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[flagged] A Climate Change Paper So Depressing It's Sending People to Therapy (vice.com)
62 points by eaguyhn 17 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 85 comments

This article raises a lot of suspicion, and it has many of the hallmarks of bad reporting.

- The Vice piece is shallow and didn't investigate the claims and arguments of the cited article (And what's with the authors photo? Is Zing Tsjeng really serious about this?);

- The author of the paper, Jem Bendell, is not an academic in climate science nor in sustainability, but in "Sustainability Leadership", a field in Management;

- The paper reads like an opinion piece.

- The paper, as provided in the author's website, makes reference to the journal to which it was intended in the past tense, which raises the question of whether it is the original or an edited version;

- Many of the references cited in the paper are from news websites, and only a few are proper scientific articles: I was expecting a lot, lot more;

And the worst red flag of them all:

- After being rejected by a not exactly relevant yet serious journal, the author made it public nonetheless, hinting at some form of censorship of an inconvenient opinion.

It's Vice that's all you need to know these days, this isn't journalism period.

For further context, Jem Bendell is one of the founding members of the political activist group "Extinction Rebellion."

Don't let tales of a collapse of civilization lead to an immediate collapse of your judgement and focus.

This article is full of doom and gloom. Many predictions are made, and they are conveniently quoted as someone else's:

"Some of the people who believe that we face inevitable extinction believe that no one will read this article because we will see a collapse of civilisation in the next twelve months when the harvests fail across the northern hemisphere" (written around 12 months ago)

I for one won't hold my breath.

From my perspective, the paper reads like a far-right "survivalist" piece from the early 90s. It's almost laughable in the way it presents the view.

That said, the 90s anti-authoritarian survivalists did nail some things, especially in light of Snowden. I think it would be wise to take it under advisement and pay attention to what's going on, but to go buy a farm and a bunch of heritage seeds based on this paper would be pretty ridiculous.

Until we include the cost on the environment within the cost of our goods things will not change. When we do we will encourage a wave of environmentally friendly innovation. It will take a lot of courage for any government to do this.

I’ve started the seed of a small political party in the UK which will push for Envionmental Economics - https://weOptimise.it / https://twitter.com/weoptimiseit

I don't think any kind of consumer driven environmental activism is even close to enough to stem the tide.

To really drive home the severity of the situation, understand that if we ceased all greenhouse gas emissions tomorrow, the global mean temperature would continue to rise for another century before hitting equilibrium. We are past the point of no return.

The only way civilisation continues existing as we know it, is if over the next decade we roll out a heap of nuclear power and dedicate a significant portion of it to carbon sequestration. Fusion would be great but even fission is sufficient. Anything less, including geoengineering projects like space based mirrors or albedo boosting aerosols, are at best a 50/50 gamble on the outcome.

Feel-good activism like using less plastic straws or rolling out renewable power at meaningless scales is a distraction from the real and only course we have left.

I am really worried that a large number of people still believe that renewables can unfuck this situation and so put their guard down after watching some feel-good news segment about Germany hitting an arbitrary target. It's not Europe or USA you need to worry about, it's China India and Afrtica. Renewables would have helped 20-30 years ago. Today we are so far gone that we need to greatly exceed our total energy demand and channel the excess into sequestration.

I strongly suggest that everyone read the 2018 IPCC report. It should be mandatory reading material at all schools universities and workplaces. https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/

You are right. As Judith Curry has pointed out. 'even if all the states respected (the current commitments) —an unlikely prospect—the temperature reduction in 2100 would be an insignificant two-tenths of a degree. And this assumes that climate-model predictions are correct.'. No one would even be able to sense a difference.

She also points out the fact that “almost half of the warming observed in the twentieth century came about in the first half of the century, before carbon-dioxide emissions became large.”. Natural factors thus had to be the cause. None of the climate models used by scientists now working for the United Nations can explain this older trend. Nor can these models explain why the climate suddenly cooled between 1950 and 1970, giving rise to widespread warnings about the onset of a new ice age.".

Your post conveys confusion and suggests a bad actor. Let me try to clear up a few points in good faith:

1: The impact of the united states and Europe is now negligible. They have undergone their transition and have emitted most of the greenhouse gases they were going to. There was a time delay between those emissions and the associated global temperature rise. The incoming transition of China/India/Africa dwarfs that.

