Join 3,524 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Oops!
November 8, 2011 8:54 AM   Subscribe

Carbon dioxide emissions increased by the largest amount on record in 2010, exceeding the worst case scenario outlined by the IPCC four years ago.
posted by jeffburdges (93 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
Hold on to your butts.
posted by General Tonic at 8:55 AM on November 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


And book that vacation to see a glacier.
posted by jeffburdges at 8:57 AM on November 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


.
posted by silence at 8:58 AM on November 8, 2011


I'm seriously rethinking whether I should have children or not.
posted by Tarumba at 9:00 AM on November 8, 2011 [9 favorites]


Crap.
posted by Specklet at 9:01 AM on November 8, 2011


Funny, you'd think sticking our heads in the sand would help.
posted by JaredSeth at 9:05 AM on November 8, 2011 [9 favorites]


Having looked at the links, it appears that China is going to murder us all with CO2. Thanks, China.
posted by Justinian at 9:06 AM on November 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


..exceeding the worst case scenario outlined by the IPCC...

See? These "scientists" don't know what they are talking about?

*goes back to driving Hummer*
posted by DU at 9:06 AM on November 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'm sure glad we signed on to Kyot..

oh.
posted by leotrotsky at 9:07 AM on November 8, 2011 [4 favorites]


Having looked at the links, it appears that China is going to murder us all with CO2 from the cheap products we buy from them. Thanks, China Developed World.
posted by Jehan at 9:08 AM on November 8, 2011 [20 favorites]


I'm going to ignore your reasonable objection in favor of a New Yellow Peril.
posted by Justinian at 9:09 AM on November 8, 2011 [17 favorites]


Reasonable, well meaning people will look at reports like this and realize all our efforts are hopeless. The only tolerable responses left are ignoring the problem entirely or some flavor of magical thinking (unbelievable science breakthrough, Jesus, overnight change of consumer culture, global pandemic, etc.)
posted by 2bucksplus at 9:18 AM on November 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think we need another catastrophe or two if we're going to avoid some kind of gigadeath paroxysm.
posted by General Tonic at 9:19 AM on November 8, 2011


Don't worry, I'm sure demand will force people to innovate a way around physics, because we all know when there's enough money and want, anything can be fixed.

I mean, Steve Jobs got that cure for cancer, right?
posted by yeloson at 9:19 AM on November 8, 2011


Then why is it cold?
posted by Legomancer at 9:23 AM on November 8, 2011 [4 favorites]


America and China are the guilty parties for this particular news item, not simply the developed world. India has been increasing rapidly too of course, but nothing like China. And I'm guessing they'll feel the heat before China or the U.S. Imho, the graphic should list Europe, not simply Germany, but presumably Europe's has been reducing emissions over the last decade. We need electric roads stat since cars represent a third of Americas emissions.
posted by jeffburdges at 9:25 AM on November 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Surely this...?
posted by slater at 9:27 AM on November 8, 2011


a 10-degree global temperature rise could likely kill off a third of the world's human population. The problem solves itself!
posted by sharkitect at 9:27 AM on November 8, 2011 [4 favorites]


This is the first step in the long planned take over by the plant kingdom. Get ready to serve your green masters, humanoids!!!
posted by spicynuts at 9:27 AM on November 8, 2011


The only tolerable responses left are ignoring the problem entirely or some flavor of magical thinking

I'm going to choose to do both; by not having children and thus having nothing invested in the long term survival of the human race, and personally only planning on living, at best, another hundred years or so.

Sometimes I have to joke, because considering the alternatives is way too depressing.
posted by quin at 9:28 AM on November 8, 2011 [6 favorites]



And book that vacation to see a glacier.
posted by jeffburdges at 8:57 AM on November 8 [+] [!]


I went out to the Columbia Icefields this summer, on my way between here and there. You can look at the yearly markers to show how far the glacier has moved. It's one thing to hear about it, but it's something else entirely to stand at the foot of a glacier and to see how far it's vanished and how fast. Something that seems as immovable and impermanent as a mountain has exponentially shrunk in even the few years I've been alive.
posted by Stagger Lee at 9:28 AM on November 8, 2011 [4 favorites]


General Tonic, that's what some environmental writers have suggested for decades. With the pace of climate change, however, I'm afraid that the next catastrophe becomes the new normal. 2011 set a record in the US (and probably the world) for major weather-related disasters.

