Ted Turner: global warming could lead to cannibalism

In a PBS interview CNN founder Ted Turner says if global warming continues people will cut out the middlemen and start eating each other to survive.
If steps aren't taken to stem global warming, "We'll be eight degrees hotter in 30 or 40 years and basically none of the crops will grow," Turner said during a wide-ranging, hour-long interview with PBS's Charlie Rose that aired Tuesday.

"Most of the people will have died and the rest of us will be cannibals," said Turner, 69. "Civilization will have broken down. The few people left will be living in a failed state – like Somalia or Sudan – and living conditions will be intolerable."

It's probably a good time to buy stock in Soylent Green. Link (Thanks, Scott!)


  1. It’s probably a good time to buy stock in Soylent Green.

    Why eat kibble when you could have a steak?

  2. times like these I am glad my vile and repulsive personal habits have rendered my flesh unplatable in the extreme. No really! I’m all stringy and dry!

  3. Concerns about global warming aside (and it’s a big aside), Ted Turner was never the sharpest tool in the shed. Lately he seems to be lacking any edge at all.

  4. In the movie Soylent Green, Edward G. Robinson’s character complains about the greenhouse effect . . . and the reason that Soylent Corporation was harvesting corpses was that the main ingredient of Soylent Green crackers, krill, was unavailable because the ocean ecosystems had crashed.

    Nah, that could never happen.

  5. Wow. Cormac Mccarthy, here we come!

    I always thought somalia would make a fine new rome.

  6. 8 degrees? Eight degrees? Please, no, not EIGHT WHOLE DEGREES WARMER!! That’s about TWO degrees Celsius! I mean, it will be only -38 Celsius here in winter and then 32 Celsius in summer! Oh, the horror! What ever will we do??

    Oh, wait, I know! Ignore this douchebag spewing raw sewage from his pie hole.

    Concerns about global warming aside (and it’s a big aside), Ted Turner was never the sharpest tool in the shed. Lately he seems to be lacking any edge at all.

    we need sledgehammers too

    Well, we know one thing for certain: he is a tool.

  7. This is all a thinly-disguised plot to remove the stigma of cannibalism, so that Ted can return to his primary source of sustenance:


    Sing it for me, Ted!

    Oh, I want my baby-back baby-back baby-back baby-back baby-back ribs! I want my baby-backbaby-backbaby-back ribs!
    — Ted Turner, CEO, Old Coot Corporation, April 1 2008

  8. I’m confused now. Are we talking about global warming (yeah 8 degrees F, or 2 degrees C is a huge deal). Or are we talking about what a clueless geezer Ted Turner is and always was?

  9. @EPP Actually, 8 F is 4.44 C, not 2 C. And according to the Stern Report, about 4 C is the tipping point between liveable environmental crisis and truly catastrophic environmental crisis. I was at a lecture Stern last week, and it was impressively researched, and he didn’t even have to resort to crudely executed sarcasm.

  10. While this appears to be a completely bullshit and sensationalist statement by Turner, you just put yourself in the same category #8.

    Whether his statement in terms of a time frame is accurate or not, an eight degree rise in global temperature is massive. He’s right, many crops would be obliterated, the gulf streams could potentially shut down and the sea level would rise fairly substantially.

  11. I’m getting quite tired of this kind of catastrophic forecast.

    Global warming is indeed a problem. A serious problem. But catastrophism is a road to nowhere.

    If this kind of prevision had the minimum chance of being true most biotech companies, most agricultural lobbies, most governments would be just freaking out.

    That’s not the case.

    EU governments are investing in alternative energy sources and in the optimization of natural resources usage. Some state governments in USA are trying to rationalize the use of energy.

    IMHO, the problem is that people is living more. It seems that US military actions in Africa, the Middle East and the Balkans are not succeeding in kill enough people to keep ecologic balance stable. (f@ck1ng obvious irony, PLZ don’t take it seriously).

  12. “…and basically none of the crops will grow”

    In which case, cannibalism would be a self-correcting problem.

  13. Oh, the horror! What ever will we do?

    Yes, but it will be 131F / 55C here in the summer.

  14. Actually, Ted is probably right.

    At least for most people in the U.S., if the grocery closed people would starve to death. They have no idea where food comes from or how to prepare (grow or kill/clean) it.

