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Glaciers are retreating. Millions rely on their water (nytimes.com)
99 points by ra7 30 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 191 comments



Man, it is frightening to see how fast things are changing. I wonder if and how through things like that whole ecosystems will collapse sooner or later leading, amongst other things, to mass-migration

Side note: very nice and engaging format, just right: playful but not too fancy


"But it is only on the brink that people find the will to change. Only at the precipice do we evolve."

Quote from the movie/film "The day the earth stood still". (don't know if it's copied from the older film or some book etc...)

I did quite like that film (it was "ok", kind of advanced-mediocre) - at a certain point I was reaaaally hoping that somebody would state something like that, and a few minutes/seconds later they did => it made me incredibly happy :)


This is not just happening in Central Asia but a global phenomenon. I have visited Athabasca Glacier part of the Columbia Icefields after long time and you can see retreat which is happening at an alarming rate.


I visited that very glacier with my father. The historic extent of the glacier is clearly marked. That evening he still insisted global warming was made up for a political agenda, simply natural variation, etc. There really isn't much you can do to convince some people.

Also FWIW, I think the bigger concern in Central Asia is water security. I don't think Canadians will be in as difficult a position as those in Central Asia without them.


"Canada has 7% of the world's renewable fresh water", but the 85% of the population that lives close to the south border doesn't have access to this water as it mostly flows northwards towards the Arctic Ocean. [1] The rest is underground, glacier water or sitting in lakes.

It isn't as bad as Central Asia as far as I know, but it's still not great.

[1] https://www.canada.ca/en/environment-climate-change/services...


The global retreat of mountain glaciers has been well documented by climbers as well as geologists, and is one of the most obvious and easily understood confirmations that the average temperature of the lower atmosphere is indeed increasing.


They've been retreating for 15,000 years or more. At what point do we say "this is where they should stop"? The high water mark for inter-glacial sea level is quite a bit higher that it is now:

https://www.amnh.org/exhibitions/climate-change/changing-ice...


It's not correct to says that glaciers have "been retreating for 15,000 years or more." It's more accurate to say that there was a major global retreat of glaciers at the beginning of the current interglacial period about 10,000 years ago. But since then, while regions and individual glaciers have experience growth and reduction, the global balance has been relatively stable.

In the absence of human activity, we would not be seeing the glacial retreat that we are seeing now. In fact we would expect relative stability until the onset of the next glacial period--then growth.

And of course, we care about all this because the civilization we've built is deeply integrated with the current climate, and it will be extremely expensive and traumatic to alter or adapt, especially on timelines as short as 50 to 100 years. Cities that rely on glaciers for year-round water are thousands of years old in some cases. Most of India, for example.


Speed matters. It makes a big difference if a glacier field providing a large chunk of water for your city disappears over the course of 50 years or 500 years.


“I’ve been dying since I was 20 so what makes it special now that I have cancer”


50 years is still plenty of time to deal with that especially in todays society.


You're far more optimistic than I. What changes have humans made in the last 5 years that indicate we're doing to make a massive turn around? When IS it time to panic?


I wish someone would tell me exactly what it is I should be worried about.

I get that there will be consequences to climate change that's how it's always been, but nature throws that at us all the time and have always been doing that. If anything we've just become better and better at dealing with it.

So I wish someone could provide anything other than speculation here.


Since the dawn of civilization, what equivalent event has nature thrown at us?

Also, it's important to be clear. We are throwing this one at ourselves.


Where do you want me to start.

Earthquakes, tsunamis, animals, forest fires, bad crops, flooding, undrinkable water, tornados, storms I could go on.

It's really quite fascinating just how many people which I assume are normally rational thinking beings have decided to throw out any sense of critical thinking when it comes to nature and climate.

It's like Scientology. Lots of talk about science and then when you dig into it the actual science does not lead you to conclude what is claimed.


Yes, those are the usual things. Climate change will result in much more bad crops, more heat waves, worse storms and storm surges + rising oceans, lack of water due to glaciers melting.

You seem to have trouble distinguishing between "there was a fairly stable set amount of problems" and "there will be an increase in problems"

We were used to certain operating conditions for earth, and they're shifting rapidly.


Again you are making the same mistake as most other here. You are speculating not actually demonstrating this to be true.

You have no base for the claim that there are going to be more problems just like you have no base for knowing if we are going to be better to deal with those that come.

We have more crops than ever and we are better at making sure they survive than ever in ever more hostile environments.

You are only looking at one side of this discussion and forgetting the other.


It doesn't take a fancy model to observe "the glacier is disappearing. When it is gone there will be no summer melt water"

Yes, there are ways to adapt. But previously the glacier provided a free service and now we must soend energy to replace it.

It likewise doesn't take a soeculative model to observe "hmm, more plants die in heat waves. If it keeps getting warmer more crops will die"

Certainly we can motigste, but again we pay more energy for the same result.

It likewise needs no speculative model to note that storm surges now send water seeping up through the streets of Miami, and that if oceans keep rising, this will worsen.

You seem to be saying that we can't know anything about the future, and if anything bad happens we will surely adapt.

Your optimism is admirable but you would make a lousy general.


Again you are trying to position this as something new. Humans have dealt with this before. There are plenty of links in this thread here showing how it's been even warmer before yet life went on.

So again it still comes back to the simple fact that neither you nor anyone else have even remotely demonstrated that we should be as worried about the future as many would like us to be.

I am not saying we can't know anything I am saying we don't know what exactly it is we should worry about and whether we should worry and we don't know what the consequences of prematurely doing things like making fossil fuel illegal or focusing on an inferior technology like solar and wind long before they can provide enough energy and replace the current energy sources reliably is the wrong way to go about it EXACTLY BECAUSE there is nothing that suggest that the consequences whatever they are will be cataclysmic which means it's not actually an argument for forgetting about the peoeple who exist today and who also want live better lives, also want to live like we do in the west.

