“What would happen if we combusted every living cell on Earth?” it asked. That is, Peters wanted to know what would happen to the atmosphere if you burned down not just the Amazon, but every forest on Earth, every blade of grass, every moss and lichen-spackled patch of rock, all the flowers and bees, all the orchids and hummingbirds, all the phytoplankton, zooplankton, whales, starfish, bacteria, giraffes, hyraxes, coatimundis, oarfish, albatrosses, mushrooms, placozoans—all of it, besides the humans.
Peters pulled up the next slide. After this unthinkable planetary immolation, the concentration of oxygen in the atmosphere dropped from 20.9 percent to 20.4 percent. CO2 rose from 400 parts per million to 900—less, even, than it does in the worst-case scenarios for fossil-fuel emissions by 2100. By burning every living thing on Earth.
We often see just a few members of an invasive species transplanted into a favorable environment multiply and spread and end up dominating the local ecosystem in far, far less than a hundred years. Let's use that to help ecosystems adapt to climate change.
What do you mean by that?
2. Regardless of the climate changer factor, polluting the air causes cancer, damages ecosystems, harms our food supply, etc.
The mentality of "we can't prevent it, so why bother trying" is like accidentally shooting yourself in the foot, and when finding out it'll have to be amputated, proceeding to shoot your other foot because "what's the point?".
It's very well-written, but it's not rational. The content is more political than scientific.
Hence "more political than scientific."
People become desensitized to it, unfortunately.
Mostly policy is necessary though, and politicians love half-hearted efforts.
Also eating less or no meat helps on an individual level.
This "debate" about what to do is always toothless and desperate and pointless until the death toll starts to mount. Even then, the wealthy will make the same old arguments about irresponsibility and willful ignorance of those with nothing, blaming the victims, which seems to work generation after generation...until finally we get multinational instability and with smaller populations, some semblance of change too late (eg states of the USSR) to recover from the devastation. What's the mini-state of lower california going to do about 150 degree weather and no water? Nothing.
So I don't want to be negative, but I do want to stay realistic. Does someone know why humans will survive, and on which time scale this prediction is valid .
As for validity time scale, I'd like to see research myself.
Mostly they moved elsewhere, but on planet scale that would be much more problematic.
Even if it would be, how would you feed these people? How would their underground cave get power for light etc in a CO2-negative world?
AFAIK, the 'biosphere 2' experiment and the experiences with the space stations demonstrated humanity is not capable of surviving long term without mother earth. There are plenty of unknown unknowns.
Now that's a hyperbole.
> No water
Invest in desalination, like Israel and other rich middle eastern countries.
I guess that depends on what you consider "weather"
If I said "ground temperature", would it matter to the discussion?
60C (140F) was the Average temp in the triassic. With the amount of water in the air plus the carbon dioxide, I expect to see that in places a couple generations after I die...which is the time period I've referenced (political instability).
The highest ground temperature recorded was 201 degrees at Furnace Creek on July 15, 1972, according to the National Park Service. The maximum air temperature for that day was 128. All types of bad things happen at that point. Water evaporates rapidly at 150, so who cares where the water comes from. It's gone or containers rupture as it turns gaseous. What temperature the air is, doesn't matter.
At any rate, temperature increase forecasts for the next 100 years are all in the O(1 degree C) range. There are many reasons to mitigate climate change/decrease green house gas output/fight pollution, but let's not spread FUD.
1. It's not happening / not real
2. It's happening and we can still prevent it
3. It's happening and it's worse than we all think
Externalities aren't correctly priced into our market and we're suffering the consequences.
4. Im so old i will die before it kills me,
and im rich/influential enough to buy a comfortable situation for myself until that day.
If you can say that, it follows that you have calculated or are aware of the correct price. So, I really want to know - about what is the correct price of the externalities of a gallon of gas that aren't included in, say, the retail price in California? Is it closer to $0.01, $0.10, $1, $10, $100, or $1000?
Many would argue it's infinity. It's not safe to continue burning fossils in any way, shape or form, not burning fresh biomass either.
Reclaiming biogas is probably the only sane way of burning anything now... (Prevents methane releases.)
Unfortunately most people don't or can't run moral calculations like this.
Using the word "externalities" though means you will and did and you accept the use of numbers which are not "infinity" and can be compared to other numbers.
When you give away that you don't care at all about the meaning of the words you use to try to get leverage, it might as well be the buzzing of gnats.