    In urban and even many suburban areas, the number of people that simply never cook (at all; all meals eaten out or delivered) is astounding. The groceries could stay open, and these folks would still starve if the fast food places closed.

    As far as “global warming”, people have a hard time understanding it, and why only a few degrees is a big deal. If you consider the Earth as a closed system raising the global average temperature means that you are adding energy to the system. A planet-wide average temperature change of just a few degrees is a mind-bogglingly huge amount of energy.

    That energy has to go somewhere, and it can’t leave as fast as it’s coming in. The result is wind and storms and shifting weather patterns. Deserts where there used to be arable land. Ice where there wasn’t any. Melted permafrost where glaciers used to be. It’s sort of like turning on the blender – everything gets shaken up.

    The problem is that while there are likely to still be plenty of habitable places in the world and new places to grow crops, there’s a problem. We divide the land politically. Everyone in the U.S. can’t just move to another country where conditions are nicer (or the other way around).

    I don’t know why they make this topic so complex; it’s not difficult to understand. By obfuscating it, people are turning off, thinking the problem doesn’t exist or will just “go away”.

  15. Ted Turner doesn’t know what he is talking about. The IPCC report gives the range of temperature rise over the next 2 decades to be from 0.1 C to 0.2 C per decade. The temperature rise after that point depends a lot on greenhouse gas production, but it isn’t going to suddenly jump up to 2 C per decade. A rise 4.5 C in 30 to 40 years is just silly. Ted Turner needs to lay off the booze. People aren’t going to be eating each other like zombies due to global warming no matter how cool of a movie it would be.

  16. I feel most of what can be said has been said.

    Captain Planet: “Protect the environment, or I’ll f*cking kill you!”

    That always works.

  17. Ya know, have any of you seen his 2004 interview with Charlie Rose?

    Turner seems like he’s got his head on pretty straight. Really damn zany, but basically a good-hearted guy?

    At least if you take the interview without a lot of prior context…

  18. “It offered extensive protection for the wearer’s face at the cost of some visibility, but its distinctive visor could be raised or lowered at will.”

  19. have any of you seen his 2004 interview with Charlie Rose?

    But….everyone seems really bright when they’re sitting next to Charlie Rose.

  20. “Global warming is indeed a problem. A serious problem. But catastrophism is a road to nowhere.”

    From a purely objective viewpoint, ‘catastrophism’ is justified if one is indeed facing a catastrophic threat.

    “If this kind of prevision had the minimum chance of being true most biotech companies, most agricultural lobbies, most governments would be just freaking out.”

    Really? You take a good look at the morons running things lately? George Bush gets his climate advice from Michael Crichton. Another possibility is that our ruling elites know it’s going to be very bad but they think they can ride it out. They may also see the population crash that would naturally occur to be a good thing.

    Hydraulic empire. What a post oil, climate stressed, water stressed world might look like.

    The Possibility of Hope – Children of Men Extra – Sober yet hopeful analysis of our possible future. A bit more accurate than Ted Turner’s.

    The most fundamental reality at the present time is that the human species has overshot the capacity of the planet to sustain it. Both in terms of human numbers and in terms of the impact of these human beings on the planet. This is a very challenging situation and the first challenge it poses is really understanding it and accepting it. Because unless we understand the extent to which we’ve already damaged the planet, the extent to which climate change is already irreversible, then whatever we do to cope with environmental issues will have no real long term effect.

    Alarmism and denial are really two sides of the same coin aren’t they? That coin is fear, it’s currency is impotence.

  21. @ #32 Hounskull: Stop spewing raw sewage from your piehole and maybe people won’t say that about you. Cause and effect, son.

    @ #20 Jardine & #30 JTF: Damn you both for beating me to it.

  22. 8F is a lot, but no one, and I believe that’s really NO one that actually knows anything about it (Ted Turner obviously excluded), is saying that the global average temperature is going to increase by anywhere near 8F, much less 8C, in as short a time as 30 or 40 years, or even 100 years, are they?

  23. Interestingly, I’m unable to find any evidence (other than sensationalized conjecture) indicating an inverse relationship between global temperatures and crop production.

    I’d be cautious in abandoning centuries worth of unbiased data demonstrating a clear link between warmer temperatures and longer growing seasons/increased precipitation/greater crop production.

