Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Widespread and sometimes drastic marine oxygen declines (scientificamerican.com)
168 points by jelliclesfarm 24 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 145 comments

From what I have researched about conservation, it seems that our oceans are simultaneously the most important and most overlooked parts of our environment. The oceans house 80% of the world's biomass, and produce between 50% - 85% of the world's oxygen.

We can't see below the waves, so it's easy for us to ignore what is going on down there. Massive overfishing and acidification is having huge impacts, not to mention the falling levels of oxygen in the water.

You might be right, but damn does this world have a lot to worry about.

My thoughts exactly. I feel like a day doesn't go by where I learn about another potential problem that could lead to the end of civilization. What's a good way to stack rank / prioritize these issues to know what's most urgent?

I suspect you are seeing the result of a few generations of humans doing exactly what you are proposing and subsequently maybe (with effort) fixing the number one demand. All the other "future huge problems" have become the now huge problems and it doesn't really make sense to rank all the definitely going to destroy our way of life issues because they will all result in the same thing with a similar time frame (way too soon).

I have the same intuition. It’s not all that different from an old codebase that runs on even older (and disintegrating) hardware. You may keep fixing things, adapt to mildly new requirements, change a tape deck here, a consensator there, but eventually the whole system is going to come down and has to be replaced - there’s nothing we know that lasts forever in a self-repairing way, and that’s what’s going to happen to our civilization. Telling by the worms and the beetles my guess is it’s a matter of decades, not centuries, hopefully not years. The only hope is that we’ve wisened up sufficiently till then to renew without completely getting annihilated or being back at cave-and-sticks level.

Climate change has been talked about for decades now, and very little actually seem to be done. What is something you would consider a number 1 that was fixed? (I guess the ozone layer hole was a relative success).

On the drawdown website, refrigeration seems to be #1. Afforestation is up there. Family planning too. But supposedly we have to be doing all of these things on massive scale.

I was considering saying "nothing ever gets fixed" and toned it down to what I wrote specifically because I remembered CFCs.

maybe although I got to think that a lot of these environmental issues destroying our way of life way too soon are interconnected, and it perhaps isn't as difficult to rank them as it might seem when viewed as singular unconnected problems.

on edit: typo, changed out to our.

> There is a goal, but no way; but what we call a way is hesitation.

-- Franz Kafka

And it just occured to me that the following quote expresses exactly what I'm trying to say if you change "loving" to "solving problems impacting poor people and future generations, and not creating them by running away from other problems or just out of sheer selfishness or boredom". I put it like thast because it's already acceptable to "look out for number one", it's just the "irrational" stuff, having caring about people who don't even exist yet, as well as animals and plants that can't even sue us, that we are still having problems with.

> Because one does not see that love is an activity, a power of the soul, one believes that all that is necessary to find is the right object - and that everything goes by itself afterward. This attitude can be compared to that of the man who wants to paint but who, instead of learning the art, claims that he just has to wait for the right object - and that he will paint beautifully when he finds it.

- Erich Fromm

Yes, we need big solutions, of course this can't be solved by people just buying a little less and recycling. But still, I kinda feel it's weird to think assume we would do the right thing at large scale, if only we knew the exact right thing to tackle, when we aren't even doing it at smaller (and supposedly easier) scale.

Sorry for basically just posting a bunch of quotes, but now that I thought of it, it just seems too fitting not to:

> A tiger catches a mouse with his whole strength. A tiger does not ignore or slight any small animal. The way he catches a mouse and the way he catches and devours a cow is the same. But usually, although you have many problems, you think they are minor, so you don’t think it is necessary to exert yourself... So even though the problems you have in your everyday life are small, unless you know how to solve them you will have big difficulties.

-- Shunryu Suzuki

Copenhagen Consensus tries to prioritise "solutions to the world’s biggest challenges" using cost–benefit analysis:



> damn does this world have a lot to worry about.

Around 7.55 billion with something like three more every second. [1]

[1] https://www.census.gov/popclock/

Not to imply that population isn't going to be an issue (especially since we're likely going to flood a bunch of arable land in the next few decades) but if the graph "Yearly Population Growth Rate (%)" here (http://www.worldometers.info/world-population/) is to be believed, there's been a pretty significant drop-off in world population growth in the last ~50 years and we're certainly nowhere near the exponentially exploding population crisis that people were fearing in the mid 20th century.

The good news is that we'll probably top out around 10-11 billion people. The bad news is that we don't manage to live sustainably even with 7.5, half of which live in utter poverty.

I learnt from that that there are more non-religious people than there are catholics! I had no idea. (Most of my friends are catholics, I'm atheist)

Not non-religious, but other religions - the fact that only -+28% are christians might give some humbleness to those feeling righteous and above all in religious aspects (ie us vs those poor lost pagans mindset).

Since muslims believe in basically the same god it gives you 54% (jews are rather insignificant portion of population). It still means 3.5 billions currently (and historically over 100 billion) are breaking 10 core amendments and should burn in hell eternally (grossly oversimplified obviously).

You can't just bring rationality, common sense or critical thinking into most current religions, they fall apart like house of cards.

