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Faster than predicted

Good news, everyone! The dire predictions of the IPCC about the effects of CO2 have been found to be wrong. (I expect that’s all the denialists will tell you.)

The bad news is that the actual observations are showing that the IPCC predictions were too conservative, and that the pace of climate change is faster than predicted.

It’s Monday, so you’re probably already depressed, and a little more pessimism won’t make you feel much worse…so watch the video, have a cup of coffee, despair.

(Also on Sb)

Comments

  1. Thomas says

    PZ, you should write about the importance of drastic environmental changes in relation to natural selection. It seems like humans arose as a result of drastic changes, so why should we think of these changes as bad?

  2. Big Brother Ogvorbis: I am Watching says

    PZ, you should write about the importance of drastic environmental changes in relation to natural selection. It seems like humans arose as a result of drastic changes, so why should we think of these changes as bad?

    You do realize that when you speak of a new species arising ‘as a result of drastic [environmental] changes’ that this includes massive die-offs, isolation of small groups, and, often, the extinction of multiple species. Why would humans want to recreate the environmental stresses which drove hominids to the brink of extinction and created modern humans? Do you really want five or six billion dead humans, small tribes scattered across the world, and the brutal, painful and short life of a hunter-gatherer? You are a sick puppy.

    ———

    And I am not surprised that the IPCC has been too conservative in their estimates. I’m saddened about the future of humanity, but not surprised.

  3. ChasCPeterson says

    It seems like humans arose as a result of drastic changes, so why should we think of these changes as bad?

    hmmm, could it be perhaps that some of us can spare a thought for something other than fucking humans*?

    And that we know enough about evolution that we don’t view more or stronger natural selection as an intrinsically good thing?

    *(And do not doubt that nasty changes are in store for plenty of humans anyway.)

  4. Big Brother Ogvorbis: I am Watching says

    No, I have no reason to care for other organisms.

    Without a working ecosystem, finding a steak, a salad, some peas, and a beer would become damn near impossible.

  5. John Morales says

    No worries.

    The Singularity approaches! All will be well!

    (Alternatively, the Eschaton will make things moot)

    </sarcasm>

  6. says

    I have watched the glaciers recede since I was very small. I remember driving past one on the way to Vancouver and it was so close to the road. Now, I need to take a truck through the valley from the road to get to the closest edge.

    Climate change is not something to be taking lightly. If our actions as a species is causing this we are going to be the first species on earth to cause ourselves to go extinct.

    Look at the massive amounts of drought, the rains in Chicago, Glaciers, Sea Ice, Expanding deserts etc. They are not getting better.

    We can no more control the climate than fix the climate. It is going to change to a level which is not optimal for our survival. Since no one really gives a rats ass about polar bears (I freakin do) then look to your little kid as you send them off to school and think to yourself “When you grow up, your daddy and mommy and grandparents and ancestors are really sorry that you will have a very difficult time when you reach my age”.

    I don’t want to die of starvation because the crops won’t grow anymore. But I feel like I am killing myself when I am forced to get in my F350 to go to work to monitor the environmental changes that are happening in my immediate world. When I am asked to keep my truck idling when taking a measurement to keep the little beacon lights running, for safety.

    I wish I could do something but I can’t. It’s now up to the people that give me no choice to give me choices.

    I can write and hope that the person who can give me a choice is reading. Help me help myself.

    2cp

  7. John Morales says

    [OT]

    polesch,

    I have seen Blade Runner, does that count?

    I guess — but only about as much as watching the Hollywood version of I, Robot does in appreciating Asimov’s book.

  8. Big Brother Ogvorbis: I am Watching says

    Big Brother Ogvorbis, heard of agriculture?

    Are you now claiming that wheat, maize, peas, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, Swiss chard, etc., are not organisms? Every one is a descendent of a wild plant which, through selective breeding, have become domesticated as agricultural products, so your claim that agriculture can exist without organisms is pure bullshit.

    Additionally, agriculture depends on macro- and micro-organisms (there’s that word again) in the soil — worms, for instance — to aerate the soil and process nutrients. Insects are also necessary to polinate the plants. Agriculture can exist in a total vacuum (drip watered sand in an enclosed dome), but that requires even larger amounts of fertilizer (some of which is produced using oil (which is getting expensive, neh?)), minerals, and other additives to allow the plants to grow and produce a useable crop. So, again, your claim that agriculture can exist without organisms (in this case, a working ecosystem) is, again, bullshit.

    I’m a freakin’ history major and even I understand this shit. What’s your excuse?

  9. maureen.brian says

    I don’t think you’ve quite grasped this, polesch.

    At some point agriculture becomes impossible and you don’t have two hundred years of accumulated knowledge of what is safe to eat and what is not for your new hunter-gatherer lifestyle, do you?

    Look around you, watch the news. In some places agriculture is already impossible or totally unreliable. Try the Horn of Africa (for decades) or Oklahoma (twice in 80 years) and then tell us which magic fairy is protecting you but not the other seven billion of us.

  10. KG says

    Big Brother Ogvorbis, heard of agriculture? – polesch

    What a maroon. Agriculture involves non-human organisms – and not just the ones we choose to cultivate: the soil teems with organisms, many of them essential to the crops we grow. Having soil at all, plus regular supplies of water rather than alternating aridity and floods, depends largely on the role of plants in holding back water or recycling it to the atmosphere when there is heavy precipitation. Quite a few people like to eat fish and other organisms from the sea, or even depend on doing so. Medicines are still generally found first in organisms, even if they are later synthesized, and the same is true of many other useful chemicals.

    Then of course there’s the less tangible benefits, such as natural beauty and the satisfaction of scientific curiosity. But quite obviously, those have no appeal to such a dolt as you.

  11. polesch says

    All living organisms on earth are governed by one principle, adaptability. Global warming causes the earth to change, which forces the organisms to adapt. Humans have culture and science to help them, genetically modified crops, agriculture for meat and milk, and the micro-organisms in the soil replicate several times a day. You all have to relax.

    Many human populations will suffer, big deal.

  12. Big Brother Ogvorbis: I am Watching says

    Many human populations will suffer, big deal.

    As long as it is not the rich white folk, right? Your concern for fellow humans is noted.

    Not to mention that severe dislocations of populations due to resource or agricultural depletion will not only affect the population in the affected area, but will, most likely, most certainly, spill over into neighboring countries. As Pakistan sees a diminution of arable land due to climate change, do you really think they will hesitate to wrest better land from India? and will India hesitate to use nuclear weapons if they are losing? and will Pakistan respond in kind? At the very least, wars caused by resource depletion and agricultural exhaustion will disrupt the natural resources the United States and Europe need to continue at current population levels. In short, does the term chaos have any meaning for you?

  13. polesch says

    Big Brother Ogvorbis

    There used to be a phrase going something like this: “The White Man’s Burden”, it’s a very good poem – you should read it.

    Could you please explain why it’s my responsibility to save a village in Pakistan from environmental change?

  14. says

    polesch:

    Global warming causes the earth to change, which forces the organisms to adapt.

    Unfortunately, the rate of change is greater than at any other time in the recorded past. (And that’s “recorded” as in, recorded in ice cores and other physical media, so it goes back a long time.) We’re potentially facing the biggest die-off in millions of years.

    Humans have culture and science to help them, genetically modified crops, agriculture for meat and milk, and the micro-organisms in the soil replicate several times a day. You all have to relax.

    While I have great faith in our ability to engineer crops that are resistant to certain pests and diseases, I’m not sure we have the know-how to engineer entire ecosystems. Perhaps in fifty years we might, but it could very well be too late by then.

    I’m not entirely sure why you would suggest we stop addressing the root problem, since science can help us adjust to a radically changing world. Why wouldn’t we use that same science to help curb the problem in the first place?