    What may seam counter-intuitive is the relationship between CO2 and plants. By doubling the amount of a crop’s exposure to CO2 (from 350ppm to 700ppm), its production output increases between 30-40%. These findings are not the speculation of one individual, or even one study- over 1200 separate studies confirm this. (this is also why most commercial greenhouses have CO2 generators)

    I’m not trying to be a fun-sponge, but we’ll be viewed as hyped-up alarmists unless we stick to science to demonstrate the facts about global warming. Ted Turner’s comments appear to be ill-informed speculations, and only make it more difficult to draw awareness to the real and substantiated concerns regarding climate change.

  24. And how large exactly is Mr Turner’s personal carbon footprint? How much is he really doing himself?

  25. #28

    IPCC estimates so far have consistently low balled the problem, and had to be revised upwards, every year. For example ice cap melting is accelerating beyond all predictions due to self reinforcing phenomenom like the melting ice lubricates more ice shifting which causes more friction which melts more ice which reflects less light which melts more ice, etc.

    The basic problem is that the individual events they can predict tend to create other cascade effects which are more difficult to predict. There’s a growing realization that it’s likely to be worse than we can accurately predict because what we know is probably the best case scenario.

    So, TT is using a more aggressive prediction than can be made with certainty. But, he’s right in acknowledging the predictions so far have failed to understand cascade effects, and if there’s another revision or two upwards, as there already have been several, what he predicts is where we’ll be.

    It’s worth considering: how much do we want to risk catastrophe? What’s the insurance policy against catastrophe worth? Maybe 1% GDP? Presently we’re not spending even close to that to hedge risk.

  26. Brian Eno sang the soundtrack to Ted’s vision 30 years ago…

    Broken Head

    I was just a broken head
    I stole the world that others punctured
    Now I stumble through the garbage
    Slide and tumble, slide and stumble
    Beak and claw, remorse reminder
    Slide and tumble, slide and stumble
    Back and forth and back to nothing
    Keep them tidy, keep them humble.

    Chop and change to cut the corners
    Sharp as razors shiny razors
    Stranded on a world that’s dying
    Never moving, hardly trying.

    I was just a broken head
    I stole the world that others plundered
    Now I stumble through the garbage
    Slide and tumble, slide and stumble.

    – Eno Mobius & Rodelius – After The Heat (1978)

  27. But….everyone seems really bright when they’re sitting next to Charlie Rose.

    You’re right. Even George Bush was able to string together semi-coherent sentences and mostly avoid staring blankly when being interviewed by Charlie.

  28. #43 Cocobolo
    It isn’t the temps that will be the problem but the changes in weather patterns. Some places will get a lot of water, too much in fact. Others will get no water for decades. It won’t matter how warm it is or how much CO2 is in the air if your fields are underwater, ravaged by storms or if they are becoming desert.

    “Ted Turner’s comments appear to be ill-informed speculations”

    When he says that “We’ll be eight degrees hotter in 30 or 40 years and basically none of the crops will grow,” Well… I don’t know. That seems a bit extreme to me and I don’t know where he gets his figures.

    However when he says:

    “Civilization will have broken down. The few people left will be living in a failed state — like Somalia or Sudan — and living conditions will be intolerable.”

    Then I agree with him. That is clearly the direction we are currently headed in unless we change course.

  29. The hostile response people often have to warnings of looming environmental crisis has always perplexed me. But hostility is really fear, isn’t it?

    Exactly how things will play out can’t be known. The variables are too great, we’re still gathering data. But I’m just baffled about the massive degree of denial I see. How can one not see the changes on the face of the land and the water? It just seems to take a massive effort to not look. That’s wall being maintained, one that requires a lot of energy. Having emotional targets like Turner or Fonda helps generate emotional energy. If nothing else, such ranting keeps an emotional noise level high enough to help dampen thinking.

    Because one wouldn’t want to consider the possibility that one’s lifestyle might be causing problems. One wouldn’t want to think about other people’s suffering. One doesn’t want to contemplate change.

    No one in my extended family, for example, seems to even consider the impact of their lifestyle on the environment or other people. There is no modification of behavior, not even in small ways.

