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September 14, 2010

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If the left had cut us big fat checks like the energy industry, we would have been way out front on this right from the start!!

By the time it's obvious they will have moved on to something else. Just like the Iraq war -- the right was demonstrably wrong on pretty much everything, but somehow that doesn't matter now (cf Megan McArdle's recent bit of stellar silliness on the subject). We're still scolded, but now it's no finger pointing, look forward and not backward, etc. This will be the same thing. On the upside, at least there's ample material for a decade of Tom Tomorrow cartoons.

"If the Left wasn't so arrogant and dismssive in their argumentation, we would have believed them and acted sooner..."

Channeling Walter Russel Mead

it's nice that there are smart people on the fringes. but we need them in the middle of popular discourse.

(i've recently upped my cynicism hit point max to 50!)

If they are corrupt, we have to consider whether any of the knowledge they've generated is trustworthy

Isn't that what the left says about religion?

If you don't follow the one method to truth - the scientific method, there's only one - you are corrupt.

If you don't do that, you are not trustworthy.

Well, if we caveat that as "objectively verifiable truth"...

I can't even understand what Duff is trolling on about. Perhaps I'm getting old.

To quote the TV show, "BUZZINGA"

To Duff: that is not what the Left says about religion. What science says about religion is that we do not look to revelation to describe the natural world, we aim to decipher how things happen based on methodological naturalism.

In other words, NO BEARDED ROBEY CLOUDHUMPERS CONTRIBUTING TO ALABAMA FOOTBALL SUCCESS.

that is not what the Left says about religion. What science says about religion is

Nice shift. Well done.

Well, the theory of relativity has become a target again* recently (for allegedly preaching relativism, duh!). And the theory of intelligent falling (originating iirc from The Onion) has been taken seriously by some fundies and those that pretend to be ones.
Btw, there can't be a fossil fuel industry since fossils are all fake (either made by God to test us, Satan to tempt us or Man to fool us).

*I wait for the revival of Aryan Physics that must be here any day now. 'Sound Science' is just a poor rip-off.

Isn't that what the left says about religion?

No. Not at all really. I'm "the left" and I am not an atheist. So that doesn't quite work, does it?

To the extent that science is relied upon, it is because of its ability to describe, in predictable ways, the natural world - to develop testable, verifiable methods to do so with some accuracy. Whether or not the natural world exists because of God is a question that science cannot answer, and does not seek to answer, really.

As Stephen Hawking put it:

“The whole history of science has been the gradual realization that events do not happen in an arbitrary manner, but that they reflect a certain underlying order, which may or may not be divinely inspired.”

So to the extent someone says: "Global warming can't exist, because God told me in a personal revelation" I would hope that everyone, left and right, would view that claim with skepticism because there is no way to verify it.

It's not a question of the speaker's "corruption", just their appeal to a subjective, unverifiable source and the extent to which such claims should be granted credence. If such were treated as, er, gospel, then how would society as a whole function?

No, better to have science address the natural world in a temporal sense, and let religion grapple with the deeper questions - such as, again, why there is a natural world to begin with.

"*I wait for the revival of Aryan Physics that must be here any day now."

LOL, I just finished reading some papers on the role USC (in LA) and a Pasadena think tank played in the advancement of that science.

I usually stay out of global warming discussions because, well, it is such an established fact that any question of its validity typically, if not invariably, produces a blend of condenscion/invective/dismissal etc. Still, though, I have a couple of questions:

1. Sea levels have been rising and glaciers receding for at least 10,000 years independent of human activity (producing extinction of some species while other thrived). Why is the current warming period so different that (a) it is worse that all prior warming period and (b) it can be reversed or arrested by human activity?

2. Even if the US were to pass cap and trade, would that materially reduce carbon emissions to the point where China, India, et al could continue as they are and yet the seas would no longer rise?

I 'believe in' AGW. But, I can't say I understand statistics nuances. I can sort of follow the math on RealClimate, but certainly not well enough to critique it. And, I suspect that someone adept at statistics could present an argument against AGW that I could no way refute.

Further, my 'belief in science' is not universally. For instance, I still eat BBQ'd meat, and I think that the risk from lead paint is grossly overblown. (I'm not here to argue these points - just to say that I suspect there's a significant component of 'faith', or even tribalism, in my take on AGW.)

