The End of the World is Not Coming by 2030

Being a doomer is nothing new, people have been talking about “the end of the world” for just as long as we’ve had the language to describe the idea. There was the Halley’s comet panic of 1910, the Y2K millennium computer bug, and more recently the Mayan calendar prediction for the end of the world in 2012. There is even a Wikipedia page devoted to all the failed apocalyptic predictions.

None of these failed predictions included the possibility of mass extinction and collapse of our civilization due to climate change, overpopulation and overshoot. None of these predictions was based on a body of scientific work dating back over 150 years, when the dangers of greenhouse gases building up in the atmosphere was first noted in the scientific literature. None of these predictions reference overpopulation, as Paul Ehrlich bravely did in 1968, or overshoot, as William Catton did in 1982. And none of these predictions has real-time evidence that collapse is taking place, right now, all around us. We are living in the days of the sixth great extinction.

Like every other time in history, there are doomsayers of various levels of notoriety who are predicting that the end of the world is coming soon. However, what makes these modern times incredible is that some of these “truthers” have credible science to back up their arguments. Among these, the so-called “Near Term Human Extinction” (NTHE) movement makes the nearest of near-term predictions, putting extinction of all humans on the planet as a certainty by 2030. The reason for their confidence in this prediction is the rarely mentioned issue of massive nuclear power plant meltdowns that they claim will occur after climate and societal conditions make it impossible for these plants to operate or for a controlled shutdown to occur. They argue that a catastrophic release of nuclear radiation from hundreds of nuclear power plants will render the planet lifeless. These eventual meltdowns, preceded by ecosystem collapse, lethal wet-bulb temperatures and crop failures after a blue ocean event, paint a crushingly sad portrait of the global extinction event they say will be completely done and wrapped within 8 years.

Okay, it could happen. In the climate casino, I’ll gladly take the “over” on their bet (I’ve tried — they won’t take my action). In my opinion, their prognosticated death of eight billion humans follows a long string of logical stretches that seems to miss out on the labyrinth of minor catastrophes that needs to happen along the way.

Here are the top five events I predict WILL NOT happen by 2030:

  1. An ice-free Arctic summer (an entire summer, not just a one-time brief event), cessation of the AMOC or collapse of the Thwaites glacier. In other words, a full-fledged catastrophic humanity-ending climate-induced tipping point will not happen.
  2. A year with global temperatures exceeding 2°C above the 1850-1900 IPCC baseline. (The current warmest year was less than 1.3°C above the 1850-1900 IPCC baseline).
  3. Lethal wet-bulb temperatures and famine killing hundreds of millions to billions of humans.
  4. The catastrophic meltdown of a large number of nuclear power plants killing the rest.
  5. Resulting in the extinction of all, or nearly all, humans on the planet by 2030.

Okay, NTHE could happen by 2030 — but if it did the cause would be not be any of those events listed above.

Any of these civilization-ending events COULD happen by 2030:

  1. Global nuclear or biological warfare.
  2. Global systems collapse.
  3. Comet or asteroid strike.
  4. Catastrophic coronal mass ejection or other solar weather event.
  5. A supervolcano eruption.

A global systems collapse has already begun, from shortages of wheat, water and baby formula, to supply chain and energy disruptions, to failing political, financial and social institutions. Of the five that could cause the rapid collapse of modern-industrial civilization, system collapse is the one that’s most likely. But the sad likelihood is that the end of civilization is going to be much more painful and slow. There is not going to be a quick and tidy end to all things human.

It is comforting to think we are living out the plot of some storyline that will have a neat and tidy ending during our lifetime. The story that some savior from the heavens will rescue those who fire a particular neural pattern. Or the story that some combination of feedback loops together with methane bombs and nuclear meltdowns will bring about a nuclear wasteland. Or the apocaloptimistic story that sustainable growth, GHG reduction targets and green energy will get there just in time. But there is no imaginary friend waiting to save us. And we are not all going to die a horrible radiation-soaked death any day now. And we will not be dancing on our own grave, while “adapting” to an eco-utopian lifestyle, as the sun sets on the “others” who were desperately clinging to their hopeless faith in civilization

Here is my prediction for what is going to happen. Everyone on the planet is going to see a lot of different things get a lot worse. And then worse than that. And then worse. It is horrible.  It will be more horrible, then much more horrible. More environmental and social destruction. More hunger and thirst. More fascism. More murders. More wars. More hate. More death. More humans.

Here are the top five events that WILL happen by 2030.