You and others seem to assume that hindering climate change is without consequences for people living today. I have yet to see a suggestion that isn't fundamentally about stopping what we are doing to some extent.


It's not wild speculation. The current best scientific models predict a future climate that will likely cause many of these increased problems.


Models aren't scientific in any useful sense of that word. They are software models based on math and only indirectly on science. This is why the model don't come up with one outcome but with a lot of different scenarios. If it was purely science all the way there were no need to do different models, "the science" would dictate it.

So you are misrepresenting how this works.

So yes the conclusions are based on a lot of speculation. The problem is that people like you try to claim that these specific scenarios which are only one of many potential outcomes is somehow science. It's not. Not even by a longshot.


Those are all rather localized and minor events that still can and do devastate whole countries for a long time. Now take them all (except earthquakes, maybe add social issues like war) and start gradually increasing frequency. Do you expect there to be a breaking point? What do you expect to happen when least lucky countries collapse and add refugee pressure on neighbors. Is there a threshold where dominoes start to fall?


This might be the point of disagreement... Let's agree to assume that many disasters, natural and social, have befallen humanity over its existence, and that some of them are going to increase in frequency proportional with the increase of CO2 in the atmosphere. Can we also agree that humanity has gotten dramatically better at mitigating the negative impacts of various disasters, and especially over the time frame of people who are currently alive?

If we're good on both of those, then I think the disagreement is whether we'll continue to dramatically improve or not. In other words, if we can drive the total negative cost (premature deaths, property damage, civil unrest, etc.) of certain disasters towards 0 by improving our response/mitigation capability, then it won't really matter if they come at an increased rate, the additional impact is a rounding error. If you agree with this, or see how one could agree with it, then maybe you can see why it's frustrating to hear people freaking out about climate change being an existential threat (it can be, given Venus, but that planet had no humans opposing it) which will doom our planet unless and only unless global CO2 is reduced (at some cost, perhaps partly of our species' ability to improve our mitigations fast enough).


Again how are those things different than what we are already dealing with? Less people die from extreme weather today, how does that square with your claim if the trend has in fact been increasing(hint not actually proven)


What level of evidence are you willing to accept? And how can we do anything BUT speculate on future events?


You don't have to speculate if you can prove it scientifically.

Yet this discussion is being had AS IF we are debating what is scientifically true when in fact we are debating which interpretation of the science we should prioritize.

If someone can demonstrate scientifically to me that it's a cataclysmic event and that humans have no way of dealing with it you have my attention.

Other than that I prefer to worry about the current generations issues not panicking and rushing to conclusions making absurd political decisions like we are doing today, btw decisions that won't actually solve the very problems they are claiming to deal with.


So the fact that, while the evidence and scientific consensus is overwhelmingly in favour of climate change causing issues for our planet, and let me be clear it's the mainstream scientific consensus, as we don't have a "this is how it's going to kill us" smoking gun, and we might somehow magically figure out how to save ourselves, it's a non issue?

Do places like Flint Michigan not make you think that maybe your hope in the collective power of mankind is a little misplaced? It's well within our means to solve that particular problem, but no one can be bothered.


There is a scientific consensus that climate is changing that it is heating up. After that it becomes more and more speculative. There is not scientific consensus that we are all doomed or even close to being doomed. There is a higher risk of zero that it will be cataclysmis but so is there of an astroid hitting earth and a supernova wiping us all out.

But it's mostly speculation and this conversation would be much more useful also for future generation if we didn't as we see in this thread here completely panic at every sensationalist headline and start asking ourselves some more constructive questions.

Again give me a concrete scientifically demonstrated consequence of those issues that we don't know how to deal with. I have asked my times in this thread yet all I got back was downvotes. Doesn't that tell you something?

We will always have to deal with nature whether, earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanos, floods, water rising some places and disappearing other places. Sahara used to be green.

Lets' stop panicking and start rationalizing.


So if you look at the list of consequences on a page like https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Climate_change#Human_health_ou..., you don't see any concerns?

And could you please define "don't know how to deal with" - what are the indicators that we should start to deal with something, and what is a successful example of "dealing with"? In the case of a catastrophe, what defines a failure and success for you?


No.

These are things that humans have always had to deal with and we are much better at dealing with them today.

The list of deaths related to extreme weather is down not up.

http://www.nws.noaa.gov/om/hazstats/resources/weather_fatali...

With don't know how to deal with it i mean show me something that we can't deal with. Drought, flood, etc. but which is also demonstrated to happen not just speculated can happen.

We can't solve problems we can't see. We have to solve the problems we can see and do that in a way that doesn't just throw everything out


That doesn't preclude us from starting to deal with it now.


Dealing with what and how and at what price?

Should we stop poor countries from using fossil fuels which is what they primarily are using right now?


There will be costs either for action or inaction on climate change, economists attempt to put numbers on both of those. Here's an editorial from Nature that introduces a recent study, as well as a skeptical rebuttal.

https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-018-05219-5

In this thread I've had a hard time figuring out what you mean by "dealing with" the effects of climate change, by mentioning "price" you give some hint that economic analysis. Do you consider this a worthy way of deciding whether to take action or not? It sounds like you've made up your mind on costs, but again, I can't tell.


> Should we stop poor countries from using fossil fuels which is what they primarily are using right now?

I mean, that would one thing we could work on.


So basically let them starve and freeze so you can feel better about yourself? Or what's your solution exactly?


> So basically let them starve and freeze so you can feel better about yourself?

This is a strawman argument, and you know it. The rest of the world is hard at work trying to come up with better ways to meet energy needs that have a smaller impact on our climate.


No it was a question and you havent answered it. How do we do that?


We come up with alternative energy sources and implement them, as we are slowly doing already.


