Re: Timing

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I don't know why you think that the fact that a certain percentage of people realize we have a problem means that we're going to be able to stop the process. Just because some people believe they realize the consequences doesn't mean we understand the full scope of the problem or that we'll be able to solve it. We may already have exceeded that capacity. But then I'm feeling kind of pessimistic today.


Posted by: mcmc | Link to this comment | 05-18-08 2:23 PM
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We better hope there aren't enough fossil fuels to cause catastrophic climate change because I doubt fears of global warming are going to stop us from burning them all.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05-18-08 2:24 PM
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Humans have been lucky so far in that all of the problems we've encountered or created have come when we've had the technology to fix (or at least contain) them.

I wonder about the measurement of this a bit. In some ways, I wonder if there isn't an unavoidable bit of "Well,I'm OK" -ism for most of us. It isn't as if we haven't made some pretty large scale errors in the past. We just survived them. I don't follow the global warming issue at all, but my uninformed impression was that under most scenarios, life changes a lot and sucks right up to death for a lot of people, but that the end of the world isn't predicted.

OT: I hate Mark Jackson.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 05-18-08 2:32 PM
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"Humans have been lucky so far in that all of the problems we've encountered or created have come when we've had the technology to fix (or at least contain) them"

Becks, see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Death


Posted by: disaggregated | Link to this comment | 05-18-08 2:34 PM
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Humans have been lucky so far in that all of the problems we've encountered or created have come when we've had the technology to fix (or at least contain) them.

Humans as species have been a bit lucky, yes. But how long have we been able do do anything to really affect our entire species? Not until the Industrial Revolution, I don't believe.* Humans in smaller groups have certainly wiped themselves out, I'm told. There was a book on this.

*Probably a few exceptions to this when global catastrophe brought the human population down to a single tribe or so, small enough so that our ancestors could have killed themselves. But that's good, old traditional destructive behavior, not what you're discussing.


Posted by: Michael | Link to this comment | 05-18-08 2:42 PM
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Everyone should see the documentary Darwin's Nightmare on this topic. It's about life in Tanzania on the shores of Lake Victoria, where people make a living of sorts by catching and exporting Nile perch from the lake to European markets. The Nile perch is native to the lower Nile and was introduced to Lake Victoria fourty or fifty years ago to create a fishery. But it's such an effective predator that it's killing all the other fish (cichlids) necessary for the lake's ecosystem. Apparently the lake will soon become abiotic and the Nile perch will be gone.

But the fish aren't what the film is about. Instead, it's an argument that humans, like the Nile perch, are creating the conditions for their own extinction. Our brutality and venality, the springs of our success as a species, are turning out to be maladaptive.


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 05-18-08 2:47 PM
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I find ecological destruction brought about by exotic species incredibly sad mostly because it's not caused by venality and brutality; it's people trying to do something harmless and beneficial, like giving the people of Lake Victoria a better food fish, and instead doing incredible damage. Even if people were all saints, that sort of thing would still have happened.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-18-08 2:57 PM
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Oh, the film's not about the ecological destruction, really, and of course that aspect is an unintended consequence of a short-sighted but well-meaning act. What the film gets into is stuff like the nastiness of global capitalism, famine, the arms trade. The idea being that for many people in the world, we've already created a situation that's as bad as these perch living in a dying lake. I should have made that clear. Anyway, the film is fantastic and worth seeing. And I lean toward the opinion that we've already created a situation that exceeds our ability to fix.


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 05-18-08 3:10 PM
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Global climate change in the next 50 years will be no more dangerous for mankind than natural disasters (hurricanes, volcanoes, earthquakes, typhoons). It will occur and have real consequences, but the predictions of dire consequences profoundly underestimate our ability to survive.


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 05-18-08 3:17 PM
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You're discounting the possibility that it will negatively affect global food production?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-18-08 3:20 PM
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Global climate change in the next 50 years will be no more dangerous for mankind than natural disasters happening all the time everywhere with more intensity than has been seen before (hurricanes, volcanoes, earthquakes, typhoons, wildfires, droughts, floods, dust storms, ecosystem collapses, heat waves).

There. Fixed that for you.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-18-08 3:23 PM
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Global food production may be impacted, but it will be difficult to distinguish the effects of global warming from the effects of elevated fuel costs and increased demand. Also, I tend to believe that some of the problems of food production are a result of us having come up against the inadvertent consequences of the Green Revolution.


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 05-18-08 3:25 PM
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I somewhat agree with DS that the most dramatic doomsday scenarios are counterproductive, not only because they instill hopelessness but also because people tend to get complacent once they're disproven. Sort of like the people who decided nuclear war wouldn't be so bad if only 30 or 40 million people died.

What I know of history tells me that even small economic declines have big non-economic effects, since finance is pretty fragile and since economic costs are not evenly distributed. Almost everyone can handle a 5% reduction in income, but a 5% global decline will be concentrated in a few areas, and there will be multipliers and cascade effects because of debt, etc.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05-18-08 3:29 PM
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The realistic prospect for climate change is that most sensible activity in the next generation will be about mitigating and adapting. It will be a nice test of whether we're really as adaptable as we like to imagine we are.

The good news for adaptation is that climate change will also open up possibilities that weren't there before, like the ability to grow certain crops at latitudes where it previously couldn't be managed.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 05-18-08 3:29 PM
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Wildfire damages in the US are already off the charts thanks to urban sprawl and poor fire management, not necessarily global climate change.

Increased hurricanes and typhoons are clearly a result of global climate change, so I concede this point.

Ecosystem collapses, if and when they actually happen, are more likely to be due to poor agriculture policy (as I was hinting above about the consequences of the Green Revolution)

Droughts are a tough one. Current droughts in the US are almost entirely caused by our policies, not by global climate change, but that's not to say that climate change won't have a greater influence in the future.