  1. In ever-growing regions of the planet, people will suffer and die directly from lack of food and water. Hunger will reach 900 million soon, and easily pass one billion by 2030. Meanwhile, in 2030, most first-world countries will still have a local McDonalds operating 24/7 and a convenient Walmart nearby.
  2. Extreme weather events, including extreme heat, hurricanes, droughts, fires and floods, will destroy the infrastructure, arability and survivability of large areas of the planet that are currently habitable. Large parts of India will be among the first to go. These weather events, together with political instability and famine, will drive a climate refugee crisis possibly involving hundreds of millions of our fellow humans. (I’ll go out on a limb and predict that India will be the source of the first 100M+ climate refugee exodus from a single country.)
  3. The massive surge of refugees to first-world borders will create border conflicts fought by mercenary hate-filled political extremists fighting alongside national forces. These humanitarian crises will swamp the ability of the first-world nations to cope, leading to the suffering and violent death of huge numbers of these refugees. You will either become a climate refugee or live in a part of the world that is actively fighting against their entry.
  4. While fascist and authoritarian governments spread in formerly democratic first-world nations, inflation, scarcity, hate and disinformation will accelerate acts of protest, violence, home-grown terrorism and civil wars. Stocks, real estate, crypto and precious metals will plummet in value. Most of those who aren’t already refugees will live in poverty, however the wealthiest individuals in first-world countries will get richer. No place will be safe.
  5. The planet will exceed 1.5°C above the 1850-1900 IPCC baseline at least once. Methane and CO₂ will continue to reach new record highs each year through 2030. The global agreement at COP-26 to “reduce methane by 30% by 2030” will be long forgotten. People everywhere on the planet will still be driving fossil-fuel powered cars, flying in fossil-fuel powered jets and eating food transported by fossil-fuel powered ships, trucks and trains. We will continue to assault our planet in ways that will accelerate collapse and the sixth great extinction.

And here is my number one prediction for 2030. People, everywhere there are still people, will be creating new people. The population will reach, exceed and be maintained above 8 billion people. Sadly, there will be plenty of humans on the planet, including hundreds of millions of humans who will be born between now and 2030, left to suffer when 2030 comes and goes. As for 2050, I’m not so sure.

 

Eliot Jacobson, Ph.D.

Retired professor of mathematics and computer science, retired casino consultant, now a full time volunteer, husband and grandfather. Know-it-all doomer. Born in the year 316 ppm CO2.

12 thoughts on “The End of the World is Not Coming by 2030

  • May 31, 2022 at 12:18 pm
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    9

    That looks highly credible.
    I’m not so sure about 2050, either.
    I’d put my money on China coming through strongly, having forced its population to do whatever it need to survive. Fascism works.
    The US will sink into low level civil war.
    Africa will die, horribly.
    Europe…swamped by refugees, becoming echo-fascist and wracked by drought and heat.

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  • May 31, 2022 at 5:32 pm
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    5

    Thanks fr this. You, like me, try to be as realistic as possible. For such profoundly disastrous times I found this remarkably optimistic .

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  • June 1, 2022 at 12:22 am
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    Professor Eliot Jacobson, Dr Pete Sudbury, Michael Shaw,

    What is lacking in your posts is, how to prevent all that you predict. Launching the Ethical Market Economy will solve the planetary ecological problems. The consumer is then paid a pilot wage to maintain ways of living that keep the environment in impeccable state. Governments can afford these wages with the money presently spent on repairing the damage to the environment caused by our current ways of living. I invite you to study the EmE report at http://www.biosustainable.org/EmE and to assemble together a mass of people large enough to oblige the persons who have the authority to launch the EmE to do so immediately. Mankind will then be able to live happily in harmony with each other and nature.

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    • June 9, 2022 at 1:43 pm
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      3

      We can’t even get people to wear masks during a pandemic. Utah’s legislators and cities won’t take one step toward mitigating the drying up of the Great Salt Lake which is down to 1/3 of the area it was in 1987, despite Salt Lake City using more water per capita than any other desert city. (see: https://www.nytimes.com/2022/06/07/climate/salt-lake-city-climate-disaster.html). We can’t properly address the attempted sedition that took place after the last presidential election. We can’t address mass shootings. I could go on, but you get the picture. We are our own worst enemy. We are like drug addicts, obsessed with, and seemingly designed for … consuming. And we are consuming the planet at breakneck speed.

      As my nine year old grandson said to my wife and I, “My generation is doomed.”