    Many human populations will suffer, big deal.

    Ah. Sarcasm as humor. Very good.

  15. stewart says

    polesch – you may be thinking of a wise man who once said, “Who still talks nowadays of the extermination of the Armenians?” Death before discomfort!
    Alternatively, when our garbage causes harm to others, we have the responsibility to take action. No man is an island, and the US (or whatever little enclave you are in) is not the world. Responsibility is shared and indivisible, but we have more opportunity than most.

  16. says

    polesch:

    Could you please explain why it’s my responsibility to save a village in Pakistan from environmental change?

    GOT to be a Poe. No actual human could be this dense.

  17. kieran says

    Don’t forget that you’ve limited resources in relation to Oil and fissile material for traditional fision nuclear reactions. This is the Oil age and unless we put some serious money into changing our major energy source we’re boned.
    It takes a hell of a lot to produce a viable GMO.
    Then you hit the clean potable water problem.
    Normal changes are on the scale of thousands of years plenty of time for adaptability. The earth will survive, human race probably not or certainly not at anywhere near our present position.

  18. Gregory Greenwood says

    polesch @ 23;

    All living organisms on earth are governed by one principle, adaptability. Global warming causes the earth to change, which forces the organisms to adapt. Humans have culture and science to help them, genetically modified crops, agriculture for meat and milk, and the micro-organisms in the soil replicate several times a day. You all have to relax.

    I would rather not wager the continued existence of our species on our ability to adapt to a planetary environment that we ravaged needlessly, especially since I think that you are vastly overestimating our ability to adapt. Yes, biological systems adapt to pressures – they change. What happens if we apply such severe artificial selection pressures that the environment changes in such a fashion that it is no longer conducive to human life? The technology of the richest nations might protect them, but what about the less fortunate? There are approaching seven billion people on this planet, how are they all going to survive when anthropogenic climate change causes systemic crop failures?

    Many human populations will suffer, big deal.

    and @ 25;

    Could you please explain why it’s my responsibility to save a village in Pakistan from environmental change?

    Oh, I see. So as long as it isn’t you and yours, the rest of humanity can go hang. How very compassionate of you…

  19. polesch says

    kieran you won’t ever run out of fissionable material, it’s the 50th most abundant element, and it can be made fissionable by neutron capture.

  20. julian says

    GOT to be a Poe. No actual human could be this dense.

    You ever hung out with The Young Republicans? That attitude is the foundation of one of our two political parties.

  21. says

    julian:

    You ever hung out with The Young Republicans? That attitude is the foundation of one of our two political parties.

    So… why shouldn’t we just let the human race die off, exactly?

    I mean, other than the fact we’re taking a good portion of the rest of the world with us.

  22. Shriketastic says

    kieran you won’t ever run out of fissionable material, it’s the 50th most abundant element, and it can be made fissionable by neutron capture.

    How much is there, by weight? How much is consumed?

    There was a time where people thought we would never run out of fresh water, or fish, too, y’know.

  23. julian says

    So… why shouldn’t we just let the human race die off, exactly?

    Cats, of course. Where would our feline overlords be without their faithful servants?

  24. KG says

    I’m not entirely sure why you would suggest we stop addressing the root problem, since science can help us adjust to a radically changing world. Why wouldn’t we use that same science to help curb the problem in the first place? – nigelTheBold

    Well see, that might impede polesch’s ability to do whatever he* wants, regardless of the resources squandered or the waste produced. Once you realise that polesch is the only person who actually matters, it all becomes clear.

    *OK, that polesch is male is an assumption, but I’d say a pretty safe one.

  25. raven says

    troll moron:

    No, I have no reason to care for other organisms.

    We humans have no reasson to care about trolls and morons.

    They are just the primate version of weeds, minor nuisances that contribute nothing but are always there without constant efforts.

  26. raven says

    Could you please explain why it’s my responsibility to save a village in Pakistan from environmental change?

    GOT to be a Poe. No actual human could be this dense.

    Doubt it.

    Most likely a gibbertarian. The incoherency and inhuman lack of empathy is characteristic. Put up a picture of Ayn Rand and see if he worships it.

    Could be a fundie xian. They are usually pretty stupid.

  27. chigau(°o°) says

    Could you please explain why it’s my responsibility to save a village in Pakistan from environmental change?

    If you live in a petroleum-dependent urban environment, you should understand that cowshit-dependent rural Pakistan has a better chance than you.

  28. says

    one day or another, this planet is going to shed us off like a case of the common cold and we might be able to say that we helped. Forget save the earth, save freaking humanity.

  29. Epikt says

    This isn’t especially surprising. The right wing likes to claim that the IPCC is alarmist, and its reports biased, due to pressure from various governments. At a talk a few years ago, one of the authors of the next-to-most-recent IPCC report said that, indeed, there had been governmental pressure from several nations, including the US. But she said that the pressure had been exerted to water down the report’s conclusions, not to exaggerate their seriousness, and that the consensus among the authors was that the effects were likely to be worse than claimed in the report. In a sane world, this would be yet another nail in the coffin of the denialists.

  30. Brownian says

    I’m with polesch. Why should I care about other organisms? Especially douchey, idiotic, self-centred ones?

    Nope, the only way to survive is to completely dehumanise at least some of your fellow humans. It makes doing what you have to do when the shit goes down so much easier.

    Thank you, internet, for bringing them to us.

  31. Anteprepro says

    So, polesch believes that we should just let the temperature sky rocket and let everything “adapt” (over a few generations) in this heat (by letting 90% or so of almost everything fucking die off). And he proposes we use science and agriculture to keep our country going, somehow, and let people in poorer countries die. Because, not only do we not give a fuck about poorer countries, we would apparently have enough science funding and scientific knowledge to make sure we live a perfectly good life in the middle of catastrophic death of organisms at every conceivable scale of life. Despite the fact that we barely have enough science funding and scientific knowledge, right now, to stop such a thing from a happening in the first place. I have no idea where he gets the idea that we are so advanced and economically well off that we could live indefinitely in a world where almost all of the organisms we had relied on were either rapidly dying off or rapidly changing, but are not advanced and economically well off enough to find a way to stop all of this from happening at all.

    Your mind is a dark and muddled place, polesch.

  32. =8)-DX says

    Oh noes. The problem with climate change denial is that even highly intelligent non-religious and otherwise scientifically minded people go along with it. I mean why can’t everything be like young earth creationism?

    A) Creationism is wrong, Evolution happens, the world is old, therefore either
    2) you’re stupid or
    3) you’re uneducated or
    4) you’re a religious nut
    B) And I’m neither of the previous!

    You’re completely messing up my superiority complexes people!

  33. Dan L. says

    The IPCC is in the business of providing climate risk estimates to government policy makers, not predicting exactly what the climate will do and when. At the same time, it has always been under pressure by fossil fuel exporting and high-emitting countries to tone down its future climate scenarios. It is therefore no surprise climate change is accelerating faster than what has been depicted in IPCC graphs.

    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=conservative-climate

  34. andyo says

    It seems like humans arose as a result of drastic changes, so why should we think of these changes as bad?

    All living organisms on earth are governed by one principle, adaptability. Global warming causes the earth to change, which forces the organisms to adapt.

    Crap, it’s hard to keep up with the goalpost changes with these denialists nowadays!

    So, recapping (lemme know if I missed one):

    1) Global warming is not happening.
    2) The earth is actually cooling cause winter is cold.
    3) OK, the earth is warming, but not because of humans.
    4) Look, the sun! The sun is doing it!
    5) Global warming is not happening cause people now call it climate change.
    6a) OK, climate change is happening, but come on, is it such a big deal?
    6b) Past strong climate changes drove natural selection that lead to us, therefore mass extinctions are pretty swell.