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 05-18-08 3:30 PM
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Global food production may be impacted, but it will be difficult to distinguish the effects of global warming from the effects of elevated fuel costs and increased demand.

These aren't reasons to feel better. And we're not actually talking about a postmortem on the causes of the disaster yet.

Except for Shearer, for whom the disaster either won't happen at all, or else is absolutely inevitable.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05-18-08 3:31 PM
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16: Except for Shearer, for whom the disaster either won't happen at all, or else is absolutely inevitable and besides, it is all for the good of the Syndicate, and everyone has a share!


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 05-18-08 3:35 PM
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My own doomsday scenario has nothing to do with global climate change. My pet wacky theory is that Ehrlich and the Club of Rome were right, but off by 50 years. The Green Revolution postponed the effects of overpopulation, and gave everyone a false sense of security (after all, Ehrlich was wrong). Now we've reached the end of the agricultural improvements and it will only take one semi-catastrophic effect to bring the system down. This will probably take the form of collapse of one of the monocultures on which our agricultural system is based.


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 05-18-08 3:35 PM
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it will be difficult to distinguish the effects of global warming from the effects of elevated fuel costs and increased demand.

Not really. I think we can tell climate change from the price at the pump. And if, say, more ice caps melt causing a drop in the salinity of the Atlantic which destroys the current of warm water flowing from the South Pacific to the North Atlantic and thus ices over Europe...I think we'll notice that, too.

I tend to believe that some of the problems of food production are a result of us having come up against the inadvertent consequences of the Green Revolution.

a) What problems of food production? I can think of local problems in say, Africa. I'm not sure how big the Green Revolution is over there, but off hand I'm thinking "nonexistant".

b) Interesting hypothesis, but do you distinguish b/w wanting to believe and having reason to think it is so?


Posted by: Michael | Link to this comment | 05-18-08 3:37 PM
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And if, say, more ice caps melt causing a drop in the salinity of the Atlantic which destroys the current of warm water flowing from the South Pacific to the North Atlantic and thus ices over Europe...I think we'll notice that, too.

Indeed. But this, like all global warming doomsday scenarios, is a very low-probability event even if global warming is allowed to continue unchecked.

What problems of food production?

Mostly I was thinking of Omnivore's Dilemma type stuff. Or this from Wikipedia:

While agricultural output increased as a result of the Green Revolution, the energy input into the process (that is, the energy that must be expended to produce a crop) has also increased at a greater rate,[10] so that the ratio of crops produced to energy input has decreased over time. Green Revolution techniques also heavily rely on chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides, some of which must be developed from fossil fuels, making agriculture increasingly reliant on petroleum products.[11] Proponents of the Peak Oil theory fear that a future decline in oil and gas production would lead to a decline in food production or even a Malthusian catastrophe.


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 05-18-08 3:41 PM
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Jesus Christ. Yet another preemptively congratulatory thread patting ourselves on the back for a solution that doesn't exist yet, while simultaneously dismissing any notion that global warming/water depletion/habitat destruction/mass extinction will have any real massive lasting effects.

For the love of fuck, people, read something about the actual science if you're going to feel the need to talk about it.

Mother Jones on mass extinction here.

Here's Bill McKibben on just how fast the planet is heating up.

More on that subject from James Hansen. And here's Hansen's original paper. The bottom line is that the goal we're shooting for for lowering greenhouse gases is way too high.

And this is a review of Under A Green Sky, about the potential for climate change to kick off a mass extinction similar to the one that wiped out 90-95% of life at the end of the Permian period.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 05-18-08 3:49 PM
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very low-probability event

Ask and I shall receive. Just because it's possible doesn't make it likely.


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 05-18-08 3:51 PM
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When people talk about not really knowing what will happen, they always assume the uncertainty will work for us instead of against us. For example, people still say that what we're seeing is just a normal fluctuation. But it could be that what's happening is worse, and the normal fluctuation is masking the real effect, which is actually worse than it seems. Arctic melting already seems to be worse than predicted, for example.

If we had reason to believe that things are normal, the comforting assumption might be reasonable. But we have reason to believe that there's been a change and things are not normal.

"Low-probability event" means nothing unless there's some flesh on the bones. For example, people recently did the numbers on the Gulf Stream changing course, and apparently that really is extremely unlikely. But without specifics, you can't just assume normality.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05-18-08 3:57 PM
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>i>tilt things past a point of no return without them even realizing what they'd done.

"My poor Krell. After a million years of shining sanity, they could hardly have understood what power was destroying them."

The reason we have had no success with SETI is that intelligence is not a successful adaptation. Our fifty thousand years is nothing compared to the reign of the trilobite.

Perhaps we could learn from the mistakes of the Krell and embrace the darkside before it's too late, but most might consider that worse than species extinction. Is species survival an unqualifiable good? Why?

And how would we react to our inevitable and imminent extinction?


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 05-18-08 4:03 PM
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But I'm not a global climate change skeptic. I believe that our actions are causing an increase in global temperatures. I also believe this will have real, and sometimes uncomfortable effects. I also believe that we need to do something to slow or stop this effect.

On the other hand, the alarmists are really doing us a disservice here. Our focus should be on what the likely consequences are and how we can stop or ameliorate them. Not ZOMG, mass extinction! (since we're already in the middle of one of the largest mass extinctions the world has ever seen, I'm not sure how much of an effect that is really going to have).


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 05-18-08 4:04 PM
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25: well, but there's a long ways between "mass extinction!" and "eh nothing worse than what we've been dealing with", and someplace in the middle lies the (if I recall) millions dead (mostly in poor countries) forecast by the IPCC.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-18-08 4:06 PM
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there's a long ways between "mass extinction!"