2: Atmospheric CO2 is not the only and not the most potent greenhouse gas we are emitting. It is just the most abundant.

3: We are in fact overdue for an ice age. We are experiencing a relatively extremely young climate period called the Holocene[1]. It is a warm gap in the middle of an ice age. This warm gap for the last few thousand years is what allowed civilisations to form. Given what we know about historical trends, we should have plunged back into the ice age right about now. It is entirely possible that anthropogenic climate change is the only reason we are not in an ice age today.

4: We are uncovering new positive feedback effects in the greenhouse loop on a monthly basis now. Whatever climate models exist, no matter how alarmist, are actually turning out to be conservative due to all the new feedback mechanisms we're discovering.

5: We face a double threat. Either a runaway greenhouse effect that turns earth into Venus 2.0, or a natural reversion to the ice age which brings an end to civilisation. The only way we continue to thrive as a species is if we get good at predicting and manipulating the climate of our host planet. One way or another, it will end us if left unchecked.

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

This just doesn't fit with political reality. When has "you all need to sacrifice deeply for the greater good" ever gotten a politician elected outside of wartime? Even then, it's often not a winning strategy. And as destructive as climate change is, it's far too abstract and distant in the future for most voters to voluntarily sacrifice for it. Especially if someone else running for office is telling them they don't have to.

The only real hope here is innovation.

A big part of the problem it needs more than "any government" but really an agreement between all governments to go along with something like a carbon tax or carbon pricing. I think it's possible though. You'd have to get the major blocks on board - at least the US and the EU and then probably use the trade system to arm twist the others - free trade with us if you implement the carbon stuff or high tariffs otherwise.

There also quite a few questions as to how to do the accounting as illustrated in a recent HN discussion on Norway paying Indonesia not to cut down rainforests. https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19215934

I think it should be possible though and is probably the way to go in the present situation.

I came to the realisation that human world is fucked about 3 years ago. Haven't seen anything in the last few years to change my mind. We might be able to push it a few decades into the future but there will be a reckoning as the real choice is to let a few hundred million die today or few billion in the future.

I tried hard for a very long time to maintain my baseline “retro-futuristic” optimism for progress and a Jetson's Future but about a couple of years ago, probably owing to stress in my life (family business difficulties caused by my father with evident narcissism but that I cannot break away from) I basically ‘crumbled’ to your realisation: that all this unhappiness and anxiety I see everywhere around me is not some local bubble of despair but the actual preamble to dire things to come, the growing awareness, the creeping alarm as the effects start to ripple through. I think the last time humanity really had much of a chance to pull through with a close scrape (in economic, financial, social, and environmental terms) was somewhere back in 2010 or thereabouts. We collectively missed that turning and we've stuck to the road to perdition ever since.

"probably owing to stress in my life" Sounds more like depression, hope you're in a better place now.

To more directly answer your point. Things always seem to be bad until they're not. And we are on virtually any measure you'd care to look at, better off than we were a century ago. The temperature may rise x celcius, empires may fall, there may be wars, but this has been an unusually peaceful period of history, wars happen anyway, and people probably wont mourn the non existent ice caps that they heard used to exist, just like we don't mourn the dodo.

If we say went back to something equivalent to 1918 Europe. Yes we would have lost a lot, both life and infrastructure, with Spanish flu still on the horizon, but we will rebuild and get on with life, would you expect climate change to be worse than that? And look where we are, a century later.

I know it’s not garden-variety depression because I’ve been treated for that. There’s several people around me that are subject to the same influence that are in remarkably similar emotional states, including my sister and some senior executives in the firm. Unfortunately, no, I am not in a “better place”. But I really appreciate the effort to be understanding.

Turing to your comparison between 1918 and now, I daresay global climate change will be a great deal more severe than the cumulative effects of both the First World War and the Spanish Influenza combined. The magnitude of geopolitical strife we have set ourselves up for is of an almost unimaginable scale.

"But I really appreciate the effort to be understanding"

The worst thing about depression is that you can't see a way out, until you are out, and then the path is astoundingly obvious, and the journey so easy. I could say it will get better, but you probably wouldn't believe me. Please do believe me when I say it doesn't take effort to be understanding though.

On to a sunnier subject. I can't see us going mad max, I think worst case doesnt interrupt civilization, which implies keeping at least our current know-how. Could there be a lower standard of living, yes. Lower than a century ago? (while keeping antibiotics, computers etc) Maybe. But that would still be a higher standard of living than we've had for the majority of human history.

