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Thousands of underground gas bubbles poised to 'explode' in Arctic (siberiantimes.com)
615 points by xg15 on March 23, 2017 | hide | past | favorite | 368 comments

Here is a good video about the arctic methane emergency: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8F9ed5E54s4

Some summary points:

- Total amount of methane in the current atmosphere: ~5 gigatons

- Amount of carbon preserved as methane in the arctic shelf: estimated at 100s-1000s of gigatons

- Only 1% release would double the atmospheric burden of methane

- Not much effort is needed to destabilize this 1%

- The volume currently being released is estimated at 50 gigatons (it could be far more)

- 50 gigatons is 10x the methane content of the current atmosphere

- We are already at 2.5x pre-industrial level, there is a methane veil spreading southward from the arctic.

- Methane is 150x as powerful a greenhouse gas as CO2 when it is first released.

Here is a longer video for those who have the time: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FPdc75epOEw

Methane has a short ~5-10 year half life in the atmosphere. So, releasing 50x current methane levels over 100 years does not triple current methane levels.

Where did you get that? Every link I've ever seen indicates that the half-life is 7-9 years.

Regardless of what the half-life is, what you say is true about the concentration of methane. It is so much better at trapping heat than carbon dioxide, though, that even over a 100 year time frame, it will warm the earth 34 times more than carbon dioxide would. (https://www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/understanding-global-warmin...)

CO2 concentrations went from 280,000 to ~404,000ppb CH4 concentrations went from 700 to 1,850.

So if you use 34x that 1,000ppb is only 39,000 vs 124,000 meaning it's significantly less important overall contribution. It would need to reach ~4,347ppb to cause as much impact as CO2 has which is in nobody's projections that I have seen.

PS: "Methane has a large effect (24 times as strong as carbon dioxide per unit mole) for a brief period (having an estimated lifetime of 8.9±0.6 years in the atmosphere)" https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atmospheric_methane So, if it's lifetime is ~8.3-9.5 years it's half life is around 1/2 that. However, I have also seen a lot of other numbers tossed around and most people want to make it seem much more important even if it's been rising very slowly.

Okay, the half-life of methane is 7-9 years. Not the lifetime.

The 34x potential I gave is for methane over a hundred years. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_warming_potential

It's incredibly potent stuff, so much that despite the relatively quick breakdown, an initial mass of methane will have a warming effect that is 20-35x that of an equivalent mass of carbon dioxide over a century. GWP numbers take the brief half-life of methane into account when calculated. You're making the mistake of looking at the absolute quantity of methane and short half-life, and thinking that it couldn't possibly have much of an effect. Well, people have already run the numbers, and it can have a huge effect.

Current rates of methane leaks from mining natural gas could very well offset the benefits of moving away from coal: http://blog.nature.org/science/2016/06/24/natural-gas-coal-l...

Methane's very bad news, even in small quantities.

The risk is from 100s's of Gigatons which is a extremely massive quantity. How much of that is going to be liberated and how soon has a massive impact on estimates.

Anyway, your first link says " In the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, methane has a lifetime of 12.4 years" (If that's X ln(2) for half life it's 8.6 years)

"This means that a methane emission will have 28 times the impact on temperature of a carbon dioxide emission of the same mass over the following 100 years." https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atmospheric_methane

PS: As to small quantities, we are talking about billions of tons of a gas.

The point of everything I have said is that it would take only a small quantity of methane, relatively speaking, to make a significant contribution to global warming. You don't need to emit as much methane as would match all the warming caused by current levels of CO2. Even an extra tenth of a degree is bad news. Every tenth of a degree shaves off a decade from the time we have to fix our planet. Any significant source of greenhouse gases.

Yep. Everything depends on how fast that methane will get released. It can vary from "we are completely fucked up, good bye" to "that's a rounding error, no big deal".

Methane should be easier to take out of the atmosphere than CO2. Spraying something at the Stratosphere could be incredibly helpful even if the substance is short lived. (But I have no idea what to spray there, would water make any difference?)

When you look at the many different potential sources of, "Fucked... goodbye..." the trend is very clear. We're juggling apocalypses and just waiting to find one that will stick. Will it be ocean acidification first? Ocean levels rising? Catastrophic weather patterns? Famine? Drought? War touched off by rapid changed? Mass extinctions?

They're all in play, each with the potential to end us.

Is this why we have not yet found signs of intelligent life in the universe? Every time a civilization is advanced enough to really screw up (their) planet, inevitably, they do? Fermi Paradox redux.

Yes I think this is the reason.

At least for our class of life: organic. Organic life naturally evolved & so all intelligent organic life lives on top of a pile of stored chemical energy (oil / coal / methane gas)

Organic life evolves through competition and so when chemical energy is discovered it is rapidly used, most often faster than such intelligent life can figure out what a truly bad idea that is.

Once they realize, it's too late. Runaway climate change is occurring. And this ends the intelligent life.

It's not a particularly good candidate I would think. For example we know what's happening and could theoretically have stopped it but didn't/don't have the will.

The Fermi paradox requires it to be extremely unlikely to survive, but you could imagine scenarios on other worlds where the right kind of political situation was around to stop it.

The problem is that any race gets increasingly powerful as technology and science improve, so it takes a smaller and smaller mistake to end us all. Also, the population of those who are able to end us increases. Right now very few people have the ability to save or destroy us. One day every human might be able to, unless we hand the keys to the robots and we aren't certain how that'll play out.

Edit: and we affect our environment more, which is always a battle with our level of understanding to manage that. Right now it's the climate. One day it could be the sun.

>Right now very few people have the ability to save or destroy us. One day every human might be able to, unless we hand the keys to the robots and we aren't certain how that'll play out.

Ironically one of the more likely ways an individual could end humanity (in the future) is via the haphazard or malicious creation of said robots.

If all it takes is someone to execute a bootstrapping process on a large amount of computers, we're in trouble. There's no 100% reliable way to prevent that short of what you said: handing over the keys. It would require the creation of an entity so omnipotent and powerful that it may as well be considered a god.

Another way to look at it is the creation of an operating system kernel for humanity itself, with each individual human being akin to a user-land process.

> but you could imagine scenarios on other worlds where the right kind of political situation was around to stop it.

I can't imagine that. The only evidence I have to date (from a sample size of 1 planet) is that there is next to zero real political will, even if the politicians of the world create additional heat saying they have in fact found the political will.

Massive changes do happen. But - the changes are through economics and culture, not through politics. Culture guides the long term behaviours in a civilization, economics play key part in what resources they have to use, politics only guide the short term effects generally.

I agree, it's unlikely a massive change can happen through a political shift (which happen only generally in revolutions and civil wars). A cultural change, however, is completely feasible.

If Facebook for instance turned into a zero-carbon marketing machine I'm pretty sure they could convince the planet to shift gears in consumption. Is the any plausible scenario where they would do this? I suppose if the global catastrophe could be computed as certainly as a trajectory of a asteroid that was about to hit earth - maybe.

Can we make them do that somehow?

I feel like your imaginative capacity could stand to be exercised more. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of ways in which intelligent entities could meaningfully differ from us, and which would lead to different political circumstances​.

And we ourselves are not that far from being able to deal reasonably with problems like this. If nothing else were different about us, except that average IQ were, say, 120 on the current scale, I think we'd be able to respond sensibly to non-immediate threats.

There is no reason to believe that intelligence, in whatever form it takes, ever stops being energetically expensive. Is it possible to imagine selection pressures that would select for high intelligence over other factors? How harsh can an environment get, or how easy, before something like brute strength or rapidly breeding is always a cheaper strategy?

Some rules are universal, because they're thermodynamic. That's not to say that your species of intelligent individuals is impossible, but it is unlikely. When you really take the time to think through these scenarios, you often find that there is no justification to assume that exceptional intelligence would evolve.

We already know that thermodynamics and evolutionary pressures can allow for intelligent beings with a population average IQ of 100 (on the arbitrary scale we've devised for ourselves) to exist, since we humans do exist. I'm suggesting that a slight increase in that population average might be enough to make a large difference in how we collectively respond to mid- to long-term problems.

If you're arguing against that suggestion, it seems you would have to be arguing that human intelligence exists at a level that is nestled directly up against some kind of hard thermodynamic limit, even though a non-trivial portion of our species already exists on the other side of that line. I don't see how that argument could plausibly be made.

You could liken our situation to yeast in a bottle of wine. Given that comparison, what good would an average 20 iq points do? I don't see how any species could not evolve for conditions of scarcity, and I don't see how sudden abundance wouldn't lead down the same path we're on. If anything smarter would be worse.

But, like you say, we don't know we're screwed, so it's a lot of supposition.

Yeast can't make metaphors, can't understand that they're in a fermenting bottle with limited food and increasing amounts of excreted toxins, and couldn't imagine or implement plans to do anything about that situation even if they could comprehend it. Humans can do all of those things - except, so far, muster the collective political will to take meaningful steps. So I don't know in what sense it would be useful to make that analogy.

If you don't think 20 IQ points make a significant difference, consider some questions: do you believe that the average IQ 100 person is more or less likely than the average IQ 120 person to be concerned about global climate change? What about IQ 100 vs. IQ 80? If IQ numbers have no tangible meaning to you, do you expect the average Walmart shopper to be more or less concerned about climate change than the average graduate student (in any field at all, your choice: agricultural engineering just as much as climatology or gender studies).

Sorry, but you conflate IQ with individual values that are acquired mainly through culture and education. A higher IQ does not automatically mean that a person will care about global problems that have no immediate negative effect on their own life, affect everyones wellbeing in the long run and are hard to solve. Or that a society with a higher average IQ will magically create political and economical structures that reward working towards common good instead of rent seeking.