I wish there would be some new major religion that would only preach a single thing - be a nice, good person to yourself and every sentient living creature out there. Nothing more required.

>Not non-religious, but other religions

Not sure what you mean by that - you seem to be not very politely saying I got the stat wrong? I was referring to the line:

"No Religion affiliation (16%): atheists, agnostics and people who do not identify with any particular religion."

- which I think it's fair to summarize as "non-religious". (And 15.5% are catholic apparently)

edit: ..Although when I was at my most religious, 25 years ago, I didn't 'identify with any particular religion' but felt very close to a number of different ones - Hindu gurus, christian mystics, buddhism of various types, sufis etc.

Second derivatives will not save us this time.

There's a good animated video that explains this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QsBT5EQt348

> Not to imply that population isn't going to be an issue

Population is already an issue, this isn't some future problem.

On the upside, the dying process of oxygen deprivation seems to be quick and painless.


We’re always 10 years from total annihilation and destruction. You can worry your whole life (tons of people do) or go on with your life. The earth has dealt with far far far worse outcomes in the past and there’s no evidence that it’ll reach that in the newr future.

Problems were fixed because we did stuff about them. The abandonment of cfc gasses was huge. Treaties on fishing and hunting has saved tons of species.

Any single person can probably get away with not doing anything, and the problems will seem to magically go away, but they only do so because some people act. (And usually it takes a lot of people.)

"Total annihilation" may be a bit far-fetched, but what we are much closer to is global war, death and suffering for you, me, and everyone we know.

Just to cover one angle (IMO most likely one): reduced living space (sea rise) and food shortages will cause massive migrations. Think how the whole EU went basically insane over a bunch of refugees from Syria (and the aftershocks still threaten to shake it apart). Climate-change induced migrations will be much larger, and this time around actually backed by countries people are fleeing. Wars are likely. Proxy wars are likely too. And nukes won't be off the table either.

Even if you live so far inland that waters can't get to you, people will. And if you survive that, then lack of people will get to you as the global supply chain stretches to a breaking point and suddenly no one can make anything as all the components came from China. The lifestyle we're all used to depends on global-scale systems with single points of failure.

You're right, the earth has had worse and will be just fine. After all the earth is just a rock, it's not concerned about emissions or life.

It's not the earth anyone needs to worry about, it's the humans. We've not been through worse and our smaller challenges often have catastrophic outcomes.

We're always 3 missed meals away from anarchy too.

It's '9 meals to anarchy' - so it's basically 3 days.

There are plenty of versions of it with different numbers of meals and different anarchic endpoints. It's a pretty broad fact of the human condition.

We’re always 10 years from total annihilation and destruction.

I know people talk in hyperbole to make a point but can you point to any credible source in the last 30 years stating we are close to total annilhilation within the next 50 years? No one doubts the Earth will be fine. The doubt is whether or not human civilization will be fine.

I think an even better way is not even human civilization, of some sort is in doubt.

It's civilization where you get to walk to the store and buy a week's supply of food in exchange for money, and expect to do so the next week just as easily, which is in doubt.

> We’re always 10 years from total annihilation and destruction. You can worry your whole life (tons of people do) or go on with your life. The earth has dealt with far far far worse outcomes in the past and there’s no evidence that it’ll reach that in the newr future.

This got down-voted to hell, which is odd, because it rings true.

The "total annihilation" isn't even that hyperbolic. I've seen comments here on HN that depict our world as under imminent threat of global nuclear war, or that depict our world as suffering from a mass extinction (caused by humans) that will end all life as we know it.

I believe those statements are the hyperbolic ones, and one should be allowed to call them out for that.


"I have the story of a turkey that is fed for 1,000 days by a butcher, and every day confirms to the turkey and the turkey’s economics department and the turkey’s risk management department and the turkey’s analytical department that the butcher loves turkeys, and every day brings more confidence to the statement. So it’s fed for 1,000 days… "

Every day somebody was able (even accidentally) to start the nuclear annihilation of the whole world (hint: it's not "just a president" who can do that, but many, many more): the complex systems and the war plans are actually maintained in which everything happens in just a few hours.

Our statistics that it didn't happen yet is not a proof that an "accident" (oh, sorry, it was an error!) can't very easily happen any moment now.

> Our statistics that it didn't happen yet is not a proof that an "accident" (oh, sorry, it was an error!) can't very easily happen any moment now.

Observing a pond exclusively frequented by white swans in the past is not proof that black swans don't exist, but from that fact alone you cannot derive any reasonable expectation of seeing a black swan upon a random visit to the same pond.

The history-repeating argument, when applied to drunk driving: "so far I've always made it home without killing anyone".

I read a lot about history and the one common thread that appears over and over again is that history is only repeating until it stops doing so. So many cycles that must have seemed eternal to those inside have eventually come to an end. One day, every Cassandra will be right.

The history-repeating argument, when applied to astronomy: "so far, the Earth has revolved around the Sun".

Just to show that the history-repeating argument can be made ad absurdum both ways.

We have ample empirical evidence that drunk driving poses a significant risk of killing someone, hence there should be a non-trival level of expectation of this outcome.