If you are talking about wind and sun then they are only providing a fraction of what the world needs right now less than 1%. Even with unheard improvements they wouldn't be getting much above 5%.

Don't believe the hype.


But you don't know whether its 10 years or 50. You don't know that if you implement water recycling to replace the glacier water the amount of rain won't also change. You don't know if your city won't be inundated by farmers who are fleeing drought.


I don't know if an astroid will hit earth in 10 minutes either. Thats not really a useful way of living life. Guessing what the problem is have never been a good way to spend our resources.


There is little we can do today to prevent an asteroid impact, which is significantly more unpredictable than climate change is.


Please stop yourself.

We aren't debating climate change v.s astroid we are debating cataclysmic climate change vs. astroid thats quite a different discussion which is the whole point here.


Glaciers supply summer water. Regardless how you feel about how things "should" be, in practical terms, we have a strong vested interest in their ability to supply water year round, both for our own use and to support local ecosystems that provide us with services.

They have high albedo as well; their retreat is decreasing the albedo of the terrain. This isn't their most important feature, but they are a piece in the puzzle of keeping temperatures stable, and stability is good for us.

ThomPete 30 days ago [flagged]

Nature has never been stable especially not for humans so that's hardly a useful premise. If anything we have made it more stable because we are better at handling all the things it throws at us.

I would still ask those most worried to point to a scientifically demonstrated consequence of climate change we don't know how to deal with or that they believe we won't be able to find solutions for over the next 50-100 years or so.

Edit: It's funny how downvotes are being used instead of argument by people I assume consider themselves on the side of science.


You dismissed mass migration and civil war with a single sentence. You're either being intentionally inflammatory or in denial about how close to home these effects are going to be.

Humanity may survive, yes, but civilisation as we know it will regress to a large degree if the world leaders are as flippant about the issue as you are.

Software will not solve climate change, no matter how many startups you create and sell. Climate Change is a human lifestyle addiction problem that affects the suppliers of the lifestyle more than the consumers - until the number of suppliers start dwindling and then the consumers wonder why their coffee habit starts costing so much. Addictions and habits aren't easy to break even individually, much less for a whole society.

Rising oceans, changing climate zones, less arable land, fewer food resources, civil unrest, mass migration, resource wars, economic collapse.

(edit: the first three are things in the above list are already occurring, the rest are logical extensions).


I didn't dismiss them I just don't believe they are impossible to deal with.

Again you are just listing a bunch of things that might or might not happen without any evidence: 1) that they will happen, 2) that we can't deal with them if they happen. 3) when they will happen.

Yet you consider yourself the rational one.


Legitimately curious: how do you "deal with" mass migration? Societies don't deal particularly well with large influxes of migrants.


You deal with it as it happens. It's not like it will happen one day. It will also happen over time and yes create tensions. But the solution is not as some ex want to stop the moderns world and growth. On the contrary it's to make those countries richer so they can deal with the other consequences of a changing climate like the resto of us.

Again we are discussing the difference between accepting there are some consequences of the climate changing and then these catastrophist claims that the world is going to end and we can't deal with it.


Kif: It's an emergency, sir.

Zapp: Come back when it's a catastrophe


> Nature has never been stable especially not for humans so that's hardly a useful premise.

Sure, but making it more unstable is clearly worse for us. Sure, we have ways of making even the most unstable environments survivable (like the Moon!) but saying that we should just make things worse and hope that we can undo it in 50 years isn't a really good strategy.


Again how is the world more unstable?


Global warming increases the extremes of natural disasters, doing things like making deserts drier and creating larger storms.


But we are better at dealing with extreme weather. More people survive extreme weather than before.

http://www.nws.noaa.gov/om/hazstats/resources/weather_fatali...

I would really encourage you to stop for a minute and start digging into the data. You will be shocked when you realize how little is based on actual facts.

titzer 30 days ago [flagged]

You're being downvoted for trotting out well-worn and eye-roll inducing ignorance. It'd be one thing to approach this conversation with an open mind, but just stating blanket nonsense raises hackles.

> Nature has never been stable especially not for humans

Yeah, it changes on geologic timescales, i.e. thousands and millions of years. We've subjected nature to catastrophic shocks 1000x faster. It does not respond well. It collapses. We're in the middle of shit storm because of our own actions. It is absolutely not business as usual for Earth.

> I would still ask those most worried to point to a scientifically demonstrated consequence of climate change

We're not really sure how Earth is gonna function if the oceans are dead and there are no insects, and parts of it are literally uninhabitable for humans because it will be too hot to go outside (~130F).

> If anything we have made it more stable

Nonsense. We chopped down most of the forests in the US [1] to make farmland. Literally. My home state of Indiana was _literally_ solid hardwood forest 250 years ago. Take a look at it on Google maps sometime.

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

Edit: added handy reference


> You're being downvoted for trotting out well-worn and eye-roll inducing ignorance

Please do not break the site guidelines like this, regardless of how wrong or annoying other comments may be.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


[flagged]


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deforestation_in_the_United_St...

Prior to European colonization: 1,023,000,000 acres

Today: 766,000,000 acres

If that is too complicated for you to process, please take a look at the graphics on the page. Btw I don't do religion. Let's do facts instead.


In what world is that in any way supporting your claim that:

"We chopped down most of the forests in the US [1] to make farmland. Literally. My home state of Indiana was _literally_ solid hardwood forest 250 years ago. Take a look at it on Google maps sometime."

So 25%


Look at the graphic on Wikipedia from 1926. There were virtually no virgin forests in Indiana left at that time.


I am looking at your claim which was and I repeat "We chopped down most of the forests in the US"

That's factually wrong in so many ways especially seen in the light of your entire comment to me.