    And I can’t understand it, just can’t fathom it. Especially as there is so much lip service given to family and CHILDREN. And I keep wondering, if you care so much about your children, then how can you bring yourself to live in a 4000 sq foot house in an unsustainable suburb, rolling around to all those lessons and activities in those big cars? How can you keep buying foodstuffs in plastic packaging and a thousand other bits of offensive inanity. Because the piper must be paid. And maybe you’ll just sleaze by, oh baby boomer generation, or maybe not. But your kids will surely pay, and every generation after that.

    So when Ted Turner describes a scenario of terrible suffering and fear, and people start freaking out and picking apart the details, it sure sounds like a lot of frightened noise. And it sounds like selfish frightened noise.

    Because even if such things do not happen in YOUR lifetime, and I think there is a good possibility that they might, the party is coming to an end. And if you can’t imagine yourself in a world where basics like food and water and shelter are nearly impossible to come by, you need to imagine your children in such a world.

    That world is here, now, for many people on the planet. You need to imagine that possibility for yourself or your children and not in that vague and abstract way, not in that “future generations” somebody in the distance you can not see, but as people you love.

    Do you love anyone but yourself? Think of your child, that beautiful young person. Think of that son or daughter of yours as a baby, a toddler, a teen, a young adult. Imagine specifics: a smile, a laugh, a stride. Think of that individual you love so.

    Now put them in one of those scenarios, be it Mr. Turner’s or a different one. It doesn’t have to be a Mad Max world, just think of the struggle if agriculture becomes problematic. Don’t even take it to the point of nothing growing. Push yourself too far, and you’ll flinch away and feel nothing and stop thinking.

    Just imagine enough of a change, that food starts to become an issue. And think, not of yourself, but of someone outside yourself who you love. I’m not even asking you to expand that circle very far, because probably if you could do that you wouldn’t be in that hunker-down, look after yourself, so terrified that you can’t consider the possibility of a life or world unlike the one you know now, rigid rigid rigid mode.

    Stop focusing on Turner or Honda or whatever boogieman. Stop making that noise so you don’t have to think about what is happening with the oceans and the skies and the soil beneath your feet.

    I’d like to ask you to invest some time in learning about the planet you live on, to just pick up a secondhand Earth science textbook so you’ll understand that we aren’t talking about the thermostat out in the hall in your home or office. But I know that is too much to ask.

    Just do this simple thing. Think hard about your kid and take responsibility for their future. Understand that this is bigger than a good school and a solid career. Understand that changes are coming that the upper middle class will not be able to ride out, that it’s going to get harsh.

    Think of your kid. Because I’m hoping some basic instinct will start working. I’m hoping that you’ll be able to function despite fear, for your kids.

    Love requires action, even when you are scared.

  30. If we’re all destined to be served up on he cannibal’s table, i offer myself as dessert. You may drizzle me with chocolate (the real stuff please) and whipped cream. Don’t lick it all off, save some for the next person. reasonable hours, call for prices.

  31. I’m very sorry, but this just over the top.

    What Turner says here is the same as pointing out how vulnerable the place where I live would be to a magnitude 9 earthquake. Yes, sure it is, no doubt about it, but IT MISSES THE POINT. The point is: I live in central Germany and the strongest earthquake on record here had magnitude 2.4. A mag 9 one WILL NOT HAPPEN.

    An increase of temperatures, as anyone sane enough to consider the bit of scientific evidence we have, of 8 degrees in 30-40 year, no matter if Fahrenheit, Kelvin or Reomur, is completely out of the question.

    I want to make clear that people like Ted Turner are destroying the credibility of all those rightfully concerned about the climate, trying to find out with scientific methods what we are up to.

    It is a mistake to say that it is save to err on the more extreme side of warming forecasts. If you want people to take action, you must first be sure that they have TRUST in what you say. Catastrophic scenarios beyond all scientific possibilities, constant fear-mongering and exclusive mentioning of negative impacts of global warming have distorted the picture of the whole issue in such a grand way that it has become unrecognizeable to anyone thinking about what a warming of climate would actually entail.

    The way this topic is being debated has alienated those most capable of dealing with it. The only heating that I am sure to have seen in the last few years, is the heating of the debate to a point where cool-headed discussion has become impossible.

  32. Anybody read ‘The Road’? That’s kinda what happened. Sometimes the crazy billionaires can be right.

  33. @COCOBOLO #40: (this is also why most commercial greenhouses have CO2 generators)

    Eh, what? (Does a quick Google. *Boggles*)

    That is crazy! Every single Commercial Greenhouse CO2 Generator I looked at burns *fossil fuels* directly to make CO2 – and most are designed to minimize the heat output!

    (Thinks a bit and calms down.)

    I suppose that current (or at least, the last few decades…) market economics are such that this is the “least cost option” to get a higher CO2 content in the greenhouse. At the very *least* I would expect smart greenhouse operators that need local on-demand CO2 generation to install fossil-fuel powered *electrical power generators* that have their humid, CO2-laden exhaust streams properly routed and monitored. If you are going to burn the fuel just to get the CO2 out of it, you might as well get some *work* out of the fuel!

    And, of course, stationary gensets are readily switchable to bio-fuels. Heck, a properly constructed “agrichar” biomass gasifier setup could run a genset quite nicely, and provide not only power, heat and CO2 to the greenhouse but a carbon-enriched soil additive that could be used to increase the viability of the soil. Look up “terra preta” for why adding agrichar is a good thing. Here is a decent article about agrichar and terra preta.

    As for Ted Turner, well, I’ve not much to say there, other than I’d love to be rich enough to be considered “eccentric”.


  34. Pigs are intelligent, thoughtful animals, and often nicer and smarter than most human individuals. Bacon is tasty. Apparently, human meat tastes very much like pig meat. We have barely glimpsed the culinary possibilities of cannibalism.

  35. The earlier comments about urban dwellers and food supply in North America and Western Europe are bang on. Even without catastrophic climate change, a serious disruption in food production and distribution networks (such as a drastic decline in fossil fuel availability) could have serious consequences for social order. The film “Le Temps du Loup” is a powerful illustration of what this might look like (although not as much fun as Mad Max).


    “Soylent Green…Now With More Caucasians.”

  36. I don’t think the point is the specifics of whatever warning whatever celeb offers. Ted Turner is not, in case you hadn’t noticed, a scientist. He’s not a researcher. It’s just that folks getting upset about Ted Turner invoking Heart-of-Darkness scenarios seem absurd when they should, perhaps, be a bit more upset about the state of the planet.

  37. Dear disbelievers:

    Global warming means higher highs, and lower lows, and less time in between.

    But by all means, shoot every single messenger if it helps your bottom line.

  38. CBARETTO (#16):
    “If this kind of prevision had the minimum chance of being true most biotech companies, most agricultural lobbies, most governments would be just freaking out.

    That’s not the case.”

    They ARE freaking out.
    Trying to figure out a way to make a buck while ALSO being green right now. It’s huge.

    It’s just…they’re freaking out in calm ways so as not to alarm the stocholders. Calm, slow ways, because all huge structures (gov, business) are very slow.

    Read all that’s happening in the bizarre world where environmentalists are seen as idea-makers for business instead of crazy hippies ranting, and you’ll see a definite, fearful shift: but a slow one, excruciatingly slow…specially for crazy ranting environmentalists like me.

  39. I’ve thought the same thing for years. Once all the pigeons and rats are gone, what’s next?

    I also think a pandemic might hit first and save us the horror of cannibalism, substituting the horror of billions of rotting corpses.

    I’m sure it doesn’t matter what Ted Turner or anyone else says. There were probably a few people on Easter Island saying “you know– we should probably stop cutting down all these trees, they’re not growing back fast enough”, and who were then dismissed as crackpots. Most people are more concerned with paying their bills and watching TV and getting the newest, smallest cell phone. We can’t picture that horrible future, it seems like some made-up sci-fi nonsense; reality is groceries and traffic and paperwork, not “Soylent Green” or “The Omega Man.”

    In the 1930’s nobody thought a man could walk on the moon, reputable scientists dismissed the idea as impossible. But they probably couldn’t imagine paying a dollar for a chocolate bar or $3.50 for a gallon of gas either. Maybe when the dystopian future comes we will have gotten incrementally used to it, and cannibalism won’t seem like such a horror.

    And anyway it won’t technically be cannibalism when I (a Morlock) eat some sweet young Eloi flesh.