Can we get something straight here? "Mass extinction" does not mean "extinction of the human race." "Mass extinction" means a geological/biological event in which a massive percentage of the earth's biodiversity disappears. No one involved in the science disputes this is happening. We're in the middle of an extinction event. The question is how bad it's going to get. Please don't use the phrase "mass extinction" as if it were something paranoid and alarmist; it's every bit as real - and human-induced - as climate change.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 05-18-08 4:12 PM
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To go on, there's always a big question about standards of evidence. "Innocent until proven guilty" applies to criminal defendents, not climate changes. Likewise, deciding that there seems to be problem and that we should look into requires less evidence than deciding that we know exactly what the problem is and what to do about it. The whole argument has been like pulling teeth one at a time while the other side slowly backs up. Scientific skepticism is still being used by the tobacco industry. It looks smart, but in the wrong context it's dumb.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05-18-08 4:12 PM
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I vote, with Dr Ain, to give it all back to the cockroaches. Speciesism is bigotry.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 05-18-08 4:12 PM
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We're in the middle of an extinction event.

Yes, and has been going on for over 50 years. Global warming has little to do with it.


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 05-18-08 4:14 PM
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13: I somewhat agree with DS that the most dramatic doomsday scenarios are counterproductive,

and 25: the alarmists are really doing us a disservice here.

Well, yes. Let's count that as established, shall we? (I thought we already had.) A significant part of the battle at this point is psychological, and people are going to shut down in one way or another if it sounds to them as though they're hearing from the lunatic fringe.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 05-18-08 4:16 PM
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16

"Except for Shearer, for whom the disaster either won't happen at all, or else is absolutely inevitable. "

I think the effects of both peak oil and climate change are quite uncertain. Running out of fossil fuels is inevitable and I think likely to be quite painful. Sufficiently painful that our political systems are going to have trouble coping. So I see little chance they will voluntarily assume even greater pain by refraining from burning fossil fuels in order to reduce climate change. So we better hope climate change doesn't turn out to be too bad. If not people need to start looking at other means (like dust in the stratosphere) to alleviate it.

In the other thread I didn't say I thought disaster was inevitable, that was somebody else. I just responded that if it was inevitable I didn't see the point of of making sacrifices to try to stop it.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05-18-08 4:17 PM
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Yes, and has been going on for over 50 years.

Try something on the order of ten thousand years. The extinction event began, according to most who date these things, back when humans developed agriculture.

Global warming has little to do with it.

Global warming has a shitload to do with it, in that things are going to get a lot deader, a lot faster, as the planet heats up.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 05-18-08 4:18 PM
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27: probably would have been better to get that straight several threads ago. In any case, that's not how I meant it, and not how I thought it was being used.

And it is, actually, an alarmist phrase. It may be the best description of what's actually happening to biodiversity, but if you're talking about phrases that alarm people, that's way up there.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-18-08 4:19 PM
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No one involved in the science disputes this is happening.


Not to say you're not correct (maybe), but phrasing this sentence in this way does not make it a persuasive argument.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-18-08 4:20 PM
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(since we're already in the middle of one of the largest mass extinctions the world has ever seen, I'm not sure how much of an effect that is really going to have)

God, you're an idiot. There's a difference between extinction brought on by air and water pollution, habitat destruction, invasive species, etc. and extinction brought on by, say, what happens when the ocean conveyor stops.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 05-18-08 4:21 PM
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James, I thought your posts on the other thread were bizarre, as I said. The one thing that you seemed definite about was opposion to government action.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05-18-08 4:21 PM
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31: Exactly. You said it much better than I did. It's been getting to me a lot lately, and I think it hurts our ability to convince people to do anything about it.


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 05-18-08 4:21 PM
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what happens when the ocean conveyor stops.

Something that I was given to understand has a lot less evidence arguing for it than some of the other things we've been talking about.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-18-08 4:23 PM
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"am given to understand"


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-18-08 4:23 PM
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35: Sifu, I respect you, so all I'm going to say is: for fuck's sake, read about this. If you honestly want to know about this, instead of dismissing it out of hand because it just sounds too bad to be true, then read about the goddamn subject. I linked to a bunch of shit on this upthread.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 05-18-08 4:23 PM
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36: There's also a difference in the extinction rate when mfing aliens come to earth and start blowing away random species. Neither of which is happening now, or in 50 years.


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 05-18-08 4:23 PM
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Okay, strasmangelo, so humanity is likely responsible for two mass extinction events, one resulting from the Industrial Revolution and continuing through today, and one that hasn't started yet. No need to get belligerent at everyone.


Posted by: Fatrman | Link to this comment | 05-18-08 4:24 PM
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Something that I was given to understand has a lot less evidence arguing for it than some of the other things we've been talking about.

What other things we've been talking about?


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 05-18-08 4:25 PM
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41: for fuck's sake, stras, why are you arguing with people when you don't think any of them have the facts necessary to make a judgment? And if you really want to argue, why not provide those fucking facts? All I'm saying is that you're (a) not convincing anybody and (b) making the scenario you seem fully convinced of (which may well be plausible, likely, or even inevitable) sound like an unhinged theory because you never seem to get further than saying "we're doomed! Everybody agrees! You don't believe me? FOOLS." Not even talking about the science, you're doing your point a disservice by talking about it this way.

And, I mean, if your further goal is to actually get people to do something, you're being worse than counterproductive; when you use terms like "Mass Extinction Event" that do not actually mean something like "everybody dies" then you are exactly and specifically being alarmist in a way that makes people not want to pay attention to what you're saying.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-18-08 4:27 PM
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so humanity is likely responsible for two mass extinction events, one resulting from the Industrial Revolution and continuing through today, and one that hasn't started yet.

Two events? They're the same event.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 05-18-08 4:27 PM
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41: You keep saying to read about this. I agree. Try here

From that article:

Also, in coupled Atmosphere-Ocean General Circulation Models the THC tends to weaken somewhat rather than stop, and the warming effects outweigh the cooling, even locally: the IPCC Third Annual Report notes that "even in models where the THC weakens, there is still a warming over Europe".