You can't take language wholly as a means to manipulate people and be transparent about it and expect it to continue to work.
Anyone who actually believes that the damage done by burning one gallon of gas is "infinity" would be willing to sacrifice humanity to avoid it. But I'm not interested in debating whether that's a correct ethical perspective! You're entitled to feel whatever you feel.
My irritation is with people who appropriate economic jargon without the least intent to communicate the ideas a word denotes. To me, destroying the communication value of a word, is like some sort of semantic atrocity.
(note, "you" is the generic you, I'm not blaming you for the original poster)
People that refuse to consider changing their lifestyle will happily leap frog from 1 to 3.
I'm actually optimistic that it's possible to prevent the worst effects of climate change from a technological standpoint but I have no hope that we can resolve the prisoners dilemma. Making a quick buck is simply too easy.
1) Argues that giving up hope does not mean the end of attempts to ameliorate warming.
2) Proceeds to define 'climate action' so broadly that just everything is a climate action, which will disperse and confuse efforts so much, no action on climate will be taken.
How is this article's position going to make that worse?
We've been trying it your way for 40 years and gotten nowhere https://www.reddit.com/r/comics/comments/c5rjs2/its_that_eas...
Maybe telling everyone the truth at this late stage will produce some kind of meaningful reflection. Even it doesn't, it'll still just be the status quo.
He's an expert at writing novels in which everyone sounds like they have a Creative Writing MFA from Swarthmore.
This is silly.
Now, I see that the science is disputed, and I understand that there'd be political problems with who controls the thermostat, but the idea was really cheap -- something like $40 million to get going and a million every year to continue. Way cheaper than government initiatives that haven't actually done anything.
Why can't we pursue something like this, or even try them out?
I read that one possibility is less rain. Which is obviously something we don't want. It's already not enough.
Volcanos tend to throw a lot of sulfur in the air which is deadly.
We could disperse dust in other ways, but the risk is that we'd increase albedo of Earth and cook it even more.
Unless you fancy a cardboard box under a viaduct.
How many Brazillian ranchers stop clear-cutting if you or I go vegan? The impact on their market is essentially immeasurable.
In contrast, a state level policy can move the needle. If the rest of the world slaps a $10/kg tariff on Amazonian beef, their business collapses rapidly. Of course, then we get into unknown consequences where we don't know what they'll try next to salvage the wreckage of the industry.
So, in this particular case, a mass murder has been commited, and what we should do to put on trial the ones that shoot the bullet, and the same to the ones that intentionally hid the evidence (maybe taking out our chances to avoid preventing it).
And then, without them around keep trying to deny that there is no climate change, we may focus on mitigating the effects and avoiding to get worse without more interference.
Or read it:
We are in a very similar situation here. We need to aggressively speed up and focus our engineering efforts to understand nature and to potentially "suck the gases out of the atmosphere" (one solution, we put it there, we should be able to get it back out, if that was really the reason anyway).
Never in mankind's history have the odds been so in our favor. Our technology improves at unprecedented speeds and its only going to go faster. It has to go faster, that is. Otherwise we actually might be wiped out.
I never understood why people think its a good idea to dial back progress & technology to where we were a few hundred years ago... The earth will die anyway in a few billion years. There is only one way forward: Out into space. At the current rate we will be able to do just that, within the allotted time. Even if we can't save earth in the end (who knows), we will still have enough time to leave the sinking ship. But we also have a pretty good shot at to repair the damage we have done.
But the answer for both trajectories is the same: Technology, more technology and faster, faster. If that means more pollution, that's okay. As long as we advance faster than we destroy (which we are doing already), we are golden! Stopping or going slower is what will kill us.
So people, stop whining about pollution and global warming. There is no way to stop that other than technology. Developing countries are not going to stop polluting. Most notably seen with the Amazon. We have no true control over what other countries do. But we can repair the damage they do, via technology deployed on our home soil. That is precisely what we must do & develop. Waiting for global consensus and contracts is waiting for death... Hell, they can't even agree on some minimal pollution numbers between the G7 countries. How the hell are you going to get all 200 nations into one basket. It's ludicrous.
On that note, keep in mind that countries like the USA are the world's number one polluter. Developing countries do some serious shit, but on a smaller scale.
I agree that we should be able to save the earth. I think both are possible and also intertwined, because whatever our solution, it will likely require advanced capabilities to deploy technology into earth's orbit, be it large scale solar shielding, some atmosphere transformers, or whatever.
