US, and they’re surely not generating any US jobs.

    It has nothing to do with “trickle-down” or “supply side”. The profits have already been made.

  50. jh says:

    “I would say jh that it must be nice to know more then the scientists ;-)”

    Since I am one, I feel qualified to engage the discussion. Just the same, I don’t demand fealty to my views because I have some level of expertise. Judge the argument, not the writer.

    “you come across a little like a shill.”

    I’m a shill for anything that makes the world a better place.

    you ignore all the rational reasons not to use fracking.

    Name one.

  51. jh says:

    “Not to mention if they don’t know enough then You surely and unequivocally do not.”

    You have no idea what I know or don’t know.

  52. jh says:

    “The real zombie who won’t die are science deniers.”

    I agree. The science deniers reject the evidence that shows:

    a) GMO are safe
    b) Fracking, with appropriate regulation, is safe
    c) climate sensitivity is relatively low and climate change is unlikely to have a major impact on society.
    d) vaccines are safe and effective when properly tested.
    e) climate change has no distinguishable impact on extreme weather (this, BTW, is the position of the IPCC).

  53. jh says:

    “The fact is population growth, consumption,climate change and non
    renewable fuels will cause problem down the line and we should care and

    Mistaken assumption.

    First, there is no end in sight for fossil fuels. The US has several hundred years’ supply of coal and nat gas. Recent higher oil prices have led to technological breakthroughs that have generated new reserves, pushing “the end of oil” back by decades, if it will ever happen at all.

    Second, development slows population growth and reduces pressure on the environment. What happens when you don’t have organized development? Haiti, Pakistan.

  54. Maurice Harrell says:

    The “global-warmers” are looking so silly for listening to doomsday Al Gore and other liberals who made millions over the globalist hysteria, such that they’ve agreed to stop using the term “Global Warming” and replace it with Climate Change. Where are the apologies from the socialist progressive politicians, Democrats, and big government Republicans who used propaganda lies to create a wealth transference system through government which leeches money from US TAX PAYERS in order to fund Socialist/ Marxist Organizations, Democrat Political re-election slush funds, a money-hungry network of scientific deception, corrupt unions, Socialist Billionaires, the United Nations and Planned Parenthood’s forced human sterilization/abortion programs targeting Africans, Blacks, Latinos and other minority groups for depopulation purposes. For years, Hollywood celebrity liberals and democrat politicians have told us that the ultra-rich capitalists are to blame for the disparity of wealth where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. But they never talk about how the wealthy socialist gets their money. Democrats and Liberals don’t want the mass public to realize that many Wealthy Socialist-leaning business leaders seek connections and fund liberal politicians because they are the very ones who will pick the winners and losers in business by creating just the right combinations of regulations to hurt small businesses while helping the bigger or wealthier socialist-owned business leaders who funded their political Campaign. It’s time for Americans to wake up to the fact that the Democrat Party is completely run and operated by radical leftists who would rather sabotage the US economy and partner and cover for with the muslim brother terrorist network if it means a way to line their personal pockets, fund their political careers, and give them more unconstitutional power over the average American citizen!

    The Lying, Dying, Liberal Communist Agenda in America

    Climate Depot

    Climate Change Data Hoax

    Glenn Beck On Climategate

    Climate Change: A Scientific Lie

    CO2 Doesn’t Cause Global Warming

    The Global Warming Scam

    Global Warming or Global Governance ?

    Socialist Deception Caused Climategate

  55. J M says:

    Sounds like denial to me…..scientists ( does not include Greenpeace activists and organic foodies posing as scientists) are saying that GMOs are as dangerous or as safe as non-GMO food. They have hundreds of studies that prove the point.

    Where is your proof? Seralini does not count….

  56. Tom Scharf says:

    Keith once again declares he is not on the eco-doom reservation. No doubt the tribe will be in much despair, get quite angry, and he will not be welcome to their pow-wows.

    Being the skeptic I am, we certainly can agree that this focus on fear-mongering is what turns a lot of people off. The shrill warnings get quite tiring, and there is no way to turn up the volume any louder, and turning down the volume is seen as sign of self-defeat to many in this tribe. It’s apocalypse paralysis, and they went all in a decade ago.

    Of course there is some risk these doom-prophets could be right. There is also a chance that the latest stock market collapse prophet du jour could be right. So you look at the supporting science and market history and see if this holds up. Typically it does not, but there are always black swan events such as the 2008 mortgage crisis which were not on almost anybody’s radar. You can read the “The Big Short” to find someone who did predict it and got insanely rich off the correct analysis.

    But as Keith points out correctly, it is really the answer to “What do you want to do about it?” that sets these doom prophets clearly in the whacko column. A litmus test for me is always whether they support nuclear power. Being convinced the end is nigh, and being against nuclear, hydro, and fracking tends to get one pushed to the nutty fringe, but yet the environmental media takes them seriously. This has always been a bit curious. It makes this area of “science” look like a bit of a circus.