Look, if you don't understand what "virgin forest" means and don't want to actually follow links and instead want to argue endlessly hoping for some kind of silly gotcha, I'll just spell it out for you: yes my original statement that we absolutely did chop down most of the forests of the US stands; it was informed by facts beforehand and I provided them afterwards. You can read the gory details on your own time. Spoiler alert, forest grows back, but never the same. Lots of species perish in the process. It's incredibly destructive. Technically, yes, today we have more forest than we did in ~1910, making today's loss about 25% of what was there in 1600. But this is a long sidetrack; whatever in the heck you were trying to argue in the OP about us making the environment more stable, it's just plain not the case. We upend every ecosystem we ever encounter. I would recommend reading "Sapiens" by Yuval Harari. But at this point this level of discussion isn't productive, as you are currently burning karma all over this thread. HN is a nice community. Stop being a troll.


Nice try. Yet the reality is that you were not just wrong you literally made my point. We can deal with things also forest. 25% is nothing just like your “point” isnt a point at all.


On the other hand:

https://www.quora.com/Are-there-more-trees-now-than-there-we...

"There is just no accurate estimate of the number of trees 100 years ago, relative to now." --Jeanne Paquette, Mineralogist who also teaches some paleontology at McGill University (1991-present)

Maybe you should pick a topic with more hard data to argue about. Or is that too complicated for you? Nah, you just have an agenda: we're all gonna die unless we do what you say! Who cares about the truth! Truth must serve, not be served!


Those are strong words...

"In 1630, the estimated area of U.S. forest land was 1,023 million acres or about 46 percent of the total land area."

"In 2012, forest land comprised 766 million acres, or 33 percent of the total land area of the United States."

Source: US Department of Agriculture

https://www.fia.fs.fed.us/library/brochures/docs/2012/Forest...


Not as strong as this:

"We chopped down most of the forests in the US [1] to make farmland. Literally. My home state of Indiana was _literally_ solid hardwood forest 250 years ago. Take a look at it on Google maps sometime."

25% ish. Hardly most of the forrest in the US.


And how much of what remains is remote Alaska?


And how many trees are left in Sahara?

What's your point?


2019 - 250 != 1630


And yet all you are doing here is proving my point.

You take the most catastrophic interpretations as gospel while at the same time admitting we have no idea what the consequences will actually be.

That's exactly the point here.

So instead of jumping to conclusions like you are doing perhaps it would help if you started being concrete.

The quesiton still stands. What scientifically demonstrated problem which will arise over the next 100 years can't we deal with?


I at least am not trying to argue that we're utterly doomed. But wouldn't it be a hell of a lot easier to not have to damn every ex-glacier? To not have to build sea walls on every coast, and deal with year round hurricane & fire seasons, and desalinate massive quantities of water, and everything else? Yeah, we can survive on the moon and grow crops in Antarctica. But notice, most people prefer living in Palm Beach and cultivating the Midwest.

It's like with bees. Some people go, who cares if neonicotinoids wipe them out, we'll simply make a billion incredibly advanced miniature robot bees to replace them. Ok, sure, we can probably figure that out in the next fifty years. But that seems like way more of a pain in the ass than just cutting it out with the neonicotinoids.

P.S. the insect populations are already massively cratered. That part isn't wild speculation about 2100, that's today. I'm sure you remember the headlines about the study in Europe finding 75% reduction in insect biomass over the last twenty five years. Oh, and the year round fire season is here in California.


There are a lot of things in life that would be a lot easier if only they were different. The problem is that we are dealing with a wicked problem.

We need energy to survive especially being as many as we are, poor countries are depending on cheap reliable energy and don't care about the climate. They are trying to survive today.

So it all comes back to what the consequences will be of what you are going to propose as a solution.

If for ex. the choice was between making fossil fuel illegal or allow it to be used as it is being used today then I would definitely be choosing the latter so that we can continue to have growth and create the surplus to come up with better solutions.


You're the only one here proposing making fossil fuel illegal, and IMO anybody proposing poor countries bear the brunt of fixing this, doesn't take it seriously- one, yes, it's obviously an impossible ask for people living in huts, and two, they are only a tiny, tiny part of the problem.

Personally I figure we need a lot of things- heavy investment in sequestration technology, clean energy, and carbon free transport in the first world, but also clever spot fixes like the $1 grate for cookfires (https://www.engineeringforchange.org/news/a-1-insert-for-coo...) that could cook the same meal with less fuel in millions of households. Maybe someone will come up with a cheap clever way to slow down the melting of drinking water glaciers to buy a few decades. The floating shade-ball experiments in reservoirs to reduce evaporation also come to mind.

P.S. The barely-surviving communities you mention concern for are the least able to cope with the consequences of climate change. Desalination plants and robot bees are simply not on their list of options.


Let's not pretend there isn't a big group of people who want to make fossil fuel illegal.

And lets not pretend that whatever solution most people think of it isn't somehow going to be based on slowing down growth.

P.S. They certainly will be having big problems dealing with the consequences if they aren't allowed to grow and become richer and won't have access to cheap reliable energy.


What can I say, you aren't talking to those people.

The build-out of renewable power and electrifying everything in a matter of two or three decades would be superhero-level industrialism worthy of the legacy of WWII America. Solar panels & windmills need people to install them, and that new battery-electric F-150 is going to need a lot of people to develop & build it. Sequestration, too, will be a massive industrial works if we get it going, and synthetic fuel could balance the flow of carbon in the transit sector overnight.

That future would be built on a lot of American sweat & hard work. Plenty of growth, too. Frankly, I'd have thought that was something the country that rebuilt her fleets in like a year after Pearl Harbor & landed on the moon could get excited about.


Wind and solar are not going to come even close to solving our energy needs and they aren't as environmentally friendly as claimed.


They can certainly fill a lot moreof our need than they do today, and there is still nuclear as well.

More or less environmentally friendly than climate change?

I'm surprised for someone pro growth and all, you aren't interested in the opportunity to build all this out. Why not?


