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Extreme climate change has arrived in America (washingtonpost.com)
155 points by moltensodium 7 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 158 comments
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I still find the fact that Exxon internal researchers knew about the incoming crisis since 1982. The fact that they didn't act upon the information to me is mind-boggling, I guess the profit motives were too strong. I wonder how they rationalized it to themselves, if we don't do it then someone else will?

They did act. IIRC they started sponsoring anti climate change material producing organizations and supporting its dissemination. A wildly succesful project that has probably paid itself back with a large factor.

They also (as i read) started building their ocean based drilling platforms a little bit taller to account for sea-level rise.

Oil rigs float.

some are floating some are actually platforms with legs that touch the ground.

furthermore, i was wrong to write "drilling" platforms... as those are only used during the field's construction, until the wells are in place.


I think a good strategy is to sponsor anti climate change activities to keep current profits flowing while at the same silently investing in businesses and tech that will do well in the world climate change creates. I think that's what they are doing.

I mean... yea, it's a good strategy for them it isn't a good strategy for everyone else though.

That’s usually not a concern.

Dumping your externalities on others is profitable, but it's not good.

Like which businesses? Arms dealers?

If was an oil company I would invest in renewables for examples.

I wonder what point people will want to hold them, and others, accountable. Not just cases seeking recompense for investors, but for larger consequences.

> The fact that they didn't act upon the information to me is mind-boggling, I guess the profit motives were too strong.

You're seriously overestimating Americans, circa 1982. We were still fighting about whether cigarette smoke causes cancer (correlation is not causation!) and we had a president who claimed that trees pollute the environment more than cars do (who went on to be reelected). Politically influential Christian public figures rationalized how the deadly sin of greed should be considered a virtue while also blathering about how HIV was a manifestation of God's wrath toward homosexuals. And everyone kind of assumed our odds of surviving the cold war weren't great anyway, so you want to worry about something about temperature increasing, and also didn't you say there was going to be an ice age or something, blah blah blah?

It's a minor miracle that we managed to cease the destruction of the ozone layer given the level of stupidity we were operating at. A person aware of current events and capable of making analogies might question how much progress we've truly made, but that's a separate topic.


> You're seriously overestimating Americans, circa 1982.

Circa 1982? Some months ago, the NYTimes did a story on Coke/Pepse/Nestle sugar drink/food causing simultaneous systemic obesity and malnutrition in Central/South America. Company leadership was quoted as expressing surprise at this "unexpected" impact. TPP had ISDS provisions to permit companies to sue governments to recover profits lost to health policies. And so it goes. Today.


>It's a minor miracle that we managed to cease the destruction of the ozone layer

I'm not sure you can say that we ceased destruction of the Ozone layer. Certainly slowed, and in some cases ozone is increasing but not universally. Ozone levels in the upper levels have been slowly increasing, but the lower levels are still being depleted and there is evidence of an increase of short-lived ozone depleting substances.

https://www.atmos-chem-phys.net/18/1379/2018/


I have a non-rigorous pet theory that the combined effects of lead plumbing and leaded gasoline produced generations of Americans, from the late 19th century to the late 20th century, whose population-wide intelligence levels were adversely affected by lead exposure.

Corporations like Exxon aren't rational, they only exist to make more money, so that's what they did.

The original paperclip maximizers

The original "paperclip maximizer" was powered by runaway capitalism(aka invisible hand of the free market). All the bells and whistles of AI were tuned towards maximizing profit at all cost. Also, the game where you can play it: http://www.decisionproblem.com/paperclips/index2.html

They know that doing the right thing costs money. But customers will usually vote with their wallet, I.e., buy the cheaper option. Doing the right thing is usually punished by customers looking for the cheaper option, the company will go bankrupt, or shareholders will revolt by the bad results.

If you want change you have to convince the customers or force change through government.


And instead of talking to governments to try and get them to enact legislation they started a propaganda campaign to discredit the idea that anthropogenic global warming is real.

Do publicly traded corporations have different interests than actual human beings? Is there main concern only money/profits? If not, what is it?

Humans have different interests from other human beings. Take a wide enough sampling of humanity (i.e. not people who already know each other) and you'll find a wide variety of divergent interests.

But the prime directive of any entity - whether it's a living being, or abstract idea like a corporation or nation state - is to continue existing. After all, every entity that failed in this is no longer with us.

Society moving away from oil is an existential threat to ExxonMobil-the-corporation. Climate change is only an existential threat to a large fraction of humanity, and a largely disjoint one from individual decision-makers at Exxon. So their incentives are somewhat misaligned here.


> to continue existing

That seems obvious, but suicide and extreme risk taking demonstrates many other things are considered more important.

In the corporate world banks fail all the time because the people running them don’t care about failure nearly as much as their next bonus. This is also why pensions and other long term liability’s are generally under funded.


You can explain both of those by moving up a level from individuals to systems.

Suicide is a consequence of shame. Human beings have evolved an emotional mechanism that lets them function as groups; this mechanism functions by giving each individual an unconscious sense of whether they "measure up" to the standards of the group around them. One consequence of that is that some fraction of individuals won't, oftentimes with tragic results for the individual. But groups that have this mechanism killed or absorbed all individuals that don't (well, not quite - psychopathy is the absence of shame, and it's usually maladaptive but some high-functioning psychopaths can blend in among normal society), and so the world we live in includes suicide.

Banks serve financial markets. It's okay for individual banks to fail as long as the market as a whole continues to function; in fact, proper functioning of the market requires some banks to fail.

It's the same as ant colonies or human microbiomes. When you step on an individual ant, the colony doesn't care, because the unit of survival is the colony. When you crap out intestinal bacteria, you don't shed a tear, because the unit of survival is the individual human and not the bacteria within them. In fact, the perspective with which you look at the world says a lot about the degree of interaction within the system. We think of a human as an individual entity; it took us a long time to think of a cell as an individual entity; and unless you're a dedicated biologist you probably don't think of a mitochondria as its own entity, despite them being independent bacteria at one time.

You could look at global capitalism as being one super-organism, much like an ant colony, and individual humans are, well, workers. Capitalism doesn't care if it chews up and spits out human lives, because there will always be more of them. Its prime directive is to sustain capitalism itself.

(Note also that global capitalism doesn't care if ExxonMobile lives or dies, and it's highly likely that it'll die. It'll just get replaced by some solar energy company. This conflict between levels goes all the way up the hierarchy - the interests of your cells are not necessarily aligned with yours, your interests are not necessarily aligned with your employer, your employer is not necessarily aligned with the market.)


Markets are also surprisingly happy to jump off a cliff. Over fishing and other tragedies of the commons often kill off otherwise healthy markets.

Private companies also take extreme risks and fail. People running companies simply don’t face the same risks as the companies themselves. A 20% shot at 10x returns can be completely rational.

PS: Suicide is not just about shame, some people are simply in a lot of pain and seek a way out. Evolution did not optimize for joy.


tragedies of the commons

I think we should retire that phrase and rethink it as the tragedy of greed. Many people are happy and even work to maintain some sort of equilibrium between their consumption and replenishment of natural resources. Garrett Hardin, who originated this trope, arguably had a very dim view of human nature and began with the premise that everyone was equally greedy and pseudo-rationally inclined towards maximizing consumption.


One would think they would plan for their long-term survival, but I feel that the current Board of Directors and C-Suite Execs only care as far as their career horizon.

Nope. The stock market game and investor pressures have forced a lot of less well governed corporations into the trap of only caring about quarterly performance - and a quarterly focus makes it's pretty clear what to do about R&D - that's just a department always deep in the red.

>One would think they would plan for their long-term survival

Why do that when you can focus on short term gains? Outsource departments, cut funding for health and safety, ignore potential issues, collect your fat bonus for cutting costs and then move on to screw the next company before the one you're at implodes


Never mind that C level people are usually at least half done their life anyway. So what if the world warms 2C next decade? They'll weather it just fine

Board of directors and c-suite have short term accountability, did they make this quarter goals?