    There is also the pretty rigid eco-thought police out there that self elects themselves as thought leaders. It’s gotten to the point that declaring there is even a slim possibility that eco-disaster may not happen is politically incorrect. The bullhorn is handed to the guy with a PhD who is making the most extreme statements.

  57. Tom Scharf says:

    Nuclear power. Against it?

    Hydro power, Against it?

    Fracking, Against it?

    Waiting for solar and wind to become economically viable and solutions for the intermittency problem to be technically solved before deploying. Bad idea?

    Global effort to create a viable fusion reactor. But nuclear is too scary to contemplate?

    Thorium reactors? But what about Fukushima?

    There are many answers out there that the greens counter-intuitively do not support. You can’t even get them to admit that killing nuclear power was a mistake in hindsight, which is apparently not 20-20 for the greens..

    We get a big heaping spoonful of let’s just hold hands and sing kumbaya and Gaia will take take care of herself if we stopped focusing on wealth and planted gardens.

    The fact is business as usual capitalism has done more to reduce emissions in the US through natural gas than all the eco-paranoia combined.

    I don’t fault the greens for examining the risks, but getting all sanctimonious when we don’t buy into their transparent social agenda is a bit much.

  58. Tom Scharf says:

    “Human progress is stalling for a large portion of the world.”

    I can tell you are relatively young. Anybody over 50 would never make a statement like this.
    Have you ever really looked at what the world was like even a 100 years ago?

    Do you not realize the impact the Internet has had on global society? Have you ever looked at the global rates of life expectancy, poverty, and starvation over even the past 50 years?

    Do you know what is was like for “stalled portions of society” during the World Wars?

    Suffering still exists today, and maybe there always will be some. But there is a lot less of it now.

  59. Tom Scharf says:

    Very interesting point.

  60. Keith Kloor says:

    Oh lordy, that was quite a payola of nuttiness you dropped. All those links and endorsements you give are essentially the right wing/libertarian loony equivalent. They are just as unhinged and out to lunch as their counterparts on the far left.

  61. Invertebrate says:

    Irish potato famine.

  62. Matthew Slyfield says:

    Aside from the issues mentioned by jh, the most current UN population projections have global population topping out in 2050 shy of 10B and then declining.

    Sure, much of what you mention would be problems eventually, if you assume endless exponential population growth. The main problem is that the assumption of endless exponential population growth has little to no relationship with reality.

    As jh mentions, the best break on population growth is economic development. Population growth in most developed western nations would be negative without immigration from the second and third world, and it’s been that way for several decades.

  63. Matthew Slyfield says:

    Sure, there is solid evidence that the world has warmed, however there is no real empirical evidence that it would be a net negative much less catastrophic.

  64. Thomas Fuller says:

    I believe no less a personage than Gavin Schmidt, NASA scientist and resident moderator at Real Climate, has effectively debunked the permafrost bedwetters. Ain’t gonna happen.

  65. thinkahol says:

    Treating GMO food monolithically doesn’t make scientific sense. Of course there’s a difference between golden rice and crops engineered to contain more Bt toxin to resist pests. Turns out toxins are toxic. Who knew?

  66. thinkahol says:

    But you don’t dispute that monocultures erode natural capital? What do you think the long term outlook is when you cut the branch you sit on? You do know that we’re living through a mass extinction right?

    a couple more narrow examples:
    “The widespread planting of a single corn variety contributed to the loss of over a billion dollars worth of corn in 1970, when the U.S. crop was overwhelmed by a fungus. And in the 1980s, dependence upon a single type of grapevine root forced California grape growers to replant approximately two million acres of vines when a new race of the pest insect, grape phylloxera (Daktulosphaira vitifoliae, shown at right) attacked in the 1980s.”

    “In commercial export plantations, Black Sigatoka causes up to 50% loss of fruit and is controlled by frequent applications of fungicides”

  67. J M says:

    Except Bt is toxic to certain insects and relatively harmless to humans. About as toxic as table salt to us. Scientists know.

    “Bacillus thuringiensis (B.t.) is a naturally-occurring soil bacterium that produces poisons which cause disease in insects. B.t. is considered ideal for pest management because of its specificity to pests and because of its lack of toxicity to humans or the natural enemies of many crop pests”

  68. jh says:

    That’s one.

  69. jh says:

    “monocultures erode natural capital?”

    What does that mean? What is “natural capital”? How much of it is there in the world? How do you measure it?

    “Capital” is financial term. It has a specific definition. It can be measured. “Natural Capital”, as you’re using it, seems to mean something like “things in nature that are good”. It has no specific meaning. It can’t be measured.

    Your examples: would you contend that, until “monoculture” there had never been crop failures or infestations? The number of examples on offer by you and others can be counted on one hand over 150+ years, and all are local events – they did not impact farming as a whole, or even a single crop. They impacted a single crop in a single region. That’s neither scary nor unprecedented in the natural world.