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 05-18-08 4:28 PM
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44: oh, e.g. the loss of greenland's ice shelf, or escalating methane release in Siberia.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-18-08 4:29 PM
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And if you really want to argue, why not provide those fucking facts?

How many fucking times in this thread or in previous threads have I linked to Peter Ward and E.O. Wilson and James Hansen? In fact, I linked to them in this very thread, and if you want to read that information, you can read it. If you have no interest in reading about it, then don't. But I've provided links to information every time this subject has come up, and I'm pretty tired of the way this is dismissed out of hand by people who clearly haven't read a single word of the relevant science.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 05-18-08 4:30 PM
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OKAY, THREAD OVER

EVIDENCE HAS BEEN PROVIDED

EVERYONE WHO DOES NOT AGREE SHOULD READ THE EVIDENCE

NOTHING TO DISCUSS

THANK YOU STRASMANGELO, NOW WE CAN MOVE ON


Posted by: FATRMAN | Link to this comment | 05-18-08 4:31 PM
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F, if we're already in the middle of an extinction event, that doesn't make stressing the system further less dangerous. It makes it more dangerous.

In one sense the apocalyptic scenarios are bad to the extent that they're wrong. In another sense they're bad because they frighten and annoy selfish, thoughtless, ignorant, well-off people who refuse to even the consider the possibility that they might have to make even small changes in their lifestyle. Pure anti-environmentalists are the biggest part of the political problem, and people looking for a cheap fix are another big part of it.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05-18-08 4:32 PM
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33

"Global warming has a shitload to do with it, in that things are going to get a lot deader, a lot faster, as the planet heats up."

Not really, the earth has been flipping in and out of ice ages over the last million years without causing mass extinctions. Climate change is natural.

Most of the recent human caused extinctions have been much more direct. Humans are your basic invasive exotic species and these are often hard on the natives.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05-18-08 4:32 PM
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47: The IPCC's projections are demonstrably overconservative and optimistic. According to the IPCC, ice that's already melted shouldn't have melted yet. They erred on the side of caution, and they erred by a lot.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 05-18-08 4:33 PM
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In other words, the whole argument is in terms of the middle class group mind, and the middle class group mind tends to be a selfish idiot.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05-18-08 4:33 PM
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50: What the fuck? If I hadn't given you links, you would've said I was making shit up. Now that I've given you links, it's scream at me in all-caps time because I'm providing information? I linked to Hansen's study. I linked to Ward's book. You can read them if you like. I don't fucking care. I'm not sticking around to see a handful of denialists pat themselves on the back in the meantime.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 05-18-08 4:36 PM
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45

"And, I mean, if your further goal is to actually get people to do something, you're being worse than counterproductive; when you use terms like "Mass Extinction Event" that do not actually mean something like "everybody dies" then you are exactly and specifically being alarmist in a way that makes people not want to pay attention to what you're saying."

To defend stras a bit,"Mass Extinction Event" isn't something he made up, it has a well established technical meaning.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05-18-08 4:38 PM
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I really think that their might be a divide between what's happening and what people are willing and able to face. It makes someone like Stras psychologically unacceptable even when he's right. That's a bad situation for the world to be in, the Cassandra effect.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05-18-08 4:41 PM
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Hey, all. This is a frustrating, disturbing, upsetting topic. Reading something like Becks in the post -- "we're lucky that global warming came along when it did" -- is a little stunning. It brings you smack up against the fact that the people (white people!) who have the power/wherewithal to enact the kind of policy changes needed have to be convinced that there is a very serious problem here. I don't blame anyone for getting a little shouty.

Apologies to Becks; the wider context of the remark makes sense.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 05-18-08 4:41 PM
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55: the thing is, I don't really think you're dealing with denialists. I think you're dealing with people who are trying to find a reason to hope that, given work and sacrifice and so on, we'll be able to avoid, you know, the apocalypse. And it seems like your goal is to say, as often as you can, that they're wrong to try and find hope, that we're just totally fucked no matter what happens.

Now, it may be true (sounds plausible to me) that many if not most of us are fucked no matter what happens, but why start from that point when you might be wrong? Why not do everything we can to mitigate? Why not pretend, politely, that if we did do everything we can we might not destroy all life on Earth? It doesn't seem so criminal.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-18-08 4:49 PM
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58 answered my question a little bit. I agree that the tone of Becks's post was pretty disturbing.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-18-08 4:50 PM
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Actually, thinking more about it, I don't really know what I'm contributing to this thread. I'll stop now.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-18-08 4:51 PM
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stras, I read your links and none of them prove your assertion that "No one involved in the science disputes this is happening".

The Mother Jones piece is basically just anecdata about how species continue to go extinct, with basically nothing scientific about global warming in it. The McKibben piece is a rehash of the Hansen piece. The Hansen piece actually is quite informative, but mentions nothing about the thermohaline conveyor. And "Under a Green Sky" is a straight-up extrapolation of what has happened in the past. Possibly informative, but not proof of any kind.

So can you stop fucking screaming at people that you have the proof? I'm pretty sure that "God, you're an idiot." isn't so helpful.


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 05-18-08 4:54 PM
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59: Why not pretend, politely, that if we did do everything we can we might not destroy all life on Earth? It doesn't seem so criminal.

Yeah. And I feel your pain.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 05-18-08 4:58 PM
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63: But can you feel the Earth's pain? That's the question.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 05-18-08 5:01 PM
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I really think that their might be a divide between what's happening and what people are willing and able to face.

In short, a gap between what we're cognitively capable of and what we're psychologically capable of. Milton was a very wise man.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 05-18-08 5:02 PM
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stras, I think Sifu is right that the thermohaline circulation shutting down isn't generally thought to be as big a risk as loss of ice shelves and release of methane from melting permafrost. Those are already pretty disastrous, and will inevitably happen if we don't act. The shutdown of the THC doesn't happen in a lot of models. Also there is some dispute in the literature about to what extent Europe's mild climate is a result of the THC; it certainly plays a role, but so do atmospheric circulation patterns influenced by the Rockies, which distort the flows of wind enough to explain quite large discrepancies in mean temperature at equal latitudes at different longitude.