  35. Rasmus says

    Could you please explain why it’s my responsibility to save a village in Pakistan from environmental change?

    Well, sure. It’s quite simple.

    If we assume that the environmental change is undesirable to the villagers and that you personally imposed some of that environmental change on the villagers without their consent, most people would agree that you have a moral (if not legal) responsibility to repair a small part of the damage, or to compensate them in some other way, for example through your government.

    That is why right-wingers who like to think of themselves as conscientious tend to insist that global warming is a natural phenomenon.

  36. Pierce R. Butler says

    =8)-DX @ # 52: You’re completely messing up my superiority complexes …

    That’s okay. When it dies, something better will arise to replace it.

  37. AlanMacandCheese says

    Four facts about Global Warming and its attended Climatic Disruption are clear:
    1. It’s real
    2. It’s man made or at least was initiated by human activity.
    3. It’s worse than we thought
    4. It’s too late to stop it and quite likely was so before we even noticed it.

    We really need to know what is happening in the deep ocean currents. Still the same problem since 1989. Remember this:

    http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=6514270139930450081

  38. The Lorax says

    I, for one, think this is most frightening for the 20 – 30 age group… old enough to understand the implications, yet… young enough to know that we’re going to experience them full on.

    We’re in the Pit, and global warming is the Pendulum.

  39. Ben says

    Apparently, another key principle missing in the minds of ‘some’ is the development of a rational understanding of the very real concept of interdependence/interconnectedness among local or regional organisms and their environment specifically, and within the planetary-scale ecosystem in general. As an analogy, one could point to the effect trade imbalances have on an economy.
    As the population grows, resources shrink, and the environment stresses, it doesn’t bode well for at least the higher forms of life on the planet. And biologists, along with scientists of other fields have enough experience with small-scale environmental disruption to tell you that.
    If it’s any consolation, insect life will likely survive virtually any environmental catastrophe we could throw at it, save something on an interplanetary scale. (Damn those mosquitoes still win in the end!)

  40. gingerbaker says

    “Many human populations will suffer, big deal.”

    The “human population” that *you* are in will suffer.

    In about sixty to eighty years, the drought conditions Texas and Oklahoma are going through this year is what the entire breadbasket of the U.S. is going to be experiencing all the time. Actually, they will regard 2011 conditions as a good year.

    We already can not keep our agricultural product growth large enough to cope with population increases. Our national food warehouses are empty. We only have about 1.5 weeks of food surplus in the U.S. – it used to be months or years worth. Soon, we will start to see food shortages as demand outstrips supply occasionally. The shortfalls will become more chronic. We are seeing food riots in parts of the world right now. We will have them too.

    The breadbasket states of the U.S., according to the best models available, are doomed to become one enormous dust bowl. Literally, a dust bowl. How bad will it be? It will be six times drier than the temporary conditions which caused the historic Dust Bowl, and it will stay that way for at least one thousand, more likely one hundred thousand years. You see, unfortunately for us, a hot Earth is a very stable system, unlike the temperate mode we have destabilized. Start here:

    http://thinkprogress.org/romm/2009/03/22/203850/an-introduction-to-global-warming-impacts-hell-and-high-water/

    If you think that global climate change is not going to inconvenience you much, you are very much mistaken.

    Enjoy the next eighteen years of CAWKI. (Civilization as we know it) After that, the fan is going to be splattering some very serious shit indeed.

  41. Anri says

    Could you please explain why it’s my responsibility to save a village in Pakistan from environmental change?

    The short answer: Because that village is filled with human beings.

    If you think human beings are worthwhile, you know enough now to know why you should help save them.

    If you think human beings are not worthwhile, start at home and kill yourself.

    If neither of these fits, then you must believe that you are worth more as human then the people in that village. As I have answered your question, please do me the courtesy of answering mine: Why are you worth more than them?

  42. robro says

    andyo @ #54 & #55: You missed another one…It’s all because of liberal commie scientist atheists. If they just believed in the good old god and shut up, then he/she/it would fix everything up. But they won’t, so it’s time for THE WRATH OF GOD, Act MMXII…to get rid of some of those damn troublemakers.

  43. Dr. Audley Z. Darkheart OM, purveyor of candy and lies says

    To jump on Andyo and robro’s list:

    9) Climate change is happening, but the best way to solve this problem is through free market solutions. (As known as “won’t someone think of the corporations!”)

  44. Big Brother Ogvorbis: I am Watching says

    Sorry, taking my 90 year old neighbor to the doctor. Anyway,

    Could you please explain why it’s my responsibility to save a village in Pakistan from environmental change?

    From a short-sighted, egocentric, and right wing viewpoint, because, as we have already seen, dysfunctional/nonfunctional governments can create harm in the first world, either through disruption of natural resources or through war and terrorism.

    From a human point of view — because they are human.

  45. Antiochus Epiphanes says

    This is what you are all missing. polesch is a semi-sentient extraterrestrial scout sent to convert the earth into a paradise for anaerobic prokaryotes.

    Some other things I have gathered:

    All living organisms on earth are governed by one principle, adaptability.

    polesh studied earth biology at the feet of another semi-sentient extraterrestrial, Ted Nugent*.

    And,

    Could you please explain why it’s my responsibility to save a village in Pakistan from environmental change?

    polesch is also skilled in the art of subterfuge. Clearly, polesch’s intergalactic corporation isn’t hoping to save any villages.

    *The Nuge!

  46. raven says

    Climate change is happening, but the best way to solve this problem is through free market solutions.

    The Invisible Hand of the Free Market. The all powerful god of the gibbertarians. The one that yahweh wanted to be but could never overcome his handicap of being imaginary.

    Needless to say, old Invisible Hand had a lot to do with causing global warming and more to do with trying to pretend it doesn’t exist. TIHoftheFM does have something in common with the xian god after all. It doesn’t care about humans.

  47. ichthyic says

    Many human populations will suffer, big deal.

    well then, since you don’t give a fuck, why not make life easier for the rest of us?

    take a long swim…

    I hear the Pacific ocean has yet to be crossed by a swimmer.

    maybe you can be the first?

  48. ichthyic says

    Climate change is happening, but the best way to solve this problem is through free market solutions.

    yes, because that has worked SO WELL for all the other issues of pollution, resource over-utlization, war, etc. for the history of humanity.

    fucking glibertarian morons.

    fucking zombie sheep!

    here, moron, see your future writ large, as you become part of the flock of zombie sheep attacking humanity:

  49. raven says

    Now that the Randroid has driven by and dropped off some gibbertarian garbage, I’ll point out the all but certain future.

    Global warming is real, no doubt. I saw it in the near future in the 80’s.

    1. We aren’t going to do anything to stop it. It’s almost too late, and all that has happened is a lot of words spent.

    This BTW, is the emerging consensus of climatologists. You are hearing less and less about CO2 sequestration/reductions and more about adaptation. A lot of them are going to be happy if we don’t shoot the messengers. Literally. The Tea Party has them high on their hate list, probably even above biologists and women.

    2. It’s not clear we can do anything about it. CO2 is a global problem and requires a global solution. Country X isn’t all that interested in reducing CO2 production if Country Y is rounding up all the fossil fuels and burning them. This is a crucial point and we’ve already seen it in action.

    Our whole civilization runs on fossil fuels. And it is fragile. Bush’s stunning accomplishment was to show how easy it is for one moron to wreck the largest economy in the world for a decade without even trying too hard.

    All we will do is adapt. It is all we can do.

    This is what it looked like a year ago when I first outlined it. So far it is right on schedule.

  50. NoXion says

    Climate change is real, we’re causing it and people are going to suffer as a consequence. That is undeniable.