Case in point - Silicon Valley has probably an average IQ around 120-130. How many truly planet-saving innovations have been created there? I mean, you fail to eradicate powerty in SF, your backyard. Because why bother if creating ever new and exciting ways to share cat pictures is infinitely more personally rewarding in the short run and who gives a f about anything else?

So, my point is, higher IQ is not a solution in and of itself, since human nature - instinct to care about oneself first and foremost, will still be present. This instinct can be only tamed by education, culture and political and social structures that promote common good. The chances that a society will evolve these kinds of structures is a toss-up. It is a lot more likely that the outcome will be exactly the same as what we see now - much like adding a 1.2 multiplier to all stats for both mobs and pcs in a computer game - numbers are different, but it is still the same game.

The key is culture, and education, and conscious work towards better social, economic and political structures. But I am quite sure that we will all kill ourselves a long time before any of that will happen.

I'm not conflating IQ with values, I'm arguing that as average IQ goes up, the percentage of the population who will recognize that certain problems of non-immediate import will inevitably become immediate, personal problems, will also go up.

I agree with you that the mechanisms through which greater awareness and active concern for seemingly abstract problems will trickle into the global zeitgeist are things like education, culture, and social/political structures. But where do those come from, and what allows people to perceive their value and meaning? You can't teach people things that you don't understand, and they can't learn things that they can't understand. Better cultural and social structures are a result of better understanding; better understanding is more common with brains that are better able to perceive patterns and project consequences.

I see your point. I would argue, howevever, that very few of the issues we are facing at the moment stem from lack of understanding. We have most of the knowledge we require to instantiate a radically better-off civilisation, and, most importantly, we have the tools to continue gathering and applying said knowledge and iterate on said civilisation.

But we choose not to. There are loads of VERY smart people in the top positions of gigantic multinationals. They do not lack for IQ, or for information that without a shadow of doubt informs them about the long-term consequences of their actions. They choose, daily, to apply their IQ and information not to create solutions that would benefit humanity as a whole, but to maximize the short-term gains for themselves and (hopefully) their shareholders. The reasons for this behaviour are multitudinous and complex, but I would argue that lack of IQ is not a major contributing factor, quite the opposite.

And all that could still fall in the category of "fine, whatever", if in their greed they would not actively destroy the education system already in place, because people who lack basic knowledge and tools for critical thinking are that much easier to manipulate. Again, it is not the lack of IQ that is the issue, it is the knowledge and exercise it has been exposed to. I myself have an IQ well above average (Mensa member), but before I found out about heuristics, biases and critical thinking, and learned to apply them, I was an easy prey for "mediums", "spiritual guides" and other "new age" crap.

TL;DR people are easy to manipulate regardless of their IQ, if they haven't had an opportunity to learn to use it.

> I would argue, however, that very few of the issues we are facing at the moment stem from lack of understanding.

My 11 year old nephew sprained his ankle a few weeks ago playing basketball, badly enough that he started walking in an odd way to compensate for the discomfort. He kept playing sports, including soccer on a rough grass field, every day at school recess, despite us having talks several times about how he needs to stay off it and let it recover or else he risks causing lasting damage. He nods and says, "I know" when I tell him that, but he keeps doing it. I think we are collectively much the same: we 'know', but we don't really believe that the abstract, distant bad thing will ever really happen to us.That is not understanding. That is lip service.

My argument isn't that IQ makes every individual behave better - it is the statistical argument that if the population average went up 20 points (and that number is one I just threw out, but I do think it's close), then we might cross a tipping point where there would then be enough people who take abstract, distant bad things seriously enough to take meaningful action, to form a significantly politically effective bloc.

"Yeast can't make metaphors, can't understand that they're in a fermenting bottle with limited food and increasing amounts of excreted toxins, and couldn't imagine or implement plans to do anything about that situation even if they could comprehend it. Humans can do all of those things - except, so far, muster the collective political will to take meaningful steps."

you mean the thing that allows any of those other things you listed matter at all?

and with all those abilities, it may make no difference, so there's no evidence that the difference in intelligence between yeast and humans is sufficient to save us. then why would 20 more points do it? and if yeast survive but people don't, what then? the point is in both the case of the yeast in the bottle and the human case our drive for survival kills us when we move into sudden abundance. greater average intelligence would just bring that abundance on faster.

since we can't seem to steer this ship, we're at the mercy of the currents. despite all our metaphors and plans and concern about global climate change we don't seem able to do anything. is there much of a difference in carbon footprint between your average walmart shopper and your average graduate student, concern notwithstanding?

Bridges require foundations, pier columns, truss cables, and roadways in order to function. Each is necessary to the function of the whole; none has priority, and it doesn't make sense to single out any one of them as the thing that allows any of the other things to matter at all. In particular, it doesn't make sense to point at a bridge under construction that doesn't have the final piece in place yet, sneer at it because it doesn't have that piece, and suggest that it's pretty much exactly the same as no bridge at all.

20 points on average might push enough people from "unable to genuinely perceive long-term threats as threats" to "able to genuinely perceive long-term threats as threats", that it would move us past the political tipping point of collectively caring enough about doing something meaningful to both figure out what to do (devote money and resources to research) and to do it.

Individual carbon footprints are not meaningful - it doesn't matter how well an individual paddles their canoe when that canoe is in a swimming pool on a cruise liner. What matters is how the liner is piloted. If all people suddenly disappeared off the earth, except for those people who happened to be standing in Walmarts at the time, do you think that society would be better or worse at recognizing and handling abstract, long-term threats like global warming than the society composed only of graduate students would be?

Because we are not unified and working towards the same goal. Tribalism is our roots and they will be our ends. That is the problem with too many sentient beings-everyone believes they deserve something. Thus no intilligent life unless they are a single entity.

Competition is not the only response to being one entity among many, and it is not even necessarily the most reasonable response. Cooperation is also possible, and it is one of the necessary elements in every human organization, from the family to global cultures. We have civilization because we are to some degree able to cooperate, and if you simply turn up the dial on that trait, it is easy to imagine that other creatures could exist who were even better cooperators - and who would be collectively even more successful because of it.

Sure. The point here, we're not coordinated enough. Not by a long shot.

I'm not arguing here that we are. I'm arguing that it is conceivable that intelligent creatures could exist that were.

Why would such a cooperative require intelligence, never mind high intelligence? We already see such vast cooperatives in fungi, but they have no selection pressures for intelligence. Far from it, competition is the driver that made us "smart".

I'm not saying that cooperative behavior requires intelligence. I'm saying that cooperative behavior is a reasonable and effective choice for creatures intellectually capable of choosing between behavioral strategies, no matter what the evolutionary forces were that developed them to the point of being intelligent.

What if it's not lack of will but game theory? Maybe it's actually impossible for a large complex system to act against these trends because there exists no stable game strategy for the kind of large-scale cooperation that is necessary?

I can think of two counter-examples:

* Polio eradication

* The Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer/Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer

Both are examples of multi-state cooperation that dealt with serious world-spanning issues, the Polio eradication has had the most immediate impact, but Ozone Layer depletion has been checked and the numbers will trend down to 1980s levels over the next 20 years.

I don't think polio eradication is a good counter-example. There were no strong economic forces advocating for the status quo; the iron lung industry was quite small.

There are still polio cases today but pretty much only in areas ruled by death cults who don't care whether their people live or die. So game theory isn't a factor there.

I think it's a good possible resolution, yeah, generally referred to as 'The Great Filter Hypothesis'.

It is necessary to note, however, that the great filter does not necessarily occur when a civilization achieves some arbitrary technological level.

In fact, it could be at the point of single cell --> multi-cellular organisms or at the point of sexual dimorphism or developing general intelligence and ability to use tools, etc.

I guess it's also possible there are multiple Great Filters...

That's a good point, and you're right of course. In fact I take some hopeful comfort in the notion that while the leap from organic molecules to single-cells might not have been too big, there are some indication that going to multicellular life was a leap that took quite some time. We still have reasons to hope, but we're doing almost all that we can to extinguish that hope.

Also, another problem that you easily put yourself into and that we did as well, besides the climate change, is that our world is built on non-renewable resources. Easy, abundant access to oil was essential to kickstart the current society as this only demands low tech solutions for success. Could humanity do the same with the current resources if we were forced to start over?

I agree. This is where the bottleneck is. What really hurts for me is knowing just how close we are but how many are willfully choosing to stay in the dark. We really could make the planet habitable for humans for at least a few more centuries while we become multiplanetary but inertia is our biggest obstacle right now, not lack of technology or information.

Yes, that's the [Toolmaker Koan][0].

[0]: https://www.amazon.com/Toolmaker-Koan-John-McLoughlin/dp/067...

No. We did not find any signs, because Universe is very very very very very big, live is very very rare and signal speed is finite. Just look up some visualisation how far our own radio signals have spread since the first were transmitted — they cover just a tiny volume of space.

How would any of these things end us? We've have world war II. That didn't make a dent in the population.

Famine and drought would be localized so we can use international trade to smooth them over, just like we currently do. For long term failures, there will always be other arable places to grow crops, they just might be fewer or more inconvenient than they currently are, and they'll change at an easy human scale speed. China has a 300,000,000 migrant worker population. That's all of the US population migrating every year!

We currently produce far more food than we need, so even losing a big part of production capacity will still leave us with enough to eat, but perhaps with less meat or seafood for poor people.

I think what the point of the parent is saying is that we have never witnessed the likes of something like this and that our system is more fragile than we think. Previous wars and other events have all been leading up to "the big one". We can see it beginning to happen in what you mentioned above or in smaller instances.