I highly recommend Frederick Buell's book, From Apocalypse to Way of Life. While not focused on climate change, he details how and why we are unable to respond to environmental crisis.
posted by perhapses at 9:28 AM on November 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Permanent. Not impermanent. Where's my edit window. ;)
posted by Stagger Lee at 9:28 AM on November 8, 2011


I love The Onion's American Voices piece about this.
posted by glaucon at 9:30 AM on November 8, 2011 [1 favorite]




I love The Onion's American Voices piece about this.
posted by glaucon at 9:30 AM on November 8 [1 favorite +] [!]



Paywalled. Surely they're joking.
posted by Stagger Lee at 9:33 AM on November 8, 2011


Another interesting take on the psychology of denial, is W.G. Sebald's book, On the Natural History of Destruction (the first half). He wondered why there was no mention in post-war German literature of the horrors that Germans experienced during the firebombing of most of their cities during WWII. Even though it was a completely different event, it is strangely illuminating on the American response to climate change.
posted by perhapses at 9:33 AM on November 8, 2011


six-foot sea-level rise by 2100

Would some kind soul who's good with maps put that into real-world speak for me? What places would we lose?
posted by jbickers at 9:34 AM on November 8, 2011


Would some kind soul who's good with maps put that into real-world speak for me? What places would we lose?

Everywhere west of Otisburg, of course.
posted by JaredSeth at 9:35 AM on November 8, 2011 [5 favorites]


hey jbickers, look at this interactive map
posted by Tarumba at 9:37 AM on November 8, 2011 [4 favorites]


Here's a map of Florida at 2 meters (more or less 6 foot).
posted by Jehan at 9:38 AM on November 8, 2011


We are so fucked.
posted by longdaysjourney at 9:38 AM on November 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


If Texas continues to suffer an extreme drought through next summer, will that be enough to change the mind of people like Rick Perry?
posted by perhapses at 9:39 AM on November 8, 2011


This map seems to be pretty good: http://flood.firetree.net/
posted by idb at 9:39 AM on November 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


There is a solution to rising CO2 emissions that is technically simple, but prohibitively large-scale. The solution is plantlife, and lots of it. Algae perhaps. If a cheaper solution doesn't arise, we will have to wait until chaotic weather and rising sea-levels cause sufficient economic damage, so that the nations of the world concede that they have to spend a lot of money on growing a lot of plantlife. This all seems more likely than China cutting emissions.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 9:40 AM on November 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


This should be no surprise to anyone who truly appreciates how the IPCC works. Government officials (including Saudi princes, etc) have to sign off on every word. This process inevitably erodes the science presentation. The IPCC reports are Pollyanna-ish in the extreme, as this reveals. As Maynard James Keenan said, "... learn to swim."
posted by zomg at 9:43 AM on November 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Everyone's expecting (wanting?) an apocalypse. Rather it will be more mundane and everyday, chronic.
posted by stbalbach at 9:44 AM on November 8, 2011 [6 favorites]


And book that vacation to see a glacier.

Six years ago, I went on a Sierra Club trip to Alaska and ended up walking across the moraine of the receding Root Glacier in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park. When we finally got to the ice, several people commented on how stupid and counterproductive it was to have flown hundreds and hundreds of miles to wring our hands over global warming. I haven't seen a glacier since.
posted by ryanshepard at 9:44 AM on November 8, 2011 [4 favorites]


The next IPCC is due out this month, report #5.
posted by stbalbach at 9:45 AM on November 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


The solution is plantlife, and lots of it.... This all seems more likely than China cutting emissions.

Weaponized kudzu will solve all our problems.
posted by doctor_negative at 9:46 AM on November 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


> The only tolerable responses left are ignoring the problem entirely or some flavor of magical thinking

Global economic collapse would help a lot. Greece and Italy are working hard on that right now.
posted by jfuller at 9:50 AM on November 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Weaponized kudzu will solve all our problems.