    What disturbs me however are those who seem to think this inevitably means extinction. This, coupled with statements to the effect that “it’s too late”, strikes me as a kind of defeatism with the potential to be just as damaging as denialism.

    Think about it; if someone truly believes the human species hasn’t got what it takes to weather this crisis, then why should they bother? Sure, they may not like the prospect of climate change and human extinction, but that won’t matter because they will be dead before things get really bad. Actually, since older people tend to have most of the power and the wealth, this is doubly dangerous since those with the most ability to change things have the least incentive to do so. Is this really the sort of mindset we want to be fertilising the ground for?

    Speaking as someone in their early twenties with hopefully a long life ahead of me, I find the visions of the future by some here more than distinctly unappealing. I’ve suspected since my late teens that things will get worse before they get better, but I would sooner sacrifice myself to Cthulhu than allow myself to give up and slide into a pit of cynical nihilism. We may not be perfectly rational organisms at all times, but neither do we inherit the sin of Adam.

    The apocalyptic language used by some indicates that for all their sniggering at Singularitarians, They’re no less susceptible to eschatological fancies.

  51. raven says

    Arctic sea ice shrinks to second lowest level – Washington Timeswww.washingtontimes.com/…/2011/…/arctic-sea-ice-shrinks-to-secon…Cached

    Sep 15, 2011 – Arctic sea ice melted this summer to the second lowest level since record- keeping began more than 50 years ago, scientists reported Thursday,

    The arctic sea ice minimum this year was the second lowest on record.

    The 5 lowest sea ice minimum areas on record have been…the last 5 years worth.

  52. ichthyic says

    @53:

    that’s a good point, Dan.

    I’d also point out that on the whole, scientists have been playing emergency catchup on this issue for about 20 years now.

    there is simple lag involved in the precision of the models, as we learn more about global heat sinks, etc.

    there has NEVER been an issue with accuracy (the direction of change has always been the same), but with precision.

    in the 90s, we measured with kilometer sticks, now we’re using meter sticks.

    the resolution is improving fast, and this leads to rapid changes in what the predictions for the future will be.

  53. ichthyic says

    You are hearing less and less about CO2 sequestration/reductions and more about adaptation

    strangely, that actually isn’t the case. I think you might be projecting the media gestalt in the US onto a lot of the rest of the world.

    here in Hobbiton, I’m hearing excellent essays by academic AND government economist about how carbon taxes will work here in NZ, and how they will end up creating innovations in various parts of the economy.

    Hell, even the CEO of our national airline is talking about how he plans to modify the airline to fit the new emissions targets.

  54. raven says

    Speaking as someone in their early twenties with hopefully a long life ahead of me, I find the visions of the future by some here more than distinctly unappealing

    Which has absolutely zero to do with what is and will happen. Sorry, but that is really dumb.

    Solipsism has a long history of not working.

    Actually from my/our Boomer persepective, from the 20’s age, the future was OK. Cheap, small computers were invented, biotech took off, Nixon was impeached, the bogeymen of yesteryear (the commies and USSR) collapsed, Clinton was elected, women achieved full humanhood, the internet, US xianity is slowly dying, and so on.

    What is really dismal; now we are going backwards. Median US household incomes are at 1996 levels, poverty has doubled, and the US economy is projected to recover by 2018. One more Tea Party president and add another decade. A lost generation.

  55. says

    @NoXion
    Nobody here said that humanity would go extinct. What they did say, though, is that life will suck. And there is so much resistance against change in terms of fossil fuel that in all probability, that sucky future will happen.

  56. uncle frogy says

    well when I was a kid I like to go and see post Apocalyptic movies. I liked the chaotic horror of it the warning that we are just one step away from it. The reason for the fall was often not spelled out very clearly but often war. I took it as fiction or even allegory. I loved the bleak contrast to the modern world. There is even some of the same dystopian aura in Blade Runner. I like the novels of William Gibson.
    It has always been something that was possible “in the future” but only a little bit happening now if we try hard we can avert it.
    I used to feel that way
    it used to be in some possible future
    will we all be singing some new version of this old song soon?

    >http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zqiblXFlZuk&lt;

    uncle frogy

  57. says

    Another thing to remember about this global warming thing. Whole countries could be wiped out of the map due to rising sea level. I can think of various island nations that could be in danger, like the Maldives, Nauru, Fiji, etc.

  58. ichthyic says

    Our national food warehouses are empty

    it’s a bit more complicated than lowered production due to warming though; that has more to do with economic issues over the last 20 years:

    http://www.usatoday.com/money/industries/food/2008-05-01-usda-food-supply_N.htm

    suffice it to say, though, that there already is lowered production due to warming in the US, and that will just continue to degrade the productivity of the “bread basket”.

    whether there are plans to compensate for this, I haven’t a clue. So far, it just looks like the US is keeping money aside to buy food as needed.

    which will work fine… up until the food is more valuable and rare than the cash.

    I had heard rumors of plans to move the breadbasket steadily northward, even into Canada, but rumors are not facts.

  59. ChasCPeterson says

    there has NEVER been an issue with accuracy (the direction of change has always been the same), but with precision.

    The precision of climate-model predictions may well be improving, but we simply cannot know their accuracy except in hindsight.

    This post, in fact, shows that model predictions for sea-ice melting were not accurate: it’s melting even faster than predicted by any of the models, whatever their precision.

  60. F says

    I find the second sort of indicator of polesch’s idiocy to be even more damning.

    (How do you use quote/citation tags?)

    Someone who can’t see the fucking list right above where they post the comment is never going to learn anything about reality in general. It’s easy to deny reality when you can’t see the facts right in front of you.

    Duhyagrgriculture don’t have no organisms.

  61. Dr. Audley Z. Darkheart OM, purveyor of candy and lies says

    Ichthy,

    yes, because that has worked SO WELL for all the other issues of pollution, resource over-utlization, war, etc. for the history of humanity.

    fucking glibertarian morons.

    fucking zombie sheep!

    here, moron, see your future writ large, as you become part of the flock of zombie sheep attacking humanity:

    Wait, that was me! I was responding to Andyo’s list of absurities!

    I would never ascribe to such an asinine view and I realize that I should have been more clear in my sarcasm. :-/

  62. tushcloots says

    polesch:

    …you won’t ever run out of fissionable material…

    Yes you fucking will. You will run out of the people that mine the shit, process it, the vast infrastructure to build and maintain a reactor – let alone hundreds or thousands of them. Do you have any twinkling of a clue how much power a reactor puts out compared to what’s needed to power a whole country? How long does it take to build a reactor, let alone thousands of them? (I am probably being way to conservative on the number needed to equal the power consumption of the world right now, let alone future needs of developing continents, more like tens of thousands, maybe?)
    What with desertification being the number one threat to humanity, how you gonna feed everyone? Wheat rust is another possible runaway disaster, as well as other pestilence.
    No water, no arid ground, wars all over the place for shrinking resources. The natural balance of habitats is already starting t fuck up. Ever checked out the dead spots in the ocean? No fucking sea food, either. How is science going to provide the technology to replace entire ecosystems?
    .
    .

    Could you please explain why it’s my responsibility to save a village in Pakistan from environmental

    Because, you fucking moron, take the above scenario, throw in a dangerously unstable government under threat from India, or everyone else. Do you honestly trust all the freaks with access, or possible/probable access to nuclear weapons?

    Because simply, you self centered emotionally corrupted freak, you will die. Do you honestly think stable government will be around, or the infrastructure to maintain international relevance and defense, when 80% of the population is starving, exacerbated by a corrupt and malevolent US government? You seen what’s going on in the world? You seeing how average people in the States are becoming more vocal and militant?
    Use your fucking head, all this shit is already developing and taking place.
    .
    .