Also saying that poor people can just not eat meat or seafood seems a bit distasteful; not that you might be wrong.

>>Previous wars and other events have all been leading up to "the big one".

WW2 was quite dangerous in the sense, it put a very serious problem in front. Say you nuke a nation, the nation refuses to surrender. The issue is you need to keep nuking till you finish them off. That will not just finish off your enemies but a lot of planet along the way.

Moreover, the enemy has begun to employ a new and most cruel bomb, the power of which to do damage is, indeed, incalculable, taking the toll of many innocent lives. Should we continue to fight, not only would it result in an ultimate collapse and obliteration of the Japanese nation, but also it would lead to the total extinction of human civilization.

From: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Surrender_of_Japan#Broadcast_o...

The key in the above statement is : "Should we continue to fight".

Notice how 'continuing to fight' is an option there. This sort of stuff is scary as it is.

You can't exactly defeat enemies by weapons if they refuse to give up. The only option then is continue, you then cause larger damage to the planet and biological species.

3-4% of world population is a dent. But non-nuclear/non-biological wars are hardly civilization ending events.

Things like deaths of mesoamerican civs due to destroying their environment http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2003/03/0313_030313_.... Or all of america after 2nd european invasion. Ever hear of the mississippi mound builders? I'd expect not since there civ was totally wiped out.

And civ bending doesn't mean everyone's dead. Just large enough population drop to break the institutions and social order supported by that population.

The freakiest one in Peter Watts' Echopraxia is the firestorms.

I have to get around to reading those books... I have Blindsight sitting on a shelf.

I love his ideas, but sometimes they swamp the action. There's less of that in Echopraxia than in Blindsight, as a response to feedback. But Blindsight gives you back story for Echopraxia.

After you've read them, do check out https://www.reddit.com/r/SF_Book_Club/comments/2hzpmt/echopr... .

Which one should you read first?

Even if every bit of the icecaps melt, ocean levels won't even come close to ending civilization.

The process is potentially self-reinforcing as the methane is frozen or trapped in ice so after reaching some tipping point the volume/time released could increase massively.

Maybe my math is simplistic, but a half life of 5 years gives a life expectancy of ~7 years (5 years / ln 2).

If 50x current methane levels are released over 100 years, then at steady state you have added 0.5x/year * 7 years, or 3.5x current methane levels, bringing the total to 4.5x.

That's a bit too simplistic for my taste, but I think you're on the right track.

Exponential decay implies that the rate at which methane disappears is equal to the total amount divided by the average lifetime, so with an additional 0.5 / year, you reach a steady state when (total amount / average lifetime) = (0.5 / year), hence when the total amount is 3.5. Assuming we already were in a steady state initially there should be an additional 1/7 / year from natural sources bringing the total to 4.5.

Untrue and misleading. The more important GWP half-life (neither concentration lifetime nor concentration half-life) is on the order of 50 years.


That's a graph of total heat gain / time which does not have a half-life. If you take A/10 years the A/20years them A/30 years... the graph looks like that, but you not getting warming in years 10-20 just averaging over longer time periods. Basically, it's graphing a short spike in temperatures and a rapid return to normalcy as a much slower decay.

Seven years. And after that you get carbon dioxide (& water)

Source? Wikipedia says: "an estimated lifetime of 8.9±0.6 years in the atmosphere." Which suggests a half life of 1/2 that.

A half-life describes an asymptotic curve. You don't just divide a "lifetime" by 2.

1 + 1/2 + 1/4 + 1/8 + 1/16... = 2 so it's not that far off as an approximation but yea 1/LN(2) = 1.44 so the low number is 5 point something years and the high is 6 point something years.

In layman's terms, how much are we screwed without hope of a solution, and what is the rough timeframe before the evening news starts looking like "The Day After Tomorrow?"

Our grandchildren are in for tough times. Unless a political miracle occurs. Even then, it might be too late.

> ...a political miracle occurs.

You mean the Republicans get voted out of office completely and the other party isn't completely incompetent? On that day.

I think we might be about to see the political miracle you're hoping for.

The Dems are already cleaning up their act, and if the system works, and Trump is impeached for treason, the GOP will need to clean house too.

We might just end up with an actual, honest to goodness, functioning democracy in the U.S. as politicians seek to regain trust.

I honestly thought Bush had doomed the Republicans for a generation, but all that got wiped away somehow. Two wars and a fucked world economy? Can Trump top that?

Please stop with this tangent. grandparent is asking a question almost every average person is asking: what is the impact on me? and you basically started an entirely new unrelated subthread.

I'm sorry, did another political party just designate the former head of an oil company as Secretary of State, or did they take someone actively suing the EPA the head of the EPA? Is there any other party on the planet receiving massive amounts of money from coal companies?

This is not unrelated. This is directly related.

If the US was some little country in the Pacific where they could do whatever they wanted with little consequence it wouldn't matter, but they're not. They're one of the largest polluters in the world and the largest economy, so it's absolutely important that they steer in the right direction to avoid disaster.

the grandfather is drowning and is asking "will i survive?" and you are basically in high ground yelling "blame the politicians!".

It's not a terrible diversion, but it is very US-centric.

Currently the fossil fuels industries and other "old school" extraction industries tend to align with the Republican party in the United States.

The issue is less "Republican party" and more those certain industries that stubbornly resist the notion a concept that could damage their businesses. I get the impression, for instance, that the much-maligned Koch family privately is aware of climate change. However, being in an industry that would be impacted by any regulatory push, they put up all psychological blinders to not only deny it -- but actively pursue an agenda against it. And they are not the only extraction industry leaders that do this.

That Upton Sinclair quote comes to mind: "It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it".

I do not know if there is a similar situation in other countries; it's going to take more than just United States industry direction to slow down climate change, after all.

I'm not sure we can blame it on the politicians, since they're just a reflection of ourselves.

US politicians are not, by comparison with other modern democracies, a particularly good reflection of the population, even in terms of publicly stated views on political issues of high salience (you know, the things on which politicians in an ideal representative democracy would be a reflection of the citizenry.)

And the politicians actively choose to maintain, and reinforce, the policies and actions which contribute to that difference.

It's all part of some greater force. Elements like the Koch Brothers, the Republican party, and the extreme right-wing media powered by Fox News that whips up the hard-line Christian crowd drive this ridiculous narrative that resources are infinite and "god will provide".

They couldn't be more wrong.

More likely our models will turn out to be slightly wrong and it won't be as apocalyptic as we thought and we'll adjust according to our observed reality.

Every single time the models have turned out to be wrong it's always been that they've been overly optimistic.

Not once has there been an "oh, it wasn't as bad as we thought" moment. It's always worse.

It's going to be bad. A little panic is not a bad thing. If we panic for nothing that's better than brushing it off and having the worst possible outcome unfold because of inaction.

> It's going to be bad. A little panic is not a bad thing.

It's always lose/lose for the skeptics:

Scenario A: skeptics were wrong - "burn them at the stake, they screwed us all over!"

Scenario B: skeptics were right - "well, they got lucky. It wasn't as apocalyptic as experts were claiming. They were still wrong to have rejected the evidence at hand and I was still right to have believed the evidence at hand"

If reducing emissions means harming economies and impoverishing and killing people, then if skeptics are right, "you" will have caused needless destruction.

If preventing climate change didn't cost anything, then nobody would be against it. But it will be pretty expensive and somebody will have to suffer to pay for that. That somebody probably doesn't want us to prevent it because they may well lose out, even in the long term.

Do you use any power generated by coal? Do you use a car or bus? Do you eat meat? If you do any of those things, it means preventing climate change is too expensive for you.

> If reducing emissions means harming economies and impoverishing and killing people...

It doesn't. It just means shifting employment from one class of jobs to another class of jobs. Either you have people mining coal, or you have people making renewable power. Either you have people digging for oil, or you have people building batteries for elecric cars. You can steer the private sector with subsidies and incentives just as the have for the last hundred years.

Reducing emissions does not mean reducing employment. It means shifting. If you have two possible jobs that pay equally, one with high emissions and one with lower, incentivize the lower one. A carbon tax mechanism is one way to price the cost of emissions into the job and that naturally makes the lower emission one more rewarding.

> Do you use any power generated by coal?

No. We got off of coal about a decade ago. Now it's mostly nuclear, hydro-electric, and for boost, natural gas. The power company was able to phase out coal power plants ahead of schedule becaue power consumption has been declining, everything is getting more efficient.

> Do you use a car or bus?

I walk.

> Do you eat meat?

Mostly chicken, occasionally fish. Some people eat astounding amounts of red meat and they're the ones that can move the needle the most. If they cut back by 20% that's a huge shift. If I cut back by 20% it's irrelvant.

Here's the logic:

Scenario A: We spend a ton of money and resources on combating climate change. Energy and fuel become more expensive. There is economic crisis in some areas of the word. There is large scale refugee migration. Some small proxy wars break out. We manage to stem climate change and even slightly reverse it back to a natural level. We keep our modern technology. We keep most of the cultural status quo. Maybe a couple hundred million people lose their lives due to indirect consequences. The Earth still spins. Coastal cities aren't underwater. There is no global famine. Climate change skeptics will complain that combating climate change was a bad idea because they didn't see the worst of it.