You cannot compare a locally restricted war with the global disruption of the ecological, economical and social environment, which lies in front of us.

Why not? Genuine question, seems like a reasonable proxy, though you could disagree about scale of destruction etc.

Would you like to suggest a better comparison.

Because the World War 1 allowed recovery. The war caused trauma, but basically everything proceeded like before after that. Climate change has the potential to induce a bifurcation, making it impossible to revert back to the world we know today. Think about the Neolithic Revolution, but backwards.

What?? WWI was one of the biggest turning points in history. Virtually everything about global civilization for the last 100 years has been deeply influenced by that conflict. After WWI, nothing proceeded as it had before.

World War 1 (and 2) was a short sharp shock that was pretty highly localised geographically and represented no permanent change in global parameters. Global climate change is a total change in the rules.

This is only true in terms of climate change, and I doubt even that part. WW1 and WW2 fundamentally transformed our populations, our institutions, our countries, our economies, how all the above relate to each other, etc.

I agree, but population growth continued, technology advance continued, wealth accumulated. There was no necessity to doubt on the superiority of mankind (those doubts increased after WW2, facing nuclear annihilation). Now, in the worst case, climate change will lead to a massive population die-off on a global scale, due to starvation, drought and wars. And stall any progress in technology, wealth, society and culture, due to negative feedback loops, which are discovered gradually. This will finally crush the narrative of the superior man, which we all grew up with. I think the psychological effect of experiencing the limits of growth for the first time in modern history, is completely underrated. After WW1, people knew what mechanized slaughter is. After WW2, people realized the holocaust and the balance of terror. During climate change, people will experience the end of growth and expansion on a global scale, which formed the human mindset of the last 3000 years.

It's like watching a documentary about the last summer before World War 2. People enjoying themselfes, everything looks peaceful and fine on the surface. Some people suspect what is about to come, but don't dare to really watch into the abyss. Only a few really know. Those people of back then, we are today. If you ever wanted to experience, how people in the past were so clueless and stupid to change the course of the future for the better, now you've got an VIP-ticket for the live show.

Yes, it’s horrifying, isn’t it? I’m in Italy but I follow American and British (I’m half Italian, half British) and there’s a never ending display of constant hysteria.

I used to be very harsh with Germans collectively for having ‘allowed’ Hitler to come to power and for having been complicit in the crimes he perpetrated. But now I’m not so sure. I’m not sure if the grim spectacle going on in the US is proof or refutation of my distaste. Does it show how easily dysfunctional evil can mesmerise the population into allowing it to govern, or is it proof that many people are putting up a damn tough fight to make sure that evil does not flourish and take root? I’m not sure.

> I used to be very harsh with Germans collectively for having ‘allowed’ Hitler to come to power and for having been complicit in the crimes he perpetrated. But now I’m not so sure.

As a German, so did I. But my illusion of control dissolved in the face of doom. There is nothing you can do but hope for the best.

The Germany thing, it’s odd... I’m of German descent too (my Italian father had a German father himself, so I’m a quarter German, a quarter Italian, and half English).

There’s something truly amazing of the enormity of what was done, and the knowledge that one oneself is somehow tethered or rooted in it, that just causes one to instantly condemn. The more nuanced view... it feels like weaselling out and making excuses, like apologists do.

You only need 50 humans to maintain genetic diversity indefinitely.

We will survive. We won't all survive.

Your scale is off. It will be at least a few billions.

Yeah I mistyped as I meant few hundred million today or a few billion in the future.

> How near? About a decade.

Okay Al. Still waiting on that dramatic increase in frequency and ferocity of hurricanes, but I guess I'll add this one to my calendar.

> ou only needed to step outside during the record-breaking heatwave last year to acknowledge that 17 of the 18 hottest years on the planet have occurred since 2000.

Wildly untrue. Perhaps if you add "since records began in 1850" it could maybe be valid.

Note that I haven't really researched this past personal perception, but:

This year NC was hit by a couple of hurricanes, both more severe (and to be honest, 2 more in frequency) than I ever remember growing up here, and for sure more than in the last 5-6 years.

Also, does your second comment imply that one of the 18 hottest years was in 1843, or like, well before humans were practicing agriculture?