We have absolutely zero empirical evidence as to what actions may trigger a nuclear holocaust, and we're currently not seeing any of the popularly accepted causes for the 5 mass extinctions of the past.

Doesn't the extraction of fish have a positive impact on the O2 balance?

I thought that overfishing the kinds of big fish we like to eat will just lead to a growing population of smaller fish and other marine life.

Fishing while selecting for big specimens and throwing smaller specimens back leads to the unfortunate result of us creating selective pressure for small fish. Those big fish have, when they are smaller, inefficient reproductive systems which means they have a harder time creating enough offspring in the wild. Even if what you are saying had anything to do with how things actually work (it doesn't), this selective pressure contributes to our favourite fish dying out.

Yes, the fish we catch will die out. Bad for us because we don't have any good fish left over.

What I'm also saying is that I think that other fish (or lifeforms in general) will take their place.

Top level predators plays a key role in balance and sustainability of ecosystems. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ysa5OBhXz-Q

I agree that taking one specific animal out of a complex system that had a long time to adjust will produce big changes. Killing the wolves allowed the deer to thrive. We wanted lots of deer, so that was good for some time. Now we don't hunt enough of them, so we need wolves again.

I agree that the oceans change - a lot - due to human influence. Some species will dwindle in numbers and disappear. It takes a long time for new species to emerge. But what I'm not so sure is that the overall change necessarily would have to be so negative in the long run.

I have always been 'happy go lucky' type of a person about my entire life. But, earlier today, from this thread [1], I learned that we have grown from 1 billion to 7 billion people in just 200 years. I knew we are at 7 billion right now, but holy fuck... in 200 years we went up by 6 billion?

This seems a little disconcerting, and not for the reasons you might think. I feel as though society is so caught up in the rat race (literally!) that we simply don't give a damn about what is happening to the planet anymore.

And I know there are a lot of strong characters on HN who love to talk their way out of any conversation, but what's needed on this planet is a massive awakening to the fact that you cannot expect to exhaust Earth's resources without paying a price for it.

It's kind of funny how even the tech industry (presumably smart people..) overlook the very fundamentals of supply and demand. We all know about the story of Tibet vs. China, but does everyone know that Tibet is a lithium goldmine? [2]

Let me guess... China "did not" invade Tibet for its resources... it was simply an emotional grudge! And tell me even more, how safe we are and ample supply there is for all the world's necessities...

The UN can't and won't do anything. And everyone who is 'using' these resources has such strong ties in the political systems that we won't see any significant change any time soon.

And you know the saddest part? This is all because of money and self-projected power. And at what expense? A planet that is supposed to be taken care of by its people?

This is the fundamental human flaw, exhaust everything until there is none left and move on to the next thing...

I can already hear the justified screams, "Elon will take us to the Mars!".

[1]: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19247821 [2]: https://goodelectronics.org/mining-tibet-for-electronics-raw...

> ...in 200 years we went up by 6 billion?

It's not because of we are breeding more but much much better health care, sanitary and less people killed in war. The growth rate is lowering, some countries such as Japan, Germany or Korea will have their population shrink a lot in the future.

> This is the fundamental human flaw, exhaust everything until there is none left and move on to the next thing...

It's easy to think that way, but environmentalism only started to have real traction in the last 50 years (correct me if I'm wrong). And during those 50 years we have achieved a lot: patching the ozone, reduce automobile pollution by having much stricter emission standards etc... It show that humanity is capable of learning and willing to correct their errors, not just a hungry species exists only to consume.

> It's easy to think that way, but environmentalism only started to have real traction in the last 50 years (correct me if I'm wrong)

You are wrong. In Papua and certain other islands it had started ca 3 thousand years ago. In Japan and Central Europe in XVII century, in parts of Italy in XVIII century..

Guys guys it's population! Definitely nothing to do with the waste products from how we source all our energy. But <nebulous authority> won't let us solve the population problem so I guess there's nothing to be done and thus no responsibility to do anything!

This line of thinking is morally abhorrent at best.

It might come as a surprise to you, but waste generated by humans and human population is intrinsically linked.

Why? We can in fact transition to perfectly renewable stuff for about 99% of what we currently put in landfills.

Of course currently a lot of the externalities are not priced into products. Most important of them all is GHG emissions.

All else equal, waste is linearly proportional to population.

Not all is equal, but in the near future, many more people will transition into more wasteful lifestyle than people switching to less wasteful lifestyle.

China is also full of bottled water from Tibet.

But. Fun fact. The cost of the invasion and maintained military (governmental, and of other kinds) presence is probably higher than buying lithium and water treatment solutions on the market.

China did it for the same reason Russia attacked Ukraine. To have more controlled territory as a buffer against "geopolitical aggression" (full out war or just friendly soft power diplomatic pushback against their totalitarianism). This made 100% sense for them just for the border control. The natural resources is just the cherry on top.

> I knew we are at 7 billion right now, but holy fuck... in 200 years we went up by 6 billion?

Congratulations, you're one of the today's lucky 10000 :) [0]. That's the exponential growth. It seems shocking when you fully comprehend its shape for the first time.