... Which is where I think the right is coming from. For most ppl, a lot of our 'thinking' is just rationalizing what our lizard brain decides instantly.

Even if the US were to pass cap and trade, would that materially reduce carbon emissions to the point where China, India, et al could continue as they are and yet the seas would no longer rise?

Considering that the US outpaces other countries in carbon emissions, a cap and trade would be an important first step. It would also help if we engaged international fora such as Kyoto and beyond to try to forge international agreements.

First, we must take the first step. Then the others.

Sea levels have been rising and glaciers receding for at least 10,000 years independent of human activity (producing extinction of some species while other thrived). Why is the current warming period so different that (a) it is worse that all prior warming period and (b) it can['t] be reversed or arrested by human activity?

Changes are occurring at a much more rapid pace, threatening to bring about catastrophic changes that, otherwise, would occur over several thousand years, allowing for gradual shifts and adaptations.

In addition, the speed at which the climate is warming threatens to trigger negative feedback loops that themselves will further hasten the pace. Change at this rate risks a spiral effect, whereas gradual change is absorbed by the ecosystem.

Whether it can be reversed is an open question, though there are no viable options currently proposed that would reverse it.

MiT

1. a) extent and rate of change. This affects species and ecosystems and their ability to adapt or just disappear and when this happens the species that remain or 'thrive' tend to be resilient and undesirable - rats, pigeons, weeds) There's also the not small matter of our civilization being based upon a very narrow range of climate.
b) well it's created by human activity so ...

2. China and India are less likely to do anything if the US doesn't do something. The US is not only a large producer of CO2 emissions, it is huge by per capita, and ,vaster still, by historical per capita production. There's a practical and moral imperative.

That's a starter, all are quite easily researched.

I would also like to comment on your first paragraph as it seems that most climate denialism, failing to be right, seems to have gone down the path of - we're wrong but you're mean. I can live with that.

Whether it can be reversed is an open question, though there are no viable options currently proposed that would reverse it.

But, can it be halted in a meaningful way and what actually has to be done to do so? By the last, I am asking what the world's industrial/personal living base will have to look like to arrest GW?

McKinneyTexas -

"1. Sea levels have been rising and glaciers receding for at least 10,000 years independent of human activity (producing extinction of some species while other thrived). Why is the current warming period so different that (a) it is worse that all prior warming period and (b) it can be reversed or arrested by human activity?

2. Even if the US were to pass cap and trade, would that materially reduce carbon emissions to the point where China, India, et al could continue as they are and yet the seas would no longer rise?"

1a - The rate of change is significantly faster than previous warming periods. This is problematic in that it makes it difficult for various species, such as ourselves, to adapt in time. (It's easier to make adjustments over 1000 years than over 100 years.) It also helps point the finger at a different cause than for past warming periods, i.e. us.
1b - If the cause of the current global warming is human activity, then moderating that activity should moderate the continuation of climate change. Can we make enough change to completely stop global warming? Nobody really knows. World climate has a lot of "momentum", so to speak, and will not respond instantaneously to any intervention. However, the first rule of what to do when you find yourself in a hole still applies.*

2 - Probably not, although the rate of hole-digging will slow down if we're no longer participating in actively making things worse. I'll pose a question in turn. What are the odds that China or India will agree to slow down their emissions (which they probably see as part of achieving material success) if they see that the U.S. (which already has material success) doesn't take global warming seriously enough to do anything about it?


* (Everybody should know this one, but the rule is stop digging.)

What are the odds that China or India will agree to slow down their emissions (which they probably see as part of achieving material success) if they see that the U.S. (which already has material success) doesn't take global warming seriously enough to do anything about it?

My guess is that, regardless of what we do, the rest of the world will likely not follow suit.

My guess is that, regardless of what we do, the rest of the world will likely not follow suit.

I'm not so sure McTex.

Even though we rejected Kyoto, other countries took aggressive measures to reduce carbon emissions.

Europe has been out in front in a big way.

Even China requires tougher emissions standards out of automobiles than we do - part of that is self interest, as the pollution situation in Beijing is unbearable, but for a while it created a two track production line in Detroit.