At any rate, the dispute is pretty stupid, since you both seem reasonable and both seem to understand the importance of climate change. Anyway, Becks, I think you're far too optimistic; let's not count on having solved this problem until we actually solve it. You're right that it's technologically feasible, but we need much more political will to do something, and it has to come soon.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 05-18-08 5:03 PM
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64: Closer than I'd like.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 05-18-08 5:04 PM
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(replying before i've finished reading the thread)

But this, like all global warming doomsday scenarios, is a very low-probability event even if global warming is allowed to continue unchecked.

Are you sure about that? I'm no climate scientist, but I know a lot of this stuff is really uncertain. And there are a lot of feedback scenarios. There's probably a non-existent chance that this is already irreversibly underway. Honestly, I'd be surprised if anyone would be certain enough about this stuff that they'd bet the house on it. Of course, if you act like it's unlikely, you're betting an awful lot more than that.


Posted by: Michael | Link to this comment | 05-18-08 5:06 PM
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9: Global climate change in the next 50 years will be no more dangerous for mankind than natural disasters

This is just the wrong way to think about it. The question is not how bad things will be over the next 50 years. It's how bad things will be in 100 years, if we don't act over the next 50 years. Over and over in discussions of this subject online, people don't seem to understand the timescales involved. If we completely stop emissions 50 years from now, we're still screwed because the carbon we pumped into the atmosphere over the course of those 50 years will still have an effect for hundreds of years. Short-term thinking is what's gotten us into this mess. We have to start working now not just to solve the problems we'll face in our lifetime, which might well be managable, but to stop the problems the next generations will face.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 05-18-08 5:07 PM
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Here is the reference (PDF) for the claim that the source of Europe's mild climate is atmospheric circulation rather than the Gulf Stream, if anyone's interested. Of course, even if the THC shutdown is not quite the risk some have made it out to be, the general point remains that we're provided a huge and abrupt forcing to the climate system and we really don't know where the tipping points are that could send us into new regimes. Maybe the atmospheric circulation patterns are susceptible to major shifts just as much as the THC is.

As for Shearer's claim that "the earth has been flipping in and out of ice ages over the last million years without causing mass extinctions. Climate change is natural.", it hardly needs to be said that the natural climate changes in the past that we know species have adapted to all happened incredibly slowly compared to the time scale on which we're forcing the climate. And there's plenty of evidence already for species dying because of shifts in the climate.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 05-18-08 5:20 PM
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70

"... it hardly needs to be said that the natural climate changes in the past that we know species have adapted to all happened incredibly slowly compared to the time scale on which we're forcing the climate. ..."

This is not really true. For example the Mediterranean Sea dried up and then refilled several times 5-6 million years ago. See here . This would have caused global effects over relatively short periods of time.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05-18-08 6:39 PM
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As for Shearer's claim that "the earth has been flipping in and out of ice ages over the last million years without causing mass extinctions. Climate change is natural.", it hardly needs to be said that the natural climate changes in the past that we know species have adapted to all happened incredibly slowly compared to the time scale on which we're forcing the climate. And there's plenty of evidence already for species dying because of shifts in the climate.

I thought it was looking like the onset times for ice ages could be very short - ten or tens of years. Also the departure times.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 05-18-08 7:06 PM
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"Mankind thus inevitably sets itself only such tasks as it is able to solve..."


Posted by: Cosma | Link to this comment | 05-18-08 7:19 PM
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And there's plenty of evidence already for species dying because of shifts in the climate.

What, North America doesn't look like the Pleistocene anymore? Tell that to the wooly rhino and giant sloth I had to dodge on the way to work.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 05-18-08 7:26 PM
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74

"What, North America doesn't look like the Pleistocene anymore? Tell that to the wooly rhino and giant sloth I had to dodge on the way to work."

These (and other recently extinct large animals) were probably done in by people not by climate change.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05-18-08 7:32 PM
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These (and other recently extinct large animals) were probably done in by people not by climate change.

Humans coming here was facilitated by what again?

And how 'bout that suite of marsupials and birds South America had right up until the Panama isthmus popped up out of the water?


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 05-18-08 7:37 PM
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72

"I thought it was looking like the onset times for ice ages could be very short - ten or tens of years. Also the departure times."

There is no way the large ice sheets could form and melt that fast. Perhaps the temperature changes that start the process could be that rapid.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05-18-08 7:37 PM
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Here's another voice saying "mass extinction" unambiguously refers to species loss, not people dying, and if anyone misunderstood Stras in that regard, he can't be blamed for it. The species loss is scary enough. Losing species is irreversible in a way that population loss isn't.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-18-08 7:39 PM
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76

"And how 'bout that suite of marsupials and birds South America had right up until the Panama isthmus popped up out of the water?"

That was competition from North American species not climate change.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05-18-08 7:39 PM
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That was competition from North American species not climate change.

And again, the isthmus the North American species used to get there was available because of what?


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 05-18-08 7:40 PM
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72: do you have references? I'm no expert. Certainly the Younger Dryas event happened relatively quickly (the causes are disputed). It coincided with extinction of megafauna, so it doesn't contradict what I said about species not adapting well to rapid change. (The cause of the extinction is also disputed, though.)

I also don't know about this Messinian crisis; you're saying it was associated with abrupt climate change and posed no problem for species alive at the time? I don't see information like that in the Wikipedia page. I'm guessing fish in the Mediterranean didn't take it so well, at least.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 05-18-08 7:45 PM
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80: it's nice how gently you're trying to lead him through a chain of logic more than one step long, but I'm not sure it's worth the effort.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 05-18-08 7:47 PM
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80

"And again, the isthmus the North American species used to get there was available because of what?"