I am interested in solving the basic problems with energy which means finding a base source that fulfills the following 5 parameters: Cheap, plentiful, reliable, scalable and clean.

Only Nuclear solves that today but there is a huge anti-nuclear sentiment by the environmental organizations and thus politically against nuclear which of course is absurd as that's probably the only energy form that actually can deliver on the no-emission promise which is the one everyone claims to be so worried about.

I have nothing against wind and solar but they are just inferior to nuclear and hopefully in some distant future fusion and in a less distant future thorium but the current sentiment makes that even more filled with friction.

To give you an example of the absurdity.

This summer the weather was amazing in Denmark, the result no wind which in a country largely based on wind energy means they are relying on other countries to provide energy in this case Germany. Germany who also had a great summer and has been focusing on solar.

What happened? Germany used coal. And now that they are closing their nuclear powerplants that will only increase and is a good example of the consequences of a ideologically driven rather than a rationally driven energy policy.

Thanks but no thanks.


Adapting to this optimally is probably going to involve waves of dam construction; Not for hydroelectric specifically (though China sees Tibetan hydro as a huge opportunity), but just to ensure that there's something left of the monsoon in the dry season.

Adapting to this through an uncoordinated approach of sociological gradient descent is just going to see tons and tons of wells being dug, in a race for the deeper acquifer.


California might have a similar problem if the Sierra precipitation comes more as rain than snowpack in the future. One possible solution is to re-inject water into aquifers in high precip years and then pump it out during droughts. If it can be done politically (the tech already exists) then this is even better than dams for water storage as evaporation doesn't happen.

Currently in California people can pump as much water as they can from wells with no restriction. Some changes in the works, but until the person who pumps it in gets to pump it out or sell it, this idea will not work.


Luckily we are much better equipped to deal with any effect of change in climate today than we used to be when we also had even warmer climate.

In fact that's one of the things we've been really good at learning to deal with. Natures tendency to throw us all sorts of unexpected events.


If we're so good at dealing with things -- which I think it's fairly obvious we aren't -- why don't we just "deal with" carbon emissions and our effects on the environment? Why opt for the more difficult to deal with scenario?

ThomPete 30 days ago [flagged]

Thats like saying. If we are fairly good at dealing with a broken leg why don't we just deal with cancer.

I don't even know where to start.


No. That's like saying "Why go to the trouble of putting seat belts in cars, since so many people survive car crashes?"

Hopefully you'll see where to start.


Not really. How does that seatbelt work? This is the problem, you dont know.


So let me rephrase: you're saying that increasing carbon tax (for example) is a very dangerous policy because we don't exactly know how it would work out, but at the same time you are confident that our civilization will figure out solution to widespread crop failure, raising sea level, ocean acidification, (possibly) increased amount of superstorms, and a hundred million refugees spread across the world?

Of course all mega-large-scale problems look like achievable goals, as long as you don't pay too much attention on who's gonna pay for all that ...


With what?

Where have I said anything about carbon tax or that it's dangerous? That's not what I am saying at all.


That's the implication inherent in your commentary. To me (and possibly most people downvoting your comments), it sounds as if you're saying that we should deal with the symptoms and not the cause because we've seen symptoms like this before so I assume we can deal with it.

To reduce my position to a couple of cliches:

A stitch in time saves nine

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure


I am saying that neither you nor anyone else has given a single example of something we know will happen and can't deal with today. Not a single example.

What we see on the other hand is plenty of political attempts to try and force specific technologies in which aren't even close to being able to provide enough energy Solar and Wind being the most famous here.

They are going to be great as extensions but we are not going to live in a world where they provide the majority of the energy and thus they aren't fundamental solutions to the problem they are distractions and they aren't even that green.

Thats a good example of what happens when we try and solve a problem which we don't even know will show up and if it does in a 100 years form now.

The difference in cost between solving a problem with technology and methods 100 years from now should be pretty obviously huge and thus it make no sense when we can't even point to a specific problem but just speculate about it.

That's what absurd here.


We're quite literally already seeing the problem start to occur. Island nations are already starting to sink underneath rising oceans. Miami is constantly having to pump its sewers. Seasonal storms (hurricanes, for instance) are already becoming worse, and the temperature's effects are noticeable if you look long term. It won't take 100 years for the problem to show up -- it's already starting.


Scientific modelling has given plenty of examples, many of which have been mentioned here and you've dismissed them out of hand because, in your opinion, 'modelling' is apparently unscientific.

What other method does humanity have of estimating future effects?

If you don't accept the modelling scenarios then you won't accept anything. Continually asking for something that is impossible to provide is what's absurd.


Computer models have been giving plenty of examples of all sorts of outcomes. It sounds like you don't know how computer modeling or science works.

It's not what I think it's a reality.


I think various qualified folks might have something to say about that.

Yes, modelling gives plenty of varying outcomes, that's what it's meant to do. Conclusions aren't drawn on single instances. They're drawn from running many models with varying input assumptions and conditions, and then seeing what the most likely outcomes are.

There will be some outcomes that fall within the "nothing to worry about" range, but they seem to be very low percentage likelihood. Not zero, but highly unlikely.

Isn't that how computer modelling and the scientific method work?


I am qualified enough for that but if you don't believe me then you are more than welcome to educate yourself on the subject[1].

Climate computer models create a spread of outcomes each of them based on various parameters. None of them are conclusions they are all potential outcomes. The IPCC doesn't not just conclude one outcome they provide the spectrum of potential outcomes some of these outcomes have us come out just fine, others are catastrophic but none of them are conclusions.

The outcomes that are "nothing to worry about" are not more unlikely than the "the world is falling apart" outcomes and that's the point I am trying to make.