Exxon not taking it seriously in the 80s seems less extreme than politicians denying it in 2019 when the physical evidence is all around us.

The extrapolation of I'll Be Gone, You'll Be Gone is "By the time it's a problem, we'll be dead."

What would you have done about it, if you were the CEO of Exxon in 1982?

I would enjoy my Champagne, Yacht and life of luxury. Fully knowing that I was for all real purposes untouchable.

> Clifton C. Garvin Jr. - CEO

> Served on the boards of directors of Georgia Pacific, Chevron, Citicorp, Citibank, Johnson and Johnson, J.C. Penney, PepsiCo, Inc, Sperry Corporation, and TRW Inc.

> 1982 Exxon celebrates 100 years since the formation of the Standard Oil Trust in 1882. In its first 100 years, the company evolved from a domestic refiner and distributor of kerosene to a large multinational corporation, involved at every level of oil and gas exploration, production, refining and marketing, and petrochemicals manufacturing.

> 'There is no wad of cash like this anywhere on earth,' said Jack Blum, a Washington energy lawyer and former Senate investigator. 'This is a wad of cash to break banks, even governments.'

https://www.nytimes.com/1982/05/09/business/the-singular-pow...


Why was the CEO of Exxon allowed to do this in 1982? And why didn't the government fund science to figure this out first?

The government knew about it, as did most of the population. Al Gore sponsored the first congressional hearings on climate change in 1976, and I remember putting on a play about environmental issues (including global warming) in 4th grade (1990).

It's very difficult to rally people around a problem until they see tangible evidence of it in their own lives. Global warming was an abstraction in the 80s; we knew it was happening, we knew it would have a big impact, but we were too busy trying not to get nuked by the Soviets (or rather, trying to make them think we were gonna nuke them so they bankrupted themselves). In a democracy you can't get political support for policies until a majority of people agree with you. When it comes to giant systems like the environment, that's too late.

There are probably a number of other problems that can see right now that we are doing nothing about - trust pollution (where you have no idea what's true anymore), mass migration (which I guess we're doing something about, but that "something" is putting kids in cages), erosion of the rule of law, potential infectious diseases, a looming demographic crisis, etc. But all of these are too big to wrap our head around a solution until they become a crisis - we're too busy dealing with climate change - and so they'll just blow up society and we'll be left to pick up the pieces.


He was the CEO of Exxon. He had economic power. He used it.

Why would the government bother? The experts from the companies who helped get them elected told them it wasn't a problem.

> In 1981, he was appointed to President Ronald Reagan's National Productivity Advisory Committee and later served on the President's Private Sector Survey on Cost Control.[6] He served as Chairman of The Business Council in 1983 and 1984.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clifton_C._Garvin


Here's [0] a video that was recorded in 1958 that was prescient wrt anthropogenic global warming. The video calls out that we could detect atmospheric temperature rise and highlights that one of the theories of the day was the release of carbon dioxide gas.

[0]: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m-AXBbuDxRY


Because the government doesn't care about our well being, safety, desires, environment, etc. As long as they can keep their money and power there's no need for them to step in

Start a lobbying campaign to enact a carbon tax or a similar scheme and invest heavily in renewable and nuclear energy.

It isn't mind boggling. It is contemptuous and greedy but exactly in line with keeping and maintaining economic power.

This isn't about the environment.


I still find it mind-boggling how some people can be so surprised by the fact that people in general act in their own interest. A normal, healthy human being is exclusively concerned by its own well-being and that of its immediate family. To the extent that we witness altruistic behavior, it is executed for signalling purposes (this is the reason why there's virtually no completely anonymous charity, see "The elephant in the brain").

There is a part of the brain that is responsible for integrating events into a continuous narrative. That part of the brain is why we perceive ourselves as an integral being and not a set of parts, but that part is also severely biased in healthy humans, biased to paint ourselves as kinder, more altruistic, more intelligent, while also rewriting the motivation we cite for our past actions, so as to put ourselves in the best possible light.

But no, there's nothing special about those Exxon researches, that's just normal human behavior.

And to go further, acting against ones own interest requires going over a strong emotion. The body let's you know that you shouldn't be doing something through a gut feeling. Repeatedly ignoring or repressing those emotions is not healthy for the nervous system, and much has been written on this subject.

LE: And regarding claims that stopping global warming was in their own interest back in the 1980s, there's the hyperbolic discounting effect (among other things).


This implies one needs to act against one's interests to take action on climate change. Lack of imagination on Exxon's part could explain this as well. They could have started ringing alarm bells and used their massive strength to push for environmental research and favorable regulations.

> They could have started ringing alarm bells and used their massive strength to push for environmental research and favorable regulations.

i.e., acting against their own interests. Spending the last 40 years using their strength against environmental research meant that the people who in 1980 owned and managed Exxon extracted great benefit to themselves (at the cost of others) for the rest of their lives (either they're already dead, or will be before any serious consequences may hurt them); doing what you propose would have benefitted the world but greatly hurt their own interests.


A normal, healthy human being is exclusively concerned by its own well-being and that of its immediate family.

This and other statements in your comment are assumptions rather than facts.Have you considered the possibility that your view of human nature is overly reductive?


The immediate family is going to die. Good luck to them.

Maybe so, but please don't post unsubstantive comments to Hacker News.

I thought it was substantive. The "immediate family optimization" argument doesn't work when the "immediate family" is what's going to suffer.

>I still find the fact that Exxon internal researchers knew about the incoming crisis since 1982.

I'll keep posting about it untill this hysteria dies, though I fear that given social pressures regarding anything representing "denial" will keep it alive indefinitely. No one knew about an incoming crisis in the 80s. People were aware about the possibility of climate change in the 80s. It took 30 years of data collection, research, and computational modeling on increasingly modern hardware, which allows for exponentially larger and more precise models, before we had amassed enough evidence in a totally model driven field to conclude that we may be terraforming on the scale of 100 years.


The IPCC was formed in 1988 and published their first report two years later where they already concluded that anthropogenic climate change is happening. I think it's fair to say that scientists knew about this by the late eighties and probably earlier. The confidence intervals have been getting ever smaller since then, but the effect was already known.

Your wording is somewhat oblique ("this hysteria"), and you are making distinctions that are not clear ("no one knew" vs. "people were aware of the possibility"; "terraforming" as a feel-good substitute for unplanned global climate change), and claims that are very strong, sweeping, and incorrect ("totally model-driven field").

Let's correct two of these. Of course there are empirical observations related to climate. There is a definition of 54 "essential climate variables" (ECVs), see [1]. One of these is greenhouse gases [2]. At the bottom of the link, you can see observing programs for CO2 and CH4, both in situ and satellite.

These are well-measured variables, with well-characterized error bars, and models are tested against these observations. For instance, the ~400 ppm CO2 ECV is measured to within 1ppm quite regularly and has been for many years. This is how we improve the models. The same kind of monitoring/model-improvement feedback loop is in place for almost all of the ECVs, including clouds and sea surface properties like temperature and salinity.

Another correction, relating to "no one knew" about a future crisis in the 1980s. Here is a paper [3] from James Hansen in Science magazine, in 1981, that clearly warns of crisis-level consequences. From the abstract -- In the 21st century, we will see "creation of drought-prone regions in North America and central Asia, erosion of the West Antarctic ice sheet with a consequent worldwide rise in sea level, and opening of the fabled Northwest Passage." For whatever it's worth, this appeared on the NYTimes front page in 1981.

That's just one publication. Throughout the 1980s there were broad-based studies, mandated by Congress, that indicated the scope of the problem. See [4], from 1983.

[1] https://gcos.wmo.int/en/essential-climate-variables

[2] https://ane4bf-datap1.s3.eu-west-1.amazonaws.com/wmod8_gcos/...

[3] https://pubs.giss.nasa.gov/abs/ha04600x.html

[4] https://www.nap.edu/catalog/18714/changing-climate-report-of...