One track for US autos, one track for Chinese, with the latter being much greener in terms of emissions.

Meanwhile, we just had the hottest summer on record.

There is a certain irony in the fact that, while the middle and eastern parts of the county have had a very hot summer, here in California we have just had the second of two exceptionally cool summers in a row. Just one of the local climate shifts, in various different directions, that are expected to come with global warming, of course. But wryly amusing none the less. (Unless you are looking at your garden and wishing the tomatoes were getting enough heat to ripen properly.)

wholly comprised of civic-minded do-gooders

Pedantic quibble: Nothing is comprised of anything. Things are composed of things. Things do comprise things, and things do compose things. The United States is composed of the fifty states (or, better yet, the fifty states compose it), and the United States comprises the fifty states (or, I guess, the fifty states are comprised by the United States - ick).

Language evolves, but by fusing compose and comprise, we would, in effect, be losing a word, diminishing the language rather than enhancing it. That sort of change should be fought against, IMO.

On the substance of the post I agree.

When people start relying on the fact that the climate changes over tens of thousands of years or more to refute AGW, they are unwittingly (or hoping no one notices that they are) suggesting a highly improbable coincidence between the industrial revolution and what is admittedly, in terms of climate science, a very recent, short-term warming trend.

If it weren't for the fact that this warming trend has coincided so closely with the development of large-scale industry, you could say that there should be no reason for alarm, just yet, and that it's very likely just an anomalous blip within a much larger trend that hasn't been or can't yet be demonstrated. But the whole point, as things are, is that within these larger trends, over thousands and thousands of years, it would be highly unlikely that such a blip would just so happen to occur over the very same short period as industrialization. I mean, that's the whole friggin' point. (Not to mention the physics and chemistry that supports it theoretically; it's not an otherwise curious notion that this should be happening.)

Considering that the US outpaces other countries in per capita carbon emissions

Fixed!

China is the top emitter of total CO2.

For the vast majority of us who are not climate scientists (or other -ists who may have real training/expertise here), it comes down to: "who do you trust?"

For me, this is fairly straightforward: there are people who stand to lose massive sums of money if we decide to try and slow/halt climate change. That makes me extremely skeptical when they, or more likely groups they fund, argue that there is no AGW. As far as I can tell, scientists studying the issue don't have millions of $$ at stake here. That doesn't automatically make them correct or saintly, but it makes them less likely, IMHO, to lie.

Also, conspiracies are awfully hard to keep secret. Massive international ones moreso.

That said, I have a certain amount of skepticism about GW predictions, based on an admittedly simple principle: climate is extremely complex and we've only been seriously studying it for a short while. In short: I buy that there is an observed warming trend, I buy that it's an alarming trend, and I'm generally supportive of efforts to do what is, IMO, the "conservative" thing - reduce the amount of greenhouse gasses we're pumping into the atmosphere, while giving the matter even more study.

Of course, doing that hurts industry, which hurts our economy, and that's not really going to be tolerated. Further, I have a hard time believing that developing nations will agree to harm themselves economically by refraining from doing the very things that we ("we" = the industrialized West) already did and got rich doing. That's a HARD sell, IMO, even if we're stepping up into a leadership role on the issue (which we are clearly NOT).

So, basically I think we may be screwed. Yay.

About China being the top, it was estimated that half of the increase in carbon emissions is for manufacturing exports to the West, which is something that is not accounted for in the totals. I'm not saying that this means that China is blameless, but it is not a simple question of who emits what.

hairshirt: Language evolves, but by fusing compose and comprise ...

,,, we end up with comprose, a word it would be a pity to refudiate :)

McKinney: Still, though, I have a couple of questions.

The first question has been adequately answered by others. I just want to emphasize one point: the difference between past changes in the climate (either direction) and climate change now, is that WE are here to be inconvenienced, now. The planet will keep spinning along, with or without a hotter climate. It's not the Earth that needs saving; it's us.

