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Canadian permafrost thaws 70 years earlier than predicted (reuters.com)
285 points by anigbrowl 11 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 237 comments

I was up at Camp Muir on Mt. Rainier for the first time in 29 years last weekend. It's located at 10,000 feet and is surrounded by glaciers. The temperature was around 60F in the sun. We're getting temps in May/June that were rarely seen in August in previous decades.

The impressive thing is how quickly the glaciers are receding. The Nisqually glacier, which used to be down near 4000 feet in the 1970s is about a mile shorter. The ablation boundaries on many of the glaciers appear to be high up the mountain (like around 12,000 feet), which means they are going to shrink quite a bit more.

I didn't expect this but there's a possibility that many of the Mt. Rainier glaciers will be gone in the next 30 years. This is a massive change to ecosystems from sea level up to the highest peaks.

Considering climate lag (see below) it's almost certain most glaciers on Earth will be gone in 30 years.

There is a delay of a couple of decades between emissions and effects on the climate. This means we are now seeing the effects from the emissions from the 70s and early 80s.

The problem is that we have emitted more GHG in the last 40 years than the previous 150 years since the industrial revolution started. We have a huge climate bill to pay even if we magically stopped all emissions today.

The glaciers on Cascade mountains are relatively small but on Mt. Rainier it's extremely unlikely they will disappear in 30 years. The Emmons and Tahoma for example are large and start at 14,000 feet. They will continue to have accumulation zones for many decades. Plus it takes a while for ice to melt even with heat waves, even at lower elevations and even if the temperature rise accelerates.

That said it's not unreasonable to suggest that glaciers with an accumulation zone below say 8-9,000 feet will be toast. That takes out most glaciers in the Cascades outside of the volcanoes and a few peaks in the North Cascades. I was just eyeballing things based on having spent a lot of time on the mountain, but this conclusion seems to be supported by recent geological work. [1, 2]

[1] https://gsa.confex.com/gsa/2017AM/webprogram/Paper299694.htm... [2] https://glaciers.nichols.edu/north-cascade-glacier-retreat/

I have a collection of climbing magazines from the 1990s, and many of the featured routes in South American ranges like the Cordilla Blanca are no longer climbable today. The glaciers, ice, and snow are gone, and what's left is crumbly, friable rock that is not safe to climb on.

Mt Rainier is also mostly composed of crumbly, friable rock, and I wonder just how climbable it would be without glaciers and snowfields to provide secure footing and keep rocks from falling down on people.

Rockfall has always been part of the fun of climbing on the upper parts of Mt Rainier. The practical effect of warming is that the season where you need to worry about it is now extended.

What's more worrying is the possibility we'll see some major collapses. Many of the big features on Rainier like Gibraltar Rock and the Willis Wall are anchored by ice at the base. As this disappears those structures may become unstable. It's conceivable that collapse could trigger lahars, which are a big risk for people in the valleys below the mountain. In the past these have run all the way out to Puget Sound.

I doubt that the gravitational collapse of a rock buttress, even a large one, would be enough to trigger a major eruption of Rainier. The energy of an eruption is shockingly large and almost anything else you can imagine pales before it.

The thickness and weight of the entire mountain is not a significant check on an eruption; therefore, it doesn't seem likely that removing a portion of the mountain (via collapse) would do more than vent some steam and noxious gases. Eruptions depend on what happens deeper in the crust, as I understand it.

Lahars are different. They are mudflows. It's common to see them triggered by eruptions (e.g., Mt St Helens in 1980) but they can arise from landslides as well as glacier collapses. The most recent Lahar on Mt Rainier was in 1947. [1]

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

Thanks. I thought the term was reserved for hot mudflows triggered by an eruption, but I can see that you are correct.

Everyone here is focused on reducing emissions and such but quite frankly this is only a small part of the problem.

Let's assume today, right now, humanity has found a miracle to produce zero emissions.

First let's consider climate lag [1]. There is a 40ish year delay between emissions and effects on the climate. So this means we are now only seeing the effects from the emissions from the late 70s early 80s. Here's the worst part, we have emitted more GHG in the last 40 years than the previous 150 before that. So, we have a huge climate bill coming for us.

Second, carbon will remain in the atmosphere for thousands of years[3]. Nobody knows how that will affect the planet but it's not going to be good.

Third. Consider self sustaining climatic systems usually called feedbacks like methane [2]. The hotter it is, the more methane is released to the atmosphere, so it becomes hotter, so there is more methane in the atmosphere, etc. There are dozens of climatic feedbacks which only god knows when those will stop.

I'm not writing this in a defeatist tone. Quite the contrary. We need to fucking wake up to the reality of this crisis. Humanity has to go all-in and pour all possible resources into clean energy, energy storage, and carbon sequestration.

[1] https://skepticalscience.com/Climate-Change-The-40-Year-Dela...

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Climate_change_feedback

[3] https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2012/jan/16/greenhou...

Fourth: population increase to 10bn by 2050. Everyone better get used to drastically duller lifestyles if we want zero emissions with that many people on the planet.

> Nobody knows how [atmospheric carbon] will affect the planet but it's not going to be good for us.

FTFY. Life on this planet is probably going to stick around. What happens to human civilization is the more interesting question.

Seems like there could be a pretty big gap between "life on this planet is probably going to stick around" and "good." Life made it through the Chicxulub impact but I doubt you would have called it good had you been on Earth at that time.

I'm continually surprised at how often people counter warnings about global warming with comments to the effect that life, in general, will go on. That's a low bar! Way lower than you'd accept in any other context of your life, I'd bet.

You don't even have to get that far. A global increase in food prices would be a complete global catastrophe.

For example the heat wave in Russia in 2010 that helped fuel the Arab Spring revolts.


Yeah, life will find a way, even if it's just fungus and microbes.

Global warming is the single scariest existential threat our species has ever faced, and we aren't doing nearly enough to tackle it.

Our future descendants will heap scorn and curses on our generation, and we deserve every bit of it. Every politician that refuses to do what is necessary or finds it convenient to play stupid language games about 'settled science' is doing incalculable harm.

As citizens, I encourage everyone to reducing their carbon footprint as much as possible (yes, that means that your life gets comfortable) and voting exclusively on how credible a politician is on tackling global warming. If you are a wealthy person and aren't buying carbon offsets for all your emissions, you are a bad person.

As someone who agrees with your suggestion as to how serious climate change is, I've come to think asking individuals to change their behavior to fix the problem is actually counter productive.

People generally want to do the right thing and they want to matter whereas in my experience the average person is not a great systems thinker. So people are very receptive to calls to "be better" because it let's them fight for what they believe set in a framework where their actions matter at least to some degree.

The problem is, these are problems of scale and systems, and once people think they are fulfilling some responsibility they aren't going to pursue other solutions, at least as aggressively.

If we straight up told people: you are going to experience extreme pain within your life time due to climate change, and the only single thing you can do that matters is to put pressure on your government to attack these problems systematically, I think we'd get much better results.

I tend to agree. We've had 30+ years of exhortations for individual action against climate change. Yet global emissions are the highest they've ever been.

Meanwhile, we haven't really tried an effective government policy. One that would replace other forms of taxation with a carbon tax.

We've only tried individual solutions, dabbling around the edges, carbon offsets, cap and trade. Manifestly they haven't reduced emissions.

People may indeed view individual action as a substitute for collective action. But we wouldn't ask people to increase government revenue by making donations.

Not even the tax can do it, because polluters will migrate.

You would have to combine the tax with more serious measures like duties based on either estimated or actual emissions level. Or outright bans.

Additionally mandating certain important practices like garbage disposal, reduction and methane capture.

> Not even the tax can do it, because polluters will migrate.

High tariffs on countries not following suit will take care of that. Try the carrot first but if they don't want to contribute then use the stick.

Enough individual action can create a political climate that enables an appropriate governmental response.

For example, when every home has roof-top solar, everyone is riding bikes or scooters, growing food locally, not flying, etc. It's harder for politicians to create new subsidies for coal mining, or tax concessions for airlines. Instead they will be more likely to pass carbon fee and dividend schemes or similar.

On the other hand, while everyone continues to drive around in SUVs, buy cheap goods from China, long haul flights all the time, and food from the other side of the world, it's easy for politicians to maintain the status quo.

Individual action can't solve climate change by itself. But it is still meaningful and necessary. Our actions influence the actions of others around us, and we can redefine "normal" for our society. Studies have shown that somewhere between 10 and 20% of a population acting in a new way are enough to shift the opinions of the remaining majority.

There isn't much the individual can do to fix climate change.

Even if you went completely off the grid to live in the woods outside of the industrial civilization eating plants etc this wouldn't fix anything.

Yes, you would certainly reduce your emissions but this is not nearly enough.

Even if a miracle happened and we reached global zero emissions today there are already 415ppm in the atmosphere which will remain there for thousands of years.

Because of climate lag we are now only seeing the effects from the emissions from the 70s and early 80s. Even in 30-40 years when we can see the effects from our current emissions it will not stop there. There are many self sustaining climatic systems that will have been triggered and will continue to change the climate.

Humanity needs to invest all possible resources into clean energy and carbon sequestration. If we don't go all in during the next decade we are done.

