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Climate change causes Australia to downgrade Great Barrier Reef′s outlook (dw.com)
63 points by lelf 13 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 55 comments





Not many people would oppose the opinion that we should protect the earth and yet human society has grown so complex, driven by market forces and global economy, that if governments do not take action, private enterprise sure as hell wouldn't. Selfishness of individuals triumph over long term global cause.

I am sad. Humans have achieved so much and yet there are large areas of neglect, abuse, misuse and misconduct. I have a strong feeling that if we go to mars, people will still have issues. Tribal instincts will kick in and we'll fight over what color flag to put it up there.

Take over of humans by AGI sounds like a better future.


My expectations for a human colonization in Mars are pretty grim.

As with any colonization, I would expect the stakeholders wanting to maximize their returns ASAP, and without the need to protect existing native life, environmental concerns are going to be greatly overlooked.

We will see all kinds of bad practices there, with industrial waste dumps, toxic spoils, mining tailings being disposed the cheapest way possible, aggressive utilization and appropriation of scarce resources (like frozen water), etc... that we can expect to contaminate large parts of Mars soon enough, in pursuit of faster/better returns.

Basically, it's going to be a free for all land, because technology evolves much faster than human society does.


IMO Mars is going to be an absolute bloodbath, in the same way every colony on Earth was a bloodbath. We should probably do it all the same. We've not yet even sorted out the colonies we have here (HK, for instance, I would consider a Chinese colony as it was a British colony until 1997).

Every colony on earth was blood bath because someone was already there, and didn't appreciate their land being taken by force.

Mars has no indigenous population, and seems to be plenty big enough for everyone.


Mars only doesn't have anyone there the first time.

What makes you think the interaction between the first and second wave of colonists wouldn't run into all the same problems that we had on Earth?

(Not that I believe there will be any waves of colonists. It'd be easier, and have a better social ROI to make the ocean floor, Antarctica, Mount Everest, or San Francisco hospitable to human life, than it would be to settle Mars.)


I think the motive for Mars colonization is more robustness than efficiency. It'd definitely be easier to colonize the ocean than Mars. However, many planetary extinction events that would spare Mars would still wipe out settlements on the ocean floor, Antarctica, Mount Everest, or San Francisco. Asteroid impact, worldwide plague, nuclear winter, global warming, Chinese dictatorship, Terminator 3, Waterworld, The Core, Interstellar, they would all wipe out Earth while leaving Mars untouched. Even scenarios like Independence Day, Battleship, and Transformers would give a Mars colony time to react while the aliens were busy wiping out Earth, which might mean the difference between human survival and extinction.

If you think that a Chinese dictatorship (or any of the other things you listed) will wipe out the Earth and leave Mars untouched, I would recommend reading fewer comic books. (And I'm a bit surprised that a zombie outbreak wasn't one of the listed threats.)

HK situation is on my mind as well, I just didn't want to mention it yet again.

At least whatever intelligence may explode in future (if it does), it will be hopefully pure logic with no strings attached as we, humans have - emotions, tribalism, sex, psychology, physical bodies to take care of, aging, racism, ridiculously low output bandwidth, so many things that AGI wouldn't have to deal with. I hope that it can optimize on a global domain and not get stuck in some local optima.


Everything that exists is there because it survived. Complex systems that do not prioritize survival tend to get eclipsed by those that do.

One very effective way to achieve survival is to build your "self" out of many independent competing subsystems, and select only those that themselves survive. An individual human does not particularly care if some of its cells die; the point is for them to die, such that the overall human remains healthy (when they don't, you get cancer). An individual cell does not care if some of its mitochondria die; this happens naturally at times of low energy use. An individual mitochondrion does not care if glucose molecules are broken down and reconstituted into ATP; that is its function.

On the other end of the spectrum, an individual corporation does not care if it ruins the lives of some of its employees by laying them off; such callousness helps improve the efficiency of the organization itself. A healthy economy does not care if the individual firms that comprise it go bankrupt, because this is the only way to free up inefficiently-used resources before they drain the whole economy of its vitality.

A lot of things that suck come from competing interests across the different levels. To the corporation, layoffs are a good thing, and the share price goes up when they happen; to the individuals laid off, they're a tragedy. At the species level, evolution is what gave us the richness of biodiversity we see; at the individual level, it gives us death and fruitless competition to pass on our genes.

