Well, that's definitely a scary framing. Does anyone have sources for this specific prediction?
Aside from launching his (for-profit) climate fund, (for-profit) vc investments, and funding research, I'd be very interested in more details on how the money will be used.
Meanwhile from what I understand from talking with some friends in agricultural engineering in places like California where farmers expect to be pushed off their land eventually by rising land prices they are using destructive practices to extract as much as they can before they go defunct.
The USDA is offering incentives for good soil stewardship and the 2018 Farm Bill featured a number of soil health policies, such as restrictions on pesticides and a soil carbon pilot program: https://www.nrdc.org/experts/mae-wu/final-farm-bill-blossoms...
Assuming the land is going to be used for non-agricultural uses (residential/commercia, covered in some material in some way) and "destructive practices" means over-farming, but not otherwise polluting or causing damage, I'm not sure I see a problem with that (but I may not be thinking of some consequences).
Then again, that's a lot of assumptions...
Current world population about 7B, 0.001 of that is 700,000. That's less than the population of San Francisco.
If we do this with just the US population, you get about 3000.
There’s a lot of solid scientific evidence out there for soil repair as carbon sequestration; in fact the appendix of the IPCC report that shook the world last year lists soil repair as one of the top things we can do to address climate change.
I have never been to Egypt, and maybe I have a distorted view of the situation there, but I don't understand how it can sustain a population of 100 millions, on basically a thin strip of arable land around the Nile surrounded by a huge barren desert. It can not be sustainable.
Secondly, due to the climate they also get two-three harvests per year.
There are arguments from both sides:
Also worth remembering that something as complex as the Syrian Civil war is bound to have multiple causes.
has that quoted figure and references this: 2 D.R. Montgomery, Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations, University of California Press, 2007.
Such a vague assertion leaves me with more questions than it resolved. Topsoil should properly be measured in volume, not distance. Presumably they mean a given area will gain three centimeters in 1,000 years, but what area and under what conditions? There are some environments with zero topsoil and some environments with quite a lot of topsoil, so is that "three centimeters per 1,000 years" figure a global average for natural topsoil renewal? I can't imagine how that's a valid measure of anything. You'd have massive regions totally devoid of topsoil like the Gobi Desert dragging down global averages.
And what about anthropogenic topsoils? Maybe one of the most famous examples is terra preta in the Amazon, which not only is madmade but reportedly regenerates itself at a rate of 1 centimeter per year (a few hundred times faster than that "3 centimeters per century" figure..)
Maybe this is true under "natural conditions" (however you want to define those). But intentional farming practices can produce this much top soil every year. The problem is that few farmers use those practices. But I do, and I can tell you that planting green fertilizers and nitrogen-fixing cover crops, and then plowing them under, will produce pretty good topsoil very quickly.
Source: Farming & gardening background in the midwest.
Presumably topsoil generation is proportional to land area, and volume per unit area reduces to distance. 3 cm per 1000 years is equivalent to 30 m^3 per km^2 per year.
That said, the number still seems wrong. Table 5.2 in  indicates that regeneration rates range from 0.25 mm/year to 2.0 mm/year. 3 cm per 1000 years is equivalent to 0.03 mm per year, almost an order of magnitude lower than the lowest rate in that table.
Should it though?
And regardless of how clear or unclear that is, I gotta say I dislike seeing when the sum of a multitude of reports is expressed in a headline, only for people to nitpick through it without even attempting to check the actual methodology for themselves.
1 cm/year is 33 times faster than 3 cm/100 years, not a few hundred times faster.
AFAIK terra preta is far from fully understood, and farther still from being widely used. Very cool stuff though.
The article is crap, it doesn't answer any of my questions. You think I didn't check it before I commented? It quotes Maria-Helena Semedo throwing out that figure without any clarifying context or explanation. Without saying where it came from or what it's actually a measurement of.
Also, three centimeters per one thousand years is much slower than three centimeters per century.
I don't see volume being very natural reporting unit as farming usually counts by area, so reporting a total volume just forces everyone to convert to length themselves.
You want more details, read the Status of the World’s Soil Resources report: http://www.fao.org/3/a-i5199e.pdf
The problem with that UN official quote is the area being talked about is poorly defined. Is it the global average for all farmland, or the global average of all land area (including Antartica?) The official doesn't clarify, but it matters because if it's the later that number is obviously being suppressed by regions that lack topsoil and were never considered arable in the first place. How long does it take the sand dunes of Gobi desert to create a centimeter of top soil? And I'm sure permafrost regions create new topsoil at an absolute snails pace if at all (although global warming might change this!) It seems obvious that regions like this will make that global average number seem a lot more dire than the situation actually is.
Don't get me wrong, I'm confident that topsoil erosion is a real problem that needs to be addressed. But I think that number; without the official providing any clarification, justification or context for it; qualifies as alarmism. It's obviously not going to take farmers 1,000 years to regenerate three centimeters of top soil on their fields.
It hasn’t been scientifically validated. Anecdotal reports from farmers like Mark Shephard are that it works. 
Ridiculous claim made by "UN official". Sad state of modern journalism. Are we 6 cm away from discovering Roman artifacts in any of the fields across Europe? Or we have to dig a bit deeper?
Not anyone who ever had a large compost pile in the backyard...