  40. Cannibalism might happen in some of the already population stressed industrializing nations, certainly in the 3rd world if not already, in the US just the good old’ murdering, stealing, rioting, things will probably get very expensive, and some places made unlivable.

    Oh well, good thing the United States has spent more on its military then the rest of the world combined for quite some time. Just prep for the insanity and I’m sure you’ll have as good a shot as possible of prevailing.

    I’m sure that fortress they call an embassy in Iraq wasn’t built with the idea of it being used as a foothold for possible resource “securing” in the future.

    I’m sure the US plans to pay back its foreign debt…

  41. Many millions of people have endured famine and there have been no apocalyptic outbreaks of cannibalism. Apparently that experience does not register for a white wealthy man in America. Sort of explains a lot.

  42. Many millions of people have endured famine and there have been no apocalyptic outbreaks of cannibalism.

    There’s a book, a Discovery special and a sub-discipline in that statement. Why don’t starving people kill and eat each other?

  43. Ritual cannibalism is always around, hunger cannibalism is always found in war situations that have gone on long enough to generate them.

    Mass cannibalism is a slippery one. What constitutes “mass”? Zombie movie level? Or common enough so everyone knows but no one talks about it? The latter, oh yes. Just remember that any society that regularly practices female infanticide, is two steps away from eating children of either sex.

  44. There’s a moo goo gai pan joke in there somewhere. Have those war situations involved eating corpses or actually generating corpsemeat?

  45. as required. The Siege of Leningrad has many stories. An old friend’s Polish mother told me of children disappearing -of course the Germans and Poles blame each other. My father-in-law, in the rare moments he spoke of the war,talked of the starvation of the troops, the desperation and then the relief of capture by Australian soldiers – who then interred them in conditions where the cook’s cat was stolen, buried to cook and maggot-picked for consumption later. The implication is obvious.
    Ask old people who don’t care about keeping secrets any more.

  46. Well, in China during a massive famine, people did eat each other. There is plenty of documentation, including photographs, of street vendors selling human body parts for consumption. People will eat each other if they are desperate enough. There is also anecdotal evidence it happened recently during a famine in North Korea.

    I myself, would rather die than eat a person. Not because I feel noble, but people are full of disease. I would be too disgusted.

    And Pipenta, that was a beautiful post.

  47. Yes Pipenta, that was a great post. You embarrass us all.

    Don’t worry about the disgust, I’ve never experienced it but I have it on good authority the hunger is worse. Remember it is easy to be brave at the beginning of anything. After you’ve been beaten down a while, things change.

  48. Mark,
    Good post. I am still waiting for Boing2 to post images of my “polar cities” blueprints by Deng Cheng-hong. The New York Times recently reported on the story, with images and quotes by James Lovelock.

    Ted Turner was speaking in his own style of exaggeratin’ in order to make a point and to sound the alarm, that global warming is real and watch out folks! But 30 to 40 years? No way, Ted!

    The need for polar cities, if we need them at all, will be around 500 years from now, not in 2050 or even 2099. We still have time to fix the problem.

    But cannibalsim? It could happen, but not until 30 more generations….

    I wonder, Mark, if you can post just one image that Mr Deng created using Sketchup software.

    Andrew Revkin, reported:

    “….a one-man campaign to get people to seriously consider a worst-case prediction of the British chemist and inventor James Lovelock: life in “polar cities” arrayed around the shores of an ice-free Arctic Ocean in a greenhouse-warmed world.

    Dr. Lovelock, who in 1972 conceived of Earth’s crust, climate and veneer of life as a unified self-sustaining entity, Gaia, foresees humanity in full pole-bound retreat within a century as areas around the tropics roast — a scenario far outside even the worst-case projections of climate scientists.

    After reading a newspaper column in which Dr. Lovelock predicted disastrous warming, Bloom teamed up with Deng Cheng-hong, a Taiwanese artist, and set up Web sites showing designs for self-sufficient Arctic communities.

    Bloom told me his intent was to conduct a thought experiment that might prod people out of their comfort zone on climate — which remains, for many, a someday, somewhere issue.”

    BUT NO CANNIBALISM comments in BLoom’s project!

  49. When they own the information, they can bend it all they want.

    – John Mayer

    (If you don’t understand, find out who Ted Turner is.)

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