When I published Nature’s End in 1985, I was laughed at by environmental reporters at a press conference in Washington. When Art Bell and I published Superstorm in 1999, Matt Lauer scoffed at us on the Today Show. When the movie based on it came out, even the director said, to defend himself, that it was probably an overstatement.
The movie was, but the book wasn’t, and now its basic premise has proved to be true: the weakening of the Gulf Stream is profoundly altering the basic structure of climate. Of course, you won’t see this mentioned anywhere in the media. To them, it’s simply mysterious. ‘What a terrible winter!’ Of course, there are senators tossing snowballs on the Mall and jeering at the ‘global warming crazies,’ all in the interest of making sure that the corporations that support them won’t have to pay the relative pittance necessary to reduce their carbon footprints. That’s all the fake ‘global warming’ debate has ever been about, to preserve big coal and big oil from having to add two or three percent to their expense of doing business. The whole Rush Limbaugh, Fox News and internet rant against global warming is about those few percentage points.
Of course, over time, these same companies will pay a far, far greater price for climate change. Like all of us, they will suffer vast problems. As matters stand right now, this winter is going to be a costly one across much of the northern hemisphere. As I write this, Great Britain is experiencing flooding unprecedented in 250 years of record keeping, and even more is coming. The eastern half of the US is having one of its harshest winters in memory. Meanwhile, Southern California is enduring what could be the beginning of a epochal drought.
I have never been a believer in global warming as it is described in most models. It simply will not and cannot evolve in a series of hotter and hotter years. I have a number of reasons for this. The first is that there is a large-scale cycle involved, that has brought Earth a long series of ice ages, punctuated by brief interglacials that each last about 15,000 years. We are at the end of just such an interglacial, and at present climate is about as irregular as it was at the end of the last one. Apparently, the most fundamental cause of this is a long-term cycle or solar warming and cooling. Starting the the 14th Century, the sun’s energy output declined. This continued until the 19th Century, when it once again increased. Now, the evidence is building that our star is cooling down again.
All interglacials have ended in the same way: with the Superstorm scenario, a massive, intercontinental climactic paroxysm that results in a new climate regime which then lasts for thousands of years. The reason that this happens is relatively simple. There comes a summer when there is so much snow and ice across the northern hemisphere that it reflects enough summer heat to remain in place when autumn comes. This leads to a much colder fall and a horrendous winter. By the next summer, the ice cover is many feet thick, cannot be melted by sunlight, and another ice age has begun.
Ironically, it starts with global heating, not global cooling. This causes the Gulf Stream to falter, leading the polar vortex to slide south and dramatically cool the middle regions of the hemisphere. This is what is happening now, but so far it’s not clear that the snow cover is dramatic enough to persist over the course of a summer. Instead. what is likely to happen is a period of dramatic weather across the spring, followed by a very hot summer. This is because the cooling of the North Atlantic that is occurring now will reinvigorate the Gulf Stream, causing its flow to strengthen across the summer.
This process will continue until, at some point, the entire system will fall apart, with consequences that will be, in their initial phases, hard to predict. But there will be profound disruptions to farming across the whole hemisphere, followed by food shortages and other economic disruptions.
Could we have prevented it? No, but we could certainly have staved it off and made it much less violent. As matters stand, because the world allowed CO2 and Methane to rise more or less unchecked, the change when it comes will be very violent. There will be periods both of extreme heat and extreme cold, culminating in a climax too complex to be predicted, but which will certainly be followed by a new and much colder climate regime.
At that point, the human effect of climate will have been greatly reduced, as our population will have declined significantly worldwide, with the most vulnerable areas, places that depend on food imports, bearing the brunt of the depopulation.
What the timeline for all this is anybody’s guess, but it will certainly happen, as I have been warning for 30 years that it will. At first, I was listened to but ignored. Now I am not listened to and even more profoundly ignored. From the beginning, I have been advocating planning for change and action to minimize it as much as possible and delay it as long as we can. We have not planned for it and we have done everything to speed it up.
The fake ‘debate’ has been the mechanism that has ensured the eventual untold misery of billions of human beings, the collapse of nations and the most profound challenge to civilization that our species has ever known. But you can be sure that the people who created that debate will not have to answer for a single thing.
How ironic that the media now commonly uses a word I coined, ‘superstorm,’ to describe the great weather events that have become so common. But as to heeding my warnings, forget it. One constituency is devoted to saving a few companies a few dollars by claiming that climate change isn’t happening. The other is devoted to the claim that global warming means an ever increasing temperature gradient, leading to eventual catastrophic heating, and God forbid that any sort of natural cycle might be involved.
So reality doesn’t have a constituency. It’s not part of the debate. But nature, also, isn’t a player in the debate. Nature happens. It doesn’t care about debates, as will be seen.