Scenario B: We decide to not try and combat climate change. We don't spend any money on it. We think "everything will work out". Everything goes on just like normal for a few decades. Climate change skeptics are saying "I told you so." The economy prospers. Technology improves. We continue our dependence on fossil fuels, continuously pumping carbon into the atmosphere. We continue dumping waste into the ocean. The permafrost continues to melt more and more every year. It's all so gradual that barely anyone notices. Coastal cliff faces in California start eroding and taking beach front property with them as the sea level rises. Farms at lower latitudes start having more and more of a difficult time producing good yields. There is less snow falling in the mountains meaning that come spring time there is less melt. This causes droughts in many parts of the world. This drought starts to impact farmers. The global food supply dwindles. We are noticing massive numbers of oceanic lifeforms start to die off. Fisheries are not able to keep up with the demand. There isn't enough feed for livestock. The global food supply falls even lower. The drought is getting worse over the years due to less snow melt. Smaller countries with sub-par infrastructure start seeing a massive exodus of their population. These refugees migrate to large developed nations causing cultural strife and putting a strain on their economy and food supply. This cultural and economic strain leads to warfare. This warfare leads to even larger migrations. Soon we have world war 3 in the midst of the greatest global famine and drought the world has ever seen. Billions of people die. Human civilization as we know it is destroyed. We regress culturally and technologically.

This is just one set of possible scenarios. So, I ask you; Why not spend a little bit of money now and avoid what is essentially the apocalypse later? Let's say I'm wrong. Let's say scenario B could never happen and climate change isn't as bad as we think it is. Well, you have insurance on your house, don't you? Your car? Think of combating climate change like car insurance. Even if an accident is unlikely, it's still nice to know that you have it covered if it does happen.

What's the relative expected utility of assuming your best model is actually not as good as speculation?

Are we talking long term expectations or in the next quarterly budget? Because if the budget looks good I'm up for a raise.

I'm wondering the same thing. Should I start blowing through my 401k money now or what?

It doesn't make sense to blow the money by yourself. Send me some.

And while you're at it, you might want to cancel any insurance that you have. Afterall, what's the point? That will make more money available to blow.

You'll be fine.

If you care about your offspring, try not to reproduce. With the various positive feedback loops (permafrost methane, arctic albedo, antarctic ice shelves), things are going to get ugly.

Save it for your ticket to mars.

Better save it for anti aging supplements first. Easier to build climate resistant infrastructure here than on Mars.

But as a member of the .01% I'd rather only build new infrastructure where I can guarantee only myself and select others will be able to utilize it. I wouldn't want to waste my money on something that might be ended up being used by the public.

The only people going to Mars for the foreseeable future will be those with explicitly useful skills that can only be done in person. The 0.01% are going to be dead weight up there unless they have such a skill. And given it's a one-way ticket... how much social pull will the 0.01% have over the people with actual skills.

You may be a multibillionaire on earth, but being able to sell widgets to the masses isn't a skill that's going to be needed (or appreciated) on Mars for quite a while. Cut off from your wealth, you're just another mouth to feed.

More importantly if the population of earth is facing critical systems collapse, what are the odds of the next critical resupply mission the Mars colony actually launching. It's not like a martian colony would be self sufficient anytime soon.

Can't tell if this was sarcasm or a serious statement.

That depends on whether you have a bunker in New Zealand or not.

New Zealand could be in trouble if ocean acidification happens or weather patterns cause more drought (~80% hydro for energy generation and the arable land relies upon high rainfall).

Can there even be non-localised drought on a small island the size of New Zealand? The only significant geographical feature in the North Island (where most people live) is 3 mountains right in the middle.

New Zealand is small enough that a localized drought can have significant impact. Most of the people do indeed live in the North Island but most of the power is generated in the South Island, particularly around the Mackenzie Basin/Otago area (dry highlands).

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_power_stations_in_New_... - sort the hydroelectric by capacity - most of the major dams are in this area.

New Zealand? Real players build their own islands.

We added too much CO2 to atmosphere so we'll move to a planet with an atmosphere of 100% CO2... sounds like a plan!


The problem isn't CO₂. The problem is the roaming hordes of zomb^H^H^H^Hpeople displaced by rising ocean levels and subsequent collapse of civilized society. Mars doesn't have that :).

If you can' beat them, join them?

I answered the second question here:


Methane release will be followed by an increase in methanotrophs and probably some weird algae blooms.

Nature is fairly dynamic, especially at the prokaryotic level.

"the Earth's most severe known extinction event, with up to 96% of all marine species[6][7] and 70% of terrestrial vertebrate species becoming extinct.[8] It is the only known mass extinction of insects.[9][10] Some 57% of all families and 83% of all genera became extinct. Because so much biodiversity was lost, the recovery of life on Earth took significantly longer than after any other extinction event,[6] possibly up to 10 million years"


Maybe it's methane, maybe not.

I wonder how many of these bubbles are harvestable into useful fuel? Prevent a crisis and stockpile fuel at the same time? Obviously it's nicer if we could get everyone to sign the Kyoto treaty but ...

I've thought about this, but I think there's a serious question as to whether humans can even muster an effort on the scale that would be required to harvest and prevent release into the atmosphere.

Take ocean clathrates, for example. At a certain point, the ocean may become warm enough to destabilize them. What do we do in that case? Put up collection tents over the ocean that are millions of square kilometers large? The problem just doesn't seem tractable.

But who knows? I'm certainly not the sort of engineer that is qualified to answer these questions.

[Unrelated: Good to see you're still around; feel free to drop by EFnet again sometime.]

from what i understand, just burning it would improve the situation too. bearing in mind that i don't know much about chemistry and this is entirely from google: when burned, 1 CH4 turns into 1 CO2 and 2 H2O, so you essentially trade CH4 for CO2.

that ignores the whole CH4 being a short term problem thing though...

Where're you going to store that much gas?

mentioned in a sibling comment to yours, but maybe we can just burn it? AFAIK 1 CH4 turns into 1 CO2 when burned, and that might be better

I apologize for not watching the video, but what sort of effects will these increased levels have on humans, plants, and other life on the planet? It doesn't sound like it would be beneficial.

Extinction for the most part

For what it's worth, your "longer video" is just two copies of the shorter video spliced together. Did you mean to provide another link there?

I'm sorry, that was not my intent. I was trying to find another video from the same conference but I may have to upload it myself. To make up for it, here is a link to the interesting/informative YouTube channel of Paul Beckwith, a climate scientist at the University of Ottawa: https://www.youtube.com/user/PaulHBeckwith/videos

Would you happen to know, what percentage of temperature increase due to greenhouse effect is caused by methane right now?

Isn't Wikipedia great? (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greenhouse_gas)

|Water vapor and clouds |36–72% |

|Carbon dioxide | 9–26% |

|Methane | 4–9% |

|Ozone | 3–7% |

Ok, so release of 50 gigatons of CH4 means 10x increase in atmospheric CH4, then we are looking at around 50% contribution to greenhouse effect from CH4 after that I guess.

That's basically double of what CO2 contributes today, what will also increase the amount of water in the atmosphere.

But CH4 is short lived, so the most important question is how fast it will be emitted. (And the second may be: could we make it even shorter lived?)

That's totally wild. I hadn't heard about this before.

Honest question: Why is Mainstream Media not covering this like it should be doing? Heck, this should be the breaking news every single day!!

After all, this spells doomsday for the upcoming generations, so shouldn't it be the news that should be shown/covered almost everyday on the front page.

The people have the right to know that their children and grandchildren will suffer because of something that is going on right now. I guess, that majority of people, all over the world, are blissfully unaware of this scenario because this doesn't get the kind of attention in the MSM that it should. All they get served is dirty politics and gossip entertainment news.

Maybe people will force the policies to change if they get to know that this will happen.

It seems that most people today think that Terrorism is the main threat to our society, when in fact, Global Warming seems to be the real deal.

Let's say it was found that fifty years from now, an Asteroid would hit Earth. Would the people of Earth react in the same way as they are doing now?

>Honest question: Why is Mainstream Media not covering this like it should be doing? Heck, this should be the breaking news every single day!!

Perhaps it is because of the influence of the largest industry in the world in terms of revenue: the petroleum industry. Money talks, or rather in this case, money hushes.

Where do you think the primary source of climate change denial propaganda comes from?

It makes complete sense in the 1984 style of Double Speak.

It's the job of every other industry that depends on the world existing to call them out on this and spend actual dollars as a protective measure. And the people and their governments, because the collective interest in fixing this can not be decided by a minority value holder. We have done this before with ozone issues and we can do it again but it's past due time to just collectively have the aha moment.

Russia Today (bear with me for a second) did a documentary [0] on how the climate and geography (!) of the region is changing. They also interview the local population and how they view the change in the ecosystem on which their whole lives are build.

[0] https://rtd.rt.com/films/the-permafrost-mystery/#part-1

It's not all that bad, we will have the opportunity to live in a Mad Max like environment for real ! If we, humans, - as a species - are unable to focus away from dirty politics and gossips, then we don't really deserve to survive. Maybe we need to go through a few centuries of post-apocalyptic landscape to transform ourselves and evolve ?

What about Earth's other life?

It just gets to go extinct? Shit deal for everything else living on this planet, maybe it should go "Zoo" on us in self defense.

Life on this planet has persisted through far worse. Sure, we may bring many species down with us, but life on this planet will go on.

As the late George Carlin once said: "The planet is fine. The people are fucked!"

Well, when dinosaurs disappeared, shit got real for everyone else too !

I'm pretty sure other species will found a very welcome relief in the disappearance of humankind.

Global warming is also extremely costly so it's a financial threat too, and also a problem causing political destabilization and increased tensions, radicalization from climate refugees crisises etc.

So yes it should be covered for many reasons.

If the media covered everything they should have to the standard of quality they should have over the last, oh, let's say twenty years, the world would be an incredibly different place.

Unfortunately they're too busy exploiting human nature for their own advantage than to exploit it for the good of humanity.