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      • June 25, 2022 at 10:42 am
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        John, your point is so critical. People routinely fail to consider human psychology in all their talk about “coulds” and “shoulds.”
        We’ve known for centuries that we’re headed for collapse on our current trajectory, yet all we’ve done is hit the accelerator.

        My feeling is that if we were actually willing or able to turn the proverbial ship around, we would have done so long ago. We’re not designed for restraint, and we prove it with each new disaster we create and fail to address. William Rees does a masterful job of laying out why humans are more or less incapable of changing course.

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  • June 1, 2022 at 3:55 am
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    5

    I agree with nearly everything. The true danger is not climate change; it is humanity not having systems in place to manage it.

    Frustratingly we do; however risk models downgrade the threat without upgrading the threat of system collapse due to inequalities. In short governments have decided there are winners and losers in life; everyone for themselves.

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  • June 2, 2022 at 1:00 pm
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    4

    Sounds about right. This working and saving for the future thing is a sucker’s game, a ponzi scheme. I just spent 13 years saving almost 200k. Soon it will all be worthless. At least by 2030 I won’t be sitting at my desk dying of boredom, I’ll be somewhere else dying of something else.

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  • June 2, 2022 at 2:26 pm
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    3

    I’m sticking to the Limits to Growth projection, which has shown to be pretty much spot on so far.

    It showed the population peaking c2025 (at about 8.4 billion at the current rate of net +1 million every 4 days), then a rapid decline thereafter, which the authors projected to be 50% reduction by c2070, but back in 1972 they didn’t programme in the Gaia effect because they didn’t know about co-extinctions, trophic cascades and the 9 planetary boundaries, so net zero by 2050 is quite possible. Net zero humans that is, not net zero carbon. Certainly Seneca cliff societal collapse will have happened by then. Humans making it beyond 2030 will by 2050 be living in a world that is completely alien to the one we live in now, that I am pretty much certain of. Which is not necessarily a bad thing, just something different.

    For me the much vaunted 2026 figure is not actual extinction, just functional extinction. Functional extinction and extinction are two very different things, although the end result is the same. Can we be functionally extinct with 8.4 billion people? Sounds a complete contradiction doesn’t it? Possibly yes, with the increased sterilisation due to the man-made toxins in the entire eco-system. And not as well known is the lack of genetic diversity in the species, I recently saw an article on (it might have been one of Eliot’s posts?), lack of genetic diversity in a species is apparently bad for the evolutionary process, and that of homo sapiens is poor indeed.

    We have failed the evolutionary challenge, to learn to live within ecological limits, to learn to NOT go into overshoot that all species would if given the chance (ref William Catton’s Overshoot) – which could well be the reason we developed big brains, but instead we used those big brains to dominate and overshoot all the other species on the planet, stealing their resource base to fuel ours, resulting in the current 6th (or 8th or whatever) mass extinction.

    Whatever way it goes, it’ll not be pretty. For those currently with the least, they only have their lives to lose. For those in the “civilised west” or first world countries, they have all their privileges to lose first.
    My prediction for 2022 was that the outrage at loss of privilege will be louder than the actual loss itself, in the MSM at least.

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  • June 4, 2022 at 2:35 pm
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    I wish people understood more these obvious conclusions, the foremost being that climate refugees will attempt to flee if at all possible, and what that means for the receiving end. Friends eyeing escape to Europe don’t understand that’s where most of Asia’s refugees will go. Will they be willing to dig moats? To shoot people? The same questions apply to the Pacific Northwest. In a decade, it’s possible the desert cities will not be viable. Where will all those people go?

    But, yes, there will be millions more cars, along with the millions more people. The only real wildcard I can see is increasing disease turning population numbers the other way. That’s how nature does it. We certainly aren’t doing anything different.

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  • June 8, 2022 at 4:52 pm
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    Great article; I do think the systemic collapse is hitting us hard now. Many in poor countries are already seeing their world fall apart; and half of families in the United States cannot afford adequate food despite; multiple restaurants and a McDonalds on every corner.

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  • June 11, 2022 at 8:09 am
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    Our future prospects are so emotionally painful to me as a person who has had a career in healing. I think that’s why the apocalyptic/ the-end-is-nye belief system is so appealingly for many. They won’t see the long, drawn out suffering of their children and grandchildren in a world that is collapsing. The problem is these groups are becoming cultist with their fixed ideas of collapse as a moment in time rather than a process. They are removing their children from school, and actively planning to take their own lives “if things get bad”, and becoming isolated from family members “who don’t understand”. It makes it difficult to connect for those of us who believe that the journey will alway be worth making no matter how challenging.

    Reply

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