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2012 Rise In CO2 Levels Second-Highest In 54 Years
March 6, 2013 2:19 AM   Subscribe

The prospects of keeping climate change below that (2-degree goal) are fading away. Scientists track carbon pollution both by monitoring what comes out of factories and what winds up in the atmosphere. Both are rising at rates faster than worst-case scenarios that climate scientists used in their most recent international projections.
posted by j03 (119 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

 
Wake up. Bring up Metafilter. Sees this post. Sobs. Back to bed.
posted by sfts2 at 2:21 AM on March 6, 2013 [13 favorites]


Choo-choo... there's nobody seven billion people driving the locamotive.
posted by panaceanot at 2:31 AM on March 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


I do not think it is helpful that China is singled out and put at the top of the list when per person Canadians (in eighth place) and Americans produce nearly twice as much CO2.

The idea that it is always someone else who is causing the problem is really and truly the problem.
posted by three blind mice at 2:45 AM on March 6, 2013 [28 favorites]


1. Don't buy sea level real estate. If you own some, now is the (almost too late) time to sell.
2. If you have young children, consider carefully what skills and resources will be most useful for them.
3. Consider your food and water supply. Now is an excellent time to invest in agricultural land, and to develop your own skills in direct resource management, husbandry, etc. Your little apartment or condo in a metropolitan area will be worth fuck all when the shit hits the fan.

GOOD LUCK GUYS!
posted by Meatbomb at 2:47 AM on March 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


An insurmountable problem, no?
posted by panaceanot at 2:48 AM on March 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Considering all the denial, not surprising.
posted by 3.2.3 at 2:51 AM on March 6, 2013


I don't know what to do about this, so I'm going to ignore it.
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:55 AM on March 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


"1. Don't buy sea level real estate. If you own some, now is the (almost too late) time to sell."

For Sale. The Netherlands.

"2. If you have young children, consider carefully what skills and resources will be most useful for them."

Agree with this, but that's what good parents already do. Assess risks/futures and try to give them the best chance possible. Me? I choose not to have kids, but it just may ruin my marriage.

3. Consider your food and water supply. Now is an excellent time to invest in agricultural land, and to develop your own skills in direct resource management, husbandry, etc. Your little apartment or condo in a metropolitan area will be worth fuck all when the shit hits the fan.

Prior planning prevents piss-poor performance, but we've got some time up our sleeve. I'd prefer to enjoy my delightful apartment in a fantastic metropolitan area for the time being thank-you.
posted by panaceanot at 2:55 AM on March 6, 2013


Considering all the denial, not surprising.

No, but I don't think denial is the main problem: that seems to be more a matter of affirming and then not doing anything.

I'm not at all clear whether this happens because people in authority don't understand what they're saying, whether they lie egregiously in the expectation that no-one actually cares; whether there is some more subtle cognitive problem going on about the scale of the problem and the scale of the required action, or whether, when it comes to it, industrial growth is just such a bedrock assumption that anything that threatens it in any way is automatically considered 'unrealistic'. Possibly all of those and more.

Unfortunately, whatever the factor that allows the gap between rhetoric and practice is, I don't see it going away.
posted by Segundus at 3:19 AM on March 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


Agricultural land can change fertility due to climate change. I hope texas ceases to be viable for livestock.
posted by jeffburdges at 3:24 AM on March 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


In short, as we go over the cliff our foot will not be on the brake but pushing as hard as we can manage on the accelerator.
posted by Segundus at 3:24 AM on March 6, 2013 [7 favorites]


1.5C rise in temperature enough to start permafrost melt, scientists warn
posted by jaduncan at 3:28 AM on March 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Your little apartment or condo in a metropolitan area will be worth fuck all when the shit hits the fan.

Well the shit doesn't hit everyone does it?

My 2nd floor little apartment sits in the middle of town on a ridge about 300m from the water in what is nominally a very cold Scandinavian climate. As much as I share the concerns of others about climate change, I must confess to being a little bit not so unhappy about the prospects of this flat becoming beach front property in a Mediterranean climate. The fact would seem to be that not everyone is a loser here - only those people who have a really good climate or a really sweet ocean view - or both - right now.

when it comes to it, industrial growth is just such a bedrock assumption that anything that threatens it in any way is automatically considered 'unrealistic'. Possibly all of those and more.

Everyone has the option to stop consuming energy. What doesn't exist is the the option to stop other people from consuming energy and this seems to give everyone the excuse to not bother doing anything themselves.
posted by three blind mice at 3:32 AM on March 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


The idea that it is always someone else who is causing the problem is really and truly the problem.

That and overpopulation. The latter will fix itself, though.
posted by DU at 4:01 AM on March 6, 2013


At present, the US NRC projects less than 2m rise in sea levels over the next hundred years. So costal cities can simply improve their levees, even poorer ones.

There are more serious problems for places who cannot afford levees because roughly one category of storm corresponds to 1m higher storm surge. So, after 1m rise, every category four storm causes flooding like a category five. Also, storms are growing more frequent and less predictable with climate change. Again, you could still inhabit that lovely beach house part time, but expect to evacuate and rebuild it more frequently and less predictably. No problem for city dwellers though.

Food shortages are the major problem for city dwellers, especially in poor countries, especially cities with stupidly high costs of living. Food shortages are being exacerbated by financial speculation already, but this might worsen too. So quality of life could drops quickly in expensive cities as food prices rise. Rural people earn less but they're closer to food production, so the financial speculation might not impact them quite so much, although local agriculture failing impacts them massively.

Agricultural science should buy you a safe line of work, but agriculture itself looks spectacularly fraught with risks.
posted by jeffburdges at 4:06 AM on March 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Aieee! Aieee!
posted by GallonOfAlan at 4:13 AM on March 6, 2013


Agricultural land can change fertility due to climate change. I hope texas ceases to be viable for livestock.

I can't tell if this sentiment is driven by anti-Texas bias or animal liberation concerns, but you are getting your wish.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 4:24 AM on March 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


If your wish includes mass layoffs in the Panhandle, then it's an especially good day for you.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 4:26 AM on March 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


Segundus, you just described denial in so many ways (a "subtle cognitive problem," "bedrock assumptions," "the gap between rhetoric and practice"). There is more than intentional denial by cranks and crooks going on. There's plenty of denial to go around.
posted by 3.2.3 at 4:39 AM on March 6, 2013


That analogy about stomping on the gas pedal as the car goes over a cliff? Yeah, it's like that. Except that there are lots of people in the car who would rather stomp on the brake. But they can't. And they can't get out of the car, either. Billions of people being driven off a cliff by the 1% who have control of the gas pedal.
posted by seanmpuckett at 4:40 AM on March 6, 2013 [22 favorites]


And that's why, in 2016, I'm voting Scorched Earth.
posted by seanmpuckett at 4:40 AM on March 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


Both are rising at rates faster than worst-case scenarios that climate scientists used in their most recent international projections.

I publish papers in the climate change field. Not developing the GCMs and generating predictions, but applying their outputs to other systems, for example, wildfires, and forest growth. For a number of years, I've mostly only used model predictions for the A2 or A1F1 scenarios, which are the "worst case" ones. Reviewers have sometimes quibbled with this and asked me to also explore the alternatives as well. In response, I've insisted that the other, milder scenarios are no longer achievable in reality - our trajectory both in the empirical evidence of CO2 emissions, and in political will, point to an A2 scenario or worse. And I've noticed recently, more and more researchers are coming to the same conclusions; our scenarios, even the "worst case" one, were wishful thinking.
posted by Jimbob at 4:42 AM on March 6, 2013 [34 favorites]


Billions of people being driven off a cliff by the 1% who have control of the gas pedal.

It's more than 1% who have control of the gas pedal. The whole 99%/1% thing works well for economics, I agree. Responsibility for environmental vandalism rests on a broader base.
posted by Jimbob at 4:45 AM on March 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


Well, we're finally getting around to labelling tobacco as harmful and the tobacco companies admitting they lied about the actual health impact.

I for one am completely satisfied that global warming action and governments raising the price of carbon use is just sure to happen some time soon.
posted by jaduncan at 4:49 AM on March 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


I for one am completely satisfied that global warming action and governments raising the price of carbon use is just sure to happen some time soon.

And that Carbon-money? 70% is not even spent on the actual Carbon reduction.