    All living organisms on earth are governed by one principle, adaptability. Global warming causes the earth to change, which forces the organisms to adapt.

    No they are not, they are governed by survival instinct, among others(Who says life is governed by certain principles anyways?). Where the fuck do you get this shit, besides pulling it out of your asshole – that’s why it’s called shit, I imagine :o)
    .
    .

    I wish to add another read to the library: Nature’s End

  63. Big Brother Ogvorbis: I am Watching says

    Audley:

    I got the sarcasm. Which is odd as I usually miss it. Weird.

  64. ichthyic says

    Wait, that was me! I was responding to Andyo’s list of absurities!

    poe’s law, etc.

    it’s not like we haven’t seen EXACTLY that sentiment raised by the Randroids that have come here ad-nauseum.

    consider it a per-emptive response then.

    :)

  65. uncle frogy says

    >So far, it just looks like the US is keeping money aside to buy food as needed.<

    what money? all I see is debt which is based on credit which we have as of today but things change. even if we do have the credit there is this thing called the market and price and supply the thing is the earth is a finite thing not an abstraction.
    just where is all of this food we would buy to come from if we now are one of the biggest producers any where?
    what will we do when Chicago is just north of the north american sahara

    uncle frogy

  66. ichthyic says

    oh, and how that happened was that when I first enter a thread, I start from the bottom and work my way up.

    first time I ran across what I quoted was what Raven quoted in their post at 69.

    taken out of context, there was no way to know it was meant as sarcasm.

  67. ichthyic says

    This post, in fact, shows that model predictions for sea-ice melting were not accurate: it’s melting even faster than predicted by any of the models, whatever their precision.

    no, you don’t understand the difference between accuracy and precision.

    accuracy is a measure of qualitative difference.

    precision is quantitative.

    there was always the prediction that ice masses would reduce in size, this has not changed, so it IS accurate.

    all that has changed is the timescale, which is related to precision.

  68. ichthyic says

    no, you don’t understand the difference between accuracy and precision.

    you know, I’m gonna retract that. It isn’t related to the common understanding of accuracy and precision, really.

    pointless to debate it.

  69. uncle frogy says

    thanks I forgot, I read the linked article then read the date

    Updated 5/2/2008 4:49 PM

    things have changed some what since then
    uncle frogy

  70. ichthyic says

    things have changed some what since then

    yes, and no.

    I doubt setting aside a lump of cash for emergency food reserves would have been affected by the various budget cuts; the simple reason being it would not be politically expedient to cut such a thing. Especially in an election cycle. In that sense, I doubt much will change.

  71. Dr. Audley Z. Darkheart OM, purveyor of candy and lies says

    Ichthyic,

    it’s not like we haven’t seen EXACTLY that sentiment raised by the Randroids that have come here ad-nauseum.

    Exactly, which is why I should have been clearer. It’s sad how easy it is to sound like a non-thinking Rand-bot.

    Anyway, no worries.

    Oggie,
    It’s like we’re on the same wavelength, man.

  72. says

    It seems like humans arose as a result of drastic changes, so why should we think of these changes as bad?

    you have no idea how evolution works, do you?
    well, those of us who do know that adaptation to a drastically new environment involves a fuckload of dead people, and being ethical humans, we prefer not to see billions of people suffer and/or die from something we could prevent from happening.

    No, I have no reason to care for other organisms.

    ecosystem services; learn about them.

    Big Brother Ogvorbis, heard of agriculture?

    Dunning-Kruger

    All living organisms on earth are governed by one principle, adaptability. Global warming causes the earth to change, which forces the organisms to adapt. Humans have culture and science to help them, genetically modified crops, agriculture for meat and milk, and the micro-organisms in the soil replicate several times a day. You all have to relax.

    Many human populations will suffer, big deal.

    sociopathic Dunning-Kruger

    Perhaps in fifty years we might, but it could very well be too late by then.

    I highly doubt it. We’re not even entirely sure yet how the natural ecosystems we have work; re-designing them, or inventing new ones from scratch is going to take quite a while.

    especially since I think that you are vastly overestimating our ability to adapt.

    he is. Humans have driven themselves to near-extinction and extinction in numerous local environments (and some of them were even white! not just wild brown savages!), but idiot doesn’t know about any of them, so of course idiot thinks they don’t exist. Like I said, Dunning-Kruger.

    Nope, the only way to survive is to completely dehumanise at least some of your fellow humans. It makes doing what you have to do when the shit goes down so much easier.

    Thank you, internet, for bringing them to us.

    sooo… what you’re saying is we should hunt and eat trolls to reduce our carbon footprint? :-p

    here in Hobbiton

    *snorfle*

    Speaking as someone in their early twenties with hopefully a long life ahead of me, I find the visions of the future by some here more than distinctly unappealing

    “I don’t like it there it’s not true” is the hallmark of the Republicans War on Reality, not of a rational thinker.

  73. ichthyic says

    sooo… what you’re saying is we should hunt and eat trolls to reduce our carbon footprint? :-p

    one wonders if trolls produce as much greenhouse gas as say, ruminants do…

  74. Brownian says

    sooo… what you’re saying is we should hunt and eat trolls to reduce our carbon footprint? :-p

    To reduce our carbon footprint? Uh, sure. It’s as good a reason as any, I suppose. I’m just looking for a humane solution to a terrible infestation. Just be sure to use every part and not be wasteful. You’ll have to vegetable tan the hides, unfortunately, due to their lack of brain.

    (And really, there would not be much hunting necessary. Our ancestors would have leapt at a potential food source that actively sought them out as trolls do normal humans.)

  75. says

    NoXion #73

    Think about it; if someone truly believes the human species hasn’t got what it takes to weather this crisis, then why should they bother? Sure, they may not like the prospect of climate change and human extinction, but that won’t matter because they will be dead before things get really bad. Actually, since older people tend to have most of the power and the wealth, this is doubly dangerous since those with the most ability to change things have the least incentive to do so.

    Spoken from the viewpoint of a naive youngster; old people are past caring.

    I’m one of those old people, pushing 70. (I guess that makes me “young old”). Discussing current events with my contemporaries, and the blindness of our politicians, I often say, “Have they no grandchildren?” And everybody in the group nods their heads; they do, and they are afraid for them. They have seen the trends. They know what’s coming, and it won’t be pretty. Life is going to be extremely difficult for the people they care most about.

    I have great-grandchildren. They will grow up (if they manage even that) in a world of food shortages, conflict, wars, epidemics, and lack of resources with which to fight back. I have a newly-married granddaughter; I dread the day when she tells me she’s pregnant.

    Some of those older people with power and wealth think that their p&w will save their grandchildren from what is to come; some think that Jesus will come for them before things get really tough. They’re mistaken on both counts.

  76. Brownian says

    Some of those older people with power and wealth think that their p&w will save their grandchildren from what is to come; some think that Jesus will come for them before things get really tough. They’re mistaken on both counts.

    I know of a wealthy and influential Kenyan whose power and wealth couldn’t save him from being hacked to death during a robbery.

    During times and situations of extreme scarcity, the market solution for the poor is to eat the rich.

  77. gingerbaker says

    “Our national food warehouses are empty

    it’s a bit more complicated than lowered production due to warming though; that has more to do with economic issues over the last 20 years:

    http://www.usatoday.com/money/industries/food/2008-05-01-usda-food-supply_N.htm

    Never meant to imply that. Our warehouses are empty now, and this year is probably only the start of significant lowered output due to climate. Yikes.

    Who knew the movie The Road was a documentary?

    I’m telling every young person thinking about college to major in agriculture.

