Human extinction within ten years? Daily Bullshit, February 11-12, 2017 (updated)

Updated for a story on the relationship between the Trump administration and the intelligence community.[1]


Unauthorized Migration

Federal officials call an eye-catching series of raids ‘routine,’ but “[i]n at least one case, it seems clear that [Donald] Trump’s order changed someone’s fate” and, apparently, Trump’s order has improved morale among “immigration agents [who] expressed frustration . . . that they were not fully allowed to enforce immigration laws under the Obama administration.”[2]

Abigail Hauslohner, Lisa Rein, and Sandhya Someshekhar, “Federal agents conduct sweeping immigration enforcement raids in at least 6 states,” Minneapolis Star-Tribune, February 10, 2017, http://www.startribune.com/fear-spreads-in-l-a-after-immigration-raid-described-as-routine-by-authorities/413425633/

Amy Taxin and Alicia A. Caldwell, “AP Fact Check: Are immigration raids result of Trump policy?” Minneapolis Star-Tribune, February 10, 2017, http://www.startribune.com/ap-fact-check-are-immigration-raids-result-of-trump-policy/413456923/

Elliot Spagat, “Homeland Security head is pressed to define ‘sanctuary city,'” Minneapolist Star-Tribune, February 11, 2017, http://www.startribune.com/homeland-security-head-tours-border-as-wall-plan-takes-shape/413428173/


Democrats and Demography

P. G. Sittenfeld, “A NewDEAL for Democrats — and the Nation,” Congressional Quarterly Roll Call, February 10, 2017, http://www.rollcall.com/news/newdeal-trump-democrats-sittenfeld


Human Extinction

Guy McPherson “predicted the near-term extinction of many species, including human beings, by the middle of 2026.” He points at methane releases in the Arctic and expects a cascade of feedbacks leading to “something called abrupt climate change, also known as nonlinear climate change.”[3]

While I don’t really think this could happen quite that fast, this is, in essence, one scenario I worry about. And I’m cognizant that there are other feedbacks also in play.[4] Even if “[a]ctual measurements of methane in the atmosphere don’t show any such sudden, accelerating spike, and climate scientists don’t believe anything like this ‘clathrate gun’ scenario is underway,”[5] Arctic methane is only one of several ways in which tipping points may be breached.[6] That there are so many such tipping points suggests that there will be a tipping point in which enough has changed that the ecosystem will fundamentally change.

And emergent properties mean we really don’t have any idea what the emerging ecosystem will look like.[7] The cause for fear lies in that there are many more possible ecosystems which do not support human life than there are that do.

I’m mostly pulling this out of my ass, but I tend to think more along Frank Fenner’s timeline of 100 years (as of 2010),[8] and to believe that even once a major tipping point leading to this new ecosystem is breached, humans don’t immediately go extinct, as the feedbacks that destabilize the old ecosystem stabilize a new one over a period of some decades (or possibly longer). In this imagining, we might already have breached this tipping point, or we might breach it within the next ten to fifteen years, and we would not immediately know. But conditions will get worse and worse, until human life is no longer possible.

Charlie Smith, “Could abrupt climate change lead to human extinction within 10 years?” Georgia Straight, February 11, 2017, http://www.straight.com/news/868051/could-abrupt-climate-change-lead-human-extinction-within-10-20-years


Intelligence Community

In light of [concerns about the Trump administration’s personnel and practices], and out of worries about the White House’s ability to keep secrets, some of our spy agencies have begun withholding intelligence from the Oval Office. Why risk your most sensitive information if the president may ignore it anyway? A senior National Security Agency official explained that NSA was systematically holding back some of the “good stuff” from the White House, in an unprecedented move. For decades, NSA has prepared special reports for the president’s eyes only, containing enormously sensitive intelligence. In the last three weeks, however, NSA has ceased doing this, fearing Trump and his staff cannot keep their best SIGINT secrets.[9]

John R. Schindler, “The Spy Revolt Against Trump Begins,” Observer, February 12, 2017, http://observer.com/2017/02/donald-trump-administration-mike-flynn-russian-embassy/


  1. [1]John R. Schindler, “The Spy Revolt Against Trump Begins,” Observer, February 12, 2017, http://observer.com/2017/02/donald-trump-administration-mike-flynn-russian-embassy/
  2. [2]Amy Taxin and Alicia A. Caldwell, “AP Fact Check: Are immigration raids result of Trump policy?” Minneapolis Star-Tribune, February 10, 2017, http://www.startribune.com/ap-fact-check-are-immigration-raids-result-of-trump-policy/413456923/
  3. [3]Charlie Smith, “Could abrupt climate change lead to human extinction within 10 years?” Georgia Straight, February 11, 2017, http://www.straight.com/news/868051/could-abrupt-climate-change-lead-human-extinction-within-10-20-years
  4. [4]Fred Pearce, With Speed and Violence: Why Scientists Fear Tipping Points in Climate change (Boston: Beacon, 2007).
  5. [5]Scott K. Johnson, quoted in Charlie Smith, “Could abrupt climate change lead to human extinction within 10 years?” Georgia Straight, February 11, 2017, http://www.straight.com/news/868051/could-abrupt-climate-change-lead-human-extinction-within-10-20-years
  6. [6]Fred Pearce, With Speed and Violence: Why Scientists Fear Tipping Points in Climate change (Boston: Beacon, 2007).
  7. [7]Fritjof Capra, The Web of Life: A New Scientific Understanding of Living Systems (New York: Anchor, 1996).
  8. [8]Cheryl Jones, “Frank Fenner sees no hope for humans,” Australian, June 16, 2010, http://www.theaustralian.com.au/higher-education/frank-fenner-sees-no-hope-for-humans/story-e6frgcjx-1225880091722
  9. [9]John R. Schindler, “The Spy Revolt Against Trump Begins,” Observer, February 12, 2017, http://observer.com/2017/02/donald-trump-administration-mike-flynn-russian-embassy/

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