From the article: The rest of the money goes into the following channels:

30 percent – Investment banks often buy up carbon offsets before a project is up and running, and they take an average 30 percent of the total in profits and operations.

Think about that folks - for every Euro spent on actual Carbon reduction the 'investment banks' get a Euro for actually doing nothing to address Carbon.
posted by rough ashlar at 5:10 AM on March 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


1% was indeed a bit of creative license.

It's more like 0.0001%.

That encompasses the few hundred thousand who control the wealthiest and most powerful industry on the planet, an industry that is the source of power and money for dozens of corrupt and inhumane regimes around the world, the industry with the most to lose if we want to reverse global warming, the industry that in just a hundred years has caused almost as much war and misery as the Catholic church has in two thousand: the one that pulls carbon out of the ground and sells it.

I'm aware that without cheap carbon energy we wouldn't have gotten where we are as a civilization, but in return we have put the future of that civilization in the hands of people who have proven time and again that they give precisely zero fucks about anyone but themselves.

The addict does have some blame for being addicted, but when the product and production are government subsidised and sanctioned, available on every street corner and piped directly into the home, one has to point the majority of those bony fingers of blame at the dealer.
posted by seanmpuckett at 5:14 AM on March 6, 2013 [8 favorites]


The rise in atmospheric carbon dioxide means that the sound from the Overpopulation Gong will reach you just a bit more slowly due to the comparatively lower speed of sound in CO2.



*WHANGGGGGGGG*
posted by adipocere at 5:17 AM on March 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm just happy that my country is made of brown coal - Jobs for all and prosperity ahoy!!
posted by mattoxic at 5:22 AM on March 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


So we're all ready to unite in producing our own goods in factories powered only by human labor and machines/tools designed to maximize output from human use?

Yes? Generating both jobs and ceasing the pollution problem?

Let's do this! No more talking, let's make it happen!
posted by xarnop at 5:23 AM on March 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


And seriously I know planned communities were tragically misdesigned and poorly structured by drugged out utopian hippies of the past and they now have a bad rap, but holy shit do we need to start valuing and implementing planned communities where a person can walk to work/grocery story and necessary places and we COULD regulate and minimize personal auto use without preventing people from working and getting groceries.

Also if we planned cities to prevent much personal auto use and favored public transport/bikes/walking- and put in a lot of community gardens/nature spaces-- living in cities wouldn't be so toxic for human health either. Maybe people wouldn't mind walking/biking so much if it didn't mean absorbing the exhaust fumes of a billion cars shooting exhaust in your face.
posted by xarnop at 5:31 AM on March 6, 2013 [7 favorites]


That and overpopulation. The latter will fix itself, though.

I hope so. Perhaps many of us hope so, and slightly selfishly (?) quietly hope that we and our loved ones will survive but that a large chunk of the human population does not.

Trying to have any conversation on overpopulation is impossible. I've given up. People either:

1. Agree that it's bad, really really bad, unsolvable and then move on to something else because they think it's impossible. Maybe it is.

2. Regress into racism e.g. "It's the fault of them, there's too many of them."

3. Get defensive; no matter how you put it, some parents and parents to be, or people with lots of siblings, think you're implying that it's their fault, that you are saying that they are selfish and killing the world.

4. Ditto, it's our right to have children, humans have developed to breed, it's what we do, continuation of the species, it's god's will and contraception is evil etc. Also, the (often socially encouraged) pressure put on people, especially women in many countries, to have children.

5. Take the line that we need more and more people as e.g. GDP has to increase, otherwise it's bad, or we need more people to look after and fund the care of ourselves when elderly. So, this process never ends?

Given up on quietly hoping for an Ebola or SARS mutation that makes either of them easily transmittable e.g. through airborne particles. The CDC just yesterday warned about CREs, the latest wave of difficult to kill "superbugs", but the rate of increase isn't going to affect population figures any time soon. And these are all unpleasant and traumatic ways to cut down the human population (though not quite as traumatic or environmentally damaging as war, especially nuclear). Mass sterilization is utterly off the table in terms of social or political acceptability, and doing this on the quiet belongs only in science fiction. That probably just leaves mass famine caused by some combination of crop failure, climate change and drug-resistant disease.

{weary}...and no, by hoping that the world's population will shrink, I am not hoping that specifically you or your relatives will all die painfully and traumatically. This is why have been put off doing a detailed FPP on the subject. I await being flamed, flagged, and the mods inevitably deleting this comment.{/weary}
posted by Wordshore at 5:55 AM on March 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


Yeah- reducing the population is a good idea, but reducing the impact of human living would be more meaningful and less sadistic and human death wish oriented. People want to reproduce and if everyone had two children or less population would naturally decline slightly over time.

Think about it- we have some brilliant minds and awesome technology in terms of mechanical engineering. If we tell smart minds "factories designed to maximize production using only human labor and materials/processes that do not produce toxic waste/CO2 emissions" -- I bet we could still have production that surpasses that which was ever possible before the industrial revolution while eliminating the reliance on non-human power sources and the toxic waste element.
posted by xarnop at 5:59 AM on March 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


Also think about, this could include jobs that are literally people riding stationary bikes to generate power. We could design jobs to match every humans skill ensuring that everyone willing to work could have a job that produces some sort of benefit. Do we want humans genetically engineered to match the design of mechanical production or do we want to design production around human skill, abilities, and health needs?
posted by xarnop at 6:03 AM on March 6, 2013 [5 favorites]


Also think about, this could include jobs that are literally people riding stationary bikes to generate power.

I've often thought that we should power home computers that way. Rather than bragging about how fast our computers were going in terms of GHz, we could say instead that our computer is running at around 90 rpm.
posted by daveje at 6:24 AM on March 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


There's a good article in the new issue of The Walrus about why it's so hard for modern society to prevent catastrophes like climate change, financial meltdowns, etc. In a nutshell; there's too much short-term gain for individuals (and not just oil company CEOs; how many of us are willing to severely curtail our western lifestyles?) and human institutions are designed to only address negative consequences after they happen.
posted by The Card Cheat at 6:24 AM on March 6, 2013


I'm not actually worried about the whole "you live in the city what will you do when there is less food" thing, or the "buy farmland and train your kids to [do useful thing]" line.

What do you all think is going to happen when there are shortages massive enough to affect those of us in the well-situated parts of the world? Do you think government is going to disappear and the lucky and smart will retreat to their farms? No, government is going to step in and seize land and conscript laborers and use food leverage to control the cities/big suburbs, because that's where the big concentrations of people are, that's where political legitimacy is and that's where they will worry about riots and insurrections. There is ample historical precedent for "feed the cities at the expense of the countryside" and ample precedent for using corvee labor and food control. That's where things are going.

What do you think the 1% wants? They're not all stupid; they want to continue running the world, and you can't run much of a world without a state and technology. They'll want to continue finance and manufacturing and elite/gated communities and institutions; they'll want a (smaller) sub-elite class of skilled developers and workers and a class of tractable personal laborers - nannies, teachers, cooks.

What I expect is for things to get incrementally worse, with incrementally greater state coercion using food and water as levers. I'm far less worried about feeding myself in the Bad Future than I am about the general social/political conditions under which I will live, since I think they'll make East Germany look like fun times.

But don't kid yourself - you'll have to go pretty far from urban centers and live in a pretty difficult agricultural environment - plus probably be pretty truculent with the self defense and ally with neighbors if you want to live "off the grid" in the Bad Future. The best model that occurs to me is the old pot-growing areas in Humboldt county - what I used to hear was that there were remote and semi-secret farms and that people would fuck you up if they found you out there where you weren't supposed to be. That's the kind of thing I'd try to figure out if I were going to - think Seventies Hippies, the mean and violent back-to-the-land kind, the ones with guns.
posted by Frowner at 6:30 AM on March 6, 2013 [18 favorites]


I know Schumacher rambles on a lot and takes a while to make his points, but when he makes points they are excellent and worth listening to. We should have listened to him a long time ago. If we don't deliberately MAKE production match human needs, it will destroy us. We, like humans of the past, foolishly think that as each different kind of human skill is eliminated from the work place it doesn't matter because it's not US. Let THOSE PEOPLE be put out of work. Let THOSE PEOPLE lose their jobs. Those people can adapt, they can learn a new skill or something. There's probably something wrong with them anyway, adapt or suffer, it's the way of things. It's not my problem. Cruelty and indifference to the plight of other will come back to haunt us all.

It will eventually be everyone. We're watching it happen and it's not too late to start standing up and taking the power of production back to the hands of the people.
posted by xarnop at 6:39 AM on March 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


In my opinion, Doom! Dooooom! Doooooooooom!
posted by dobie at 6:49 AM on March 6, 2013


Also think about, this could include jobs that are literally people riding stationary bikes to generate power.

Why are health clubs not already doing this? I think there's an opportunity lying there for somebody.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 6:52 AM on March 6, 2013


At this rate, why should I bother putting money in my 401k?
posted by Ghost Mode at 6:53 AM on March 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


At this rate, why should I bother putting money in my 401k?

I was just talking with a friend about whether we thought things were going to be bad enough fast enough that we didn't need to worry about retirement. Our consensus was that we were slightly too old (late thirties and late forties) to trust to total social collapse coming in time.
posted by Frowner at 6:55 AM on March 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


Agricultural land can change fertility due to climate change. I hope texas ceases to be viable for livestock

If the drought in Texas doesn't let up in the next year, Texas will cease to be viable for anything but weeds. And bugs.
posted by PuppyCat at 7:00 AM on March 6, 2013


A population declining slightly over time is too late. It might have been tenable with a population of one billion. We're only discussing about maybe gently touching the brake with one foot while our bumper is beginning to crumple.
posted by adipocere at 7:07 AM on March 6, 2013


Won't hemp and poppies grow in arid conditions? We're going to need all the narcotics we can get. I think the way forward for Texas is clear.
posted by seanmpuckett at 7:12 AM on March 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


Buy more guns.

Agricultural land can change fertility due to climate change. I hope texas ceases to be viable for livestock.

Seriously? I've been reading and herds of cow and horse that are being put down for the lack of affordable silage. There's some shcheudenfrue to be had surely, in that the state seems to be home to some of the loudest climate change deniers, but just because someone chooses to be and idiot doesn't mean you have to wish ill on animals. Or am I missing something?

If I had a wish for Texas it would be that every fertile woman in the state move to Wisconsin.
posted by cjorgensen at 7:13 AM on March 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Most of us don't need to worry about the "collapse of society" arising from climate change. Increasing temperatues will be expensive for the developed world, but levees will be built, canals will be dug to the new arable land, and storm damage will be repaired. All at great expense, and a massive drain on GDP growth, but it will be done. It's those of you who live in the developing world, particularly in places where subsistence agriculture is still broadly practiced, who need to worry.
posted by mr_roboto at 7:18 AM on March 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


I just don't know that human powered factories would be much better if the well-to-wheel efficiency were taken into account (or field-to-body in this case). If more people are doing more physical work, they're going to need more food and it will take more energy to grow that food.

This link suggests that the human beings are 13%-17% energy efficient (I did a quick scan and it looks fairly rigorous but doesn't provide any citations). Compared to 13% (30% at the plant and 40% through the grid) for electricity and 21% for internal combustion engines. Of course, that doesn't take into account the energy needed to harvest the fuel so I don't know what the larger picture would look like, I'm just saying that I think focusing more on solar and wind generated power while reducing overall power consumption is a better idea than human power.


That probably just leaves mass famine caused by some combination of crop failure, climate change and drug-resistant disease.

Places with high standards of living have low birth rates. IIRC it's 1.3 in Japan and, if we removed the affect of immigration, it would just under the replacement rate in the U.S. So, if we could really focus on raising living standards while driving towards sustainability everywhere, the birthrate of the planet as a whole would drop to less than 2 and the population problem would solve itself. The sustainability is key and that would take a lot of political will as would putting our own economic development on hold just to rapidly develop the rest of the world so my money is still on famine.
posted by VTX at 7:21 AM on March 6, 2013


emily shuckburgh gave a lecture monday on this; her presentation isn't up yet, but it was pretty much the same as one she gave last december: "Impact of CO2 emissions: Global Warming and Ocean Acidification" [pdf; note slides 40 & 53-58]

also btw: Insurance Industry Paying Increasing Attention to Climate Change

this could include jobs that are literally people riding stationary bikes to generate power

cf. the windup girl
viz. bike powered concerts
posted by kliuless at 7:22 AM on March 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


Sweet! I'm going to have beachfront property in just a few years! In Tallahassee!

OK, srsly, we've (as in my family and many other groups I've been involved in) been speaking directly with legislators and other elected officials at the municipal, state, and federal level. Also organizing letter-writing and other direct-contacts with same. Also attending various protests and demonstrations. That's yielded bupkus so far, so we've also started a Transition Town Initiative (this actually is a movement that includes points 2 and 3 of Meatbomb's advice, sort of). We get members of the Union of Concerned Scientists to come and speak about fossil fuels and their relationship to global warming, and we start community gardens and we hold workshops to teach people how to make solar ovens. Also, I bike rather than drive whenever I can. When I do drive, it's a hybrid vehicle. I also turn off the water while I'm brushing my teeth. My wife and I probably spend at least 20 hours a week each organizing various things to try to deal with this whole energy/climate monstrosity. And it just keeps getting worse.

I mean, what the fucking fuck? Anyone who knows me personally knows that I'm not a "rage" kind of guy, but this ENRAGES ME. My kids and/or their kids will live in Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome world (which is NOT cool at all - any world where Mel Gibson is triumphant is a bad world) because, um, I DON'T KNOW.

Because I don't. I don't know why "let's get everyone on-board with making this planet livable for all of us" is a less compelling message to whomever than "let's drive to the big-box store and buy more plastic crap". Or whatever. Anyway, enough GRIND and GRAR I guess. The Political Outreach Subcommittee of whatever the hell is meeting in two hours and I gotta get a couple of spreadsheets ready.
posted by Cookiebastard at 7:40 AM on March 6, 2013 [7 favorites]


oddly, we almost never note this:



Airplanes are responsible for creating 12 percent of CO2 emissions from transportation sources in the U.S., and about 3 percent of the United States’ total CO2 emissions. Airplanes release nitrogen oxides into the air, which lead to the formation of the greenhouse gas known as ozone. The condensation trails ("contrails") left by airplanes have been linked to an increased number of cirrus clouds, which warm the surface of the earth. Airplanes also release methane, another greenhouse gas. The United Nation's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change thinks that aviation is responsible for about 3.5 percent of global warming. T
posted by Postroad at 7:40 AM on March 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


Man, came in hear to recommend Wind up Girl, beaten to the punch. A really good and horrifying read.
posted by angrycat at 7:42 AM on March 6, 2013


Carlin had it right.
posted by delfin at 7:58 AM on March 6, 2013


I am 24. I am of the generation that is going to inherit this mess in a big, big way. I am frustrated at all the cries of "this is insurmountable," "time to buy farmland and stock up on guns," etc. Don't complain that there is nothing you can do until you yourself have actually tried to fucking do something.

Honestly, the human-powered factories idea sounds ridiculous to me, but hey, maybe it's the way of the future, I don't know. Nobody knows, because nobody knows what the solution is yet, and now is the time to figure it out.

Also, the attitude that an unstoppable superbug or massive famine would be a boon for humanity is reprehensible. Any such event would affect the developing world in massive disproportion to the developed world, and in America (if it reached America in any substantial way), the poor (especially poor children and the elderly) would be affected more than anyone else. Even if, by some grand miracle (and I do mean literal, plagues-of-Egypt miracle), middle class Americans died off in equal proportion to everyone else, are you willing to be one of them? Are you willing to put your children at the same risk of dying as some faceless kid in West Africa or central India?

{weary}...and no, by hoping that the world's population will shrink, I am not hoping that specifically you or your relatives will all die painfully and traumatically. This is why have been put off doing a detailed FPP on the subject. I await being flamed, flagged, and the mods inevitably deleting this comment.{/weary}


Maybe you don't want my family specifically to die horribly, but you want someone's family to die horribly, lots of someones' actually, which is just as disgusting. The argument that "it's because of overpopulation!" is the epitome of "it's all because of them." It's both morally wrong and supremely unhelpful, because it places the blame squarely on people who both a) are not the heart of the problem, and b) have no power to do anything about it.

As a good friend of mine once put it, "If there's one thing I learned in Scouts, it's that it's a lot easier to put up your tent before the sun goes down, rather than after." The sun is going down on this one; now is the time for all of us to act. Pessimism, apathy, and blaming will get us nothing, save us nothing, and leave us with nothing. Optimism and action will save us some part of what we have now, and maybe give us something better.
posted by Commander Rachek at 8:09 AM on March 6, 2013 [19 favorites]


Why are health clubs not already doing this? I think there's an opportunity lying there for somebody.

FWIW, I believe this health club in Portland, Oregon does:

The Green Microgym
posted by seemoreglass at 8:19 AM on March 6, 2013


"Pessimism, apathy, and blaming will get us nothing, save us nothing, and leave us with nothing. Optimism and action will save us some part of what we have now, and maybe give us something better."

I agree. When I see these conversations I want to see people saying "Here is what we can do. Here is what we can do as individuals, here is what we can do as collectives, here are the ways individuals can unite and work together to create collectives to make major changes."

Apathy is so boring and it is ruining society. Apathy is literally the cause of so much human suffering. Active, aware humans who take action can prevent and stop disease, famine, inequality, injustice, unemployment....

WE DO HAVE POWER. If we would stop ASKING the government to give us power and start uniting to use the power we have to make the changes that need to be made we CAN take the power back. Let's make every house built with rainwater collection system and solar panels, let's create the infrastucture to eliminate reliance on automobiles, let's make every living area equipped with community gardens, let's give people access to land, resources and tools to create their own necessity items. The more we make communities that are capable of subsistence within themselves the more fair trade and an equitable society can be made out of the excess beyond essential items.

Compassion is stronger than fear. Fear, apathy, blaming, and indifference lead to inaction. Awareness, integrity and compassion lead to action. Each one of us is responsible for taking action in whatever ways we feel able. Self blame, shame, blaming others and shaming others--- these are equally useless. Personal responsibility does not mean insulting and degrading yourself for things done wrong or not done, it means waking up each day with a fresh attitude and a willingness to consider what is possible to do and take action towards doing it. And it certainly doesn't mean sitting around degrading and insulting others for things not done or things done wrong. Inspire yourself, inspire others. Compassion is stronger than hate. It is a better motivator, and better force of inspiration to right action.

This has been your motivational speech of the day with xarnop, thank you for stopping by this comment, may the force be with you!

*funny spelling error edited. Please don't mace communities because xarnop said so.
posted by xarnop at 8:27 AM on March 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


I've noticed recently, more and more researchers are coming to the same conclusions; our scenarios, even the "worst case" one, were wishful thinking.

Y'all haven't given up yet? Good on you, I suppose. It's much easier when you do. I quit back in oh, mid-1990s.

2. If you have young children, consider carefully what skills and resources will be most useful for them.

Your ideas are intriguing to me and I wish to subscribe to your newsletter.

If your wish includes mass layoffs in the Panhandle, then it's an especially good day for you.

Hooray!?

I'd prefer to enjoy my delightful apartment in a fantastic metropolitan area for the time being thank-you.

Yes, that's the decision, right? Do you want to blow your brains out when the shit goes down or do you want to live like a wild animal, scrounging and murdering for food in a post-apocalyptic wasteland?

Modern fictions assure me those are the two choices.
posted by mrgrimm at 8:44 AM on March 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't understand the concern about overpopulation.

I thought most people (especially here) would know by now that overpopulation is a myth.

WE DO HAVE POWER. If we would stop ASKING the government to give us power and start uniting to use the power we have to make the changes that need to be made we CAN take the power back.

Go for it. I'm gonna play with my kids.
posted by mrgrimm at 8:45 AM on March 6, 2013


I have two young children who are likely going to have to deal with serious climate change.

My news years resolution last year was to bike every day to work "no matter what"
Part of this is to reduce my carbon footprint, but a bigger part is to held change the culture around transportation. I'm an non-hippy executive in a company and hope that by doing this we can get a culture more like Denmark or Amsterdam where biking is a legitimate choice for everyone from 8-80.

In San Francisco I've seen biking culture change from only young men to a much richer spectrum. We still have a way to go, but feel that we can only get a chance on the climate front with public showing of fighting back against the tide.

I still think we are fucked unless we are able to use biotechnology to somehow sequester CO2 someplace. The vast majority of western humanity is unwilling to deal with things like this until its too late.

Buy less, eat way less meat, fly a lot less, bike or walk more. These are things the common citizen can do.
posted by bottlebrushtree at 8:46 AM on March 6, 2013


Also think about, this could include jobs that are literally people riding stationary bikes to generate power.

The power that can be delivered by the average person over a sustained period of time is [...] 75 watts.

From that source: Let's see how many people would be needed in order to use pedal power at a base load power plant. An average UK family consumes about 13 kWh of electricity per day (an American family would consume at least twice as much). If we consider a relatively small energy loss of 25% when converting human power to electricity, it would take 173 hours of pedalling at 100 watts [...] in order to produce 75 Wh per hour. If we presume an electricity consumption that is evenly distributed over the course of 16 hours and no electricity consumption at night, this would take two shifts of ten people each pedalling non-stop for eight hours. And this concerns only residential electricity use.

If we consider total electricity consumption in the UK, each person needs 15.7 kWh per day, or two teams of ten people each pedalling non-stop for 8 hours. The UK would have to import a workforce of 1.2 billion people (a number equal to all the inhabitants of India) to pedal its way into energy independence, and prohibit all these people from using electricity themselves.


This, too, from the same source, I found interesting regarding battery generators: based on the life expectancy of the batteries they calculate that you are basically pedalling to produce the energy required to manufacture the battery.

Anecdotally, I remember a long-ago museum exhibit that let you power any of a range of lightbulbs using a bicycle as a generator, so you could feel how much work went into it. It was shockingly difficult to keep even a 60W bulb lit for any length of time; a 100W bulb was near impossible. Admittedly I was only a not-terribly-athletic preteen at the time, and perhaps generator technology has improved since then, and perhaps the authors of the piece I quoted above are underestimating the amount of power that can be produced (the sellers of this one claim "the average rider will produce between 125 and 300 watts", though they don't specify for how long that can be sustained.) But still. Bikes for transport, sure. For power generation, not so practical.
posted by ook at 8:56 AM on March 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Go for it. I'm gonna play with my kids."
Well I just said shaming or insulting people for inaction is not a good tactic. In my personal belief system, people should only try to do what they feel able to do. If that is just playing with your kids you are doing what you feel able to do. Sometimes that's all I feel able to do as well. Playing with kids is fun and good for their development so that's a positive activity in the world. It seems a good idea to keep an open mind about doing more at times when one feels able. Sometimes brainstorming what those things might be is all we can do because we really don't even know what else could be done or how we could realistically do it.

Think about what changes you would make if you had super powers. Think about what things in reality stand in your way. Now if we could apply brilliance and technology to overcoming those things, we might make it possible for people who are facing real obstacles to the changes they would (hypothetically) like to make by making it more possible for individuals to carry them out. Most people I know are exhausted with life and feel powerless and financially and emotionally depressed. It's hard to make any changes in your own life much less the world from that position. I feel like there are reasons people feel trapped in these states and if we stop seeing the self as the enemy and address the structural problems we could address the reasons people are trapped in these states. But this is only the work of people who feel able at times they are able. Feeling responsible for changing everything is too overwhelming and destructive to the human spirit. Taking a break from it is a human need.

"This, too, from the same source, I found interesting regarding battery generators: based on the life expectancy of the batteries they calculate that you are basically pedalling to produce the energy required to manufacture the battery."

Alright so no bike pedaling energy. That doesn't mean we can't design tools and machines to produce goods that could be used manually, and that efficient and smart design couldn't increase production beyond the tools we had previously.
posted by xarnop at 9:02 AM on March 6, 2013


I thought most people (especially here) would know by now that overpopulation is a myth.

It depends on your point of view. We have plenty of space and plenty of food and we can grow plenty more so overpopulation is myth in relation to food production. But that isn't the population problem we're talking about here, at least not directly

More people means more people consuming. All that consumption requires production which requires CO2 and other greenhouse gasses accelerating global warming.

If everyone in the world consumed at the rate we do in the U.S. the "worst case" models would turn into "best case" models in short order. It's possible that we'll have so little arable land that we'll have a global food shortage.

If we could get the planet to remove more greenhouse gasses than we produce, the population problem goes away. I just don't think that's likely we'll need a combination of decreases in population and greenhouse gas emissions or it will be forced on us.
posted by VTX at 9:03 AM on March 6, 2013


Well I just said shaming or insulting people for inaction is not a good tactic.

I'm not shaming anyone, and I apologize for my grumpiness. My wife's out of town and I've got the kids all week.

I've given up trying to save the world from climate disaster and I think it's the wise choice. Rather to vainly struggling to save the planet, we should enjoy it as much as possible, accept our demise and plan for it accordingly.

I still try to act correctly. I am vegetarian, bike/bus to work, hang my clothes to dry, don't use disposable paper or plastic, etc. etc. but I have no hope our civilization can be spared. (Yes, I know. Eponysterical.)

If we could get the planet to remove more greenhouse gasses than we produce, the population problem goes away.

Hell, if we would just fucking provide birth control to people who want it, the "population problem" goes away.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:07 AM on March 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Bikes for transport, sure. For power generation, not so practical..

I don't get it. On the one hand, we have too many people ... but not enough people to ride enough bicycles to make enough power?

And why even bother with the battery? Just have all those extra people from overpopulation on hand to cycle whenever needed!
posted by mrgrimm at 9:10 AM on March 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Per capita energy use in history:

Technology society (now): 230,000 calories per day
Industrial society (ca. 1850): 77,000 calories per day
Late agriculture (ca. 1000 ad): 25,000 calories per day
Early agriculture (ca. 3000 BC): 12,000 calories per day
Hunter gatherers (ca. 10,000 BC): 5,000 calories per day
Proto humans: 2,000 calories per day

("Calories" = food transport industry home etc. Source: 'Maps of Time. by David Christian)

As you can see so long as we continue to develop, the per capita energy use increases - and the increase is quite staggering in the past 1000 years (order of magnitude), most of that happening in the past 200 years. The driver of this population growth: more population = more complexity = more energy needed per capita to support that complexity. When do we reach 2,300,000 calories per day? Where is that energy going to come from? If energy use per capita were to slow down or stop growing, would that represent a regression of humanity?
posted by stbalbach at 9:13 AM on March 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


I don't get it. On the one hand, we have too many people ... but not enough people to ride enough bicycles to make enough power?

Ah, but where do we get all the bicycles?

I see right through you, mrgrimm. Or should I say... MR. SCHWINN.
posted by delfin at 9:19 AM on March 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


Now is an excellent time to invest in agricultural land, and to develop your own skills in direct resource management, husbandry, etc. Your little apartment or condo in a metropolitan area will be worth fuck all when the shit hits the fan.

In a Lord of the Flies scenario, your little farm also will be worth fuck all if you don't have a private army to hold it with.
posted by Zed at 9:20 AM on March 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


I live in NYC, on a steep hill and presumably high enough above the Hudson River to avoid being inundated, but much of Manhattan isn't so lucky. Would I be better off staying put in the city, where resources will continue to be directed should famine or crop failure start to happen? Or should I start making plans to buy a patch of land in a non-flood, non-drought prone part of the world?

(Or on preview, following Zed's advice, I should hunker down.)
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 9:24 AM on March 6, 2013


a class of tractable personal laborers - nannies, teachers, cooks.

There is already the proposal to replace the teachers with computers in the other thread about the educational database.

Last month a company was showing off its robotic burger maker to replace the fast food workers.

Lets not forget what the BBC points out -
Robot Warriors: Lethal Machines Coming of Age
so soon your termination as a threat can be made remotely.

On the one hand, we have too many people ... but not enough people to ride enough bicycles to make enough power?

If I want 150 watts of power I can go buy a solar panel for (on sale) $75 to $200 and have the energy output of this proposed bike energy.
posted by rough ashlar at 9:28 AM on March 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also think about, this could include jobs that are literally people riding stationary bikes to generate power.
Why are health clubs not already doing this? I think there's an opportunity lying there for somebody.


The Copper wire and power tracking electronics costs will exceed the money value of the electrical power generated.

200 watts from your legs. 90 from your upper body. How much do you pay for 1 kwh of electrical power? 5 hours of pedalling is that rate.

Your physical labour isn't that valuable VS electrical rates kiddos.
posted by rough ashlar at 9:34 AM on March 6, 2013


3. Get defensive; no matter how you put it, some parents and parents to be, or people with lots of siblings, think you're implying that it's their fault, that you are saying that they are selfish and killing the world.

It is. If you're an environmentalist, adopt.
posted by jaduncan at 9:37 AM on March 6, 2013


If you're an environmentalist, adopt.

What if you're an environmentalist with a criminal record?
posted by mrgrimm at 9:40 AM on March 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


What if you're an environmentalist with a criminal record?

Make your own choice between not having a child or accepting the environmental cost of your actions? If one has no option to adopt, it's a harder choice. What if you fall in love with someone in Japan and have to fly every weekend? You can rephrase that to "I think if you're considering the environmental cost the best option is often to adopt" if you like. But yeah, having a child is one of the most damaging things it is possible to do.

I'll admit I have a tendency to like adoption in any case; if I can give an already-existing child a better life whilst raising them rather than leave them in an orphanage I'd rather do that because of the overall gain in happiness.
posted by jaduncan at 9:45 AM on March 6, 2013


We have plenty of space and plenty of food and we can grow plenty more so overpopulation is myth in relation to food production.

I am not sure this is true. It certainly is not the message of Full Planet, Empty Plates, which I have been reading. Care to back up this assertion?
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 10:13 AM on March 6, 2013


This emergency state is never going to end.
posted by TwelveTwo at 10:17 AM on March 6, 2013


Also think about, this could include jobs that are literally people riding stationary bikes to generate power.

It would probably always be more efficient to take the food people would need for riding bikes and burn it directly than to burn it in a human body.

The Windup Girl is an interesting dystopia but it doesn't make sense unless you think of the power systems as purely socially imposed. If you have the food to feed elephants to walk around and power shit, you have the food to burn and run dynamos, and you'll probably need less of it that way. Likewise the idea of running out of coal (as opposed to having it in the ground but refusing to burn it any more) within 200 years is hard to accept.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:34 AM on March 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Care to back up this assertion?

It was mostly just for the sake of the argument that MrGrimm put forward.

It doesn't matter whether or not overpopulation is a myth in relation to food production. My assertion (as it relates to this thread) is that overpopulation is a problem in relation to CO2 production.
posted by VTX at 10:38 AM on March 6, 2013


Ithink most people who blame overpopulation for the problem are trying to excuse themselves from their purchasing of factory produced items, use of cars, and overall participation in the destruction that's happening.

Think if all the people who found blaming overpopulation as a favorite hobby actually stopped using cars, stopped purchasing items that were created through pollution causing means---

Think if when we saw social problems we saw our own participation as the problem instead of what "those people over there" should be doing to fix it?
posted by xarnop at 11:19 AM on March 6, 2013


(I also think we are limited beings. Sometimes we don't feel able to correct our behavior because we don't have the resources, tools, or strength to do so. If nothing else, we can support systemic changes that might give us more power to make such changes,or collective and community projects that might empower individuals to carry out such changes.)
posted by xarnop at 11:28 AM on March 6, 2013


Unfortunately, whatever the factor that allows the gap between rhetoric and practice is, I don't see it going away.

This gap has many facets (the psychological one is huge, feedback loops on climate change work against motivation to change behaviour in myriad ways), but for shorthand let's call it politics. And let's be clear about why we've failed to cross that gap.

Governments began to take this problem seriously, at least in some jurisdictions, about 25 years ago. For North Americans, we could stake the start of the conversation to James Hansen's 1988 congressional testimony. The overwhelming majority of activism, political pressure, public interest campaigning and individual initiative taken (in North America) to address climate change since then has been aimed in two directions: federal regulation and individual behaviour to reduce emissions (mostly symbolic but sporadically substantial).

I've spent the last 10 years as a journalist focussed almost exclusively on writing about solutions to climate change that are up and running, and I've come to conclude that the two least effective tools for crossing the gap we need to cross are federal regulation and individual behaviour aimed deliberately at emissions reduction. In every case of wild, pacesetting, genuinely paradigm-shifting success to date -- German energy policy, Denmark's pioneering work on smart grids, the urban sustainability wonders of Copenhagenization, the improbable sustainability push of Walmart, the wonderful story of Iowa's first community-owned windfarm -- there has been a proximate, tangible motivation or driver that has nothing to do with federal regulation or individual behaviour.

I've written two books to try to explain the why of this, but to put it TL;DR form: federal regulation is the wrong tool for the job most of the time (in part because most of us are governed by dysfunctional federal governments) and emissions reductions are the end goal, not the means or motivation. The Keystone XL debate is a great example of the ultimate failure of this whole process, to my mind: thousands of engaged concerned citizens, doing magnificent activist work in the name of global emissions reductions, in order to force a regulatory change that will have essentially no long-term impact on American energy policy or climate mitigation. It's like trying to end slavery by embargoing one particular shipbuilding dock.

As for individual action, here's a pretty standard way that's phrased from just a little upthread:

Buy less, eat way less meat, fly a lot less, bike or walk more. These are things the common citizen can do.

Missing from the list is the No. 1 thing, which ought to be written in 3X larger font and underlined and blinking: Find likeminded people to engage in meaningful collective action in your community. Germany's world's best energy policy started as a village-scale solar initiative. State and provincial governments have done all the real work of emissions reduction in North America to date (usually by aiming at some other target, such as smog reduction or green energy stimulus). Smart-grid pilot projects and car-sharing and active transportation initiatives and basically everything that's happened in Copenhagen and the cities (New York and Melbourne especially) that have followed its lead have happened at municipal scale.

You will not substantially reduce the world's CO2 emissions in the next say 10 years this way. But you just might build the social, political and economic foundations to solve it in the next 10.

In any case, erase the phrase "We're fucked" from your vocabulary. STFU and get started on something.
posted by gompa at 11:30 AM on March 6, 2013 [22 favorites]


I think most people who blame overpopulation for the problem are trying to excuse themselves from their purchasing of factory produced items, use of cars, and overall participation in the destruction that's happening.

Not at all, I just think that over population is big part of the problem. The various solutions proposed by you and others aren't mutually exclusive. I've never argued that population is the only problem and that population reduction is the only solution. It will almost certainly take an "all of the above" approach.
posted by VTX at 11:35 AM on March 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


I live in NYC, on a steep hill and presumably high enough above the Hudson River to avoid being inundated, but much of Manhattan isn't so lucky. Would I be better off staying put in the city, where resources will continue to be directed should famine or crop failure start to happen? Or should I start making plans to buy a patch of land in a non-flood, non-drought prone part of the world?

New York City will have massive, expensive, flood-control systems, like those used today in the Netherlands. These don't even represent a real technological challenge, as the Dutch have solved most of the problems, and have a working system in place.

As for food, the United States will have it's sophisticated transportation infrastructure, vast amounts of arable land, and the ability to build irrigation systems. Even as crops fail in one region, they will become viable in other regions. And the failure will be gradual, so it won't be as if suddenly there's no more wheat. We'll survive, though it will be expensive.

Sub-saharan Africa, on the other hand, will be in crisis and chaos.
posted by mr_roboto at 12:47 PM on March 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Is the Netherlands typically at risk from 4-8m hurricane storm surges?
posted by seanmpuckett at 12:51 PM on March 6, 2013


having a child is one of the most damaging things it is possible to do.

absolutely ridiculous.
posted by mrgrimm at 1:19 PM on March 6, 2013


Guys I know how to solve this. Few people and few countries are willing to curtail their carbon emissions because it would decrease their competitiveness and not even solve the problem, because everyone else is still polluting.

But, with carbon sequestration, one group can pull CO2 out of the air, and fix the problem for everyone else, without needing to get everyone on board.

Carbon sequestration requires a lot of energy. Most sources of energy on the planet are already tapped but one is not. Hydroelectric dams generate a lot of energy but are only good for local use. Obviously you can't move the dam, and with current technology we can only transmit the electricity a thousand miles or so. The largest untapped rivers are in the Arctic.

So we need a billionaire with a heart of gold to build hydroelectric dams on the Mackenzie river in Canada and the Ob and Yenisei rivers in Russia, and use the energy to sequester carbon. Canada cares about the environment so I think they would approve the dam if our billionaire funded the project. In Russia you just have to grease the right palms and you can do anything you want.

I could see Richard Branson or Bill Gates going for this.
posted by foobaz at 1:27 PM on March 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Canada cares about the environment

Citizens might. Our federal government certainly doesn't, and by and large our provincial governments don't either.
posted by junco at 1:32 PM on March 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


absolutely ridiculous.

How so? Surely a new human on earth and responsibility for all the resources that said human will ever use is all on the parent? It's an whole extra lifetime of resources used.

But then I guess my parents are responsible for all my resource use and i'm not having kids so therefore I'm pretty carbon neutral.

Result.
posted by gnuhavenpier at 2:06 PM on March 6, 2013


The fact would seem to be that not everyone is a loser here - only those people who have a really good climate or a really sweet ocean view - or both - right now.

Do you need to eat? Then you're one of the losers.
The problems with CO2 are not about the weather getting balmier, and it affects everyone who doesn't expect to die very soon.
posted by anonymisc at 2:48 PM on March 6, 2013


In a nutshell; there's too much short-term gain for individuals (and not just oil company CEOs; how many of us are willing to severely curtail our western lifestyles?) and human institutions are designed to only address negative consequences after they happen.

Is capitalism ignoring the writing on the wall?
So why, given the abundance of cheap capital asked a participant, aren’t businesses earmarking money to find and develop those game-changing innovations?

“Because of business professors like me,” he responded. “We teach students about internal rates of return which encourages quick payback investments.”

Without attempting to explain the arcane world of accounting, Christensen said the fact that the cost of capital is virtually zero the net present value of a future stream of growth in five years is identical to one that yields a return in one week.

Until accounting attitudes changed after the 1980s, the United States and Japan invested in disruptive innovations in technology and products and their economies grew like crazy. “Since we measure profitability the way I’ve described, their economies have flat-lined,” he said.

Empowering innovation takes time, five to eight years he estimated, and uses capital, and does not generate it. “What we taught them caused them not to invest in anything other than efficiency innovations. They are awash in capital and not innovating because we taught them to measure profitability that way.”

The prescription, said the professor, is to change the accounting metrics measuring business investments and to provide tax incentives to keep capital working for at least five years. There must be “soft” accounting too.

“We also need new measurements such as measuring the return on investments in people in order to get out of the situation we’re in,” he said.
viz. environmental 'green' accounting
cf. sustainability measurement

also btw...
How to Win Any Climate Change Argument: A flow chart for debating with denialists
posted by kliuless at 2:48 PM on March 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


Pedaling to power a 60-watt bulb misses the point: as rough ashlar said, a solar panel can generate that energy more efficiently; also a 60-watt bulb is a really bad way to produce light if you're worried about energy use. There are lots of good technologies on the horizon that can help us. I'm really excited about the possibilities of 3d replicators, especially now that you can turn existing plastic waste into raw material. This stuff is getting better and cheaper and it should significantly reduce both material waste and transport costs. What would be really good, though, is if it changes our psychology - when more things can be made at home or locally from recycled or generic material, buying new objects will seem slow and expensive. That would create a virtuous cycle where consumption is recognised as being wasteful, which makes purchasing things seem less attractive, so fewer things are purchased. At least, I hope so ...
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:02 PM on March 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Is the Netherlands typically at risk from 4-8m hurricane storm surges?

The storm surge gates in the barriers in the Delta Works are designed to close for 3m or greater surges. I'm having a hard time figuring out what their maximum surge height specification is, however. These are once-every-ten-years type storms. The system will need to be built up further as the seas rise.


They're planning for a 4m rise by 2200.
posted by mr_roboto at 3:41 PM on March 6, 2013


I'm with mr_roboto on this. You're not fucked if you live in the US. You have a strong government and vast resources.

The country is still going to be largely inhabitable, you'll still be able to grow food and there will still be sources of energy.

The developing world is going to get hit hard, as usual.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 4:52 PM on March 6, 2013


having a child is one of the most damaging things it is possible to do.

absolutely ridiculous.


Well argued.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 4:56 PM on March 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


"So we need a billionaire with a heart of gold to build hydroelectric dams on the Mackenzie river in Canada and the Ob and Yenisei rivers in Russia, and use the energy to sequester carbon. Canada cares about the environment so I think they would approve the dam ... etc.

Hydroelectric dams, especially on large rivers, are incredibly destructive and are far from a "green" solution to anything. Their large reservoirs are invariably unproductive, fish movements are blocked from spawning and rearing areas (native populations rely on river fish, even if you don't), the watersheds upstream and downstream from the dams suffer often severe materials processing effects, entire catchment ecosystems get trashed by them in cascades of destructive effects. They can even be net contributors of CO2 to the atmosphere. We need fewer environmental problems, not more.

There are no simple solutions -- certainly I can't offer anything specific. But I do have a strong sense of the direction we should be moving: use less of pretty much everything to stop adding CO2 to the atmosphere, replace fossil energy with very locally-generated renewable energy, and restore natural ecosystems generally -- especially forests -- to remove excess CO2 from the atmosphere.
posted by dmayhood at 5:01 PM on March 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


...there will still be sources of energy.

Vast coal and natural gas reserves, in fact.
posted by mr_roboto at 5:25 PM on March 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


As for the population argument, those of you arguing that this has something to do with "overpopulation" are nuts. This is a question of technology and economy. Even if a billion people disappeared from the face of the earth tomorrow, our energy demand and energy technologies would keep pumping CO2 into the atmosphere. This is a fundamental structural issue rooted in the fact that we rely on cheap energy from fossil fuels. It's not a question of population or population growth at all.

What is needed are policy approaches that make fossil fuels more expensive and technological solutions that make non-fossil-fuel energy sources cheaper. Actually, this was needed 20 years ago, but it hasn't happened, and it's not going to happen, so we will have a warming planet.
posted by mr_roboto at 5:37 PM on March 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


erase the phrase "We're fucked" from your vocabulary. STFU and get started on something.

Doug McKenzie: [realizing that the brakes don't work on their speeding van] Brakes aren't working.[folding his arms] No point in steering now.

(aah, netflix)
posted by Smedleyman at 7:14 PM on March 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


As for the population argument, those of you arguing that this has something to do with "overpopulation" are nuts.

Bullshit.

The math is pretty simple. If a billion people disappeared, the planet just dropped 1/7 of it's demand for energy.

What is needed are policy approaches that make fossil fuels more expensive and technological solutions that make non-fossil-fuel energy sources cheaper.

This will take time, slowing and reversing population growth will take time. If both happen concurrently, they'll have a much faster impact on CO2 levels than either one by itself.

It's not the solution but it makes the other solutions more effective.
posted by VTX at 5:57 AM on March 7, 2013


Well I find it hilarious to blame parents for our own personal choices.

If all my choices and subsequent consumption are my parents fault, then heck, my reproductive choices are their fault too. But I guess I can't really blame THEM because their parents are actually at fault for all of my parents choices regarding consumption and reproduction. This goes all the way back to the very first living being that resulted in all these fucking PEOPLE doing all this awful shit.

That entity is the biggest jerk EVAR. So basically, it's not MY fault. It's their fault. Single strand RNA motherfucker ruining the planet and making it uninhabitable..for...life...... It should have just never existed and then we wouldn't have this problem.

wait.

Life is precious. Human life especially. It's not a fact, it's a value judgement. But I want human life to continue here. That involves reproduction and the making of new little people. And we could celebrate human life a lot more if we made smarter choices about the products we consume, the transportation we use, and the pollution we create. And we'll probably need some group and systemic assistance making some of those changes because we've become dependent on some very unhealthy consumption patterns for the state of human life on the planet.

I think many human beings need to go to consumer rehab. Sometimes people need help changing behavior, it's hard. We should make services and supports to make it more possible for people to make good choices.
posted by xarnop at 6:21 AM on March 7, 2013


Pedaling to power a 60-watt bulb misses the point: as rough ashlar said, a solar panel can generate that energy more efficiently; also a 60-watt bulb is a really bad way to produce light if you're worried about energy use.

Sure, but it's a fine way to demonstrate how much work it takes to generate 60 watts of electricity. Which was the point.
posted by ook at 6:28 AM on March 7, 2013


The fault lies with everyone who knows (or should know) that climate change is happening and are still contributing to it. This probably lets your parents off the hook. Besides, the blame isn't mutually exclusive. Even if your parents are to blame, there is plenty of blame to go around. This problem is everyone's fault.

Unless your kids are going to live 100% carbon neutral lives (and their kids, their kids' kids...) it's your fault too (as well as mine and your kids and my kids). Everything a person does that puts more CO2 into the atmosphere than they take out of it. If your kids are going to contribute to the problem and you have them anyways, then yeah, that's something you did to make it worse. That doesn't let your kids off the hook and that doesn't make it wrong to have kids any more than it's wrong to drive your car. But, just like using your car, you should give some thought to the impact it will have and it can and should influence your actions.

This talk about blame and fault always ticks me off. IT DOESN'T FUCKING MATTER WHO'S FAULT IT IS! Assigning blame just wastes time, energy, and doesn't solve squat. The causes are important but insofar as they lead to solutions. Even if climate change were 100% natural, if reducing carbon emissions would solve the problem then that would still be the solution.
posted by VTX at 6:45 AM on March 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ya'll, the bike pedaling power was sort o fa random thing from my head and clearly not very realistic. I regret sharing it as it detracted from the point I was really trying to make, being that we should try innovative means of making production and transportation rely on no external power source at all wherever possible--- and make smarter energy sources like solar, wind etc when we want to add extra energy to production.

We're also producing and consuming a LOT of totally unnecessary items that involve alot of toxic waste and emissions that plain and simply never actually need to be happening. If you've got a plastic piece that creates a respirator that allows a human being to LIVE? Cool. The industrial revolution has made possible the creation of certain items that allow people who would have been in pain, dead,or unable to function to ability to live and have better or total health. That is AWESOME.

The larger quantity of products on the market are both unnecessary and make out of toxic chemicals and materials that need never be part of consumer goods. Many of the same products could be made out of natural resources with a lot less waste. Yes it might drive prices up but when we're talking about non-essential items prices should reflect the actual cost of the production to the human race, human health, and the environment. What I mean to say is, price increases on non-essential items that reflect the cost of the natural resources it takes to produce is not as scary as people make it out to be. OH NO I won't have a microwave! I mean that sucks but a microwave is not an essential item. I lived without one for years. I lived without a TV or internet connection for years.

I think we're afraid of making some perfectly reasonable changes that would be INCONVENIENT but not DANGEROUS. Also-- I respect individuals rights to determine what changes might be dangerous for their health and not imposing forced changes that could harm some people. But ad campaigns, incentives, encouragement, and systemic changes that put the tools and systemic supports to make these needed changes in the hands of people who want to make these changes--- these are all good things.

Yeah I think discussions about blame lead people to sit around disliking either themselves or someone else. Which is a complete waste of energy that could be used on pro-actively solving problems. Unfortunately it IS useful to acknowledge the cause and effect nature of different behaviors and as humans it's hard not to reflect on blame, shame, or guilt towards SOMEONE when something is wrong. I think we can do better. I believe.

... I believe in miracles... you sexy thang...you sexy thang you...

(sorry, having a moment. No seriously... the problems is miracles don't just HAPPEN. We have to make them happen.)
posted by xarnop at 6:51 AM on March 7, 2013


Population is not a myth. The site mrgrimm links to is a snide and reprehensible attack on the idea of limits to growth. Given the size of the earth and the energetics of agriculture, the planet may actually be able to support a larger human population, but at what cost? As others have pointed out, increasing energy use by more humans will only add more energy-related pollution and rapid consumption of resources.

But at today's population, we're already experiencing unsustainable losses of habitat, soil fertility, water, and species. We're still allowing pollution to occur which is going to mean long-term destruction of huge swaths of land and water. We're actively avoiding cleaning up the messes we've already made. Don't even get me started on the damage we're allowing to happen to ocean ecosystems.

All this talk about "Malthus was wrong!" is cynical ideological propaganda for limitless population and economic growth, at the expense of the natural systems that support life on this planet. Ultimately, those systems are what all human agriculture depends on, and when Capitalism is done with mining those resources, we're going to find out whether or not we can eat money.
posted by sneebler at 6:51 AM on March 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


I want human life to continue here. That involves reproduction and the making of new little people.

No sane person is arguing that we should voluntarily adopt a Children of Men scenario where everyone just stops reproducing, but why should reproduction be exempt from your "smarter choices" paradigm? Why should that one thing be done without thought? Of course it should not, and it's not "ridiculous" (not your word) to think that people should include environmental impact in the many calculations they already undoubtedly do when deciding whether to have children and/or how many.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 6:59 AM on March 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


By the way- I absolutely think no one should deliberately breed more than two children, and anyone on the fence about breeding should favor none or one child. I agree that overpopulation is a thing but it still rests largely in CO2 emissions which is a cultural behavior problem we could solve if we got serious and aggressive about treating the condition. Yes that's right culture, I'm saying you have a sickness and you need help. The first step is admitting you have a problem.

I'll start:
"Hi. My name is xarnop. I've been an Overconsumaholic for...well all of my life. It was just..normal. In my family, there was car use... every day. No one even thought about it, they just drove and drove.... Products from factories all over the house. Things made in sweatshops, unethically produced...no one cared or thought about it...everyone just accepted it like it HAD to be this way. Occasionally someone thought about changing. There was a recycling bin... there were good intentions here or there... but then just...no real change..."
posted by xarnop at 7:00 AM on March 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


The math is pretty simple. If a billion people disappeared, the planet just dropped 1/7 of it's demand for energy.

This is not true. It depends on which billion.

The overpopulation argument has some validity to it -- fewer people use fewer resources, all other things being equal. But it is not a useful framework for finding solutions, particularly because birth rates are generally not particularly high in the places where per capita carbon consumption is high -- although as the developing world becomes more developed, this may change; the Arabian peninsula is already an interesting exception to this rule. If you really want to make overpopulation your number one hobby horse issue that you think will save the world, you're going to have to either ignore that fact OR spend a lot of time complaining about how people in other parts of the world have too many babies, an unhelpful and damaging point of view that I am sure (really and truly, no sarcasm here) you do not want to hold. Talking about limiting population is a very thorny issue that can quickly lead you down a road you never meant to travel.

OR OR OR: maybe you'll come up with some very clever model for how population reduction can, in fact, save the world while still being humane and fair. Like I said, no one yet knows exactly where the answer is going to come from; maybe you'll surprise us all. If you think you can come up with a real solution this way, then please for the love of God DO IT. We need more people working on solutions, not fewer.
posted by Commander Rachek at 7:42 AM on March 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


Also- really if you create children who not only refuse to participate in over consumption but actively work to reduce it on a cultural level, then you might actually produce people that result in less CO2 emissions as a result of their existence. So the goal shouldn't be "don't reproduce" so much as "don't produce children that you train to accept a disastrous way of living as normal and ok."
posted by xarnop at 7:42 AM on March 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Maybe you'll come up with some very clever model for how population reduction can, in fact, save the world while still being humane and fair.

I already did that up-thread.

"If we could really focus on raising living standards while driving towards sustainability everywhere, the birthrate of the planet as a whole would drop to less than 2 and the population problem would solve itself."

I'll say this one more time. "Overpopulation" is NOT my "number one hobby horse issue". I've said over and over and over that it isn't. It's just ONE thing among MANY MANY things that should be taken into consideration as PART of a potential solution. I think that building carbon neutral (or better) infrastructure and culture everywhere but especially in developing countries while also putting some emphasis on issues like women's rights (and access to birth control for those who want it) will have a side affect of reducing population growth and eventually leading to a declining population which would in turn amplify the affects of reduced carbon consumption.

It's not like there is some list of climate change solutions from which we can pick only one.
posted by VTX at 8:03 AM on March 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


I already did that up-thread.

"If we could really focus on raising living standards while driving towards sustainability everywhere, the birthrate of the planet as a whole would drop to less than 2 and the population problem would solve itself."


What I really meant was coming up with a reasonably thorough plan that could be acted upon. I don't expect you to present it here in a Metafilter comment; any such plan would involve much careful planning and research. If you come up with something, I'd be genuinely interested to see it (though you'd be better off showing it to people who could actually do something about it, I'm sure).

I'll say this one more time. "Overpopulation" is NOT my "number one hobby horse issue". I've said over and over and over that it isn't. It's just ONE thing among MANY MANY things that should be taken into consideration as PART of a potential solution. I think that building carbon neutral (or better) infrastructure and culture everywhere but especially in developing countries while also putting some emphasis on issues like women's rights (and access to birth control for those who want it) will have a side affect of reducing population growth and eventually leading to a declining population which would in turn amplify the affects of reduced carbon consumption.


Ultimately, I don't disagree: if you increase living standards for people, they'll generally have fewer kids, and population controls become unnecessary; of course, at the same time, increasing living standards currently leads to increased CO2 consumption (which you acknowledge in at least one place). This is just one of many reasons why saying "overpopulation is a problem in relation to CO2 production" is not that helpful -- population growth and CO2 consumption are both related to economic status in myriad complex ways which do not necessarily have anything to do with each other.

Also, if I may say, you seem to be riding that hobby horse pretty hard considering it's not your number one issue.

I think this is a classic case of getting bogged down in "but they said I was wrong!" Personally, I feel like I'm starting to repeat myself (and after only three comments! I must be getting more self-aware.), and I'm sure you do, too. Time to go outside!

posted by Commander Rachek at 8:49 AM on March 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Bikes for transport, sure. For power generation, not so practical.

I agree. We won't be able to pedal our way out of this mess, but as a cyclist I wish we could. I know of one case where a prison utilized a stationary bike that feeds the power into their grid to slightly offset some costs and they give prisoners reduced sentences for using it so the concept isn't entirely outrageous, but it isn't easy to harness human power to be useful for modern energy hungry appliances.

As for the power output of cycling, I happen to use a power meter with my indoor training bike as a means to optimize and track my training for race level events so I have some practical answers about how many watts are sustainable. An untrained (but otherwise healthy) male can ride at about 150 watts, but probably only for an hour. It doesn't take long to build up to several hours. I can ride at nearly 300 watts for an hour at full effort and around 250 watts for 3-4 hours, but I've been doing this sort of thing for almost two decades. There is a lot of debate on this issue, but the average genetic ceiling is around 250 watts for one hour for most people. For women, you can on average reduce the output by around 35%.
posted by dgran at 11:38 AM on March 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


How Climate Change Worsened Violence in Syria
posted by homunculus at 1:29 PM on March 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


Global temps higher now than for most of past 11,300 years
posted by homunculus at 4:21 PM on March 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Isn't the "Malthus was wrong!" talk mostly about how women stop raising so many children when their education and prospects improve, sneebler?

Isn't there extensive evidence that overpopulation holds back poor countries, Commander Rachek? Isn't the Black Death credited with helping usher in the renaissance for example? Isn't that why China takes population control so seriously? I'd consider that a fairly good model of "how population reduction can .. save the world".

Ain't hard to be more "humane and fair" about it than China either. First make birth control ubiquitous. Second look for effective educational techniques. Also, limit the church's influence. Third try incentives before penalties, like a small income for either no children or one child who attends school, bot no payments if you've two children or your one child works. Finally use only penalties that theoretically treat the rich and poor equally, like taxation that's progressive in income and short jail sentences.
posted by jeffburdges at 4:01 AM on March 9, 2013


I admit that my comment was a knee-jerk reaction to the idea that saying "Malthus was wrong" is the answer to any serious questions about overpopulation, but after spending more time on their website, I don't think they're talking about women raising fewer children when they rise up out of poverty. They're saying that UN-funded population estimates are wrong, and that things like poverty and environmental degradation are not the result of current or future overpopulation. There is plenty of undeveloped land available for agricultural expansion, and that (unspecified) technological improvements will continue to increase per-hectare yields. This has the flavour of ideology-driven science denial.

Call me shallow, but the site mrgrimm linked appears to be funded by The Population Research Institute, which answers most of my questions.
posted by sneebler at 7:20 AM on March 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Amplified Greenhouse Effect Shifts North's Growing Seasons
posted by jeffburdges at 6:16 AM on March 11, 2013


The United Nations Population Division's long-range projections - key findings (PDF).
posted by mrgrimm at 8:42 AM on March 11, 2013


Amplified Greenhouse Effect Shifts North's Growing Seasons

English wine.
posted by mrgrimm at 8:47 AM on March 11, 2013


Climate Change Is the Biggest Threat in the Pacific, Says Top U.S. Admiral
posted by homunculus at 12:25 PM on March 11, 2013


New York City's greenhouse gas emissions as one-ton spheres of carbon dioxide gas
posted by jeffburdges at 12:18 PM on March 12, 2013


Scientists link frozen spring to dramatic Arctic sea ice loss: Melting sea ice, exposing huge parts of the ocean to the atmosphere, explains extreme weather both hot and cold
posted by homunculus at 1:53 PM on March 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


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