  78. 'Tis Himself, OM says

    To get back below the more ambitious target of 350 ppm of CO2 in the atmosphere (which we’re already well above), the U.S. and other rich countries will probably have to get close to zero carbon by 2050, with the developing world not far behind.

    Few people understand how incredibly ambitious that is. Certainly no one in the US political establishment. Whether you think it’s necessary and affordable in the grand scheme of things, there’s no denying it’s a huge honking lift. Or contemplate this: To reach even the more modest target of 450ppm, the IEA says humanity would have to build the following every year between now and 2050:

    35 coal-fired and 20 gas-fired power plants with carbon capture and storage; 30 nuclear power plants; 12,000 onshore wind turbines paired with 3,600 offshore ones; 45 geothermal power plants; 325 million square meters-worth of photovoltaics; and 55 solar-thermal power plants. That doesn’t even include the need to build electric cars and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles in order to shift transportation away from burning gasoline. -David Biello, “Environment 360″ blog

    That represents a level of sustained economic, social, and technological transformation that is difficult to fathom. It’s the equivalent of the US’s massive industrial build-up for World War II, only across the entire globe, for 40 straight years at least, against a faceless enemy. The mind boggles at the scale of what scientists are urging us to do. So should we do it? Is such a massive shift “worth it”? Funny you should ask.

    Economists are the arbiters of “worth it” these days, so what are we saying?

    In short, we build models. Informing those models are various assumptions about the range of damages expected from climate change, the range of costs expected from avoiding climate change, and the rate of economic growth. The general idea is to find the right balance between spending on mitigation/adaptation and the cost of potential damages, so that we don’t overpay or underpay. Rather, like Goldilocks, economists seek a course of action that’s just right: the most economically efficient course.

    For the present discussion, the salient fact is that virtually all economic models used for climate change share something in common. They show human beings getting richer over the next century, regardless of what the climate does. Depending on which numbers and assumptions are plugged in, they output a range of scenarios from much-richer-very-quickly to somewhat-less-richer-more-slowly. But none of them show human progress hitting any kind of plateau, much less falling off a cliff.

    From what many economists are saying, it looks like the worst thing policymakers risk on climate change is somewhat slower economic growth. One way or another, we’re getting wealthier.

    This represents what is perhaps the foundational faith of modern economics: a faith in human adaptability and ingenuity. Especially via the distributed decisionmaking represented by open markets, humans can master almost any circumstances given time. Nowhere in these models will you find any hint of a Jared Diamond-style apocalypse. Instead, future people will be much wealthier and, because of that, better able to cope with the problem.

    Economists tell you we have reconciled any pending problems, that’s what the models do. The damages of climate change are built right in. The results don’t look like catastrophe because, dammit, Man Will Overcome. Anyway, that’s what the models tell us.

    But as I talk to other economists, we’re not quite as gung ho. For one thing, we admit our models aren’t very good at incorporating large short-term shocks. The “long tail” possibilities in climate science–the low-probability, high-impact stuff like ice shelves collapsing or thermohaline circulation shutting down–completely borks the models. We see wild, arbitrary swings in model projections based on small adjustments in input assumptions. The models start saying, in essence, “damned if I know!”

    When economists run into the limitations of our models, we tend to heed the Wittgensteinian injunction: “Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.” We don’t feel comfortable making policy recommendations without solid modeling to back it up. Giving counsel in the face of gigantic, unquantifiable risks starts to feel less like science and more like an exercise in politics or ethics. Oh noes, not my job!

    Unfortunately, that leaves the field to economists like William Nordhaus, whose model tells a soothing story of slowly rising costs, smoothly offset by a slowly rising carbon tax. The message: don’t panic. That message is all too welcome in the halls of power.

    Getting clear on this is ultimately going to require a lot of progress in both science and economics. But for my part, when I see scientists panicking and certain economists telling me not to panic, I start sweating.

    Humanity has never had to grapple with a problem that measures itself in centuries, threatens our very existence, and requires global cooperation to overcome. We are fairly beset by gaping uncertainties. We know it could get really bad, but we don’t know exactly how bad it will get, or how fast, or where. We don’t know how much it will cost to re-engineer the world along sustainable lines, or how quickly we can do it, or even whether we can do it at all. We are stumbling around in the dark, in an area where scientists tell us here be dragons! In that situation, it seems to me the overwhelming bias should be toward action, getting nimble enough to handle ourselves no matter what slouches our way.

  79. maureen.brian says

    Just a tiny footnote to ‘Tis Himself’s very serious summary. We have already made several major mistakes.

    The dreaded Margaret Thatcher, for instance, was so very keen to break the unions and so against government-run industries that she managed to shut down the research arm of the National Coal Board – where Jacob Bronowski used to work, remember – just at the moment when it was well ahead with research into clean coal technologies. And she was the only trained scientist we ever had as Prime MInister, for gawd’s sake.

    Good luck, USA friends, with persuading people that dealing effectively with this challenge will have to be an ideology-free task.

  80. KG says

    Maureen Brian,

    That was one of Thatcher’s crimes I was unaware of, and perhaps the worst! I promised a friend who knew he probably didn’t have long, that I would dance an Irish jig on her grave. Perhaps inevitably with the years, the fine edge of my hatred for her has blunted – but thanks to you, it’s re-whetted!

  81. KG says

    It’s the equivalent of the US’s massive industrial build-up for World War II, only across the entire globe, for 40 straight years at least, against a faceless enemy. – ‘Tis Himself

    QFT. That’s why having market forces in charge of production just won’t cut it, any more than it would have in WWII. Markets are useful things, but letting them decide what is produced is insane under current circumstances.

  82. KG says

    I’m one of those old people, pushing 70. (I guess that makes me “young old”). Discussing current events with my contemporaries, and the blindness of our politicians, I often say, “Have they no grandchildren?” And everybody in the group nods their heads; they do, and they are afraid for them. They have seen the trends. They know what’s coming, and it won’t be pretty. Life is going to be extremely difficult for the people they care most about.

    I have great-grandchildren. – Susannah

    I’m 57, but was late starting, and have just one 16 year old son. When I think about the way things will probably go, I sometimes wish I didn’t.

  83. KG says

    It’s not clear we can do anything about it. CO2 is a global problem and requires a global solution. Country X isn’t all that interested in reducing CO2 production if Country Y is rounding up all the fossil fuels and burning them. This is a crucial point and we’ve already seen it in action. – raven

    It’s true it’s global, but a coalition of the USA, China and the EU would be enough to enforce an agreement, with economic sanctions against any country refuising to fall into line. Doesn’t look likely at present, but something of the kind is our best chance – and it is actually in the interests of anyone who cares about the medium-term future.

  84. Dan L. says

    @ Susannah:
    I have great-grandchildren. They will grow up (if they manage even that) in a world of food shortages, conflict, wars, epidemics, and lack of resources with which to fight back. I have a newly-married granddaughter; I dread the day when she tells me she’s pregnant.

    My granddaughter is 14 months old. I do not dread the day (if I’m around) that I learn she’s pregnant. It is all part of the great arc of human existence on this planet, and each generation has its part to play.

    There is another mass extinction underway. The human race has created it and must endure it. Our progeny will write the story, even if they have to do it on cave walls. I wish them good luck.

  85. says

    Dan L. #113

    My granddaughter is 14 months old. I do not dread the day (if I’m around) that I learn she’s pregnant.

    If she makes it. She will “…grow up (if she manages even that) in a world of food shortages, conflict, wars, epidemics, and lack of resources with which to fight back.”

    There is another mass extinction underway.

    Do you know what “mass extinction” means? It means that her chances of growing up are low. Or is it that you think “mass” doesn’t refer to humans, just to the “lower animals”? Not likely; we are less resilient than insects or worms or bacteria. They will inherit what we leave behind.