Has anything been published in international peer reviewed journals ? Are there scientists at NASA or ivy league universities who became concerned and verified it through modeling and simulations ? If the answer is no in both cases, why should the public be alarmed ?

Well I am no expert, but there is google scholar. The first result searching for "siberian methane bubbles" is Walter &al. 2006 [1], furthermore a simple search for :siberian methane bubbles nasa" yields a rather interesting overview article from Nasa's Earth Observatory [2]. So while the presence of an media article not necessarily imply that there is research, in this case the article reports on an active area of study.

[1] http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v443/n7107 /abs/nature05040.html

[2] https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Features/MethaneMatters/

I share your craving for less noise, but:

- there's a whole lot of shades of grey between a hoax and a scientifically proven phenomenon.

- we don't need to be alarmed -- we can be just interested in something new and unusual.

Insufficient research to date does not mean the phenomenon doesn't exist or does not deserve attention.

P.S. This reminds me of the famous story about two economists walking down the street. One spots a $100 bill on the pavement and wants to pick it up. The other stops him saying: "that's just an illusion. If this were to happen, somebody would have picked it up already".

Are you seriously saying only NASA and Ivy League universities matter?

--the most outrageous part of his comment, imo.

Yes, of course. There is a huge body of published research available. Data is collected, used to refine the models and then the uncertainties are researched to figure out where more measurements would help the most. Do you have a specific question? I'll throw some time at it.

I'm sure you meant 'research universities', not 'Ivy League universities'. That is, unless you really are implying that only Ivy League universities (and NASA) do impactful research (FALSE), you are hopelessly snooty, or you are trying to be sarcastic (e.g. jamming on the Ivy League school penchant for producing individuals that land positions in political and corporate governance that by and large want to ignore climate change).

If you're referring to the MSM in the US, I think it's because it's in Russia. Russia doesn't get much coverage unless it's about Putin.

Alaska might have a similar problem, though on a much smaller scale.

Until people undeniably feel it they will not believe they are the problem. It takes a lot for someone to change their minds in the face of "criticism".

I believe this is the case when MSM are not blowing things out of proportion, so by comparison it looks like an understatement. This doesn't "spell doomsday" for the upcoming generations.

First, I believe we are already well on path to sustainable energy. Let's be honest, any planet-wide change will take time, especially when affected by economic means. Granted, world-level dictatorship may achieve zero carbon emissions in a few decades, but I strongly doubt that that is what you want. On the other hand, renewables are surging even with our current level of technology. Any sudden technological breakthrough (be it batteries, fusion energy or room-temperature superconductance) will accelerate it even further, but it's not necessary for the transition. Humanity will surely switch to renewables in a century.

Second, consequences of rising global temperature are harsh, but in no way there are a "doomsday". Do you really believe that loosing Californian fertile grounds will end the humanity? We will adapt and so will the ecosystem in general. It may be costly and inconvenient, but people already live both in the desert (like Northern Australia) and in tundra (like Alaska). Not the end of the world.

Third, it's possible to drop global temperatures in a few months' time if direly needed. Ranging from orbital sunshades to tropospheric aerosols, solutions can be cheap and easy to deploy.

All in all, I strongly believe that your asteroid analogy is an over-exaggeration.

For yours points:

1. Renewables in a century? We'd have burned through a large chunk of buried by then. With massive degrees of warming 2. I'm not sure you understand likely warming scenarios. The world doesn't just warm a bit, then stay stable at a new normal. We are triggering runaway feedback effects. At a certain point, even if emissions are zero, the earth keeps warming. 3. This may be something we'll have to do. But it wouldn't stop ocean acidification, for one. Sealife is already dying mysteriously.

Not to get into any of the massive unknowns of manually controlling the atmosphere. Or the political difficulties of doing so while countries face famines from farmland losses and droughts, leading to migration on a scale vastly exceeding what we have now.

1. Yep, in a century. I don't see how we can realistically do that faster without some sort of planetary Stalin. You think that would be a better option?

2. "Runaway" is relative and it will stabilize at some point. The particular point is debatable, but it's surely not a Venus-like environment (not until the Earth geology stops). Earth has seen much, much warmer times (palms-on-Antarctica-level warmer) and yet there was a thriving biosphere. Moreover, even the harshest predictions are on the scale of decades thanks to the immense thermal mass of oceans and atmosphere, compared to years if not months that we need to block a large part of incoming sunlight.

3. Ocean acidification is bad and a demise of the great barrier reef will be a pity, but it will not end humanity. Look at the comments around here: people are seriously considering mass-scale human extinction in a decades. Do you really believe that ocean acidification will lead to that, especially in the developed countries?

Sure, there will be political difficulties and mass migration. But it's challenges, not a sudden-death-from-above like an asteroid that GP invoked.

Oh, I had interpreted their asteroid remark loosely, in the sense of "a really bad thing is forecast to arrive several decades from now!" rather than "sudden death will arrive several decades from now"

1. I actually think we'll keep burning all the carbon unless technology makes it economically inefficient to do so (because the alternatives are better). I guess by my critique here I meant to say that I thought your timeline would leave to worse results than you thought it would.

And no, I don't think we'll have human extinction from climate change.

But, I think the consequences will be dire. Right now we have a very large world population, and it's still growing. We're managing to feed ourselves now, but only tbrough great technical feats in agriculture that have increased yields. And we basically require all the land to do this, and a network of global trade in foods.

What happens when some portions of land become unusable? When droughts worsen? When war erupts due to food pressures and large crop areas can't have capital intensive techniques used on them? If war disrupts global trade?

I think our system is very fragile, and premised on continuous improvement.

Do you think a lot of people will die this century if we continue on our present course, or do you think we'll manage to produce enough food regardless?

> but people already live both in the desert (like Northern Australia) and in tundra (like Alaska).

Presumably you're referring to Aboriginal Australians and Inuit/Eskimo peoples?

It might be useful to note that these groups of people are known for their utmost respect toward nature, and the fact that their communities are largely sustenance based.

> Third, it's possible to drop global temperatures in a few months' time if direly needed. Ranging from orbital sunshades to tropospheric aerosols, solutions can be cheap and easy to deploy.

If this were truly the solution to global warming, I find it difficult to believe that no one has already done it.

Saying "can be cheap and easy to deploy" would lead me to think of this were actually true, Greenpeace would already be doing it.

I believe that your explanations don't stand up to overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Climate change is accelerating, and it is a big deal for our and future generations.

I'm referring to places like Newman [0] or Norilsk [1]. Those places have nothing to do with "utmost respect toward nature", as they are settled for mining stuff. However, they are fine examples of people being able to thrive and support a modern western-level living even in harshest of environments. No need to ditch air conditioning or your favorite SUV.

> I find it difficult to believe that no one has already done it

At this point there is no need to. The population that matters most politically (so-called "first world countries") are not affected by global warming enough to require drastic active measures. There is not enough political capital to be won in leading international talks on active Earth cooling. However, if the pain become real enough, talks will be held, rockets will be launched and the Earth will be cooled.

> Greenpeace would already be doing it

First, AFAIK Greenpeace is mostly against active measures. Second, "cheap and easy" is relative: it's "cheap and easy" as in "building a dam", not as in "occupying an oil rig".

[0]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Newman,_Western_Australia

[1]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Norilsk

Places like Norilsk are not self-sufficient. They are able to support a "modern western-level living" because of massive supporting infrastructure in more hospitable locations.

Where do you think their food comes from, for example?

> Third, it's possible to drop global temperatures in a few months' time if direly needed. Ranging from orbital sunshades to tropospheric aerosols, solutions can be cheap and easy to deploy.

(Emphasis mine)

Isn't that basically the "chemtrails" conspiracy theory? The irony would be pretty entertaining if we ended up actually realizing that to combat climate change.

No, contrails are condensed water vapor, and they are shortlived enough they contribute ~.0001% warming effect observed.

Aerosols, usually a sulfate, are particles, which block sunlight, like the ash from volcanic eruptions. Most eruptions put the ash into the troposphere where it sinks to Earth relatively quickly. By placing sulfates into the stratosphere, they become 100x longer lived, and thus a small amount can have a strong cooling effect.

Someone just copy/pasted your comment to reddit. Congrats.


Hmm... the Reddit user has a 4 year old account, and the HN user has a 23 day old account. Are we sure about who copied who?

This keeps happening to me! I wrote a fairly obscure remark about SICP on HN and 2 days later I was on reddit with one of the top comments as my exact comment.

Some kind of spamming operation? I have no idea.

It's an automated system for farming 'legit' looking accounts through comment arbitrage between platforms.

The user in question has also copied a comment about chili from HN, so it's not the first time. Maybe some attempt at providing reputation for his account, but as you say, what's the point?

Or maybe just some guy harvesting imaginary internet points.

It would make the trillion dollar carbon tax industry look like a waste of money?

MSM doesn't mention the hundreds of thousands of underwater volcanoes either.

Well... I guess let's hope the "Clathrate gun hypothesis" is incorrect.


If we can't figure out an engineering solution to this problem then it's game over. It always amazes me how much people and governments focus on prevention when it comes to climate change, knowing full well it's far too late to change anything by reducing carbon emissions. If we can't sequester these 'surplus' gases from the atmosphere then I guess you could say we don't have a chance in hell, pun intended, of surviving as a species if runaway warming becomes a reality.

Artificial sulfate aerosols look like they could quickly damp positive feedbacks though of course they're no permanent fix and won't do anything to counteract ocean acidification. There are more permanent fixes possible in theory (large scale accelerated silicate weathering) but their feasibility hinges, IMO, on some rather optimistic assumptions about the future trajectory of robotics.