If the machines manage to take over, it'll be because they manage to evolve this fractal competition within them, in which case they'll just replicate human foibles at the lower levels. (Won't somebody think of the poor software libraries, replaced by a shifting package.json?) If they don't evolve this, they will themselves remain tools, subject to replacement at the whim of their human masters.


That was a really insightful take on evolution, thank you.

Mars an absolute bloodbath? Whatever's going on @ Mars is going to be child's play compared to what'll be going on @ the vastly overpopulated and increasingly uninhabitable Earth we neglected while entertaining ourselves with diversions like Mars.

Earth has been in a continuous state of a global war in stasis for longer than I've been alive. The fire under that pressure cooker isn't diminishing as far as I can tell.


You seriously think that Mars will escape that? That the overpopulated proles on increasingly uninhabitable Earth will silently watch as constant resupply launches head for Mars? I think there have been a selection of movies along those lines. :)

If it's going to be child's play, how come none of the attempts to achieve an ongoing sealed biome have been successful? Nearest so far was the Soviets in the seventies during their lunar programme.


I'd expect a tiny population at a precarious outpost to be far more measured and disciplined in terms of their growth and resource consumption than anything we see on Earth.

What I was referring to re: "Child's play" was the nature of a worst-case scenario conflict @ early stage Mars in comparison to late stage Earth. Nothing whatsoever related to how challenging it is to sustain life there in the long-term. I fully expect it to fail, I just don't expect it will be anything I'd describe as a "blood bath".

Back on Earth with the many millions of people established and living on dwindling resources and vanishing coasts, that's going to be a blood bath.


I don't understand how leaving the planet is a solution. If people can live on mars then they can also live on a polluted earth.

It's not "leaving the planet". It's spreading out our foothold (as a species), so if something catastrophic happens we don't become extinct as easily.

eg increasing the resilience of our species


Honestly, that seems like a fool's errand. We would have to find a planet capable of supporting us stably (the "class M planet" archetype), which is likely to be nearly impossible given the size of the visible universe, how little of it we will ever be able to reach with subluminal technology and limited time and resources, and how hostile the universe seems in general. Our relationship with our environment is delicate and finely-tuned over millions of years of evolution, and we can't just hope to blindly stumble across a planet with a breathable atmosphere, hospitable climate and either no ecosystem, or an ecosystem which won't collapse with our introduction, and hope for the best.

We're certainly not going to thrive for a million years under a glass dome in an artificial ecosystem that requires constant technological maintenance and power, on a planet that might be amenable to terraforming over millennia .... and if we could, there's no reason to go out into space when we could just colonize and re-terraform Earth that way faster and more cheaply.

The whole idea of spreading ourselves across the universe to preserve ourselves is a fantasy that assumes there is anywhere else for us to go, and any ability to reach that place, as if space is just a bigger ocean. It isn't though, and chances are very high that this one planet is all we're ever going to get.


> ... chances are very high that this one planet is all we're ever going to get.

That seems defeatist, but you're welcome to your opinion. ;)


The odds remain what they are regardless of how optimistic one is, the math and the cosmos don't care about human determination and resolve. Hoping that spaceships will save us from ourselves is tantamount to praying for divine intervention, and likely to be as effective.

Don't forget that abusing the environment contributed to our achievements.

If every humans wants to protect earth and "Selfishness of individuals triumph over long term global cause" - how come selfishness doesn't fix this problem? Seems like a contradiction to me

As I read it, they are saying that the selfishness of individuals wins out over caring about a global cause. Not that selfishness allows us to triumph over a global cause. :)

Fixing it needs political leverage. To require the end of the coal mining, to ban certain fuels, processes, or packaging, to impose a carbon tax on global trade - as the EU are finally discussing. Years late, but maybe a last chance. The first real step in the right direction - if it gets past the vote. Selfishness of individuals can't do that. It can get you to switch to LED lighting to save a little cash.

Apparently enough wealth comes with enough self-belief that the laws of physics, ageing, climate and a host of others no longer apply to you. No surprise looking at celebrities and vastly wealthy over the years. So business and politics continues to mainly pretend it's not happening.


Don't worry, we are not going to go to Mars.

This news is about a month old now.

This is a better write-up ...

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-08-30/great-barrier-reef-re...

The actual report is here

http://www.gbrmpa.gov.au/our-work/outlook-report-2019


Australia's coal friendly policies > the preservation of a unique ecosystem.

It is as if the Australian government prioritizes the economic value of carbon emissions over the externalities of the globe. Who would of thunk?