If you go back in time far enough, there were many, many, way warmer years. For example, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paleocene–Eocene_Thermal_Maxim... had such temperatures for about 200,000 years (the planet was essentially ice-free, according to that Wikipedia article)

I'm not implying anything. The Cretaceous was 10-15°F warmer than current temperatures. There was lots of life.

~1000BC was 2-4°F warmer than today, and there were plenty of humans doing just fine.

I don't think the implication is that the Earth won't recover from our climate change issues (it will, we won't). So saying there was lots of life in the Cretaceous period doesn't really make sense, since I could also say there was plenty of life when organisms only existed in the sea. That doesn't exactly help our survival as a species, does it?

It's also not about whether temperatures at this exact moment are higher or lower, but the trends and the rate at which those temperatures are changing. If we're looking at the graph (I'm using [1] linked below for reference), and in 1000BC it was warmer by 2-4°F, but the slope of the graph is way less pronounced than it is now, that's not exactly reassuring.

[1] - http://www.longrangeweather.com/global_temperatures.htm NOTE: I'm just using this graph to visualize the trends, and since it doesn't provide exact numbers on the axes I'm just looking at the overall shape of the graph.

I dont think youre really factoring in natural disasters, displacement, refugees. 4 out of 5 people displaced are in Asia right now.

Even right now, Miami is underwater, and we are pumping it back out. Florida, New York, and California will become economic disasters far before 10 degrees.

Of course we could build new spare cities inland now, for much cheaper, but of course we will wait for destruction before people will move.


> 4 out of 5 people displaced are in Asia right now.

Your link does not support this assertion. Instead, it says that 80% of Asian people would be displaced in the next eight decade given a 3ºC rise in global temperature.

> Even right now, Miami is underwater, and we are pumping it back out.

Miami was built on a sandbar. A good portion of the west side of the city is built atop the Everglades - it was never exactly a safe place to build.

Also, Miami is not "under water". You article refers to "king tides" - caused by the alignment of Earth, Luna, and Sol - which are exactly the same as they were at any point in human history, as measured against the mean tide. They're astronomical events, and are unrelated to climate. Unless you can show that "king tides" are objectively higher today than they were in the past, I don't see what they have to do with anything whatsoever. Measuring the height of king tides is exactly equivalent to measuring the mean sea level.

> Of course we could build new spare cities inland now, for much cheaper, but of course we will wait for destruction before people will move.

This doesn't even make sense to me. Why would building spare cities be cheaper now than in twenty years, or fifty? Remember the time scale we're talking about here; your article is projecting out eighty years. If you built these cities today, they'd be fifty to eighty years old before people needed them. How many urban dwellers live in fifty to eighty year old houses, especially without updates?

Further, if we take for granted that there will be a need for spare cities in the future, it would make much more sense to build them as needed. That would spur growth in the construction industry, which in turn would lead to economies of scale. Construction technology would have additional time to improve as well, which means fewer resources used in building and more sustainable design to boot.

In short... if this is going to be an issue, from a public policy perspective reaction to it should be just that - reaction. Have resources on hand, sure, but trying to move the populations of entire cities two generations ahead of an anticipated issue is folly.

The subtitle of one of the sections is "The regional impact of these changes is highly uneven, with four out of five people affected living in Asia."

Just my two cents: Climate change threats are being over-hyped by those people/companies who stand to benefit from "green" energy/society.

These orgs are spreading propaganda to high-school teens by telling them lies sprinkled with a bit of truth and causing them to protest because the teens on average cannot make a better judgment then people with decades of experience.

Nothing is going to happen. I for one wont hold my breath.

For what it's worth, it seems the companies that have been benefiting from the not "green" tech and society have been and still are spreading propaganda to minimize the fear/awareness/etc of climate change.

I mean, look at Trump and this coal stuff. Look at how much money Oil companies spend on this. One large difference, I think, is that the money being spent by the oil giants is influencing the opinions of fewer, but more powerful, people, such as congress-persons and other political figures.

I guess technically your guess about nothing happening is as good as anyone's, but it really doesn't seem like that is the case. I'd love for climate change theorists to be wrong and actually it turns out that the Earth is fine and we haven't caused irreversible effects to the climate and planet, but wouldn't you rather we work on cleaner energy and be wrong, than do nothing and be wrong?