Metaphorically speaking, we now have to consider the planetary equivalent of high-risk, high-cost surgery after mostly ignoring the planetary "stop smoking" advice experts have been giving for more than a generation.

Also, any large scale sequestration effort is going to be much harder if emissions continue unabated. We're past the point where prevention alone can stabilize atmospheric CO2 but we're never past the point where further anthropogenic emissions can make the problem even worse.

Can you elaborate on the optimistic assumptions in robotics that may enable accelerated silicate weathering? Or could you point me to some readings on the matter?

A search on Google Scholar for "accelerated silicate weathering" will be more informative than my comment. But here's the shortish version...

Naturally occurring silicates of magnesium, calcium, sodium, and potassium are thermodynamically prone to weather to carbonates in ambient conditions, when water absorbs CO2 and passes over rocks. In the case of magnesium and calcium in particular, the weathering leads to stable solids that will not spontaneously release CO2 again. A schematic example with calcium silicate:

  CO2 + CaSiO3 -> SiO2 + CaCO3
Gaseous carbon dioxide and solid calcium silicate become solid silicon dioxide and calcium carbonate. Silicate weathering has multiple advantages over other carbon dioxide removal/sequestration schemes:

• The end state is naturally stable. You don't have to worry about the leakiness of underground containment.

• It restores the pH balance of the oceans as well as reducing radiative forcing (warming) effects.

• It deals equally well with point and distributed sources of CO2 (coal plants, automobile tailpipes).

• It can be located anywhere on Earth. It does not need to be adjacent to CO2 sources.

• It does not require concentrated CO2 streams, but works with ambient atmospheric concentrations.

Natural silicate weathering reactions dominate Earth's CO2 balance in the very long term. But they are strongly kinetically hindered in nature. After a freshly exposed rock surface has weathered to a depth of a few microns, the cation-depleted "rind" drastically slows the weathering of the remaining interior. Without human intervention, it'll take about 100,000 years for natural silicate weathering to restore the pre-industrial baseline of atmospheric CO2 concentrations. There are different ways to improve the kinetics:

• Crush bulk rock to a fine sand texture, so full interior weathering finishes much faster (still takes years-to-decades, but no longer takes geological time scales).

• Place crushed rock in near-shore ocean environments where mechanical wave erosion keeps removing rinds.

• Place crushed rock in acidic tropical agricultural soils where it weathers faster due to low pH and elevated temperature. This also improves soil quality for growing crops.

It's not explicitly included in the scholarly literature, but I say that advanced robotics are necessary because the required scale of intervention is staggering, bigger than any engineering endeavor in history.

For example, the Columbia Plateau in the United States contains basalt whose alkali and alkaline earth content could bind about 20% of its own mass in CO2, after complete weathering:


To neutralize the CO2 that humans emitted in 2015, about 36 billion tons (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_carbon_di...), would require mining and pulverizing about 180 billion tons of Columbia Plateau basalt. That's about 60 cubic kilometers. We're in no danger of running out of plateau -- it contains more than 170,000 km^3.

As for energy estimates, the Bond Work Index for crushing basalt such that 80% of particles pass a 100 micron screen is in the neighborhood of 17-20 kWh per ton:


I'll add a factor of 2 for overhead to estimate the whole process energy expenditure. That would mean that using Columbia Plateau basalt, you'd expend 40 kWh per ton of basalt, about 200 kWh per ton of CO2 removed from the atmosphere. That is, energetically speaking, really good compared to schemes that try to run "combustion-in-reverse" to regenerate hydrocarbons from CO2. It's efficient enough that you could actually use coal fired power to drive the whole process and it would still be a net CO2 sink. But at 200 kWh per ton-CO2-scrubbed, it would take 7.2 billion megawatt hours to neutralize humanity's 2015 CO2 emissions. That's an annualized power of 821 gigawatts -- nearly twice the average electrical power generated in the United States.

The scale is so vast that I can only imagine advanced robotic manufacturing, mining, and energy generation being up to the task. However you want to modify my baseline scenario -- smaller projects scattered around the Earth instead of one mega-project, being pickier about processing only the best rocks -- I think that the scale is still daunting. But I think it may still be possible because I see automation advancing a lot in the 21st century if we don't precipitate a civilization-ending crisis first.

It's not the only option either. Combine that solution on a massive scale with re-forestation and (even though eventually it's CO2 neutral) it might actually make a dent. My go-to model was always:

- Plant heliostat molten salt reactors in desert coastal areas [1]

- Use generated heat to desalinate water

- Use desalinated water to provide irrigation

- Plant (potentially GMO'ed) bootstrapping organisms to create a soil (greening)

- Plant trees

- Rinse repeat.

However, your idea makes more sense if the only goal is CO2 scrubbing. But adding the heliostat molten salt reactors in a desert might be quite feasible, they generate tons of heat, which can be translated into energy or simply mechanical force (water pressure)…and there is no shortage of silicates in the desert.

[1] http://www.solarreserve.com/en/technology/molten-salt-energy...

Yes, re-forestation or afforestation is another scheme worth considering. It can't scale up to the extent of accelerated silicate weathering but it could reach a scale of gigatons of CO2 per year. And it could produce food, wood products, and desirable living space for humans where once there were deserts with little biomass of any kind. You need to harvest-and-bury wood (as biochar, preferably) pretty regularly if the primary goal is CO2 sequestration; otherwise the steady state is approximately equal to current mature forested areas (which store plenty of carbon in soils but aren't great at continuing to remove more from the air).

Accelerated silicate weathering and "greening the deserts" are concepts that work well together, too. Mature fertile soil contains weathered minerals and organic matter. Crushing basalt can speed up the weathering part of producing soil, and provide micronutrients for plants plus a couple of important macros (phosphorus and potassium).

Only tangentially related, but here[0] is a video of the great reforestation program that South Korea undertook after the Korean War. They effectively transformed vast arid landscapes into healthy forests. Shows the power of a nation/people coming together with careful planning, forethought, unity, and grit can literally shape the earth.

[0] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_3KkN8hvUCI

Would YC incubate something like this? If we sold excess water to California farms and sold energy to the grid and sold fiber/logs to paper or saw mills I think we could see positive ROIC and do some real good for the environment at the same time.

Sooo.... we need solar-powered, sand-grinding/blowing machines in the Great Deserts (Sahara, Gobi, etc)?

People tend to forget that the deserts are also ecosystems.

Why focus on "fixing" climate ?

Why not just assume it's going to become unstable in close future and start building with that assumption ? Large scale isolated citiy domes. Nutrient synthesis that doesn't rely on climate/agriculture. Environment independent energy generation like micro nuclear reactors. Large scale air filtration and temperature control.

As the world becomes more interconnected and developed catastrophic outcomes like super virus/bacteria, large scale nuclear event, etc. become bigger threats to entire world. Why not start building self sufficient and well isolated megacities that can function irregardless of climate change ? It's perfectly possible on 50 year timescale if we don't waste time on shoving our heads in to the ground and hoping everything will stay great if we stop burning stuff.

Most of your partial solutions depend on 'mere engineering' on a scale that has never been attempted before.

Sure but I think climate change is just one of many variables that show how our global society is fragile - the direction of my proposal would go a long way towards making it much more robust, isolation from climate change is just one problem solved by it. It becomes easy to quarantine/filter access preventing biological contamination. Even on city level you can have isolated blocks further limiting the impact of catastrophic events.

I think the "preserve the environment" is a knee-jerk driven by the same kind of instincts that sell "natural organic food" and stuff - even if we could somehow magically reign in man made climate change there's really no guarantee that the climate will remain stable or that a low probability event like a volcanic eruption won't cause a huge global crisis, etc.

Instead of hoping things remain as they are we should limit our exposure to environment risks.

Another problem I see with your approach is that it tends to favor the rich countries in an extreme way over the poorer ones (assuming it could be pulled off at all), which I think is the final move in the 'externalization' game, let the rest of the world die so that the remnants of Western civilization can go and colonize an otherwise empty world at some point in the far future.

It's a problem if you're looking for a global solution, but even the poor countries would benefit from R&D breakthroughs.

Have you read the Silo series?

But to answer your question, because we can't build enough of these to sustain billions of people.

>But to answer your question, because we can't build enough of these to sustain billions of people.

Maybe but then again scaling isn't really the immediate problem - it's building the thing in the first place, replicating should be simpler and by the time it's done who knows what the tech will be.

And while it probably won't work for everyone it will work much more reliably for those that participate in it - not just for climate change but for other catastrophe protection/isolation as well.

It seems likely that some are doing this. But I doubt that they want publicity ;)

PM invite pls :)

Yeah, would be cool :)

If you can't mobilize man to fight climate change, you aren't going to mobilize him to prepare for it either. People are in deep denial about the problem.

I was just on a call to a Federal agency in DC today to discuss research related to green house gas emission reductions. The staff were excited but quick to point out that anything related to climate change means "substantial pressure from the White House". They were reluctant to even publicize the findings and this was for good news ("easy" to do, potentially saves industry millions) so I can imagine the reaction to bad news.

What good does convincing people do if the government won't even admit climate change is real?

The "huge" savings for our industry are minimal in the grand scheme of things. It's depressing to realize how we are past the prevention phase of climate change and rapidly passing through chances to more easily mitigate the impacts.

Preserving human knowledge and art [0] won't require mobilizing all of mankind; it could be done by a few individuals and it's kinda already being done by Wikipedia, Wikia, "pirates" etc.

[0] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13944410

True, however, the problem is preserving humans from near extinction, not preserving our knowledge and culture for the few who might survive if we ignore the problem.