> Even if a miracle happened and we reached global zero emissions today there are already 415ppm in the atmosphere which will remain there for thousands of years.

Cite please?


> The lifetime in the air of CO2, the most significant man-made greenhouse gas, is probably the most difficult to determine, because there are several processes that remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Between 65% and 80% of CO2 released into the air dissolves into the ocean over a period of 20–200 years. The rest is removed by slower processes that take up to several hundreds of thousands of years, including chemical weathering and rock formation. This means that once in the atmosphere, carbon dioxide can continue to affect climate for thousands of years.


Thanks. A staff writer for the Guardian. Think I'll look a bit further for a more authoritative (read logical) number.

I was being gentle. Is the IPCC good enough for you?

> There is sufficient uptake capacity in the ocean to incorporate 70 to 80% of foreseeable anthropogenic CO2 emissions to the atmosphere, this process takes centuries due to the rate of ocean mixing. As a result, even several centuries after emissions occurred, about a quarter of the increase in concentration caused by these emissions is still present in the atmosphere.


Researching or deploying green tech would take a chunk out of things on an individual level

Do you have a specific technology in mind? What do you mean by that impacting things on the individual level?

The UN wants co2 reduced, but is apparently acquiescent about massive population growth in the developing world, and indeed openly promotes mass migration from there to the developed world, necessitating massive construction, infrastructure creation etc.

Apparently I'm a hateful person for noticing this discrepancy.

> is apparently acquiescent about massive population growth in the developing world

Probably because imposing natality rates would be quite unpopular. Humans tend to think having kids is an inalienable right.

China got away with it because China, but this would not work in other countries.


Please don't do this here.

Are you sure that not having children or killing yourself actually reduces long term global carbon emissions? Because the second order effects start to get odd, here.

Imagine that all the people who believed in climate change - globally - committed suicide in some appropriately low-carbon manner. Everyone remaining does not believe in climate change. How long does it take the population to bounce back, and what sort of global warming mitigation do you think happens? Does the world in this thought experiment end up emitting less carbon?

Individual actions might have next to no effect, but institutional actions will. Giving up your opportunity to influence those institutional actions (whether through your own efforts or those of your children) is not beneficial to the environment. Of course, this calculus is different for the average person. But if you're the sort of person who's contemplating suicide to help the environment, you're exactly the sort of person that the world needs to not commit suicide.

Adoption is a thing.

That is true, but its effectiveness here depends on how much of a person's behavior is nature vs nurture. Political beliefs are influenced by genetics [0], why should environmentalism be an exception?

0: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4038932/

Yeah but my point is that reducing our carbon footprint is not even scratching the surface of the problem.

My earliest recollection of climate change/global warming was about 30 years ago, and it was understood this was a society and political issue then, and the need for a systematic approach by corporations and government was needed.

Conservatives, Democrats and Republicans, called the most docile claims about global warming/climate change as radical, lies, socialism, communism, anti-business, pro-big government, and so on. The more aggressive claims were impugned as forms of eco-terrorism. It's the same today. The climate change deniers go so far as to insist that all of this is just delusional panic over nothing.

Michael Crichton, science fiction author, was a notable climate change denier who pushed exactly that: this climate change business is nonsense and people who claim otherwise are crazy. He wrote a book on the subject "State of Fear" about how global warming was a fraud, perpetrated by a few to exploit others.

A still sitting U.S. senator, James Inhofe from Oklahoma, says global warming is the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people. And he cited "Dr. Crichton" and his book as the kind of real facts we need to pay attention to, and invited him to testify before Congress as a climate expert and scientist.

It's like humans are designed to make everything a dispute.

> It's like humans are designed to make everything a dispute

If we're aiming for more reasoned debate I'm not sure the throwing around of the 'denier' label really gets us much further forward.

As expressed more harshly in prev. thread https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18519916

> I've come to think asking individuals to change their behavior to fix the problem is actually counter productive.

Don't worry, there are people saying this all over every climate discussion on HN. And then a huge distracting discussion about whether that's a good idea or not.

I do wonder if these are the same people who were outright denying climate change a decade ago. Whether it's a deliberate intention to muddy the conversation. Or perhaps it's a way to assuage their guilt about their own consumption patterns.

I might be being disingenuous but I see it so often it makes me curious. I don't know.

> voting exclusively on how credible a politician is on tackling global warming

This is really the only important thing that we can do. Except maybe not flying in an airplane, there is little the average person can do in their daily life to inhibit climate change. Whether due to preventive policies or due to resource shortages our lives will change in the near future. Expecting individuals to shame themselves when the society at large encourages the opposite is counter-productive.

It is not to say that anyone is wrong to choose to live more frugally. More importantly, we need to recognize that any hope we have must come from the top down. We have more research and more solutions than we've ever had for any problem, but we don't have someone to pull the trigger.

I agree. Your individual actions won't have much impact, except the aggregate effect on politics.

Politics is so short sighted that unless there's huge pressure from the masses nothing will be done, or just too little too late.

Even if the Science backing up Climate Change wasn't solid, which I think it is, what's the alternative? Take a gamble?

The Roman Civilization probably collapsed because, among other things, the climate optimum they experienced at their peak changed drastically and crops became less efficient. A joke compared to what we might be expecting in a few decades with such an overpopulated and hyper-efficient world, which is really fragile to climatic disruption.

I had never heard about the theory that climate change might have played a role of the Roman Civilization collapse.

Here's an interesting article about it: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/how-climate-ch...

The key factor, apparently, was "... an enormous spasm of volcanic activity in the 530s and 540s CE, unlike anything else in the past few thousand years. This violent sequence of eruptions triggered what is now called the ‘Late Antique Little Ice Age,’ when much colder temperatures endured for at least 150 years."

(New theories should always be taken with a grain of salt, but I found it interesting either way.)

We need to turn this amazing machine of capitalism we've created towards solving the problem.

That requires strong political leadership and buy in.

American needs to turn back into the country represented by Captain America. They need to be leaders again, instead of acting like they're being run by one of those infant English kings from the Middle Ages..

Hold your horses. Give me the numbers on short term ROI. Aha! Your business plan sucks as you cannot produce viable revenue numbers in a timely maner.

Brr... The problem is that making quick money on scale seems to me like some kind of condition. Some biological hoarding gene that made sense just a hundred years ago.

Evolution have not kept up with our success at building and automating stuff made from stars. It makes me sad.

Capitalism is for solving problems of scarcity, and for that it worked quite well. It's quite useless for dealing with problems of abundance. All our biggest problems today are problems of abundance.

More importantly, it rewards externalizing costs. Such as to climate, future and others.

Absolutely! It optimizes around the rules we place on it. That's why this idea of 'free' capitalism that is popular in some circles is terrible. We tried it and it worked worse than dictatorial communism.

What we need to do is to update the rules of Capitalism to internalize the externalities. Make carbon expensive. Make environmental destruction expensive. Make exploiting labor expensive.

Do that and you'll see extremely rapid changes for the good. Only it will never happen because the people and countries currently profiting from coal / oil will fight it with the enormous $$ they have (and they are; people like the Koch brothers are always babbling on about how the government is run by a shadow 'deep state' - that's clearly true, and they're clearly being greased by oil money).

I agree with this.

To the extent that we have lots of influential people browsing this forum, make it clear that unless to any politician that unless they aggressively tackle global warming, they won't get any donations/votes no matter how good they are in other areas / how much influence they have over the business you are running.

There are a few more things a person can do to fight global warming:

- most of all, speak out for reneweable energies and against coal

- if possible use some solar yourself

- try to buy an electric car or a real fuel efficient one, don't drive too much

- in general, try to use energy efficient devices

Ride a bike!

Or walk more and use public transport, being more efficient still than even a bicycle.

And finally, eat less, especially meat and highly processed foods. It's not free neither for you, not for the environment.

A carbon tax, with pay-out for carbon sequestration, will put the very machine that currently drives us towards extinction straight in reverse.

Here are the most impactful things you can do as an individual in a democracy:

1. Convince as many people as you can of voting for anyone who supports carbon tax.

2. Vote for anyone who supports a carbon tax.

3. There is no 3.

We need to internalise this negative externality into the very fabric of every transaction we make. By the time you can see a product you have no idea how much carbon was produced to make it.

Don't just walk back from the abyss. Drive back in the same car that got us here.

(by all means of course reduce your footprint, but don't forget nr 1 & 2. they must be front and centre.)

A carbon tax is probably the worst thing you can do.

First of all, it will seriously destabilise a large economy where democracy still plays an influential role. This will place more economic power at the hands of non-democratic nations, allowing them to produce more CO_2 at will.

Secondly, the taxed CO_2 will just circulate back to the government, to be spend again. On what? Due to the strong relationship of the dollar with oil, each dollar spend by the government will involve burning oil and producing CO_2.

Third, how will you check the CO_2 emissions of your products? How do you prevent fraud? How do you make sure the system is not gamed by shifting the CO_2 burden to other countries?

No, if you want to make a dent, vote for those who want to invest heavily in renewables R&D (solar, hydro, wind, thermal).

I advocate letting go of the personal shaming and guilting. That's just not a scalable solution. Here are much better things you can do with that emotional energy and carbon offset purchasing power instead:

-Vote for politicians that will regulate carbon

-Lobby your elected officials to regulate carbon

-Give to NGOs that lobby to regulate carbon

-Reward companies that sell products that reduce your carbon footprint and add value to your life.

-Pivot your career to work with green NGOs, on the staff or campaigns of green-friendly politicians, or companies creating greed products.

Do a few of these things and you can litter all you like.

We're not doing anything to tackle it. Nearly every country is still increasing emissions.

And nothing individuals do will be enough. The top causes of CO2 emissions are industrial power generation, production of concrete, resource extraction, deforestation/burning forests and transportation.

Fact is, the world's population is still increasing, developing countries will still develop, developed countries won't reduce emissions, there's no stopping it.

Even in the US, the DNC struck down the 'Green New Deal'.

Either we're all doomed, or it's not an existential threat.

The problem is the Green New Deal politicians also want to ban guns and socialize healthcare and college education. If they would stick to climate, maybe they would do better.

I like my guns and EV; don’t know why they have to be antipodal in politics.

> and voting exclusively on how credible a politician is on tackling global warming.

Up until very recently I thought this was the most important thing to do. The more I watch XR videos though the more I am convinced that that's not the case. Voting doesn't matter. None of the important social changes in the last century or so were initiated by the parliament. Think about women suffrage, civil rights movement, anti war movement, gay rights. We need to get out and get our hands dirty with direct action. Or at least support people who do.

> As citizens, I encourage everyone to reducing their carbon footprint as much as possible (yes, that means that your life gets comfortable) and voting exclusively on how credible a politician is on tackling global warming.

I would just like to add. Absolutely vote. But please don't use it as an excuse to do nothing yourself. While you are waiting for politicians to act, start acting now. In case you are wondering what you can do yourself - here is a short list

- Stop flying to conferences. Go to a local meetup. It's fun. And cheaper. If you really need to get out of town, take a train. Let's hope one day Prometheus will give us carbon-neutral jet fuel https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19842240

- Shift your investments from fossil to green. If you can't find enough worthy greens, shift it to anything else. Some say it won't impact your returns http://www.lse.ac.uk/GranthamInstitute/news/the-mythical-per... Move your deposits and savings to a more sustainable bank. https://fairfinanceguide.org

- Work less. Work part time, and part of that part time remotely. http://cepr.net/documents/publications/climate-change-worksh... A firm lets its employees work four days a week while being paid for five. Everyone is happy, lower electricity bills, fewer cars on the road https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/19/world/asia/four-day-workw...

- Reduce your meat consumption as much as you can. They say these new vega burgers are not too bad. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/04/30/dining/climat...

Thank you.

Great list. It seems odd that we always equate a reduction in our footprint with a reduction in lifestyle, where options like these would arguably be a lifestyle improvement (or at least neutral).

I would also add - stop or reduce discretionary air travel. Similarly to local meetups, there are often so many undiscovered destinations/events that can be just as rewarding as an overseas trip, without the 20+ hours in transit that are required.

Also - ride a bike. As well as being emissions-free, it encourages your city to build more bicycling infrastructure, which will make it more possible to get around without a car, and encourage others to ride too.

They'll probably do a collective face slap that we failed to invest in Nuclear technology (see the difference in Gen IV vs old tech: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Generation_IV_reactor). We had a solution for clean energy, but let fear override reason.

I'm not doubting you, this is just an honest repetition of what I've heard before.

I thought that nuclear was also a GHG contributor because of the fossil fuels used in mining and refining it. Is this not the case? Like there is some cradle to grave GHG coefficient for different sources of power...

Nuclear power is very carbon-efficient (tonnes CO2 emmitted / GWh produced) due to the large quantity of energy produced over the generator lifecycle. It's on par with wind power, and better than solar, according to World Nuclear Org.

  | Lignite | 1054 |
  | Coal | 888 |
  | Oil | 733 |
  | Natural Gas | 499 |
  | SolarPV | 85 |
  | Biomass | 45 |
  | Nuclear | 29 |
  | Hydroelectric | 26 |
  | Wind | 26 |
[1] http://www.world-nuclear.org/our-association/publications/on...

There's no law of nature that says mining equipment has to run on carbon. It could be done with electric equipment powered by nuclear.

Nuclear produces less presently and holds the key to producing none at all.

Except a single factory in China emits more CO2 than all the readers of this HN thread combined. So all you are going to do by minimizing your own carbon footprint is make your own life miserable and free up the resources for someone who doesn't give a damn.

And I am sorry to say that, but I don't think that a global framework enforcing the same environmental restrictions on every country in the world, regardless of its economic state, is realistic. Sorry.

That said, humanity has adapted to live in variety of environments, from African tropics to Canadian permafrost, centuries before the technological revolution. So once the global warming effects start noticeably affecting regular people, there will be a wave on businesses built around mitigating those effects, dealing with the causes and perhaps trying to reverse some of them. But before this becomes a pressing matter for pretty much everyone, I don't think there is much we can do.

> Except a single factory in China emits more CO2 than all the readers of this HN thread combined

This is just not true. World's richest 10% produce half of global carbon emissions [0] I would guess a fair share of HN readers are in the top 10%

[0] https://www-cdn.oxfam.org/s3fs-public/file_attachments/mb-ex...

Still China outputs more than 2x the U.S. volume:


Don't forget that U.S has outsourced its industry to China. Just look at the current trade balance. It's all over the news now thanks to the trade war. And the reason it was outsourced is precisely because environmental regulations are weaker in China and therefore production is cheaper. And on top of that you add shipping emissions, which are not included in any country emissions.

Or 1/2 what the US outputs per capita, which is the more relevant figure since the atmosphere does not care about arbitrary political boundaries.

To be fair China is basically the factory of the world, manufacturing a lot of the gadgets that are mostly used in 1st world countries.

It's pretty clear that if the west consumed less China wouldn't pollute nearly as much. So yes, everybody has a choice, either be actively part of it or try to pollute as little as possible.

You're saying "the impact of one person is limited therefore no one should take action". I'd argue that everyone should take action, show the example in your home, local community, &c. Little by little people get more engaged, just look at the green parties in Europe, 20 years ago they barely got 1% of votes in elections, now they get >20% in some countries.

What is it spewing out co2 for, and for whom? Never mind the toxic waste from chemicals dumped in rivers.

Turn every thing you own upside down and find the scripture "Made in China".

Any clues?

> And I am sorry to say that, but I don't think that a global framework enforcing the same environmental restrictions on every country in the world, regardless of its economic state, is realistic. Sorry.

Those frameworks already exist. There's a framework for CFCs that has been effective at slowing the destruction of global ozone. There's a framework that governs the disposal of radioactive materials. And yes, there's already one for greenhouse gases. The U.S. president just pulled the U.S. out of it. So, one thing that U.S. residents can do is vote for a new president who will put the U.S. back into it.

> once the global warming effects start noticeably affecting regular people, there will be a wave on businesses built around mitigating those effects

The fundamental problem is that real estate is by far the largest store of global wealth, and global warming will destroy some of that via sea level rise, and potentially alter some other parts by shifting weather patterns.

It is hard to solve social problems with profitable businesses in the face of large-scale declining wealth. That's usually called a recession or depression, and every time we've faced that sort of problem in the past century, the government has had to step in to help. In fact, addressing those sorts of problems is one reason humanity invented government in the first place.

>And I am sorry to say that, but I don't think that a global framework enforcing the same environmental restrictions on every country in the world, regardless of its economic state, is realistic. Sorry.

We don't need a perfect global framework. We just need to shift incentives to some extent. The market is already coming up with some non-carbon alternatives. Adding a carbon tax will shift incentives further and increase tech development.

To mitigate the effects, business need an energy source. Either it's:

* a replacement to carbon, or

* still carbon

If it's still carbon, you can't reverse the causes, and mitigation gets harder and harder as you worsen the problem.

You're effectively arguing that:

1. There's no use trying now, it's basically impossible, but

2. Despite not trying now, we will solve the impossible problem at some future point.

You're perhaps arguing that the problems of global warming will help us. This seems rather like Bastiat's parable of the broken window.

Negative changes will only hurt us, and individual solutions can't fix a global atmosphere.

I am arguing that we need a framework where an individual's actions reducing the carbon footprint will benefit that individual instead of reducing their life quality. Carefully designed taxes that would make non-carbon alternatives more competitive are realistic. Asking/forcing people to scale down their lifestyle without offering viable alternatives isn't.

Fair enough. I tend to agree then. I think taxes, with tax reductions in other areas to offset the pain, are a better solution than asking for individual effort.

You hadn't mentioned this in your comment though, so I thought you were arguing something else.

Our future descendants will heap scorn and curses on our generation

Assuming there is a future generation :P

> Our future descendants will heap scorn and curses on our generation, and we deserve every bit of it.

They won't. They'll be dead.

There is much debate in this thread about which approach is best for combating global warming. It is plainly obvious that large scale policy efforts will need to happen at some point. This is the “top down” approach delivered by collective political action.

But there also ought to be a bottoms up culture change which encourages humans to recognize and self-limit their own impact. The world is too populous that our own actions won’t impact others at the new scale humanity exists. We won’t have political action without some parts or hopefully all of the culture embracing limits on our behavior. I don’t think these two approaches are mutually exclusive.

To address the parent comment here: Calling strangers bad people is very seldom a fruitful rhetorical approach, and I would advise against it. But individual action will end up being required someday; might as well start practicing today.

> voting exclusively on how credible a politician is on tackling global warming

"Credible" is one difficult part of that, and the situation is also exploitable even if they are credible in that one regard.

For example, a person or group could produce a candidate who is credibly stronger on global warming than the competition, while at the same time the secret goal being to sell out constituents' fiscal interests or rights in some other regards.

(It's not far-fetched -- without getting into contemporary partisan examples, it's fair to say that this seems to already a strategy and tactic, on other single-issues, in some contests.)

> Global warming is the single scariest existential threat our species has ever faced

No, it isn't. It's not even close. We can adapt to climate change.

The single scariest existential threat our species has ever faced is politicians and other public figures using FUD in order to convince we the people to give them more power. Which they will then use to screw things up even more.

Global warming is not an existential threat if you consider the studies that look at existential threats in general. It's not even in the top 10.

Of the top of my head, asteroids, bio weapons, disease, the Sun, AI and authoritarianism are more serious. Especially AI - not being the dominate species anymore will be dangerous. But 10°C more? That just requires AC and migration.

I wish you didn't get downvoted for saying this. You are wrong, but it's a fair perspective because most people wouldn't know why an extra 4-10 C is such a problem.

There are a lot of reasons such as whether food or water scarcity might trigger nuclear war. But the biggest reason is that it puts us into the territory of previous mass extinction events on Earth. This article does a good job of illustrating the worst possible outcome. It does belong up with the others on the existential threat scale.


Give it a read and let me know if you think industrial civilization could adapt to these conditions.

1) You'll notice I didn't put nuclear war in my list of existential threats. That's because it also will likely not cause human extinction.

2) We are probably already in a mass extinction event. That also has little change of causing human extinction - we're the most adaptable species this planet has ever seen.

Did you read the article I linked? It's not talking about the extinction of rhinos, tigers and polar bears. It's talking about the mechanics of the end-Permian mass extinction. To quote Wikipedia:

"known colloquially as the Great Dying... approximately 252 million years ago. It is the Earth's most severe known extinction event, with up to 96% of all marine species and 70% of terrestrial vertebrate species becoming extinct."

Seriously, it's a good article and quite short. I think you'd find it interesting food for thought and I'm honestly interested to hear your response to it, not some cheap dismissals.

Edit: if you really don't have time to read the whole thing, at least let me know what you think of the figure on page 6

I really hope you'll change your mind, specifically about that last sentence. Probably billions of the world's poorest people are likely to see their environment become unlivable. That's not a problem a little AC and migration will easily solve.

Just look how poorly rich countries are reacting to the current levels of migration from less rich countries.

I'm not going to change my mind just because of mindless downvotes. If you want to show that global warming could cause the end of the human race, you have to give some plausible argument.

I think there's a difference in what people consider "bad" - millions or billions dying from disaster or their regions becoming uninhabitable isn't the extinction the human race, but for me it's at the threshold of "bad" that I'd like to do something about it. Am I worried about all the human race being eradicated? No, we're cockroaches. But I'd rather untold numbers don't have to suffer.

When this thread started it was about existential threats. Few people would argue that ten degrees celsius isn't likely to be a huge disaster.

For the record, I didn't down vote you (I don't even have enough HN cool-points to do so).

I was responding more to the callous nature of your comment than whether or not current warming trends are an absolute existential threat.

I think you might be overestimating the resilience of your food network. It's understandable, everything is currently set-up to insulate you from the origins of your food.

Plants, rainfall, and harvests are susceptible to changes in climate.

Globally, though, I'd be surprised if we could last a single year if every food crop failed. You can already see what this looks like in Africa and the Middle East - famine affects entire countries at a time. Imagine if there was a string of bad years - say 10 or 15.

As a kind-of related example, most of the US would starve within a week if there were no oil to power trucks. Our current globalized food production/transportation network is extremely fragile.

we were doomed and fucked by the 80s

been reading into deep adaptation lately, kinda cool kinda pointless

Half of co2 emissions have happened since then. Emissions are at the highest they've ever been.

We, presently, are deciding to do this and continue it.

there are locked in cycles that are going to cause 2 degrees and more in warming regardless of if we stop emissions completely right this second. it only goes up every year nbd

We're clearly going to have to so something to cool the planet down, but the transition to renewable energy is just so effective that you'd want to do it purely from the financial and health benefits.

I've seen a few sites that suggest much of this is based on our orbit [1]. If that is true, then the oceans may be about to dump ludicrous amounts of Co2. Hopefully we can find a way to turn that into fuel.

[1] - https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=milankovitch+cy...

Nope. Causal effects of insolation fluctuations on greenhouse gases/global average temperature exist, but they're dwarfed by the causal relationships (in both directions) between global avg. temperature and greenhouse gases: https://www.nature.com/articles/nclimate2568

P.s. this is the most incredible climate study I know of. This is a topological statistical analysis that doesn't rely on any specific climate model to draw its conclusions about the strengths of causal relationships. So there can be no quibbling about the model being wrong. That simply doesn't matter with this awesome application of dynamical systems theory, it needs no model.

While the relationship between orbit and climate is well documented, I'm unaware of any credible science to suggest that "much of this" (taken to mean the current observed warming) is due to this factor.

Wow. Three non sequiturs in three sentences.

There are sites that suggest any number of things. Unspecified "sites" have little bearing on the actual facts.

I'm not sure that Milankovitch Cycles imply the dumping of CO2.

> Hopefully we can find a way to turn that into fuel.

This is the silliest and most thermodynamically backward thing I've read in a year. CO2 is burnt carbon. It's burnt. Burnt stuff ain't fuel; it's burnt.

He's a critical free thinker, so it's ok.

So we are turning the CO2 back into (expensive) fuel, which can be burnt again and the CO2 released? But you're in luck, thanks to global warming the thawing permafrost and the warming oceans will release large quantities of methane (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arctic_methane_emissions), which is an excellent fuel, and a much more potent greenhouse gas than CO2, so burning it would actually be good for the climate. Good luck with capturing it, however...

Are you familiar with photosynthesis?

Yes but photosynthesis doesn’t generate energy but the opposite: it takes in energy from the sun in order to reverse the reaction

It does generate energy, stored in the form of carbohydrates.

It stores the energy it got from other sources, it doesn't generate it itself.

That's a good point, the solar energy is not created. My point is that CO2 can be removed while creating useful energy (in this case, converting a transient source to a durable one). I thought parent was being overly dramatic, even simplistic, in making CO2 sound like some unusable waste product ("burnt carbon. It's burnt. Burnt stuff ain't fuel; it's burnt.").

> My point is that CO2 can be removed while creating useful energy

You have to pick one. CO2 removal or creating energy. If you remove it, it must remain sequestered. If you create fuel from it, the CO2 will not have been removed.

I'm not against the idea of sourcing fuels from atmospheric CO2. It's a good way to get energy-dense fuel without adding new carbon to the atmosphere (assuming a carbon-free source of energy is used to synthesize the fuel). But that process won't remove CO2; it'll just not add more.

Alge based fuels do exactly this.

The problem isn't technology, the technology for genetically modifying alge or bacteria to consume CO2 and produce oil has been around for quite some time.

The problem is our powerstructures and our economic investments. It takes tremendous energy to move such a massive Goliath of a ship.

Our economy which brought us prosperity simply cannot move quickly enough to prevent our demise. Ironic and perhaps poetic really

Wouldn't orbital changes & things like solar output already be accounted for in any serious climate modeling and history?

We'll adapt, but the global ecosystem is dying. It'll be cows, cats, dogs, pigs, chickens, us and stories of animals.

The failure of our species is a failure to adequately recognize that we are part of that ecosystem, and we will go down with it.

Depends what you mean by "we". Homo sapiens has enormous cultural flexibility (though clearly, as the worldwide ecosystem collapse shows, this doesn't scale). So groups of humans will continue to live.

But our global civilisation will inevitably collapse. No-one can predict in detail what that will entail, but we can be sure it won't be pretty.

People are already being displaced from their countries by climate. Economies that relied on the stability of their rainfall for their agriculture are declining. They're building camps for them at the border here in the US.

Quite. A trickle of refugees precipitated huge European political convulsions in 2015. That was minuscule compared to what's coming. War is likely to be the leitmotiv of the global collapse.

Not sure why you're being downvoted for stating an obvious fact. Climate change isn't the only factor in central American migration but it's definitely part of the equation.

Like how toxic the remnants of civilization will be for the surviving tribes? The collapse of society won't be an orderly process...

There's no serious prospect of the whole planet being too 'toxic' for human groups to exist here and there. Even the probable nuclear wars aren't going to leave everything uninhabitable.

The sheer amount of suffering and destruction involved between here and there, human and more-than-human like, will be catastrophic. Everything present-day humans know and love will be gone. The existence of small groups surviving marginally in the crumbling remnants of our our once-magnificent ecosystems is no silver lining worth caring about.

Yeah we will adapt, but not fast enough.

We will. We always do. There is no reason to assume we won't. The wealthy westerners will not notice because of air conditioning and endless bottled water. The less wealthy ones will suffer the heat a bit more. The poor ones will be taken care of.

Third world nations will suffer. Some might die. Maybe many. But humanity will adapt. We might lose a few hundred million in the next few decades until their folks find new places to live, and we westerners will suffer an influx of refugees, and we'll be just fine once again.

The population of the planet will continue growing to about 20 billion during the worst of the climate change. And we'll be without ice caps. And we'll be fine.

We'll be "fine" if you consider endless resource-based regional conflicts, along with the political upheaval, mass starvation, boosted extremism, and the large scale conflicts that will arise as a result, "fine". We'll be "fine" in the sense that "some human DNA will still be operating in 1000 years". That is a very low bar for human achievement to aim for, and for my children's sake, I hope we do better than that.

This is perhaps the worst, most hubris-filled comment I've ever read on this site. That's not hyperbole, I mean that literally. It is this certainty that fills me with despair for the future. Forgive me if I'm not willing to get into a lengthy debate on the merits of your comment, if that's your starting point then it's hard to believe it's worth the effort.

To be fair, there's no reason to assume we will be fine either. Our timeline is pretty short and humanity has hardly ever had to face a climate event on the scale that people expect will happen: some kind of massive ice-age event and/or rising seas taking out coastal land, where a majority of humans live. Not to mention there's billions more people on earth than there were for any similar previous events (they weren't similar, we didn't have cars).

Healthy skepticism is great, but personally I'd rather not our entire species die off because a majority of people assume we will be fine!

The wealthy westerners will not notice because of air conditioning and endless bottled water.

The really wealthy westerners are spending their money inventing ways to leave Earth. That might be a clue to whether or not they believe aircon and bottled water is going to be enough to save their way of life.

20 billion is half again higher than the worst predictions for population growth. The world's population is expected to peak around 11B in 2100 or so, with outside high predictions up to 14B.

On what basis do you believe the population will hit 20B, especially with birth rates plummeting to near-replacement levels all around the world? What countries are going to go backwards, and why?

> We might lose a few hundred million in the next few decades

> And we'll be fine.

Maybe we should then consider how to prevent hundreds of millions of deaths in the meantime? Like, the holocaust didn't lead to the extinction of humans as a whole, but there's a good amount of literature around what should've been done differently to prevent it in the first place, and that's an order of magnitude fewer deaths than what you're forecasting.

Where do you expect food to come from without an ecosystem that supports the crops we are farming right now?

Wealthy westerners not understanding that their standard of living exists exclusively because of the rape of the third world. People need to try being self sufficient for even a week.

Relevant: meltwater on sea ice in NW Greenland https://twitter.com/RasmusTonboe/status/1139504201615237120

Also this Australian briefing document on the existential risks of climate change: https://docs.wixstatic.com/ugd/148cb0_b2c0c79dc4344b279bcf23...

I'm a bit of a doomer on this topic but 25 years arguing about it doesn't seem to have yielded much action.

The oft-quoted opening of David Wallace-Wells's "The Uninhabitable Earth" comes to mind. Reviews have generally only included his first sentence: "It is worse, much worse, than you think."

Here is his entire opening paragraph:

> It is worse, much worse, than you think. The slowness of climate change is a fairy tale, perhaps as pernicious as the one that says it isn't happening at all, and comes to us bundled with several others in an anthology of comforting delusions: that global warming is an Arctic saga, unfolding remotely; that it is strictly a matter of sea level and coastlines, not an enveloping crisis sparing no place and leaving no life undeformed; that it is a crisis of the "natural" world, not the human one; that those two are distinct, and that we live today somehow outside or beyond or at the very least defended against nature, not inescapably within and literally overwhelmed by it; that wealth can be a shield against the ravages of warming; that the burning of fossil fuels is the price of continued economic growth; that growth, and the technology it produces, will allow us to engineer our way out of environmental disaster; that there is any analogue to the scale or scope of this threat, in the long span of human history, that might give us confidence in staring it down.

Curious about what he means by "that wealth can be a shield against the ravages of warming". That is--I can see a case for the wealth of a nation not being a shield for every citizen, but I wonder whether the very rich could weather climate change for a long time. But I suppose that's not the same thing as being totally unaffected.

Wealth is a claim on the output of society. It's very hard to store wealth outside of society. Actual stored wealth:

* precious metal and fossil fuels, etc

* seeds, canned goods, grain reserves

* Buildings, wells, physical infrastructure on the land

* tools etc that last through time

Money is only useful to the extent it can buy things. If civilization collapses, then that's a destruction of wealth.

If output merely diminishes, that's also a destruction of wealth. It will still be better to be rich than to be poor, but even the rich depend on what society produces.

History guides us well in this fallacy. No matter the wealth or influence of a person, we're all just humans in the end.

Look at Carthage [0], it was 100 years before major settlements began after their bronze-age war. No ammount of wealth saved their elites.

Look at the Zone Rouge [1] and the ecological effects we still see today. That land is just outside of Paris and used to be some of the most beautiful in Europe before the first modern war. Now it is toxic.

Look at Chernobyl or Fukushima. Radiation cares not for your credit card color.

True, in some of these instances, the wealthy could and did flee. But they had to flee to escape and could not stay. When the whole world is a Zone Rouge, where can they flee to? For how long? Time and again we see that it is not long at all.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roman_Carthage

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

I take it he means it's a delusion because fiat currency means very little when the environment that our civilisation is tuned to breaks down.

There are certainly rich people planning to sit out the worst effects, how widespread this is I don't know: https://www.bloomberg.com/features/2018-rich-new-zealand-doo...

What's a currency, asset or web business going to be worth if the economy breaks globally, there's a major crash and depression, or wars break out over migrants, resources or water?

Weimar Republic made vast wealth disappear in moments. The US civil war came awfully close to full-on hyper inflation.

If climate change kills the bottom 90% of the population, the remaining 10% will follow shortly behind them because nothing that made them "the 10%" will exist once those 90% are gone. "Wealth" at it's most fundamental means "can pay less wealthy people to do things for you". Without the poor, no one is rich.

Our planet needs to be viewed as and felt as a living entity. There needs to be a shift so we care for every living entity. Every plant, animal, human. Our values need to shift from material pursuits and those as a benchmark for happiness and success to how we treat one another and also other living beings.

Is there a website i can go to and check earth's health as a whole? Like we can check our own health. It would be good to have a place that lists our planets health against a bunch of vital signs

I have my ideas that this is what we should use AI for - basically a technocracy where any decision is entered in to a computer that does the crunching. Degree of sustainability vs gain and have the computer say "no" if it's just not viable. If it says "yes" have a vote and let it be decided.

Just dreaming.

Please don't take this as snark -- I'm dead serious. There are climate change deniers who will point to this as support of their position. "See, those climate scientists' predictions are always wrong."

The fact is the IPCC is well aware of the political headwinds it faces and its reports are conservative -- they have always underestimated the likely outcome because it is hard enough to get sign-off on even that, plus the consequences of overstating it is harmed credibility.

Your prediction has already turned out to be true in the IMO terrifying twitter comments to this very article ("climate science is pseudoscience" etc) https://twitter.com/Reuters/status/1141061681495363584

"The Adorable Optimism of the IPCC" - https://www.rifters.com/crawl/?p=8433

It’s been a couple of weeks now since the IPCC report came out. You know what it says. If the whole damn species pulls together in a concerted effort “without historical precedent”— if we start right now, and never let up on the throttle— we just might be able to swing the needle back from Catastrophe to mere Disaster. If we cut carbon emissions by half over the next decade, eliminate them entirely by 2050; if the species cuts its meat and dairy consumption by 90%; if we invent new unicorn technologies for sucking carbon back out of the atmosphere (or scale up extant prototype tech by a factor of two million in two years) — if we commit to these and other equally Herculean tasks, then we might just barely be able to keep global temperature from rising more than 1.5°C.[1] We’ll only lose 70-90% of the word’s remaining coral reefs (which are already down by about 50%, let’s not forget). Only 350 million more urban dwellers will be exposed to severe drought and “deadly heat” events. Only 130-140 million will be inundated. Global fire frequency will only increase by 38%. Fish stocks in low latitudes will be irreparably hammered, but it might be possible to save the higher-latitude populations. We’ll only lose a third of the permafrost. You get the idea.

We have twelve years to show results.

That is somebody doing an incompetent summary of IPCC's Special Report "Global Warming of 1.5 °C -- an IPCC special report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels"


Published 2018. Just to quote the few actual lines from the report summary:

"A.1 Human activities are estimated to have caused approximately 1.0°C of global warming above pre-industrial levels, with a likely range of 0.8°C to 1.2°C. Global warming is likely to reach 1.5°C between 2030 and 2052 if it continues to increase at the current rate. (high confidence) (Figure SPM.1) {1.2}"

"A.2 Warming from anthropogenic emissions from the pre-industrial period to the present will persist for centuries to millennia and will continue to cause further long-term changes in the climate system, such as sea level rise, with associated impacts (high confidence), but these emissions alone are unlikely to cause global warming of 1.5°C (medium confidence). (Figure SPM.1) {1.2, 3.3, Figure 1.5}"

"A.3 Climate-related risks for natural and human systems are higher for global warming of 1.5°C than at present, but lower than at 2°C (high confidence). These risks depend on the magnitude and rate of warming, geographic location, levels of development and vulnerability, and on the choices and implementation of adaptation and mitigation options (high confidence). (Figure SPM.2) {1.3, 3.3, 3.4, 5.6}"

And so on.

As you see, very precise and very conservative. It is about what will happen between 10 and 30 years from now, due to the emissions that the humanity is just going to make (see A.2 quoted -- what was already emitted is not what is going to raise the average temperature for the next half a degree).

I don't think it's an inaccurate summary at all. You're objecting to the use of dramatic language, but the content is accurate:

Watts: "Only 350 million more urban dwellers will be exposed to severe drought and “deadly heat” events. Only 130-140 million will be inundated."


"Limiting global warming to 1.5°C instead of 2°C could result in around 420 million fewer people being frequently exposed to extreme heatwaves, and about 65 million fewer people being exposed to exceptional heatwaves"

Watts: "If we cut carbon emissions by half over the next decade, eliminate them entirely by 2050..."


"Limiting warming to 1.5°C implies reaching net zero CO2emissions globally around 2050 and concurrent deep reductions in emissions of non-CO2 forcers, particularly methane (high confidence) ... In comparison to a 2°C limit, the transformations required to limit warming to 1.5°C are qualitatively similar but more pronounced and rapid over the next decades (high confidence). 1.5°C implies very ambitious, internationally cooperative policy environments that transform both supply and demand "

The actual quote from IPCC text about hundreds of millions people affected is:

"Liu et al. (2018) studied the changes in population exposure to severe droughts in 27 regions around the globe for 1.5°C and 2°C of warming using the SSP1 population scenario compared to the baseline period of 1986–2005 based on the Palmer Drought Severity Index (PDSI). They concluded that the drought exposure of urban populations in most regions would be decreased at 1.5°C (350.2 ± 158.8 million people) compared to 2°C (410.7 ± 213.5 million people)."

So it says: in case of 1.5 deg 350 million, in case of 2 deg 410 million. So it doesn't support your "Watts" quote of:

"Only 350 million more urban dwellers will be exposed to severe drought"

It's just a clear and inaccurate distortion of the original text, so distorted that it's wrong.

And we also know why it's so wrong and distorted: because these "commenters" just want to confuse people and muddy the waters, they aren't interested in the truth or accurately discussing the actual scientific work.

It's not "distorted" at all!

At +1.5 C, they're predicting that "only" 350.2 million more people will be exposed to severe drought compared to the baseline period. That's exactly what Watts says.

What do you think is distorted? You're mad that he didn't mention the ±158.8 million error bars on that estimate?

I feel like I'm talking to a crazy person here -- how do you read the exact same text and see "distortion" when it literally restates the same thing the dry scientific prose says.

“Only” is a distortion enough, and also using the number from +2 deg prediction in the +1.5 deg context. If I’d go through it I could find many more of these “muddying the water” techniques. As I’ve quoted the IPCC in that specific case reports the results of the specific scientific paper which is much more precise than what is “distortedly” presented. There are exact criteria specified under which the estimates hold, they are precisely calculated and if you don’t trust the paper you are free to point to the scientific errors, if you find any, which I doubt. But summarising it like it’s just some random guess is precisely the distortion I point to.

> using the number from +2 deg prediction in the +1.5 deg context.

It's not! Read your own quote!

"[compared to the baseline period of 1986–2005] urban populations in most regions would be decreased at 1.5°C (350.2 ± 158.8 million people) compared to 2°C (410.7 ± 213.5 million people)."

You have (accurately, IMHO) rephrased this as:

"So it says: in case of 1.5 deg 350 million, in case of 2 deg 410 million."

This is EXACTLY what Watts is restating:

"if we commit to these...tasks, then we might just barely be able to keep global temperature from rising more than 1.5°C.... only 350 million more urban dwellers will be exposed to severe drought and “deadly heat” events"

The IPCC report, your restatement, and Watts summary all say the same thing: If we take drastic action and manage to limit climate change to only +1.5C, then predictions are 350 million people will suffer severe drought. ("only" 350 million instead of 410m as in the +2C scenario)

He's not trying to "muddy the waters" -- he's trying get across to a lay reader just how desperate our situation is. If you prefer boring dry IPCC text, so be it, but so far none of these bland scientific reports have made any real policy impact.

OK, thanks, now I understand your view.

The problem with "desperate" reformulations is -- despair. That demotivates from taking any action those who don't have enough understanding and start to look at the problem as either "it's hopeless" or are just "blocking out" ("it's so bad that it can't be true").

The humanity just need to act it its best interests in the sense to recognize that looking only for the shortest-term benefits harms the most of humanity already middle-term.

The only who can/hope to profit are the kinds of "arm dealers" -- the much less stable world (that is surely going to be a result of a lot of lives exposed to the new climatic conditions) is their direct "profit maker."

They didn't actually say that, they said the thing that's in their report. They work hard on that, and paraphrasing it clumsily into millennial prose doesn't help anything.

I was under the impression predictions had to be conservative because the modeling error is so large. Its not at as if they know whats going to happen and are being coy about it.

It seems that global methane levels have been increasing drastically in the past decade, I wish more discussion of global warming focused on the effects of fracking and use of natural gas.


> The vista had dissolved into an undulating sea of hummocks - waist-high depressions and ponds known as thermokarst. Vegetation, once sparse, had begun to flourish in the shelter provided from the constant wind.

I understand the threat. I'm curious why the change described above though isn't somewhat welcome. It would seem that--at least temporarily--areas that are habitable now will become inhospitable, while areas that are not habitable now will be more welcoming.

Crops grow in soil. Soil is not just land area. It has an entire history that made it the fertile earth that it is today. You don't get fertile earth by taking permafrost and warming it.

here's one reason: when you move north, the amount of sun you get during different times of the year changes a lot. Some crops won't naturally be able to move north.

In short, corresponding methane emissions.

A form of geoengineering is seeding Fe and P into appropriate places (good currents) of the ocean. This kickstarts aquatic life and removes carbon fast ... and as a by product creates whole new fisheries. It is fast and cheap enough that small countries and multimillionaires (and up) can do it as a DIY solution to climate change ... so why has this not been done, forcefully? There seems to be tremendous social opprobrium! A ~proof of concept has already been done.

~proof of concept


From the text: "George argues that the project succeeded at capturing carbon too. There’s no available evidence to back him up — it’s exceptionally difficult to measure the carbon captured by experiments like these, and the results from more carefully controlled experiments are not promising."

i would be interested in what/where those "controlled experiments" were... my understanding is that even experimenting is a no no in the field of geoengineering. Versus reflective schemes this actually "removes" carbon and is thus is a net gain, not merely a partial temporary cover. It also increases biota -- exactly the opposite of what humans tend to do, we are now in a major extinction event. Increasing biota on land is very hard and unlikely, but this easily increases it in the seas where it is badly needed. It is also easily titrated - one can stop/in/de/crease adding Iron and Phosphorus at any time.

> Versus reflective schemes this actually "removes" carbon and is thus is a net gain

That is exactly what is not confirmed. It’s just a belief of the proponents.

i would still like to know what "controlled experiments" exist. Has anyone done the studies to show it is not worth the while, eg that it does not remove carbon? Although just not removing carbon does not say seeding is not beneficial, carbon neutral aqua culture would be quite beneficial.

There are some natural experiments: the Sahara feeds the Amazon, and the Gobi feeds the Pacific ... Perhaps more directed seeding would be more beneficial. We will never know unless we actually study, or try.

> Has anyone done the studies to show it is not worth the while, eg that it does not remove carbon?

It is well known that in the normal conditions various bacteria degrade organic matter, which means nothing "dead" would really remain at the bottom. Typically all decomposing produces CO2 again.

Canada, Siberia.....both of these areas have been relatively untouched/unexploited due to the permafrost issue and generally inhospitable weather. But they represent a HUGE portion of the global land area....

So why aren't we looking at climate change as opening up vast tracts of the northern hemisphere to settlement and exploitation?

Because the land sucks. It just sucks.

Tundra when thawed isn't some magical land. It's all swamp basically.

GOOD LUCK with 100' deep bogs all over the place!

If we are facing something like potentially billions of human beings losing their habitable regions near the equator, shouldn't someone be busy sketching out a plan on the costs and requirements of draining swaps to the tune of several million kilometers of land? So we can at least analyze our options, just in case?

I'm sure there is a lot of land under permafrost, but make sure you are not unduly impressed by how it looks like on a mercator projection.

Canada's three federal territories (Yukon, Nanuvut, Northwest Territory) have a total land area of 3,535,263 km^2

That's about 3x Texas + California combined. That's not even counting the northern half (give or take) of Canada's other provinces. Russia's Sakha Republic is ~3 million km2 by itself. If Sakha were a country of its own, it would still be in the Top10 by area (#8), just below India.

It's not just how they look on a map, these are potentially hugely underutilized tracts of land. All I'm saying is instead of the constant doom-and-gloom prognostications, let's figure out how we can maximize the efficient utilization of this land that MIGHT actually benefit from improved accessibility under warmer conditions.

> The team used a modified propeller plane to visit exceptionally remote sites, including an abandoned Cold War-era radar base more than 300 km from the nearest human settlement.

> Diving through a lucky break in the clouds, Romanovsky and his colleagues said they were confronted with a landscape that was unrecognizable from the pristine Arctic terrain they had encountered during initial visits a decade or so earlier.

Too bad we can't just use satellite images for this kind of research. Somehow satellite images are available for hedge funds to calculate the oil supply [0], but not for climate research. It's a shame.

[0] https://www.wired.com/2015/03/orbital-insight/

I'm not saying a carbon tax will alone solve the problem, but I also don't think we stand a chance without one.

We could have started solving this problem decades ago, and it would have cost a lot less. Time's running out.

How reasonable is the Clathrate Gun hypothesis?


It's already happened, methane has been bubbling from the arctic seabed since 2012.

Noone that can do anything cares.


It's already happening and every time they estimate how much methane is trapped in the ice and permafrost that number becomes bigger.


I'm still firmly in the camp of people that want to start serious Geoengineering to fix this. WW2 or higher level efforts can get humanity very far if we commit ourselves. My biggest question is though, what are the goals? How many Watts do we have to remove from the planet per day to effectively cool it. How much CO² would actually need to be removed?

If the DoD would get the Job of fighting climate change, i'd wonder what they'd come up with.

Earth is a living organism and human activities are it's cancer.

We can repurpose ourselves in order to save ourselves and the host organism.

Or kill ourselves and the host, just like cancer.

It's a choice we have to make as a world together.


It's especially tragic because any attempt to fix the situation implicitly crushes nations that are presently bootstrapping themselves into industrialization. E.g. major "developed" countries got a free ride on cheap, dirty fossil fuels. But now the climate is going to shit, and if by some miracle they managed to get themselves to carbon-negative (lol sure), you'd also have to prevent other developing nations from going down the cheap/dirty fossil fuel route themselves.

Which is crazy when you think about it. How's that going to work? Is the US and the EU going to give up half their GDP subsidizing clean energy in foreign nations to prevent further carbon release? Subjugate those countries to forcibly prevent them from industrializing?

It's truly a tragedy of the commons writ large. Short of some breakthrough in carbon sequestration or cold fusion or whatever, we're pretty screwed no matter how you look at it :(

> there's nothing you can say to any leader, politician, or pleb that can shock them into action

The notion that a bright ape, with social cognition designed for small group interaction, could scale its decision-making abilities to manage a global civilisation, was always a mere superstition.

> There's nothing you can say to any leader, politician, or pleb that can shock them into action.

Humans weren't designed to feel terror at numbers.

Most leaders, politicians and plebs have thus far experienced the disaster as nice winters and slightly more news about tornados in tornado-prone places.

You'll find people taking action only when the sky is falling (i.e. when it's too late to take action).

>There is literally no way to stop it

All people have to do is put their arms behind their backs, stop working, and demand it happen from the most powerful people in the world. I assure you that this isn't as bad as having humanity go extinct from climate change. Admittedly, getting enough people to do that is the real challenge, especially in the face of capital trying to tell them the exact opposite.

If an asteroid was about to direct hit in say 2029. Would society just argue on the internet and die? For how advanced we are, I really think we're an extremely weak society. Existential threats are taken very lightly.

There is a real difference between a singular event like an asteroid, and a slowly boiling frog like climate change.

You can point at an asteroid and say "That thing. It's going to melt half the planet." I'd like to think we could collectively get our shit together and find a way to fix that.

But climate change is more insidious because it's so slow. It's in every nations best (short term) interest to ignore climate change. And there are zero short-term consequences to politicians because the average person probably won't measurably see an effect in their lifetime. Sure, summers might get a bit hotter and have worse floods, winters get a bit colder. New pests will pop up, species might start to die. But there's not a galvanizing event to really scare the shit out of people. Even if people believe climate change, they'll shrug, tsk tsk a little (like I'm doing!), maybe stop using plastic bags or install solar on their house or something. But it's negligible, and they know it's a meaningless gesture because everyone else has to make the same gesture for it to work.

Eventually it'll get bad enough -- widespread fires, droughts, rampant pest or diseases, all the pollinators die out, whatever -- that people really start to take things seriously. But by that time we might have 20 billion humans on the brink of starvation and it'll be a bit late to do much more than try to survive.

I doubt humans will ever go extinct completely. We're pretty hardy primates. But it's very possible we get knocked back to hunter/gather tribes (probably with some neat technology!) scraping a living in some kind of post-apocalyptic industrial nightmare.

>You can point at an asteroid and say "That thing. It's going to melt half the planet."

How do you get people to believe it up until the day it gets close enough to make out with the human eye that it's approaching the planet? It's too late at that point. How many people have a telescope with that type of resolution, cameras that can pull out something likely low magnitude? We present scientific evidence to the public on Climate Change and many just don't care enough to actually do anything, why wouldn't the same happen with an Asteroid?

Because enough people will believe it when they see an asteroid looming towards them on CNN, Fox, whatever. There are plenty of people that deny climate change because it's convenient, either politically or economically. There are considerably fewer people that think the moon landing was faked, or the earth is flat, or pluto and mars and jupiter are actually jewels hanging from threads in a crystal sphere.

An asteroid is a sufficiently "concrete" science that the average person would believe if they see it. You can't "see" climate change, which is part of the issue.

> If an asteroid was about to direct hit in say 2029. Would society just argue on the internet and die?

I think many people would deny the asteroid exists and populists would claim it's a lie to put more money in the pockets of Big NASA government bureaucrats.

We might well die.

I think too many people are assuming that climate change will get worked out because previous threats to humanity have. As they say in investing, past performance does not predict future results.

Too bad most of the messaging now is about personal carbon footprints instead of political action on a mass scale.

> You’re all dead.

Oh darn, I was counting on my immortality.

You're dead too, buddy.

> You're all dead. And you have no idea.

Such panic. Seriously. We'll be fine. We'll grow to 20 billion before the population declines. Humanity will adapt. The planet has been through far worse extinction events. This one isn't even remotely impressive compared to the others.

Humanity will be fine. And every single generation will keep whining about "WOE IS US, THE END IS NEAR!" for all eternity.

I believe in climate change, I also think it's pointless to worry about. We can't stop it. We can deal with it. And we'll get damn good at it in the process.

"This one isn't even remotely impressive compared to the others."

This one is provoked by your mindset and it is going to make life unsustainable for everyone you know. It is called science bitch.

"I believe in climate change"

Do you also believe in gravity ?

> It is called science bitch.

I think I'll just avoid climate change threads here from now on, they're the /r/politics of HN.

Commenting like this will get you banned here. Please review the site guidelines.


> This one is provoked by your mindset and it is going to make life unsustainable for everyone you know.

And you fell for that nonsense? They said the same in 1985, we'd all be dead before the millennium. Unsustainable... hardly. People will thrive and will be absolutely fine.

>It is called science bitch.

Name calling is so charming.

I know people with PhDs who believe in homeopathy. That doesn't make it any less of a scam. I know medical doctors who refused to vaccinate their children in the rich west. She's a GP, not an expert in immune systems.

You know where the world will be in 20 years? Right here, just fine. We'll have about 3 billion more people on it.

And in 100 years from now it'll also be here. Probably around 20 billion people in total by then.

I'm a big fan of science and I think climate change is going to cost lives and make it hard to live in some areas, impossible in others, but people will be fine.

People are overreacting immensely and spending resources on all the wrong things. It's pathetic how herd-like we behave in panicky situations...

This is the associated paper, sorry for the paywall. https://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1029/2019...

According to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Representative_Concentration_P..., RCP 4.5 predicts a maximum of 2.6 degrees warming by 2100. But we're currently on pace to most likely hit 3.3 degrees by then, so it doesn't seem odd that we're ahead of that pace. https://climateactiontracker.org/global/cat-thermometer/

I weep for the life my 19 year old stepdaughter will have.

Current 19 year olds have not much to worry about. Remember it's 2-4 deg C by the end of the century along with a sea level rise of perhaps 1m. It's her grandchildren that are truly going to suffer. Of course, nobody knows how long the current status quo can last in the face of climate change.

This whole story is about melting permafrost that wasn't expected to that until close to the year 2100 but which is instead happening now. Evidence is accumulating that such things are happening faster than anticipated, perhaps considerably faster.

Also, you're really not thinking even your own remarks through. If a person is 19 now, they could conceivably be alive by the end of the century.

I think you are wildly incorrect, but I hope that you are right.

I see a screaming face in the article's top picture. A gaping maw of horror!

Yep, and based on the journal article, that photo is even from 2016...

If you expand the picture there are actually several photos including a shot from approximately the same location in 2004 that provides a useful comparison.

Maybe I don't understand the ramifications of this, but it kind of sounds like we missed the offramp where we just stop burning carbon.

Shouldn't we just be moving to something drastic like a massive sun shade project ASAP?

Climate engineering to stop global warming seems to me like trying to remove a bullet by shooting it out from the other side

The trade offs get really funny.

If we think it's really the case that most wild animals will perish in the climate upheaval, then doesn't that change the math a bit on how much risk we should be willing to accept when it comes to climate engineering? If the wealthiest humans could probably adapt to +5c, but a billion poorer ones would die, how much does that change the math?

Personally I'd be willing to accept quite a lot of risk to avoid these awful outcomes.

AFAIK the plans to put sulfur into the stratosphere are modeled on exactly what a volcano does, i.e. a natural process. Of course it could turn out bad, but it doesn't sound to me like a totally out-of-bounds idea.

Maybe someone with a better background could tell me otherwise? I only know about computers.

It depends on what do you mean by climate engineering. If you mean randomly dumping large amounts of sulfur in stratosphere then it is exactly like shooting another bullet, but if it is done by more controlled devices it is like using a scalpel. In any case waiting the for body to heal naturally is not going to work. And i think it is very unfortunate that any mention of using technology to fix the problem gets ridiculed and downvoted out of view by the the people who care about environment.

Of course once some tipping points have actually tipped, we may have no choice in the matter.

I imagine any massive geoengineering project of this scale could take as long as 20-50 years to complete.

We really do need to get started before things get so bad we are unable to bring the massive resources to bear that we will need for something like this.

> Shouldn't we just be moving to something drastic like a massive sun shade project ASAP?

Doesn't that particular option seem like it'd be adding on extra unknown consequences? I wonder how that'd effect our natural CO2 scrubbers.

We could have had nuclear but nope too scary!

We do have nuclear, and have had it for decades. Concerns about what to do with the waste are indeed an issue, but the bigger problems is nuclear hasn't been cost competitive with coal and more recently natural gas. It is complex trade-off and just blaming it on NIBMY sentiment is not really engaging the issue.

If we hadn't stopped building nuclear in the 80s and had merely kept up the pace, we'd be 50% nuclear (instead of 20%) today. If we had continued the accelerating pace, we'd be 100% nuclear. Today. Not in 2050, today. Compare to solar, which only recently broke the 1% mark.

Nuclear has gone from very cost-competitive (5c/kWh) to not at all cost-competitive (alternatively: "financially risky," often shortened to "risky" in a disingenuous attempt to imply something else) because we gave NIMBYs and self-styled environmentalists a free pass to introduce arbitrary delays into the construction process, and they did, and it was very effective at raising the price / financial risk. That is what people mean when they say that we decided to stop building nuclear.

The typically socialised decommissioning costs, far in excess of estimates, of nuclear usually seem to more than cancel out any cost competitiveness.

I was quite pro-nuclear in the 80s and 90s...

... until we collectively decided to stop leveraging the upsides of nuclear and it turned into just a money pit, rather than a plausible investment. Yeah, I hear you. FWIW I consider it a lost cause these days too. It didn't have to be that way.

Sounds like China is making a go for it, though. Maybe in 20 years they can come build some plants to save us from the duck curve.

China is helped there that they can centrally require it. I doubt they have quite the NIMBY issue we typically get for major projects...

Well, if you agree with the comment you're replying to you'd logically still have to be pro nuclear now. Because the costs of our fossil fuel energy production seem like they'll be the death of our civilization.

I've never advocated sticking with fossil though. Nuclear could have bought us lots of extra time to deal with the rest - if all the coal generation had got replaced by nuclear say in the 90s - but that bird flew ages ago.

Personally, for most of the 21st century I've seen wind, solar, tidal and (pumped) hydro as increasingly more suited - far faster to bring onstream, and without quite the same scale of NIMBY delays of nuclear. A network of micro generators seems more suited to the adoption of community heat and power which also seems an essential part of reaching zero emission - as seen today in Ireland's emissions plan.

At least we have plans to deal with nuclear waste.

What is our plan to deal with carbon waste?

Get HBO to make a dramatic miniseries about it?

> We do have nuclear, and have had it for decades.

Not enough. Some countries that had it even ran from it recently (like Germany).

The anti-nuclear scare was saddening. We could have had multiple per-state with cheaper electric and more efficient and resilient power grids by now.

I find it a little ironic that green activists from 40 years ago are the ones who indirectly caused so much harm.

I've started thinking that people with good intentions are often the most terrible because they will never question their methods (or results) as their goal is holy and justifies all.

The problem is that even if we had way more nuclear, we'd just use it all.

We need to start leaving carbon in the ground. Try to burn less fossil than the year before, instead of setting record after record. All green energy initiatives are just red herrings.

Shouldn't we just be moving to something drastic like a massive sun shade project ASAP?

Slowly on the scale of individual people, but a quick snap on geological time scales, a process of change was initiated in the global economic system by the widespread climactic shifts. a series of events moved the global system towards a phase change which sealed Homo sapiens' fate. No one can pinpoint the exact minute, hour, or day, but at a certain point, global civilization lost the necessary level of coordination to mount the necessary sun shade project. Just as the ancient empires lost the ability to coordinate their own defense and trade in the Bronze Age Collapse, the world lost the ability to avert the next Permian-Triassic level event.

Intimations of war and shifting alliances were punctuated with alleged sabotage and contested destruction of satellites and the closing of the nascent space infrastructure. No one country felt safe letting the other country control the sunlight and the sky. Acrimony only increased when the first nuclear submarine was lost to the loss of buoyancy amidst the first spontaneous mass methane clathrate release. We luckily averted prematurely ending ourselves in nuclear fire and ash, but future generations might look back at it as a lost chance at quick mercy. Eventually, the petty geopolitical squabbles faded and almost everyone universally believed the science, but it wasn't until it was several years too late.

Exactly! But instead of one massive sunshade we would be better off using many small ones, which would allow us to control the local weather. Two possible technologies that seem promising to me are large nitrogen filled balloons with solar elements and several kilometer high solar updraft towers.

The updraft tower depending on configuration can transport large amount of dust upwards helping to create clouds, or condensate the moisture in the air (which is particularly effective in arid regions near the sea).

The balloon-solar plants would also help to reduce the temperature.

I would love to see the inflatable updraft towers get a proof of concept. It's such an enticing idea, one of the best I've seen yet.

[Deleting because I don't want to perpetuate apparently debunked climate change myths, sorry, I honestly hadn't seen it debunked.]

Dang, my most downvoted comment was asking an honest question about climate change.

Mars is a radically different planet and has its own climate. It doesn't have anything to do with the sun getting warmer though, e.g. we can't blame the sun for the Earth warming up just because Mars is also warming up.

A few of the key differences off the top of my head:

- The polar caps of mars are mostly frozen CO2 ("dry ice"), and also mostly disappear during the summer. You can see timelapse animations showing them shrinking and growing by like 90% each year. Their behavior is radically different from our frozen water ice caps, and have a huge difference in thermal mass too.

- Mars has a very thin atmosphere, mostly inactive geology, and no oceans. That means it has very little in the way of thermal buffering

- Mars goes through it's own Milankovitch cycles (changes in orbit eccentricity, axial tilt, precession) which means it undergoes it's own warming/cooling cycles just like earth. It happens to be in a warming cycle right now.

- Enormous dust storms can take over the planet for months at a time, which obviously has a huge impact on global climate

- We have a very short record of observing Mars' climate, so we can't really make long term trend analysis like we can on Earth

If you aren’t a denier then why are you repeating a classic, thoroughly debunked denier talking point?


Maybe they honestly didn't know? Hell, I didn't even know about global warming on Mars until OPs comment..

It’s possible, but beyond a certain point it becomes difficult to extend the benefit of the doubt.

Great write-up, I really appreciate it.

Don't worry, I won't ask any more honest questions about climate change ever again.

I don't mean this in a snarky way at all; if you are interested it is easy enough to educate yourself on the basics. "Read first, question later" is a good approach to this sort of thing, really, as it isn't asking for other peoples effort on the easy stuff.

Variability in the sun’s output has long been accounted for in climate modeling.

It's already too late. It's unfortunate that we didn't understand what was happening 100 years ago, if we did we might have been able to do something about it, but as it stands right now, we can't even slow down what's already been set into motion. The earth is now changing, it's not just the climate, and the earth changes will drive the climate, the feedback loop has started.

Unless someone can invent a technology in the next 5 years to pull the excess greenhouse gases from the upper atmosphere and take us back to pre-1825 levels and keep us there going forward, this is a lost game.

It's like standing on top of the Empire State building and watching a balling ball go over the edge, we are at the point where the majority of the ball's mass has gone past the balancing point. We are close enough to recognize that it's happening but too far away to stop it from falling.

>It's already too late.

The next stage of climate denialism is climate nihilism.

It is not too late to mitigate some of the effects on our societies.

At the very minimum we need the political will to reallocate resources so that we stop accelerating the process and start structuring safety nets for vulnerable communities.

Exactly right. Every tenth of a degree of warming averted is going to make a big difference to someone down the line.

We did understand a 100 years ago. Graham Bell was one of those who warned us.

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