It's not rational nor sensible to prematurely solve problems that you don't know are actually going to be problems by introducing inferior and unrealiable solutions like wind and solar "just in case" especially not when those "solutions" are creating all sorts of other problems such as burning of coal when the sun is not shining or the wind is not blowing.

The irony of all this is exactly that by focusing on wind and solar i.e. inferior energy sources that will never be able to provide enough energy for the worlds growing demands we are basically ending up burning more coal and fossil fuels at the same time as the wind and solar not being clean energy sources at all. Not as bad as burning coal but still not really that environmentally friendly and hard to maintain.

But the world want's to be fooled.

[1] I took the most pro climate models article I know of. Now add to this that these models are trying to look 50 to 100 years into the future and you realize just how shaky ground we are one with these models.

Again what we can say scientifically and demonstrate is a fraction of what we speculate.

https://www.carbonbrief.org/qa-how-do-climate-models-work


You posted 60 comments in this thread, including all kinds of low-quality flamewar perpetuation. That's beyond egregious, and effectively trolling. Please don't do that on HN. And please review the site guidelines and follow them: https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html

I know what it's like when one feels like the lone voice of sanity taking on all comers, but past a certain point discretion and self-restraint are the only ways not to further damage the container here.


It is so annoying when the admin takes one side in a debate and warns the people on the other side, not to mention doing underhanded things like flagging comments without the possibility of vouching for them.

Quite despicable.


Not taking a side; I chided someone else just before posting this one. It's an irresistible perception, though, because seeing us moderate a comment one agrees with makes a stronger, more annoying impression than anything else we do.


That's YOUR argument.

Climate Change is cancer, and localised weather-based or natural disasters are broken legs.

In fact that's one of the things we've been really good at learning to deal with. Natures tendency to throw us all sorts of unexpected events.

Unexpected events within a relatively stable norm that humans have been living within for thousands of years. Climate change has the distinct potential to break out of those norms.


No that's actually your argument.

My argument is that we have become better and better at dealing with the potential consequences of climate change.


Can you provide some examples where you believe we have become better at dealing with the potential consequences of climate change.


Flooding, storms, drought, infertile land and so on. Death have gone way down not up


Yeah, fair enough, those things are certainly true.

I guess what some (most?) people mean when they say "the potential consequences of climate change" are those large scale, high impact, changes that we haven't yet seen.

Which I guess could be considered a bit of moving the goal posts insofar as we've dealt with everything thrown at us thus far, as we'd otherwise not be here having this conversation.

And I do, at times, find myself thinking things like "they've been saying [whatever] is on the brink of collapse for 40 years, and it hasn't happened yet".

Yeah, tricky hey.


That’s definitely not wrong. But at what cost?


That's true, 125,000 years ago we weren't good at this. But then again, there weren't so many of us either.


Climate change has affected society for as long as we have records, and even before that. Drought overthrew pharaos [1], the Romans experienced a little ice age that contributed to their fall [2] in the 500s, Mayans form drought in the 1100s [3], and climate affected Chinese dynasties [5]. Even some of the expansions and contractions of viking migratory behavior was climate related.

[1] https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/20...

[2] https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/how-climate-ch...

[3] https://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2012/11/121109-maya...

[4] https://blogs.ei.columbia.edu/2017/09/26/climate-change-some...

[5] https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/monsoon-climate-c...



In much more primitive societies. Again what scientifically demonstrated (not speculated) consequences of climate change are you worried we can't deal with when it happens?


Some places, like the US, can afford to pay substantial amounts for mitigation. It can build a lot of seawalls and desalination plants and probably even relocate Miami (or at least some of it).

Other places like Bangladesh, cannot. Its per capita GDP is 2.5% of the US's, is incredibly low lying and incredibly densely populated. A 3 foot rise in sea level would displace 30 million people [0]. That would make Syria's refugee crisis look like peanuts, its hard to imagine it occurring without millions dying and a regional war. Would this be considered something we can deal with?

[0] https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/guest-blog/the-unfoldin...


Yes, of course, we can deal with it. Just like we have done in the developed countries.


Because look how well the Syria thing has worked out?

I think you have a problem seeing the scale of humanity that could be affected, and the scale of engineering and infrastructure effort would be required to support relocating 30 million people. Bangladesh doesn't have the money to do it, and the US will be too busy working on the Mexico wall.

Unless of course you're only concerned about the species surviving, rather than a large percentage of the population surviving.

Even if we know what a solution is, there's an ocean separating knowing a solution from implementing a solution.


Is the world ending because of Syria?


No, but it's bad enough that the US wants to extricate itself from the situation.

The tip of the spear only causes a small wound.


You are mixing your political opinion into this which makes it impossible to debate this rationally.


It's inescapably a political issue, but my point wasn't based on politics, it was based on the complexity and duration of the situation. Highlighting that the time scales involved to solve these issues are longer than it appears you are giving credence to.

You could point to Germany as an example of a country that's dealt fairly well with an influx of refugees from 2015, at 890,000 refugee applications, but it takes time to process them all, it's far from a smooth transition[0], plus there's a human toll associated with mass migration that falls along a purely subjective 'scale of acceptability':

More than 5,000 asylum seekers died in sea crossings, either by drowning, fuel inhalation or suffocation in overcrowded and unseaworthy boats.[1]

The issues of integration into the community, work, language barriers, and other cultural differences will mean there will be a limit at which a population will tolerate an influx of refugees.

There will also be a limit to what governments can afford to provide to refugees finding their feet. Elections are already won or lost on refugee and immigration policy, with the 'more restrictive' policies generally being more popular amongst voters.

These things aren't new, but the scale has the strong potential to be much greater.

[0]: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-09-03/germanys-open-door-re...

[1]: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/refugee-cris...


None of those things are even close to being unsolvable though and that's really the point here.

I am being downvoted for not panicking which is fine and just shows how religious people are treating this topic.