Still, repairing earth and creating space ships are two different things. We did not design earth, and the size of it makes it hard to control. It will be MUCH easier to sustain life in an underground lab (or space ship) than it is to repair earth. At least conceptually. But of course you have a point that we should not abandon most of the population for two reasons:
1. It's a bit cruel and probably only the worst of mankind will survive again, as it always did.
2. Project "Space" might turn out to be one hell of a disaster, since it's hard to predict how humans will fare in space. So we should have a backup plan.
Well if plan B in space is for only some, it's not saving humanity but is a "fuck you" to most of them. I think some pretty core human problems will show pretty damn quickly after that:
Once the remaining 6.9bn realise they're not invited to the party, that there is a definite plan for all the wealthy and politician types to piss off to Mars or some space station, the rest might very reasonably decide that's a tad unfair. Especially if their own future is some apocalyptic die off, perversely made worse by all those emissions from the thousands of rocket launches. They might sensibly think that instead of quietly waiting for the 4 horsemen to show up with their exit, better to go out by trashing all the supply rockets and bases of project space, and reach for petrol, pitchfork or assault rifle. Maybe one more emission laden launch to blow those entitled assholes out of orbit...
We haven't yet shown viability in any of the sealed biome experiments. Not once. The old Russian experiments back during their lunar programme got closest.
Hence me thinking much cheaper and simpler just to address the damn problem properly. :)
Also, use common sense. It will tell you that it is a good thing to be less dependent on energy sources which are directly linked to one of the most volatile regions in the world. Alternatives exist, from nuclear in its many guises which can take care of the base load to solar and wind which can help but can not take care of the base load due to their inherent unpredictability and - in the case of solar - absence during ~50% of the day. Geothermal can be a good source in many regions. Common sense will also dictate that it is high time to seriously start looking at better ways to store energy so that those unpredictable sources can be used more efficiently while keeping the distribution networks from melting down.
And, please... stop following the talking points of political organisations which have taken up the climate banner to further their own goals. Stop the McCarthy-like hunt for anyone who dares to voice a differing opinion. Stop all that polarising nonsense and maybe, just maybe the world will be better off in the end.
I wonder what the signs of such preparation would be?
Obviously you would want to make sure that nuclear power stations, refineries and dangerous chemical plants were either capable of a graceful shutdown or that there would be enough trained operators in place.
You would want some sort of armed forces under your control.
Food production chains would need to be local and secured and self-contained.
Most of us can't wait to replace our massive-carbon-sink computer with a new one and put the old one in a cupboard.
Sacrifice was key to beating this and we didn't do it and we might be getting worse.
If we adjusted the rules of the capitalism game such that sustainability, repairability, life of product, company and planet were baked in, that carbon, pollution and environment cost has to be displayed on labels and every service. Maybe simple taxes can do that, maybe it needs a little or a lot more creativity.
How do you, as an individual, prepare for this?
Do exercise, strength training, cardio. Bodyweight stuff or yoga is great for everyday life activities. How far can you carry 60 pounds of supplies and equipment?
Make friends, obviously.
Learn how to resolve conflict non-violently. You and everyone else will constantly be running into conflicts and someone is going to have to remember how to meet everyone's needs without killing people.
If you don't already work in an industry that is doing research towards or creating a product that makes a difference, change careers. The solution to this, both on an individual and collective level, is not to give up and hide in a hole hoping you die quietly in your sleep. The solution is to fucking solve the problem.
We need smart people in engineering, nuclear science, agriculture, bioscience, and politics. People that give a damn and aren't satisfied to sit on their asses and wistfully dream of eco-primitivist utopias. Put your resources into skilling up and move to a center where shit is getting done. Talk to people that are working on the problem and find a job that is actively moving the needle.
If we can't fix it then at least you'll die trying rather than cowering.
The question is, how many people do you want to sacrifice to eat your delicious cow and drive a SUV?
What you as an individual can do to prepare is put pressure on the suppliers of goods and services (including your government) to take their role seriously and reduce emissions. Stop using single-use plastics, stop buying groceries that are individually shrink-wrapped. Buy fresh fruit and vegetables and prepare your own meals. Walk where you can, try to use public transport for commuting (it takes longer, but someone else is driving so you can do your morning and evening reading & correspondence on the bus/train)
Basically do everything you can to reduce your energy consumption, both directly and indirectly. Energy consumptions is a very good proxy for personal contribution to emissions, including the embodied energy in things like plastic utensils and fast food wrappers/boxes/bags.
Rather than watching a movie on Netflix, read a book. The internet services and domestic devices used to watch a movie will consume more energy during that movie session than a year of reading on a tablet or paper books (with a bed lamp book light).
Apart from overpopulation, the biggest contribution to global emissions is the extreme energy consumption lifestyle of western countries. We offshore a lot of the production and point the finger at China, but China’s emissions are mainly from manufacturing and transport which is mostly for products being sent to western countries.
Try to get rich enough before the worst effects become widespread that you can buy your way out of some of it.
I believe that in our lifetime we will see the western countries effectively barricade their borders. When an unannounced ship approaches with desperate human beings on board, fleeing the wars, we won't be even allowed to think about accepting them. The ships will be, not stopped and turned around, but torpedoed and sunk on sight. The corpses will be harvested for feed and fertiliser.
From that point onwards, in another couple of generations, there won't be any sanctuaries left. Not even for the richest. They will all have been overrun, pillaged and plundered.
My only consolation is that I am old enough to not necessarily witness all of it.
While yes, it would be an engineering challenge, I think it is quite reasonable to create an “adjustable solar shade”. Basically build up enough reflectors at the Lagrange point to selectively “cool” parts of earth. Yes, it would be a massive undertaking, but could potentially be done mostly autonomously.
If our timeline is 30 years, this may be more achievable than alternatives.
Elevator pitch: use materials from asteroids to build huge reflectors in space. Side benefit is it would enable large scale mining of the sky.
Realize I meant “shade” not cook =p. In any case, hopefully intent is clear.
We're already doing that. ;)
Is the reason Russia and KSA are producing fossil fuels because they were infected with a specific ideology? I feel like there's a confusion of cause and effect, like if you blamed evolution on Darwinism.
Does it insist upon itself?
So, if there's something that's "selected against", it's our unexpected success. I don't think that there are many times in the history life on a planet that a species lands such a jackpot.
Unfortunately we're just like Joe Shmoe after a lottery win; we spend all the loot in one spree over the planet and wake up a few years later, facing the consequences of our reckless behavior while we were drunk on power.
Our monkey brains just aren't built for the life in paradise.
Even the low carbon of fracking is questionable given methane leaks.
Why do you need gas? Can't use the electric vehicle or appliance? If you need trace gases for manufacturing, you can sequester them instead.
It's a very convenient way to store large amounts of energy for dark, windstill winters. If you then have a decent number of gas plants you can turn it into electricity to run the heat pumps in your homes.
Here’s the truth:
We cannot do a thing about it.
This is scientific fact, not my opinion. I invite everyone to reproduce my conclusion. Here’s how to do it:
How long would it take for a 100 ppm drop in atmospheric CO2 concentration if humanity, along with all of our technology, evaporated from this planet tomorrow?
In other words, a Thanos moment. A snap of the fingers and humanity is gone in an instant.
Why this question?
Because that’s the baseline. This is important:
WE CANNOT DO BETTER THAN THIS RATE IF CHANGE.
Can we answer that question?
We have 800,000 years of highly accurate atmospheric composition data from ice core sampling. In other words, we have a time machine that tells us exactly how the planet would behave if we were not here.
What does the data say? How does it answer my question?
50,000 to 75,000 years for a 100 ppm drop in atmospheric CO2 concentration if we evaporated from this planet.
THAT IS THE BASELINE
Any proposal for “saving the planet” has to be measured against that.
For example: Erase the US from the planet -> Save the planet in 50 years? Nope, ridiculous.
Ban all forms if internal combustion engines? Nope. Ridiculous.
Switch to 100% renewable energy at a world scale? Nope. Again, ridiculous.
All of these are ridiculous because the next question should be: How is this going to perform a THOUSAND TIMES BETTER than the Thanos scenario?
The answer, at that point, becomes beyond obvious: These ideas are ridiculous.
As for what would work, well, that’s a whole other conversation that starts with reforestation at a monumental scale.
Do the math on how much energy and resources would be required to do what you are suggesting at a global scale.
That’s the problem with all of these great sounding ideas, nobody bothers to quantify them —particularly at a planetary scale.
EDIT: Just noticed your comment about burning fuels.
I need to clarify something. And this is important. I have never --ever-- said (and I've written about this a few times on HN) that migrating away from fossil fuels is a bad idea. It's a great idea. We should do it to the extent possible. I've done my part, I installed a 13 kW solar power system at my home and we are on track to switch to 100% electric vehicles within, say, a year.
What is NOT OK is pretending that this is going to "save the planet". Our migration away from fossil fuels will do absolutely nothing of note --zero-- as far as reversing atmospheric CO2 accumulation. This has been studied and published. The conclusion was, to paraphrase, "even if we migrated the entire planet to the MOST OPTIMAL FORMS of renewable energy sources, atmospheric CO2 accumulation would continue to INCREASE EXPONENTIALLY".
In other words, even if we did the impossible (total migration to renewable sources at a global is likely impossible). Why? BECAUSE THE BASELINE IS 75,000 YEARS with NO HUMANS ON EARTH.
BTW, I am not yelling, using caps for emphasis.
We can discuss facts or that which we wish were facts. The difference is that we are never going to improve anything if we insist on ignoring reality.
It is OK to say "all of these proposals are nonsense", if, in fact, they are. It would be the same if politicians were proposing to save humanity by reducing the planet's gravitational constant by 10%. Ridiculous, but I bet someone out there could make a fictional case about the idea and collect an audience...just like the flat earth geniuses.
Trying to sequester CO2 and CH4 unfortunately won't work well on big scales.
Q1- What caused atmospheric CO2 concentrations to reliably increase by about 100 ppm in roughly 25,000 years for each (roughly) 100,000 year cycle?
Q2- What made CO2 concentration decrease over 50K to 75K years?
The answers to these questions are simple:
A1: Fires. Massive continent-scale fires...burning forests.
A2: Massive natural reforestation and weather. Yup. Hurricanes, cyclones, rain, etc.
While the idea of planting trillions of trees is excellent, we also have to understand an important point. The more trees we have the greater the probability of going backwards by decades when --not if-- a large fire rips through millions of them. We can't fight fires at those scales. And, if we could, you'd have to calculate the energy and CO2 we would produce in doing so (planes, trucks, equipment, etc.).
Climate change isn't an easy problem, not even close. I don't know if I want to laugh or cry when I hear politicians pushing some of the truly brain-dead stuff they get behind.
To put things into context and quantify...we know wild fires have produced, on average, 8 billion tons of CO2 per year for the past 20 years. That is fully 25% of total annual CO2 emission, which sits somewhere around 32 billion tons per year.
That’s a very serious contribution that makes some of the things politicians focus on absolutely laughable.
If we plant trillions of trees and, at some time in the future, experience a massive forest fire we could easily move backwards several decades.
What I am saying is that fire mitigation has to be a first class concern when we speak of reforestation.
Thankfully some math has been done with regards to planting trees .
The next questions are:
How much suitable land is there and how many trees can it sustain?
How much water will they require?
Will they require chemicals (fertilizers, pest control, etc.)?
How much petroleum will they require? Keep in mind that oil is an inescapable part of most processes. An easy example of this would be transportation, tractors, cranes, packaging, etc.
Not being negative at all. Just want to make sure we all understand that without quantification anything sounds great.
As far as my investigation into this domain has revealed, yes, trees are the ONLY technology we have that stands a chance to do some good without making a larger mess in the process. The problem is that deployment at the planetary scale isn't easy. And there exists a real limit function on just how many trees you can actually plant around the world.
Not sure about your claim that trees can solve this problem in centuries.
Ideas like seeing the oceans with iron scare the hell out of me. Again, we are talking about planetary scale effects here. The energy and resources required for such a task are monumental. Beyond that, I don't know about you, but I've had plenty of experiences where an experiment was predicted to result in A and I we got Z instead. I cannot imagine doing something like that at a planetary scale. We could literally kill-off half the species in the ocean if we are not careful.
The most important thing we need today is to stop our politicians from spewing nonsense. Seriously. These people are dangerous beyond belief. It isn't only about none of their proposals being worth the paper they are not written on, they could actually cause massive harm and hamper real science-based approaches to making things better. In general terms, politicians have turned climate science into a disgusting circus act (or whatever analogy applies best). If you ask me, THAT is the most urgent task ahead for the scientific community: Getting politicians the hell away from this domain.
The problem, again, is that when you actually look into the reality of such a proposal it crumbles very quickly.
Remember, the baseline is in the order of 75,000 years if humanity evaporates from the planet. Do anything LESS than that and it will take longer.