    The human race has created it and must endure it.

    We have created it; we are asking them to endure it. Way to shoulder our responsibility!

    Our progeny will write the story, even if they have to do it on cave walls. I wish them good luck.

    Isn’t that self-contradictory?

  86. ichthyic says

    here’s the “worst case scenario

    hmm, from that picture, it looks like the US might have won the cold war, but Russia will end up winning the “warm war”.

    new bread basket:

    Russia.

  87. ichthyic says

    I’m just looking for a humane solution to a terrible infestation. Just be sure to use every part and not be wasteful. You’ll have to vegetable tan the hides, unfortunately, due to their lack of brain

    unfortunately, I’ve seen the future:

    The Morlocks eat the Eloi, not the other way round.

  88. ichthyic says

    I know of a wealthy and influential Kenyan whose power and wealth couldn’t save him

    I know that guy too.

    Tried to email me and get me to send him my personal info so he could send me his cash….

  89. ichthyic says

    future people will be much wealthier and, because of that, better able to cope with the problem

    The Morlocks built their cities underground…

  90. David Marjanović, OM says

    Could you please explain why it’s my responsibility to save a village in Pakistan from environmental change?

    Because you helped me cause that change. We’ll both be guilty of negligent homicide.

    you won’t ever run out of fissionable material

    At the current rate of consumption, we will run out of it in a few decades.

    and it can be made fissionable by neutron capture

    LOL. Where do you find neutrons to throw at it?

    What next, dilithium crystals?

    Another thing to remember about this global warming thing. Whole countries could be wiped out of the map due to rising sea level. I can think of various island nations that could be in danger, like the Maldives, Nauru, Fiji, etc.

    Not Fiji! Fiji has tall mountains.

    Bangladesh, however, has 140,000,000 people between 0 and 6 m above sea level. One hundred forty million.

    Duhyagrgriculture don’t have no organisms.

    And no sun or rain neither.

    hmm, from that picture, it looks like the US might have won the cold war, but Russia will end up winning the “warm war”.

    new bread basket:

    Russia.

    Will take a while to build the necessary infrastructure for that, though – never mind getting the !§$!&$§&*& spilled oil out of the soil.

    But Chinese immigration could do it.

  91. ichthyic says

    But Chinese immigration could do it.

    Indeed, from the “future map” it really does look like the most habitable and productive places will be China/Russia.

    as for Fiji…

    have you ever been there?

    sure, it has mountains that rise above the sea… but you can’t really actually *live* on them to any great extent.

    could support a tiny fraction of the current population, I suppose.

    also, have you seen the political situation there of late? Evidently it’s becoming a pure autocratic dictatorship!

    weird.

  92. bassmanpete says

    NoXion @ 73

    Actually, since older people tend to have most of the power and the wealth, this is doubly dangerous since those with the most ability to change things have the least incentive to do so.

    So you don’t think any of them really care about their children and grandchildren?

  93. says

    @Marjanovic
    Man, I don’t know what the people of Bangladesh and India will do. When the ocean rises, so many people will be displaced that I don’t know how they will cope with the massive movement in people.

    Damn it, US politicians, WAKE THE FUCK UP!!!

  94. says

    @icthyic
    Marjanovic is right still. I claimed “wiped off the map”, and I cited Fiji as an example. Obviously, that is wrong.

  95. bassmanpete says

    Sorry Susannah @ 103, I posted before I got to your comment. Agree entirely with what you had to say.

  96. Dan L. says

    @Susannah 115:
    We have created it; we are asking them to endure it. Way to shoulder our responsibility!

    Where have I denied responsibility? I know my and preceding generations’ heedless greed is to blame for the unfolding calamity, and I continue to struggle against it.

    But I also know—present human folly notwithstanding—the natural world will continue to evolve until the sun cooks the planet. What happens to our species henceforth will simply be a continuation of the process. I see no reason to be appalled at the idea that my succeeding generations will participate, even though I might wish you and I and our fellow über chimps had not set them on such a hard road.

  97. says

    @Dan L
    Naturalistic fallacy. Just because our ancestor has participated in the process of survival does not mean that participating in the process is awesome. Because participating in global warming will not be awesome. And just because the natural world will suck in 1 billion years because of the sun does not mean that what is happening right now isn’t appalling, nor does it mean that it won’t be appalling when the sun heats up in the far future. Make no mistake. What is happening right now and what will happen to our descendants is appalling and I can’t believe you don’t see that.

  98. The Vicar says

    It’s interesting that it is possible that climate change is going to turn out to be a real-life application of the Trolley Problem (or, if you prefer, the Fat Man problem). Applied theoretical ethics, wow!

    For discussion: suppose that we discover that, if current trends continue, the world’s human population will be reduced by climate change-related disasters by 90% at the end of 60 years. (To put this in perspective, James Lovelock predicted something like a minimum 95% human dieoff not too long ago, and so far his predictions have been more on-target than any contemporary ones of which I am aware.) Suppose we also discover that, if 75% of humanity died within 10 years, it would ameliorate those disasters enough that no further reductions would be caused by climate change. (As far as I know, this has not been suggested — but I haven’t been watching carefully, so it’s possible.) Is it or is it not ethical to commit genocide to “save” that extra 15% of humanity? For that matter, what if the percentage “saved by genocide” was 0% of humanity, but the world’s ecology wouldn’t take such a hit, so that the survivors would be in a less horrible situation than otherwise?

    By the way: please don’t bother censuring me for bringing this up. I’ve seen those responses before, and you do not seize the moral high ground by telling me that obviously I must desire genocide for even asking the question. I’ll take the existence of those replies as read, thanks.

    This is a real problem — sooner or later there will be a country with biological weapons (an estimated 17 of them as of 1995, according to Wikipedia) whose leader comes to the conclusion that the world really works this way, regardless of whether the two explicit suppositions above turn out to be true, and decide that spraying a little ebola (or modified smallpox or whatever) around would solve a whole lot of problems at once…

  99. says

    DanL.

    But I also know—present human folly notwithstanding—the natural world will continue to evolve until the sun cooks the planet. What happens to our species henceforth will simply be a continuation of the process. I see no reason to be appalled at the idea that my succeeding generations will participate,…

    No reason to be appalled at the difficulties (to put it mildly) that your granddaughter will face? How about your son, or your daughter? Will their suffering touch you?

    Or will you wait until it touches you personally?

    Will you then pass it off as “simply a continuation of the process?”

    I don’t understand that; I couldn’t live that way.

  100. ichthyic says

    Applied theoretical ethics, wow!

    yup, it will be the final battle between kantianism vs utilitarianism.

    my prediction:

    At first, the politicians will play up the Kantian side of things.

    then, when reality starts setting in in earnest, and the first hundred million or so die as a direct result of climate shifts, they will finally embrace utilitarianism.

    winner:

    utilitarianism.

  101. ichthyic says

    Is it or is it not ethical to commit genocide to “save” that extra 15% of humanity?

    it wouldn’t be genocide so much as culling, if done fairly, and again, the decision to do so would likely be put off because people like to think they embrace a Kantian ethos, but in the end, all will embrace utilitarianism.

    Thus Spake Logan’s Run.

  102. says

    gingerbaker says:

    Enjoy the next eighteen years of CAWKI. (Civilization as we know it) After that, the fan is going to be splattering some very serious shit indeed.”

    Damn, not 18 years, that’s too soon! I was planning to be dead before it got too dreadful. I can haz another decade of CAWKI kthx?

    But seriously, what are you referring to? Why so specific?

  103. says

    re #128: no such prediction is possible with sufficient precision and accuracy; as such, the question is meaningless as anything other than mental masturbation.

    In reality, any mass-culling of humanity will be accomplished as it’s always been: by war, famine, and pestilence

  104. NoXion says

    Raven @77: Which has absolutely zero to do with what is and will happen. Sorry, but that is really dumb.

    Solipsism has a long history of not working.

    Who said anything about solipsism? There are numerous ways the whole global warming thing could play out. The fact that there are some ways it could go that I’d rather we avoid doesn’t mean that I don’t think they can happen – on the contrary, if I didn’t think they had a chance of happening then I would not even consider them.

    TL;DR – Expressing displeasure at something is not the same thing as denying it, kthx.

  105. Tom says

    Regarding the Randroid:

    Of all the dumb arguments put forward by the apathetic, the avaricious and the generally sociopathic against lifting a finger to build a better future, by far the most staggering (not just in its sheer idiocy, but in the frequency with which it is made) is the one that runs along the lines of “We’re never going to run out of essential thing X; just look at all the great big finite piles of it!”

    The only possible reason I can think of that any sane person could make that argument, other than outright denial or disingenuity, is what might be called the law of incomprehensibly large numbers; that is, the tendency of the less mathematically adept to regard any numbers greater than can be comfortably fitted into one’s head as being exempt from the usual rules of mathematics. Much like a small child might consider £100 a sum of money inexhaustible if given, and unattainable if worked for (and I’ll bet that estimate dates me; I’d wager I’ll get replies that say the average primary school child today disposes of that much every week, even after adjusting for inflation!).

  106. QuestionAuthority says

    I think that we all can agree that however global climate change plays out, it’s very likely to be brutal to most, if not all life. Especially humans.

    Looking at that projected hypothetical climate map got me thinking in a strategic sense. I can see major wars coming over the remaining arable land and the newly arable land, not to mention the resources needed to develop those lands.

    IMHO, possible war zones include China and the Russian republics fighting over central Asia, and the US and Canada fighting over the newly opened land in central Canada. We can hope that things will be resolved peacefully. Looking at our history, I think the bloodiest wars in global history will be fought in the mid-21st Century and onwards as food, water and resources become scarcer and harder to extract. It also occurs to me that the current US military buildup may be partly in preparation to fight those wars…It’s common knowledge that the CIA and the US military regard climate change as a major driver of conflict in the future. If we do, we can safely assume other global and regional powers do as well.

    Considering the chemical, biological and nuclear arsenals of the world, I tremble for the future of Humanity. I have kids and grandkids and I think my grandkids are going to see unimaginable privation…unless we are luckier than we deserve to be.

  107. Dan L. says

    @ Susannah:

    I do find the human-caused climate catastrophe appalling. I wish things had not turned out this way. But I do not find the mere fact of my future great-grand child’s birth appalling, hard though her life may be.

    Wishing she may never exist seems arrogant and a peculiar form of selfishness, to me. You seem to offer two options: hope the human race stops reproducing altogether, or let other people’s children carry the species through the tough times ahead.

  108. David Marjanović, OM says

    sure, it has mountains that rise above the sea… but you can’t really actually *live* on them to any great extent.

    could support a tiny fraction of the current population, I suppose.

    Point taken.

    also, have you seen the political situation there of late? Evidently it’s becoming a pure autocratic dictatorship!

    weird.

    Quite.

  109. says

    the newly arable land

    no such thing, for the most part. the areas in the north that would constitute these “newly arable lands” have been scraped bare of soil during the last ice age. some of them have no soil (Canadian Shield), some of them have thin layers of poor soil. Certainly nothing to compensate for the loss of the current breadbaskets.

    Wishing she may never exist seems arrogant and a peculiar form of selfishness, to me.

    wishing less suffering for people is arrogant?

    that’s just idiotic. it only in fact makes sense if you think there’s some sort of necessity to humanity continuing, but that too is idiotic. In fact, the best thing for humanity would be to go extinct by no one reproducing anymore, voluntarily. That’s because eventually, humans will become extinct, and simply not procreating any further would be the only suffering-free way in which that could possibly happen. If not that, we’ll go extinct violently and painfully.

  110. Holms says

    Am I the only one interested in the fact that Arctic ice extent and volume have both rebounded from the record low of 2007? I get told that no single year, however remarkable, is indicative of climate change, yet I see no restraint in holding up 2007 (and other statistical outliers) as a dire portent of the worst sort.

  111. Epikt says

    Holms says:

    Am I the only one interested in the fact that Arctic ice extent and volume have both rebounded from the record low of 2007? I get told that no single year, however remarkable, is indicative of climate change, yet I see no restraint in holding up 2007 (and other statistical outliers) as a dire portent of the worst sort.

    There was an increase the following year, but the downward trend reestablished itself the year after that. The past couple months have been close to the corresponding 2007 levels, and in fact the July number (for sea ice extent) was lower than in 2007. That’s not what I’d call a rebound.

  112. monad says

    In fact, the best thing for humanity would be to go extinct by no one reproducing anymore, voluntarily.

    That would be the best way to end suffering, but there’s a lot of other things humanity would end up missing out on.

  113. says

    That would be the best way to end suffering, but there’s a lot of other things humanity would end up missing out on.

    people who have never existed cannot be “missing out” on anything, seeing as they have no faculties with which to experience any “missing out”. And you missed the point I was making, anyway: people will go extinct, eventually. Losing interest in procreation is the only way this will happen painlessly.

  114. monad says

    people who have never existed cannot be “missing out” on anything, seeing as they have no faculties with which to experience any “missing out”. And you missed the point I was making, anyway: people will go extinct, eventually.

    If you can be concerned with sparing hypothetical future people suffering, you can be concerned with what they could enjoy, too. I’m not convinced the negatives of existence are all that matter.

    And I understood that someday we will go extinct, just as I know that someday each of us will die. Unless you think it’s going to be soon, though, easing your passing is not necessarily the best thing for you. Not all suffering is worthy of euthanasia, after all.

  115. says

    DanL #138
    I am sorry I didn’t reply sooner; I’ve been away.

    You seem to offer two options: hope the human race stops reproducing altogether, or let other people’s children carry the species through the tough times ahead.

    I am offering no options for the future; I am saying that we, now, in the present, should be concerned enough to do all we can to ameliorate the damage we have caused and are causing.

    The reference to grandchildren is not to say that my grandkids are more important than anyone else’s; it is to bring home the relatively near future results of our inaction today.

  116. tushcloots says

    Holms says:
    27 September 2011 at 8:05 pm

    Am I the only one interested in the fact that Arctic ice extent and volume have both rebounded from the record low of 2007? I get told that no single year, however remarkable, is indicative of climate change, yet I see no restraint in holding up 2007 (and other statistical outliers) as a dire portent of the worst sort.

    Are you fucking serious? Are you?
    Do you honestly believe that 2007 is being used as proof? All by itself?
    Deniers are the ones that say, “Hey, it was bloody cold today, so much for global warming.”
    The last ten years, 15 yrs., etc., are the worst/most extreme in history, and 2007 is the worst of the worst. ‘Till another even worse occurs, like it does every few years(sometimes two or three in a row)

    In case you haven’t noticed, yearly temperature charts have more than one data point on them. Sheesh.

  117. says

    If you can be concerned with sparing hypothetical future people suffering, you can be concerned with what they could enjoy, too. I’m not convinced the negatives of existence are all that matter.

    you’ve completely lost track of this conversation, haven’t you.

  118. David Marjanović, OM says

    the areas in the north that would constitute these “newly arable lands” have been scraped bare of soil during the last ice age.

    Most of Siberia wasn’t under ice. But tundra and taiga soil aren’t all that great either. Steppe/breadbasket soil is something else.

    Evolution is extinction.

    No. Unless you count “having distinguishable descendants” as “dying out”.

    (This confusion os where “all species die out” comes from.)