With regards to limits, the cost of that is absolutely nothing compared to the cost of using inferior technologies to solve a problem we don't even know will be a problem in a 100 years from now.


Your arguments are very absolute.

None of those things are even close to being unsolvable

nothing compared to the cost of using inferior technologies

solve a problem we don't even know will be a problem in a 100 years from now

None of those comments ring true with me.


I don't eat seafood, but a lot of people around the world rely on it as a primary food source. Warm water cannot hold as much oxygen as cold water. We can already see that seafood populations are plummeting dramatically.


There are many other reasons that affect that not the least fishing.


Pointing to one problem doesn't mean the other problems don't exist. Multiple problems will have a multiplier effect on each other.

If there are five different reasons for fish population decline, and one of them gets worse, then the others may become magnified.

If commercial fishing is governed by quotas then if there are fewer fish in the sea due to population decline reason 1, then "overfishing" will become a worse problem without re-adjustment of fishing quotas. Re-adjustment of fishing quotas won't happen if there's a prevailing attitude of "we can deal with dwindling fish populations".


No one said that. I was responding to claim that made it about that when it's clearly about a lot of other things and thus the argument isn't as clear cut as it was attempted.


Not sure where the other guy said it was clear cut. He merely stated some facts about what happens to water when it gets warmer - scientific facts, like what you've been asking for.

The backhanded good news is that with fish populations declining, there doesn't need to be as much oxygen in the water...


I think that millions of people running out of water due to glaciers disappearing could be a bit of an issue that will, at the very least cause massive social problems. How much of North America is reliant on glacier waters?


Mass starvation, mass dehydration, yes those are big concerns. But they can be overcome. For water, for instance, desalination exists, as do pipes, as do pumps. It would be expensive, someone's gotta pay for it -- what are millions of lives worth? But it's a reasonably well-defined engineering solution that doesn't require new technology or better understanding of the sciences to create e.g. atmosphere scrubbers or whatever. I'm biased as an engineer, big engineering projects seem a lot more feasible than international political ones. If those political ones are backed by threat of war, that's also a lot more worrying to me on the prospect of ways the planet can be rendered uninhabitable.


Have you looked into the environmental effects of desalination?

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/2019/01/desal...


Not really. I don't see why it'd be any harder to overcome them though, especially for known classes of effects like "what about waste?" I'll defer to the engineer quoted at the end of that article that at least for the issue of brine it's probably not a problem.

ThomPete 30 days ago [flagged]

"here’s why that’s a potential problem."

The important word there is potential.


There's a potential chance of you dying if you play Russian roulette. Does that mean you'd like to ignore the concerns because of them not being certainties?


[flagged]


Russian Roulette is often depicted as being played with a six-shooter.

The only reason driving a car is more dangerous is because people don't routinely play Russian Roulette.

Which surely isn't an argument you actually want to make?


Sorry you lost me. What are you trying to say?


> There is an even bigger chance of you dying when driving in a car. Does that mean you don't drive the car?

No, but I am not actively going around saying that self-driving technology is useless because the fatality rate is going down already.


No one is as far as i am aware


s/cars/climate change/g and that's basically what you are doing.


And this has been scientifically demonstrated or are you speculating? When will this happen?



Yes, they are and they have been doing that before. But that was not the claim you made. You said it affect our ability to get water.


Millions of people around the world use glaciers to get their drinking water. It's pretty easy to see that those disappearing would affect their ability to get water.


We can deal with that so while it might effect it that doesn't mean they won't be able to get access to water. That's one thing we've become better and better at making drinkable.


Making it harder to get water that we previously got for free is not a great solution. Making drinkable water or moving it fundamentally requires time, energy, and money.


We've never gotten water for free. All resources come at a cost.

The water in your tap is not free. Again. Please try and stop just for a minute and rethink your position.


> The water in your tap is not free.

But it sure is a lot cheaper than trying to desalinate the ocean water next to me.

> Please try and stop just for a minute and rethink your position.

On what? I am struggling to see your argument here. We have an issue that you are claiming doesn't need to be solved, and are trying to convince people to ignore, and I am repeatedly providing you with evidence that there is this is a real issue that at the very least would have some impact on us. Trying to "fix" the issues we cause 50 years in the future is going to be much, much more difficult than trying to improve today.


My point is that you arent actually making an argument here, just saying things that doesent support your claim.


https://www.21stcentech.com/climate-change-impact-worlds-maj...

The North Saskatchewan has lost 40% of its volume and continues to decrease.


And it started in the 50'es long before humans had any impact.



Again yes and so what? What are the scientifically demonstrated consequences of that acceleration that we can't deal with? Why is it so hard for you or any other to answer that simply question? I of course know the answer but it's quite astounding that you don't stop just for a second to reflect on whether you position is as grounded in science and how much of it is based on speculating on top of that science.


> What are the scientifically demonstrated consequences of that acceleration that we can't deal with? Why is it so hard for you or any other to answer that simply question?

If it's happening in the future and a novel event it's going to be speculation.

> I of course know the answer but it's quite astounding that you don't stop just for a second to reflect on whether you position is as grounded in science and how much of it is based on speculating on top of that science.

Please explain then, with links to all the relevant scientific information required to demonstrate that your understanding of the issue is the correct one.


How can I prove a negative?

My point is that there ISN"T a scientifically demonstrated consequence of climate change that we can't deal with.

So far neither you nor anyone else have provided something which is scientifically demonstrated to be happening and which we can't deal with.

I am not the one claiming. You and others are.


I of course know the answer

You will then, of course, share that answer with us, in detail, with the same kind of scientific proof that you are asking for.


So, the evidence suggests climate change causes societal collapse?


The evidence suggests that the parent commenter was wrong when indicating that the last significant climate change happened 125000 years ago.


No, the last time this earth was this hot was that long ago.