(Also a spoiler: "we're using more of resource X now than all our use in the past combined" is true at any point in time under exponential growth, too.)

People don't notice it in case of many things because it's a natural consequence of independent agents doing the same thing. I'm reminded of the story about bacteria in a bottle: on 11:00 you have a single one, their number doubles every minute, and you know that on 12:00 they'll fill the entire bottle. Q: at which point the bacteria will notice they're running out of space? A: somewhere after 11:59.

> This is the fundamental human flaw, exhaust everything until there is none left and move on to the next thing...

Wouldn't go that far. This is a fundamental flaw of life itself. Humans, in fact, are probably the only living thing on this planet that is capable of self-moderation. Life in general is moderated by death. Animals reproduce until they either exceed the food supply and start starving, or their abundance causes predator populations to grow (and they grow until they eat most of the prey, and then starve, starting the cycle anew) This is nature's self-regulation, and it's present at every level - from animals to bacteria. Yes, it would be best if we could moderate ourselves a bit more, but it's worth stopping and considering sometimes how unnatural moderation is, before condemning humans as some aberrant creatures.

> I can already hear the justified screams, "Elon will take us to the Mars!".

Oh come on :). Elon wants to take people to Mars so that they live happily on two planets, thus mitigating some x-risks like killer asteroids, or biotech fuckups. He never endorsed the idea of giving up on Earth. Settling Mars long-term ain't easier than surviving here anyway, and there's a huge overlap in technologies needed - especially if we can't coordinate internationally to unfuck the climate in the first place.


[0] - https://xkcd.com/1053/

Thanks for the constructive response. Appreciate it! :)

Thanks. I was looking for the xkcd, I think you posted it somewhere earlier. I saw it but I did not save it. I have been thinking about it later and thought I never find it again... :-)

Between the vested financial interest that are joined at the hip with political interest and the outright refusal of the majority of the population of the western world to make any kind of personal sacrifices to combat climate change, we are deeply fucked as a species.

The "non western / non 1st world" segment of the population have a lot of other things to worry about, such as "how am I going to keep a roof over the head of my family and put food on the table" even though these people often live a subsistence-type living, where at the very least some part of their regular calories come directly from small-scale farming / hunting / fishing, and they experience first-hand the impact of climate change.

As George Carlin astutely observed: "The planet doesn't need saving. It will adapt to the new paradigm, and continue to exist. The people need saving".

I strongly believe he hit the nail on the head, and we should really change the narrative from "save the oceans / forests / animals / planet" to "save humanity". It should be abundantly clear that in practical terms, nobody gives a fuck about saving the environment. Maybe they care about saving their children.

I really think that saving our species starts with eradicating poverty, ensuring that 100% of the global population doesn't need to worry about water, food, shelter, healthcare and education. I don't know what the best path would be to achieve this, but I have a feeling that if we would stop spending on warfare, significantly increase top-level corporate taxation and funnel that money instead to providing everyone with the basic needs, and combine that with a concentrated global effort on researching and implementing truly sustainable energy generation and associated heat removal we'd be off to a good start.

Unfortunately, when it comes down to it, we have not evolved much past the "apes with sticks around the watering hole" stage, so the chances of that coming to pass are statistically nil.

> I really think that saving our species starts with eradicating poverty, ensuring that 100% of the global population doesn't need to worry about water, food, shelter, healthcare and education.

Yes, but in the reverse order.

To be able to spend resources on any of that you need educated people who understand this. Who allow themselves to empathize with others, don't give in to their more-or-less innate xenophobia (and other kinds of ingroup vs outgroup hysteria), and so on.

Controversial opinion (which I read first on here). Try to dissuade poor people from reproducing to solve the poverty problem.

Not so controversial, in my opinion. I always think of the opening scene of "Idiocracy" and how true it is.

It feels like us humans are unable to solve the challenges ahead of us. One could argue the sort of effort and organization required to make an appropriate change would take a couple of hundred years, yet here we are with only a decade to meet the unattainable IPCC goals. Let's hope we don't see each other on the battlefield, in wars that are surely to come. I will lie down and die before I kill a fellow human being.

> unattainable IPCC goals

They are quite attainable, it is just that most people don't feel the urgency of preventing an extinction event or they feel like "individual change" is more important than societal change. (Eg, Extinction Rebellion is one subgroup that does get the urgency)

Those goals are and have always been attainable. We've just not put in the effort required. No goal is attainable if you are unwilling to work to attain it.

> yet here we are with only a decade to meet the unattainable IPCC goals

They probably are unattainable, but that's only because we (an electorally significant subset anyway) opted to sit on our asses for 30 years. The Kyoto protocol (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kyoto_Protocol) was the largest international collective effort and ignored by certain selfish countries.

It feels like us humans are unable to solve the challenges ahead of us.

Every significant challenge humans have faced in history has probably felt like that.

That isn't to say we'll definitely solve the challenges facing us now. We might not. It's just that how we feel about the problem isn't actually very useful besides being good motivation to actually try.

What can the average person do to help the oceans that is easy to understand, everyone can do themselves and the government can sponsor with money?