On the second question, I assert without proof that Indians and Chinese are probably more interested in a comfortable life than in the sheer pleasure of burning fossil fuels. So far, their easiest path to a comfortable life has been the one originally followed by us Europeans and Americans, who invented the large-scale oxidation of fossil carbon. It seemed like a clever invention, at the time. It made a lot of people a lot of money, for one thing. If we Americans and Europeans, who pride ourselves on our inventiveness, come up with a better idea now, the Chinese and the Indians are likely to take it up with the same gusto as our older idea. More likely, of course, the better idea will come from the Chinese or Indians in the first place. Better ideas make money, and nothing gets you to a more comfortable life quicker than money.

Now I have a couple of questions back at you:

1) Do humans live in The Economy, or The Environment?

2) Which are humans likely to run out of first: petroleum, or money?

--TP

Why is the current warming period so different

Atmospheric CO2.

1) Do humans live in The Economy, or The Environment?

2) Which are humans likely to run out of first: petroleum, or money?

I am not sure what the underlying meaning of The Economy and The Environment, but supplying my own meaning, it isn't either/or, it's both.

As for petroleum vs. money, my answer is neither, but at some point, oil will be so scarce and so expensive, its use will be substantially curtailed. There will always be a medium of exchange and always some small bit of oil that is economically unfeasible to pull out of the ground.

I am not sure what the underlying meaning of The Economy and The Environment, but supplying my own meaning, it isn't either/or, it's both.

Well, we could certainly get along much longer without an economy than without an environment. Just sayin.

Listening to Rush Limbaugh on climate is more-or-less celebrity science. I don't suppose it ends up being much different than listening to Al Gore.

If you want to see what the smarter skeptics have been up to, spend some time at the Climate Audit blog. More science and less politics.

I can especially recommend this article on the hockey stick: http://climateaudit.org/2005/04/08/mckitrick-what-the-hockey-stick-debate-is-about/

And this one on data: http://climateaudit.org/2005/02/20/bring-the-proxies-up-to-date/

Their blog entries for the past several months have tended to focus on committees in Great Britain, not on climate, so generally look at the older ones.

Rush Limbaugh is a straw man.

Well, we could certainly get along much longer without an economy than without an environment. Just sayin.

Yeah, as hunter/gatherers.

Rush Limbaugh is a straw man

You post two entries from 2005. Hockeystick has been dismantled already.

You're posts are years late, and a few grand short.

Try harder.

Yeah, as hunter/gatherers.

Yup.

Not glamorous, or easy, but it beats the alternative.

Hunter-gatherers?!?

We're talking about climate change, not collective amnesia. We're not going to forget about either agriculture or quantum mechanics just because sea levels rise or the oil runs out.

--TP

I usually stay out of global warming discussions because, well, it is such an established fact that any question of its validity typically, if not invariably, produces a blend of condenscion/invective/dismissal etc.

As well it should whenever anyone advances crackpot nonsense under the guise of healthy skepticism. Some things are just objectively, demonstrably, factually wrong, and climate change denial is rapidly approaching flat-earther territory. I don't feel obligated to dignify that kind of insanity by treating it as a legitimate, arguable difference of opinion. And frankly, we might see less of it polluting our discourse if people spreading climate change FUD knew they could expect the same kind of widespread ridicule and public humiliation that they'd get from trying to argue that the world isn't really round.

I found the Guardian piece that mentions the question of oustsourcing emissions.

We're talking about climate change, not collective amnesia.

Actually, TP, we got a bit off topic and were talking about life without an economy. No economy = hunter/gatherer or as near as no matter.

Standard fare, just fill in the subject:

As well it should whenever anyone advances crackpot nonsense under the guise of healthy skepticism. Some things are just objectively, demonstrably, factually wrong, and subject issue denial is rapidly approaching flat-earther territory. I don't feel obligated to dignify that kind of insanity by treating it as a legitimate, arguable difference of opinion. And frankly, we might see less of it polluting our discourse if people spreading subject issue FUD knew they could expect the same kind of widespread ridicule and public humiliation that they'd get from trying to argue that the world isn't really round.

Truth hurts, don't it, GOB?

I mean, if people of your preferred political party keep hitching their wagons to objectively stupid people, like this yahoo that won in Delaware last night, along with Angle, Brewer, et al., well, this is what's going to happen. Repeatedly.

"Life without an economy" is indeed off topic. What has "life without an economy" got to do with either climate change or the end of cheap oil?