I read somewhere that the energy required to produce a unit of basic food products (say, wheat) has been multiplied multiple times over the last centuries because of overuse and pollution - despite the high efficiency of current machines and chemical fertilizers. I can't find the source but would be glad to find it or a refutal.
I bookmarked this NY Times article years ago:
"Can Jeremy Grantham Profit From Ecological Mayhem?"
That title puts his position in a bit different light. I haven't read this one yet but it would be interesting I guess to diff the two articles to see what has changed over the past 7-8 years.
Check out [This Changes Everything](https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/21913812-this-changes-ev...).
While many will disagree with the take that capitalism & prosperity is incompatible with counteracting climate change, she does identify some real problems with cap & trade schemes. It is inconvenient that meeting global emissions targets will require significant lifestyle change in developed countries.
The alternative to lifestyle change is massive ecological damage. Therefore, this is what will happen, as we're not about to give up pickup trucks and rapid growth just because someone will have to pay big interest on it later. So the real deficiency of the book is the idea that we will somehow have a revolution of equality.
The style is also a bit over rich. There is a failure to even mention, let alone examine, renewable energy growth.
I'm not asking for a detailed critique, but what, in your opinion, is a good book discussing the intersection between capitalism and climate change?
The key sentence, buried halfway through the article...
I agree the lede was buried, but don't have any trouble with Grantham making a boatload of money helping solve big problems.
I don't know what the form of such investments would take but can think of a simple one being investing in real estate northern regions where temperatures are currently too cold to support agriculture. Possibly an investment in water desalination plants would also see a gain from climate change.
I'm sure there are many more better examples, my concern is that for every billionaire looking to save the world, there is another looking to make a buck off its collapse.
So what happens when more of these profateers decide to use their vast fortunes to tip the scales further towards the collapse rather than salvation?
i was taking the practical view that in most cases, the underlying options are reasonably priced and volatility is not highly unusual, so the practical upside is small at best. it's easy for the non-professional investor to lose money on these because you really need some extraodinary non-public information to exploit them.
It doesn't seem intuitive but there it is.
Also the financial term I was thinking of I believe is called "Futures" and it is used to protect against large swings in currency values between countries. Inverters exploit this through arbitrage.
you don’t need them for currency arbitrage. you just need very fast connections to multiple currency markets, low transaction costs, and mispriced exchange rates.
it’s riskless because the money itself is mispriced and you can buy it for one price (in your own currency) and sell it for another all in one transaction. you get the difference for free. that’s what makes it riskless and that’s what makes it arbitrage.
keep reading those investopedia articles, it’s all in there somewhere!
Or, the race between the cause coming up with ways to fight and adapt to the effect.
It's possible that human beings are the problem and climate change is the "solution".
Has anyone else had that sort of intellectual journey, where you discover libertarianism, you learn all the tropes, you feel very confident, and then after a while you pull back a bit after finding a few issues? And I suppose on the other side of the spectrum as well?
I hold that the government's primary role with regulating markets is to aid in the pricing of positive and negative externalities. In particular, a focus on pricing in and intervening for "harms" seems to be philosophically consistent (enough) for me.
Reading the Wealth of Networks probably helped to.
I guess I’m even more left now. But really I think it’s time for a synthesis of the left/right ideologies.
For most people, that transition happens between the teenage years and adulthood.
No, I don't think it does. Certainly, you'll often encounter people going through the first phase of it (the discovery of and infatuation with libertarianism) in, say, the first couple years of college, but I don't think most people go through the whole arc (or even the first part) at all, much less most people going through it in the age window you describe.
But let me say, is anyone else just slightly suspicious (don’t have to change your minds though and I agree with the science here) that investing billionaires, people who give truth to the saying “behind every great fortune is a great crime”, would actually be interested in the best possible thing for the world? Doesn’t that sound a little bit suspicious, like a hint from a life that something is afoot?
I think it might be healthy to introduce some doubt into the claims of billionaires no matter what they might be.
However. He just turned 80 and realized there's only so much he can do before he dies and that seems to have focused his priorities. A couple of quotes from the article:
> Grantham turned 80 on Oct. 6. Asked how this milestone shifted his perspective, he pauses. “There’s no quick one-liner on aging,” he says. “We know this is an urgent topic, and I know I don’t have that long to do it.”
And Grantham would probably even agree with you that we should be suspicious of capitalist interests:
> Climate change, politics, and capitalism became frequent topics of Grantham’s quarterly letters. In his view, the U.S. has been pushed into the grip of an unhealthy version of capitalism, one in which corporations put profits way ahead of all other considerations. “The social contract of 1964, when I arrived here, has been totally torn up,” he says. “Anything that happens to a corporation over 25 years out doesn’t exist for them. Therefore, grandchildren have no value.”
But even more important, your comment hints at the conflict between profit and ecological health, and I think it's the role of government to realign things so that they aren't in conflict — set up regulation so that if you follow them, what you do is genuinely good. From the article:
> While capitalism “does a million things better than any other system,” he says, it fails completely on long-term threats such as climate change. “You must not expect unnecessary good behavior from capitalists,” he says. The answer, he adds, is strong regulations: “I’m sorry, libertarians, it is the only way.”
I think that you might be on to something...
Grantham seems pretty personally committed to environmental sustainability for its own sake.
That's why non-profits hire people to help reach their goals.
Is it good or bad to set yourself up to profit from that?