And yet life managed to persist despite being much more primitive.


yes "life" did. Lots didn't. If climate change ends up being the worst end of that reported of what "might" happen. Life would still survive. Millions / billions of humans will not.


Primitive life. We are much better equipped to deal with it, that's the point.

Again what are you basing the claims of millions/billions on cause it's certainly not science?


In none of those cases were the effects global and permanent.


I get the "global" part, but what makes you think the current climate change will be permanent?


Permanent in terms of all the people who otherwise would remain alive, who instead will be dead.


Climate change doesn't affect the world the same way globally and never have.


[citation needed, because fossil records seriously conflict with your statement]


Precisely. I couldn't agree with your point more wholeheartedly. Why, only last winter I solved my own personal encounter with climate change by playing the travel-insurance card when nature couldn't be counted on to guarantee my ski vacation. We as a society should buck up and similarly snap our fingers at this little bump in our existence. Show some fortitude, humans! Less hand wringing and more hand waving!


The migration of a few thousand people from Central America to the U.S. border was treated like a national crisis last year.

Imagine what the social and political reaction is going to be when millions flee the equatorial regions due to heat and sea level rise.


To be fair, the migration of a few thousand people was treated like a national crisis because it behooves both the people in power and the news media for the world to perpetually be in a state of crisis.


Seemingly with the exception of if it's a position supported by science.

:)


last year?


Can you provide evidence to this claim? How exactly are we equipped to deal with what in particular, to what extent and for how long?

Such dismissive optimism needs to be either justified or smothered, unless you forgot a /s of course


Can you give me an example of a scientifically demonstrated (not just speculated) consequence that we don't know how to deal with?


Mass migration and civil war.


Yeah, we've only been dealing with those for 10,000 years. /s


And it causes misery and costs lives. Personally, I don't find "it won't be a mass extinction event" to be a convincing argument to ignore climate change.


Who is talking about ignoring it?


Alright, I'll probably get warned or downvoted for this, but here it goes...

Stop sea-lioning.


What about you start actually commenting on things I have said rather than just making things up?


You seem to think the solution is to make things worse:

> Yes and the best way to do that is to make poor nations richer which requires growth which will require more energy and thus more emission of CO2 (https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18926331)

That's even worse than ignoring it.


No my solution is to look at both the positives and the negatives and since you or anyone else haven't been able to show a single piece of scientifically demonstrated evidence that the consequences are going to be impossible for us to deal with then I choose to prioritize poor nations chance to grow more wealth over unproven, unscientific and hysterical speculation.


The planet is much more crowded now and every piece of land is claimed by someone as owner. A mass migration won't be pretty. Just look at the Syria refugees and scale that up by lot.


Not very well we haven't.


We have that throughout history and even today and yet we are still around. So again if that is what we are talking about I really don't see what exactly I should be so worried about.


You don't think we should try to avoid situations that will cause mass displacement and war, potentially on an unprecedented scale?


Yes and the best way to do that is to make poor nations richer which requires growth which will require more energy and thus more emission of CO2.


Humanity has always been well equipped to hide from difficult questions.


Are we?

First, weren't those past changes much slower, thus giving much more time to adapt?

Second, wasn't the world much more sparsely populated, meaning that if your area's ecosystem changed it was often feasible to migrate to a most hospitable currently unoccupied area?

Third, if they did migrate to someplace that was already occupied and those already there objected, nobody had weapons of mass destruction. At worst, one group would genocide the other, but it wouldn't spread beyond the disputants.

If a climate change induced resource problem leads to war in our times there are weapons of mass destruction, and those wars could be very devastating and draw in others.


The climate change that contributed to the fall of the Roman empire was relatively quick [1].

[1] https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/how-climate-ch...


I will also ask you to provide an example of a scientifically demonstrated consequence of climate change we don't know how to deal with.

Climate change is a fact of life and we have always had to deal with it. Nature doesn't give us an environment we make dangerous, nature gives us a dangerous environment we then make safe.

I am personally more concerned about a lot of other things before climate change even enters my list.


> I will also ask you to provide an example of a scientifically demonstrated consequence of climate change we don't know how to deal with.

You'll have to define "deal with". How many billions dead is a success?


It's gonna be a bitch not getting anything to eat because Earth won't grow our crops anymore because we done fucked up all of its life support systems and it's just too damn hot outside.


You actually think you are contributing to the demise of the entire human race. You are so lost in apocalyptic despair that you are not thinking rationally.

So much technology, the pace of development accelerating exponentially, so much having happened in just the last 100 years compared to the past thousands of human history, and all you can see is death and destruction looming.

The real problems facing humanity are the ones that have always been, and always will be, with us.

Get a grip. Go outside, take a deep breath of some fresh air, and try to enjoy the few years you have on this beautiful planet. Try to make a difference where you are, when you are. The rest isn't up to you or anyone else.


More CO2 = higher crop yields.

Higher temperature = more arable land.

Your beliefs are not scientifically valid.


I would suggest you consider that issue may be more complicated than a single variable. While it make for great back and forth on an HN thread and wonderful, cathartic gotcha moments, (perhaps I also feel this urge), it really is a complicated issue, and pretty much all signs point to climate change as being a very disruptive, likely cataclysmic change to the entire planet. Ecosystems don't respond to rapid, catastrophic changes well. Loss of biodiversity--losing a link in the food chain--tends produce shockwaves through the entire system, which can lead to collapse.

E.g. https://phys.org/news/2015-06-tide-pools-rapid-die-off-sea.h...


Yes it's more complicated than a single variable something you too should keep in mind.


So many adjectives, so few facts.


Higher temperatures also lead to desertification, smaller land area through sea level rise, and more extreme weather events. It's a complicated situation to predict, and it would be wrong to say it comes with no opportunities, but it looks like averting the situation, even partially, is going to be far less painful than dealing with the effects.


That certainly depends on what you are going to do to prevent it.




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