>terraforming" as a feel-good substitute for unplanned global climate change),

Not true, please don't put words in my mouth. I use the term terraforming to emphasize the magnitude of the claim. We are fundamentally changing the properties of an entire planetary atmosphere, inadvertently.

>and claims that are very strong, sweeping, and incorrect ("totally model-driven field").

Also not true. The point is that climate science by nature cannot be experimental. We can only make predictions and then proof amounts to measuring how well decades of measurements line up with predictions/models.

>Another correction, relating to "no one knew" about a future crisis in the 1980s. Here is a paper [3] from James Hansen in Science magazine, in 1981, that clearly warns of crisis-level consequences. From the abstract -- In the 21st century, we will see "creation of drought-prone regions in North America and central Asia, erosion of the West Antarctic ice sheet with a consequent worldwide rise in sea level, and opening of the fabled Northwest Passage." For whatever it's worth, this appeared on the NYTimes front page in 1981.

Again, given the non experimental nature of climate science, this was a massive claim which requires decades of data collection and modeling to verify before committing to sweeping social and economic policy reform which has costs of its own.

People underestimate the fact that climate change is one of the most radical ideas ever proposed by the modern scientific establishment, in terms of the scale of the changes, the disastrous predicted consequences, and the scale of societal change required for mitigation. We're talking about a potential irreversible, runaway global extinction accidentally triggered by humans 100-1000+ times faster than any measured natural rate. Due diligence, in a non experimental field, limited by 80s modeling hardware, took time. Meanwhile we all benefited from the fossil fuels we (and our parents) burned.


You said Climate Science is a "totally model-driven field" and I provided facts correcting that sweeping claim.

It's not uncommon to hear this kind of claim on HN - sometimes people seem to not really have on-the-ground information about how climate science works, and are instead going by how they might imagine it works -- a bunch of modelers working in isolation.

That's not how climate science is done. For more on the relationship of climate models to observations, see an old comment: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=15613090#15620293

--

Your reply says that you meant to say that Climate Science "cannot be experimental". This, it turns out, is also not true. There are cases where nature runs the experiment for us.

For instance, the large methane leak recently in the LA area allowed us to understand the effectiveness of the inversion algorithms that are used to turn observations of concentrations into observations of the emissions that caused those concentrations. For instance, to understand the correctness of wind models.

Wildfires, volcanic eruptions, and ENSO onsets often serve as nature-given checks on climate science predictions. They basically provide a "step function" input that is a tool to characterize the system response to a shock. For instance, we got a lot of science out of the varying climate-system responses to different volcanic eruptions.

--

You said that "no one knew" about a possible future crisis in the 1980s. I supplied links showing that this is not the case -- the science establishment, the Congress, and the readers of the front page of major newspapers knew.

Your reply counters with "what should we have done". That's another question, isn't it?


>Your reply says that you meant to say that Climate Science "cannot be experimental". This, it turns out, is also not true. There are cases where nature runs the experiment for us.

>For instance, the large methane leak recently in the LA area allowed us to understand the effectiveness of the inversion algorithms that are used to turn observations of concentrations into observations of the emissions that caused those concentrations. In other words, to understand the correctness of wind models.

This is exactly what differentiates model driven from experimental sciences. You cannot go out and define an experiment to confirm your claim, you can only make observations of natural phenomena. Which can take decades when you're considering sweeping, global changes, particularly when you're measuring changes which occur on scales of decades-centuries.

>You said that "no one knew" about a possible future crisis in the 1980s. I supplied links showing that this is not the case -- the science establishment, the Congress, and the readers of the front page of major newspapers knew.

Once again you are twisting my words. My point is to differentiate between knowing that something is happening with certainty, e.g. a consensus that climate is indeed changing due to human activity, and knowing of the possibility of something significant occurring, requiring substantial evidence to match the claim. It took decades to gather enough evidence to match the scale of the claim of global climate change.

>Your reply counters with "what should we have done". That's another question, isn't it?

Again I've done no such thing. My point is that we did what we should have - it is not rational to make sweeping changes to society, culture, and economy for every alarmist prediction uttered by a scientist, because such changes, big or small, are not free. One requires a minimum degree of certainty and, considering the magnitude of the implications of climate change, from the perspectives of both consequences and mitigation, it isn't unreasonable to say that 30 years is a relatively short time to establish a rigorous scientific consensus given the age of the modern scientific establishment and the amount of data that needed to be collected and analyzed because of the purely data driven, non-experimental nature of climate science.


Do you have the same objections about astronomy, cosmology, archeology, etc?

Given that you agree with the basic premise of climate crisis, what part of advocating for a post carbon economy "hysterical"?

IIRC, then US Rep Al Gore first Congressional hearings were in 1981. Further IIRC, Gore had had a professor that was lecturing about climate change, so that'd be the 1970s (?).

Of course, as we know now, the fossil fuel industry knew in the 1950s.


1950's? I'm not familiar with that; I mean, technically speaking, the scientific community has 'known' about the impact of CO2 on global temperatures since Svante Arrhenius published in 1896[1]. There's a bunch of provisos though to a claim that we 'knew' about global warming and it's impact in 1896. I'm curious though; what are you referring to with respect to the 1950s? What research were they doing then?

https://www.rsc.org/images/Arrhenius1896_tcm18-173546.pdf


It's been so long, I can't remember when I first heard it; I've always taken it as common knowledge. The weird part, for me, was when the denialist campaign started some time after. Which I associate with the Reagan Administration, rightly or wrongly. (We in the tree hugger community were aghast by EPA Chief James Watt. And so forth.)

From what I now gather, multiple persons & orgs were raising the issue independently. Certainly, the leaders were kept in the loop. Top three hits from a quick search:

https://www.greenpeace.org/usa/global-warming/exxon-and-the-...

https://www.telesurenglish.net/news/Oil-Companies-Knew-About...

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/climate-consensus-97...

https://duckduckgo.com/?q=oil+companies+climate+change+1950s


People often don't realize how old the science behind climate change is. There's an excellent discussion at https://history.aip.org/climate/20ctrend.htm#M_35_ ; quoting from that paragraph: "Returning to old records, in 1986 the group produced the first truly solid and comprehensive global analysis of average surface temperatures, including the vast ocean regions, which most earlier studies had neglected. They confirmed that there had been considerable warming from the late 19th century up to 1940, followed by some regional cooling in the Northern Hemisphere. Global conditions had been roughly level until the mid 1970s. Then the warming had resumed with a vengeance. The warmest three years in the entire 134-year record had all occurred in the 1980s."

I think "terraforming" means "changing planetary climate to be more like Earth climate". We are doing something rather opposite.

You can use "geoengineering" if you want a sarcastic term similar to how rocket people use "rapid unplanned disassembly" instead of "crash".


Yeah, it's like a 12 year old kid taking a first drag off a cigarette in 1938 and exclaiming "That shit will kill you" as he hacks and coughs. Not the same thing as factual scientific evidence.

Some of us were paying attention.

--

My 4th grade teacher (1978) was brain washing us into being tree huggers. Conserve water while brushing our teeth was "magic". Turn down the heat. Recycle. Etc.

I recall hippie flavored propaganda in the school library asking if we wanted Earth to become a Red Planet (industrial) a Green Planet (farming) or Blue Planet (natural ecosystems), or some combination.

My (much older) cousin was a physicist studying submarine acoustics. He's always known, patiently explained the whatnots to us younger skeptics.

I worked at a civil engineering firm while still in high school (1980s). All the adults seemed to know what was happening, even if we didn't yet know all the causes. I vividly remember my boss (from Canada) telling me his childhood neighborhood lake was no longer safe to play hockey on.

I volunteered thru the 1990s at an org trying to save the PNW salmon. The staff scientists knew our local snow packs were shrinking. (Need the melt for salmon runs.) Now our mountains are bare most of the year, of course. Terrifying.

Maybe because I read a lot of sci-fi, I've always "known". Most memorable to me have been John Brunner's Shockwave Rider, The Sheep Look Up, and Ernest Callenbach's Ecotopia. But of course, post-apocalyptic is a popular storyline, so there have been zillions others.

--

PS, for the down voter(s), one of the minor plot lines from the TV show Dallas was Bobby Ewing's renewable energy efforts, in opposition to older brother JR Ewing's doubling down on carbon. In debating with Bobby in front of Daddy Ewing, JR's money quote was "We've been running out of oil since the first oil well." So, ya, climate change was part of the (most) popular culture too.


"All the adults seemed to know what was happening, even if we didn't yet know all the causes."

I want to amend my answer.

We all knew global warming was happening. What we didn't know yet was why it wasn't happening faster. Given the rate the carbon was being added to the atmosphere, the temperature should have been rising faster than observed. And the skeptics (of the time) used the missing carbon to fuel their FUD.

The ocean had not yet been identified as the carbon sink. Once that penny dropped, everything since has been details.


This is a weird comment... am I understanding right that you do believe in climate change and believe that people were aware in the 1980's? The first couple lines where you talk about a teacher "brain washing" you into "tree huggers" and seeing "hippie flavored propaganda" comes off a lot like how ignorant, far-right climate change deniers sound. However, towards the end it sounds like you are saying that you knew about global warming. Care to clarify?

I've long wondered how and why I became a tree hugger. Despite the dominant culture. It wasn't from my family, church, peers, media. Growing up, my father just poured used motor oil into the sewer (ffs).

My best guess is that one teacher slyly taught environmentalism on the down low. It certainly wasn't part of the curriculum. And some how her message stuck with me.

Given my own experience, and my readings about "Language is a virus", Kuhn's Structure of Scientific Revolutions, memetics, Everett Rogers' Diffusion of Innovation, Luntz's Words of Power, etc:

It's mostly a waste of time and effort and goodwill trying to persuade any body of anything. It's better to focus imprinting kids with the values and ideals they'll need to better compete in the future.

For better or for worse.

Mostly for worse.


What I find quite interesting is that there are numerous high-profile politicians and media figures, along with vast numbers of trolls, who deny that climate change exists, and block meaningful action to control it.

At what point do we learn the lesson that’s deeply embedded in our collective consciousness (Noah’s Ark, the ant and the grasshopper) and decide that modern states are not capable of dealing with the problem, assuming that climate change is going to result in serious disruption, and look to make contingency plans for ourselves and our families?


Modern nation-states are perfectly capable of dealing with climate change issues. They're the only entities with the power to properly do so. The problem lies in industry-bought politicians preventing those nation-states from enacting effective policies.

Because of the free-rider problem, dealing with it requires international cooperation between those nation-states. Which is possible, but difficult.

William Nordhaus' Nobel prize winning proposal would make that easier: https://issues.org/climate-clubs-to-overcome-free-riding/


Honestly, too bad. Even if some countries might fail to contribute their fair share action just needs to be taken.

If folks can get an equitable system working then that's great - otherwise I expect the US, India and China to bear the vast majority of the cost since those three nations all have an immense amount to lose if global warming gets more extreme.

Both India and China are in extremely weather sensitive areas with large populations and a government that would be unable to cope if food shortages became a thing and economic instability happened. America just doesn't want the hassle of being the golden egg if food shortages break down, it'll probably fair pretty well for quite some time, but the 40% of Americans that are obese will be poorly situated to survive in extreme weather events.


You're right. The standard comment I hear is "Why should we do anything, China isn't doing anything and it's bigger than us"

My response is:

1. China is doing stuff. Not enough perhaps, but arguably more than we are. 2. Who are we to say anything? Canada has the highest per capita emissions in the world. If anybody should be first, shouldn't it be us?

But the free riding problem is still real. "Climate clubs" would completely demolish the "but China" problem.


> entities with the power

You assume that it will require power (read: coercion & violence) in order to deal with climate change.

For a few hundred years we've had an ever-growing state in most places in the world, reaching levels of power undreamed of by rulers of the past. Yet climate problems persist with no sign of stopping. Relying on the current political order will not result in anything different. All nations exist in a state of anarchy with respect to one another.

So we're at a crossroads: do we empower global government to control the entire population, in order to address climate problems? Or do we admit that government cannot solve the problem and look to more imaginative -- and less violent -- solutions?

I for one don't expect that global government will work out quite like its proponents envision. Is anyone fit to be King of the Earth?


What solutions do you propose? I don't really believe that we can solve tragedy of the commons style problems without governments, but I'm open to hear your arguments.

As a society we need to make the decision to take the microphone away from people who are just plain wrong or stupid. If we just ignore them, they can't do any harm.

Yes, even when it's a celebrity or elected official, we should just utterly ignore them.

Whenever I hear about a celebrity breakup like it's actual news I shudder.


As a society we are split roughly 50/50 on who is stupid and wrong, so this really just means “silence those who disagree with me.”

Anecdotally, the hn community does have an obvious majority on most issues, including this one, but is still good about allowing dissenting opinions to be heard, because it is necessary for the mission of satisfying intellectual curiosity.


If you don't understand or believe climate science at this point, it can no longer be written off as being uninformed. You are purposefully remaining ignorant and should be deemed unqualified to hold public office.

There has to come a point where a consensus is so solid that continuing to play devils advocate is a disqualifying act. We know the planet is changing, and we know we are doing it. This is no longer a subject to be debated, end of.


At this point I think it's well understood that >90% of scientists and experts agree that climate change is a real thing and going to be a severe problem.

It's not about "Those who disagree with me" it's "Those who disagree with widely accepted facts." and are causing real harm by doing so.


That's a good reason to believe in climate change (and I think its even well north of 90%).

But that isn't a reason to create climate blasphemy laws. Because the scientists could easily be wrong about a lot of it. History is littered with superseded theories in science.

I went to a presentation of a tenured climate scientist from a good school, who gave a somewhat skeptical presentation on climate change. He didn't dispute that global warming is real or is man-made. He just thought the postive feedback loops were a lot stronger than IPCC concesuss estimated.

But other professors from non-science disciplines came and read him the riot act during the Q/A portion. Being challenged is good. But some of the questions strongly implied he shouldn't publish anything challenging the status quo. That's bad.


Thomas Sowell, wrote a great book in 1995 about the phenomenon you describe. The Vision of the Anointed lays out this problematic tendency. It was quite prevalent 100 years ago as anxiety arose about the industrial revolution (radio, telephone, automobile), and labor moved from the farm (14hr days during half of the year) to the factory.

“Yet a polemical tactic has developed which enables virtually any general statement, however true, to be flatly denied, simply because it is not 100 percent true in all circumstances...Even in the days of Stalin, to make a distinction between the Communist world and the free world was to invite sarcastic dismissals of this distinction, based upon particular inadequacies, injustices, or restrictions found in “the so-called ‘free world,’ ” as the intelligentsia often characterized it, which kept it from being 100 percent free, democratic, and just.”

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


Sure, we need to present both sides of the story.

So >90% of coverage should be about what >90% of people think, and <10% of coverage should be what <10% of people think.

Let's make it proportional.


Cite the science supporting your first line. You are just regurgitating platitudes. And if the 10% are good enough to be lumped into your sample size, why is their opinion not valid?

Our society of popularity unfortunately means that it's not just "allowing dissenting opinions" but 'thought leaders' end up getting an outsized amount of attention.

Some celebrities are smart - some have degrees in neuroscience... but I really don't care to hold their opinion over anyone else's.


When the percentage of 'wrong or stupid' people is low enough, say below 1%, I would agree. Maybe even 10%. But the number of people who are wrong or stupid in this way is still quite high; at least 25-30% in the US, possibly more who are wrong or stupid but keep quiet about it. You can personally ignore these people, but they are legally allowed to vote in every election and consume whatever they can afford and kill or burn most anything on their property. We ignore them systematically as a society to our own peril.

What is your alternative?

1. Stop disassociating with everyone whose opinions you disagree with. Include the "wrong and stupid" in your communities, as long as they're not toxic.

2. Learn about how people actually change their minds, instead of trying to coerce and shame them and then shunning them when they don't take your point of view instantly.

3. Be open-minded to the valid points they may have. Almost no one is 100% wrong, and you are not 100% right. But when you start from a "you're wrong and stupid" perspective, your audience digs in their heels deeper.

4. Coordinate memetic campaigns to provide an alternative viewpoint to people who might be on the verge of being taken in by the wrong and stupid.

5. Provide a safe harbor for people who might possibly change their minds. Recognize that by changing their worldview they may be shunned by their existing family, friends, and/or community. They need to know that if they join your worldview they're not going to be shamed for not joining it sooner.


You don't see the irony in your statment

Are you saying the people saying we shouldn't give China free money à la TPP are the problem? Because you've basically undermined your whole argument from where I am sitting.

Because you people treat it like a religion. Some things are true, some things aren't. Your 'climate change nightmare' of what might happen in 40 years is the daily reality for billions of people. And just because someone doesn't buy into the same bs you do, does not make them a troll

I'm not sure what point you were trying to make here

>Because you people

One of the worst ways you can start a discussion if you actually want people to listen to you but ok. You people being those that trust and listen to scientists and data over politicians and pop culture figures with no scientific training or background? If anything, it is climate change deniers that treat it like a religion, blindly believing in something.

> Some things are true, some things aren't. Your 'climate change nightmare' of what might happen in 40 years is the daily reality for billions of people

Correct, and climate change is true and a daily reality for everyone living on earth.

>And just because someone doesn't buy into the same bs you do, does not make them a troll

He never said it did, he simply stated that there are a large number of trolls online that deny climate change exists which is also true


Cite the science. Do you think '90% of scientists' believe in the gravitational constant? I would say it's 100. You repeat all these platitudes like they are fact. You don't see the irony in your statements. You probably also believe 4 out of 5 dentists recommend your toothpaste

Your "argument" is incredibly fallacious, and you're clearly not actually trying to have a discussion. Have fun posting angry, poorly informed comments on the internet

thats what you say when you have nothing to say. inform me then. Cite the science. And fyi, the scientific community is one of the most political, ego driven, petty communities around. keep on regurgitating stuff you hear and never verify though.

and 'you people' which you bashed me for, is no different than saying '90% of scientists' good job trashing your own argument.


Not only that, the US leads GHG reductions.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/rrapier/2017/10/24/yes-the-u-s-...

Everyone knows China and India lead GHG growth by country, and they have no real interest in increasing the costs for their poorest and most vulnerable, and neither does the West (see "yellow jacket protests"). Increasing energy costs under the justification of protecting the poorest in the world from environmental catastrophe, which only leads to highers costs to those very same people is very sordid "logic." It's almost a thought-crime situation.

I heard a pundit on NPR this morning point to flooding in the midwest this spring as evidence of GCC, despite the problem going back 200 years[0]. Of course, addressed by our benevolent government with 12 separate Flood Control Acts[1], costing billions of dollars. It started, coincidentally, in 1917 (i.e. Lenin's Russian Revolution).

[0]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Flood_of_1844 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Flood_of_1881 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Mississippi_Flood_of_192...

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


"We have not done the things that are necessary to lower emissions because those things fundamentally conflict with deregulated capitalism, the reigning ideology..."

From a few comments below:

> Exxon internal researchers knew about the incoming crisis since 1982.

> ...they started sponsoring anti climate change material producing organizations and supporting its dissemination. A wildly succesful project that has probably paid itself back with a large factor.

So yeah, find a way for lowering emissions to create money and power and then .aybe there would be the motivation to do so.


"climate change denial" is a blanket term for anyone who disagrees with anything.

"You dont want to give No-Strings-Attached money to China to help the environment? You must be a Anti-Science Denier!"


I recently learned on a trip to the United Kingdom that former hop-growing areas of the Southern UK have been purchased by French winemakers to grow grapes, because global warming has made that region amenable to it [1], while regions in France previously associated with viniculture are finding it increasingly difficult to grow traditional wine grape varieties [2]

1. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/08/02/english-sparklin...

2. https://www.france24.com/en/20180914-down-earth-climate-chan...


I've family in Napa, Ca. One of the high schools is literally called Vintage High and their mascot is the Crushers, after grape crushing machines [0]. Winemaking is as a part of Napa as the soil and air.

Wineries are moving up into Oregon and Washington now, following the climate [1]. It takes ~7 years for the grapes to get to a point where you can make wine out of them, hence moving up there now and planting.

This climate crisis is going to ruin Napa and already kinda is. ~81% of the grapes can't manage in the heat by 2080 [2], that's 4 of every 5 vines just dying in the sun. Meanwhile, the Napa Valley Vinters Association's head is firmly in the sand [3] and remains steadfastly confused that climate is weather.

[0] https://vhs-nvusd-ca.schoolloop.com/

[1] https://apnews.com/2a2da3558a1c47f6a2aeec8d409e47c2

[2] https://www.climatehotmap.org/global-warming-locations/napa-...

[3] https://napavintners.com/about/climate_change.asp


Not just in America, but in SE Asia as well. My gf grew up in one of the largest cities on coastal area in our home country in SE Asia. Her city got flooded every year for third year in a row now whereas it wasn't the case before then. This year is the hardest one among three; the water rises up to chest level and lives were lost.

I worry that poor countries like my home country, which has not much resource to migrate people in mass, will face serious issues in the near future. Having said that, I also believe in the resilience of the people there. They have been through military dictatorship and whatnot, so I have faith that they will survive albeit with huge cost of lives and property...

Climate change will disturb world's political and economic systems, and I hope (and kind of believe) that the humanity can survive through this ordeal. In my honest opinion, it's too late to stop climate change, and the best we can do is to do our individual parts to mitigate the effects and come up with ways to cope with it the best we can.


Yeah it's been a while since I've read up about the growing number of refugees but IIRC climate change has the potential to dramatically increase the amount of migration to countries which won't have enough resources to properly with the influx of people and put even more stress on local resources (i.e. water, food).

the far-right in Europe is resurgent largely on the back of anti-migrant racism and hysteria, and that's with a crisis involving 5-6 million people. now imagine things with 25 million people, or more, and not just focused in Europe. it's going to be very bad.

> In my honest opinion, it's too late to stop climate change, ..

Climate change is not a binary thing, it's a process. We absolutely still have the opportunity to stop it from getting much much worse. So let's not give up and fight on that front as well!


It is a wonder to me that when presidential candidate Andrew Yang stated at the 2nd debate that we need to get resources into the hands of citizens so that they can move to higher ground that he was lambasted by climate change activists, who then painted him as a do-nothing candidate on climate change. This js quite far from his actual policies which entails an all-in approach including both emission reduction and geo-engineering, while also wanting to pass a UBI, which could help people escape flood plains. I believe here Mr. Yang was just stating plainly the facts and projections of climate scientists and what we should do in response.

I've distanced myself from politics, so I do not know much about what other things Andrew Yang stands for. But I have to agree with him on the aforementioned point about moving people to higher ground; I wish there is some think tank type city/urban planning group that is devising ways to engineer people to move to 'safer' places if climate change turns to worse.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/usda-report-sees-dire-climate-c...

Unchecked climate change could mean that the weather conditions hurting farmers this year will become increasingly common and result in higher costs for the federal government, according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture report.

The report, issued by the USDA’s Economic Research Service, found that if greenhouse gases are allowed to continue to increase, U.S. production of corn and soybeans—which are more susceptible to extreme heat during growing season—could decline as much as 80% in the next 60 years.

This is a problem. The US has some of the most fertile growing regions in the world and if we stop exporting cheap grain there will be global hunger and strife.

Shits about to get real yo.


Not sure why you seem to be greyed: https://www.arborday.org/media/mapchanges.cfm

TBH I've been posting stuff warning about climate change and environmental damage. I think there are corporate propagandists on the site that are down voting this information as a paid propaganda campaign.

He who controls the Spice controls the Universe.


This average increase mark is obviously very useful and important, but there's another dimension to add on to that when it comes to temperature trends.

In the Twin Cities, for instance, the altered jet stream has greatly increased both colder-than-usual and hotter-than-usual patterns that stick around for longer. So although our average increase looks low, for instance this summer espeially we are having unusually hot streaks followed by unusually cold streaks (and the winters have been very bad over the past several years, with two 'polar vortex' years due to arctic air masses displacing on us, which is greatly impacted by climate change and arctic warming).

TL;DR I'd be very interested to look at the data shifts in temperature more deeply and see which areas are impacted by both hotter AND colder weather, which wouldn't show up in an examination of averages.


I agree, in my city (Edmonton), the weather forecast even 1 day in advance has effectively become useless this summer. It has been record breaking in terms of the amount/days of rain, and I can say with confidence on at least half of those days rain was not in the forecast.

The system has become completely unstable to the point where weather models no longer seem to be able to output accurate results.


I think the key concept is variance -- the mean might change a little but if the variance changes a lot, there will be "extreme" events with more regularity.

I like that this article states the warming has been a long time coming.

Filed under believe but cannot prove: Agriculture interrupted the background warming & cooling cycle.

If humanity is to survive climate crisis, we'll need to actively manage the entire carbon cycle. aka Garden Earth.


> we'll need to actively manage the entire carbon cycle. aka Garden Earth.

This I agree with.

In all this turmoil and disappointment that we screwed up our ecosystem, regardless of whoever is at fault, it's about time we step up to evolve into a specie which can control their home planet's climate to a large extent.

I may be day dreaming but I see controlling climate as next progression in our evolution. And when I say "controlling climate", I don't mean it at expense of arresting development or hoping that people will just stop indulging themselves etc.


I agree with this. We have become such a significant geophysical force that we will have to take a more active role in managing the resource and energy currents of the biosphere. Climate change is a result of a failure to do just that.

One challenge is that those in the Midwest seem to welcome the idea of "global warming" & several Midwestern states seem to be key to winning the presidential election.*

I think that is a very hard marketing battle to win since the idea of climate change to many people just means warmer temperatures.

I think a lot of people in colder climates feel they have little to lose. The actual massive scale effect is extremely difficult to comprehend, even after watching excellent documentaries. I think it is only something most voting citizens will care about when it effects them personally & by then it would be far to late.

* Based on living in the Midwest

- Edit - Giving this more thought I wonder if these articles need to be less about temperature changes & reflect more about increases of extreme weather & effects on farms.


Isn't the most of the Midwest already in normal times quite hot in the summer? I mean, in my European eyes looking at weather stations reports and temperatures maps, 95% of the US land is too hot in the summer, and the Midwest climate is very continental, i.e. cold winters but hot summers too.

But yes, people have been indoctrinated in associating warmth and heat with "good". I trace it back to the post-WW2 era, with the development of paid holidays and tourism in the sun. Before that, the part of population who could afford holidays would either go to spa resorts in the mountains or to the North Atlantic shores; i.e. they would go to places which were cooler than the places they usually lived, not to places that are hotter than those places where they lived which are already hot in in summertime.

From the 60's to the 80's, sun was promoted as an extremely positive value. The more sun you could get, the healthier you would be. You'd have to get more and more tanned.

Previously, people protected themselves from the sun. Hat, scarfs, long sleeves were worn. Shades were looked after, and large trees were planted along the roads and most squares. Houses (also for practical reasons) had smaller windows, unlike the fad of large window bays which make the room behind unbearable as soon as the sun shows up.

There has been lately a little bit of back-pedalling on a few of those aspects, but the main principle ("sun, heat, and light are good for you") has not changed much and remain quite deeply ingrained in most people.

I find it infuriating that in 2019, TV and weather forecast anchors still always present long streaks of hot, dry and cloudless days as a "beautiful weather" for which we should rejoice. It doesn't matter if the main news theme of the previous days has been climate change/warming, or the drought hitting farmers, nope, 24 h later they use the same wording again. I mean, they could finish their sentence with "a beautiful weather for those who fancy this or that activity", that would be fine, but they never do: in their mind it is must be good and welcome for everyone. At the same time, as a fair scale gardener I see half of my crops die from the drought or the heatwave, because it has rained only once in 8 weeks, despite the fact that I am supposed to live in one of the chamber pots[1] of my country... :-(

I think it indicates a huge cultural inertia, even though this culture was only (IMO) recently born, in the second half of the XXth century. Despite the awareness which has been rising in the last 15 years, it hasn't yet translated into the common mental model.

--------

[1]: not sure how well it translates in English: a place where it rains very often.


>Isn't the most of the Midwest already in normal times quite hot in the summer

Yes

>Summers in the Midwest tend to be humid and hot. Temperatures in the 80s and 90s are common, and in many areas of the region, the temperature rises to triple digits at least a few times each summer.

>https://traveltips.usatoday.com/typical-climate-midwestern-u...


> Isn't the most of the Midwest already in normal times quite hot in the summer?

The thought is it will translate to less cold winters. I'm not arguing that this is great logic, just pointing out the common thoughts I overhear.


Oh yes, I have heard that too.

Following a bit the same kind of logic, I often hear people complaining "Phew, enough with this bad weather!", when, after a series of 8 dry hot sunny days, it has been raining only for a half-day (and it will not last any longer)...

Concerning farming, I'd rather have a steadily cold winter, than a warmer winter with a 1 or 2 days cold spike a month after crops have started growing, having started early because of a too early and too warm winter period. (We've had that too this winter here.)

Having lived many years above Arctic Circle, would I have wished for warmer winters? Shorter ones, yes, a bit, because it gets a bit monotonous in the end. But warmer, not really.


It's insane how many intelligent, thoughtful people I've met who still parrot the line that "oh our children will be screwed". Or even worse, they make some random allusion to scientific progress or God and claim it will all be okay.

No.

Science will not save us. God will not save us. It will not be okay. And unless you're currently on your deathbed, you will feel the effects of climate change. You will be fucked.

I suspect only drastic, world wide, almost revolutionary political change could effectively halt the massive carbon generating machine that is human industry. Except the problem with massive revolutions is that they tend to cause conflict, which tends to increase emissions (tanks don't exactly run on solar).

Man, I'm pretty damn close to joining a doomsday cult.


The scientific consensus re climate change isn't anywhere near that gloomy in the short term range. We've already had nearly 1 degree C increase since 1975 and it hasn't been a disaster yet.

I think the far bigger problem will be that it won't really be that bad for the next 50 years, leading to complacency, and we will hit the point of no return before we really feel much impact in the richer western countries.


I keep seeing people spread variants of "if we don't act now, climate change will destroy the world 12 years" and "we only have 18 months to stop emitting CO2". Not just by random social media users - quite a few journalists and even members of Congress have said those things. I've even seen a few people explicitly claim that they're suffering depression, not saving for retirement, etc, because they expect climate change will kill them personally by 2050. Of course, none of those claims are backed by science at all.

The 18 month stat is a mashup of two totally different deadlines. First, that we need strong emissions commitments by 2020, which is not a meteorological deadline but a political one: UN meeting schedules and the Paris Agreement call for strengthened emissions plans by 2020, so failing to act by then implies an overall lack of political will. Second, the IPCC report that CO2 emissions need to peak by 2020 to keep warming below 1.5 C by 2100. That's important and hard to reach, but "peak" is not "become net negative" and >1.5C is not "doomed".

The 12 year stat is basically backwards - confusing an emissions deadline with a temperature peak. The IPCC finding is that we'll reach 1.5 C of total post-1975 warming between 2030 and 2050, and that major emissions cuts by 2030 (and net-zero by 2050) could limit warming to 1.5C. The worst case described was 3C by 2100, not 2030, and harms arriving some time after their "locked in" warming thresholds.

None of that means it's not a serious problem, or that rapid action isn't needed, but I'm really disturbed to see people predicting death and doom for what are actually emissions deadlines. It seems like an attempt to trick people into acting fast, but action that fast isn't actually possible. I think that instead we're going to get to the 2020s and be hearing "you said the world would end but things are still basically ok, you're full of shit, clearly we don't need to keep taking action".


We haven't had a disaster yet, as in a showstopping, "this is the end of the world" disaster. And those may be far off. But even a small disaster can create massive problems. For instance, take New York. It's quite literally at sea level. Sandy did a number on the infrastructure. Now let's say we get a hurricane with maybe 1.5x the power of Sandy, maybe 2x. What do you think that would do to the world's economy if New York faced serious damage? Or what about power plants? Do you think Fukushima is the only power plant that has crumbling infrastructure?

This isn't necessarily validated by hard scientific evidence, but I have a suspicion that climate change is exacerbating conflict in the middle east. For one, heat is a known catalyst for violence. But also, as desertification takes effect, resources become constrained, creating conflict.


The political instability resulting from food shortages and migration caused by climate change will be devastating, and much of the world has already experiencing it. Things get ugly fast when food becomes scare. We've seen what's happened in North Africa, South & Central America, and Syria. India is suffering now as well.

The US has a refugee crisis stemming directly from the loss of arable land in Central America, and Europe is suffering from one as a result of the a massive drought and the Arab Spring hitting Syria.


You are very simply uninformed. What you think will happen in 50 years is the present. We’re already past the point of no return (well...officially we will be in 12 years, but we don’t have even close to the political will or infrastructure to avert it, so it’s more or less a certainty). People are already complacent and refuse or are unable to understand the massive scope of the problem.

Effects of emissions take about 20-30 years to be seen, so today’s emissions are already locked in to be felt mid-century. That should help put the 1 degree C rise you mentioned in proper context.

So, yes, things are that gloomy. We need immediate, global efforts in a war-like sense to change our entire energy sector if we are to avert the worst of it, and of course we’re only headed faster and more headstrong in the opposite direction. It’s not incorrect to say that we’re most likely completely fucked, and that Gen Z will be the last generation to experience a peaceful planet.


> we will hit the point of no return

We have hit the point of no return. The only options available to us right now are how to minimize the inevitable effects.


I'm in agreement. I moved my kids, all under 10, to a part of upstate New York that's slightly more "buffered" against climate change. It'll come here, but my best modeling shows that it'll be a bit more stable for about a decade longer.

I don't think we can fix this problem.

The best possible solution, at this point, is to try to build "habitats" for humans to survive in for as long as it takes for the ecosystem to reboot.

That obviously won't work for long term since historically, after a mass extinction, it takes about 50 million years for a new diverse ecosystem to get established.

We'll have to evolve as a species, both biologically and socially, in order to survive the extremes and lack of resources.

The question is if we can accomplish that evolution, even with the benefits of science, within time. Do we have 100 years? 200 years? 500 years? Even if we can survive in a mad-max style dystopia for 200 years, would we even have the ability to manufacture multi-generation shelters at that point? If we manufacture them now, would people stay in them even when the ecosystem hasn't yet collapsed?

How long can we live in an underground bubble before it falls apart and we're thrown into a world that's not hospitable for regular human life anymore? Can we survive as a species with a population collapse from almost 8 billion to a few dozen million?

The only "magic bullet" I can see saving us is if someone figures out cheap and accessible fusion energy. Nearly unlimited cheap energy could power a lot of otherwise impossible "moon shot" projects to try to save our species.


I don't particularly disagree with anything you had to say, but the tone of your post makes me wonder if you and similarly passionate individuals are actually ready to make money meet mouth. Have you stopped eating beef? Do you use only zero-emissions transport options? Have you taken zero flights and taxi rides since 2001? Is your day job contributing to some part of the solution to climate change?

Anyone who generally participates in the modern lifestyle that most of us share is one way or another contributing to the problem. Your passion is misplaced - wasted, even - unless you yourself are making drastic changes to how you live.


Thank you for calling this out. You're completely right in that I haven't taken the necessary actions. I do need to eat less beef. I do need to limit my consumerism. I will say I take public transportation (cause I live in a city that allows me that luxury). Honestly it's hard to not be overly pessimistic about one's individual. We should do our best to combat carbon emissions in our day to day life, but one person or even a thousand people going vegetarian won't fix our problems. Drastic political change is ultimately necessary.

Learning how to grow and preserve your own food, fix your own vehicles and appliances, build things instead of buying cheap Amazon/Chinese shit, raise animals, and maintain a dwelling are drastic changes and don't require government intervention. People did it for most of history so it's not difficult. If you want to survive, realize that consumer urban comfort is a 20th century relic.

Why so serious? /s

On a serious note, I hear you and agree with you to a certain extent.

Indulge me for a moment, in long run most likely universe will end up in heat death. So yes, we are screwed. But right now, it's time for action. We need to think of engineering solutions.

There are 2 key problems here:

1. amount of CO2 in atmosphere

2. heat added by sun every day.

Fix any one of them and we stand a chance. There are ways of fixing it from accelerating photosynthesis (chemically or by optimizing plant growth by controlling env. it's growing in etc.) or having a sun shade at L1 or just literally planting more trees.

I am assuming you are a techie, so you are well equipped with tools and you are certainly not happy, so you have a motivation.

We may not be able to solve it perfectly we can certainly make a huge dent.


A better alternative to a sunshade at L1 is a swarm of autonomous hot air balloons, which can change their reflectivity. A nice thing about this is that they do not need to be built all at once for the whole earth, but rich cities in north can use them to get more sunny days, and places like dubai would use them as artificial clouds.

You'd need a lot more balloons inside the atmosphere than a good way away from Earth at L1.

But they are much cheaper, can be useful even when partially deployed, and allow fine grained control over weather instead of making everything uniformly colder.

Blocking out the sun whether by a sunshade or light controlled nuclear winter/"artificial volcano" has the downside that it hurts agricultural production. And food production needs to increase anywhere by 25% to doubling by 2050, depending on which population growth hockey stick charts you look at.

That's assuming we block all the sunlight, but what we need to do is reduce sunlight in places like sahara, antarctica, middle of australia, and increase in places that are too cold. This can be achieved by satellites orbiting at lower level, or even stratospheric balloons. We do not need this to cover significant portion of earth surface, just enough to nudge winds in the right direction and change the humidity. Since the greenhouse effect from humidity and clouds is much larger than the effect from CO2, we can get much nicer climate even without reducing atmospheric CO2.

You might try reading channels that are more optimistic about human ingenuity and place less faith in the political process.

Here's an alternative approach: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free-market_environmentalism


Can one LOL harder at this idea?

> Free-market environmentalists therefore argue that the best way to protect the environment is to clarify and protect property rights. This allows parties to negotiate improvements in environmental quality.

I would not hold my breath waiting for ExxonMobil, the Saudi Royal family, or any other powerful entity to give up property rights. This outcome is worse for them than turning the planet into slag.

> Owners face a strong incentive to take care of and protect their property. They must decide how much to use today and how much to use tomorrow. Everybody is trying to grow value. Corporate value and share price is based on their anticipated future profits. Owners with the possibility of transferring their property, either to an heir or through sale want their property to grow in value. Property rights encourage conservation and defend resources against depletion, since there is a strong incentive to maximize the value of the resource for the future.

Just like a CEO would never risk the long term sustainability of the company for fat short term bonus. /s

If humans were rational and were maximizing for future value we wouldn't be in this position.


Has there been any precedence of this? I know the US and China both have/had pretty terrible pollution without regulation. Has there been any good example of a country that has successfully implemented free market environmentalism? Because at a cursory glance it appears to be the same platitudinous "the market will resolve everything". I can't accept that when the future of the human race is at stake.

Regarding the "God will save us" comment.

It's easy to be skeptical but there are plenty of rational Christians who believe humans are made in the image of God, and while humans are inherently sinful (think the greed that plays a role in accelerating climate change), this brings them further from God. They believe that the closest to God you can be is to be essentially humanitarian. Humanitarians by definition would put aside personal gain to help their fellow humans (help reduce/eliminate climate change). Also that since the earth was given to us a gift, it is our responsibility to be good stewards.

Not all religious people think this way, but there does seem to be a sizable contingent who do.

It's a near impossible battle to fight, but that doesn't make it ok to give up. You eat an elephant by taking one bite at a time (and trying to convince other people how good elephant meat tastes)


The "God will save us" was not a dig against Christianity as a whole. I'm not a foaming-at-the-mouth God-is-terrible atheist. I just suspect that the reason people can continue to ignore climate change is due to an assumption that somebody will save us. For some, it's God. For other's it's a C Clarke-ian scientific magic. I actually attribute fiction to a certain extent. There's (understandably) not a whole lot of fiction that deals with an utter extinction of the human race^[1]. Even disaster movies end with the protagonist alive. What especially doesn't help is that there's a degree of romanticism in being the survivors. And everybody loves to imagine they'll be the ones to live.

^[1] Arguably Snowpiercer but people still interpret the ending in an optimistic fashion


Very understandable and a valid thing to be concerned about, thanks for clarifying. I didn't think you came off as foaming-at-the-mouth. Great example of why I love the level of discourse here.

It's a terrifying problem facing the world and like you said - it definitely could be the case that by the time rapid change starts occurring, it will already be too late. However, it might also be the case that it will just be a slow change that will be more manageable to tackle in time. "Rapid change" when it comes to climate science could mean over the course of a thousand years or over the span of seconds (K-T bolide impact extinction, Ordovician-Silurian (if it was caused by a gamma ray burst)).

The problem is that climate science is an incredibly complex field with an overwhelming number of interconnected factors and so all hypotheses are built on upon assumptions that are built upon assumptions. This is why it often comes down to the verbiage that you see so often in these types of discussions where people "believe" one way or another. The stakes are extremely high though and we can already say for certain that historically rapid change is taking place.

While I personally believe that it is a problem that warrants immediate action, I think it's counter-productive to demonize and strawman all who don't hold one's exact views as climate deniers or (on the other side) climate alarmists. This will only further entrench people in their views, widening the divide between people, and causing them to be more dismissive of anything that doesn't affirm their belief.

If people were more open to actively trying to hear out the other side and find common ground, it will be easier to come to a joint conclusion. By earnestly listening to people, they will in turn be more likely to hear you out as well. The vast majority of people don't actually hold extremist positions but because of the easy amplification of a noisy few, rampant strawmanning is taking place.

(I don't mean to imply you personally are doing any demonizing, or are guilty of the strawmanning, It's just something I often see in comments and wanted to give my two cents)


Increasingly beginning to think that the term "climate activism" doesn't quite encompass revolutionary nature of political change necessary to fix this existential problem.

Except it will be ok. Things will change, but things always change. If we can turn things back and reign in the major contributors to warming, great, but we can't change the past, and all of the doom and gloom kvetching everyone loves to do here does nobody any good.

Can I interest you in some existential nihilism? Works great for reducing anxiety and general cortisol levels.

While watching the HBO Chernobyl dramatization, I was struck by the Soviet government's contradictory response of publicly denying the problem existed and minimizing its extent, while at the same time giving the science team almost carte blanche authority to requisition resources to solve the problem. 5000 tons of boron? Helicopters are on their way. The entire country's supply of liquid nitrogen? It's yours. Robots? If they'll help, sure.

The show made a big deal about how communist secrecy and denial obstructed the solution, made the problem worse, and even allowed it to happen in the first place. "A nuclear disaster cannot occur in the Soviet Union".

But when I think about how we're reacting to climate change, it really seems like we're pretending the problem doesn't exist the same way they did, but without the corresponding succeed-at-all-costs extreme problem solving.


The physical size of the Earth will never increase, yet human's ability to multiply ourselves is infinite in theory. Something gotta give.

Going by evolutionary theory, that means the more our total population increases the smaller average human body size must shrink, so we would consume less input resources and produce less waste individually. Same reason why giant dinosaurs went extinct yet little cockroaches survived. Those T-Rex'es required massive calories consumption to sustain themselves, yet there was no longer enough resources in the environment to fuel them.

The problem is for any of those biological changes to take place and for human to evolve (assuming the evolutionary theory is true), that process will be a slow and gradual one, likely to take hundred thousands or even millions of years. Climate change certainly doesn't operate within even a remotely similar time frame. Once it hits, resources will become scarce so in the worst case if we cannot stop climate change, the only possible solution is to practice reducing average consumption level to minimum, or to forecast optimal numbers of the world's total population that can still be accommodated by the Earth at each level of damage produced by climate change, then find a way to relentlessly control that number to keep it within limit.

I sincerely hope we will never have to come to that scenario as countries which own nuclear power will possess massive advantages over others.


Humans are not predicted to grow infinitely. As areas industrialize, more people have less children. Projections I have read predict we will level off at about 12 billion people by 2100.

But the areas of the world now with less population growth (such as the US) also consume much more resources than the areas with higher population growth. So resource consumption is a big problem. But I think it's not helpful to frame it as a "population" problem, as we expect the population to level off.


Anthropogenic warming hypothesis states: 1) Human activities have a net warming effect 2) that effect is large

I have read 2007 IPPC report and evidence of the above two claims is burried under mountains of fear mongering and dire predictions about the consequences of the claims being correct. The actual evidence is barely addressed and comes down to trusting a handful of computer models that only a few dozen people understand.

Recent warming amount and rate is not unusual for the earth's recent pre-human past.

When you add to this the myriad of political causes that have latched on to anthropogenic hypothesis being true, its pretty reasonable that informed individual is sketical. Especially with authoritarians calling for violence and censorship against"climate deniers".


I feel the same way - I’m somewhat skeptical partly because it’s good to be skeptical of most things, especially something that you can’t really see, but mostly because when I ask the climate change people what I should do in order to combat climate change, their first and only answer tends to be “vote democrat and never vote republican!” That being said, I still mostly do what (I think) the climate change people say I ought to do such as recycle, prefer energy efficient alternatives, and try to walk when I can. To the extent it doesn’t hurt us, we all might as well be “environmentally conscious” even if it turns out we didn’t actually have to be.

Where are you finding these bizarre "climate change people" who are giving you stupid answers to your legitimate question?

You are unfortunate to live in a country with only two parties, one of which denies that there is a problem.

One denies there is a problem, the other says there's a problem and the only solution is to fully fund their (enormously expensive) pet projects and in other ways give them large amounts of power.

I'd rather have politicians saying "there's no such thing as climate change" with people fighting back against them then have politicians saying "climate change is real, and you can help fight it by giving up plastic straws!" sapping the willingness of people to do anything more - something that might actually be of use.


We need to be environmentally conscious, not because of CO2, but because of real pollutants that are harmful for human health. For CO2 we need technology to control weather, which is not as crazy as it may seem at first. Even the most naive approach of building large number of aerostats to change the amount of light certain regions get would work, it would require large investment, but all the solutions suggested by climate change people require large investments too, and this one would be actually useful.

It's interesting that you chose a report more than a decade out of date rather than one of the more recent reports they have published.

Well, he kind of had to in order to make his point. As long as I’ve been alive (four and a half decades), they’ve been insisting that we have “only a decade years to save the planet” - so going back to a report from 10 years ago and comparing their 10-year-predictions against right now is a good way to figure out how concerned you should about their current 10-year-predictions.

"Save the world" has shifted goal posts considerably during this time.



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