I'm thinking of something like planting trees: order a free tree (government paid) in the mail, pick a spot and plant it. * https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2018/07/pakistan-s-billion-tr... * https://news.globallandscapesforum.org/28687/africas-great-g...

Can we do the equivalent and plant a kelp bed or the equivalent for different ocean conditions? https://www.montereybayaquarium.org/animal-guide/plants-and-...

So, ship using fuel and packaging derived from trees or a form of carbon only to plant a tree to suck up said carbon? Does that sound right to you?

Educate others. It's easy to understand, but it's not easy to do. But that's the best bang for the buck activity you can do. Persuade those who stand in the way of the Paris Agreement, carbon taxes, and so on.

Stop buying stuff. Eat less meat.

When people say “stop buying stuff”, I don’t get it? Should we just let the economy collapse and not have anything of value?

If the “stuff” for example comes from recycled, fairly low emissions techniques of manufacturing combined renewable energy, who care? This is just generalising and it’s not realistic.

Ultimately burning coal for power generation and using oil for transport are the main culprits.

Eating less meat seems sensible, but it’s still not easy either, getting enough protein from a vegetarian diet is challenging for many.

RE protein. We need far less than we're led to believe. Unless you're an elite athlete then you probably don't need to worry.

I'm no elite athlete but I've been vegan 3 years. In those 3 years I've completed 2 Ironmans with no meat/eggs/dairy, no protein supplementation and no issues whatsoever.

Protein? There's 25g of protein in 100g of raw lentils. Cooking increases water content, but protein is not an issue. Especially for vegetarians that gorge on milk and eggs.

Still, eating less meat would not help at all. Biggest polluters and energy users are industries not related to food.

Individuals are not to blame for their consumption, unless we blame them for adjusting their morals to fit their immoral companies.

I'm personally not a vegetarian, more of a "reduced meat omnivore", and I am a big fan of all kinds of hummus, this weekend I made butterbean mash made with garlic/thyme-infused oil, and muhammara on top: http://iamafoodblog.com/ottolenghis-muhammararoasted-red-pep...

It's inexpensive, easy, filling, healthy and tasty as all get-out.

Along with pan-fried mushrooms and onions mixed with bulgur (also an Ottolenghi recipe), it was extremely satisfying.

It's a major problem that we are now eating the equivalent of the sunday roast every single day. We should go back to making big cuts of meat a rare treat, and make most days meat-free.

I also agree that individual action won't change much by itself, but we should still do it, and work to hold corporations responsible for their environmental conduct.

Which part don't you get? stuff means resources that needs to be mined, purified, transported, processed into some form, assembled into final product. All this employs tons of people but also causes tons of pollution.

> Ultimately burning coal for power generation and using oil for transport are the main culprits.

And all the stuff mentioned requires both. Huge transport ships produce more pollution than all cars of the world combined. But many like to buy 0.99$ gadgets from China, shipping included, right?

> Huge transport ships produce more pollution than all cars of the world combined.

That's not really true. They produce more of one type. (SO2) But certainly not more by volume, or by GHG content.

That said, shipping uses bunker oil, which is a nasty piece of work.

And we should transition to electrified rail based shipping, powered by nuclear and renewables. But Hawaii is out of luck, at least Eurasia can be connected to the Americas sort of easily at the Bering strait.

This comment sums up my sentiment well, we do a lot of destructive things by choice. We could just work smarter.

Don't have children. That will make a far bigger difference.

I hear this logic quite often, usually coming from some types of smart people. I don't agree - mankind future requires tons of smart hard working people to solve problems like these. To move mankind to reach other planets and eventually stars. If all smart people will decide to not have any kids, its a net loss for mankind down the line.

No poor illiterate guy in 3rd world country will think like that. They will have 10 kids, and their kids will have 10 kids unless eventually lifted from poverty. They are not going to fix these issues by themselves.

If you are afraid of long term commitment and dedicating big part of your life to raising a good balanced human being(s), that's another story. But if you are smart, well-off, you would do MUCH better for our future to raise next generation of environment-conscious citizens of this world.

Statistically you have a far greater chance of producing offspring who are serial killers than offspring who will solve global warming.


This seems bullshit. There are probably a few thousand serial killers, but there are vastly more eco-firendly people, who all are trying to solve global warming, and a lot of them are actually solving it. Every time they vote for a candidate that is eco-friendly, every time they make decisions that are aligned with the goal.

yet we don't live in binary lives and grey area in between has more shades than newest OLEDs can display

I don't think so; many western countries already have declining populations, but the birth rates in poor countries are still high. The world population will therefore keep growing until those countries have, idk, peace, stability, basic wealth, retirement options.


This is naive. Your argument is hinged on the proposition that rich countries will remain rich and poor countries will stay poor. Given the current economic activity, a shit ton of countries will become rich and their resource consumption will increase. It's not if, it's when.

So stopping immigration will help,maybe, in the short term but the earth doesn't care for what happens in next 4-5 years. The earth does care if resource consumption increases exponentially over the next century.

Or, why don't you instead move to a poorer country?