In that, the destruction of the human race at the hands vines of hyper aggressive semi-sentient plant-life would mean that we weren't around to worry anymore, then yes. It would solve all our problems.

Although weaponized kudzu would make a great name for a band's second album.
posted by quin at 9:51 AM on November 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Everyone's expecting (wanting?) an apocalypse. Rather it will be more mundane and everyday, chronic.

stbalbach has it right on. Above all else this is going to be an economic catastrophe in ways people aren't really getting. Think "depression," not "stock market crash."
posted by zomg at 9:55 AM on November 8, 2011 [8 favorites]


The solution is plantlife, and lots of it.

Reminds me that there is speculation that Columbus may have caused the Little Ice Age, by setting off events that depopulated the Americas, allowing forests to spring up and suck up CO2.
posted by fings at 9:55 AM on November 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think every 1 meter rise in sea level increases hurricane storm surge by one category, juicers, meaning every category 4 floods as much land as a category 5 while you simultaneously face more category 4s from climate change's other effect. You'll survive if you aren't too poor, but it'll make sea side vacations complicated.
posted by jeffburdges at 9:56 AM on November 8, 2011


Above all else this is going to be an economic catastrophe in ways people aren't really getting. Think "depression," not "stock market crash."


But a slow-motion one.

We were among the people who got slammed by that Halloween snowstorm - 6 inches of incredibly wet snow on Oct. 30, and everyone in my neighborhood (older, lots of mature trees) lost huge branches, whole trees, sometimes many of them. Neighbor had a 25-foot maple split, with half of it landing on his roof - I stood there and watched it fall. He's now paying hundreds for the landscapers to come and cut it up and haul it away.

Sure, standard disclaimer here, no proof that this storm or any other individual storm is a product of global warming, blah blah blah, but: to the extent these extreme storms ARE worsened by climate change, it means every time one pummels a region, people in that region are going to be paying out of their pocketbook. Flooded basements, foundation collapses? Check. Power outages for days, weeks at a time? Check. Utter destruction a la the Joplin Mo. tornado? Check.

As more of these things happen, the cost of climate change to the individual will become more palpable. I'd like to think that might get some people to come around on the subject. But it won't.
posted by kgasmart at 10:18 AM on November 8, 2011 [5 favorites]


This is all a conspiracy to send Northern New Jersey swimming with the fishes.
posted by swift at 10:18 AM on November 8, 2011


spicynuts: This is the first step in the long planned take over by the plant kingdom. Get ready to serve your green masters, humanoids!!!

Or, maybe insects?
posted by gilrain at 10:19 AM on November 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm seriously rethinking whether I should have children or not.

Not having children is the single most effective thing you can do to reduce CO2 emissions
posted by VTX at 10:20 AM on November 8, 2011 [6 favorites]


Reminds me that there is speculation that Columbus may have caused the Little Ice Age, by setting off events that depopulated the Americas, allowing forests to spring up and suck up CO2. buidling a time machine? So he could go back and kill off the Norse Settlements in Greenland in the early 15th century, thus cutting off their prior claim?
 
posted by Herodios at 10:22 AM on November 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's mostly coal and cars, as evidenced by the huge differences between China and US on the one hand, and the rest of the world on the other.

The US and China rely on coal for the majority of their energy and both use a whole hell of a lot of energy. The US has an obscene amount of cars on the road—inefficient ones too—and China is rapidly catching up in this regard.

There's no reason why the two countries have to rely so heavily on fossil fuels. It's just cheaper and easier to do so. The barriers are not so much technological as they are economic and cultural.
posted by dephlogisticated at 10:29 AM on November 8, 2011 [6 favorites]


No coincidence that the worst offenders have gas subsidies whereas the cleaner countries have high fuel taxes.
posted by vacapinta at 10:36 AM on November 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


Also, don't be surprised to see China's CO2 contributions level off or even fall over the next 20 years, while those of the US are still growing. They're ahead of much of the world in terms of pushing the development of green energy, though it'll be a while before those efforts start to offset the effects of growth.
posted by dephlogisticated at 10:37 AM on November 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


I have to admit, this whole thing is making me feel pretty hopeless.