Continental drift.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05-18-08 7:48 PM
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81.2 to 71, obvs.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 05-18-08 7:48 PM
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81

"I also don't know about this Messinian crisis; you're saying it was associated with abrupt climate change and posed no problem for species alive at the time? ..."

I am saying it didn't cause a mass extinction or anything like one.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05-18-08 7:52 PM
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73: "Mankind thus inevitably sets itself only such tasks as it is able to solve..."

The Lord is merciful, and will not let you be tested beyond your strength.... 1 Corinthians 10:1-13

Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05-18-08 7:55 PM
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Continental drift.

Actually, that's right. I gotta keep my land bridges straight.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 05-18-08 7:55 PM
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87: Really? I wasn't commenting, because I don't actually know, but I had a vague impression that the Siberian land bridge opened up because of an ice age drop in sea levels.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-18-08 7:58 PM
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From wikipedia, so only mildly reliable: The Bering Strait, the Chukchi Sea to the north and the Bering Sea to the south, are all shallow seas (map, right). During cycles of global cooling, such as the most recent ice age, enough sea water became concentrated in the ice caps of the Arctic and Antarctic that the subsequent drop in eustatic sea levels exposed shallow sea floors.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-18-08 8:00 PM
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Siberia yes, but Panama was uplift.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 05-18-08 8:00 PM
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Gotta keep those land bridges straight!


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 05-18-08 8:01 PM
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Gotcha, I lost track of which bridge you were talking about.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-18-08 8:02 PM
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88

The connection between North and South America opened up because of continental drift. A lot of South American species went extinct soon thereafter because of competition from invasive North American species. It is believed this is because South America had been isolated for a long time making its species less competitive. Like if a small protectionist country drops tariff barriers the local companies often have trouble surviving.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05-18-08 8:04 PM
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83, 87: right, Panama was volcanic, so Beringia is a better example. But the relative climates of the new land areas that opened up to species from both the North and South American continents certainly played some role in which ones flourished and which ones didn't, and there probably is some lesson to draw from that. In general, if climate changes slowly and a species can continually move through a zone of constant climate without encountering other new competitors/predators/etc., it probably survives. But our planet is not just a homogeneous slab of land with a smooth climate gradient. Climate change is frequently going to put species in a situation where their local climate is becoming inhospitable, and there is no nearby zone they can move to that's more favorable. And this does seem to be borne out by data; at least some of the recent worldwide decline in amphibian populations seems to have this cause.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 05-18-08 8:04 PM
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85: so a localized event in the Mediterranean (which, granted, had some worldwide effects) didn't cause a mass extinction, and you want to infer... what? That we can't possibly cause a mass extinction by changing global atmospheric CO2 concentrations by an amount they haven't been changed in hundreds of thousands of years? How does that follow, especially since all indications are that we are living through a mass extinction event?


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 05-18-08 8:07 PM
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95

"... How does that follow, especially since all indications are that we are living through a mass extinction event?"

There is a lot speculation (often hedged) to that effect that I find unconvincing. The biggest problem is the average species lifespan used to derive a background extinction rate is based on the fossil record and species in the fossil record are not representative. Species don't appear in the fossil record unless they are successful and widespread and such species obviously can be expected to have a longer than average lifespan. Hence the background extinction rate used in claims that we are currently seeing a very high extinction rate is too low.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05-18-08 8:21 PM
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96: Amphibians, dude, amphibians. The background extinction rate would have to be off by at least two orders of magnitude. I find that very hard to believe. I'm no expert on this topic either, but then, neither are you.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 05-18-08 8:37 PM
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Thinking back over this thread, wow, what a waste of time. I forget where the goalposts started. Bottom line is anyone who doesn't think we urgently need action to reduce fossil fuel emissions needs to go read some climate literature for a few days. If they still think after that that we don't urgently need action to reduce fossil fuel emissions, they're either (a) a moron or (b) an asshole who doesn't care about the well-being of future people and of the poor. If anyone seriously wants to discuss climate science or policy, I'm all for it, otherwise, I'm bowing out.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 05-18-08 8:46 PM
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I forget where the goalposts started.

Beneath the sea, anchored solidly to the isthmus of Panama, in the Permian.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-18-08 9:22 PM
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And let's say there happened to be one country that accounted for over half of the world's military spending (effectively a non-market driven expression of societal political will). Would you expect that country to be one that:

a) was looking to be a leader in a worldwide co-operative approach to right-sizing consumption and environmental impact.
or
b) might have some other agenda.


Just sayin'.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 05-18-08 11:43 PM
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If we completely stop emissions 50 years from now, we're still screwed because the carbon we pumped into the atmosphere over the course of those 50 years will still have an effect for hundreds of years.

And yet, there are still people who seem heavily invested in convincing us that alternative energy sources can never, ever work. Why is that?


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 05-19-08 3:35 AM
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... and then there's stuff we don't usually hear about.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 05-19-08 3:57 AM
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101: Why is that?

Here's your why.


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 05-19-08 5:12 AM
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James B Shearer,

In the other thread I didn't say I thought disaster was inevitable, that was somebody else. I just responded that if it was inevitable I didn't see the point of of making sacrifices to try to stop it.

Perhaps you are referring to me. I said mass starvation and death were inevitable.

You ask an excellent question though. From a morality standpoint when should one make sacrifices?

Death for each of us is inevitable. Should we all stop eating today and simply let it come?

The simple answer is "it depends." The complicated answer is that we all decide, daily, how much we will sacrifice for others. Do we stop at a red light? Do we donate all our worldly possessions, take a vow of poverty, and live a simple life of service to the poor?

Oh, you want the answer from me? OK, but it won't be simple.