> for the few who might survive

It doesn't have to be for our survivors... We could, and I believe we should, do it for the next civilization to come after ours, even if it's a few alien visitors.

If for no other reason than to leave a legacy of our short existence against the infinity of this universe.

I and I'm sure most people on this planet don't care about leaving a legacy to a future species when the problem at hand is our own survival.

Nobody's saying we should give up or not try to survive, but IF the options came down to: Going extinct — or — Going extinct without any trace whatsoever of our existence left behind, which would you prefer?

You said it yourself: If you can't mobilize man to fight climate change, you aren't going to mobilize him to prepare for it either.

I won't care, because I'll be dead. So let me be clearer, the notion that anyone will care about leaving proof of our existence rather than themselves trying to survive I find laughable. It's an easy nonsense thing to say when living in relative comfort but when the reality of survival kicks in, such lofty bullshit will go right out the door and you'll be fighting to eat and live another day, not worrying about humanity leaving traces behind for posterity.

IMHO, even if we end up needing some mega-geoengineering project for our survival, it would still be cheaper if we first stop our CO2 emission and then plan for geoengineering, rather than building something scaled for our current CO2 emission trajectory.

Basically, if an oil tanker is leaking oil all over the beach, we should first plug the goddamn hole before talking about (expensive) solutions to clean up the contaminated beach. Doing it the other way just doesn't make sense.

I think the problem if we are in you scenario is that 200 people own parts of the oil tanker and the beach is owned by 200 people and not everyone wants to pay for the costs of cleaning up the contamination, and that we have to get permission from the owners of each separate plot of beach and mone from each of the 200 people to pay for the cleanup to make the analogy of people roughly equivalent to countries and our current predicament - one or two powerful, rich people could pay for the whole thing but if they decide they don't believe in cleaning up and letting things be they could mess up things for all 200 by themselves.

If we stop the CO2 generation, do we have enough industry left to perform the mega-geoengineering?

> It always amazes me how much people and governments focus on prevention when it comes to climate change

If the US government was actually focused on prevention, that would be a huge step up from "denying there's a problem."

I suspect that the interests driving denial are planning to ride the crash. There are probably developments in favorable locations. Land. Security. Infrastructure. Resources.

Does somebody have climatology models reliable enough to determine a favorable location?

AFAIK, anything can go wrong anywhere.

Maybe so, but I'm sure that good guesses are possible. Basically, further from the equator, away from oceans, and higher altitude. And away from large cities. I wonder about some of those "useless" Chinese cities, for example.

Most of those "useless" chinese cities are filling up now. All of those stories were like looking at a brand new housing estate before any of the houses were on sale.

> I wonder about some of those "useless" Chinese cities, for example.

Never attribute to forethought that which is adequately explained by stupidity.

Siberia stands to become more arable if the permafrost thaws. It certainly becomes more drillable.

Wonder who might be involved there...


Yes, Russia and Canada. With ice-free shipping links.

Do you all honestly think that the US or what people there think is the biggest issue effecting pollution?

Last time I checked as a nation we are working hard to reduce emissions have some of the lowest in the world. Perhaps it would be more useful to go and bash China and India, two countries in which seeing a clear sky in a large city is a rarity.

The US is actually #2 in total C02 production, and 6th/7th per capita over all.

It doesn't feel like its a problem because of two reasons:

1. Pollution and CO2 emissions are two separate issues. The US has strong pollution regulations regarding pollution near large populations, so even if it contributes to the green house gas problem for people living in cities air quality is good.

2. The US was previously the global leader in pollution by a wide margin, producing 300x what Brazil produced for instance in 1950. In recent decades, manufacturing in the US has become cleaner bit by bit, so there has been improvement. This is unfortunately dwarfed by the quality of Europe where pollution was always a lesser problem, and environmental guidelines became more stringent faster than in the US.

Many people like to compare the US to Europe, and in that respect the US usually looks terrible but the US isn't Europe and has never been in the same place socioeconomically. It is better to compare the US to China or India, because in geopolitics we are in the same place---large manufacturing nation, large population, large geography, former colony, quasi-imperial ambitions.

"Some of the lowest in the world" is pretty creative wording for second highest in the world. [1]

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_carbon_di...

No facts to back this up? The USA is no2 in total emitter of greenhouse gases and no2 in per-capita emissions and no1 in cumulative emissions:


Yeah, exponentials are tricky. By the time danger is clear, it's too late to do anything about it. But hey, at least this will probably be self-limiting. Disruption will arguably reduce population and industrialization, and so CO2 emissions will drop.

And then good luck rebuilding civilization now that every easily accessible resource has been mined/harvested out.

Useless buildings are a great supply of resources, and for certain resources they are arguably even easier to access.

Read Stephenson's Anathem. There's lots of good stuff in cities. And in landfills.

Let's hope the beings that will rebuild civilization will learn from our mistakes.

It's more likely that our successors will only inherit the harmful products of our civilization.

Consider this: People today are still dying from landmines and poisons that were using during wars a 100 years ago [0]. They may remain around for over 300 years [1].

The things that will most immediately affect the civilization after ours will probably be our radioactive waste, the long-term effects of climate change, the extinctions caused by us, unexploded mines and bombs, and stockpiles of nuclear and other weapons.

At best, the next civilization may dig up some of our machines and partially reverse-engineer them, but they'll probably never be able to access their original functionality. For example using our laptops/phones as a source of light, or their batteries as explosives. What little technology of ours that still fully works by then, will probably cause wars over its ownership, even if the tech itself is benign and beneficial.


If, like me, the idea of accumulation of technology over large expanses of time, across multiple civilizations and potentially multiple species is deeply interesting to you, you may love the world of Numenera [2] [3]; Earth, a billion years from now.

[0] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=12187512

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=12188466

[2] http://www.numenera.com

[3] https://store.steampowered.com/app/272270/

Well, what did we learn from the Indus Valley folks? Or the Amazon folks? Whatever electronic records survive will probably get recycled long before they're read. And paper doesn't last very long. So arguably they'll just have folktales.

I don't know about you, but I like human civilisation, so this is not much of a consolation for me.

Well, but you'll likely be dead, no? And yes, I'm sure that parents fear for their kids.

Maybe the AIs will pick up where we left off. They'll be sort of human. Especially if hybrids become popular.

Nobody is rebuilding anything on this planet, not considering how deep we need to drill/mine at this point to get anything good, and the example will not be useful to anyone who arrives here from elsewhere.

The clathrate gun won't care, if it goes off.

Unfortunately, that could offset global dimming[1], which appears to be currently slowing the current rate of climate change.

Things seem like they are going to get really bad. I try not to think about it too much. It doesn't seem like there's anything I can do.


Edit: Changed link to Wikipedia entry

An engineering solution to CH4 may be much easier than one for CO2. We can buy some time without even sequestration.

> we don't have a chance in hell, pun intended, of surviving as a species if runaway warming becomes a reality.

We'll survive as a species, just not as a civilisation.

At first I was thinking "stupid click bait title", then I saw the pictures. Anything making those craters is properly an explosion. Anything heard 100km away is properly and explosion.

If anything this article plays it down with words like eruption and venting. This seems super dangerous for people in the area. And dangerous in the climate change sense for the rest of us.

I can't believe that this got 350+ comments and nobody actually recognized the clickbait here. For one thing, it's a story from that noted climatology journal "The Siberian Times".


They're full of ice, not methane. And what makes those craters is the ice melting and/or drop in groundwater pressure. The issue of entrained methane trapped in permafrost is real and the pingo ice most likely also contains trapped methane, but the implication that these are domes of pressurized methane READY TO BLOW AND HURL EARTH INTO RUNAWAY GREENHOUSE AT ANY MOMENT is absurd. The melting of permafrost generally over wide areas is the actual threat.

I imagine the literal boiling of the earth. Yes, not accurate but just interesting to picture (for me).

This is precisely why Dr. Guy McPherson has predicted human extinction on earth by 2030. Methane clathrates coming from the Arctic sea floor and from Canadian and Siberian permafrost. This is the most serious threat we face now.

Even if we get a 5° - 10° Celsius increase, wouldn't there be plenty of opportunity for millions of humans to survive closer to the poles?

Not that it would be easy or desirable. Some of the worst scenarios might result in 99% (or higher) of humans dying - obviously an unspeakably immense tragedy. Yet that would still leave tens of millions of people to carry on.

It seems to me that it would be extremely difficult to extinguish human life entirely, given our cleverness, adaptability, and very strong survival drive.

I haven't seen much talk about projections that would make the entire planet completely uninhabitable for humans. That would require an increase significantly higher than 10° Celsius, I'm guessing?

Of course, this would likely delay our transformation into a space-faring civilization by a few thousand years, as well as significantly damage social progress.

Depending on what exactly happens. If the composition of the atmosphere changes enough, only the simplest life forms will survive.

You need to find what are the stable equilibriums with - or in the worst case without - a biosphere. +7C-8C, if it's the peak, is most probably survivable for the biosphere as a whole, because we know that this happened before (permian triassic boundary).

However, there's a very important distinction here: The permian triassic boundary conditions did not arise coming abruptly out of an ice age. An ice age after a warm period leads to lots of methane being stored, and it's reasonable to assume that the current methane storage is much larger than at the permian triassic (oh, did I mention that that was already an extinction event, probably the worst we know about?).

All in all it's not completely out of the question that an abrupt release of enough methane could lead to a Venus syndrome, and thus the complete sterilisation of the planet.

Even if we get a 5° - 10° Celsius increase, wouldn't there be plenty of opportunity for millions of humans to survive closer to the poles?

Probably not. That amount of increase will likely disrupt every food chain on the planet, and larger lifeforms will not be able to adapt fast enough. That means extinction time for everything larger than a mouse or unable to migrate.