Since I'm guessing that you won't do that, how about reduce the 8.5 tons number down to something more reasonable in your own country? Why not make your country more like 1 ton, and invite everyone you can, so that carbon emissions are lower for everyone, and your own country is responsible enough to control that?

s_kilk 23 days ago [flagged]

An egregiously dumb take

Please don't break the site guidelines by replying to egregious comments. Instead, flag them, as described at https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html and https://news.ycombinator.com/newsfaq.html.


Please don't use HN for flamebait or ideological rants. We're trying for a different sort of discussion here.


And smoke more cigarettes, so you die sooner, faster people die the less they consume in a lifetime.

Long term viability and neoliberalism are at odds. Why do you want to invest in a company long term when you can squish it and buy another two more functional ones with the profits?

We are ripping planet resources for short term gain. I hope that out there are some good planets on sale, because in the current course of action we will need one.

> "As oxygen-rich regions become scarcer, current fish habitats will also shrink and force economically important species—such as tuna, which globally generate an estimated $42 billion annually—into new ranges."

Most of the articles seem to cater to that line of though. Think about the economy! Will we let the planet die if it was good for the economy?

I'm with you. we need to act even if it means the end on economic growth. Economy is a mean to an end not the end on itself.

I just don't know why people think infinite growth forever is desirable, or even possible.

1% growth annually is more than a doubling every century. Speaking on a quantitative level, that seems insane to contemplate.

Economic growth doesn’t necessarily means ressource consumption growth.

Every study that I know show that the dematerialization of economy will lead to a degrowth [1]. Moreover there are many non material things that we need but the majority used to be free. Having time with friends and family for instance. Do we need to turn our relations into a commodity only to achieve growth? Why are we so obsessed with growth that we are willing to exploit ourselves and the planet in order to achieve it?

[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3804739/

Of course it does. Economic growth always means growth in energy consumption even if it is more brains thinking, brains need food (i.e. energy).

I lean left and green as much as the next guy, but I believe markets and liberalism can and must be a part of the solution. The really hard part is to work out how to get the environmental externalities priced in. My personal gut feeling is that if we can't do that, we're screwed environment-wise.

That priced-in externalities are mostly missing from the current economic system, (and that bankruptcies of important organizations are bailed instead of fully played out), are two things that when fixed would make our markets so much more "free", that I can not really understand why this doesn't get more political support.

What would happen if we put the externalities to the level they need to be is that the local economy would be more efficient that the global economy. The important organizations are not "too big to fail" they are "to big to succeed". It's physically impossible to continue buying stuff from the other side of the world that could be done near where we live. Also we need to consume less useless stuff, invest in repairing and maintaining what we have and implement measure to greatly reduce planned obsolescence

I generally agree, but I think it's important to mention that factoring in externalities yields some surprising results on the local/shipped goods dimension. For example, in California, Chilean wines perform slightly better than local wines when it comes to CO2 emissions, and Austrialian wines are almost equivalent to Californian wines. This is due to transport in bulk by ship being much much better that by truck over land.

Reproduction permit auctions are incompatible with the current release of ethics. Also, pensioners insist that growth must not stop while they live out their hard earned sunset years.

> Reproduction permit auctions are incompatible with the current release of ethics.

Care to expand on that? I haven't thought it through very deeply, but are there some options that could be ethically acceptable? Reproducing until we run out of resources doesn't seem like a great alternative and I struggle to see that as more ethical.

Personally I think that monetary incentives not to reproduce could be a good option.

Well, rich parents for everyone! Mostly kidding, but it would be a side effect of "reproduction permit auctions" (until banks invent the parenting loan, then it would become a race to the bottom, poor parents for almost everyone)

Deciding who can reproduce and who cannot is generally seen as the most evil thing next to outright killing. Because it can be used (and was used!) as a form of soft genocide and because it goes completely against the individualism that derives from a non-collectivist reading of equality. That's like giving the finger to 300 years of progressive history. But reproduction controls are not uncommon in other/earlier societies. Strict marriage requirements don't put a cap on children per marriage, but marriage was often a privilege, requiring land, some lord's permission or just a hefty bride price. Of course those where all in the context of seemingly unconstrained growth headroom and the motivation was mostly child welfare (or just a show of power). Nonetheless, once progressive individualism had liberated is from those limits, the number of childless individuals has fallen quite a bit I think. (I'm not an historical anthropologist or whatever field would actually research that, this is just my personal impression)

So much for why the topic is such a hot potato. Particularly principled persons might actually prefer to knowingly condemn everyone to heroic starvation than ever allowing reproduction controls.

A look at Chinese 1CP (an outside, uninformed look but still a look, ok?): it tried to be fair, in a socialistic way. Everyone can have one child! But the most notorious side effects, like the mysterious case of the gender imbalance and the loss of siblinghood are not generally inherent to reproduction control, they are specific to their method of making it fair. But 1CP was an extreme measure anyways, 2CP and the fair way becomes perfectly fine I guess. Except for the issue of enforcement of course, basically unsolved.

This is where incentives come into the picture. But they will forever be at odds with the desire to avoid child poverty, it's difficult.

It's not hard to figure out how to price them in. It's hard to get such taxes put into law. A CO2 tax is very simple. Just add a tax to a fossil fuel as they're extracted that matches the cost of pulling the CO2 they release from the atmosphere. Now you only need a global consensus to actually do it.

I agree 100%. I live in Finland; our neighbour, Sweden, was early with carbon tax. Our tax/govt structures are otherwise very similar. Sweden's carbon footprint per capita is roughly 50% of ours.

You could place the externalities directly on an UBI (universal basic income). This would address a problem of redistribution of the tariffs income. France had the yellow jackets because people are tired of not knowing were taxes income go (normally to the very rich.) If we implement externalities to level of what IPPC advices there will be unemployment, but work like the economy is just another mean to an end. Right now the big problem is ecological.

Well, in the long term externalities wouldn't yield much money, and instead move allocation of capital to methods of production with minimal external costs.

It would promote the local economy (the one with less externalities). That would created meaningful jobs, jobs that you know have a propose. Yes we could not buy cheap clothing every weekend or go to a 3 day holiday in the south of Europe 4 times a year but we don't need to. What we need to live within the boundaries of the planet.

I'm sympathetic but we have been trying this approach for a couple decades and it's not working. I mean you're not wrong, but we're almost at the point of being overtaken by events so you might want to think in more dynamic terms.

Markets and liberalism have been failing so drastically for decades that fascism is rising across the globe. What evidence do you see that this is going to change in time to prevent unimaginable catastrophe? We all need to sprint lefter and greener before it's too late.

The evidence is to the contrary as you said. I just think that the only way to get people to actually do this is to let the markets work it out.

I'm not saying, at all, that the "invisible hand" will sort it out by itself. Agreed: that's ridicilously naive, or worse (bad faith).

I mean that if regulators force the costs of externalities into the market, things could work out.

When I'm shopping for milk, my local grocery has options like organic, and locally produced (within county). Which is the green choice? Soy milk is likely less co2 intensive, but then again it's shipped from across the globe. I do not know. And this is just milk.

I'd prefer the govt to tax greenhouse gases to oblivion. Then it becomes easy for me and others.

Why don't we intentionally oxygenate the water where ag runoff meets the ocean to encourage algal blooms to either act as food for sea life or to fix carbon by algae dying and sinking to the bottom of the ocean?

Ok that isn't the only issue, but it seems to be a big one.

We'll probably enter the era of experimental geoengineering pretty soon, I would imagine.

I think at some point in the very near future it would be better off face facts, avoid ag run off and tackle climate change rather than implement more hacks.

I can't help but think all the suggested hacks around climate change are a bad option. We never expected that burning fossil fuels would have such a potentially catastrophic effect on our environment. I imagine that many of the solutions will have similar unintended consequences.

Actually we did expect that. 160-odd years ago, people started to suspect trouble ahead and many decades ago, the writing was clearly on the wall, scientifically speaking.

revscat 24 days ago [flagged]

I fear we are approaching a time where the only means to stave off holocaust is for actions to be undertaken that would get one banned in polite forums such as this one were they to be openly suggested.

Please don't post grand ideological comments to HN, especially not the dark insinuation kind. This is the sort of thing that seems substantive but isn't. Plus it's flamebait and we don't want flamewars here.


Completely disagree, we could solve climate change with today's technology if the political/popular will existed.

I agree with that this is possible. Fixing our planet is a technical problem that is strongly correlated with fixing other things we need (water, food, energy). Basically getting rid of fossil fuels is part of the solution. The tech for that already exists and many countries are pretty far done with the transition to clean energy sources. This will probably take a few more decades but at this point it's more a question of when rather than if this will go to it's ultimate conclusion of completely eliminating the use of fossil fuels for energy production.

In that same time frame most cars will be electric. There are also signs that ships and planes will be running on a combination of fuel cells and batteries in the next few decades as well. So, basically the entire transport and energy sector are in the process of cleaning up their act and progress is very rapid there; driven by cost and other advantages.

The next issue is fixing agriculture. We've turned quite a bit of land into desert the last century. Turning that around is going to require a bit of out of the box thinking but it is not impossible. Apparently soil can capture a lot of carbon, which gets released when the land dries out. So the existing practices of abusing the land with mono culture crops is very destructive. User of fertilizers and pesticides kills the soil. Plowing and burning kill it further. Wind and rain erodes soil that has nothing growing on it. That's the recent history of a lot of newly created desert.

So, fixing this would be a big deal and there are some people who are arguing this is a reversible process. Doing so, would produce usable farm land in the and turn currently useless land back into productive land. And if you consider planned grazing as part of the solution (some people do), that would fix a sustainable source of meat as well.

So, there's reason to be optimistic. I do feel the incentives are wrong, all of the above is happening because it is more economical. Being cleaner is a useful side-effect but we should drive home the point that it is more economical. Making clean the obvious economical choice is the key to speeding this up. Subsidize good things, tax bad things, put a stop to bad practices. Some countries are still getting this quite wrong by doing the opposite.

More importantly, we should ask, should we? If the worst outcome is 3ft rise in sea level in 100 years, what’s the point of spending $50t+?

3 feet sea level rise is not the worst outcome, it's practically locked in according to NASA.


Note that we have been underestimating the long-term effects of climate change routinely for the past 20 years, and even then people are calling the conclusions "exaggerated" and wonder what is the point.

If you read some of the sources from Wikipedia, some projections estimate more than 2.4 meters rise.


Bangladesh is the poster child for rising sea level dangers. It's not just about loss of coastal areas (40%), but also increased salinity in drinking water, less fertile lands. People will lose their houses and starve.


Globally, the consequences are so spread and so complex that it's really hard to grasp. So, yes, we should do something. Unless you say you understand all the consequences and assume them, but frankly I would not believe you.

Sea levels rising is just one of the symptoms. Complete ecosystems dying, including many we rely on for food, is another. Extreme weather patterns including higher frequencies of devastating natural disasters is another. This isn't just in other places either, no matter where you live, highland, lowland, tropical, arid, you will be affected. What good is $50t when the economy that accepts it is going haywire as countless resources are "refactored" by the environment.

Do you enjoy breathing oxygen? If so, you might want to read the linked article.


You live in the oceans ecosystem.

I am also just baffled you would put some monetary tokens we literally made up as higher priority than the real, physical environment you live in. We will spend countless more money surviving and adapting. It will be an economic disaster as well as an environmental one.

The ocean produces 70% of the oxygen that you breathe.

Looks like the oxygen deprivation is already having an impact.

hmm, it sounds like you are trying to sneak a taboo topic into the discussion.

You know that the holocaust was the deliberate and methodical extermination of people, right? The word does not apply here, at all.

> does not apply here

It does. Because culling the human population by, say 50% in one step, would that lead to positive or negative effects in the context of climate change, ecosystems and overpopulation? Esp. if you choose the "right" half of people who are least essential for the global economy?

No one is essential. Not to mention, you think there will be a global economy after half the worlds population dies off? Like everyone will just go on like everything is normal just there are fewer people now? Societies would fall apart and rebuild over the course of centuries. Governments would be toppled, countries broken down. Infrastructure would fall apart as it was built for a different scale of humanity, now half of them are gone and the metrics don't make sense. It would be messy.

Germany was rebuilt after the war. Humans are resilient.

Definitely, I have no doubt we would trek on in some way or another.

> Esp. if you choose the "right" half of people who are least essential for the global economy?

You'd kill off 4 billion people who's emissions are more or less rounding errors instead of the ~1 billion responsible for the vast majority of them?

I’m sure it would be justified as a pre-emptive strike against people who will become a problem.

> Esp. if you choose the "right" half of people who are least essential for the global economy?

Could you clarify what you mean by “least essential for the global economy”

I disagree with using it as a descriptor, but the literal meaning of the word holocaust is something like "burning everything". So in the context of global warming it's actually weirdly applicable.

There's not going to be a holocaust, or mass deaths, or anything like that.

Even the worst case predictions do not predict that. The predict some species extinction, migration off the coast, and changes in the the weather - yes. But not "a holocaust" or anything like that.

Climate change could be a civilization-ending event. Even if the odds of catastrophe are low, say 10%, do you really want to bet the future of humanity on your assumption?

I'm worried about the tails. Recent revelations like the bug biomass loss should sober anybody up.


It’s like, right there, in the actual link...

>>>The changing climatic conditions, from temperature to wind speed, didn’t appear to impact the species.

I do truly hope insect biomass decline is uncorrelated to global climate change, and has more to do with local land use (farming, concrete, fertilizer, etc). That would mean we could make significant progress on restoring land-based insect biodiversity even with smaller community initiatives.

My point was more that this is a thing which has apparently been going on for decades...and we just didn't notice. What else might we not be noticing?

A whole lot that probably doesn't matter.

> migration off the coast

Do you have any idea what democracies are capable of becoming when faced with mass migration and resource shortage?

What are you talking about?? Mass extermination of life on Earth is genocide.

Technically, that isn't true.

Genocide: the deliberate killing of a large group of people, especially those of a particular ethnic group or nation.

Emphasis my own.


if it was important, govt would do something, instead germany govt just decided not to punish car industry for fraud and it's not pushing for higher taxes on cars in general... so.. it's not important enough to do something xD

On the other hand, Germany is in the top 10 for fuel taxes, so it's not like they are doing nothing to discourage fossil fuel usage.


(The USA is quite close to the bottom of the list)

Additionally, their gasoline price per gallon (converted to USD) is also in the top 10, while the USA is near the bottom (only Russia, Saudi Arabia and Iran have lower gasoline prices)


They also lobbied to keep lax testing so "dirty" cars can pass them: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/sep/24/uk-franc...

The carmaker lobby has a lot of influence on the German government, and obviously "jobs!" is important to politicians (if they want to remain in power, they'd do anything to keep their voters employed, if that means keeping the car industry running while sacrificing the environment...).

And there are still unrestricted speed autobahns because why would people buy BMWs or Porsches otherwise? Even though going really fast is really bad to the environment.

Applications are open for YC Summer 2019

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact