Questioning Human Extinction Worldviews


Questioning Human Extinction Worldviews // Published on Feb 20, 2017

Are people relieved when they learn that humans (including them) will not be extinct in 18 months? Surprisingly not. Instead of relief, many vigorously attack any opposing view, and cling to their end-of-days worldview.

I delve into this deeper, examining Pros & Cons of having this view & elaborate on timescales from geological to human. Perhaps folk that defend extinction scenarios want it to happen? That could explain their opposition to any and all types of action to prevent it?

Most importantly, ask questions. Many questions…


About paulbeckwith

Well known climate science educator; Part-time Geography professor (climatology, oceanography, environmental issues), University of Ottawa. Physicist. Engineer. Master's Degree in Science in Laser Optics, Bachelors of Engineering, in Engineering Physics. Won Association of Professional Engineers of Ontario gold medal. Also interested in investment and start-ups in climate solutions, renewable energy and energy efficiency. Avid chess player, and likes restoring old homes. Married with children.
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6 Responses to Questioning Human Extinction Worldviews

  1. Randall says:

    Sometimes a man knows things based in a gut feeling is the truth and scares the crap out of him.
    Extinction is a reset, has been a reset, and will be comming again. That’s the nature of things.
    As far as some wishing for it.
    I question where we are as humans. We are far off the path of past hopes and dreams.
    We are not above The checks and balances of nature.
    Our living APPART from our planet, trying to cleanse off the unwanted soil and dirt of our natural existence once balanced with nature, has doomed us to our demise.
    To think we could escape the reality of nature by living separate and appart was a fools dream.
    For all to know , We are nature, to elevate above, to control, manipulate , we have doomed ourselves.
    So yes I believe the human has failed.
    Failed to accept, failed to conserve, and failed to live justly.
    I would rather the earth pass into the reset then to doom the future children a life of Bing totally engineered from birth to death in a very un-natural bio engineered existence.
    Gmo, war, hate, greed, pollution, false gods, geoengineered world, geoengineered people. sometimes you to have to put the sick dog to sleep.
    We are there. I would never help to extend this nightmare.
    From Eden to hell we have gone. We have ate from the tree of life and have committed all the sins hidden.
    Nature has taken rock and turned it into living life. The top soil is the rotting corpses of nature past feeding the present. We disrespected the lives given to bring anew.
    Now they come for us, no escaping for the foolish. Like a kite on a string she is reeling us back to the reality of the laws we abandoned.
    Yup. It needs to be reset back to the foundation.


  2. Glenn Davis says:

    Paul you seem to have tacken the unscientific view that the only way to mass extinqsion is a metane burst. And the new paper on stored methane confirms your views. What about the 40+ feedbacks Guy mentions? You are a good man but a poor expose journalist. You write as if you are afraid for your job(s), surely you know the public has climate change on the back burner and methane release is only part of the puzzzle. Your answer as to how people are responding to you sounds like Trump yelling “fake news.”


  3. Interesting. I wasn’t aware there [that there was…] a body of people who believe human extinction will occur as quickly as 18 months. As you indicate, there may be a sense of freedom in such fatalism. Being hopeful, I appreciate your science-based view that there is at least some room for hope. We can’t stop trying. Yet.


  4. jay says:

    From a natural habitat perspective GM sees us as an extremely vulnerable species dependent on plants and species to support our continued existence. The species that support our lives physically and emotionally are being wiped out exponentially by the sixth mass great extinction. GM believes that very large methane eruptions will inevitably happen as Arctic sea ice retreats! There are astronomical gigatonnes of methane buried in the Siberian permafrost and in the shallow waters of the ESAS. which if released by a heating climate will up the global average temperature to a level we can’t grow grains hence the collapse of western civilisation!


  5. longboren says:

    I am a little disappointed in the intramural conflict between you and Guy McPherson. I follow both of you closely, and think you both have important things to say. Obviously Guy has treated you badly somewhere along the line; I get that.

    I agree that even fast paced change is incremental and not instantaneous. I agree that there is a big difference between the collapse of civilization and the extinction of the human species. However the two of you are performing slightly different roles. You are a scientist and still conducting research; Guy is no longer conducting scientific research; he is a “popularizer” who is connecting dots.

    Guy does seem given to hyperbole, but in actuality the two of you disagree about details, not the basic underlying problem. You both discuss exponential change and how the manifestation of such is only obvious in the rear view mirror.

    You both clearly see the climate emergency upon us. In fact in the absence of geoengineering, your view while not as bleak as Guy’s is probably on the same end of the spectrum. The main difference between the two of you is that you are an optimist who believes that we still have time to get our body parts out of the ringer, whereas Guy does not believe that.

    I just read Merchants of Doubt by Naomi Orestes and Eric Conway (excellent book if you haven’t already read it), and it distresses me to hear you make some of the same arguments made by tobacco, big oil, etc with respect to Guy.

    I understand clearly that you disagree with him, but to say that he is crazy detracts from the overall struggle to get the word, the facts and implications on abrupt climate change out there.

    I hope that the two of you
    can agree to disagree, respect
    each other’s viewpoint, and
    continue doing the good work that
    both of you are currently doing.

    editor, dk. perfectly said. i truly like guy and sympathize greatly with his views. i find him to be honorable, credible, and quite sane. very sane, to my tastes. at the same time, i respect paul, trust not all but much of his science and assiduous engineering chops, and as a fellow serious chess player, respect his ability to see patterns in large scale if not also in great detail.

    i come from an entire clan of teachers and engineers and find, at time, ‘their’ being so literal difficult, but from my family or origin know it so very, very well. so get the mind set. then, in college, cooper union had besides a very good art and architecture school what we called, ‘the engineering school’. so conventional at times despite great brilliance, back in the day, not at the level of MIT and stanford, but half a step behind. tuition free. lost the standard since then, but back then, was very much so…

    paul and i have worked together well for 1.6 years. he has been kind, good, decent, fair, hard working.

    i do not dismiss or relegate to a lower order his love of his wife and kids and cats. he is good. his heart does not always get to show, but i know it to be there of hundreds of interactions. many good. now and again, i am forced to challenge him, and he always listens to me, and might not always act, but will always listen. always. says a lot.

    i support him not as a scientist but strong generalist ~ professional knowledge manager with wide communication skills–phone, data, web, social groups, strategy). since i am friends with both and even call guy time to time, its hard to watch and see. i find validity in both of them. you articulate this so well. thank you deeply, david

    addenda. i tell paul with great emphasis, live, not in email, ‘do not fight with guy or his people’ but grow his explication of science and engineering which he does far better than a great many so called PhD’s, excepting guy’s GREAT clear headed clarity, stay off policy and politics, and be who you are, an incredible teacher of basic science who can expound watts, kilograms, joules, ergs, watts, psi, psf, ph, physical and chemical and systemic properties better than many a (a times quite cowardly if not demonstrably weak) michael mann or james hansen, who while having great credentials if not gravitas and imprimatur, do not do as good a job of saying what is so, how it works, and likelihoods.

    paul’s work has great value, but must get off the idea of being right or wrong but do what he does best, sharing i breath and, when practicable, in depth. as a wise friend, who read ALL of western philosophy in great detail, from wittgenstein to husserl to russell to ayer to sartre and mentored me in great detail extensively said, ‘david, much of western philosophy as we know it, would not exist without great self aggrandizement, and is based on a great confusion between truth and accuracy’.

    to me, paul does not need to be true, just accurate. it is in sanskrit, ‘tat aum sat’, thou art that, to me, says it all: हरिः ओम् तत् सत्, Harihi Aum Tat Sat. things are suchness.


  6. Randall says:

    Open letter to all you climate scientists–
    Paul your a divorce.
    I have gone down many rabbit holes and my plunge into climate has taken me to depths never reached.
    I thank all of you who post the info regardless of how it’s taken. Truth is important.
    I have been to detailed writings on how methane is studied. The complex system of measurements one many levels as to include side of bubbles, is complex and the scientists are determined in their work, honest, sincere human beings. Hats off to all of you and I bow.
    You dig the rabbit holes for us to follow
    Thanks Paul.


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