What really is disheartening and what no one in the media and government is talking about is how in 2015 CO2 levels rose by the largest amount in human recorded history. 3.05 PPM
We are being lied to and mislead by our governments that uniform actions are being performed to save the planet for the future of man. Vested interests in the fossil fuel industry continue to drive climate change. Yes, solar energy is starting to become incredibly efficient but not enough of it is coming online in proportion to fossil fuel burning that persists and is also installed annually. If we do not rally against it, our ability to live on this planet is at stake. The lives of our posterity are also at risk because of the burning. It will not be until we take extreme actions not on a country level but as humanity together that we will slow the burning and save ourselves.
What are these actions you might ask that will actually be effective? These can range from banning fossil fuels entirely, global carbon pricing system, banning deforestation, changing human diets, extreme uniform investment in renewable energy and potentially fourth generation nuclear reactors, more funding for developing nations to install alternative energy sources, and to shift the transportation grid towards sustainability.
The only real solution is to innovate our way out of a large amount of our polluting habits, in a way that is cost-effective.
Also, I don't recall any governmental agency saying that we are taking appropriate action to save the planet. Most agencies are saying that we should start taking action, but that we've already passed the point of no return.
I think that assertion deserves to be examined a bit more closely.
We are already effectively subsidizing the fossil fuel industry to the tune of 5+ trillion USD per year . This is a figure from the IMF that includes direct monetary subsidies as well as externalities like public health, environmental damage, etc.
So the question now becomes this: would switching to renewables cost more than that? If we started dumping that same amount of money into renewables and corresponding infrastructure, how quickly could we switch away from fossil fuels? If we do some impromptu calculations based on current cost of solar panels, batteries, etc., it seems like it might take maybe 20 years.
Obviously it's not that simple in practice, but I think this demonstrates that humanity could theoretically switch away from fossil fuels without enduring any severe hardships. This isn't a problem of the technology not being good enough, or renewables being too expensive: it's just a political/organizational problem.
 With the possible exception of jet planes, for which batteries aren't good enough to provide a compelling alternative yet. But I would guess that when the electric car market really starts to take off, battery tech will start improving a lot faster.
I am not saying this should not be changed but rather that it'd be quite a change.
As a USAian, I can expect my energy need to be met by cleaner tech than someone in, say Africa. Natural gas is here and will make a difference.
That's a stupendous number.
Not even remotely true. If we experience massive economic pain for several decades as we switch over to renewable energy, big deal, that's a few decades.
If climate change displaces hundreds of millions of people, disrupts global weather patterns, and devastates ecosystems across the globe, what do we do then? Some of that damage is irreversible. We simply do not have technology to reverse climate change on any timescale that is going to prevent massive levels of death and misery for most of humankind, not to mention permanent destruction of major ecosystems.
We're talking about how habitable Earth is going to be for mankind into the foreseeable future. Damage to the current state of economic markets doesn't even come close to that sort of impact.
We can argue about what would be the most effective way to change, but to suggest that expensive changes would be worse than ruining the biosphere for humanity is ludicrous.
Not eating meat, invest Hyper Loop high speed ground travel, home solar, electric cars, dramatically raise air travel cost, stop cutting down tropical forests, and stop burning coal. These are all doable, and with minimal quality of life impact. If a life is ruined because they can't have a McQuarterPounder, a Chevy big block, and flying to Texas every week, maybe they deserve a scorched planet where the trees are paper products, the water is plastic and fracking residue, and all the large animals are dead.
I realize I'm over simplifying but doing NOTHING is a lot different than doing trying something anything with minimal return. We are doing nothing. That's sad.
> banning fossil fuels entirely
No fossil fuels means the global delivery of goods and services comes to an immediate halt. Medicine, food, clothing, power - everything stops. We are absolutely too reliant on fossil fuels, and we have to change that. But you may be forgetting how long it took to get us hooked on one of the easiest-to-consume energy resources on the planet. Moving to a resource which takes more work to get energy from is not going to happen overnight. And if we did come up with something overnight, it's probably not thought-through enough to be a real solution.
> banning deforestation
This issue is much more complicated than it seems. Let's take the Amazon rainforest as an example. A large portion of the deforestation is occurring because single-family farms are clearing forest to make a farm, so they can grow crops. How do we handle situations like that without materially affecting the ability of people to support themselves?
Well, that depends. Is it subsistence farming? Or is it for biofuel? Biofuels may, during combustion, cause fewer emissions, but add in the change in land use (with the attendant fertilizing regimen, etc.) and the reduction in carbon sequestration from removing trees... That causes deforestation for biofuel to be worse than just burning fossil fuels in the first place.
Burning things isn't the way out, no matter how neatly those things burn. Nuclear power (whose waste products arguably are vastly easier to contain than burning anything), solar power, geothermal power (the benefits of nuclear power without the pesky reactors) ... Even wind/hydroelectric power generation are, kWh-to-kWh, less damaging to our climate overall.
I think you're speculating here, we don't actually know this.
I believe the primary reason we haven't done anything yet is because the effects of increased CO2 levels haven't yet reached the scale of mass food production shortages, or a sudden increase the price of basic food stuffs.
And since we can't know whether that will ever happen, we're easily able to ignore, or at least not be very concerned about, climate change.
Your proposed solutions all require agreement on a global level. I can't see that happening until we actually face an immanent existential threat.
And lastly, on a personal note, the reason I've stopped caring is this: people have been trying to tell us the environmental end of times is nigh for decades, and it hasn't happened. Each year we continue to produce more food and feed more people.
Granted, we should probably stop burning fossil fuels, but I disagree with the reasoning. We shouldn't stop burning fossil fuels because of the CO2 output, I think that's a red herring. We should stop burning fossil fuels because of all the other junk doing so puts in our environment. More uranium has been released in to the environment by burning coal for electricity that nuclear power probably ever will.
The effects of the carbon we're releasing vastly exceed human lifespans. So you have to be prepared for the possibility that predictions will take decades to have a visible impact.
The counter to your "we produce more food and feed more people claim" is that we've done so largely by drawing down capital stocks. Stored carbon, topsoil, aquifers, etc.
We can't know that those increased support numbers are proof of anything. They might be, but we'd only know in hindsight. And by then it's too late.
While I do think we should do something, it's not clear to me what I should do other than occasionally shout at the screen from my chair. I suppose I could vote Green or vote with my dollar, if I thought it would help. I could put solar panels on my roof, but I'm not a home owner so I can't. I could buy an electric car but I don't have tens of thousands of spare cash, nor the desire for a vehicle loan, because I'm trying to save for the deposit on a house.
Maybe what I can do is seek solace in the knowledge that future generations will be able to look back and read that I was at least angered for a brief period by the circumstances I find myself in.
And in the mean time I'm going to continue doing the things I like that make living worthwhile, which means driving 200+ kilometres one or twice a month to get to the surf or the mountains in my not-so-fuel-efficient camper van, and having the occasional steak.
But that's just it isn't it, if 'saving the world' means giving up the things I like, I'm not interested, really, until there is zero friction and everyone else is doing it.
And this is the revealed preference of almost all of us on this planet: we're too busy surviving, or too busy enjoying, to stop for a moment and think "should we be doing these things, no? okay let's change". And even when we acknowledge we should change, we don't. We're trying, but it's mostly token gestures.
All the evidence suggests that dead people, previous generations, don't care much about the environment, and since the consequences / benefits to inaction / action are multiple decades out it is very hard for us to act now.