The reality is, though, that if Australia stopped selling and using coal tomorrow the damage expected to impact the HBR would happen anyway. It's a global problem and requires more than local action by a high per-capita but low gross-total carbon emitter.

The link between coal and the Great Barrier Reef is the proximity of an very large new coal mine to the reef:

https://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2019/06/13/australia-app...


Also reality though, if Australia stopped selling and using coal tomorrow, it would be called global leadership.

Hahahaha. As if.

DISCLAIMER: Australian citizen.


34% of our exports come from fuels & oils [0] and 50% of our energy [1]. We contribute essentially nothing to the problem of carbon emissions [2]. We would, at best, be showing leadership by torching our own economy which is unlikely to sway the Indians, Chinese, Americans , etc into following our lead.

We would be doing much better applying our leadership to making billions in exports and showing leadership in renewables & nuclear research. The only contribution Australia can make is finding a way to show that coal isn't the most profitable option. Mandating uneconomic experiments is not the path to doing that.

If the reef goes because of climate change, Australia was never in a position to stop that by reducing our emissions.

[0] http://www.worldstopexports.com/australias-top-10-exports/

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

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


> We contribute essentially nothing to the problem of carbon emissions

By exporting a huge amount of coal to other countries, who then burn it. Do you think that has zero impact?


I think the argument is that you cannot force a foreign country to burn less fossil fuels. If you stop selling then someone else takes your place because the demand is still there. The problem needs to be solved at the root: reduce demand for fossil fuels.

We sell about 2t for every 1t we burn [0]. Our consumption has no measurable impact, our total production has a sort-of measurable impact (can't deny that we are globally interesting [1]).

The issue is although our production of CO2 is large relative to our population, in global terms it is somewhere between a rounding error and tiny. We'd be much better off focusing on research where we can have a positive impact disproportionate to our size. Our physical efforts are going to look completely feeble compared to whatever China does in their attempts at securing a standard of living comparable to Western nations. Helping them improve in an environmentally friendly way will have a much higher payoff then crippling our economy to show willing.

Realistically our reliance on exporting raw resources is going to cripple Australia sooner or later anyway because it is low value add, but the solution is not to start banning things. And claiming Australia's stance on global warming has anything to do with the Great Barrier Reef is just wishful thinking; we aren't that big a producer of CO2. Our fate is in the hands of the big players.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Australia_Coal_Production...

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


We don't have time to wait for the worst offenders to change their ways before improving our own carbon footprint. Per capita Australia is pretty bad.

Australia could be carbon neutral in a few years if it wanted to. They have immense potential for renewable energy.


All this is true. And yet the same arguments didn’t stop us from doing our, admittedly small, part in stopping the use of CFC’s to repair the ozone hole. Our part included curtailing our own use and arguing for global action. Suffice to say that global action made a measurable and undeniably effective impact.

Imagine a child being constantly smacked by bullies. Another child that “only” smacked the first once every few weeks is no less culpable than those that smack it multiple times a day.


The reefs are already lost unless you believe we manage to become carbon neutral before 2040 or so. At 2° almost all coral will die. Already at 1.5° the majority will die.

For balance, I would point out that there is an alternative point of view: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M7j75L38PlI

I find it hard to know what to believe. 5 years ago it seemed clear everything was going to hell in a handbasket, now I'm more sceptical, a lot more sceptical, but ultimately unsure.

I'd feel a lot less sceptical if those disagreeing weren't immediately crushed and silenced. If they are so clearly wrong, surely it is easy to show that? Moral emergencies cause humans to behave very badly. Lynch mobs and all that, or Cursaders up to their knees in blood on behalf of their God.


Before you draw too many conclusions from the outcome of the professor's unfair dismissal trial, please bear in mind what the judge said in passing judgment:

“Media reports have considered that this trial was about silencing persons with controversial or unpopular views.

“Rather, this trial was purely and simply about the proper construction of a clause in an enterprise agreement.”

There are always going to be "alternative points of view" but when 99% of the world's scientists are in agreement on something it's probably worth taking their word for it.


I draw no conclusions about his legal win.

But I do note that he is a scientist who worked on the reef and he completely disagrees.

I additionally note that he was pretty aggressively silenced and his livelihood taken away, "unfairly" according to the courts. I worry that this is how you get to 99% - crushing dissent through intimidation, and not debating? He says he only spoke up because he was so close to retirement age, and he was only able to achieve a legal win because of crowdfunding. Most other scientists are not in that position - the consequences of speaking up would appear terrifying.

Dunno, maybe he is a complete crank, but you can see how it might give a dispassionate observer pause for thought and a bit of discomfort.


Maybe I'm just lazy but I'm pretty sure I'll never be an expert in climate science. So when a near consensus of actual experts in climate science say that something is happening I'm happy to believe them and move on to pondering other mysteries that aren't so clear-cut.

That this guy opposes that consensus and takes funding from interest groups like the IPA, mining companies and cane growers leads me to another, quite possibly equally lazy conclusion.

That he was not treated fairly, I'll take the judge's word on that, too. The university's position was, ironically, partially about the quality of the debate:

“The University has not objected to Professor Ridd's right to comment on quality assurance.

However, the University has objected to the manner in which he has done this. He has sensationalised his comments to attract attention, has criticised and denigrated published work, and has demonstrated a lack of respect for his colleagues and institutions in doing so. Academic rebuttal of his scientific views on the reef has been separately published.”


"near consensus" .. yeah I've come to realise that this is not as straightforward as it is often presented.

For a start, a scientist would not find the term "consensus" at all compelling. Things are either proven or disproven when it comes to science. "Percentage of Consensus" is more about social engineering, and it is more something a journalist might seize upon.

But if you DO want to use the figure ... it has been pointed out that the 97% figure generally quoted came from a survey. Another survey at precisely the same time showed 51%. Which survey should be used? As I understand it, the 51% one apparently had a bigger sample size. One certainly sounds a lot less certain than the other.

And finally, as was my point from the last post, even if you accept the 97% figure, don't you have to worry if there is the chance it is achieved through fear of reprisals for disagreement? Let them speak. Let's hear their crazy ideas. Crush their ideas, not their dissent.

My favourite left-wing commentator used to always say "the solution to bad-speak is more-speak". He was saying that silencing is bad.

Anyway, that's enough of this debate for me. Frankyl, it is all very unclear to me. I envy those who are completely certain.


I don't want to debate facts either. It seems silly.

The thing is that we've let the climate deniers speak. But science isn't something you get to have an opinion on. Particularly not if it's been proven that you have a financial interest in muddying the waters.

Don't you think it's strange that the only people who are interested in prolonging the "gee, is it actually happening?" speculation are the same people who have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo?


"Particularly not if it's been proven that you have a financial interest in muddying the waters."

The other side has, arguably, beneficial (if not financial) interest in promoting their climate views. Just because on the surface it seems noble, doesn't mean it isn't being abused by those that wish to take advantage of it. And this is particularly pertinent if the "pro-climate" side has a very distinct pro-government-expansion component nested within it, if not downright socialism.


> For a start, a scientist would not find the term "consensus" at all compelling. Things are either proven or disproven when it comes to science.

This is only true for hard sciences, i.e. physics, chemistry, maths, etc. (EDIT: And even then, I'm just gonna throw in Pilot-Wave-Theory, as an example that some things have yet to be proven or disproven... and maybe even never will be?)

Soft sciences have to rely on consensus, essentially by design.


I bookmarked your link, and will watch it later.

Since you seem open to thinking critically about the effects of both climate change and green policy, I’d recommend Robert Zubrin’s “Merchants of Despair,” if you haven’t read it already. It follows the trajectory of the malthusian anti-human movement over the last 225 years, culminating in today’s problem of climate change alarmism.

Global climate Change is a real thing, albeit with consequences and timelines that are wildly exaggerated by the alarmist movement, and simply throwing insane amounts of money at renewables is not going to solve the problems that arise.

PS: your post (and mine) are going to end up hidden from view in no time at all. Unfortunately even in HN there is a hive mind that censors discussion of trade offs :(


Please don't downvote-bait like you did at the end there. It's off topic, against the site guidelines and guarantees downvotes regardless of what else you said.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


The thread hanging off this post (which had nothing to do with downvoting) has been "disappeared". That leaves a bad taste. It seems unnecessary.

It's not how you create an atmosphere conductive to discussion. The downvote-related addendum (which I would edit out if I could, but the edit window has passed) was thrown in due to frustration. Writing a post skeptical of climate alarmism on any social media feels like pissing in the wind. On HN or Reddit it gets instantly down-voted into oblivion without any meaningful responses. On Facebook or Twitter it just gets you categorized weird and future posts shown to only fringe denier cranks. I knew you would see it, but probably few others, so why bother? And sure enough, the thread got collapsed by a moderator. We should reward posts that think critically and bring up facts you might not be aware of, even if they're arguing against something you thought was settled. Doing otherwise is not healthy for the utility of the platform :\

Who are the alarmist movement?

Are climate scientists alarmists?


> Who are the alarmist movements?

I assume you mean who represents them, as it isn’t an organization I’m naming. A generation ago Al Gore would have been the figurehead of the alarmist movement. Now it is Greta Thunberg and green policy makers like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

> Are climate scientists alarmists?

Some are, usually when they back predictions outside their specialty or make the mistake of applying scientific nodes of thought to (geo)engineering problems and unsurprisingly come up short.

Most are more reserved in how they present themselves and/or understand that our prediction capability is still quite limited and the non-specialist public doesn’t understand the nuances of qualified statements about future outcomes.

Unfortunately evo-activists have cherry picked data, neglecting to mention that global climate has been historically much warmer than now, that rising levels of fixed nitrogen thanks to artificial fertilizer is causing increase of the biome which sequesters carbon in biomass. Some facts presented are outright wrong: rising temperatures means higher atmospheric water capacity and therefore more precipitation, not drought, and fewer numbers of storms (albeit greater in magnitude). Deaths due to changing climate have consistently fallen year over year for as long as such things were measured.

The alarmist narrative is that basically that civilization will fall apart in the next 10-15 years, there will be mass die offs, and the world will be reduced to some sort of Mad Max / Waterworld post-apocalyptic anarchy. It’s bunk, just as the same imminent doom predictions were over the last 40 years. Climate change is real, but nothing even close to that order of magnitude will happen in the next 100 years. And a 100 years is more than enough time to have a sensibly paced transition to nuclear base power supplementing fluctuating renewables, and to develop geoengineering technologies to effectively manage both regional and global climate change. It’s somewhere on the scale closer to Y2K bug, not nuclear holocaust.

But this climate change alarmism is causing our kids to develop acute anxiety and depression disorders, as Greta Thunberg has, which are totally misplaced, and I pity those kids and feel anger towards the adults in their lives that are doing psychological damage. The alarmism is also driving policy recommendations that would bring about global recession on a scale not seen since the Great Depression. If millennials think boomers gave them the short stick, wait until their children see what lack of opportunities they have from our misguided climate change policies.

Edit: Lol, posted and within seconds a negative score. This is always what happens when you attempt to have a reasonable discussion about scientific facts and engineering trade-offs in climate change rather than an alarmist circle-jerk. I don’t know why I bother. Why do we let such important scientific topics become politicized?


>The alarmist narrative is that basically that civilization will fall apart in the next 10-15 years

No that's no that's not the narrative. The narrative is that we have about eight years of emissions left if we want a coin toss chance of staying below 1.5°. The narrative is that we finally need to start listening to the IPCC instead of pretending that we have another fifty years of business as usual left.


I think it is important to acknowledge that there is a continually rolling narrative about an impending catastrophe in 15 years from now.

In 1988, New York was going to be underwater by 2000. Etc. It is crazy to look back at the endless series of predictions - all of them very alarming and all of them, it turns out, completely wrong.

It is also worth remembering that in the 1970s the huge, science-based headline was that we were sliding into an ice age. The 1930s and 1940s had been particularly hot, and by the 1970s the decline in average temps had everyone worried. Newspapers ate it up. Like they are now. The predictions were alarming.


You're confusing the media narrative with the scientific consensus. The predictions that the IPCC made haven't changed all that much since the nineties. The ice age things was never a majority opinion, more papers predicted warming than cooling.

Which is bogus. Have you read the IPCC report? I have. The prediction that estimate is based on is a worst case prediction. Actually it is even worse that that: it is a non-dynamic model designed specifically to give maximally bad outcomes as an impossibility conservative bounding exercise for the things that we don’t know how to model.

The scientific consensus is not what is being stated in alarmist messaging. And the IPCC estimates assume no attempt is made to manage climate change, even things which will be done anyway like building new dams and waterway bypasses to handle greater precipitation events and put water to productive use.

Those same Malthusian arguments made on the supposition of zero human ingenuity have been shouted in earnest alarm for the past two centuries. And every time they have been wrong. This time is no different.


Last time I checked we were hitting tipping points faster than the IPCC predicts.

We already have 0.9°C warming. 1.5°C isn't that far off.

Yes. The issue is what that means though—what are the effects of higher temps going to be? My post which you replied to was about simulations in the report as to what will happen as a result of higher temperatures. Coastal inundation, droughts, crop failures, etc.



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