First we all need to know that we have a choice, and we are making that choice (even by not making the choice) every day. Second, we all need to understand as completely as we can the consequences of our choice.

For example, I enjoy meat. I also love animals. I've seen how animals live, how they are hunted, how they are farmed, how they are butchered. I've cleaned fish and field-dressed deer. I have made an informed choice and decide to eat meat.

When one realizes he/she has a choice and is informed on what the consequences of that choice are what then?

Then one decides what kind of person one wants to be. One decides what he/she needs to do to live with him/herself and "their" God (I really don't like third person plural used for first person indeterminate gender but WTF, who am I to stop the tide?) assuming they have a God.

So James, what kind of person do you choose to be? Are you a deluded Libertarian? A gullible authoritarian? An amoral social dominator? Maybe a selfish prick Republican. Maybe a bleeding heart liberal or a dirty hippy?

Don't tell me. This is your private choice. I'll know it by your actions not by your words.

Freedom, man, ain't it a bitch?


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 05-19-08 8:34 AM
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104: I said mass starvation and death were inevitable.

And having said so, the reasons you've since given for why anyone who believes you should feel motivated to do anything you recommend are, it has to be admitted, pretty weak fucking sauce.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 05-19-08 11:41 AM
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And having said so, the reasons you've since given for why anyone who believes you should feel motivated to do anything you recommend are, it has to be admitted, pretty weak fucking sauce.

Cry me a river.

If knowing that millions will starve does not motivate you to act then there really is not much I can do.

I'm being realistic here. I'm stating the facts. There is plenty we can do to make things better for people around the world but don't blame me because we've got more people than we can feed.

Personally I've done a LOT to try to make this world a better place. What do you want me to do, lie to you?

Lying to people to get them to do things, even good things, doesn't work.

We are in the lifeboat. We are at the hospice. We can save some and ease the suffering of the others. We should quit being selfish willfully-ignorant pigs.

Even when there is mass starvation and death.


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 05-19-08 2:48 PM
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I'm being realistic here. I'm stating the facts.

Well, no, I actually don't think that you're in a position to state that an inevitable mass dieback is a "fact," and I think that to pretend that you are is to shoot yourself in the foot. And I don't see what this pose of fake prophetic certainty gains you, since you obviously do care whether other people care about the issue; it really should not be very hard to understand why someone like Shearer would choose to tune you out and soothe themselves with fairy tales about how the market will fix everything.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 05-19-08 3:00 PM
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Weird. DS is having the same conversation with Tripp I tried to have with stras like two days ago.

Does that mean... I am Margaret Atwood?

I'm freakin' out!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-19-08 3:02 PM
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I am Margaret Atwood?

Say it with an exclamation point, in the spirit of "I am Spartacus!"


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 05-19-08 3:08 PM
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I AM MARGARET ATWOOD!


Posted by: OPINIONATED CANADIAN AUTHOR | Link to this comment | 05-19-08 3:10 PM
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108: I'm freakin' out!

We're all going to die, and that's what you're freaking out about? Can you not focus?


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 05-19-08 3:15 PM
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Per the e-mail address in 110. Good, I was wondering when thepoorman was going to get earnest again.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 05-19-08 3:18 PM
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DS,

I suppose it is something that you are moving from denial to anger, even if it is anger at me.

I don't give a rip if you believe me. I've done the "warn people" thing since probably before you were born. My personal life is personal but I've probably done more to help unfortunate people than you can hope to do.

I've been called names and have had my patriotism and even my faith questioned by people a lot better than you, so back off junior.

Take some time and use your own brain and refute my points with reason if you want but don't simply whine that I don't friggin' inspire you with BS. Watch your language too because it betrays your age.

We are transitioning from a period of growth to a period of scarcity and that means certain things.

One big thing is that a large number of people will die. Another thing is that people have been brainwashed for thirty-five years with a non-stop barrage of propaganda intended to rob us of our power and so we don't even know anymore what we don't know.

Yes, I am blunt because I'm tired of nudging and cajoling and hinting and trying not to hurt people's feelings.

To hell with that. Idiots who take what I say as an excuse not to do anything are lost. Read "The Authoritarians" for a clue.

I'm not about to give false hope just to make you feel better. The sooner we face the truth the sooner we can do something real. Otherwise we're just as bad as any other addict thinking he can just cut down and everything will be OK.


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 05-19-08 7:16 PM
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I suppose it is something that you are moving from denial to anger . . . I've probably done more to help unfortunate people than you can hope to do . . . back off junior. . .

Judas Priest, this is almost on the point of morphing into a YouTube comments thread. Ridiculous, guy. Calm the hell down. I'm not calling down your accomplishments or your morality or your sincerity; I'm saying that I find your rhetoric and your claims to "fact" unconvincing and misguided.

And don't talk to me about "denial," either. If you're taking the time to use your own brain to read my comments honestly, you will have figured out by now that I'm hardly a denialist about either oil scarcity or climate change. I'm just also not a denialist about the potential of alternative energy, whereas you appear to be, and I'm not seeing the grounds for that. Screeching at me about how "I'm just telling you the facts, princess, and I'm sick of sugar-coating this shit," isn't going to make you any more convincing. When the science tells us that we have to potential to tap 60 terrawatts of solar energy by 2050, I don't see how it's helpful, accurate or convincing to simply declare "No, that's never going to happen, let's prepare to watch the billions die."


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 05-19-08 7:45 PM
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Wow. Tripp is crazed.

Actually people have created environmental problems they were incapable of solving with the technology at hand. Most of them had to do with agriculture or resource depletion.

Examples include increased salinity of agricultural land in the middle east and the environmental degradation caused by grazing goats. Also the over-harvesting of wood by the civilizations of the american southwest.

The really interesting point is that the level of industrialization seen in the late 1800's probably would have resulted in climate change, had human development ceased at that level. Imagine an entire world burning coal like 1890's London. We didn't have the tech to deal with the problems we were creating then. But we do now -- and we will have even more capabilities in the future.