But the way some people talk, you'd think we have to sacrifice The Economy to save The Environment and vice versa. "We can't reduce our fossil carbon consumption to save The Environment, because it will hurt The Economy," is a fair (if over-pithy) summary of some people's position.

The people who talk that way are not exclusively Republicans or conservatives, but they're mostly not Democrats and almost never liberals.

Chances are that most of us writing or reading here will be comfortably dead before human civilization is drastically altered by global warming or the end of oil. But young people we know and care about are likely to face the consequences of one or both in their lifetimes. Will they curse our memories more for using up the oil, or for filling the atmosphere with CO2? Probably both: using up oil is in fact one major way we are raising CO2 levels in The Environment. But hey, we need to preserve The Economy -- for the children, you know.

--TP

But, nobody could have ever predicted!

We're talking about climate change, not collective amnesia. We're not going to forget about either agriculture or quantum mechanics just because sea levels rise or the oil runs out.

That depends on what happens and how fast. Knowledge of quantum mechanics could very well be lost in a generation or two (if that's what you mean by forgetting about something, Tony P., rather than forgetting that that thing existed at all). Agriculture would be tougher, not being as limited in the number of people with a working knowledge of it, nor as difficult to recreate from bits and pieces of information and a little trial and error.

But the books and digital records explaining quantum mechanics could be lost, or enough of them that they wouldn't likely be recovered by anyone who would care enough to preserve them or have the ability to understand them. The individuals with knowledge of quantum mechanics could end up either dead or too busy trying to survive to give lectures or write detailed notes to pass their knowledge on. If something bad enough occurred to cause all of this to happen, I doubt quantum mechanics would be of much use, anyway.

Agriculture would be pretty high on the list of "things civilizations do" to be recreated.

I don't think there's much of a probability of anything like that happening; it's borderline sci-fi territory. But, if we're talking about sea levels rising, depending on how much and how fast, I think it's entirely possible for knowledge of quantum mechanics to be lost.

/silly digression

Well, the was indeed a touch warmer, but so what? These things fluctuate.

What mattered to me was that spring came early and was beautiful.

You have to look (pardon the pun) at the sunny side of these situations.

Hopefully we will now have the warmest winter on record. Burn those fossil fuels! Go global warming!

oh....one more thing, when the earth reverses its magnetic poles again (in 2012?) like it does from time to time, the little wiffs of anthropomorphic greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere will be a moot issue.

Hey avedis, how you been?

Just chillin', Eric, just chillin'

I've been here and there in the physical and cyber worlds and I do stop by to read your posts from time to time. I rarely make comments any where any more......but you know I just couldn't resist saying something (anything) re; this sketchy business of global warming.

BTW, long over due congrats on the birth of your son. Looks like a strappin' fine lad.

Strappin he is.

Fearless, to a fault.

He'll be 1 come a few weeks, October 10th to be exact.

I'm told it gets much easier circa year 2.

Something about the Terrific Twos...

McKinney: "I am asking what the world's industrial/personal living base will have to look like to arrest GW?"

That depends how we go about it. If, for example, we had started say in the 1970s or 80s (Rather than Reagan ripping solar panels off the White House roof out of sheer spite), we would probably be pretty close to there already.

The point there being, the longer we wait, the harder the changes are, and the more likely we are to get a bad ending. Every year we keep on the current path, we put more CO2 into the air, and invest more money, time, and capital in industrial processes, buildings, farms, and cities that are inefficient at best, here and worldwide.

Now, the good ending I refer to with the shorthand of "Star Trek Future," though the jumpsuits are optional. More short-term though? Probably not that much different, if we do it right. Distributed power generation including rooftop solar cells, landfill gas, wind, maybe nuclear, while phasing out coal power plants? Nothing about that fundamentally changes society, not really.

Denser, greener cities, with public transportation, greater walkability, green roofs, more green spaces. We have those some places already. The suburbs would probably need a lot of transformation and rehab, and so would the strip malls and office parks that have grown up around them, but people would still live in houses or apartments, shop, work, etc. Maybe through slightly different methods, but not that badly.

Better buildings, that don't waste so much energy on heating and cooling, from simple things like caulking windows and insulating air ducts and void spaces (amazing amounts of air conditioning just get pumped straight out) and then for new buildings, better choice of their layouts and windows for solar gain and ventilation, rainwater runoff, closer together and more walkable, with white or solar or green roofs.

Farming would have to change pretty dramatically from what it's become, in terms of cheap energy inputs in gasoline for machinery, cheap fertilizer that runs off and kills rivers, cheap pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides that kill indiscriminately, etc. The biggest, CO2-wise are the fertilizer, gasoline, well water, and land use. And perhaps cheap transport, that means supermarkets stock apples from Washington State or New Zealand even when apples are in season where they are. And industrial farming of corn-fed meat animals, which is hugely wasteful. So we would probably have much less cheap meat to eat, so there might not be any more McDonald's $1 Double Cheeseburgers, but we could still feed everybody quite well.

So, the good end state would be vastly different, in some ways, but still recognizably human industrial civilization. And in a lot of ways, it could be better, with healthier people (less driving, less cheap crap calories, etc), and do even more than we do now, with less. Efficiency is the cheapest and most neglected part, where we could make big strides, RIGHT NOW, without any major changes.

So let's look at the other end of the spectrum, at the bad end. Changes in weather patters and ocean currents could make farming in areas where it's done now far harder or impossible, leading to wars, drought, and starvation. Rising sea levels could swamp coastal cities, or at least large portions thereof, which would at best cost a lot of money to prevent. Resource shortages and exhaustion cause price spikes, economic chaos, war, mass migration, and starvation.

The biggest threats on that end aren't "running out" of resources of any stripe, but them becoming scarce enough to cause chaos in economies and war. And with war, you get all sorts of fun pestilence, famine, and death. Not to mention the rest of the chaos that would spillover from those wars and destruction. That's leaving aside the more outlandish scenarios, like Greenland's ice sheets melting fast enough to disrupt the Gulf Stream.

What's going to happen? Probably something in-between. Hopefully people would get the picture before too much of the bad stuff happens, but never depend on somebody getting it when their paycheck requires them not to.

Personally,I prefer to imagine and work toward the good endings, because I choose to be an optimist, and because the longer we wait on them, the more likely the bad endings are to come true.

To be fair, it's not just "American movement conservatives". Pretty much every large economy where fossil fuel extraction makes up a big part of GDP (eg Russia, Australia, Canada) has a sizeable and well funded denialist community (not just industry shills, mind, though obviously they do shape the discourse), often represented in government and typically self-identifying as conservatives.

But, if we're talking about sea levels rising, depending on how much and how fast, I think it's entirely possible for knowledge of quantum mechanics to be lost.

At the current rate of less than a meter per century: only if there's a zombie apocalypse to go along with it.

This is a great comment with a lot of meat in it. The one thing I see missing--and perhaps I just missed it in the wall of text--is a discussion of how dependent our way of life is on plastics, and the effect on that of a major worldwide petroleum shortage. I'm talking not only about consumer packaging waste, the meaningful reduction of which will require sweeping (and painful) changes in both consumer and manufacturing practices, but the millions of everyday disposable items using plastics on which we have become dependent.

I'm not saying we can't do it--but I think it's likely to be one of the most significant impacts on America's consumer-driven culture. In post-peak oil era, we'll drive cars much the same whether they have gas tanks or batteries, and for the most part people have no reason to either know or care about the source of their electricity. But our disposable, plastic-driven society will have to change or die.

At the current rate of less than a meter per century: only if there's a zombie apocalypse to go along with it.

Don't make me bite you, Slarti. I might be slow and shambling, but I never stop, not even to sleep.

Good point, Catsy. Cars themselves, whether they burn oil or run straight from a battery, use a great deal of petroleum.

Consider tires, for instance. And all that lovely interior trim.

" So we would probably have much less cheap meat to eat, so there might not be any more McDonald's $1 Double Cheeseburgers, but we could still feed everybody quite well."

This actually isn't the most likely outcome. I would happily bet that WholeFoods and similar high-end middle class fare are much more likely to be damaged in any large scale changes than McDonald's. Which is precisely why large scale changes are less likely. It is always easier to have other people give things up rather than have to give up the things you like, and the middle class is the voting class.

[to clarify]

I mean that large scale preventative changes which actively damage the lifestyle of the middle class are unlikely to make it through the political process.

I'm pretty sure I mentioned that lots of food would have to change, and the death of cheap meat (and flash-frozen imported seafood and the like) would be part of it, which, yes, would impact the middle class, and the lower class, but not, of course, the aristocractic upper class who have the money and the power to get whatever they want.

That said, NOT making changes will ALSO result in the end of cheap meat and dollar burgers, so that's not really a good argument for not doing anything, except for the people who think hippie punching is of primary importance, who go specifically eat overfished seafood to piss off liberals and that sort of thing.

Also, that sort of cynicism, of the "Well, it'll require too many changes, so it'll never happen" is defeatist, and a great way to make sure that we don't make any changes early, and gradually, rather than having to make bigger changes more rapidly, or letting the laws of physics and scarcity force us to make them. But hey sure, go ahead and smugly proclaim "It'll never happen, because it'll take too much work" and feel superior, that's constructive.

On the "bad" side, I think one thing that's not talked about enough is changes in rainfall patterns. We have built enormous cities and multi-billion dollar ag industries that are dependent on rain falling at the right time, in the right place and in the right amount. Relatively tiny changes in rainfall patterns could, for example, prevent the City of San Diego from issuing new building permits, or could result in Las Vegas golf courses all going dry, or Phoenix depopulating.

Major struggles over fully allocated resources are right around the corner.

(Slarti, please note that around the globe coastal people rely on the groundwater basin beneath their feet and/or river deltas. Small rises in sea level will contaminate vast amounts of drinking water as salt water intrudes into groundwater basins and moves brackish zones farther inland.)

Hey Slarti knows that. He designs fjords, right?

Slarti, please note that around the globe coastal people rely on the groundwater basin beneath their feet and/or river deltas. Small rises in sea level will contaminate vast amounts of drinking water as salt water intrudes into groundwater basins and moves brackish zones farther inland.

That may well be, but such horribleness will not in any major way obliterate human understanding of quantum physics.

mmm, no. But dealing with migration, resource wars and starvation might put a tiny bit of a damper on govts' enthusiasm for, say, continued funding of CERN.

(Loss of knowledge of quantum physics only comes with the most apocalyptic of scenarios, where increased heat actually renders significant chunks of the planet uninhabitable, and massive war/starvation/chaos arises. At the earliest, that's a 100 years out. We hope. But according to Joe Romm, what used to be only in the fantasies of Hollywood special effects guys is actually an outer edge possibility if we keep on a carbon-extraction based global economy.)

Wait, some humans actually UNDERSTAND quantum physics right now?

Slartibartfast has a point. The obliteration of US coastal cities will not obliterate civilisation in North America.

However, the most likely consequence of extreme anthropogenic global warming is massive climate changes which reduce capacity to grow foods and alter rainfall patterns to promote floods and droughts. (You get more water vapour in the atmosphere which means that it rains harder in some places, which tends to mean that the vapour doesn't stay in the atmosphere, so you get more desertification further on down the line.)

Now, running out of food probably leads to conflict, as it has in the past. Conflict will probably end up being fought with nuclear weapons, and unfortunately a lot of states can tool themselves up within a decade or so.

I think that would probably lead to the loss of quantum mechanics. Also to the loss of Kepler's Law and of the notion that you don't have to sacrifice virgins to the Volcano God.

Honestly, the whole global warming debate is besides the point, as we ought to replace every single coal fired power plant in operation with nuclear and hydro* on public health grounds alone - coal is an extremely dirty power source, and causes utterly unacceptable numbers of deaths year after year after year via increased cancer and respiratory ailment levels.

Basically, the normal operating mode of all coal plants is a non-stop enviormental disaster that would get most factories stomped on by regulators with hobnailed boots, and they have a toxic waste problem on a scale that makes nuclear waste look utterly irrelevant.

And shutting down coal would render AGW moot (AGW *is* coal. There just isnt enough oil in the ground to cause serious climate change)

*Dont bring up wind and sun. There are no real examples of those actually replacing coal plants. Dams and nukes do. windmills, not so much.

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