Meet Doctor Doom, AKA Guy McPherson

The only good news about Guy McPherson is that his unprecedented bad news is wrong. Unfortunately, while he is wrong now, he won’t necessarily be wrong for many more decades. And Guy McPherson’s bad news is about as bad as it gets.

He might not look like it, but Guy McPherson may be the first doomsday prophet who actually has something of an intellectual case. Anyway, he has more than the Reverend Harold Camping ever did.mcpherson

To summarize it, Dr. McPherson believes that the current loss of sea ice and permafrost in the Artic, unprecedented in human history, will lead to massive eruptions of the methane trapped there. After entering the atmosphere and circling the globe for a year or so, this enormous influx of methane will boost climate change far beyond what any scientists are currently talking about. Guy McPherson is predicting abrupt, explosive, fatal climate change in the near term.

He has numerous video speeches, some of which I have linked here. He is the author of the blog, Nature Bats Last.

In a recent interview, Guy McPherson said that he does not believe there will be any human beings alive on earth by the year 2026.

That caught my attention, and I began to do some digging.

McPherson is a relatively new figure on the scene, and does not represent current consensus in climate science. His time frame for catastrophe is disputed, to say the least. But the seriousness of the climate crisis is not in debate among real scientists, and that can be shown by the sheer paucity of peer-reviewed science papers that are submitted in opposition to the climate change hypothesis. Of 13,950 science papers on climate change from 1991 to 2012, only 24 tried to argue against it. The deniers are in a microscopic minority, but the opposite extreme of abrupt imminent catastrophism is even smaller.

McPherson recently went on a speaking tour of New Zealand, and encountered skepticism from a professor James Renwick, who is a long way from being an AGW denier. 

mcpherson-tourRenwick wrote, “The way Guy McPherson talks about water vapour shows his sketchy grasp of atmospheric physics. He states that most of the water vapour in the atmosphere is above 6 km altitude, where it ‘acts like a lens’ to heat the earth. Most of the water vapour is actually in the lowest few kilometers of the atmosphere, as the upper troposphere is too cold to support much water vapour. Perhaps he’s thinking of the release of latent heat in the tropics, which does occur mostly in the upper troposphere, leading to a warming ‘hot spot’ in the tropical upper troposphere as greenhouse gas concentrations rise.”

This led to a wrangle in which McPherson said that Renwick didn’t seem to understand that 99% of water vapor is in the troposphere. However the troposphere is a huge segment of the Earth’s atmosphere. It is roughly half of the atmosphere, the lowest half. So, Renwick’s “lowest few kilometers” of the atmosphere still means the troposphere.

I tweeted Professor Renwick (@CubaRaglanGuy) about this, and he replied –   “The upper troposphere is cold and dry. Most of the moisture is in the lowest 3 to 4 km. Moisture content is a function of temperature.”

The troposphere ranges from about 7 to 20 km in thickness. It is the layer of the atmosphere where weather and clouds happen. Above it is the stratosphere. Not being an atmospheric scientist it is tough for me to hash all this this out, but it does make sense that water vapor would be in the lower, warmer parts of the troposphere, below the 6 km range that McPherson is talking about for his lens effect.  

One science blogger, Scott K. Johnson of Fractal Planet, has assembled an impressive, comprehensive debunking of McPherson.

From the start I was suspicious about McPherson’s message, only because it seemed that if things were dire enough to cause extinction in ten years we would already be seeing more signs of it. It is true that we are seeing horrifying changes in the climate, but no signal of such an imminent apocalypse. McPherson predicts an explosive release of methane in coming years. Conventional science knows about the methane, but rejects the time frame described by McPherson. The change in our climate seems to be increasing in speed compared to ten years ago. Still, no cause for a repetitive playing of David Bowie’s Five Years.

No Planet B

No Planet B

I was hesitant to write this piece on McPherson. But I wanted to weigh in at the ground floor of what is certain to be his ascent to celebrity. McPherson is tailor-made for stardom in the current era. He has a flashy, hyper-dramatic message. He would be put on talk shows across from extremists of the other side, the deniers of climate change. McPherson will likely be used as a punching bag by climate change deniers to smear climate science as unrealistic and alarmist.  

His stardom would have the lifespan of a mayfly, of course. Whether he is right or wrong, we will know soon enough.

The end of the world has a certain perennial appeal to many people. And since some easily influenced souls out there may end up hearing McPherson’s message and dropping out of school, or selling their businesses, or maybe plotting some sort of mercy killings, more information needs to be online that points out an alternative viewpoint. It is interesting that his website has a suicide hotline phone number prominently displayed.

I’m thinking we have been through enough End of the World nonsense with Harold Camping, Hal Lindsay, Alex Jones, and the Mayan Calendar guys.  

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