The time constant on global warming was so much slower than that of technological advance that the investment (in effect) was worth it.


Posted by: Adam | Link to this comment | 05-20-08 6:06 AM
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Also the destruction of the Atlantic cod fishery and eventually several more fisheries.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05-20-08 6:15 AM
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The really interesting point is that the level of industrialization seen in the late 1800's probably would have resulted in climate change, had human development ceased at that level. Imagine an entire world burning coal like 1890's London. We didn't have the tech to deal with the problems we were creating then.

There's a great sci-fi novel in that.


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 05-20-08 6:47 AM
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Don't just comment, write it.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 05-20-08 6:50 AM
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DS,

Alright, I'll take some time to explain myself more clearly.

The bottom line is that while I see massive starvation as inevitable there is still a lot that can be done to determine who starves and how many starve and how quickly it happens.

I am afraid the normal reaction from humans in this position is to let the weak starve. In this case "weak" means "poor." I am totally against that idea and believe that it is the duty of the strong to protect the weak but let's face it, that is currently a minority view.

If we do nothing most of the dying will be in non-US locations and we in the US will ignore it, which in my opinion is simply morally wrong.

Since you speak of the potential for solar energy I will address that. The biggest problem with solar energy is that we do NOT have an efficient or practical or scalable method for storing electrical energy.

Yes, the new lithium silicon nanowire battery holds promise but so far it is tiny. Also there is no talk about how much energy it takes to create it and no talk about how well it would scale up to the huge amounts or huge size required to store, as you say, 60 terrawatts of power.

You also speak of 2050 - far enough in the future to imagine that almost anything could be done. The facts are that people are starving NOW. Food riots have already started in the poorest countries, and that is from the price of rice, corn, and soybeans increasing by from 70% to 200%. There is a long time between now and 2050.

What should be openly discussed, now, is who decides who starves between now and 2050. With no discussion there will be no change and that means the people with power will allow the people without power to starve.

My morality says that is is criminal to continue with wasteful and conspicuous consumption while people are starving, but this is currently a minority opinion.

The majority will be in denial and will grasp any marketing hype as a reason for not changing.

I admit that my statement that massive starvation is inevitable gives an excuse to people who don't want to change. So does your position that technology will fix this. So does the Authoritarian follower position that the rapture is coming soon so nothing else really matters.

I tried to make these points succinctly but obviously I failed. In my opinion we are in the lifeboat, rations are limited, and we need to openly talk about what we do with that situation.

Do we distribute the rations equally? Do we give more to the strong who may be able to row us to land? Do we throw the weak overboard now to save rations? Clearly I think the last option is morally wrong, but I know that some people will bring it up and it will look better and better when times get even harder.

I have no final answer. All I can do is try to alert people that the time is now and we need to talk NOW. Bad things are already happening.


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 05-20-08 10:05 AM
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119: No reasonable person could disagree that there needs to be a plan in place to deal with the current food crisis, which will only get worse (and potentially, indeed, develop into a cataclysmic mass disaster) if no action is taken. Whether that food crisis continues on to become a mass dieback in the long term is less certain, and depends on a number of contingencies.

Re: solar energy, the 60 TW figure assumes 10% solar cell efficiency (which already exists); it doesn't take into account possible future increases in efficiency from technologies now in development. (See, for example, the article linked by stras toward the end of the previous thread.) Developing a storage and delivery infrastructure is a necessary step, but that's about R&D, not science fiction and not miracles. The idea that solar has low net yields and is not "scalable" is very energetically pardon-the-pun promoted by the oil industry; the solar energy research community disagrees vehemently; I see no particular reason to assume the former are correct and the latter are wrong. The oil industry is not exactly noted for its honesty and clear thinking about alternative sources.

Since the question of mass starvation is closely related to the question of energy scarcity, alternative energy must be a part of any plan intended to address and minimize mass starvation. The fear that the thought of a "technical fix" will demotivate people from seeing the need for conservation is understandable, but not an excuse for ignoring technology that is reasonably near maturity and would be indispensable to preventing the worst-case mass death scenario.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 05-20-08 6:31 PM
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Further to 120: So I mean, basically we agree that the time is NOW.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 05-20-08 7:09 PM
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I'm glad that Tripp came back, though I didn't know him previously.

It's of course true that, as DS says, The fear that the thought of a "technical fix" will demotivate people from seeing the need for conservation is understandable, but not an excuse for ignoring technology that is reasonably near maturity and would be indispensable to preventing the worst-case mass death scenario

but it seems equally obviously that such alternative technologies would wind up deployed first and foremost in the 'first world.' A significant reason for current worldwide food crises is a distribution failure.

Tripp at 119:

What should be openly discussed, now, is who decides who starves between now and 2050. With no discussion there will be no change and that means the people with power will allow the people without power to starve.

The fact that discussing this openly, facing and acknowledging our participation in the current state of affairs, is a matter for minority concern, is at least as much of a problem as technological shortcomings. I haven't completely followed the thread since it died down, but a hell of a lot more support for international organizations is in order.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 05-20-08 7:36 PM
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Re: solar energy, the 60 TW figure assumes 10% solar cell efficiency (which already exists); it doesn't take into account possible future increases in efficiency from technologies now in development.

SunPower's new cells are 22 percent, and Boeing-Spectrolab makes "triple junction" solar cells that are running something like 37 percent. They've tested a newer design that broke the 40 percent barrier, and IIRC that one is going to be commercially available in 2010.

This country should be pouring a couple hundred billion a year into plastering the right parts of the southwest with solar cells.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 05-20-08 7:47 PM
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This country should be pouring a couple hundred billion a year into plastering the right parts of the southwest with solar cells.

I'm sittin' in my solar-powered southwestern house, agreeing with you.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 05-20-08 7:48 PM
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