The world's been around for millions of years and it only took us a few hundred to completely mess it up.
posted by Dr-Baa at 10:53 AM on November 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Some assumptions to challenge:

1. Green energy development will decrease fossil fuel consumption.

There is a competitive advantage to using cheap carbon-based energy now. It won't be available for competitors later. Also, world population is going up, as well as per-capita energy use.

2. Electric = green.

Electric can also mean nuclear, which is not green (at least in the fission age).

3. Decreased fossil fuels will decrease CO2 outgassing.

Methane hydrates on the sea floor hold several times the energy reserves of fossil fuels, and will produce CO2 when exploited.

4. It's China, India and the U.S. that are to blame.

Russia will be a beneficiary of global warming. Cold water ports, cheaper exploitation of Siberian resources, cheaper energy cost of living. They have been very explicit in wanting their pipelines to be the primary energy provider of European energy. Expect Soviet obfuscation.
posted by dragonsi55 at 11:04 AM on November 8, 2011


Here is what will happen: our various elites will respond to global warming by making themselves richer and more secure, planning to survive climate change in tiny, highly secure enclaves. They'd rather reign in hell than serve in heaven, so we won't have any real climate mitigation efforts since those would require - horrors! tax increases and a general social leveling.

My parents will almost certainly be dead by the time things get really bad and I have no children, so at least I won't have those responsibilities...and you only die once, after all. It's a pity for the younger folks, though.
posted by Frowner at 11:06 AM on November 8, 2011


It's a pity for the younger folks, though.

I've got three kids and it will indeed be their problem. But my issue isn't so much with the elites as it is with the workaday guy on the street who sees the sheer number of extreme storms escalating, has personally dealt with the consequences - and who then turns around and insists that the climate can't possibly be evolving, of if it is humans couldn't possibly be the cause.
posted by kgasmart at 11:10 AM on November 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


The world's been around for millions of years and it only took us a few hundred to completely mess it up.

If you mean Earth, then nah, we haven't completely messed it up. Earth will be fine.

If by "the world" you mean the holocene, then yes, we may have royally screwed ourselves out of a nice, comfy biosphere for which humans were well adapted.
posted by General Tonic at 11:52 AM on November 8, 2011 [8 favorites]


I notice that the anti climate change folks in the comments of the WP article have shifted their talking points once again. They've gone from "it's not happening" to "it's happening, but not our fault", to "it's happening and it's our fault, but it won't be so bad". It's adaptation in action, maybe we do have a chance after all!
posted by Who_Am_I at 12:01 PM on November 8, 2011 [5 favorites]


I was going over Gwynne Dyer's [official site, wiki page] writings about the climate recently. He usually writes about politics, and the climate issues are inextricably linked to politics, wars and people. He gets to talk to a lot of people in different disciplines, and has noted that plants require a temperature range to survive and an increase in global temperatures of the 2-4% expected will prevent crops from growing (wheat, barley, etc), and will cause an increase in food prices, and an increase in food riots.
"The rule of thumb is that we lose about 10 percent of world food production for every rise of one degree C in average global temperature. So the shortages will grow and the price of food will rise inexorably over the years. The riots will return again and again." - The Future of Food Riots.
Here are two related and important pieces on climate change that he's written "Climate: Losing Control", Sept.2009, and "Climate Change: The Last Resort", July.2010. Both are quite important to read and basically say that we needs to stop before a 2 degree increase in global temperature in the 2020s or 2030s, it's not looking like we're going to, a 4 degree rise is catastrophic, and the Post's mention of a 5.5 degree C being "(...) a big hit to the world’s food supply." is basically either uninformed or just stupid, as by that time we'd lose 50% of the current type of plant crops, and makes no mention of the decrease of the aquifer levels in 90 years that we'd use up trying to keep those plants all alive. I can't find the specific article on his site archives, but if I do I'll link to it, as it's interesting. Depressing, but interesting. yeah.
posted by Zack_Replica at 12:12 PM on November 8, 2011 [5 favorites]


Unfortunately, additional plant life isn't going to solve the problem because plants aren't primarily carbon-limited, they're generally nitrogen and water limited. While nitric acid emissions and deposition from cars are helping a bit with the nitrogen problem, water limitation with increasing temperature is going to put a hard limit on the amount of carbon that plants can sequester for us. Besides, increasing temperature will have huge feedback effects on carbon dioxide emissions, so we'd be chasing an accelerating target; for example, with increasing temperatures, wetlands will dry out and all of the accumulated organic material in those histosols will decay at faster rates (or even burn up in wildfires), which would represent a huge increase in emissions (wetlands are very important for carbon sequestration because of their very slow rates of decomposition). Permafrosts melting will have very similar effects, as will increased fire frequency and intensity.

Not to mention that we have nowhere to put all of these additional plants because of our increasing need for agricultural land - if anything, we're going in the exact opposite direction with deforestation and land use changes. Sigh.
posted by dialetheia at 12:17 PM on November 8, 2011 [4 favorites]


Buy some land, buy some land, buy some mother hubbard land* **

*In Prince George, BC

**Unless you like mild temperatures in which case start researching Northwest Territories lumberyard/mining towns
posted by Slackermagee at 12:29 PM on November 8, 2011


So, wait can this lead to a rise in nihilistic sex and drug cults? I could be up for that.
posted by The Whelk at 12:35 PM on November 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


This isn't about storms. This about what happens when a world of 7 billion people set on the path towards being a world producing enough food for 3 billion people, and what people do if they don't decide to just lie down and starve to death.

A third of the world's food comes from oceans, where carbon acidification is close to reaching levels that stop the entire foodchain in its tracks.
Almost every land-based breadbasket in the world is threatened, and it's not a case of some areas going bad while new areas open up, it's a case of turbulent change making established farmlands unpredictable and far less productive while turbulent change also keeps potential future areas unpredictable and unproductive too.

Almost every way we know of feeding ourselves is already under some strain, there isn't much more elasticity left in the system, and the system itself looks like it will shrink radically.

Hurricanes?! Who gives a shit.
posted by -harlequin- at 12:38 PM on November 8, 2011 [12 favorites]


Then why is it cold?

It isn't, in much of the world. It's been an unseasonably warm fall, and last winter was also unusually warm and non-snowy, where I live (all of you down on the U.S. east coast have been disrupting air currents with your climate change and stealing our snow!).

Part of the political problem around global warming, as I understand it, is that much of the U.S. lies in a very special zone where, locally, they are seeing colder, snowier winters as an effect of climate change. Even though, overall, the globe is warming.
posted by eviemath at 1:03 PM on November 8, 2011


America and China are the guilty parties for this particular news item, not simply the developed world.

If you read the links and links from the links you'll see that this is addressed, and is not true. Europe's numbers look good because they have reduced CO2 emissions inside Europe but they did so in large part by exporting their CO2 emissions to China.
posted by Justinian at 1:08 PM on November 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Tolerable being the important word. A realistic response to the threat of climate change, and those who make it a certainty wouldn't be very polite, or (politically) tolerable.

National Geographic had a good article a month or so back: Hothouse Earth -- about the last time there was rapid global warming, back in the Eocene day.
Matt Huber, a climate modeler at Purdue University who has spent most of his career trying to understand the PETM, has also tried to forecast what might happen if humans choose to burn off all the fossil fuel deposits. Huber uses a climate model, developed by the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Colorado, that is one of the least sensitive to carbon dioxide. The results he gets are still infernal. In what he calls his "reasonable best guess at a bad scenario" (his worst case is the "global-burn scenario"), regions where half the human population now lives become almost unbearable. In much of China, India, southern Europe, and the United States, summer temperatures would average well over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, night and day, year after year.

Climate scientists don't often talk about such grim long-term forecasts, Huber says, in part because skeptics, exaggerating scientific uncertainties, are always accusing them of alarmism. "We've basically been trying to edit ourselves," Huber says. "Whenever we see something really bad, we tend to hold off. The middle ground is actually much worse than people think.

"If we continue down this road, there really is no uncertainty. We're headed for the Eocene. And we know what that's like."


The idea that it's going to be something the grandchildren, or great-grandchildren, will have to deal with may be rather misplaced. They will either not have been born in the first place, or die in some awesome mad-max scrabble for resources (or just from plain starvation, possibly after eating their own kids, as people tend to do in such situations).

I really liked today's quote on the AWAD mailing list:

"When small men begin to cast big shadows, it means that the sun is about to set." -Lin Yutang, writer and translator (1895-1976)

To think I gave up smoking for this.
posted by titus-g at 1:20 PM on November 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


Having looked at the links, it appears that China is going to murder us all with CO2. Thanks, China.

The industrial West has been burning fossil fuels at a breakneck pace for more than 150 years. Blaming China for the catastrophe this has created is like blaming the empty liquor cabinet on your teenage son because he came in and finished the dregs in all the bottles after your guests went home and you passed out in the shower.
posted by gompa at 1:23 PM on November 8, 2011 [8 favorites]


Also worth noting that the only major industrial nation whose curve is tilting downward on that emissions graph is the only one who woke up the next day (to extend the metaphor) and quit bitching about the hangover and actually did something about the mess:

Germany.
posted by gompa at 1:27 PM on November 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


It's alright everyone. Australia just instituted a carbon tax. Crisis averted. You're welcome.
posted by Ritchie at 1:52 PM on November 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


The industrial West has been burning fossil fuels at a breakneck pace for more than 150 years.

Barely meaningful; the rate at which fossil fuels were being burned in the past, say back at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, was a fraction of the rate at which we're burning them now. We've gotten a hell of a lot better at extracting carbon from the earth in the intervening time, and there are a lot more people and factories and cars and everything else using it.

A century ago we were sipping daintily; now we're doing kegstands.

If China wanted to have 150 years of fossil fuels at the same ramp-up rate, that might be something to discuss; what they apparently want is 150 years but beginning at the 20th-century level, and with 20th-century extraction technology. That's going to kill us.
posted by Kadin2048 at 2:07 PM on November 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


> Buy some land .. In Prince George, BC

The further north, the more radical the temp change. BC is seeing forests destroyed by pine beetles and subsequent wildfires.
posted by stbalbach at 2:19 PM on November 8, 2011


The thing that people REALLY aren't getting is the time scale to restore the climate back to where it was before we tweaked it. In years, that's a number with six digits.
posted by zomg at 2:38 PM on November 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


A century ago we were sipping daintily; now we're doing kegstands.

If China wanted to have 150 years of fossil fuels at the same ramp-up rate, that might be something to discuss; what they apparently want is 150 years but beginning at the 20th-century level, and with 20th-century extraction technology. That's going to kill us.


We in the West are doing kegstands; per capita, China's gulping but not quite chugalugging. Chinese per capita CO2 emissions are still less than a third of North America's. And China is not investing hundreds of billions of dollars in solar panels and wind turbines and electric cars - so much, in fact, that Chinese companies are selling solar panels in Europe and California for prices widely believed to be less than production cost - because it intends to spend another century or more dependent on fossil fuels. China and India are arguably already more invested in the post-carbon economy than we are. (Google "Suzlon" or "Selco" or "Nehru National Solar Mission" for the Indian take on this.)

And the mess is still almost exclusively ours. It verges on colonial to think that the rapidly industrializing, still deeply impoverished developing world should be pacesetting on this stuff. If we solve it - as many European countries now are trying to do - China and India and the rest will borrow our best ideas, refine them and sell them back to us at a discount.

In fact, the solar industry's a great case in point. The Japanese innovated it out of its Carter-era doldrums, the Germans industrialized it and introduced economies of scale and modern efficiency to production, the Chinese bought German technology and duplicated it, and now more than half the solar panels installed in California are Chinese-made.

I'd argue the only place truly not pulling its weight - digging the hole deeper at breakneck speed while actively impeding any action to attack the problem - is North America. Washington and Ottawa in particular.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: China has a more comprehensive climate strategy than Canada or the US does. It should be a source of profound outrage across the continent. Instead, we keep re-electing whichever pack of liars tells us the most persuasive fictions about how they can prolong a status quo in which we're still No. 1.
posted by gompa at 3:32 PM on November 8, 2011 [7 favorites]


It's not all bad news, I checked that sea level rise map for Melbourne.

According to that map, a 7 metre rise wipes out the Docklands precinct in Melbourne, which, if you are at all familiar with Melbourne, you'd probably agree was a mercy killing.
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 4:23 PM on November 8, 2011 [1 favorite]



Not having children is the single most effective thing you can do to reduce CO2 emissions
.

Nope. Taking one potential carbon-emitter out from the world will do nothing for the legions replacing them. This is a systemic problem and needs to be addressed systemically. Sentiments like the above are a common muddying of the waters and confusions/conflation of private individual action - of which there is nothing wrong - with public, political action (which it is no substitute for).

The most effective thing you can do for CO2 emissions is advocate for legislative action. It is laws that have the potential to save us from this disaster. Call up your representatives, and tell them why and how you will be voting based on climate action, and encourage anyone and everyone else to do so, as well.

The denialist industry, and the incoherent reactionaries they fund, have poured millions of dollars and hours into obscuring this simple truth in favour of all kinds of cockamamie nonsense, and it's crucially, vitally important we do not let them triumph with this lie.

That action - political action - may not feel like much, because it's not. But this is a problem that took billions of people hundreds of years to create; it's important to recognise the limitations of the individual in this and barrack for solutions that are supra individual.

Not to get all pinko, but I often feel that capitalist society is predicated on the notion of unlimited individual potential, both a keystone to its success, and also a bulwark against the more unpleasant realities that accompany its practice. It's a pernicious myth and watching play out in a climate change context - on both "sides" of the debate - is super depressing.
posted by smoke at 4:43 PM on November 8, 2011 [6 favorites]


I think I'm a bit more pessimistic than Metafilter consensus on the consequences of climate change, and a bit more optimistic on what our options for the future might be. Global warming is an extremely serious issue because we can't afford to lose life support capacity at a time when the world population is climbing to a possible nine billion. Increasing temperatures could very easily lead to an apocalyptic crash both in the biosphere's ability to support life and in our civilization, resulting in megadeath and a new normal that's drastically different from the world we know.

But that's not inevitable, even if CO2 emissions are past the worst case predictions and still increasing. Right now our civilization just isn't smart enough to deal with global warming because we're preoccupied with the greatest social problem of our time: lifting the populations of China and India (and other developing nations) out of poverty. Once that's done there is hope for the future. The whole world can't live at a first world standard on renewable energy, but it can do a lot better on solar and geothermal power (plus other alternative sources) than we do right now with fossil fuels.

But that won't save us by itself. The hydrocarbons are still there and they will be used, even as the total amount of available energy sources increases. The emissions will continue to climb because it's human nature to focus on stuff that bothers us in the here and now and ignore future problems until they become too urgent to ignore. And that's why we need geoengineering. We need a technological solution that can act as a stopgap, mitigating the worst effects of climate change until we get our collective shit together enough to deal with the problem through cuts in emissions. It's ideas that will save us in the end, through both geoengineering and the new alternative energy technologies that will replace fossil fuels. And coming up with new ideas is something that the human race is actually rather good at.
posted by Kevin Street at 4:43 PM on November 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


Right now our civilization just isn't smart enough to deal with global warming because we're preoccupied with the greatest social problem of our time

That's what we're preoccupied with? I must've missed the memo. I thought it was still X Factor and eating ourselves into obesity.
posted by howfar at 4:48 PM on November 8, 2011


Overheard at The Wig and Pen:

"We'll just use solar shields in orbit to black out the sun six months of the year. It'll be like living in Iceland. I've been to Iceland, and it's awesome."
posted by obiwanwasabi at 4:49 PM on November 8, 2011


Preoccupied with on a civilizational level, howfar. Not just one country or culture, but all of them together. It's been the dominant problem since at least the 1940s, maybe longer.
posted by Kevin Street at 4:52 PM on November 8, 2011