Even if some arable land remains around the poles, the most you will find growing there is moss and grasses. Wheats require a very rich soil, which will either not be there or be exhausted after a few crops.

Maybe we should start thinking about how to help other lifeforms to adapt, and put more research into biosystem engineering so we can predict what might happen if we start moving animals and plants around large-scale.

The poles will see the largest destabilization due to several effects, a major one being the loss of the Walker circulation cell (which causes El Nino).

In order for the south pole to be the best place to live all the ice would have to melt, which would essentially end life on earth as we know it. The sea level would rise about 100m, which would kill so much life on land that it would make the atmosphere unbreathable and kill everything else.

More fundamentally if we can't get it together enough to stop this, I find it highly unlikely we'll be able to put together a self-sustaining shelter on what will basically become an alien planet. We'd have to survive indoors for the length of our written history, minimum. It's not so much that it's outright impossible, but any tiny problem could lead to our extinction over ten thousand years. It's a lottery ticket for our species, and the only realistic expectation is that we will lose.

Plus there are tons of survival-killers that just get discounted. Will we be able to keep ourselves going technologically without a global distribution of resources? Will our genetic diversity survive isolation? Will we be able to survive antibiotic-resistant diseases?

We're struggling to stay ahead of antibiotic resistance with decades of mutation- once we no longer have the scientific effort to devote to controlling this, will we be able to do anything about centuries or millenia of bacterial evolution? A freak drift or reservoir incident (eg ebola in bats) could wipe us out in a week or two.

So is it time to kill myself yet?

We are.

So, this sort of thing must have happened in past warm periods. Yet life survived.

I can't believe there are people willfully obtuse enough to still be putting out this strawman. No one credible is or has ever claimed "the end of life" or even "the end of multicellular life". Humanity could get wiped out entirely and "life" would be fine for a few billion years until it really would get wiped out completely without intelligence. But even a few tens of millions let alone hundreds let alone billions is something we might reasonably want to avoid don't you think? Is this really such a hard concept for you to grasp? When "life survived" previous mass extinction events you should read that as "SOME life survived, and often not the big complex types."

Another fun angle to consider. Ocean acidification leading to a die-off of phytoplankton (the oxygen tank of the Earth, basically).

This could cause a global asphyxiation event.

Archaea are tough.

Not always - there have been 5 mass extinction events on earth. 250 million years ago 96% of species died due to runaway greenhouse gases from volcanic eruptions in siberia. A positive feedback mechanism kicked in. Eventually negative feedback stabilized the earth - but in a new climactic equilibrium.

Reference. https://cosmosmagazine.com/palaeontology/big-five-extinction...

Life != human life. That's the fallacy many in the green-movement miss. It's not about saving the Earth, Earth will be largely fine. Climate management is about saving humans.

Reminds me of a Louis CK bit.

George Carlin.

Violent releases from methane clathrates are one of the suspected causes of the Paleoecene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM), which led to an increase in global temperatures in excess of 5 degrees C. The PETM was not really associated with any mass extinction events on land (to the contrary, it drove rapid specification in mammals). But the oceans are a different story. The ocean is generally extremely stable, so ocean life generally does not respond well to rapid environmental changes.

Life certainly has a good chance given the existence of deep-sea bacteria, tardigrades, and cockroaches, but the human species has a relatively narrow set of conditions that must be met for any sort of longterm survival.

Happened at such rate like the one we are having?

It's strange reading about this and realizing that to be able to do something about it I would have had to have been born twenty some-odd years before I was born. That it's literally too late to do anything about it. I was raised to care about these issues, to save the rainforest, to cut down on pollution, recycle -- to do something about it. And that it would've taken a concerted effort from everyone to take the same care.

Scientists have been warning about this for decades. And we've done nothing. Not even to slow down!

I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness...


If drastic action is taken now we'd only see 2 degree warming. That is far from the end of the world.

If we do nothing we'll see 5-8 degrees, which would change the climate pretty drastically.

It's not too late at all.

From the video linked in another comment it seems like drastic is basically impossible. The speaker, Stuart Scott, had said that we'd have to just drop $28 trillion worth of fossil fuel assets on the floor and walk away today. It seems more likely that we're going to hit at least 5 degrees over the next 100 years which, if I'm not mistaken, means mass extinction events and the collapse of civilization as we know it.

2 degrees, from what I understand, is drastic enough to destabilize our current geo-political situation and threaten humanity with large-scale famine, water shortages, and mass migrations. It doesn't seem like we can even avoid 2 degrees at this point. It's just going to happen even if we do stop everything today if I'm understanding this news right.

The IPCC reports don't substantiate those figure. RCP8.5 which assumes increasing co2 emmisions until 2080 results in 2.6-4.8 degrees by 2100. But Rcp8.5 is considered pretty much worst case. It is basically what happens if we just continue to use fossil fuels and have no climate policy.

RCP4.5 which is a somewhat optimistic but still realistic plan would only have 1.1-2.6.

RCP6 which is a realistic scenario where fossil fuels are used heavily but by 2060 we start heavily switching to carbon neutral sources. That leads to 1.4-3.1 degrees by 2100.

There also isn't any scientific consensus on what level of rise would lead to collapse of civilization. But I'm pretty sure it wouldn't be 5 degrees by 2100.

Even with 5 degrees the bread baskets of the world should still be producing a ton of food. There would need to be engineering solutions. GMO modified crops to survive droughts better. Better irrigation in California and the Midwest.

The dooms day projections all assume we just sit around while food production drops and just starve to death. That's a bad assumption.

It would cause famine in parts of the world where rising food costs means they can't afford food. But food could go up 5x in America before we'd have problems affording it.

The estimates are still loose on the methane situation and how that would affect the IPCC reports. Isn't it called the "methane crisis" because it's likely going to rapidly accelerate warming?

If we can't fix, if we can't prevent, and if we cannot prepare either, then maybe we could at least preserve?

• Digitize all human knowledge and as much art/literature as you can gather (books, music, movies, shows, games, even porn and random YouTube videos and discussions on online forums :) Most of that work has already been done.

• Store it on the most resilient (and simple/repairable) storage media you can,

• Bundle it with devices that can read that data,

• Along with instructions for building/reinventing such devices, and instructions on how to interpret that data (i.e. JPEG and other file formats :)

• Also include a guide for translating the instructions. Assume that a future reader may not understand any of our current languages, or even be human at all.

• Put it all in a silo as physically strong as you can build.

• Make copies of the silo and bury one on each continent and in each ocean. Maybe even on the Moon?

• Distribute markers and maps to each silo (and instructions for opening them) all over the world.

• Let fate take its course.

All of this could be done by a few individuals and most of it won't even require a lot of money.

Building digital storage that lasts more than a few decades is hard.

See http://longnow.org/ and http://rosettaproject.org

We've constructed a society which is incapable of responding effectively to even ultimate crisis, and faced with that realization all we can think to do is devise a way to preserve the leavings of that dead-end paradigm. Very nice.

Others can and could still learn or be inspired, if not from at least SOME of the things we've made or thought of, then from our mistakes.

So these others will have some ability to learn from our mistakes which we don't possess now?

Wow. Maybe I'm overreacting, but that made my neck hairs stand up. This is serious.

There's a team of scientists in the arctic who have an unconventional but (possibly) effective idea to reduce/slow the release of permafrost methane. The Zimov's have a Kickstarter up now - https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/907484977/pleistocene-p...

I don't like what I'm reading here. Is there any expert here that could at least bring in non-panic arguments ?

That's why I keep hitting "refresh" on this page of comments, in the hope that someone with more expertise than I have comes along and tells me it's not nearly as bad as I take this to be (i. e., "we're fucked").

Still waiting, BTW.

Sorry, nope. The climate community pretty much agrees on this. How we will deal with the changing circumstances is wide open though, so there is some hope there. Given our history though..

edit: Here's a comment I made for released carbon due to permafrost melting (with literature):


There is some hope. We could geoengineer a giant shade structure to reflect sunlight away from earth. It would cost $trillions (twelve zeros) but it could be done with current technology. And it would cool the Earth immediately. Unfortunately it would do nothing to fix ocean acidification, which threatens to starve and/or suffocate us all.

I always liked that movie...

That "solution" fucking sucks. We kinda rely on the sun to grow plants and power life, you know?

Erm, it's not like anyone is suggesting "block all sunlight". We're talking about blocking at most a few percent.

On this topic, I've always wondered if you could make such a solar shade that hovers just on the far side of the Lagrange point between sun and earth, balancing radiation pressure and gravity. Does anyone know if that would be passively stable?

Not quite, something would have be done about lateral motion. L1-L3 are only stable along the axis between the orbiting bodies. L4 and L5 are local gravitational minima, but that doesn't help us here.

Here you go:



Edit to answer your question: No, it wouldn't be passively stable. But it could be actively stable with solar-powered motors to move mirrors, so it wouldn't need fuel.

Not in the deserts or the oceans, we don't.

We need light on the oceans for phytoplankton that release oxygen.

Here is an at least a somewhat optimistic take on this issue in that it's looking for mitigation techniques and IDing possible research[1]. I worked for the lead author one summer at LLNL right around when this was published, and I believe he's continued to work on aspects of this in the interim, although I must confess that I'm terrible at keeping up with people and am not entirely sure.

[1] http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/es204686w

Unfortunately, it's too late to panic. We could've done something about this 30 years ago. It's simply too late now, we're most likely going extinct within a century, and taking most life forms with us.

We've started a chain reaction that's now out of our control. There's nothing we can do now but watch it unfold.

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