I'm currently about half-way through "The Uninhabitable Earth" by David Wallace-Wells [1] and it comes to similar conclusions: its too late to stop this thing, it's going to be very bad, and it's going to happen sooner than you think. Its a very hard thing to honestly face, and I'm not entirely sure I have yet.

[1] https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/586541/the-uninhabi...

I haven't read it (though I saw his talk), but I'm sure there are arguments to be optimistic as well. It can be a mistake just to focus on the negative stuff.

This is addressed in the paper the article is about. One of the main points is that the 'optimistic stuff' does not address the negative already baked into the system right now.

The point is: too little, too late. If that's true I don't know, that's the whole question I guess.

It might be that big-picture thinking and the future, generally, is terrifying rather than climate change in particular.

It is challenging to construct a realistic long-run scenario of a happy future that is sophisticated and meaningful. And at the global scale even the recent past sounds pretty horrific if you spell it out. The fact that the global situation is improving rapidly doesn't balance out the fact that being subjected to a 1950s standard of living would be potentially abusive today (no mobile, no connection to the internet, questionable access to goods, etc, better or worse depending on where you live).

Part of the trouble I have with climate change as an imminent emergency is there are actually quite a few civilisation-level threats at the 200-500 year timeframe. Resource depletion, progress in weapons research, fragility of logistic chains to disruption, disease. The actual impacts of climate tend to be contributing aggravations to what are honestly concerns more driven by overpopulation.

  It is challenging to construct a realistic long-run
  scenario of a happy future that is sophisticated and
It's simple enough: Pick a reference point in the past that makes most things look pretty good, and extrapolate from there.

Compared to the 1800s, everything seems to be going in the right direction. Medical technology? Much better! Childhood mortality? Lower than ever! Science? Much more advanced - and much better funded! Democracy? Many fewer limits on who can vote or serve in government! Women's rights? LGBT rights? Much improved! War? Fewer and smaller wars than ever! Long distance communication? Faster and cheaper than ever! Average education levels? Higher than ever! Prices of books? Lower than they've ever been. Availability of food? We literally have an obesity epidemic! Quality of food? More people have access to salt and spices than ever! The average westerner today eats better than a king would have in 1800! Access to education? More university lectures than you could ever watch, on a screen in your pocket.

Then just gloss over any negative changes as temporary blips, and you've got a pretty positive outlook!

That type of extrapolation form the past is extremely simplistic though. And a bit like saying that you feel pretty good at 50 years old so it'll be easy to make it to 100. Everything winds down and dies eventually; we should resist entropy as best we can but realistically one day humanity is going to fall over and not get back up. The question is how long until then, and the order of magnitude number of years probably doesn't have 5 zeros on the end.

And anyone who extrapolated 2019 from 1800 was correct but also undeniably delusional; there was no evidence it would turn out as it has, and the journey was largely uncontrolled. Anything could have happened.

I think the core issue is that people think humanity is static in the face of an imminent danger, while in effect it’s certainly not. Everyone wants to live and prosper and I’m sure that as the problem becomes more tangible, we will find the ways to mitigate this issue - just like, as a species, we did many times before.

I am also optimistic for this reason, too. In the 1980's, I had nightmares about a nuclear armageddon. We were told that by the time we were teenagers we would no longer be able to play outside: because of ozone depletion, air pollution, and acid rain. In the 1990's, we were told modern society would collapse because we would literally run out of oil. We were told that 20% of us would die from AIDS.

Don't mistake me - these threats were real, not imagined, but based completely on static trajectories. We countered these problems by changing behaviors, changing laws, and innovating.

The threat of runaway climate change may be greater than these threats, but we have shown a remarkable ability to effect change on those things that the experts told us were unchangeable.

> The actual impacts of climate tend to be contributing aggravations to what are honestly concerns more driven by overpopulation.

Yeah, but we don't need one more way to screw ourselves over.


When the dinosaurs lived the world was 10 celcius warmer. ~200 million years later the world was 14 celcius warmer than today. Life thrived worldwide. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eocene

Global warming is good for the earth.

Every 200,000 years there's a huge spike in warming. Which if you look at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eemian#/media/File:Carbon_Diox...

Notice the CO2 circle showing the last 1000 years; but if you circled the entire green line from about ~20,000 years. There's huge spike that couldn't possible be human activity.

It doesn't even appear like we are in control.

This is denialist propaganda. We are the cause of the current warming cycle [1] and what this leaves out is timescales. The prior cycles took millennia, this is decades, and natural systems can’t adapt that fast.

[1] https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.usnews.com/news/politics/ar...

I provided sources and facts. If you refuse to look at scientific facts by asserting I am denialist and/or propaganda. That's fine, keep your blinders on.

For the record I'm not a denialist. I do believe global warming is happening. I just think there's absolutely nothing wrong.

> Notice the CO2 circle showing the last 1000 years; but if you circled the entire green line from about ~20,000 years. There's huge spike that couldn't possible be human activity.

You mean the bit labelled “Ice age cycles”? Which we are currently exceeding the maxima of by about as much as the difference between maxima and minima?

The worst predictions of warming, which has basically been disproven already you can ignore the 8.5 black/red circles, have all been untrue to date.

The doomsayers have been predicting the end of the world forever, this time they are just using climate change as their mayan calendar.

The world can get 10 celcius warmer and nothing is wrong; it'll make the earth that much better. Bring it on.

> The worst predictions of warming, which has basically been disproven already you can ignore the 8.5 black/red circles, have all been untrue to date.

Took me a while to realise you were talking about the other picture you linked to.

Those are RCP8.5, where “RCP” means “Representative concentration pathway”. We’re just below the mean estimate for that, but closer to that than to the RCP6.0.

A bigger problem is that you can’t simultaneously say that 8.5 F is a “worst” prediction and say that “10 C is great”.

As I’ve said on another thread, I don’t expect us to have long term climate problems, because I’m happy to project the current exponential growth of PV for another 20 years — but you don’t get to just pretend that world experts are wrong just because you don’t like the conclusions they bring to you. After all, plenty of civilisations have ended, and that’s what worries (other) people.

>Those are RCP8.5, where “RCP” means “Representative concentration pathway”. We’re just below the mean estimate for that, but closer to that than to the RCP6.0.

Which it's important to see the claim or prediction. When there are 4 predictions and only the most extreme option is predicting any real change. It's VERY disingenuous to only include the worst prediction.

>A bigger problem is that you can’t simultaneously say that 8.5 F is a “worst” prediction and say that “10 C is great”.

I disagree. You can absolutely discuss the point being made. It's the worst prediction that we already know is NOT happening. That stands on it's own.

But moreover, even if it's true. It doesn't matter. Global warming is going to be just fine. It's doomsayers who have blown it out of proportion.

>As I’ve said on another thread, I don’t expect us to have long term climate problems,

My prediction by looking at the eocene period is that we will have long term climate changes. Except they will change for the better.

>but you don’t get to just pretend that world experts are wrong just because you don’t like the conclusions they bring to you.

This is an appeal to authority AND appeal to the masses. Double logical fallacy when you assert this. So far, the predictions made over the last 30 years have been wrong. Al Gore's predictions that by 2020 florida will be under water to a significant degree? That hasn't happened yet, I'm sure it's going to happen in the next 9 months...

>After all, plenty of civilisations have ended, and that’s what worries (other) people.

Prove that climate change will destroy the world or destroy our civilization. There has been MANY predictions now that have been outright falsified. The United Nations predicted that we were completely and utterly doomed to extinction if we didnt do as they say by the year 2000. That was wrong. They reissued their hoax and said 2012. That was wrong. IF you also are astutue these climate change doomsday hoaxes also lined up with Y2K and the Mayan Calendar hoaxes.

Sorry but at this point I'm done with these doomsday hoaxes.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lGmYdSF7bKg http://4hiroshimas.com/

This is doomsayer hoaxes.

Way to miss all my core points.

> It's the worst prediction that we already know is NOT happening. That stands on it's own.


All observations are between “business as usual” emissions — which we are not in fact producing, in part because of these models — and the second most extreme model.

What you’re doing is the equivalent of slowing your car from 90 to 80, saying that disproves fuel consumption estimates based on going at 90, and then saying that you should burn fuel even faster because — oh, I don’t know, let’s say because it makes more jobs for the oil industry or something to keep with the analogy.

> My prediction by looking at the eocene period is that we will have long term climate changes. Except they will change for the better.

Nobody is denying the existence of long term climate changes. Congratulations on your straw man. Or nut picking, if you can find a counter example of someone.