Not just one country or culture, but all of them together. It's been the dominant problem since at least the 1940s, maybe longer

This is substantially true. The problem is that we've done a spectacularly inefficient job in addressing it. Why would you imagine we will procrastinate less with the next big problem? There's always another sing-off or cold war to distract us from the task at hand. At least until it's too late.
posted by howfar at 5:07 PM on November 8, 2011


Obiwan, methinks some ANU undergrads may have been indulging in a little too much boutique ale.
posted by smoke at 5:09 PM on November 8, 2011


Funnily enough, a friend and I just had coffee and discussed how New Zealand will deal with the flood of Australian emigration over coming decades, as Australia's coastal cities become uninhabitable and the irrigation-dependent food supply starts to fail.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 5:33 PM on November 8, 2011


I'll confess, I had considered moving to New Zealand if the rainfall we get in Perth shifts south to fall into the Southern Ocean instead, as it seems to be doing. There are MeFites there! And only a few earthquakes/tornados/hurricanes/bushfires. And hardly any poisonous fucken monotremes at all.

Now that I write it out like that, I reckon I might move there even if we shut down all the coal-fired power stations tomorrow.

Seriously though, the time has passed for saying "algae can save us" or "reducing population can save us" or "legislative action can save us". We need to do all of that plus more. And if we do ALL the things, and are very very pro-active about cleaning up the atmosphere and oceans and restoring what we've used up, maybe we can pull through with just a radical change in what we consider a good life instead of a complete collapse.
posted by harriet vane at 12:28 AM on November 9, 2011


Historical responsibility for climate impact:
[...]it isn’t the rate of CO2 pollution that matters, it’s the cumulative total emissions; much of the emitted carbon dioxide (about one third of it) will hang around in the atmosphere for at least 50 or 100 years. If we accept the ethical idea that “the polluter should pay” then we should ask how big is each country’s historical footprint. The next picture shows each country’s cumulative emissions of CO2, expressed as an average emission rate over the period 1880–2004.

Congratulations, Britain! The UK has made it onto the winners’ podium. We may be only an average European country today, but in the table of historical emitters, per capita, we are second only to the USA.
posted by Bangaioh at 1:19 PM on November 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oops, Historical responsibility for climate impact should link to this page instead.
posted by Bangaioh at 1:22 PM on November 9, 2011


IEA warns of irreversible climate change in five years
posted by jeffburdges at 9:56 PM on November 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


DoE related : The assault on Los Alamos National Laboratory
posted by jeffburdges at 5:51 AM on November 10, 2011


Bangaioh, your chart is adjusted per/person. That's not exactly fair given the large divide between the well off in china and the poor rural population. It seems to me that you're saying it's ok to drive a car as long as there's 3 peasants in your country too poor to do so.
posted by Crash at 6:58 AM on November 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


Well, it is an oversimplification, sure, but it was the best I could think of to address claims such as this:

Having looked at the links, it appears that China is going to murder us all with CO2. Thanks, China.

If we were deciding who to blame (not that it matters, because nature doesn't care about fairness), the fact is that the "average Chinese" is far from the worst offender today and almost certainly will never be, simply because, barring some implausible scenario, the head start the "average Western" already has means the developing world will never close the gap.
posted by Bangaioh at 10:12 AM on November 10, 2011


I'm very glad that so many people took the time to address a claim which I admitted was a joke immediately afterwards! That will show me.
posted by Justinian at 12:45 PM on November 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


FWIW, I noticed you did. I just thought the statement deserved yet another rebuttal anyway.
posted by Bangaioh at 2:27 PM on November 10, 2011


The triffids will totally solve this problem for us - the problem of people ignoring global warming, and the actual global warming itself.
posted by antifuse at 11:30 AM on November 11, 2011


Climate panel says prepare for weird weather

Blockbuster IPCC chart hints at dust-bowlification, while silent on warming’s gravest threat to humanity
posted by jeffburdges at 5:58 AM on November 19, 2011


« Older The beautiful sight of a black rhinoceros being ai...  |  America's First Suburb Turns 6... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments