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Top scientists warn of 'ghastly future of mass extinction' and climate disruptio (theguardian.com)
78 points by axihack 3 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 45 comments





> “ghastly future of mass extinction, declining health and climate-disruption upheavals” that threaten human survival because of ignorance and inaction

The pandemic has taught me that humans will roundly ignore even the most glaring evidence to avoid accepting bad things are happening. I can't see how we're ever going to be able to avert climate disaster when we can't even get everyone to take basic precautions against a global pandemic.


Some nations are handling the pandemic a lot more effectively than others. Evidently it's possible to do something right. Also, these guys are arguing that population growth and high levels of consumption in wealthy nations are the key factors. Not even everybody has to do something.

I agree; I wouldn’t say “humans” are the problem, but “cultures that value capitalism more than human life.”

> the most glaring evidence

what evidence? "in 1968, Ehrlich warned of imminent population explosion and hundreds of millions of people starving to death"

Wrong, wrong, wrong. Food has never been more abundant, plentiful and inexpensive https://www.wfdd.org/story/food-growing-more-plentiful-so-wh...

Pardon me for ignoring what this fear monger and crackpot has to say.


I believe that species loss is inversely proportional to wealth. The poorer the country the faster its loss.

And due to advances in agricultural technology, since the Population Bomb book was published, global population has doubled while hunger has greatly diminished.

So wouldn’t the answer be more technology & wealth, not less?


> more technology & wealth

the exact things Ehrlich and his colleagues would like to prevent

EDIT- from the horse's mouth:

- If I were a gambler, I would take even money that England will not exist in the year 2000

- giving society cheap, abundant energy at this point would be the moral equivalent of giving an idiot child a machine gun

- Too many rich people in the world is a major threat to the human future

- Technology does nothing to solve problems of biodiversity or living space or arable cropland

https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Paul_R._Ehrlich


Things changed in direct response to the warning. That is exactly how it is supposed to go.

People who don't know insist too that Y2K was a big nothing, but it was nothing only because of $billions spent to ensure that it would be.

People who don't know say the same about whales, acid rain and stratospheric ozone. Same thing: global effort, crisis reduced, although further effort needed.

2038 still looms, but much has been done already.


I'm very skeptical that increases in agricultural productivity and political stability, two leading preventers of famine, were a direct result of a single book. The Population Bomb was controversial and had many detractors at the time. It seems much more likely that he was simply wrong in his predictions (which he insists were simply possible scenarios). Otherwise, you'd have much more evidence of the book being cited in public policy and industrial investment strategies.

It doesn't need to be just because of that book - e.g. companies can see impending food scarcity and invest in agricultural research etc. to avoid it and profit by meeting the growing demand.

The thing is although we now we can often figure out solutions when the problems become more apparent, we can't guarantee it - so it makes sense to start working on solutions as soon as possible.


The Green Revolution and improvements in political stability were each the result of huge amounts of hard work by people who recognized crippling problems ahead, and acted to avert them. If you were to tell them they were wrong to perceive a problem and invest the effort, they would be well justified in punching you in the nose.

"Things changed in direct response to the warning. That is exactly how it is supposed to go".replace('the warning', 'profit motive')

fixed it for you


It's a culture thing.

Some cultures, as it turns out, are better than others at dealing with stresses like this.

Changing culture is a big project. We can try though because we don't actually have any other option.


Changing culture runs on money, and the most efficient use for it is to put a feedback loop: you put money, and you get even more money in the short term to put even more on it.

And in this you are competing with a few donations without a feedback loop against the oil industry that have plenty of money and that kind of feedback loops, for just one culture that need to be changed.

And to make things even more unfair, they can use all the dirty tricks they want (plain lies, exploiting bias, pushing disinformation, bribing politicians, etc), while you can only use the, sometimes hard to get for the uneducated, truth.


> Changing culture is a big project

For my buy-in, change agents are encouraged to:

- begin with absolute truth

- develop an unambiguous, existentially complete solution

- let that solution sell itself through its inarguable superiority

--

Anything less than that risks coming off as so much bullying.


Some places are handling the pandemic ok, I've felt like the larger problems have been: politicizing the problem, those living in denial and propaganda that minimized the threat. Regrettably climate change faces those same issues.

Are you saying that the ones who take this pandemic serious also take the "ghastly future of mass extinction" serious?

I oppose this 100%, I take the "ghastly future of mass extinction" very serious and my solution would be to introduce a close to zero birthrate of the extremely overpopulated species of Homo Sapiens. I do not however take this pandemic serious at all and it is NOTHING compared to what is and will happen in the "ghastly future".

We are living in a planetary wide human farm, they told us this was gonna happen! And it will happen again and again until we have devoured the planet.


Zero fertility would introduce an aging crisis.

Which is preferable to a resource exhaustion crisis. Can’t kick the can forever.

Most of the world is at or below a total fertility rate replacement rate (2.1). The trend simply needs to continue for ~10-15 years to lock in the population decline.



Agree that more work needs to be done for women's rights in that part of the world (empowerment, education, easy access to family planning resources, etc).

https://ourworldindata.org/fertility-rate#what-explains-the-...


We must hope civilization doesn't collapse before then.

If it does, population will decline faster, but much less comfortably.

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=25745549


Zero population growth would be a terrifying dystopia. Have you read /watched the Handmaid's Tale or Children of Men?

Similarly one could take “election fraud” seriously but not the pandemic or climate change.

> The report comes months after the world failed to meet a single UN Aichi biodiversity target, created to stem the destruction of the natural world, the second consecutive time governments have failed to meet their 10-year biodiversity goals. This week a coalition of more than 50 countries pledged to protect almost a third of the planet by 2030.

Hm. How serious should we take this pledge now?


As another empty promise. That isn't to say nothing will happen, and no good will be done, but it certainly remains to be seen and this "pledge" is empty. I am getting really tired of the regurgitated weasel words of world leaders in the headlines. It's like watching a big company meeting full to tue brim with Synergy, Roadmaps, Directions and Initiatives. Less talk, more action. We are on a tight timeline here!

I don't know how effective scare stories are. At some point people just stop caring. Instead of worrying, you should focus on the things that can be done because there is an endless supply of people who refuse to do things but those who want to do even a little still should know what to do.

By this point I guess it should not surprise anyone. There is just not enough happening. The current situation could be a great opportunity to change things, but nothing is happening really. Current corona grants could be coupled to ecology protecting endeavors. This would also increase investments, especially the building industry could be transformed a lot by that.

*ghastly present of mass extinction

I never see HN readers taking personal responsibility in any thread regarding climate change. Every comment just damns other people. If you are a techie in North America, you are in the top 1% of all-time polluters, if not the top 0.1%. Me too. I admit it. Stop wagging your fingers at other people.

Over the last 20 years and having traveled back and forth all over the world, I have not noticed any changes in temperature at all. In fact, local temperature records over several decades seems to be flat in pretty much every place I've looked up. On the other hand, I have observed widespread deception within professional environments and scientific communities... I was a climate believer for a long time, but these days it seems more like a religion than a science so I'm now a skeptic. The authorities keep preaching the climate change mantra with increasing urgency and certainty but it doesn't stand up to scrutiny. I'm more concerned about microplastics and air pollution.

> In fact, local temperature records over several decades seems to be flat in pretty much every place I've looked up.

The first place I looked up was England - the Met Office graph seems to indicate a rise. [1]

Have you got any examples of flat graphs?

[1] https://www.metoffice.gov.uk/hadobs/hadcet/


Examples (I just picked two random places and dates for temperature records for the month of December at least 20 years apart):

Miami Florida December 2000 (peak day-average is 77.08): https://www.wunderground.com/history/monthly/us/fl/miami/KMI...

Miami Florida December 2020 (peak day-average is 76.69): https://www.wunderground.com/history/monthly/us/fl/miami/KMI...

---

Honolulu, Hawaii December 1995 (peak day-average is 79.92): https://www.wunderground.com/history/monthly/us/hi/honolulu/...

Honolulu, Hawaii December 2020 (peak day-average is 79.54): https://www.wunderground.com/history/monthly/us/hi/honolulu/...

---

You can use that site to look up the same month 20+ years apart in any place and it clearly shows that there is no significant change at all. You can browse the surrounding years to get a better feeling because there can be random 2 to 3 degree fluctuations but my point is that these fluctuations can go either way and there is no correlation with time.

TBH, I'm surprised that, given that there is an incentive for meteorologists to fake the data (since global warming is their bread and butter) that it's still possible to see proper data which certainly matches my personal observations. IMO it's a matter of time before they start faking historical data. Good we have waybackmachine https://archive.org/web/


You have scientifically accurate weather records from at least the 1920's onwards. Of all the temperature measurements on record you have decided to choose two single datapoints from two semi-tropical locations with low yearly thermal amplitudes.

I genuinely cannot tell if this is ill-intent or an internal struggle to revisit your previously held opinions when faced with the body of evidence of all the data collected after the industrial revolution.


Looking at a small number of weather stations is "evidence by anecdote" and completely unsound.

You introduce bias by your selection of measurements. Plus a large portion of the earth is scantly inhabited with no weather stations in place. Like the poles or international waters.

Instead you should look at satellite measurements of the temperature across the entire planet. These are widely available. The scientific discourse and the available evidence is much more advanced than "hey it became colder in those 20 places".

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


That's why I said to look at any place. It you want to make the argument that the temperature differences are so small that we shouldn't expect to notice any difference from looking at many different before and after charts then perhaps those differences should be considered statistically insignificant... More likely to be something wrong with the measuring instruments (maybe changes in the manufacturing process of these instruments), or people are becoming more deceptive when entering their measurements or being more selective in how they combine different measurements.

Why should I trust a heavily processed, combined result like the Wikipedia page you posted more than random sampling of raw data directly from local meteorologists? It's pretty obvious that the more 'processing' of the data is carried out, the more inaccurate it's going to be. By the time we get to the global mashup of the data, it's been so heavily tempered by people along the hierarchy that it's basically useless. The global statistics are not to be trusted, they're the result of many meteorologists and statisticians playing 'Chinese whispers' at a global scale.


Your data seems obviously cherry-picked. Why 2000/2020 in one case and 1995/2020 in the other? In fact, your last link actually goes to 2000, not 2020, which makes it look an awful lot like you looked at that year and didn't quote it because it doesn't fit your narrative.

For the Miami case, it is probably worth noting that Miami is cooler during El Nino events and warmer during La Nina. Of course, 2000 was in the middle of the latter and 2020 the former. In fact, if you look at more than 2 datapoints the trend over the past twenty years is the opposite of what you're saying.


So you've picked a couple of locations and dates at random, and gee, there is more noise than signal in your tiny sample.

Now try doing that systematically. Take the monthly averages over 20 years from a few thousand sites. Don't forget to correct for the urban heat-island effect, which creates a false impression of warming when a city grows out around an airport.

Do that, present your results, and it might be worth taking you seriously.


I don't know if average temperatures in December in Miami are particularly representative of anything, but I went to the trouble of plotting a graph of average December temperatures from the Miami link you gave, from 1990 to 2020, and I would say there does appear to be a slight upwards trend over time: https://img.incoherency.co.uk/3145

Picking 2 dates at random is not a good way to expose long-term trends, as evidenced by your observation that there can be several degrees of variation from one year to the next.


That's weird, because all the places I've traveled (in both US and EU) have had a clear rise in average temperature in the last 3 decades.

The country I live in has had the average temperature steadily rise by a full degree over the last 30 years. Which is visible in changes in flora and fauna and extreme weather.

Really makes me wonder where you get your data.


There were some unusual 'hottest on record' last year in the summer in some parts of Europe. But also there were a lot of 'coldest on record' in other places like the US and in Russia during the winter so it doesn't really mean much... This is bound to happen somewhere every year but you need to look at averages and try different years.

I mentioned average temperature twice in my comment, did you miss that? I looked at average temperatures for these locations over the last 100-ish years. Consistently all of these places rising averages. Below are some links to back that up.

If you disagree with this, please also provide some graphs that back up your observations.

California: https://oehha.ca.gov/sites/default/files/media/airtempfig12....

Spain: https://sailingtheatlantic.com/pdfs/climate_change_spain.pdf

Netherlands: https://www.clo.nl/sites/default/files/styles/clo_infographi...

Russia: https://cms.qz.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/russia-tempera...

Global: https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/service/global/global-land-oc...


Well, okay then, i will take your precise data as a fact. All these scientists with their fake-data must surely be liars.

That's why it's called climate change and not global warming. More extremes.

That’s a bit like saying the section of a skate ramp you’re standing on is flat, so it must be flat at all points.

You're mistaken, we've recordings and the temperatures increased, albeit not as much as predicted by models.



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