You have not demonstrated why anyone else should believe such changes (let alone ones occurring 100,000 times faster) are “better”, given how much the world has changed since then.

Given this temperature change is caused by CO2 rather than, say, giant space mirrors, we have a further problem. CO2 levels corresponding to “burn all the fossil fuels” (timeframes practically irrelevant) cause demonstrable cognitive impairment:


Of course, I give 3:1 odds that you will dismiss this claim without making a serious attempt to refute it.

I’m not going to bother listing all the other things that need to be handled to prevent various civilisation existential risks as you ask for later. The fact you’re calling it “doomsaying” proves to me that you already understand the severity, you’re just refusing to believe it. Of course, given who you cite as examples, perhaps you’re looking in all the wrong places for knowledge, which brings me to my next point…

> Al Gore's predictions that by 2020 florida will be under water to a significant degree?

Is a perfect example of why I appeal to authorities. Gore is a politician who misrepresented the work of the scientists he intended to cite.

Speaking of citations…

> The United Nations predicted that we were completely and utterly doomed to extinction if we didnt do as they say by the year 2000

What are you talking about? I can’t even find references to this with Google.

(Not that any of this matters, I’m a techno-optimist; if we get through the next 20 years, I expect to witness star lifting extend the lifespan of Sol by a factor of ten).

Maybe you should check out the realclimate website.

I'm not denying that climate change is happening and the cause doesn't matter. I'm saying there's absolutely nothing wrong with it. Life was better when the earth was warmer and the alarmist predictions claiming the world is ending has been proven wrong over and over now.

I used to get depressed thinking that I wouldn't live long enough to see the sci-fi future where we're all immortal cyborgs with minds in the cloud.

So in a purely selfish sense, I guess "right now is the peak of human civilisation, the future is all melting ice caps and resource wars until we die off completely in 2500" is reassuring?

Whats the worst case though? I cant see any event based on climate change that would wipe out all humans. Climate Change may be fast for earth but is still slow for humans. Cant really see a scenaria where a significant part of humanity couldnt adapt to the new circumstances. The harsh conditions would probably even advance technology in general.

Still best Case would be to stop climate Change because that would be hard and scary times.

Keep in mind, that vast swathes of Earth were uninhabitable even before global warming was even a concept.

To illustrate this - look at Egypt and the earliest civilizations. The only place where life existed permanently was in a narrow band alongside a river. Life will still exist after a 4C warming, but in much narrower bands than it currently does.

The global population of people will be reduced probably by a factor of 10, eventually, settling on a sustainable level of around maybe 800-900 million. This, in turn, should reduce the burn rate of unsustainable resources by a lot, letting us coast for another couple of centuries.

The only question is - how violently will we go down from 8 billion to 800 million?

Disclaimer: this is all wild speculation and my personal opinion.

How violently? Well, 7.2 billion people will die. Is that violent enough?

Then there's the additional violence that all 8 billion will do, trying to be one of the 800 million rather than one of the 7.2 billion.

My own gut feel is that we will muddle through much better than that, with less than 500 million dead. On this subject, that seems to make me the crazy optimist...

I strongly believe that every currently living person on this planet will die, hopefully just because of old age.

Not sure why you assume there will be 7.2 billion violent deaths.

If you're going to go from a planetary population of 8 billion to one of 800 million due to global warming, I'm pretty sure that there's going to be a lot of "not because of old age".

I believe in the goodness of people and our ability to resolve things in a less violent way, even during times of scarcity and global warming.

Maybe that's too optimistic.

I've been through similar bouts of lethargy and depression over climate change as described in the article. It can really get overwhelming when thinking of the future to come, what can we do but just try move forwards with our lives?

As Beppo the street sweeper said in "Momo" (the one by Michael Ende), if you look down the street, it feels endless and exhausting. But if look at the broom, and concentrate on doing each sweep well, you will both do a better job of it as well as feel much better.

Personally, I think it's crucial to become part of the solution to problems we become aware of, otherwise, we basically practice being aware and helpless. But that can be anything IMO, and it doesn't have to be a great contribution or the solution to all our problems. You (or I) didn't cause the situation billions of us are in, and we cannot foretell or influence or even withstand our collective mass movements, or the results of our current blind spots, etc. So it's also super essential to let it go in a real way. "Saving the world" makes sense because of the people (and animals and plants) in it, and you're also a peep, so it must not come at the cost of breaking you.

The sweet spot is probably where still can sleep well, just not at the cost of cynicism of apathy. I think some sadness is simply the inevitable result of awareness that also brings joy, so keeping the awareness, and trying to transform the sadness into productivity and empathy where we can, is the best we can do really.

Speaking of all that, here's an article I just read again: https://www.salon.com/2012/06/17/when_chomsky_wept/

Why is it that only now you are depressed? Did you not know you were going to die anyway and human beings as a whole were going to evolve into some species completely different from us, even if there was no climate change? I believe we have conjured up a depression about this topic because we believe that our ability to stop climate change will be amplified by the pressure of sadness, all the while not logically understanding that we are destined to be replaced either way.

You should therefore have been depressed from the very beginning, but you probably weren't. That proves that this idea of humanity being erased is not inherently depressing, nor is moving on with our lives. It's simply the news you are reading that is depressing, not the philosophy behind it.

I’m not really depressed now as I’ve kind of come to accept similar ideas to what you’re getting at. However it took me a long time to reckon with it all, and unfortunately many loved ones and younger people might not be able to just accept the bad news as easy as you can.

Stop reading doomsday cult prophecies on the internet and go outside and get some sun.


You see, the sun is part of the problem here ;)

I’m relaxed about climate change. Photovoltaics have grown at a compounding average rate of 40.5% over the last 20 years, going from 0.566 GW in 1998 to ~512 GW in 2018.

World power use (all forms, not just electricity) are currently around 18 TW. At current trends, we exceed this in June 2029. By June 2034, we should be overproducing by a factor of 5, which makes up for the difference between nameplate capacity and actual average output. By 2037 you do that and have enough overproduction you don’t need batteries to store energy at night, just make interconnections between existing power grids worldwide, because you can afford 75% losses (if you want to, which you might not).

On the other hand, I am concerned with biodiversity loss, nitrogen cycle issues, antibiotics resistance, and non-renewable use of phosphorus.

It is so strange to me the effort people will go to with things like guns to protect themselves from the highly unlikely.

Yet we're having these debates about what to do about climate change which is looking very likely.

We should be working on it, if we end up being wrong then the very worst case is we've gotten ourselves off our dwindling fossil fuel supply a bit early.

I'm likely on the other side of the "gun issue", but I mentioned in another comment on this article that the linked paper reads a lot like survivalist literature in the early 90s. There are a lot of interesting parallels, in terms of "us vs. them", the prediction of an impending civilization-altering change, the means through which an individual can prepare for it, etc.

I'll say again, the 90s-era survivalists were largely wrong, but they were spot on in some ways. The government really was spying on its own citizens, and there was just enough truth to a lot of their conspiracy theories for them not to be completely laughable in retrospect. I suspect this paper is the same way - it seems likely that there will in fact be a changing global climate over the next century or so, and that populations of cities and perhaps nations will be displaced. As for the collapse of civilization, starvation, water wars, etc.? I find those things extremely unlikely.

> protect themselves from the highly unlikely.

Tyrannical governments are unlikely?

Taking up arms against a government in your lifetime? Yes I'd call it unlikely.

You assume my nationality? How do you know I'm not Syrian, Iraqi, Afghani, Palestinian, Egyptian, Libyan, Yemeni, Ukrainian, Somali, Chechen, Georgian, Venezuelan, or Mexican?

Get out of here with your racist assumptions that this forum is solely populated by Silicon Valley residents.

I think you may have just done the same.

I'm Australian. You know, the place where gun control actually worked pretty well.

Does anyone outside of Australia believe that?

Hi, I’m British, even our police don’t have — or want — guns. [1]

[1] not as standard, but there are some exceptions.

Sure, some won't.

We had 13 mass shootings in the 18 years prior and then 0 the 22 after.

We don't much mind what they think.

In American culture at least, guns and climate change have been ascribed to opposite ends of the political spectrum with "guns" on the right and "climate change" on the left, so people who support "guns" tend to doubt climate change and oppose any attempts to address it on principle.

That so many Americans believe the only thing keeping the US from descending into Stalinism is the revolver they keep loaded in their glove compartment, whereas climate change is a Chinese hoax meant to undermine American business interests, is due to the effectiveness of propaganda by corporate interests and the NRA.

Time to start terraforming with sulfur?

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