I don't believe we, the global community, will act until our ability to survive is in immediate danger.
Our CO2 emissions have actually been growing. And any sort of gas/carbon tax that would actually alter behaviour is shouted down.
And when we actually have immediate problems from warming, there will probably be pressure to focus on the short term aspects, such as famines or economic decline, and pressure to keep burning fossils fuels.
Probably the only way out is to have some tech that makes t economically stupid to burn fossil fuels, because they're more expensive.
That was my takeaway from visiting Mesa Verde in 1972 and I haven't seen an example to contradict it yet.
As for some of your other suggestions "global carbon pricing system" reminds me of cap-and-trade which is a very political process if implemented. A simpler and fairer way to do that is to simply tax hydrocarbons and coal coming out of the ground. Then the price will be passed on to whomever uses it - tax the source rather than the use, it's much simpler and less subject to political manipulation and agendas. As for changing peoples diets, why not change their reproductive habits? All of these problems stem from having too many people. You can cut down a few forests, you can pump a few oil wells, you can raise cattle, the problem is having too much of that stuff to support an untenable number of people. We don't even have jobs for all of them. IMHO every country should have a means to provide birth control to anyone who wants it. A simple and effective long term attack on all of these problem, but no, it may not be enough by itself.
However, what we also don't consider is that cattle, swine, and most of all Humans digestion produce an exorbitant amount of those emissions. I just spend ~10 minutes searching and couldn't find a source regarding how much CO2 we as humans produce, but I would guess it's a lot more than other livestock.
CO2 levels have less of an impact than other chemicals on the atmosphere:
> It (livestock) generates 65 per cent of human-related nitrous oxide, which has 296 times the Global Warming Potential (GWP) of CO2. Most of this comes from manure.
Of course, if we stopped eating meat, our digestive processes over time would evolve to include more fermentation, so... Hard to say. But, now, humans aren't ruminants, and so produce climatically insignificant amounts of methane.
Livestock doesn't even account for the majority of methane production anyway; landfills, fossil fuel production, and burning of biomass produce even more.
That said, we do need to reduce our dependence on ruminants as a food source. Methane production aside, a significant amount of deforestation occurs to make grazing land for cattle. Add in carbon/methane emissions during transportation of livestock products, environmental effects of the deforestation... Cattle have a fairly large carbon "hoofprint". (I use carbon footprint, or humorous derivation thereof, to include methane, which does after all include carbon)
The global economic system is the primary incentive system for human behavior. Under global free-market capitalism, firms are incentivized to increase profits. Unless a superior profit incentive exists for reducing environmentally hostile practices, energy and manufacturing firms will continue to make profit-optimizing choices at the expense of the environment. With our current predominant global economic system, laissez-faire capitalism, there is no way to make firms act in an eco friendly way if it's less than optimal from a profit perspective.
Since our educational process (which used to include religious teachings promoting ethics for most people) no longer instills an ethical framework, anything goes.
Transition from capitalism to some other economic system will do nothing to help, since unethical people will still maximize their experience at the expense of everything else.
Witness the communist USSR - it was the worst offender in history as far as the environment goes. China, while arguably more capitalistic in recent years, is also a huge environmental offender.
Until humanity in general, and the US in particular, returns to a concerted effort to improve ethically, we remain in deep trouble. That process of ethical improvement had gone on for hundreds of years, but seems to have regressed since around 1950.
Anyway, I hope one day we can get a new Sim Earth with this style of simulation and presentation.
But I can't find it again. Anyone know about this?
Or is the "too late" aspect more about the melting polar caps, and that they'd not rebuild quickly?
The linked WaPo article has a chart which is much less pretty, but much more informative and significantly more troubling. 
What you see from the zoomed-out historical chart is the variations throughout the year which produced such a beautiful visualization are little more than cute rounding errors in the steady yearly increases in atmospheric CO2 which have brought us from ~320 ppm in 1960 to 400ppm today.
"Atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations will continue to rise even though global greenhouse gas emissions from industry may be leveling off somewhat, the study adds — because each year still represents a net addition to the atmosphere, and carbon dioxide is a very long-lived greenhouse gas. Thus, even by 2050, the researchers don’t think we’ll find any way of getting back below 400 ppm."
No. The concentration does drop seasonally, but not even close to zero. See:
Click on the "full record" tab and note that the Y axis starts at 320 (compared to the preindustrial level of 270).
The seasonal drop is about 5PPM, and we're at about 400 now, roughly 50% over pre-industrial levels. There are seasonal natural emissions as well. Even if we cut artificial emissions to zero it would still take the better part of a century (maybe even several centuries) to get back down to preindustrial CO2 levels.
400ppm+ is a trajectory to anarchy. The chimpanzee raiding impulse is alive and well in our DNA, a survival adaptation for stagnation and decline.
We have the technology, bio-energy with carbon capture and sequestration, its a scaling problem, but first we have to stop pumping so much carbon up into the air. We have made progress there as well:
1) Cheap Solar PV has arrived, growth has been exponential for two decades. 
2) Energy storage is possible. Think underground maglev trains, on circular tracks, working as massive flywheels.
3) Fusion is attainable in the time frame we need it in, if we increase research funding, but its not required. That said if we cracked fusion, we would have all the energy we would need to desalinate seawater and sequester carbon.
Possible, but except for pumped hydro, it looks like still a lot of work needs to be done.
>...3) Fusion is attainable in the time frame we need it in, if we increase research funding, but its not required. That said if we cracked fusion, we would have all the energy we would need to desalinate seawater and sequester carbon.
I am not sure if fusion is attainable in the time frame needed or it would be economically viable in that timeframe. With fission we have working reactors right now and with a little more research effort we could soon have 4th generation reactors. With reactor designs like the integral fast reactor (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Integral_fast_reactor) there would be enough potential electrical generating capacity to last the world thousands of years. (Of course we should also keep investing in fusion research and energy storage.)
Generally they will also have more passive safety features and in the case of something like the IFR, an even smaller chance of proliferation. Less nuclear waste might be the most important issue to most people though.
>... there is enough of uranium in world to feed the old light water reactors for thousands of years too
True, looks like I was really using the wrong units of time. Scientific American had an article where they estimated a 60,000 year supply at current rates. If we switched to the world using breeder reactors, probably more like hundreds of thousands or millions of years of fuel depending on the growth rate you use for consumption.
Such a human thing to say.
Between that, and all the top comments as of writing this start out addressing how beautiful the data visualization is. That is why humans are doomed.
Mother nature is fine with or without us.
Basically, instead of just relying on batteries, consumers of power can often also shift when they are going to consume the power. Spot markets and future markets can help here.
We already see that in industrial applications, where you can get power very cheaply, if you can tolerate arbitrary power cuts during peak hours.
I've not heard this before. How does desalinating seawater help with sequestering carbon?
The problem of too much CO2 in the atmosphere will solve itself in a few thousand years: the ocean currents will sequester lots of carbon in the depths of the sea. Of course, people alive today and their children and grand-children don't want to wait for so long.
In any case, it'll happen by itself, but it's longer than humans can afford to wait.
Now we have: http://oco.jpl.nasa.gov/ (2014)
This satellite orbits the Earth on the order of ~16 times per day which would not be enough granularity for the smoothness of this video, so I assume it's been combined with other weather data and advanced modelling to provide the smooth interpolation.
But in summary, I don't think the video was heavily constrained by actual CO2 observations, which are done only at a small number of sites on the ground (TCCON or FTIR). The video was probably constructed based on models of plant respiration (which is observed, indirectly, by remote sensing), winds (ditto, of course), and ground emitters.
OCO-2 has offered more significant constraints on global CO2, with a roughly 2km x 2km footprint (per pixel), 1ppm accuracy (in a ~400 ppm quantity), and global coverage every 16 days. There are some videos of observations (not models) at:
Doesn't really impact what you're saying (nor does it alleviate the massive embarrassment of Orbital Sciences).
I can think of a number of other issues that pose similar if not more immediate, or greater risks to humanity that have lower economic costs to solve.
Global warming activism also bothers me in some ways. Snobs have an absolute affinity for it, and it seems in this cause it's easy to create an aura of good will without actually having to follow-up and do anything tangible to benefit other people. Think: Buying hybrid cars that pollute more than my simple Honda. Preaching about the importance of action on this topic is also rather convenient: you don't appear to actually have to take any action. Preach about the problems of homelessness, drug abuse, crime, healthcare? There are obvious ways to actually spend your time helping people who are victims there. Want to hold the moral superiority card with as little effort as possible? It's super convenient.
There's also the the west's party line to the rest of the world: We can afford clean energy now, and of course we want it; but even though other nations can't afford it, they're now declared immoral for not embracing it.
None of what I'm saying is that global warming isn't a worthy cause, just that the enormity and alarmism of the politics that surrounds it is cause for question.
2. Climate change is predicted to cause food supply problems for hundreds of millions of people, trillions of dollars of economic damage, and rising sea levels that flood coastal cities. I don't see how the other problems you mention are more dire.
3. The problems you mention – homelessness, drug abuse, crime, healthcare – are problems that affect us on a domestic level. Climate change disproportionately affects poor people in other countries, yet the CO2 in our atmosphere has been disproportionately created by wealthy countries. How is addressing this snobby?
4. True climate change action would require upending the entire energy sector of the economy. How would this be not taking any action? Just because the action hasn't taken place yet doesn't mean the preaching should stop.
I find climate change opposition adopts the following trajectory: 1. It's not real. 2. Ok, but humans aren't causing it. 3. Ok, but it's not worth solving.
Your response is currently on step 3, and I don't see the logic behind it.
This is exactly the type of politics I dislike when it comes to climate change: I called into question some of the political aspects of climate change, and now I'm being cast out of as an infidel, non-believer, someone opposed to climate change progress, and being given a bunch of straw man arguments.
2. OK, but what are you really contributing here? I didn't specifically mention any other problems when I said other problems have more immediate or greater consequences, so when you say "that's not the case with other problems you mention." Well, nevermind. I assume you latched onto problems I later mentioned that are easier to make changes with in your community, like crime, homelessness, etc., and conflated that with the earlier argument I made.
Also, to address this idea about climate change being irreversible. That's a problem, because it may likely be very likely to be very difficult, but keep in mind: climate change has been happening for billions of years and carbon sequestration technology already exists. Atmospheric CO2 and temperatures already have been higher than they are now... The idea that it is irreversible is not scientific fact. Anyways, that discussion can easily serve as a straw man debate than really getting distracts from the message of what I was saying: It IS a worthy cause to fight against, I said that.
You do 2 things in your post: you prioritize climate change below other problems (apparently without naming them, which I mistook), and you criticize the behaviors of climate change activists. Please correct me if I'm wrong in understanding your assertions.
I replied with 1 and 2 to show how climate change is the most dire and threatening problem we face. And I replied with 3 and 4 to address your criticisms of climate change activism.
I view climate change as by far the biggest problem humanity has on its plate. I think the alarmism is plainly justified.
He's also expressing concern for wealthy individuals concerning themselves with "climate change", but don't have the capability to make a direct, observable impact. He thus raises the question: "If we can save 10 humans now, is it worth worrying about saving 100 later?"
This is a deeply philosophical issue that deserves thoughtful discourse, but it seems you've devolved it into a battle and put intent behind his words such as "you criticize the behaviors of climate change activists" that probably don't fairly represent his.
> He thus raises the question: "If we can save 10 humans now, is it worth worrying about saving 100 later?"
No, he said "I can think of a number of other issues that pose similar if not more immediate, or greater risks to humanity that have lower economic costs to solve." That is a much broader statement than saying, "I can think of problems with lesser risks, but that are more immediate." I don't see how my points 1 and 2 don't address his claim. I am challenging him by pointing out the nuances (irreversibility) and seriousness of climate change.
> you've devolved it into a battle and put intent behind his words such as "you criticize the behaviors of climate change activists" that probably don't fairly represent his.
He says, "Global warming activism also bothers me in some ways. Snobs have an absolute affinity for it..." That is criticizing the behaviors of climate change activists.
2. This is not yet known. What if Russia opens borders and lets people in as long as they stay in Siberia?
What if food supply shortage helps innovate instead or changes priorities?
3. Snobby in a way for criticizing countries that are going through their versions of industrial revolution when the West went through it already.
4. Not much action from that person. People are really bad at counting calories. I bet everyone is way off when counting their carbon footprint and they would get outraged by others when they themselves could be outputting way more.
Best thing to do in terms of carbon footprint unless you are directly working on solutions is to not have children and start working on solutions. Finger pointing and preaching doesn't help.
2. That's why I said "predicted." Relocating hundreds of millions of poor people to Russia is not a solution to climate change. Look at the problems we are having now with accepting a couple million refugees from Syria. Plus, this doesn't address the flooding and economic cost. The long-term effects of climate change on humanity are overwhelmingly negative.
3. Virtually all climate change activists I know of primarily advocate reducing emissions at home (in the US for me). The goal is not to prevent other countries from industrializing, it's to prevent them from emitting CO2. This may be possible with green energy. Ultimately, the atmosphere doesn't care where the emissions come from.
4. I don't really care what supporting climate change action says about an individual person, I care about results.
> Best thing to do in terms of carbon footprint unless you are directly working on solutions is to not have children and start working on solutions. Finger pointing and preaching doesn't help.
Yes, finger pointing doesn't help. But at least in the US, we already have the technological and economic means to drastically reduce our carbon footprint. The problem is political will. We need top-down political action to force green energy – as you hint at, individuals trying to reduce their carbon footprint will never be enough. There is unfortunately no other way.
- the 1000 year ocean cycle takes time, (which is now transporting heat and carbon into the lower ocean layers)
- building up the ice sheets again takes way longer, and ice sheets are important to the albedo, thus also have an influence on climate,
- there are some points where something big might change, such as ocean current patterns changing permanently(due to changes in heat and salinity distribution), permafrost thawing and releasing huge volumes of methane, ..
It's a massive problem to undo. Right now it'd be still relatively easy, but it might not stay that way.
(We'll have to learn how to control the climate longterm anyway since another ice age would be desastrous, but it's too soon. We're still to unknowledgerable and weak.)
The science was 'settled' on Eugenics during the early 20th century as well and we saw how that turned out.
There's no mention of any positive effects of global warming. The climate is certainly changing.. But then again it has always changed and the world will adapt and evolve as it always has. When Leonardo DiCaprio gives up a private jet for a city bus, then maybe I'll start to worry. The science has been misappropriated by anti-capitalist activists.
Forgive me for not trusting the anti-capitalist cabal that share more values with Lenin than with Milton Friedman.
> Forgive me for not trusting the anti-capitalist cabal that share more values with Lenin than with Milton Friedman.
Stop reading crappy news sources. Have you read the IPCC 5th AR? The synthesis report summary for policymakers is an excellent overview and really easy to read: http://ipcc.ch/pdf/assessment-report/ar5/syr/AR5_SYR_FINAL_S...
It discusses evidence, projections for the future, practical effects for people and for economies, and potential mitigation techniques, all in common language. The IPCC reports are a combination of inputs from all the world's climate scientists. These aren't communists and Lenin fanatics (what the heck are you reading??), these are real scientists doing peer-reviewed work with real data. More about the IPCC 5th report: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IPCC_Fifth_Assessment_Report
This is a very serious issue and I'm really disappointed that the issue has been framed in such a way as to give you the impression that ignoring long-standing scientific principles that we use in every other area of our lives is the best way for you to act.
Myth. In the 1970s no one was quite sure what was coming, a few people raised the possibility of "global cooling" and one or two journalists hyped it up as journalists are wont to do, but in so far as there was a consensus it was that warming was much more likely to be a problem.
Not, so far as I can tell, a case of the science turning out to be wrong. What happened was that the Nazis were keen on eugenics and most of the world decided that that wasn't the company they wanted to be keeping. It's a change of values, not of scientific understanding.
> positive effects of global warming
The IPCC impact report, for instance, does talk about positive effects. It talks more about negative effects because most of the projected effects are negative.
Remember DDT? On one side you had Silent Spring, and on the other side you have people claiming bollocks and conspiracy and the like. I think the science is pretty settled on this one, really has been since the 1970s (eg, a metabolite of DDT, DDE, really is nasty for raptor egg shells, and wanton over-application of pesticide is an extremely poor way to control mosquitoes) but I still see things about the "DDT conspiracy" today.
Likewise, with climate change, I think the science is fairly settled to some degree. The issue here is that it's a very slow moving problem, with some degree of uncertainty. A lot of humans aren't terribly good at thinking very long term. Plus, the "easy" solution involves "giving up" our creature comforts, which contrary to the anti-capitalists opinion I don't anyone is going to want to do.
While you're right that most likely much of the world will adapt, there may be some pain points. We have so much infrastructure built along the coasts right now that could be affected by sea rise increases, for instance. Same with different weather patterns -- for instance, what's San Francisco going to do if climate change starts slowly, over time, affecting the Sierra Nevada snowpack they depend on for water?
The developed world, of course, probably can come up with some solutions for this; honestly I don't think the changes will be a complete disaster there. Poorer nations, might be another story. I'm not sure they are as able to cope.
No, scientists never predicted global cooling
> There's no mention of any positive effects of global warming
Perhaps because there is none that outweighs the negative effects?
Cool, like what?
> None of what I'm saying is that global warming isn't a worthy cause, just that the enormity and alarmism of the politics that surrounds it is cause for question.
I agree. But that doesn't make it less of an issue. And cutting off your nose to spite your face doesn't seem like a useful solution, so what's the answer?
Regular environmental damage, for one. We still have lots of forest-burning and toxic chemical exposure around the world. In fact, a major extinction is going on in the Amazon right now because of deforestation.
We could also throw in public health crises like heart disease and diabetes - like climate, we may be able to improve those by changing our behavior.
It is absolutely the case the case that present human and environmental health is under greatest assault by things other than climate. This is not to make climate less, but to point out that other problems loom a little larger than most people think.
Life expectancies have risen by a ridiculous amount over the last 150 years. Wide-spread diabetes is a symptom of a wealthy society that is over-indulging - solve for that problem, and, you guessed it, climate change is assisted too.
Climate change can destroy our global ecosystem - the one that sustains all life. While these other things may be more urgent, nothing (aside from a large object in space heading to Earth) has quote the same existential gravitas.
And fighting some of those things, like pollution from coal plants, also goes hand in hand with reducing CO2 emissions.
The politics come from the fact that in many places, everybody but the strongly left have decided they don't give a crap, so many solutions you hear about are intertwined with left-wing politics.
I bike to work and I eat vegetarian. I'm not impressed with the rationalizations people come up with for doing nothing.
Just to be clear, the reputable scientific research is around the issue of climate change's impact on the environment, not on the effects to society. In other words, what that statement means is that we are capable of using the scientific method to make reliable predictions about how much the earth's temperature will rise, how much ocean levels will rise, etc.
The problem I see here is that the 'reputable scientific research' is being stretched to include outcomes to society: 'reputable scientific research says the outcome will be terrifying catastrophy.' That is not science: no one has a scientific experiment that can scientifically prove how many people will die or experience hardship due to climate change, let alone that outcome is terrifying catastrophe. By the way, what is 'terrifying catastrophe?' We can only produce simulations, models, guesses and conjecture, all of which are notoriously fallible devices, to predict what will happen.
Look, and I'm in agreement that the outcome of not acting on climate change will probably be terrible. My post clearly lays out that I am an advocate of climate change progress.
The extreme alarmism is not an indisputable part of the science, it is an indisputable part of the politics. The is something which has become worth questioning.
There are a lot of people shouting up and down about climate change without doing anything serious. Some of the most capable to help others are buying into a market of products and services that appear to have questionable benefit to human welfare. For example, hybrid cars that weigh over 2 tons and get 20mpg. Those investments in extremely marginal improvements in CO2 emissions, without directing effort to make improvements in other peoples lives in very obvious, relatively low-cost, and direct ways, especially in their communities, calls into question the value of the political movements impact on our resource allocation: is $20,000 better spent on a hybrid powertrain that improves fuel economy marginally on an over-bloated car, or is it better spent on other methods of saving lives, improving education, civil rights, individual freedoms, access to food and healthcare? We do have the capability to make the world a better place, and there is still a lot of low-hanging fruit as a means to that end. For example, we live in a world where more than enough food is produced to feed everyone, yet malnutrition is still a problem. Some estimate enough food is currently produced to feed the world twice over.
What I want to say is: it is worth questioning the politics. The climate change movement has become so political, so important and so untouchable of questioning that it raises concerns.
Why is it worth questioning the politics. One reason: are we spending our resources efficiently? I don't think we are.
I commend you for your efforts. For a period, I also biked to work and ate vegetarian.
"But one must say clearly that we redistribute de facto the world’s wealth by climate policy.. ..One has to free oneself from the illusion that international climate policy is environmental policy. This has almost nothing to do with environmental policy anymore.."
--Ottmar Edenhofer, co-chair of the IPCC’s Working Group III, and lead author of the IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report released in 2007
When somebody burns coal as part of their business and pollutes my air, they are basically imposing a tax on me to subsidize their business. That's not capitalism or economic freedom, that's socialism for business.
Your confusion is well founded. It is actually the other way around. Privatizing externalities (the environmental costs) is honestly a well-respected market-based mechanism to solve problems that fall under the Tragedy of the Commons category, as is the case here. So it is arguably absolutely "capitalist," and "free market." It has nothing to do with socialism and everything to do with using free market mechanisms. If you're interested in related reading, see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pigovian_tax
Socializing the costs (which means to redistribute ownership to society) is arguably more consistently "communist." Communism is a really bloated term, economic ideology, in which the economy does not rely on markets, but on socialization of capital and production, arguably more accurately describes a situation where we socialize a cost to society.
On top of all that, developing nations are trying to get to our living standard. To do that, they'll be harming the environment as well in increasing amounts, so it's necessary for one to consider that as a factor.
A common way to consider these issues is to issue carbon credits that one can spend. If your business doesn't need them, you can sell them to another business which creates a market for them (and hence a cost). If you do something that reduces emissions you can get more credits. Every country would get some and could trade the credits as well. To help developing nations, they would get a larger share of the credits which would naturally limit the increase of CO2 emissions that the developed nations would get. But, if the developing nations don't need the credits they could sell them to the developed nations to get things they need.
That's all a pretty simplistic way of putting things and the system is far more complicated, but that's the overall idea.
So, it is a redistribution of the world's wealth, but it's still a capitalist system.
The problem is that if you don't give the developing nations something, they won't sign on to the agreement and they could build a lot of cheap but polluting plants and equipment and make things that much harder on the countries that do sign the agreement. It's all very tricky.
A friend of mine did his PhD work on energy planning in developing nations and he focused on India (and went to live there for a year, I was his remote tech support). He's now a senior person at a NGO that does work in developing nations so I've heard him talk about this at length before.
Read the full interview where he says it here: https://wattsupwiththat.com/2010/11/18/ipcc-official-“climat...
So unless you think all governments should cease to exist you indirectly agree to some level of income redistribution already.
And it's not like subsidizing clean energy infrastructure in developing countries would magically equalize everyone's living standards like communism claimed to do. So it's still fairly limited redistribution.
So where exactly is the problem? You're not saying any more than "fixing the problem will take some money that has to be invested globally, not just locally".
You're confusing goals and solutions here.
But no, I don't deny or ignore the apparent trends. That's why I also don't feel (as others have expressed here) any sense of grave alarmism or fear about the effects of warming. When climate-related deaths have steadily decreased in recent history, shouldn't we really be more concerned with adapting (or continuing to adapt) our own environments to deal with the earth's climate? That doesn't mean we shouldn't be environmentally conscious; just the opposite. We should be conscious of our environment, both in terms of what nature provides and in terms of how we adapt to it. Surely, very few people alive today would be suited to living in many populous places in the world without the protections afforded by human invention - today or pre-industrialization. Technological progress (much of which is a product of fossil fuels) has enabled us to live significantly longer lives, and fewer people are in climate-related danger now than ever before in history. In my view, that's a good thing.
The solution for environment degradation is the same as for poverty - the two are obviously linked.
The solution is efficient energy and rejection of superstitious nonsense.
Alas the majority of the world is trying to unwind the first and positively going the other way on the second.
And exactly what does mean that figure from CATO Institute?
> and fewer people are in climate-related danger now than ever before in history
Do you have any link to back that claim?
Few in the industrialized world if anyone really gives a shite (1). Lots of well-fed educated westerners would lose sleep if "free" economy is coughing but don't really care about this. Run away capitalism creating the problem in the first place is also -ehm- the reason why mostly leftists seem to get it. Not that this helps. It just makes the whole thing even more partizan.
Sad truth is the guys that are really screwed (so far and at the foreseeable future) by this are not exactly HN commentators. To them this might mean drought and death next year but to us -fat cats- this apparently means a danger to economic development. We simply do not have our asses on the line (yet) - which is why we can talk this to death but do _nothing_ to really prevent it. We might wake up when we start losing relatives due to 50C heat waves. Who knows.
And even then, if we get it, who would actually do something? We -at a global scale- have been terrible at resolving much simpler crises. Want an example? Ebola virus was stopped last minute. Zika virus is on the loose and is gonna get worse (because Olympic games will go on at the epicenter despite hundreds academics calling for delaying them). If nobody makes money out of it nobody cares. Our whole system is simply dancing to that music.
So - let it roll babe.
1. <brutally honest mode on> Including my fat ass. </brutally honest mode>
I'm highly surprised by the skepticism, especially by 'Hacker News' readers, some comments read as if science is but an inconvenience.
Westerners don't live in complete isolation from the environment and other nations of the world.
Our air comes from our oceans (which are in-trouble), cheap goods that prop up modern consumer driven economies (very sadly) come from places which are already being hit hard by warming temperatures, deforestation and drought and mass migration events are already taking place.
More needs to be done.
Water is only one problem. By 2070 some places might be uninhabitable according to this study, due to heat.
> At WBTs [wet bulb temperature] above 35C, the high heat and humidity make it physically impossible for even the fittest human body to cool itself by sweating, with fatal consequences after six hours. For less fit people, the fatal WBT is below 35C. A WBT temperature of 35C – the combination of 46C heat and 50% humidity – was almost reached in Bandar Mahshahr in Iran in July 2015.
At some point it's going to cost big bucks. If the study holds water, the Gulf will either need to be evacuated or artificial habitation will need to be built.
The negative knee-jerk reaction of my fellow Greens on this matter is is only topped by our anti-nuclear power rhetoric.
Global adoption of LFTR reactors combined with the massive reduction in coal/oil power plants, ocean iron seeding and the adoption of electric vehicles should get global C02 levels close to pre-industrial levels within 200 years, if we start today.
I'm a huge fan of gen IV reactors in general and LFTR in particular, but we are a long way from being able to deploy any MSRs, even if everyone woke up tomorrow and suddenly took the construction of LFTRs as a terminal moral value. All that have been created to date are small research reactors, mostly 40+ years ago. Almost all of the MSR research projects started recently have fizzled out; AFAIK the only project that has any kind of plan for future civilian nuclear energy is China's. The current regulatory and public opinion environment for civil reactors is absolutely abysmal, and that will likely take even longer to change than the research will.
Half of us are in denial, half of us are doing ineffective things, and half of us are in China.
He claims people are global warming deniers and uses ice cores to prove the case, only he's an idiot for not realizing that MOST of the people he's referring to are not denying that the earth is warming up, rather they're clearly saying that it is the impact/outcome where there is a disagreement.
He consistently and unjustifiably uses answers for peripheral problems to debate core arguments which only destroys his credibility. I could only watch for so long... I just had to stop, it was hurting that much.
If anything, the thing we need to be concerned about is being ready for changes, which will happen. We might need to grow different sorts of foods, focus on better insulation for our homes or move underground or underwater. We may need new laws to avoid wasting resources. But, there is no reason to be depressed about it. Those things will happen with time.
“The benefits of carbon dioxide supplementation on plant growth and production within the greenhouse environment have been well understood for many years. For the majority of greenhouse crops, net photosynthesis increases as CO2 levels increase from 340–1,000 ppm (parts per million). Most crops show that for any given level of photosynthetically active radiation (PAR), increasing the CO2 level to 1,000 ppm will increase the photosynthesis by about 50% over ambient CO2 levels. For some crops the economics may not warrant supplementing to 1,000 ppm CO2 at low light levels. For others such as tulips, and Easter lilies, no response has been observed."
A bigger problem is positive feedback loops. Melting ice means more dark water to absorb sunlight, and more melting. Melting permafrost releases CO2 and Methane and causes more warming. And somewhere around ~5 degrees warming the frozen methane on the ocean floor will bubble up and cause the mother of all feedback cycles. We'd be in for about 10 degrees warming and a mass extinction that would wipe out 90% or more of all species on Earth. From what I've seen of global warming predictions we won't get there - but I'm mentioning this because at some point warming temperatures doesn't just mean major changes and flooding our cities - at some point it means a terrible calamity like the Earth has only occasionally seen.
Historically we've had much more CO2 in the atmosphere than we do now. Why didn't the methane bubble up and kill everything then?
I think it's much more plausible that we'll go the route Asimov predicted in "Caves of Steel" - genetically modified and processed yeasts, which are much more calorie dense than seaweed, and much better suited to the sort of industrial process that feeding 10+ billion people requires.
You might argue the "might makes right" perspective that anything within our capability is acceptable and appropriate but I don't agree with that sentiment. I feel that we, as sentient/semi-sapient beings, must be as custodians for this world and all the life within it.
We are actually the least among all, until we begin to serve the rest of this planet that has seen us to this point.
"It is based on a recognition of the astonishing beauty of things and their living wholeness, and on a rational acceptance of the fact that mankind is neither central nor important in the universe; our vices and blazing crimes are as insignificant as our happiness. […] Turn outward from each other, so far as need and kindness permit, to the vast life and inexhaustible beauty beyond humanity. This is not a slight matter, but an essential condition of freedom, and of moral and vital sanity.’
This is false.
I believe that this assumption was addressed accordingly by Thucydides in his account of the Peloponnesian war around 400 BC.
If you believe that might makes right the time where you will find yourself in a situation of disadvantage will come and then the precedent you have set might come back and haunt you in ways you never had thought possible.
ps. ofc here we're talking about nature and believing that we're might against nature as a species is blasphemy. The earth (the planet) will survive, our species will not :-)
Like mosquitos, ticks and other disease-carrying insects that kill 1 million humans every year.
Like non-human fauna.
Another thing to consider is that the less diversity exists the harder it is for life to continue.
Actually, it's your view that's human-centric. Species? Diversity? These are human concepts and mores.
> There is no time for evolution to work over the 200 years this last change happened.
Evolution doesn't "work". It's merely the process of natural and sexual selection. The flora and fauna are constantly being sculpted by the environment, even a rapidly changing one. And there is no evidence to suggest similarly rapid shifts haven't occurred in the past. In fact, there is evidence that they did and life went on.
Just curious about what drives that particular viewpoint. Why do you care about the survival of the species? When you die, the world ends. It doesn't really matter what happens after that, does it? You could be dead two milliseconds and then a big rock hits the Earth and everything is gone. Still it doesn't impact you, because you are dead. And I am asking for the sake of discussion, purely.
Only humans have this: http://www.vhemt.org/
And the thing is that the prosperity of the human species in the last century has been made largely at the expense of the Earth as whole.
The fact that our recent prosperity has come at the expense of the Earth is only bad in so far as that harm to the Earth is harmful to humans too. The two are linked, but not identical. The only way to eliminate human-induced harm to the Earth would be to eliminate humans, so the goal needs to be mitigation of harm and where possible moving harm to the Earth into areas that affect humans less.
You know exactly what I mean by "work". The current 6'th mass extinction (Holocene) is currently ongoing. The species responsible for this has no natural enemies against which we compete and will therefore continue unabated until all resources have been consumed and the system collapses. Just like it always has.
This isn't remotely true. There are tons of bacteria and viruses which are parasitic towards us. We compete against them.
Nevermind the fact that the greatest competition always comes from your own species. The greatest check on human expansion and prosperity is humanity. We kill, maim, and restrict each other on grand scales.
There is also no historical evidence that a single species has ever been responsible for a mass extinction, so I find it odd that you're assuming we'll be the first when there is a historical record that spans billions of years. That's just arrogance.
> But is it even possible to sustain this many people (at
> current standards of living with foreseeable technology)?
It still requires Newport News to build more subs but you get the picture. With enough energy you can support the entire predicted population of the planet.
But emotionally, there are bigger problems. Nation states and large population groups are at risk of starvation and deprivation as a direct result of climate change. And those at risk populations are not getting any support from the people who are putatively putting them at risk. So emotionally, an existential crisis is probably justified.
In short no.
The reason being the current system requires endless growth (measured currently in GDP) in order sustain this many people with current standards of living. Of course current standards of living are not enough, especially for people in poverty around with world. If growth doesn't continue the entire economic system grinds to a halt. However, endless growth confined to a closed system (Earth) is not sustainable not only for the climate but also for resources like water, food, etc.
Geoengineering is just another foolish attempt of humans to try to bend the planet to our wishes. This line of thinking, that we are somehow better than the earth, somehow removed from all earth systems as a species, is what got us in this mess in the first place. Yes, I realize the irony of saying this on a forum with readers, like myself, who solve technical problems for a living.
Parts of the environmental movement are now starting to focus on economic system change for this very reason.
I don't think we are anywhere near the growth limit on the planet. (Economic) Growth is mostly limited by energy use, and current tech can handle growth for about a century. Add technological evolution, and we're easily in the 500 years range of energy use increase.
By then, all bets are off. Heck, for the 100 year span all bets are off.
Nature looks very harmonious to us, but we only see the sustainable species (alive now, and very few are fossilised and found). Many many species must have evolved that created conditions unfavourable to themselves - we only see the ones that didn't. (Organisms have an effect on their environment, favourable, unfavourable or neutral). Consider a plant that encourages swampy conditions. If it thrives in those conditions, great. If it doesn't, it will evolve itself away.
There's speculation that Earth's oxygen atmosphere destroyed the life that created it. Though most changes and extinctions are local.
Intelligence is such a dramatic, effectful evolution, it may take several iterations before
a sustainable version arises (if possible). Perhaps this has happened on Earth already.
In the Drake equation, L is very low (how long technological civilizations usually last).
If myself (or someone else) were to develop a zero-emission approach to electricity generation (non-nuclear) that could handle "base load" and did not involve filling up the landscape with solar panels (or their moral equivalent), and did not produce waste, would that even help any more?
We globally consume about 20,000 terawatt-hours of electricity right now annually, and in the US, electricity generation is 30% of total CO2 emissions. Presumably, if there was additional power for electric vehicles, we could also reduce overall emissions even further by moving away from gasoline.
But at this point, even NO emissions seems pointless to work towards—we're already screwed. It seems like instead of pursuing lower emissions, we need to work towards reducing the CO2 that's already in the atmosphere.
I wouldn't rule out nuclear energy. There are risks, but it can produce a lot of energy in a small space, and the waste is much lower volume and easier to contain than chemical energy production. In my opinion, we should've built up our nuclear energy production over the past 30 years so that coal and oil could've been phased out by now, while we developed viable solar energy tech to replace the nuclear tech.
So, not screwed yet.
Also know that people have been grappling with this question for centuries and every doomsday prediction has turned out to be wrong. So there is cause for optimism.
They weren't, however, globe-spanning comprehensive complex and ultimately fragile systems.
Obviously there's no simple naive answer to your question, but essentially to a first approximation the answer is yes, it's possible. The changes we need to implement are pretty dramatic and some particular things don't look very viable (say, regular people making frequent international flights), but aside from those it's entirely doable and reasonably affordable. It's purely a matter of willpower.
I would not rule out the chance to preserve a nucleus of human specimens. It would be quite easy... at the bottom of ah...some of our deeper mineshafts. Radioactivity would never penetrate a mine some thousands of feet deep, and in a matter of weeks, sufficient improvements in drilling space could easily be provided... It would not be difficult, Nuclear reactors could, heh... provide power almost indefinitely. Greenhouses could maintain plant life. Animals could be bred and slaughtered. A quick survey would have to be made of all the available mine sites in the country, but I would guess that dwelling space for several hundred thousands of our people could easily be provided. [Selecting who would go down] could easily be accomplished with a computer set and programmed to accept factors from youth, health, sexual fertility, intelligence, and a cross-section of necessary skills. Of course, it would be absolutely vital that our top government and military men be included to foster and impart the required principles of leadership and tradition.
Q: Wouldn't this nucleus of survivors be so grief-stricken and anguished that they'd, well, envy the dead and not want to go on living?
When they go down into the mine, everyone would still be alive. There would be no shocking memories, and the prevailing emotion will be one of nostalgia for those left behind, combined with a spirit of bold curiosity for the adventure ahead! Ahhh!
Because the very concept of "resources" is not fixed. In the Paleolythic, all of Eurasia and Africa only had resources to sustain a few hundred of thousands of humans. Petrol wasn't a resource, coal wasn't a resource, even land wasn't a resource.
When we learnt to grow crops and tame animals the resources grew to let the same land sustain some millions of people.
And in the past 50 years, Borlaug's Green Revolution  turned all of 70's predictions of doom like The Population Bomb false. We have now more food than ever, and more resources than ever. And that's if we call "resources" just the things that we can use now.
In 50 years, people will be worrying about running out of X, where X will be a thing that we now don't think about as a resource.
We're going to need a Manhattan Project for carbon sequestration.
We'll adapt like we always do.
The people behind climate change denial are basically exercising generational warfare. They are attacking the future of young people and their offspring to maximise the profits of predominantly elderly investors.
This Paul Erlich stuff is so 1970s.
If you want some scary reading material, start here:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clathrate_gun_hypothesis (Please note: This article seems to change its message regularly. it's best to go for the source material instead).
> "Research carried out in 2008 in the Siberian Arctic has shown millions of tons of methane being released, apparently through perforations in the seabed permafrost, with concentrations in some regions reaching up to 100 times normal levels. The excess methane has been detected in localized hotspots in the outfall of the Lena River and the border between the Laptev Sea and the East Siberian Sea. Some melting may be the result of geological heating, but more thawing is believed to be due to the greatly increased volumes of meltwater being discharged from the Siberian rivers flowing north. Current methane release has previously been estimated at 0.5 Mt per year. Shakhova et al. (2008) estimate that not less than 1,400 Gt of carbon is presently locked up as methane and methane hydrates under the Arctic submarine permafrost, and 5–10% of that area is subject to puncturing by open taliks. They conclude that "release of up to 50 Gt of predicted amount of hydrate storage [is] highly possible for abrupt release at any time". That would increase the methane content of the planet's atmosphere by a factor of twelve, equivalent in greenhouse effect to a doubling in the current level of CO2."
Yet in the same section, you know what the introduction text reads currently?
> "Most deposits of methane clathrate are in sediments too deep to respond rapidly, and modelling by Archer (2007) suggests the methane forcing should remain a minor component of the overall greenhouse effect. Clathrate deposits destabilize from the deepest part of their stability zone, which is typically hundreds of metres below the seabed. A sustained increase in sea temperature will warm its way through the sediment eventually, and cause the shallowest, most marginal clathrate to start to break down; but it will typically take on the order of a thousand years or more for the temperature signal to get through."
So let me get this straight: Because someone found a model from 2007 that makes things look mostly fine, we ignore empirical data from 2008 that shows that a Clathrate Gun of 50 Gt could go off at any time? Please someone tell me how I'm wrong just so I don't have to go crazy here.
In short, go have some kids, bring them up well and enjoy the benefits. Our biology is tribe-based and ingrained, so it's smart to work with that and be part of a tribe.
We all die alone, but those that die surrounded by love feel less lonely in all the decades up to that final point. That's your Dna rewarding you for a job well done.
Don't mistake anything for purpose. Purpose is a concept central to goal directed planning, but it is a construct of the mind. Since humans give purpose to things, humans cannot be assigned a purpose except as a way to use them for some other means.
You are right though -- finding cuties gets me out of bed, but believe me I'm using birth control.
It is this almost backward reasoning that since life is meaningless, it really isn't this gigantic tragedy even if the earth is destroyed by a giant planetary collision and the human race is destroyed. In the grand scheme of things, I don't matter, the human race doesn't matter, and neither does the earth.
I will still do what I can to improve my life and others' lives, but accepting this nihilism has allowed me to free myself from the paralyzing anxiety and inaction caused by overvaluing human life. This, in turn, enables me further to make healthy contribution and add what little meaning I actually can to our existence here.
Fossil fuels, population, pollution, mineral resources, topsoil, water. There are numerous problems.
You might want to look up the WorldWatch Institute who have done a lot of basic work here. Pick up a standard ecology text (say, Odum), and you'll find this discussed.
Figuring out how to run fast and hot for a long time is difficult.
1. We don't need to sustain this many people
2. We don't need to sustain this standard of living
The first one is pretty straight forward, although it's going to take another 100 years to sort out (barring a major disaster). Shifting child bearing years from the early 20's to the early 30's and changing cultural habits so that each family has only 1 or 2 children will do this for us. However to fix this problem, people need to be willing to share the wealth of the world a little bit more equitably. Improving the situation of women around the world has to be a very high priority as well. But if you look at what's happened in the last 50 years or so, it's pretty impressive. I actually have a lot of confidence that we will reach a slightly declining population within the next century. Either way, I just don't see a problem. Fixing this issue will make the world better, not worse. Obviously there are difficult economic challenges to consider, but again I think if we solve them it will only make life better for everyone.
Standard of living is similar. I think we're probably going to have to cut back a certain amount. But I don't think this is bad in any way. We're used to doing things like driving anywhere we want to go in a personal car. But if you go to Europe these days you will find that many cities and towns have opted to do away with cars in their town centres. This reduces some convenience, but massively improves the centre of the town. It means you have to park on the outskirts and either walk or take public transit into the centre.
Likewise we can get rid of a lot of things we don't need. I would literally ban clothes driers if I were king of the world. What a useless waste of energy. You are very slightly inconvenienced by having to hang your clothes outside. Of course you can't do that immediately because many apartment buildings have no access to the outside. Again, over 100 years we can dramatically improve this situation.
Other things are the way we heat/cool/light buildings. Why should it be 21 degrees C every single day inside regardless of the weather outside? What the heck is wrong with having seasons? What's wrong with having a night time? Some people would obviously rather have it the way it is now, but given that I personally live with an apartment that goes above 30C in the summer and below 5C in the winter, I can attest that it doesn't dramatically affect my standard of living. In many ways I prefer it. I was in Tokyo a few weeks ago. There are many more people on the streets in Ueno at 2am than at lunch time. Yes, it's fun, but is this really essential to our culture? Do we really suffer as a society by having to sleep during the night?
Most of our energy usage is in manufacturing and transporting things. We may have to do with less. But imagine if goods were 2 or 3 times the price they are now. Suddenly there is a reason to make higher quality goods with craftsmanship. If energy is priced higher than labour, suddenly there is a reason to train people to do a craft/skill. Suddenly there is a reason to buy a frying pan and not throw the damn thing out until well after you are dead. Seriously, do we need to buy crappy furniture, cooking utensils, clothes, etc, etc and replace them every 2 or 3 years??? Is this really a higher standard of living?
I remember reading a small book on the ecology of older cultures. You would buy 1 or 2 nice sets of clothes. When they got worn, you would wear them for every day use. When they got too worn for that, you would cut them up and make cleaning rags out of them. When they got too worn/dirty for that, you burned them for heat. Is this really worse that having a closet full of clothes from 30 years ago, waiting for a revival of that style? Good grief, clothes end up in land fill and we manufacture brand new rags for cleaning which also end up in land fill. It's almost criminal.
Enough rant :-) Like I said, from my previous rants on the subject, I realise it is not such a popular viewpoint, but I invite you to consider that dealing with constraints does not necessarily make your life worse. We're spoiled to a certain degree and having to do without has the potential to let us grow as a culture.
As far as consumerism, I think a lot of it is driven partly by corporations desperately trying to avoid us ending up in a post-scarcity society; inducing artificial scarcity by emphasizing fashion and planned obsolescence is a great way to capture what otherwise would have been excess wealth.
On top of that, certain resources are either naturally or artificially constrained, which lets the owners of those resources collect rent, again capturing what otherwise would have been excess wealth.
On a side note, I don't have air conditioning, and my house gets much warmer than 30C in the summer. Anywhere above about 32C is just plain too hot for me to do anything other than lay underneath a fan and drink water, so if I need to get work done I go to a coffee shop. At 15C I put on a sweater and am fine down to about 5C (assuming I'm sheltered from the wind). My wife, however is shivering under six layers of blankets and 3 layers of clothes at 5C, but is perfectly chipper up to about 35C. It's lucky we don't have thermostats because we already argue about when the windows should be open!
About the clothes dryer... I live in a semi-arid area now, so I understand how clothes lines could work. I grew up in an area where much of the year at least one of the following would apply:
2) over 90% humidity
3) below freezing
clothes lines in those conditions were more than a minor inconvenience.
I hope as you do that humans start limiting their population. It seems to me that we can either breed un-controllable and have the maximum number of humans living awful lives fighting for scarce resources; or we can control our population and have less humans living happy sustainable lives.
Thanks to technological advances, those living today have been blessed with plentiful resources, which has meant most of us have had happy lives. Read Jared Diamond's "Collapse" for what happens when resources run out - in almost all cases, humans start literally eating each other within a generation.
And you are right on the standard of living too. We can (and most of humanity does) have very happy and fulfilled lives with a fraction of the resources most western people consume. Go and knit a sweater/carve a spoon/write a poem, instead of watching the Kardashians (or Cardasians!).
Second - how do you propose this without being "King of the world" ?
Africa has a population growth rate of 2.53%, they will double from 1.2B to 2.4B in <30 years. The world population growth of 1.13% still will DOUBLE in less than 70 years.
Just the fact that the world's economies are based on debt requires that there is an exponential increase in growth to support the interest.
I've thought about this issue a lot and without some kind of dramatic (i.e. catastrophic) change, I don't see the status quo working, nor the 'carbon taxes' which seem to be a lot more of the same.
If you consider declining energy ratios like ERoEI (energy returned on energy invested) or energy produced per global capita, we should be hitting these limits repeatedly over the next 50 years.
In order to stop growth, you would need to halt population as well as have a debt jubilee, I don't see either of those happening. You'd also have to tell most of the people in developing nations that they will never have the riches that the west currently enjoys.
I'm not sure how you achieve those goals without war.
1) You need to invest in poorer countries and lobby their governments to improve the condition women (possibly doing both at the same time by essentially bribing governments). This should naturally reduce population. You simply need to push the natural child bearing age out to 30. If you allow women the economic ability to resist getting married until they are in their late 20's this will solve the problem. Like I said, it can't be done quickly. It might take 100 years, so let's make the next doubling of population the last.
2) There is some misinformation about economics out there (from personal experience of being misinformed). I recommend reading some text books on the subject. The main thing to keep in mind is that interest paid is entered into the money supply. Interest is necessary to maintain inflation. Debt as money creation removes barriers to growth. I seriously have no room to explain further than that.
I'll leave you with one more thing. From about 1600 (slightly after I think, but I can't recall when) until the mid 1800's it was illegal for most people to cut down trees in Japan (because by the year 1600 almost the entire country was in danger of deforestation). No wood, no coal, no oil, no electricity, and virtually no animal fats (legally "vegetarian"/pescatarian society) for 250 years. The next 100 years will be dramatically easier than that was and Japanese people still praise Edo society as being one of the most cultured in history.
My point is not that our current rate of consumption is sustainable (it's obviously not). My point is that the alternatives are not necessarily worse.
Reception varies widely. Overall, I have seen that rural and semi-urban population is more receptive than the urban. Most urban population has a consumerism-driven notion of "standard of life" that can not coexist with any practice of economy that disagrees with it.
Bored, educated people with some free time seem to innovate the most; as opposed to who is paid to do it.
It might change the direction of innovation, but I'm not certain if that is good or bad. I'd love to cut down on the innovation done in advertising or algorithmic stock trading.
Yeah sure. The only thing we're really unsustainable on is burning fossil fuels. Solar is growing exponentially and at the current rate would be able to replace most fossil fuel use in a few decades.
Yes, but it clearly involves population control.
We should be sending birth-control, not food, to developing nations.
This strikes me as assuming the births are planned, whereas I don't see how they possibly could be.
Enriching these countries is certainly part of the solution, but controlling population is part of the solution towards enriching them in the first place.
So we can either hope that some mysterious feedback mechanism will appear that puts this all right, or we can figure out how to fix this.
And we've actually done this before. In the 1980s, scientists started raising concerns that the ozone layer was being depleted, and an international response reduced our CFC use to levels where we are now seeing the ozone layer recovering. In my cynical moments, I do wonder if the difference between then and now is that the oil lobby is much more powerful than the refrigeration lobby, but actually I think the problem is that reducing CO2 is a much harder problem and so more people just bury their head in the sand.
So you can choose - bury your head in the sand (that's really what dreaming of mysterious negative feedback mechanisms is), or get fixing. I have kids and would hope that their kids have as good a life as I do, so I'm fixing.
CFCs were a great victory, and encouraging when it comes to battling CO2 emissions, but also much easier to curtail both politically and technologically.
Yes, if the earth were an unstable system it would have destabilised in the past.
Yes, it is a combination of factors poorly understood, like the work only now coming out of CERN.
Yes, the ROI of the various treaties and tax plans are beyond negative.
Yes, this type of comment is verboten.
Have you factored externalties into those ROI calculations?
> Yes, if the earth were an unstable system it would have destabilised in the past.
A stable system can still have its equilibrium point shifted in one direction or another. Your blood for example is a buffered solution, keeping a relatively stable pH. But it can still be influenced by many things.
The more specialized something is, the more it's at risk for exceeding tolerance. Costal housing is good example. It's built to withstand perhaps 100mph winds, beyond that roofs come off.
The built in mitigation is pretty slow, so there will be perhaps a couple hundred years of rebuilding stuff. Sea walls, levees, more weather resistance.
It's interesting to note that the last time a life form on Earth substantially changed the Earth's atmosphere, it caused "one of the most significant extinction events in Earth's history" (see https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Oxygenation_Event and https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbon_dioxide_in_Earth%27s_...)
In other words, "our ancestors survived" isn't really reassuring. There's a really wide gap between "Everybody's lives become seriously harder" and "Humanity goes extinct".
After all, even WW2 only managed to kill ~3% of the human population. A completely survivable event.