  70. hunterson says:

    Why do you think they are well intentioned? From my perspective, anyone who wants to increase suffering, disease and death is not well intentioned. Yet the hard core climate/eco kooks are demanding exactly that sort of “solution” to their self-perceived crisis.

  71. Nixing the herbicides would be a good step. Along with the insecticides that are killing the honeybees. And eating less meat, so we don’t need as much cropland. And using more human and animal waste as fertilizer, so we don’t need to use as much natural gas to make urea (and the soil quality would improve, reducing erosion and increasing crop yield).

    If transitions to sustainable food and agriculture will take decades, time to get started as fast as we can.

    You know, Keith, the fact that reality creates difficulties for you does not make it less real.

  72. Stephen Hinton says:

    The Humanitarian Water and Food Award has been showing for years that viable food provision solutions exist and are up and running in the developing as well as the developed world.

  73. Stephen Hinton says:

    What I find most interesting about journalists who have no basic understanding of what science is, is the similarity of their push to force citizens into a game of Russian Roulette. You say “There was no bullet the chamber the last time you pulled the trigger and there is nothing to say you can be certain the gun will go off the next time”. You will then get the scientist to make a pronouncement ” We as scientists are skeptical that the next time the trigger is pulled it will kill you”
    You can then go and print “Science is skeptical that the next round will kill us”
    Yo neglect to report that the scientist is standing there with a gun to her or his head looking extremely worried.

  74. hunterson says:

    No, “natural capital” is just another lefty/enviro hack scam to line the pockets of their pals at the expense of tax payers.

  75. hunterson says:

    Repeating rent seeking bs propaganda about the great climate catastrophe, even if NASA lends its name to it, is still rent seeking bs.

  76. MPPatterson says:

    Tried to read the article with an open mind, as my training is in science.
    But where are his arguments. Simply stating, “Those guys are wrong,” does not make him right.
    Evidence, please?

  77. elvischannel says:

    Meanwhile, in the right wing universe the end of the world will be the result of same sex marriage.

  78. JKellogg says:

    This is a common misconception, Buddy. The Fed doesn’t ‘create’ money. Banks do that when they make loans. When the Fed buys bonds, they are still classified as loans on bank balance sheets. There are currently two baselines for money in the US. Both at .25%, these are the 2yr Tbill and the IOER.

    While I don’t hang my hat on anything, the Fed bond buying program really isn’t much to be concerned about.

    What concerns me most is our ever increasing tax burden to support things such as continually moving the goal posts further out on what used to be called a ‘safety net.’

    Now it’s ‘entitlements’ … which continue to grow.

    Obamacare subsidies are the latest example.

  79. kickdemout says:

    Ridiculous. Ask any geologist. It is preordained that humans will go extinct. There is no question about it people. It could be a monster meteor that wiped out 75% (see K-T boundary), the P-Tr Great Dying (>90%), Devonian extinction (70%) because of a sudden increase in Co2 and two others. For example now we can look toward the total annihilation of San Francisco (San Andreas Fault) or the blowout of the Yellowstone caldera where the immediate kill zone is at the Arizona border.

  80. LuapLeiht1 says:

    Where does the money the fed buys the bonds with come from?

  81. JKellogg says:

    Sorry, LuapLeihti, your question belies that somehow net assets are added to the banking system. They aren’t. Here’s a good primer on how QE works.

    Please take the time to read the whole thing.

  82. jh says:


    Proven oil reserves doubled between 1980 – the last time we went through the “it’s-almost-gone!!!” screamfest – and 2010. How did that happen when we were just about to run out of oil way back in 1980? It happened because the people making the predictions don’t have any clue what they’re talking about.

    The amount of reserves depends on the price of oil and advances in technology. The volume of the earth’s crust that has potential to hold fossil fuels has hardly even been touched. We’re centuries away from “running out” of fossil fuels.

  83. nauticalbear says:

    n almost every Eco-naysayer I have ever read, the climate/planet/population (what have you) isn’t thier motivation. They are just about all either communists or socialists who are arguing that government should curb aspects of society that tend to keep people free. They want to shut down travel more than anything. They want us moving out of our houses & into urban centers where we can be disarmed & put to work in our correct niches.

    In the 60’s it was Malthusian overpopulation; in the 70’s global cooling was going to kill us….then it was global warming….now “climate change.”

    Doesn’t matter the ELE….the solution is always more govt control and forcing people -at gunpoint if necessary, and always for our own good- to change society from our current way of selfish living in favor of whatever cause they’re pushing. But they are uniformly fascist policies being advocated by groups that are tacitly communist. Anyone who has read about scientific socialism will recognize the argumentation, the rhetoric, the fervent belief in the perfectability of man & society.

    They’re called “watermelons”….green on the outside, red on the inside. Scratch an environmentalist, reveal a communist. Why? I can’t really say, except that I think the desire to order society, to subjugate men (with the purest of motives) just lends itself to fascism, and those who see themselves as the best solution to guide society recognize that socialism, communism, progressivism (call leftist ideology by whatever label you like) offers the quickest path to power. Free people will not willingly subjugate themselves….they have to be tricked into it. Hence the fervor for crisis, which tends to help justify “emergency measures” that, once in place, are stubbornly hard to repeal. (Example:

  84. nauticalbear says:

    They always see themselves as the inheritors of civilization after the apocalypse. “Come the Revolution” they say “…when we throw off the shackles og Big Oil/Corprations/banks/Koch brothers/[insert villain du jour here] they see themselves as being the logical leaders because they were wise enough to recognize the peril while the rest of us were just sheeple only concerned with our selfish pursuits of happiness, which was only made possible because of cheap oil/electricity/food/whatever…..

    Since we have no moral right to these things, we can’t legitimately complain if the replacement costs 25 times as much…..light bulbs, or solar-generated electricity… that can go more than 100 miles before needing a charge (so curb travel, or tax people based on miles driven)….

    ….come the revolution, They’ll Show Us….whether we want to be shown or not.

  85. mem_somerville says:

    It’s not streaming on Netflix, but it was available on Amazon Prime. So I watched it. It was mostly about peak oil, but how that meant we were about to hit “peak everything”. I even wrote down in my notes that he said “We’re at peak everything” right after the “Monsanto frankenseeds” you can’t regrow (also wrong) at around 56min if you care to check.

  86. Heteromeles says:

    Hunh? This article seems to be the most powerful argument for DOOM that I’ve read. He’s not saying that civilization will work, he’s saying that nothing that the end-of-civilization geeks propose will save us.

    Did the last three paragraphs of the post go missing, by any chance?

    As a doomsayer myself, all I’ll pitch into the argument for nuclear power is that:
    a) the industry is congealed around a few well-known reactor models. Innovation may be great and even necessary to create better reactors, but when we’ve got those pesky little civilization-killing bomb designs floating around (even a high school student came up with one), asking everyone to experiment with better nuclear reactor designs seems like an open invitation to disaster. Do you want Kim Jong Un to be in the nuclear innovation business? Would China want the US to be making better, cheaper reactors? I can understand the fear, even when I think it’s groundless. Regulated innovation is hard.
    b) the bigger problem of waste. When you factor in the cost of warehousing the waste generated by a reactor, the energy return on investment (EROI) plummets. EROI is a critical number, because we can only run a civilization if we’re getting between 5 and 10 times more energy out than we’re investing to get it. Nuclear is theoretically far above ten, if we could take enriched uranium straight out of the ground and burn it in a simple engine, as we do with coal or oil. Once we put a lot of energy into enriching the fuel, storing it safely, building the huge, complex reactor, and storing the waste for 1000 years or more, the EROI drops to 5 or lower (check the April 2013 Scientific American). The bottom line is that we can’t really run our civilization on nuclear power alone. The loss of one reactor would be catastrophic.

    Note that solar photovoltaic EROI currently is 6, natural gas EROI is 7, sugar cane ethanol’s EROI is 9, while wind’s EROI is 20. Tar sands oil EROI, by contrast, is at 5, California heavy oil is at 4, and corn-based ethanol is at 1.4. I’d say we’re actually doing the right thing by concentrating on developing wind first, solar second, and nuclear third. Dams are another good power source (EROI of 40+). Coal (EROI 18) and conventional oil (EROI 16) are still good sources of energy despite their massive environmental cost, which is why we’re going to have a wild ride into the altithermal ahead of us. Militaries are huge energy consumers, and I don’t think any country will willingly give up the oil its military needs.

  87. Heimdall222 says:

    Not entirely, of course.

    The end of the world as the right-wingers know it will also be due to the incontrovertible discoveries that:
    — The sun does NOT revolve around the earth.
    — The earth is NOT flat.
    — The earth was NOT created 6800 years ago.
    — All mechanical devices are NOT evil.
    — Birth control is NOT an abomination.
    — The Chinese are NOT our friends.
    — Right-wingers are NOT God’s chosen people.

    From all indications, that last is what most upsets them…!

  88. Heimdall222 says:

    My, oh my. Such an optimist you are!

  89. Heimdall222 says:

    Who me worry?

    Me worry appears to be


  90. shooter2009 says:

    Thin air.

  91. Heimdall222 says:

    So now your comment will no doubt be — name two systems that have “collapsed” because of monoculture. Two.

    Sic ’em, invertebrate!

  92. Heimdall222 says:

    And what have you named your canary…?

  93. Heimdall222 says:

    A new paperback copy currently goes for $17.65.


    No wonder you’re doing the self-promotion thing!

  94. Heimdall222 says:

    And the righties do it by getting elected to national office!

  95. Heimdall222 says:

    And which condiments do you favor with your Soylent Green?

  96. Heimdall222 says:

    “Along with the insecticides that are killing the honeybees.” Hmmm, no doubt an exaggeration for emphasis.

    Not entirely correct, of course. As a point of clarification, insecticides are only one possible cause out of more than a dozen for honeybee Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD).

  97. natsera says:

    None of this would be an issue if we got our population down. The problem isn’t technology; it’s overpopulation, because there really DOES come a point where the earth’s carrying capacity is exceeded. Global climate destabilization is real, and history shows us that people WILL fight over increasingly rare resources. But if there were far fewer of us, it ceases to be an issue. There would be plenty of room for forests and the oceans wouldn’t be acidic, plastic wastelands, and fish populations could rebound to where they COULD feed the people who needed them. We, in the Western World are going to be the last to suffer — people in the Third World are already suffering, because they have no hope of attaining the pleasant lifestyle we enjoy. I’m not being a doomsayer, but I cannot be so optimistic as to think that technology is the answer to all our woes.

  98. Heimdall222 says:

    Please detail which countries are included in “our population”.

    How do you propose that “we” reduce our population? A bit of quick genocide, perhaps? And if so, which race(s) would you wish to wipe out first?

    Also, how many offspring (of any species) do you have?

  99. Guest says:

    And your point is?

    Please give us details!

  100. JoJoJams says:

    I agree 100%. Nice post, and glad to have read it.

  101. JoJoJams says:

    And don’t forget our sun burning out in a few billion years! What will we do!! What will we do!! /sarc We’ll only go extinct if we keep all our eggs in this one little basket called “earth”. It’s imperative we get off this planet and explore and populate other planets, no matter how “far fetched” and SciFi it is at this point in our evolution.

  102. JoJoJams says:

    Exactly. And evidence of our planets past, as well as humanity’s shows that a warmer world (and increased CO2, that plants respire…) would mean more crops – all the better to feed the growing populations. If you look at the temperatures for millions of years (not just a few hundred, like the chicken littles use) they show that the current temps (and CO2 levels) are well below what they’ve been in this worlds past.

  103. JoJoJams says:

    I don’t think you fully understood what JH wrote… First and foremost because the potato famine was regional – not global (and JH did state some regional ones). I believe Poland also had its own potato famine for similar reasons, but at different times. Anyhow, his point was to show Thinkahol that there have been some natural regional failures of crops, but not the “we’re all going to die!” world-wide crop failures that Thinkahol seemed to be espousing.

  104. natsera says:

    The whole world is overpopulated; I did not specify countries. And no, I’m not advocating genocide; just a significant decrease in the number of children born. This has nothing to do with race or nationality. And I have one child, now grown up; he and his girlfriend are not planning on having any children. And I would thank you to read what I actually said rather than making up evil intentions on my part.

  105. Anechidna says:

    The eco doom peddlers are one extreme in the Climate Change debate, the other are the deniers that there is a problem.

    In between sit the bulk of us. We question do we need to consume so much and throw out so much, can we do more with less. As for parking up the tractor quite a few have discovered they make more by spending less time on it and reverting to a less pressurized production process that benefits others but not themselves.

    We are profligate in our use of resources using nearly 200 year old technology to produce the bulk of our energy and we have only increased its efficiency by a few percentage points, that’s complacency and we need to address that. Climate Change is coming but as it is the average of the weather over a long period of time when it really hits it will be too late for short term fixes so we have to address it before it arrives. Much like guests we really don’t want but are coming anyway.

  106. hunterson says:

    Solyndra and all the others, no taxes for Face Book or GE, Wal St. scammers- all democrats. Peddle your ignorance where people are not informed.

  107. Eric Lipps says:

    Vaclav Smil’s article on the unlikelihood of solar and wind power supplanting fossil fuels any time soon (he’s referenced as “this guy” above) doesn’t separate the technical problems for alternative energy from the political ones.
    That’s crucial. It’s one thing if solar and wind just can’t meet our needs for technical reasons; it’s quite another if they can’t because powerful political and economic players won’t allow it. I don’t deny that alternative energy will take some time to make real headway–but deliberate foot-dragging, with just enough investment allowed that one can’t say that these technologies are actually being discouraged, won’t speed things up. Where would we be now if serious investment had been made in solar and wind for the three decades after President Jimmy Carter’s “moral equivalent of war” speech? Not in Iraq, I’ll bet. But instead, Carter was made a laughingstock.

  108. Rob Neff says:

    You’re a little glib in dismissing these events. The population has exploded over the last decades, and much natural habitat has been lost. Fisheries are in terrible shape compared to 100 years ago. We’re still feeding everybody (war zones & tyrants excepted), but at the expense of our aquifers and stores of natural gas (for fertilizer). India and the U.S. plains states are going to have to make big changes soon because of dropping water tables.

    Natural gas and petroleum supplies got a reprieve because of fracking (government sponsored research program in the 90’s, now a mainstay of private industry). But don’t expect that to last beyond 2025, then we’ll need another solution.

    Global cooling was never a serious issue. There was one junior scientist who put out the hypothesis and the media ran with it during some cool weather in the 70’s. That scientist took more measurements and changed his story within 2 years. End of story.

    Nuclear winter – well it sure could have happened had there actually been a nuclear attack. Not sure how you can say it wasn’t ever a threat.

    Y2K – yeah, I never believed that one. I’m a programmer, and nothing that I did was going to break down 1/1/2000. But some in the banking industry sure had to scramble to make sure their dated financial systems would handle it. With preparation, we were okay.

    I would posit that the 2008 financial breakdown was not solely or even primarily a sub-prime mortgage problem – it was also an oil supply problem, in the pre-fracking period. Housing market was collapsing for 18 months, but the financial collapse didn’t happen until oil went over $100/barrel (tripled its regular price) and the Saudi’s refused Bush’s plea for more oil (probably because they couldn’t do it without harming their fields).

    Just because some of these issues were prevented, at least for a time, doesn’t mean we didn’t have real problems to worry about. People spent real money solving those problems. And we might have to face them again in the near future.

  109. Rob Neff says:

    Natural capital is an important concept. It may not be well-defined at this point, but it’s still valid. During the dust bowl, immense amounts of top soil were blown away from Kansas, Nebraska, etc. Those farmers lost an important resource.

    Dropping water tables, erosion, salt poisoning (due to excessive irrigation in some areas) and of course nutrient depletion in the soil are all things which reduce a farmers yield and/or profitability. That is ultimately measurable.

    Monocultures on a large scale are not desirable. When we lose biodiversity, we also lose things like native bees that can pollinate plants, buffer zones against erosion, and nature itself. 90% of all exported bananas are of one particular breed, and they are susceptible to a blight that is threatening to quickly become pandemic. That will be devastating to millions of farmers in under-developed countries. We’ve seen what dutch elm disease, chestnut blight, the emerald ash borer can do to our trees. Who knows what the next threat might be, and what if it hits corn or wheat?

  110. Rob Neff says:

    Big difference between the survivalists building bunkers and people advocating for more efficient light bulbs and cars. One group expects a massive meltdown of civilization, the other group is working to prevent it.

    And none of your examples actually cost 25 times as much as the original. In fact, none of them cost twice as much.

  111. Robert J. Connors says:

    Mr. Molotov takes a Pollyanna view of serious challenges and takes some easy shots at those who see the dangers. Industrial agriculture allowed the planet’s population to explode from one billion to more than seven, but the dearth of new phosphate reserves, coupled with growing zones impacted by climate change, mean it’s not sustainable even under optimistic scenarios. Our industrial model is a fragile contraption, and will likely fail within a visible horizon.

  112. Psyclic says:

    You’ve gathered a wide range of methods, generic sciences and procedures, and swabbed them all the same color. That does not seem very scientific to me. It seems more lke the propgandistic tripe which tends to be promulgated at this site.

  113. Psyclic says:

    Sorry you obviously did not get the UK-slang, but the answer is an anagram: Hitler Kook.

  114. hickory2 says:

    Comments regarding climate change are not aware of what the warming has already brought. Scientists warned that if we passed 350ppm concentrations of C02 it would trigger the melt of the Arctic ice releasing the tons of methane trapped in the ice. We passed 350 ppm and the melt and release of methane is indeed happening which can spiral warming out of our control.

    Methane traps more heat than C02 hastening warming.
    East Siberian Sea Methane release. Methane release from Tundra has also been measured.

  115. Cairenn Day says:

    And yet during that entire time of famine, Ireland was a net food EXPORTER.

    The potato famine was caused by the demand that England had for the food of Ireland. The native Irish were pushed to grow food on marginal land and the only thing that really grew was the potato.

    The same potato blight hit the rest of Europe and it caused starvation among the poor peasants, in many countries.

    “Although the potato crop failed, the country was still producing and
    exporting more than enough grain crops to feed the population. Records
    show during the period Ireland was exporting approximately thirty to
    fifty shiploads per day of food produce.”

  116. Cairenn Day says:

    And those that want a return to old fashioned agriculture are very quick to ignore that those practices caused the Dust Bowl.

    I think you need to review what real ‘monoculture’ is. It is not commonly used today. The modern farmer seeks to get the most from their land. Monoculture will not do that for you. Even with fertilizers, which cost money to buy and more money to use.

  117. Rob Neff says:

    The dust bowl was partly caused by trying to plant crops in areas that were too dry for that crop, because most farmers had moved to that area only a few years before and didn’t have a lot of experience with the vagaries of the climate, and the years before the dust bowl were wet.

    It was also caused by tilling the fields in the fall and letting them lie fallow until spring planting, to control the weeds. This exposed dirt could then fly around. Today we use a lot of low-till or no-till farming, which is widely recognized as a good land management practice – but that was originally called “chemical farming”, because it also relies on herbicides to kill the weeds. A little name change and it sounds a lot better.

    I’m not sure what kind of “old-fashioned farming” you refer to. In some cases it makes sense, like organic farming on fruit crops (which are a whole lot different than grains and corn), and reducing indiscriminate use of antibiotics and hormones on livestock.

  118. Robert Lyons says:

    you ignore all the rational reasons not to use fracking.

    Name one.

    Uncaptured methane emissions from drilling sites lead to, among other things, gas flaring. Gas flaring in the Bakken Shale in North Dakota is visible from space, the burned gas resulting in “greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to adding nearly one million cars to the road.”[1] Unburned “fugitive methane emissions” are also a serious concern.[2] One study found 6% to 12% of total production released into the atmosphere.[3]




  119. Robert Lyons says:

    While Mr. Kloor’s bullseye is clearly focused on Nafeez Ahmed, I found the tour of “eco-doomers” incomplete without any mention of xraymike at Collaspe of Civilization. If only we could capture the heat generated by environmental debates! Thanks.

  120. Linda Riebel says:

    Bad logic. Note the false dilemma here:
    “But on the whole, are we better off today because of our industrialized food system (which still has plenty of room for improvement)? Or should we nix the tractors and go back to the horse plow?”
    His own brand of irrational thinking.

  121. thinkahol says:

    “The problem is that these reservations are based on outdated assumptions that sea floor released methane would not make it into the atmosphere – but all the new fieldwork on the levels of methane being released above the ESAS shows this assumption is just empirically wrong.

    Atmospheric methane levels in the Arctic are currently at new record highs, averaging about 1900 parts per billion, 70 parts per billion higher than the global average. NASA researchers have found local methane plumes as large as 150 kilometres across – far higher than previously anticipated.

    Dr Gavin Schmidt, climate modeller at NASA, was also cited claiming lack of evidence from ice cores of previous catastrophic methane pulses in the Earth’s history in the Early Holocene or Eamian, when Arctic temperatures were warmer than today. But the blanket references to the past may well be irrelevant. In the Early Holocene, the ESAS was not an underwater shelf but a frozen landmass, illustrating the pointlessness of this past analogy with contemporary conditions.

    Dr Schmidt also overlooked other issues – such as new research showing that the warm, Eamian interglacial period some 130,000 years ago should not be used as a model for today’s climate due tofundamental differences in the development of the Arctic ocean. Ice core methane records are also too short to reach back to the entire Cenozoic – another reason suggesting lack of past evidence is no basis for present complacency; and even Prof Archer himself recognises that ice cores will not necessarily capture a past catastrophic methane release due to fern diffusion.”

  122. thinkahol says:

    You forgot to mention Peter Diamandis or Ray Kurzweil. The thing is it’s not really either or. It’s a mixed bag. Tipping points are real, in countless domains, and almost everyone is surprised. What are we really talking about? It’s not like we either of us expect the future to just be a whole lot more of whatever is going on now. We’re going to literally merge with our technology, but I expect it’s too late the stop the coastlines from being dramatically shifted.

  123. thinkahol says:

    We spend so much time talking about what other people seem to be saying.

    Anyway, monocultures are fundamentally less stable and are basically guaranteed to erode natural capital, and that’s a stupid thing to do when we are fully capable of biodynamic farming and rewilding and rebuilding robust ecosystems of abundance.

  124. thinkahol says:

    “The problem that confronts us is that every living system in the biosphere is in decline and the rate of decline is accelerating. There isn’t one peer-reviewed scientific article that’s been published in the last 20 years that contradicts that statement. Living systems are coral reefs. They’re our climatic stability, forest cover, the oceans themselves, aquifers, water, the conditions of the soil, biodiversity. They go on and on as they get more specific. But the fact is, there isn’t one living system that is stable or is improving. And those living systems provide the basis for all life. —Paul Hawken, environmentalist and entrepreneur.

    I think the most basic thing to understand about our global economic system is that it’s a subsystem. The larger system is the biosphere, and the subsystem is the economy. The problem, of course, is that our subsystem, the economy, is geared for growth; it’s all set up to grow, to expand. Whereas the parent system doesn’t grow; it remains the same size. So, as the economy grows, it displaces, it encroaches upon the biosphere, and this is the fundamental cost of economic growth. It’s what you give up when you expand. You give up what used to be there. —Herman Daly, ecological economist.

    There’s a more fundamental problem, and that is, as the world economy has expanded relative to the size of the earth itself, we have reached the point where economic activity often does a lot of damage. What we need to recognize is that, in many cases now, the indirect costs of the products, the goods, and the services we buy may be greater than the direct costs. —Lester Brown, founder, Earth Policy Institute.

    Economists don’t include all of the things that nature does for us for nothing. Some technologies would never be able to do what nature does. For example, pollinating all of the flowering plants. What would it cost us to take carbon dioxide out of the air and put oxygen back in, which all the green things do for us for nothing? It’s possible to do a crude estimate of what it would cost us to replace nature. Well, it turns out, [one researcher] estimated it would cost us $35 trillion a year to do what nature is doing for us for nothing. Now to put that in perspective. If you had added up all of the annual economies of all the countries in the world at that time, it would come to $18 trillion. So, nature is doing twice as much service for us as the economies of the world. And in the madness of conventional economics, this is not in the equation. —David Suzuki, geneticist and broadcaster.

    Somehow in the last few decades in business school, they were trained that the object of their business is growth, as if that were an end. It’s not an end, it’s a means. And if we flip the ends and means, then we can get the end back, quality of life. We have to look at the contradictions because the wrong kind of growth reduces our quality of life, and we have to take that back. —Stephen Schneider, climatologist.

    I think the industrial system has to be re-invented. Today the throughput of the industrial system, from mine and wellhead to finished product, ends up in a landfill or incinerator. For every truckload of product with lasting value, 32 truckloads of waste are produced. That’s mind-boggling, but it’s true. So we have a system that is a waste-making system. And clearly we cannot continue to dig up the earth and turn it to waste. —Ray Anderson, industrial engineer and businessman.

    One can see from space how the human race has changed the earth. Nearly all of the available land has been cleared for agriculture or urban development. The polar ice caps are shrinking and the desert areas are increasing. At night the earth is no longer dark, but lit up. All this is evidence that human exploitation of the planet is reaching a critical limit, but human demands and expectations are ever increasing. —Stephen Hawking, cosmologist.

    Some people suggest that in order to live sustainably we have to go out in the woods and put on animal skins and live on roots and berries. And the simple reality is that we do have technology. The question is, how can we use our understanding of science and our understanding of technology along with our understanding of culture, and how culture changes, to create a culture that will interact with science and with the world around us in a sustainable fashion? —Thom Hartmann, broadcaster, educator, businessman.”

  125. thinkahol says:

  126. GEAH says:

    Every generation thinks they’ll view the End Times.

    Same as it ever was.

  127. GEAH says:

    Chicken Little nods approvingly.

  128. Ed Jagger says:

    If doomers are doomers just because they are “not cutting it in the current economy” then they are being pessimistic for the wrong reason. Our economy is just a complex game thought up by humans – the rules can be changed by humans so they’ll always have enough money. America (China, India, the EU etc.) will never go bankrupt – there’ll always be some last minute intervention, re-draft of the rulebook or twisting of the numbers. So doomers can forget about economic collapse. However, non-renewable resources and climate change are much harder games. They only have one rule: adapt or perish.

  129. Ed Jagger says:

    We’ll switch to nuclear (and coal). Yes coal may gas us all to death and we might get radiation poisoning but we cannot just rely on wind, solar, hydro and biomass. They can’t produce enough energy.

  130. Ed Jagger says:

    But human civilization hadn’t even properly begun during the Holocene. It was only the Mesolithic. Also, the rising temperatures melted loads of ice (ending the last glacial period) and raised the sea levels. It’s no good if we continue to melt ice when we’re not in a glacial period.

  131. Guinnessmonkey says:

    So you suggest we use coal instead? Because that’s how the economy works, unfortunately. Natural gas certainly isn’t carbon-neutral, but it’s a hell of a lot better than coal.

  132. Guinnessmonkey says:

    If GMO’s were less heavily regulated (and if they didn’t have to deal with pseudoscientific nonsense attacks), “monoculture” wouldn’t be much of a problem. You’d have dozens and dozens of varieties of, say, corn, each tailored to specific local climate/soil/etc. conditions. Productivity would go through the roof and we could feed vastly more people on vastly less land while using vastly less pesticide and fertilizer.

    But nooo… We have to oppose GMO’s because they’re not “natural”, unlike all the other crops that we use, none of which are identical to the wild variety that existed before humans came along and bred them to be more suitable for agriculture.

    It just hurts my head so bad.

  133. jura says:

    “First, there is no end in sight for fossil fuels. The US has several hundred years’ supply of coal and nat gas”

    Mistaken factology!

    Update ur knowledge!.

    Do understand the exponential function.
    Have a look at Bartlett video as to energy issue.

    Especailly the part with example of bacterias in the bottle.
    Neverending malthusian vs cornutopian opinion exchange.

  134. Loretta Reid says:

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  135. Philip Hamm says:

    Michael Ruppert demonstrated the ultimate end of Eco Doom philosophy over the weekend. I found this article while researching his suicide. Great article.

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