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December 18, 2013 8:13 AM   Subscribe

The Coming ‘Instant Planetary Emergency’

If you find yourself needing resources to debate climate change deniers in your life, in addition to the links in the main article, we present here for your reading pleasure:
posted by eviemath (254 comments total) 46 users marked this as a favorite

 
Okay, I have a confession -

I never know how to react to articles like this, and avoid them as a result. Not because I disbelieve climate change - it's absolutely a thing - but I'm not sure exactly what these kinds of articles are encouraging me to do, because they sound like there is no hope whatsoever.

So what am I meant to do with this information, if there is indeed nothing we can do to stop the kind of catastrophic events they're talking about? Move way inland? Lobby congress? Tell deniers "neener"?

I just get the urgency from the article, and feel like I'm being urgently persuaded to act now act now act now, but I don't get any guidance as to how to act, so I end up not reading articles like this.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:20 AM on December 18, 2013 [53 favorites]


I am going to be the smuggest " I told you so" in the refugee camp let me tell you.
posted by The Whelk at 8:20 AM on December 18, 2013 [45 favorites]


To a certain extent I find things like this heartening, if only because if we're actually going to do anything about this, we need it to happen fast. We need it to be taking place on a time scale that we can, as a people, wrap our heads around.

I'm pretty sure if you told the Koch Brothers that money would become worthless in 2020 unless somebody did something about it, they'd make sure something was damn well done about it. Tell them their money will be worthless in a couple centuries when they aren't even going to be around, and they might fret about it, but in the end they'll take the money today.

Expand that to mankind as a whole, and that's pretty much where we are. If it's a real thing that's happening in a foreseeable future, we're going to be much better able to muster the will to fix the problem (assuming of course that it's fixable at all, and I think it is) than if we're looking at a longer scale situation where the window of opportunity to avert disaster is right now, but we can't bring ourselves to do anything until it's literally too late.
posted by Naberius at 8:34 AM on December 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


Some of us are paranoid enough to think that the recent overreach and swing toward authoritarianism in the western world is a preemptive counter revolutionary tactic based on long-view projections of " well in 2020 there's going to be a lot of hungry, displaced people out there."
posted by The Whelk at 8:37 AM on December 18, 2013 [60 favorites]


It seems clear that what's driving a lot of climate science denial is that we''re all going to have to make difficult personal changes that are going to in turn affect the economy. At the same time, we need to put pressure on politicians, who are beholden to the increased growth of that same economy for their political clout. This is going to be really difficult, but it has to be done soon, before we're overwhelmed by political instability in other parts of the world (if not in N. America).
posted by sneebler at 8:37 AM on December 18, 2013


[B]iocommunism is ecological planning. Integral to Marx’s original concept of species being [Gattungswesen] was the need for a regulated metabolic exchange between nature and humanity that would prevent the “universal poisoning” of the new industrial cities. Such poisoning today reaches biospheric dimensions, dramatically discrediting the benevolence of the invisible hand. Chaotic climate change is compelling a tacit acceptance, even in reformist cap-and-trade or carbon tax schemes, that industry requires a discipline super-ordinate to profit, and even making utterable formerly unspeakable thoughts such as an equalitarian rationing of energy use across the planetary population. On all these fronts, the issue Marx saw as critical to human species-being, the possibility for its democratic, distributed, associative planning, comes to the fore.--"Twenty-First Century Species-Being" / Nick Dyer-Witheford
posted by No Robots at 8:37 AM on December 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


Someone should make a global warming themed death metal band, and call it The Great Dying. Instant Planetary Emergency sounds like a great name for a track.
posted by Joe Chip at 8:41 AM on December 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


On one hand, I guess I'm less worried by my Sallie Mae payments now.

On the other, I guess I'm going to pay them until they're not a problem anymore.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 8:41 AM on December 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


Empress, I can tell you what I've done with this information, because I think it's genuinely changed my expectations and goals. All my life I've had this nagging feeling that I need to do something that will be permanent, around for generations, so my name will be remembered in the future - a great novel, an album, a painting. And all my life I felt guilty whenever I would use leisure time to do something that wasn't advancing that. So whenever I would play video games or watch TV and feel bad about it.

Now that I'm pretty well convinced that there won't be anyone around to read my great American novel in a hundred years or so, I don't feel the need to write it. I still might, but I might not, and I have allowed myself to stop feeling bad when play video games or watch TV or otherwise just live in the moment with my family.
posted by jbickers at 8:44 AM on December 18, 2013 [8 favorites]


No Robots, that kind of speculation may be based on well thought out arguments by intelligent people. Nevertheless, it comes across as anti-communist rhetoric, which is unhelpful to this discussion, given that much of the opposition to even talking about climate change comes from (largely American) Conservative groups.

I don't see how we're going to have a successful discussion about how to deal with climate change if the only way we can frame it is in terms of Communism/Marxism vs. Capitalism.
posted by sneebler at 8:46 AM on December 18, 2013


Well, it's cold here so your theories are all bunk.
posted by Mister_A at 8:53 AM on December 18, 2013 [7 favorites]


Heh, when I was in university 15 years ago, the Communists on campus called "ecology" a "liberal bourgeois conspiracy."
posted by KokuRyu at 8:53 AM on December 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


I don't see how we're going to have a successful discussion about how to deal with climate change

I don't think there can be a successful discussion about climate change regardless of how it's framed. It's impossible for humans to address en masse. Individual people can get it, but the planetary population as a whole simply cannot, by virtue of being human beings in the first place.

Sort of an outside context problem, as it were.
posted by aramaic at 8:54 AM on December 18, 2013 [7 favorites]


I heard George Monbiot say "people are ready for politicians that say they take climate change seriously, but not for politicians who propose the radical lifestyle changes we'll need to adopt". In most cases I think that's true.
posted by imperium at 8:56 AM on December 18, 2013 [8 favorites]


EmpressCallipygos: “So what am I meant to do with this information, if there is indeed nothing we can do to stop the kind of catastrophic events they're talking about?”
I don't know about anybody else, but before it's too late I'm going to make sure I've stocked up on enough liquor to drink myself to death when the time comes.
posted by ob1quixote at 8:56 AM on December 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


As a species, we're pretty terrible about doing something about a problem until the problem is causing us serious inconvenience. On a more positive note, though, we tend to get things done pretty effectively when there's no other choice.

We just haven't got to that point yet. We need to feel the pain of hunger or the insecurity of war. Then we'll probably do something about this mess. It might be too late for half of our species, but I reckon the other half will probably scrape through.
posted by pipeski at 8:57 AM on December 18, 2013 [7 favorites]


the planetary population as a whole simply cannot, by virtue of being human beings in the first place.

It's also important to note that large populations in so-called developing countries have fewer resources to deal with this problem.

North Americans and Europeans typically emit far, far, far more C02 on a per capita basis.'

Climate Change truly is a "First World Problem" with disproportionate effects on the southern, developing world who never caused the problem in the first place.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:59 AM on December 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


For some more context for all this, I'd like to offer up this video: Real Clothes for the Emperor: Facing the Challenges of Climate Change. Kevin Anderson goes over the proposals that have been made to limit warming to 2C, and demonstrates how they're all based on too-low estimates for current emissions (some ridiculously so), growth rates that are lower than fit the data, and are way too optimistic for future reductions.

Or to summarize, to keep the temperature increase to under 2C, not only would countries that are industrializing have to hit their peak soon and then aggressively cut emissions, but the most developed countries would have to also hit zero emissions IN THE PAST. Or in other words, it's pretty much impossible to stay under 2C. And that's without taking into account the possibility of significant positive feedbacks and tipping points.

It was actually a Guy McPherson talk that I watched on YouTube early in 2013 that's really resulted in me learning a lot about global warming. I was trying to convince myself that what he said is clearly false - being told that humanity is likely to go extinct IN MY LIFETIME (by 2045 or so) is not something you just accept. I've spent a lot of time watching and reading to understand the science behind it, to understand why they're so certain that it's happening, and what it all means. It's been an educational ride, but not a pleasant one. I've learned to view his views as extreme, and lacking solid support - but not out of the ballpark. And that's very disconcerting.

I've already made life changes. Eliminating most meat from my diet, and hopefully all of it starting in 2014. Replacing one vehicle with a much more fuel efficient one. I'm going to look into Solar City for solar panels - and follow up on something I've seen about making sure all of my grid electricity comes from renewable sources. I don't pretend that my choices actually make any real difference - industrial scale CO2 emissions dwarf that from one person by many orders of magnitude, and those changes require economic or governmental incentives.

But I'm also going to look into how to get into more activism in this area. Because while it's possible our extinction is already in the cards, I refuse to just sit back and let it happen. I may not have my own children at this point in time, but I can't in good conscience sit this one out.
posted by evilangela at 9:02 AM on December 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


Would EmpressCallipygos or anyone else care to join me for a nice cup of tea and a few Paolo Bacigalupi novels while the water rises around us?
posted by twsf at 9:02 AM on December 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


it comes across as anti-communist rhetoric

Erm, yer not readin' it rite.
posted by No Robots at 9:03 AM on December 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


EmpressCallipygos: "I never know how to react to articles like this, and avoid them as a result. Not because I disbelieve climate change - it's absolutely a thing - but I'm not sure exactly what these kinds of articles are encouraging me to do, because they sound like there is no hope whatsoever."

This, a thousand times. I mean, I have solar panels, I work from home, we try and use as little electric and heat as possible, we reduce/reuse/recycle, and it's not really going to matter, is it?

I have two young sons, and I am SO FUCKING SCARED for them.
posted by Chrysostom at 9:08 AM on December 18, 2013 [7 favorites]


a) we just keep on and have massive deaths due to the rising waters, etc. etc.

b) we shut down all the trucks/cars/ships/coal electric generations and have massive deaths and riots now.

How to choose, how to choose?
posted by sammyo at 9:08 AM on December 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


"[B]iocommunism is ecological planning."

Erm, yer not readin' it rite.

I'm a biologist, please explain.
posted by sneebler at 9:10 AM on December 18, 2013


Contemporary biology is basically a cheerleader for the current biocidal global economy.
posted by No Robots at 9:13 AM on December 18, 2013


Integral to Marx’s original concept of species being [Gattungswesen] was the need for a regulated metabolic exchange between nature and humanity that would prevent the “universal poisoning” of the new industrial cities.

Boy, you really have to work hard to turn Marx into a proto-greenie. And by "work hard" I mean "ignore most of what Marx wrote."
posted by yoink at 9:15 AM on December 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


How to choose, how to choose?

Option c) always be prepared to pack up subsistence/survival lifestyle stuff in the car, sprint as far north as you can, and make a go of it when everything else turns to shit.
posted by Slackermagee at 9:16 AM on December 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Heh we're all going to die
heh
posted by Teakettle at 9:17 AM on December 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Option c) always be prepared to pack up subsistence/survival lifestyle stuff in the car, sprint as far north as you can, and make a go of it when everything else turns to shit.

Awesome, we moved into an RV this year!
posted by desjardins at 9:18 AM on December 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Boy, you really have to work hard to turn Marx into a proto-greenie.
That man’s physical and spiritual life is linked to nature means simply that nature is linked to itself, for man is a part of nature.--Marx
posted by No Robots at 9:20 AM on December 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


with between 150 and 200 species going extinct daily

Has anyone seen anything like a citation for this? the link in the article is just another article that's even more vague "scientists estimate" kinda language. It's sloppy hyperbolic facts like this that make these articles hard to swallow.
I am all on board with the idea that anthropogenic climate change is real, but i would be much more interested in "here's what YOU can do today!" than this sort of thing.
Would someone be willing to link to one or more good 'call to action' articles, or must i give up and become a prepper?
posted by OHenryPacey at 9:20 AM on December 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Some of us are paranoid enough to think that the recent overreach and swing toward authoritarianism in the western world is a preemptive counter revolutionary tactic based on long-view projections of " well in 2020 there's going to be a lot of hungry, displaced people out there."

My personal take for a while has been that climate change deniers in the media are not so much to prevent anti-carbon/anti-methane legislation as to prevent panic stricken mobs from appearing well ahead of 2020.

I'm hoping that it doesn't turn out to be an extinction level event, but the scenarios I read have led me to believe the human population will be somewhere south of a billion by 2100.
posted by Mooski at 9:22 AM on December 18, 2013


Too many people. Too many people too driven to provide themselves with too much comfort. And it's now too late to reverse it.

We're fucked. The bright side of all this is that we (some of us, anyway) may be around for the most significant event in human history: the extinction. Exciting stuff!
posted by fredludd at 9:24 AM on December 18, 2013 [5 favorites]


So what am I meant to do with this information, if there is indeed nothing we can do to stop the kind of catastrophic events they're talking about?

I hear you. Lots of doom and gloom, no solutions. I think a big part of the problem is that for folks who think that the problem really is as serious as those in the FPP think, little changes just aren't going to do enough. Proposals within our current economic and political systems have included cap and trade for industrial carbon emissions and carbon taxes; carbon offsets; carbon-traping technologies (mostly still to be developed); increased government regulation of stuff like industry emissions, home insulation, and car fuel efficiency and emissions; and somehow changing to an anti-consumerist culture (despite still having all the advertising apparatus that we have today - just do it on a personal level, why don't ya?). Slightly more severe proposals include more far-reaching government regulation of energy consumption (industrial and personal). Folks I know of who believe the more dire climate predictions don't think that much of any of this will be sufficient, though there are arguments that these measures would suffice if climate change follows the least dire predictions.

Some people approach the problem with a very Machiavellian view, saying that the problem is population and that we need to get rid of a whole bunch of people... kind of leaving the how of that open-ended in a way that I, personally at least, find quite disturbing and unethical. Then there are the eco-primitivists, who have varying political perspectives but I think also often slip dangerously close to a sort of authoritarianism.

The solution I like best, that seems most respectful and caring of all humans and thus most ethical, looks at why the first batch of proposed solutions wouldn't be able to go far enough. I think that so long as we keep our current economic structures, there will always be pressure to consume - because ever increasing production and consumption (what I've seen called the capitalist growth imperative) seem to be a fairly fundamental feature of capitalism; not one of the defining features, but next level up from that - we'd have to get rid of advertising, for example, as well as get rid of the corporate structures that not even encourage but require those leading a corporation to show short-term profits. And the way capitalism works, you can't have profits without growth; but growth is exactly what we don't need for the climate and the environment in general. As well, inequality is kind of built in to capitalism, which builds in incentives for those with greater wealth and power to ignore those with less wealth and power and instead focus on saving themselves - incentives that promote greed are also a fundamental feature of capitalism, and I think that has been changing our culture so that we now accept greater levels of greed and anti-social self-interest than we used to even earlier in my lifetime. So for me, the solution is to change economic systems: move from capitalism to some system that incentivizes cooperation and sustainability. I think that putting economic decisions in the hands of those most effected by them would be the best way to do this - so something along the lines of anarcho-syndicalism (co-ops democratically controlled by all workers, but trading with each other in a market-based system) or libertarian communism (economic decisions made through a political process - but rather than this being through centralized regulation like or more stringent than the proposals within capitalism, the political process would have to be local and directly democratic).

As to how to achieve this sort of structural change, or even the non-structural reforms from the first paragraph, that's a much longer dissertation. There are some ideas on the web site that I linked to, and I'm happy to provide more links and readings, or write another long comment, if that's what you were actually asking about or if it would be of interest to anyone.
posted by eviemath at 9:26 AM on December 18, 2013 [20 favorites]


a) we just keep on and have massive deaths due to the rising waters, etc. etc.

b) we shut down all the trucks/cars/ships/coal electric generations and have massive deaths and riots now.

How to choose, how to choose?


But see, that's my aversion to these articles, because it sounds like the article is saying "there is no "choice B" because it is too late and choice A is definitely going to happen and there is no way to stop it". And yet, at the same time, it feels like I am being urged to do something - but I'm not told what to do. It has a tone that it is very, very, very important that I do something to react to the world being doomed, but i"m not given any guidance as to what I can do because it pre-emptively tells me that all the ideas I would have come up with on my own would be pointless.

So....why am I being urged to react in the first place?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:26 AM on December 18, 2013 [6 favorites]


I mean, I have solar panels, I work from home, we try and use as little electric and heat as possible, we reduce/reuse/recycle, and it's not really going to matter, is it?

Yeah, pretty much how I feel as well. I'd like to do better but there is no measurable difference that one average everyday person can make in this problem. Even if everyone in my building, or on my block, or in my zip code, decided to make all these environmental/consumption changes, it would not make the slightest bit of difference.
posted by elizardbits at 9:27 AM on December 18, 2013 [7 favorites]


And yet, at the same time, it feels like I am being urged to do something - but I'm not told what to do.

panic and cry
posted by elizardbits at 9:28 AM on December 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Learning How To Die In The Anthropocene
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:28 AM on December 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


No longer feel bad about not having children?
posted by The Whelk at 9:29 AM on December 18, 2013 [19 favorites]


Oh look a horrifying new sea star blight

Talking to a marine biologist is the quickest way to never feel good about anything ever again.
posted by The Whelk at 9:30 AM on December 18, 2013 [5 favorites]


Keep in mind that there are some really stupid ways to stop global warming. My personal favorite is building a sunshield at Earth-Sun Lagrange point 1. It's possible to park a constellation of satellites hovering in a stable orbit partway between the Earth and the Sun, and blocking a small percentage of the Earth's insolation would stop global warming. If the runaway global warming scenarios are correct, desperately build more satellites and block more sunlight until the problem gets under control. If money is no object, a worldwide crash building program could pull this off with current technology. We're not going to go extinct.

I say stupid not because geoengineering will not work but because it is expensive. I don't mean the financial costs, though the estimated pricetag of a sunshield is in the low trillions, and that's assuming cost-saving railgun technology matures soon. Still, that's a bargain compared to human extinction. The trouble is that a sunshield won't do a thing about problems like ocean acidification; it would reduce heat but would do nothing to reduce atmospheric carbon. The real price of waiting until the situation is desperate and then throwing satellites around is that the current ocean biosphere is going to be replaced by something we'll like a lot less. The smart solution was conservation in the 1980s, but here we are.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 9:31 AM on December 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


Boy, you really have to work hard to turn Marx into a proto-greenie.

That man’s physical and spiritual life is linked to nature means simply that nature is linked to itself, for man is a part of nature.--Marx


Thanks--a nice illustration of my point. You find the bit that if you rip it out of context kinda sorta sounds greenie and you ignore the surrounding argument that very, very clearly is nothing of the kind. For example, from just a little later in the text you're citing:
It is just in his work upon the objective world, therefore, that man really proves himself to be a species-being. This production is his active species-life. Through this production, nature appears as his work and his reality. The object of labor is, therefore, the objectification of man’s species-life: for he duplicates himself not only, as in consciousness, intellectually, but also actively, in reality, and therefore he sees himself in a world that he has created. In tearing away from man the object of his production, therefore, estranged labor tears from him his species-life, his real objectivity as a member of the species and transforms his advantage over animals into the disadvantage that his inorganic body, nature, is taken from him.
Marx tells us that we're at our most fully human when we see nature as material for transformation according to our own purposes and desires. When we see it as something meant to answer entirely to human needs and human designs. That is not, at all, an "environmentalist" message and it's just willful blindness to pretend that it is. It's that awful hero-worship tendency we all suffer from in wanting to make our idols "right" about everything, regardless of the sense if makes in terms of their cultural, historical and political contexts. Nothing could be less Marxian than the view of a timeless, ahistorical Marx whose writings are eternally True for all ages and contain the answers to problems he never even imagined.
posted by yoink at 9:32 AM on December 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


I think that what gets me about these articles is that there is not only nothing to do now, but there's not even a solution for later. When 2020 comes, no matter what I do, it will be a roll of the dice whether it's me that survives or someone else. There is no planning to be done. There is no magical place to live that will protect me. There is no magical skill to aquire that will protect me. There is nothing to do except keep loving the people around me and hoping that it doesn't hurt too much when it comes.
posted by stoneweaver at 9:33 AM on December 18, 2013 [5 favorites]


I have zero hope that humanity can effectively engage in this conversation, there are too many entrenched interests competing against any action to reduce emissions. Unlike other crisis scenarios, by the time it's obvious to even the dumbest human we will lack a functional infrastructure to make changes that would help, assuming we're not already beyond the point of no return now.

I've got two young children and I really don't feel too hopeful. I mean I actually have a plan worked out for when our area can't supply drinking water, something we actually came close to a few times during recent droughts.

I don't know how anyone can seriously plan for mass forced migrations due to resource scarcity, but that's all I can think of practically doing, as futile as that sounds.
posted by odinsdream at 9:35 AM on December 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


If the runaway global warming scenarios are correct, desperately build more satellites and block more sunlight until the problem gets under control.

In all seriousness this was essentially the plot of one of my favourite episodes of the PowerPuff Girls, "Boogie Frights".
posted by elizardbits at 9:36 AM on December 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


Ironically, where I"m working now, someone a couple desks over just told a few people that the Caldera under Yellowstone has been seeing some increased geological activity, and honest to God my initial reaction was that if the Yellowstone Caldera erupted it may be enough to balance out the warming trend.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:38 AM on December 18, 2013 [7 favorites]


I also think the only way America gets into collectivism in a big way is when climate change threatens the food supply and it becomes a notational security issue.

My only dark joy in our grim meat hook future is seeing all the survivalists get exactly what they wished for, good and hard.
posted by The Whelk at 9:38 AM on December 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


The PowerPuff Girls provide solutions to a surprisingly broad range of the Earth's problems.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 9:38 AM on December 18, 2013 [5 favorites]


And oh, by the way, THAT'S NOT NORMAL THINKING, I don't think.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:38 AM on December 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Too many people. Too many people too driven to provide themselves with too much comfort.

Actually, that's not true at all. The current state of things, where the average American consumes 20X more resources than their counterpart in India etc, should give us hope.

Redistributed evenly, there is more than enough for all people living on Earth. Redistributed evenly, we could reduce our resource intake.

Population is not the problem. A minority of northern nations is the problem. Population is a red herring.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:39 AM on December 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


Anyone who knows more about this than the average layperson have a take on this guy's idea?
posted by stenseng at 9:40 AM on December 18, 2013


I'm in a "no hope to stop this" camp, and have been for years. It will get ugly and desperate at the end, and I hope I don't have to experience too much of it before I die. I even have my own musical project, All Extinct Animals, that helps me channel my feelings about this (responding to the start a band suggestion above).

It's unfortunate, but I never did think humans would make it to a million years of earth habitation. Many species have been a blip - so will we.
posted by agregoli at 9:40 AM on December 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


*with a weary, disappointed expression, snaps a photo of the OVERPOPULATION Gong with his iPhone 5*

You may not have heard of them. I was into these guys a long time ago.
posted by adipocere at 9:41 AM on December 18, 2013


This, a thousand times. I mean, I have solar panels, I work from home, we try and use as little electric and heat as possible, we reduce/reuse/recycle, and it's not really going to matter, is it?

Nope.

So what am I meant to do with this information, if there is indeed nothing we can do to stop the kind of catastrophic events they're talking about?

I wish it were otherwise, but empirical reality seems to indicate that there isn't anything anyone can do. We like to think that the action and function of society is controlled in some sense, or at least directed, but in actuality nobody is in control of civilization itself in the sense of having decision-making power over the largest-scale processes: energy use, reproduction, etc. Nobody is steering the ship. Governments coerce and control certain groups, legislators organize schemes of resource distribution, businesses allocate capital and create things, etc etc, but collectively, nobody is in charge of humanity. If any institution or group had the ability to reduce CO2 emissions, we would just have to make them do it, but nobody has that power.

The only thing we can do is hope. Sure, we can fight the good fight, try to make politicians listen, but even if we could drastically reduce CO2 emissions (for example) here in the US, what of China? What of India? What of the several hundred million households creating CO2 emissions across Africa? And we can't even get our country to take serious, meaningful action.

Again, nobody is really in control. That's the frightening truth about civilization itself, separate from the question of how climate change will play out. It has big implications for that process, but it's more fundamental than that.
posted by clockzero at 9:43 AM on December 18, 2013 [13 favorites]


So....why am I being urged to react in the first place?

I got so tired of hearing the phrase "game over for the climate" and things like that, that any time friends would post things from Hansen or McKibben or any of the big climate spokespeople, I would gnash my teeth.

There is definitely a disaster genre of climate writing, and one of the crimes of that genre is its insistence on urgency. Because "We're all going to die from methane!", in theory at least, gets you to read the whole piece and be poised to act. Meanwhile, "In 20 years our beaches will have changed enough to cost property developers millions," does not feel so urgent, and "In 20 years developing nations will need significant food aid" sounds downright solvable.

I think the disaster genre has at is core exactly the same addiction to short-term thinking that consumer culture does. It knows how to get your attention--marshal attractive facts and package them in an eye-opening way. But it is not sure what to do with your attention after that, and ignores the effect on morale.

Why else would a piece like this keep going for the extreme readings of climate change, the ones where we all die? And why is our death both so certain and so mysterious? That is...what killed us in this piece? Starvation? Overheating? Not enough oxygen left to breathe? It's the same sort of lack of specificity that you'd use to make a horror villain more frightening, shrouded in the threat of the unknown.

And the writers are addicted to this tone; they don't understand a way to engage the audience without using DEATH, in a way that burns out more followers than it attracts. I don't know if I'd go so far as to say they're an active detriment to the cause, but there has to be a point at which people tune them, and possibly all climate change information, out.

We're all doomed, on an individual, societal, and eventually species level. Reminding us of that is not actually the best method of encouraging change!
posted by mittens at 9:43 AM on December 18, 2013 [38 favorites]


honest to God my initial reaction was that if the Yellowstone Caldera erupted it may be enough to balance out the warming trend.

Oh, um. Awkward. That would pretty much take out much of the western US. Can't we have one of those nice volcanoes in Iceland spew a lot of ash into the atmosphere instead maybe? /hamburger

Seriously depressing, y'all.
posted by ambrosia at 9:44 AM on December 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


That is...what killed us in this piece? Starvation? Overheating? Not enough oxygen left to breathe? It's the same sort of lack of specificity that you'd use to make a horror villain more frightening, shrouded in the threat of the unknown.

Yeah, this article put all of its eggs in the "starving" basket. Seemed fairly focused to me.
posted by crashlanding at 9:47 AM on December 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


In re methane released from the sea floor, I seem to recall a prophecy about "seas boiling" from many years ago but haven't been able to find it since. Anyone else remember this?
posted by ZenMasterThis at 9:48 AM on December 18, 2013


Actually, that's not true at all. The current state of things, where the average American consumes 20X more resources than their counterpart in India etc, should give us hope.

Redistributed evenly, there is more than enough for all people living on Earth. Redistributed evenly, we could reduce our resource intake.


Sure, but the average American doesn't want to live anything like the average Indian, and they will fight tooth and claw not to have to. Since we Americans have more guns than anyone else, guess what.
posted by desjardins at 9:59 AM on December 18, 2013 [8 favorites]


Anyone else remember this?

It's a line from Ghostbusters.
posted by elizardbits at 9:59 AM on December 18, 2013 [5 favorites]


Marx tells us that we're at our most fully human when we see nature as material for transformation according to our own purposes and desires. When we see it as something meant to answer entirely to human needs and human designs.

This is ascribing to Marx an unwarranted anthropocentrism. Marx recognized that all life-forms have their own generic essence [Gattungswesen]. For Marx, though, the immediate concern was the state of man. Later thinkers have developed the project of man to include other life-forms:
In the impossibility of defining a new "work of man," it is now a question of taking on biological life itself as the last and decisive historical task. The "work" of the living being in accordance with logos is the assumption and the care of that nutritive and sensitive life on whose exclusion Aristotelian politics had defined the ergon tou anthropou.--"The work of man" / Giorgio Agamben. In Giorgio Agamben: Sovereignty & Life / Matthew Calarco.
The core of Marx's view remains: Man and Nature are One. And this is the basis of all future political action.
posted by No Robots at 10:01 AM on December 18, 2013


Some of us are paranoid enough to think that the recent overreach and swing toward authoritarianism in the western world is a preemptive counter revolutionary tactic based on long-view projections of " well in 2020 there's going to be a lot of hungry, displaced people out there."
*favorites even though she knows The Whelk is an NSA honeypot account meant to flag civil disobedients by luring them in with easily favoriteable comments*
posted by byanyothername at 10:06 AM on December 18, 2013 [11 favorites]


ZenMasterThis: "Anyone else remember this?"

Firefly. Great show, so-so movie.
posted by stet at 10:07 AM on December 18, 2013


Lost freshwater may double climate change effects on agriculture
Given the present trajectory of greenhouse gas emissions, agricultural models estimate that climate change will directly reduce food production from maize, soybeans, wheat and rice by as much as 43 percent by the end of the 21st century. But hydrological models looking at the effect of warming climate on freshwater supplies project further agricultural losses, due to the reversion of 20 to 60 million hectares of currently irrigated fields back to rain-fed crops.
posted by Golden Eternity at 10:07 AM on December 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


If the apocalypse keeps galloping backward in time at this rate, pretty soon it will be in the past.
posted by goethean at 10:09 AM on December 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


I tend to assume that anything I try to do on this front will be either very small-scale or pretty useless. Like, it makes sense to try to insure that my house is in good condition - I want to refinish the basement so we have a comfortable space that will stay cool without air-conditioning. It makes sense to grow a certain amount of your own food. But if things get really terrible - like, massive local displacements, sudden total collapse of the water supply terrible - no individual or small collectivity will be able to hack that, because what's going to happen is that state and para-state forces are going to move in. If we're lucky, that means that the state will oversee limited water distribution/healthcare/housing/safety in the name of stability, while restricting access to and use of alternate methods. If we're not lucky, everything fancy that you've invested in - extra water, equipment, food, etc - will just be confiscated by the state or a paramilitary. If you live way off the grid, this may not be a problem, but for city dwellers in a relatively rich country, what's going to happen when things go to shit is that the state is going to crack down good and hard, and if you think you're going to be standing there on Workadaddy Street fending off fifteen guys from a SWAT team in order to keep your generator, you've got another think coming. In rich countries where the state can probably preserve stability, that's what is going to happen - especially with the elaborate phone/IP/etc infrastructure that exists now. It's not like there's space for a guerrilla insurrection in, like, the wilds of suburban Minneapolis.

We live until we die. Most of us will knuckle under to state authority (that's what I expect I'll do) if things get heavy-duty enough and we'll live as long as we can in whatever comfort we can, and then we'll die of resistant diseases or starvation or lack of water or getting overheated. I'm glad I don't have any kids and I'm glad I've had a reasonable chunk of my life already.
posted by Frowner at 10:18 AM on December 18, 2013 [9 favorites]


Cozy up to whatever feudal warlord is running what's left of things in your neck of the woods.
posted by The Card Cheat at 10:19 AM on December 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


Another great article and discussion for my blossoming winter depression.

Besides the fact that I should note my personal winter depression isn't the important issue here, and mentioned only as a joke, I have no other thought than this is bleak, terrifying and inevitable.
posted by glaucon at 10:20 AM on December 18, 2013


It would be a kick if the caldera erupted - it might kill enough people and derail enough industry to permanently slow global warming. Of course, I'd probably die - but that's going to happen eventually anyway.
posted by Frowner at 10:22 AM on December 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Some people approach the problem with a very Machiavellian view, saying that the problem is population and that we need to get rid of a whole bunch of people... kind of leaving the how of that open-ended in a way that I, personally at least, find quite disturbing and unethical.

When fucking is outlawed, only outlaws will be fucking.
posted by delfin at 10:23 AM on December 18, 2013


> A minority of northern nations is the problem. Population is a red herring.

Okay, but (by way of example) look at all the people in China buying cars; we - all of us - are conditioned to seek out as many creature comforts as we can as soon as the society we live in makes it possible.
posted by The Card Cheat at 10:24 AM on December 18, 2013


I don't think individuals can or should bear the brunt of warding off catastrophic climate change. By all means, install solar panels and drive a Prius, but the only way we can hope to address this is through legislation. My burning a wood stove is nothing compared to the output of an industrial powerplant. Mandatory emissions reductions across the board will have a much bigger effect than a handful of individuals driving hybrids. This stuff can only be addressed on a international political level, and we need to find the will to do just that.
posted by monospace at 10:25 AM on December 18, 2013 [7 favorites]


but for city dwellers in a relatively rich country, what's going to happen when things go to shit is that the state is going to crack down good and hard,

Yeah this is why all those "buy a small farm!"/Prepper nuts are pretty freaking hilarious. Any kind of wisepread disaster is going to mean a radical uptick in state control. And they have tanks.
posted by The Whelk at 10:26 AM on December 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


God. I better hurry up and write my dystopic futurefiction so I can get rich before it's too late.
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 10:28 AM on December 18, 2013 [5 favorites]


"Seduced By The Warlord: A tale of love and survival in the Post-Climate Change U.S Wastes."
posted by The Whelk at 10:30 AM on December 18, 2013 [6 favorites]


wait no it was a joke no one write that oh noooooo
posted by The Whelk at 10:30 AM on December 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


If you live way off the grid, this may not be a problem

Quite the contrary, in times of widespread instability people generally flee to more easily-defended population centers. Folks living out their lone-wolf survivalist fantasies will either find themselves picked off by people we may as well call "reavers" for historical reasons, or they will discover what a highly-motivated centralizing force can do to an isolated opponent.

Think baronies, not bunkers.
posted by aramaic at 10:30 AM on December 18, 2013 [12 favorites]


If DOOM AND DESTRUCTION are inevitable, what is the impetus to make any individual changes at all? It doesn't make any rational sense to give up any creature comforts in light of the probability that we're all going to be extinct in 20-50 years.
posted by desjardins at 10:32 AM on December 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


(this is not to say that I necessarily believe near-term extinction is inevitable or probable)
posted by desjardins at 10:33 AM on December 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


also, letting the countryside starve so the population centers can eat? Kind of standard operating procedure in history.
posted by The Whelk at 10:33 AM on December 18, 2013 [4 favorites]



If DOOM AND DESTRUCTION are inevitable, what is the impetus to make any individual changes at all? It doesn't make any rational sense to give up any creature comforts in light of the probability that we're all going to be extinct in 20-50 years.


I used to have this paranoid theory that End-times thinking was actively encouraged in capitalistic cultures because sustainable, long-term planning leads to less consumption. If you think you're doomed anyway, why bother NOT buying a new car or paying off those loans?
posted by The Whelk at 10:34 AM on December 18, 2013 [13 favorites]


On the plus side, I don't have to worry so much about dying teaspoon by awful teaspoon in an "assisted living facility".
posted by allthinky at 10:36 AM on December 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


When fucking is outlawed, only outlaws will be fucking.

Fucking isn't the problem. It's reproducing that's the problem.
posted by yoga at 10:37 AM on December 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


boy i hope a shit ton of displaced people due to horrifying unpredictable weather and food insecurity doesn't also occur during that new and terrible flu outbreak that my epidemiologist friends are all just bracing for the emergence of.
posted by The Whelk at 10:38 AM on December 18, 2013


Fucking isn't the problem. It's reproducing that's the problem.

Many of our fine state legislatures are hard at work making sure that the former and latter remain as tightly linked as possible.
posted by delfin at 10:40 AM on December 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Seduced By The Warlord: A tale of love and survival in the Post-Climate Change U.S Wastes."

Meat-Tank Meltdown: a harried middle manager fears he is losing his mind when the clone-vats start to give him the stinkeye at the Walmart Flesh Farm. PG-13, 127 min.
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 10:41 AM on December 18, 2013 [6 favorites]


Is there any reasonable argument that we're *not* all doomed*? You can lie, that's okay, since apparently there's nothing we can do anyway.

*I mean, in the short term. Long term everyone dies, but you know.
posted by insufficient data at 10:49 AM on December 18, 2013


Fucking isn't the problem. It's reproducing that's the problem.

No it fucking isn't. Fucking has never been the problem. A lop-sided distribution of resources leading to a few very monied nations engaging in boundless consumption of more resources is the problem, with repercussions for everyone.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 11:06 AM on December 18, 2013 [11 favorites]


My formula: Have skills, horde chocolate.
posted by OHenryPacey at 11:06 AM on December 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


Is there any reasonable argument that we're *not* all doomed*? You can lie, that's okay, since apparently there's nothing we can do anyway.
-insufficient data

Tons. Here is a great* source.

*Great may not mean factually accurate or truthful, but it feels like safety and terror wrapping you in a sweet, sweet blanket of Jesus.
posted by glaucon at 11:06 AM on December 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Glaucon:
>:{
posted by insufficient data at 11:08 AM on December 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Buzzfeed: How The Media Will Report The Apocalypse
posted by the man of twists and turns at 11:08 AM on December 18, 2013 [6 favorites]


You know, on the up side, if this all happens soon enough we will actually leave a sufficient quantity of energy-dense materials and high-value minerals in reasonably accessible locations, such that whomever manages to survive can probably reestablish an advanced civilization rather than being trapped in low-tech subsistence poverty.
posted by aramaic at 11:08 AM on December 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


I guess in the end, I think we're at a point where the proper way to think about this is that "The only way out is through."

We CAN'T conserve our way out of the problem. Even if everyone was to give up much of their luxury, we are not living sustainably. Even producing all of the food we need takes a lot of fossil fuels to create the fertilizer, plant and harvest, and ship to destinations. Our entire system is founded on cheap fossil fuel energy.

Moving to a sustainable and non-damaging system with the technology we have today means being unable to support everyone alive. A lot of people would have to die - and we'd end up taking an even larger toll on the environment as forests are burned and other marginal lands are claimed to try and grow just a little more food. This is why we can't go back.

Technological advances offer potential solutions. Renewable energy sources. Carbon sequestration. Biofuels. Improved agriculture efficiency. Or even, more pessimistically, better routes to adapt to a more hostile environment.

Is technology the solution? It's hard to know. We may not be able to reach the way out of this mess in time, because we don't know how far it is, and how fast we can get there. But what we CAN do is both slow down the clock to our destruction, and focus even more on the technologies that might help us. Reduce use of fossil fuels everywhere possible, saving them for the places they're needed most. Consume less of the things we don't need. Make more efficient choices - if everyone just reduced meat consumption by half, it would have a huge impact, for example. Be less wasteful.

But the longer we wait to make an effort, the less likely we'll be successful.
posted by evilangela at 11:12 AM on December 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


Aramaic - How would those things help you if there's nothing to eat?
posted by agregoli at 11:13 AM on December 18, 2013


Evilangela - your proposals, like most, assume we can get global agreement and action. Everyone is not going to participate in actions needed, and even if they did, it would not stop what's coming. It's too late for that.
posted by agregoli at 11:16 AM on December 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


We've all been doomed ever since David Lee Roth left Van Halen.
posted by delfin at 11:17 AM on December 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


The assumption that there's nothing to eat seems unfounded, to me. I mean, I really do feel the worst-case scenarios in my bones, I worry about them all the time, but when you come down to it, are we really saying that no edible plants or animals will exist anymore? That somehow they cannot? Because it seems like if we're talking about that kind of worldwide disaster, starvation is really the least of our worries for the five or ten minutes we'd have left to live.

It feels like the question, instead, is "How will our awful extractive monoculture food industry survive global warming?" and the answer looks like, "It can't." But that isn't the same as there being no food. We've gone through periods of over-reliance on bad agricultural practices before, and paid horribly for it, but that doesn't mean that better practices don't exist, and that we can't adapt them to a warming world. Maybe we can't feed 7 billion people on the drought/heat/flood resistant crops we develop, but that's not the same as saying we can't feed any of them.

Which I guess is what I was trying to say with my original comment. Starvation is not extinction. It is bad--it is horrible!--but it's essentially a solvable problem in the way that "We're going extinct tomorrow" is not.
posted by mittens at 11:20 AM on December 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


a) we just keep on and have massive deaths due to the rising waters, etc. etc.

b) we shut down all the trucks/cars/ships/coal electric generations and have massive deaths and riots now. 


So, I think that the total human extinction outcome is highly unlikely, in my incompletely-educated opinion. And the idea of continuation of the human species doesn't motivate me. (If all humans only the Earth suddenly, simultaneously, and painlessly ceased to exist, I'd have no opinion about this one way or the other.) But I care about climate change and its effects because I care about the well-being of individual humans, both ones I know personally and in the aggregate. To me, what is bad about climate change is that many people could suffer and lose their liberties, from starvation, water shortages, associated resource wars and conflicts and breakdown of political and economic systems.

So for me, the solution is to start, now or yesterday, building structures (political, economic, social that will enable us to react to crises collectively, democratically, and humanely.
posted by eviemath at 11:21 AM on December 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


We've all been doomed ever since David Lee Roth left Van Halen.

Those were good times.

Damn good times.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 11:23 AM on December 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


agregoli: it doesn't help you or I, nor even our immediate descendants, but rather I'm proposing it operates on a "civilizational" time scale.

A few thousand people, given sufficient time, would be able to start down the path of reestablishing a technologically advanced society. Given the human ability to make things edible, as long as there is some form of plant or insect still alive, they will find a way to turn it into food. Sure, Civilization 2.0 might be eating things we find abhorrent, but once we all get done killing each other over scraps, in a few hundred years they'd still be eating (and figuring out what electricity is).
posted by aramaic at 11:24 AM on December 18, 2013


used to have this paranoid theory that End-times thinking was actively encouraged in capitalistic cultures because sustainable, long-term planning leads to less consumption. If you think you're doomed anyway, why bother NOT buying a new car or paying off those loans?

Only used to?
posted by eviemath at 11:24 AM on December 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Mittens, when the ocean is dead, and vegetation dies off, and the animals die off...so will we. It's not about temperature. The ocean dead, global weather patterns dramatically different, causing deaths of the majority of plants and animals....we won't be long after that.
posted by agregoli at 11:25 AM on December 18, 2013


Aramaic - it strikes me that you'd need a sufficient group of people (and cooperative!) In one place to make that work, and that's unlikely.

I'm not saying there couldn't be a few stragglers for a few centuries, but humans will not be able to rally past the complete collapse of not only civilization, but all other plant and animals life.
posted by agregoli at 11:27 AM on December 18, 2013


I find myself thinking that by the end of the century, all those narrow escapes from nuclear war in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s are going to look like so many missed last chances to avoid the real apocalypse.
posted by jamjam at 11:28 AM on December 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


I finally got a chance to read that RealClimate article listed above, and I think my blood pressure is finally back down below stroke-level.

(Edited to say: Um, this one, I mean.)
posted by mittens at 11:38 AM on December 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Report: Global Warming May Be Irreversible By 2006
The Onion - Dec. 4, 2011
posted by Rhaomi at 11:39 AM on December 18, 2013 [7 favorites]


all other plant and animals life

Well, that's the thing -- I'm of the opinion that it won't be all other plant & animal life. Even Chicxulub couldn't do that. I mean, I could be wrong, nobody knows for sure, but my bet is against it.
posted by aramaic at 11:40 AM on December 18, 2013


Arguing the point that there may still be something alive after seems somewhat beyond the point.
posted by The Whelk at 11:47 AM on December 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


mittens: "Why else would a piece like this keep going for the extreme readings of climate change, the ones where we all die"

Perhaps because every time a prediction is made based on current models it is then reliably outpaced by real data? If the observable pattern is that the real numbers consistently turn out worse than the predicted ones it's not exactly a bad move to anticipate the worst predictions to be the ones most likely to manifest. Just a few examples:
Worldwatch Institute: "sea-ice melt, glacier retreat, and food insecurity are all more dire than the IPCC predicted [in 2007]"
Environmental News Network:/ASWM "The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) projected an annual sea level rise last year in 2011 of 2 millimeters per year. According to new satellite data, there appears to be a stark difference between their projections and reality. Sea-levels are rising 60 percent faster than predicted, at a rate of 3.2 millimeters per year. "

I think if there is any simple truth attached to this complex subject it's this: we're headed for worst case scenarios because as humans we will not give up anything or choose to make our lives even slightly less pleasant until we literally find ourselves with our backs to the wall and up to our necks in rising seawater. And because the effects of climate change are somewhat gradual and staggered and will affect different populations to varying degrees and at varying times you'll never get everyone to develop any sense of urgency together thus sparking a global shift in attitude. Instead it'll be groups under immediate pressure at odds with groups trying to preserve their status quo. And it's not even really our fault. Apparently the bit of our brain that handles will power can barely stand up against its baser peers that just crave instant gratification. There'll be very few who'll agree to give up almost everything in their lives they've gotten used to. Then try telling people in poor and developing countries that they'll have to basically permanently post-pone any attempts to improve their lives. Our entire global economical system is based on growth, including population growth. Hell, China is trying to relax their one child policy because of an aging population starting to cause all sorts of problems.

mittens: "And why is our death both so certain and so mysterious? That is...what killed us in this piece? Starvation? Overheating? Not enough oxygen left to breathe? It's the same sort of lack of specificity that you'd use to make a horror villain more frightening, shrouded in the threat of the unknown."

Not sure where the mystery comes in here. It's not like drastic reductions of human populations are historically unprecedented. Just look at Europe during the 14th century when the Black Death wiped out somewhere between 30-60% of the entire population or mass starvation during the Chinese cultural revolution to the tune (some 30 million according to official numbers). And those certainly weren't the only known such events (though probably some of the largest). It may be rare but it can and does happen.

But even at the most rapid predicted pace things will likely be just slow enough to allow most people to consider and deal with each bit on its own without realizing that one would really need to deal with this on a global level.
You ask how humans will die? In many ways depending on time and location. This is not about an apocalypse where one night the flood gates open and everybody dies. Realistically there'll probably be a renewed increase of starvation in some places, along with changing patterns of diseases. There'll probably be an increase in wars and conflicts triggered by migration driven by loss of habitat, food and water. It'll probably be more akin to gradually accelerating erosion rather than sudden death. Probably slow enough for it to become the new normal at every level but fast enough for some of us to still be alive, look back and wonder what the hell happened to the world we grew up in.

Barring the arrival/discovery of some sort of Star Trek like technological transformation things are looking rather bleak to me. Which is one reason I don't have kids.

With all that said... here is one cool thing about climate change: looked at from a certain angle one could claim that we have achieved something seemingly impossible: we have nudged a continent! Apparently East Antarctica is now sliding sideways because of massive ice loss on West Antarctica. You gotta admit... that's a pretty cool technological accomplishment. Too bad we're all going to be fucked because of it.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 11:51 AM on December 18, 2013 [10 favorites]


I'm not even sure Chicxulub is really comparable. The effects of the impact covered some decades; the methane release describes a permanent event.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 11:52 AM on December 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Or maybe, lasting quite a while longer.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 11:52 AM on December 18, 2013


Great. Just great.

Seems like chemically sterilizing our species for a single generation would cause less hardship. Sure, most industries would collapse for lack of manpower and knowledge but so?
posted by Colonel Panic at 11:57 AM on December 18, 2013


Why would you bet that some plant and animal life will survive? Based on what? I'm interested in factually based reasons, not hunches.
posted by agregoli at 12:00 PM on December 18, 2013


I'm interested in factually based reasons, not hunches

Examine all previous die-offs more closely.
posted by aramaic at 12:02 PM on December 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't buy the extinction predictions. As others have pointed out upthread, there are solutions that could halt global warming. Really ugly, side-effect-ridden, expensive, desperate solutions. (Easy one: touch off a few volcanos with nuclear weapons. Or just use a bunch of nuclear weapons to create a dust plume that reduces insolation for a while.)

The elegant solutions, at this point, seem to all require time machines.

But the desperate solutions would seem to make it unlikely that we'll end up extinct as a species. Lots of other species will, of course, go extinct. The oceans will probably acidify, the glaciers will melt, and marine and land biodiversity will collapse. The Earth will be a much poorer place for a very long time.

A lot of people will be displaced, and there will very likely be serious social/political unrest, beginning in the places that get inundated first (as one would expect). How and whether we go about resettling displaced people, particularly across international boundaries, is an open question. It's entirely likely that we don't, and a lot of people will die as a result. (But at least in the beginning they will mostly be poor and non-white, which is ... convenient.) There's certainly enough room in the US to resettle the internally displaced people from coastal areas further inland. We are also more than self-sufficient in terms of food, and the increase in temperature probably won't affect that for a while. (We might run out of fresh water, but we can always burn more hydrocarbons to desalinate seawater. We have lots of hydrocarbons, and uranium for when that finally runs out.) Food could potentially be unpleasantly expensive compared to the 20th century, though. And the proles might not like that, but why else do you pay for a giant police-state apparatus and equip even the most local-yokel cops with machine guns, if not to keep the starving masses in check?

It'll be the places that depend on the oceans for food, or grow rice in paddies near sea level, or just have the misfortune of living near sea level, who are going to die. And places where food production is tenuous already. And then places with weak socio/governmental institutions that can't manage the disaster response (which, strangely, modern capitalism seems to do well; it's shit poor at managing long-term structural problems but good at pulling out the stops when there's a crisis to be averted profited from). So basically, all the places that the developed world already neglects.

So that's the real rub: realistically, it probably isn't Game Over for the United States, and particularly not for the powerful in the United States. They're well-insulated from the worst of everything. So there's not a ton of motivation to change anything significantly. We're in the midst of the greatest cost-externalization ever perpetrated, something which it turns out our elites are very, very good at pulling off.
posted by Kadin2048 at 12:04 PM on December 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


Aramaic, I have. That's partly why I'm convinced this is it for this planet.
posted by agregoli at 12:05 PM on December 18, 2013


Why would you bet that some plant and animal life will survive? Based on what?

Are there any credible scientific projections that include the complete extinction of all life on earth? I mean, even the bacteria we find in volcanic outlets at the bottom of the ocean floor and deep underground? Even the insects that live deep inside cave systems? etc. etc.? You need some pretty spectacularly cataclysmic conditions on earth to project a sterile planet.

Not, of course, that it won't happen eventually. From a certain astronomical perspective, "global warming" is inevitably a temporary phenomenon.
posted by yoink at 12:06 PM on December 18, 2013 [6 favorites]


we're headed for worst case scenarios because as humans we will not give up anything or choose to make our lives even slightly less pleasant until we literally find ourselves with our backs to the wall and up to our necks in rising seawater.

This is simply, obviously not true. We (as several people have personally attested to in this thread) routinely give things up (eating meat, driving cars, factory-farmed food, cheap electricity) in hopes of reducing climate change even when we know that the effect of anything we can do as individuals will be infinitesimal. Millions of people do these things. Millions of people try to conserve electricity, or gas, or get rid of their car, or eat low-carbon-footprint foods. The problem is not with the individual consumption habits of ordinary people. The problem is with the unwillingness of industry (meaning the owners of capital) to accept the lower profits that less disastrous industrial practices would entail and the unwillingness or inability of our extant political systems to enforce those practices in the face of their opposition.
posted by enn at 12:08 PM on December 18, 2013 [9 favorites]


I'm 39 years old and in my lifetime, I was faced with a number of dire predictions and ostensibly catastrophic threats to humanity (nuclear war, "Waldsterben", Chernobyl, ozone hole). I was terrified by each of those events, literally lying awake at night many times worried about the future. All of the catastrophic predictions have turned out to be completely false.

In hindsight, there are two common problems with these predictions: 1) While the nucleus of the problem is very real, what gets the most press are the predictions that extrapolate to the worst imaginable case. 2) There often occurs a jump in the logic of events, for example from "humanity has never lived in a world 4 degrees Celsius above baseline" straight to "human extinction".

All of this applies to the current fad, global warming. That's why despite the fact that I believe the general consensus regarding global climate change (it's real and substantially man-made), I'm unimpressed with the doomsday predictions and I refuse to be scared.
posted by tecg at 12:08 PM on December 18, 2013 [6 favorites]


I suppose I'm mostly talking about life that exists that we could live off of, which seems to be what aramaic is talking about...once this process gets really cooking, there will be nothing left to sustain humans. But yeah, it will all go eventually.
posted by agregoli at 12:08 PM on December 18, 2013


Good! You don't have to be scared! There's no reason to fear this, honestly. It's easier to accept it.
posted by agregoli at 12:10 PM on December 18, 2013


The idea of "we're all doomed!" strikes me as a bit of a soft First-World attitude.

Not that I'm not a soft First-Worlder, but I think you don't have to look too far to see just how far humans can go to survive.

Chicxulub may well have killed every single living thing above ground, but it didn't come close to wiping out all terrestrial species. Even if 99.999% of humans died, there would be thousands of humans left, more than enough to propagate the species. And although we seem like the kind of apex predators that tend to die out in mass extinctions, we are also endemic and omnivorous -- we are more widely distributed and can live on a wider diet than almost any other animal -- and those are the qualities that tend to survive.

As someone mentioned earlier, the issue should be that this kind of survival would massively suck. Life would be short and miserable for generations.

Also, those that do survive will surely spit on our graves. I don't much enjoy that thought.
posted by bjrubble at 12:10 PM on December 18, 2013 [8 favorites]


So....why am I being urged to react in the first place?

I've accepted the outcome. And I no longer feel that these articles are implicitly trying to get me to act. I think that's more your brain saying to you: I should act.

You're right though. There's nothing to be done. It's nice to have all the facts before you burst into flames though, no?
posted by IvoShandor at 12:10 PM on December 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Examine all previous die-offs more closely.

The Permian extinction certainly did not end all life on this planet, but then, the planet was also not host to billions of people, many of whom are living in industrialized societies. The strain of human consumption on available living life forms in a mass extinction event such as described in a methane release could easily lead to the end of us, by starvation. Oh, there'll probably be living things on the planet; just not any people.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 12:11 PM on December 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Hairy Lobster: This is not about an apocalypse where one night the flood gates open and everybody dies.

Which is my problem with the original article. "The Coming 'Instant Planetary Emergency.'" Is there a way to interpret that title that does not imply flood gates opening?

A few quotes:

"While his perspective is more extreme than that of the mainstream scientific community, which sees true disaster many decades into our future, he’s far from the only scientist expressing such concerns." This clearly implies a disaster coming more quickly than the decades-scale.

"How serious is the potential global methane build-up? Not all scientists think it’s an immediate threat or even the major threat we face, but ..." And after that 'but,' several paragraphs about why it's an immediate threat.

"Some scientists fear that the situation is already so serious and so many self-reinforcing feedback loops are already in play that we are in the process of causing our own extinction. Worse yet, some are convinced that it could happen far more quickly than generally believed possible—even in the course of just the next few decades." This is very much the picture of an apocalypse.

"Take Canadian Wildlife Service biologist Neil Dawe, who in August told a reporter that he wouldn’t be surprised if the generation after him witnessed the extinction of humanity."


So...anyway. Yeah. I mean, I think it's a valid reading of the article to say the author wants you to believe in an apocalypse that will soon be upon us, and that leads to a very different style than a more realistic discussion of changing agricultural patterns and particular populations starving (which, to my mind, is a much more pertinent conversation to be having, because at least some of that should be able to be ameliorated, at least short-term, before we're all fighting over the last rat on earth).
posted by mittens at 12:14 PM on December 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


Interesting discussion on methane release.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:15 PM on December 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


All of this applies to the current fad, global warming.

Calling it a fad is trolling. Seriously, stop.

In re: extinction.

We are not going to go extinct. Civilization is going to retract sharply, dangerously and things will change for the negative and whatever state we end up will persist for generations.

In re: extermination of all life on earth.

Again, largely impossible. We will have to subsist on things that are effectively garbage (to us now) for a long time, but life will recover and our diets in some form or another will recover. 10,000 years down the line, this will be a sad, crappy blip.

I hope that people then have learned from what we've done and I stress again: our species needs a plan and needs top-down benevolent planning. We will not survive in a meaningful useful way without it much longer (geologically speaking).
posted by Fuka at 12:16 PM on December 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


All of the catastrophic predictions have turned out to be completely false.

Here's the funny thing, though: the fact that previous predictions have turned out to be false doesn't affect the chances of a future prediction being right or wrong.

They only need to be right, or even mostly right, once.

And in particular, the threat of nuclear war was very real, and was mitigated by a whole lot of concerted effort on the part of a lot of powerful (and some not-so-powerful) people. It wasn't some prediction that just failed to pan out. There was a threat, the threat was recognized, people and institutions took action, and the danger was eventually reduced. (Though not eliminated.)

The difference is that with climate change, there isn't the consensus of opinion at high levels that there is a threat, and there are things we could and should do to reduce that threat, that produce the necessary action. Even hawks like Reagan have admitted in retrospect that they were kept awake at night by the thought of nuclear war, they just viewed the risk/benefit of having vs not having nuclear weapons differently; I've seen nothing commensurate with that from the energy lobby.

This is a much different, much more slow-moving, class of problem.
posted by Kadin2048 at 12:16 PM on December 18, 2013 [6 favorites]


agregoli: "I'm interested in factually based reasons, not hunches."

How about microbes living so deep inside the Earth's crust that they would never be affected by climate conditions?

Life is pretty resilient and I'm not worried that we're about to sterilize the surface/oceans of the planet. I'm even fairly certain that human life will continue. But life forms as complex as us are highly dependent on functional food chains. If what we depend on to survive gets disrupted or destroyed we'll likely be unable to sustain our numbers and it could easily become impossible to maintain our current level of knowledge and technology. For a spatially limited example look at Europe during the dark ages when large portions of knowledge and technology disappeared (luckily much of it was preserved by outside cultures unaffected or even given room to develop by the collapse of Roman infrastructure which acted as a buffer).

Unless we make contact with some Alien civilization this planet is unlike post-Roman Europe in that it's basically a closed system with no external buffers. What we would lose we'd have to regain ourselves from scratch following a possible recovery.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 12:17 PM on December 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


So because microbes can survive deep in the earth, we will too? I don't make that connection.

I accept the possibility of massive die-offs and a small struggle of humans resurging for a short while - but there's not a lot of room in the data for humans surviving past the next few thousand years.
posted by agregoli at 12:23 PM on December 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


mittens: "Is there a way to interpret that title that does not imply flood gates opening?"

I do get where you're coming from. I guess I'm looking at this as "how would this be described by someone looking back in history". To us events unfolding over the course of about a hundred years would not seem like an apocalyptic event where everything happened instantly. But things look differently when considering a historical perspective. 100 years are a very short time and, other than the famous dinosaur-killing asteroid strike, there are few precedents if any. From that kind of angle I find there is no other way to describe what's happening other than in fairly apocalyptic terms.

The Black Death in Europe was daily normality to the generations living during the middle of the 14th century and people went about their daily business as they always did. But historically it appears fairly apocalyptic and I don't think it's wrong to view it that way.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 12:24 PM on December 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


I've seen nothing commensurate with that from the energy lobby.

There are very significant changes in the energy industry:
In 2011, the global solar industry had 50 gigawatts of capacity installed. By the end of 2012, it had surpassed 100 gigawatts -- with more regions outside Europe becoming increasingly important. By the end of 2015, global solar capacity is expected to reach more than 200 gigawatts.--"The Most Important Solar Statistics of 2013"
Even the premier of Alberta now talks about "responsible development" of oil resources, which is a huge change of emphasis.
posted by No Robots at 12:24 PM on December 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


There's a kind of wishful thinking in "it's not like every last person will die". Let's ignore possible atmospheric content, available arable land and water content in some of the more plausible scenarios and assume that a few thousand people do make it. Is this really a good thing? "We won't kill off everyone; just many billions"? For reasons that could have been completely preventable?
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 12:26 PM on December 18, 2013


Here's the funny thing, though: the fact that previous predictions have turned out to be false doesn't affect the chances of a future prediction being right or wrong.

I'm not sure this is entirely true. Where do these predictions come from? It seems that humans have a propensity to produce false apocalyptic predictions. They are even in the bible, etc. So if we have a prediction of an apocalypse produced by a human, the prediction is most likely false because it fits into a pattern of past human behavior of predicting bogus apocalypses. If the current climate change apocalypse prediction isn't based on hard science and real climate models etc., then there is no more reason to believe it than there is to believe climate change deniers, denial of reality being another predictable human behavior.
posted by Golden Eternity at 12:26 PM on December 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


agregoli: "So because microbes can survive deep in the earth, we will too? I don't make that connection."

I didn't make that connection either. You asked for an example of how some forms of life might survive and this is one.

I merely decided to add that I don't think climate change will utterly sterilize the planet's surface and oceans. Sorry if that caused confusion.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 12:27 PM on December 18, 2013


Ok got it, sorry. Microbes didn't seem that relevant when we're talking about human survival. I am perfectly happy to imagine microbes in the ocean vents outliving us.
posted by agregoli at 12:30 PM on December 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Is this the thread about John Barnes' Mother of Storms? Because I will never stop mentioning it in threads about methane clathrate release.
posted by Justinian at 12:31 PM on December 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


agregoli: "I am perfectly happy to imagine microbes in the ocean vents outliving us."

Maybe they've been behind this all along. Little fuckers hiding down there, biding their time, patiently planning our demise while chuckling and rubbing their greedy little flagellae.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 12:36 PM on December 18, 2013 [5 favorites]


I know, we never saw them coming! (With the naked eye)
posted by agregoli at 12:39 PM on December 18, 2013


There's a kind of wishful thinking in "it's not like every last person will die".

Actually, I think it's kinda the other way around. That is, the dangerous belief is the belief in INEVITABLE APOCALYPSE!!! That's the belief that leads us to just throwing up our hands and saying "ah well, we're fucked, so let's just live it up while we still can." If we accept that there will be a future for humankind, but that it may be a really horrific one we feel a much more urgent moral imperative to actually do something.

It's also the case that those peddling imminent apocalypse--which, let us remind ourselves, is not remotely the consensus scientific view (remember how much we mock climate change deniers for ignoring the consensus scientific view?)--provide very nice fodder for deniers who want to say that the whole thing is wildly overblown hype.
posted by yoink at 12:41 PM on December 18, 2013 [13 favorites]


I never said it was imminent, for what its worth, but inevitable.
posted by agregoli at 12:50 PM on December 18, 2013


That goes without saying. Does anyone think life will exist on Earth after it is swallowed up by the sun, or after heat death, or whatever?
posted by Golden Eternity at 1:08 PM on December 18, 2013


So ... is there an effective political lobbying organization focused on climate change? Something like a stop-AGW version of the NRA? If so, what is it? If not, how would one go about starting such an organization?
posted by Jonathan Livengood at 1:09 PM on December 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm just gonna say "Chernobyl" like it means something in this context and then say that "Chernobyl" didn't come true, therefore global warming is gonna be fine.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 1:11 PM on December 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


So basically Soylent Green is becoming a plausible scenario as opposed to just a science-fiction film.
posted by CosmicRayCharles at 1:24 PM on December 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


The thing about "we will go extinct" that seems overheated to me is that I don't see anything about a post-change future that would make the planet inherently unlivable. It's not like the seas will boil off or the atmosphere will turn poisonous.

The problem is that it will be a massive upheaval of every ecosystem -- everything that sits on top of a complex ecological web will be disrupted and likely destroyed. That includes much of our modern civilization, along with our current population levels.

But at the level of individuals -- particularly in a species that is relatively adaptable -- this isn't even close to a universal death sentence. Unless the planet is sterilized down to the last fungus, root vegetable, and insect, there will be enough to sustain a few people.

I was too young during the Cold War to give this much thought at the time, but was a nuclear war seriously (I mean by experts, not popular culture) considered to be an extinction event? I can see lingering radiation to be a real potential long-term killer, but it seems unlikely that even a fairly large nuclear exchange would manage to wipe out everyone down to the most isolated tribe on the planet.
posted by bjrubble at 1:35 PM on December 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Don't worry, Monsanto will save us with new drought and heat resistant crops. Depressingly, I'm serious. There's a ton of money to be made in a drastic weather shift and die-off of existing food crops.

The human race will survive, humanity will sink a little lower.
posted by Eddie Mars at 1:35 PM on December 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm just gonna say "Chernobyl" like it means something in this context and then say that "Chernobyl" didn't come true, therefore global warming is gonna be fine.

I'm taking this as a dig on my previous post, so let me elaborate. If you lived in central Europe (specifically West Germany) during 1986, "Chernobyl" would indeed mean a lot in this context. After the accident there was a palpable atmosphere of fear: playgrounds were closed down, classes canceled, warnings not to eat certain kinds of food, etc. And yes, while most people had a more measured reaction, dire predictions of skyrocketing cancer rates, contaminated large areas and most important imminent life-changing additional nuclear accidents (see f.ex. the children's book "Fall-Out", german Die Wolke(1987)) were not uncommon. Hope this helps.
posted by tecg at 1:37 PM on December 18, 2013


I was too young during the Cold War to give this much thought at the time, but was a nuclear war seriously (I mean by experts, not popular culture) considered to be an extinction event?

It's my understanding that pop culture toned down what the experts were saying.

Think about that and then go watch Threads. (And, you will thus understand about 75% of my teen angst.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:40 PM on December 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


Okay, so I am going to stick my neck out an be that guy in this thread.

I am a little taken aback by how certain you all are that humanity is going extinct, or that there will be megadeaths across the world, and that life is over in 5-10 years. Let me be clear, climate change is real, it is going to have real effects, heck, I even know brilliant people on IPCC, but I think that it seems a much to expect the unprecedented destruction of all human life.

Panic is nothing new on the Blue. From Peak Oil to nuclear terrorism to bespoke plagues, we love our everyone-is-doomed scenarios.

It is important, as it was said upthread, to realize what we can do about climate change (and we, as individuals and as people who can vote/organize/convince others should do what we can) and the Worst Case Scenarios That Kill Us All. There are many of these - methane releases, super plagues, asteroid strikes, nuclear war (remember that?), supervolcanos, the collapse of the Canary Islands into the sea, government coups, the chance that some religious group is right, and so on. Historically, these things have not yet happened, and we are completely unable to quantify the chance of them occurring.

However, sudden changes that have never occurred that will kill us all are, from a Bayesian sense, unlikely events. Living in fear of them is useless because they most likely will not occur, and can't be predicted anyway. Plus, we usually prefer the scientific consensus, and the consensus is for disruption, not the death of us all.

What will happen in a climate changing world? Most expert reports predict large-scale disruption, but also adaptation - approaches to agriculture will change, populations will shift, and climatic variation will raise. This will cost huge amounts, and move lots of people. It will probably not kill millions or billions, and, before getting depressed, I would urge you to look at how many people are predicting clearly that it will, and the chain of events required.
posted by blahblahblah at 1:43 PM on December 18, 2013 [15 favorites]


Man, there are a lot strawmen, false dichotomies, and black and white thinking going on in this thread. Much like the threat of MAD during the cold war, the effects of climate change aren't perfectly predictable as we're talking about serious disruption to many many complex systems. That doesn't mean that unchecked climate change wouldn't/won't be a Very Bad Thing for humanity.

Just like in the aftermath of a full on global thermonuclear war, sure, maybe it wouldn't be a scorched earth, "nothing survives but twinkies, cockroaches, and bacteria" kind of mass extinction, but it's pretty much universally understood that it'll be a real fucking miserable "the living may envy the dead" kind of existence.
posted by stenseng at 1:54 PM on December 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh man this was the wrong article and thread to read first thing in the morning.
posted by zardoz at 2:03 PM on December 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


blahblahblah: "However, sudden changes that have never occurred that will kill us all are, from a Bayesian sense, unlikely events."

I'm not sure there is all that many of those types of predictions in this thread... the only comment I can recall that specifically talks about humans ultimately not surviving the fallout of this was agregoli's and even he is talking about a "few thousand years".
There is a definite trend for predictions in the field, even the worst ones, reliably turning out to be too conservative in the face of actual data being gathered. I'm not aware of anything in the field where new data and improved understanding of the mechanisms lead to anything that could be considered a "phew" moment of relief.

My personal take is that, yes, humans will survive and we will not turn into non-sentient animals or even stone age people. However, I think survival will likely involve a substantial reduction in population as well as in knowledge and technological capabilities. And it'll be comparably miserable though that state will simply be perceived as the new normal.

Humans can survive crazy amounts of nutritional deficiencies and horrible conditions. My mom survived a year in post-war Germany as a teenager stuffing her stomach with old newspapers. Survival and preservation of culture, knowledge and quality of life are very different things.

It's hard to view the ecological web of this planet as anything but a massively complex jenga tower. It's got some astonishing innate flexibility and resilience to it but those features have only evolved and tested themselves against stresses that simply do not compare to what's happening currently in terms of the rate of change with maybe the exception of Chicxulub. And that event didn't go so well for a fairly large number of species.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 2:06 PM on December 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


I won't speak for others, but when growing up during the Cold War, I never thought I would live to see my current age--Reagan and Thatcher were going to get us all killed.

A friend of mine works for a government agency and they're already scaling back / cancelling projects that they project will be underwater with rising oceans. Your elected politician may not believe in climate change (and one wonders how the energy companies that continue to bankroll said beliefs sleep at night), but it's already influencing short- and medium-term planning.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 2:08 PM on December 18, 2013 [5 favorites]


I'm all for this. It's a shame that so many non-human animals are suffering as a result of our actions, and will continue to suffer during the next couple of decades, but it's about time mother Earth scratched us off, because we're pretty irritating. You can't teach fleas to stop biting, you just have to eradicate them.
posted by turbid dahlia at 2:10 PM on December 18, 2013


and one wonders how the energy companies that continue to bankroll said beliefs sleep at night

Companies don't have to sleep --- that's their advantage over humans.
posted by goethean at 2:12 PM on December 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm a she, but yeah, I don't see humans existing with the changes set to occur past a few thousands years, at best. I state this so certainly if only to be a voice against so. many. others. that insist that humans will make it, somehow. I don't know what future many envision, or how long they think humans can remain on this planet, but it's not very long in human terms, and extremely short in geologic terms. Yes, we can adapt and survive to many terrible conditions, but not without reduced population, disease, and reduced birth rates, which will wipe out the rest of us right quick. Add to that my general lack of faith in people banding together in solidarity to fight these threats (fewer resources generally means more fighting, more cruelty, more murder and theft) and it doesn't seem like it's possible for humans to make it much longer.

It's not like I'm cheering the demise of the human race. I think we're pretty awesome in a lot of ways. I mean, look at the achievement of Metafilter!
posted by agregoli at 2:24 PM on December 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


Whoops, sorry, agregoli, should have checked. My bad :(
posted by Hairy Lobster at 2:24 PM on December 18, 2013


There is a kind of tourism that goes on with this genre of writing, because it is overwhelmingly produced by and read by people who are in the developed world. And not just the developed world: the highly developed world.

The effects of climate change are already, and will continue to be, overwhelmingly borne by the developing nations. Essentially, global climate change is going to disproportionately affect poor brown people a long way away.

In the developed world, we have the resources and the ability to adapt, because we have the luxury of choice and technology. Whatever happens, we're going to be okay, because we have all the things. Not just all the money, but all the resources, and the ability to protect those resources by force.

The current political and economic situation will not continue through the "rebalancing", but, for the developed nations, it will be a very, very long time before the realities of global climate change force structural changes on the scale of large human migrations and Paolo Bacigalupi realities.

The question for most of us isn't so much whether or not we're going to die in the coming apocalypse. The question is whether or not we are sufficiently valuable to the 1% to be worth taking along as they concentrate and insulate themselves.

The answer, for almost all of us, will be depressing. We're not going to be that lucky, and our reality will be this: almost unchanged lifestyles for the very wealthy and very powerful in the US; a significantly reduced quality of life for everyone else in the US; an almost complete abandonment of services for the poor in the US; and, waaaaaay over there ->, everyone else on the planet.

Even the poorest US citizen will have the means and ability to subsist. For the vast majority of the rest of the planet's population, that won't happen: it'll be a daily fight to feed and clothe themselves in the debris from the developed world. And they won't have the ability to take resources by force from the developed world, because we can simply kill them until they stop trying.

It's a terribly bleak picture, but I tend to think it's more realistic than a "we're all going to die" scenario. Many of us, probably most of us, are going to die. But a nontrivial fraction will not die and will in fact prosper. And, eventually, they'll rebuild.

And maybe they'll do better the next time. As I'm in no position to influence any of these eventualities, I just have to hope, and try to position my kids to somehow be valuable to the 1%.

HAPPY HOLIDAYS EVERYONE
posted by scrump at 2:38 PM on December 18, 2013 [7 favorites]


I just get the urgency from the article, and feel like I'm being urgently persuaded to act now act now act now, but I don't get any guidance as to how to act

This guy has some suggestions:
Attention Doomsday Preppers
If you are a doomsday prepper then you have just hit the powerball lottery scratch off confetti falls out of the sky jackpot. Feel free to go into one of those evangelist religious on stage convulsions right now because when shit hits the fan in L.A. (and it will) do you want to be on the roof of your liqour store with a high powered riffle or in the open ocean reading moby dick with a milky rum drink in your skilled knot tieing hands?

posted by mstokes650 at 2:44 PM on December 18, 2013


No big deal, I rarely check people's profiles! I don't know many ladies with my perspective tho. So thought I'd correct that. Interesting discussion, thanks y'all.
posted by agregoli at 2:52 PM on December 18, 2013


That's why despite the fact that I believe the general consensus regarding global climate change (it's real and substantially man-made), I'm unimpressed with the doomsday predictions

"I believe some things all the qualified smart people say, but not other things those same people say. I think I'm qualified to work out which information goes in which bucket, because I wasn't personally affected by Chernobyl, as far as I know."
posted by obiwanwasabi at 4:43 PM on December 18, 2013


The degree of head-in-sand denialism here is just astounding. If scientists were predicting a giant asteroid was on a within-our-lifetimes collision course with the earth and world governments were doing nothing, would the responses here really range from "it won't kill *literally everyone* now will it?" to a comparison to apocalyptic religious cults? There's barely even anything in this thread that would qualify as an "argument", it's more like "well a giant asteroid has never destroyed life on earth during our brief recorded human history, so are ya really gonna believe these chicken-little astrophysicists?"

In terms of "how will we die", the simple answer is that 4C will cause runaway feedback loops leading us to 6/8/12C, and those numbers represent a global mean increase - the increase on land would be 50% or so higher, and the increase during heat waves would be even worse - +4C would be something like +10-12C in western europe and parts of the US. It would ruin global agriculture and literally melt infrastructure, you die-if-you-go-outside kind of temperatures.

To quote Kevin Anderson,
A 4 degrees C future is incompatible with an organized global community, is likely to be beyond ‘adaptation’, is devastating to the majority of ecosystems, and has a high probability of not being stable.
If any of you downplay-the-seriousness people have children I hope to holy fucking god they never find this thread.
posted by crayz at 4:55 PM on December 18, 2013 [7 favorites]


bjrubble: I was too young during the Cold War to give this much thought at the time, but was a nuclear war seriously (I mean by experts, not popular culture) considered to be an extinction event?

John Von Neumann said, and here I quote Wikipedia because naturally this thread has me reading everything with the words "human" and "extinction" in it I can find, that it was "absolutely certain (1) that there would be a nuclear war; and (2) that everyone would die in it."
posted by mittens at 5:07 PM on December 18, 2013


John Von Neumann said, and here I quote Wikipedia ...

This is like saying that a friend once said you would "absolutely die of lung cancer" from your two-pack-a-day cigarette habit so now when a doctor says you've tested positive for AIDS you'd be a sucker to believe him.
posted by crayz at 5:21 PM on December 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


If any of you downplay-the-seriousness people have children I hope to holy fucking god they never find this thread.

"I believe some things all the qualified smart people say, but not other things those same people say. I think I'm qualified to work out which information goes in which bucket, because I wasn't personally affected by Chernobyl, as far as I know."

This seems totally over-the-top to me, both in style and substance. There is a consensus model, developed by a Nobel Prize winning group of scientists at the IPCC, that actually has models that predict climate change outcomes. Their models are the things driving policy makers, insurance adjusters, and everyone else who has much to lose from climate change - because climate change is taken seriously by most people. They are also the "consensus" that MeFi pays attention to, and, if you are not an atmospheric scientist, likely the best bet for the best model.

They say that "The global mean surface temperature change for the period 2016–2035 relative to 1986–2005 will likely be in the range of 0.3°C to 0.7°C." and "Warming above 4°C by 2081–2100 is unlikely in all RCPs(high confidence) except for RCP8.5 where it is as likely as not (medium confidence)." I realize that there are scientists who predict "6/8/12C" as you said, but they are not mainstream views.

On abrupt change (ala giant methane explosions) they aren't considered likely: "Several components or phenomena in the climate system could potentially exhibit abrupt or nonlinear changes, and some are known to have done so in the past. Examples include the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation, Arctic sea ice, the Greenland ice sheet, the Amazon forest and monsoonal circulations. For some events, there is information on potential consequences, but in general there is low confidence and little consensus on the likelihood of such events over the 21st century"

You can read all of this for more information, don't take my word for it.

So, yes, the likely scenario is disruption to populations, agriculture,and ecosystems that is hard to predict (next IPCC report on this is April), but the thread seems to be heading into the millions/billions dead zone, and there just isn't any evidence to support this, or to tell me that my children will curse my name.
posted by blahblahblah at 5:26 PM on December 18, 2013 [7 favorites]


This is like saying that a friend once said you would "absolutely die of lung cancer" from your two-pack-a-day cigarette habit so now when a doctor says you've tested positive for AIDS you'd be a sucker to believe him.

No, this is like saying, "Hey, someone asked if anyone proposed extinction as a result of nuclear war, so let me provide an example that I just read a little while ago."
posted by mittens at 5:33 PM on December 18, 2013


Their models are the things driving policy makers, insurance adjusters, and everyone else who has much to lose from climate change - because climate change is taken seriously by most people.

Climate Change Is the Biggest Threat in the Pacific, Says Top U.S. Admiral
posted by the man of twists and turns at 6:00 PM on December 18, 2013


There is a consensus model, developed by a Nobel Prize winning group of scientists at the IPCC, that actually has models that predict climate change outcomes. Their models are the things driving policy makers, insurance adjusters, and everyone else who has much to lose from climate change

As documented in this thread, the IPCC consensus model is inherently politically influenced and conservative in its conclusions, and has consistently underestimated the actual rate of change.

I mean you say "giant methane explosions ... aren't considered likely" but did you read TFA quoting those unreliable wackos at NASA, saying among other things
Current climate models do not adequately account for the impact of climate change on permafrost and how its degradation may affect regional and global climate
Also the idea that "policy makers" are the ones who have "much to lose" from climate change is just ... well, I'll be polite.
posted by crayz at 6:01 PM on December 18, 2013


mittens: "John Von Neumann said, and here I quote Wikipedia because naturally this thread has me reading everything with the words "human" and "extinction" in it I can find, that it was "absolutely certain (1) that there would be a nuclear war; and (2) that everyone would die in it.""

Hm, not sure about this example. John von Neumann was a brilliant mathematician and a principal member of the Manhattan Project and so I'd certainly consider him an expert on nuclear weapons as such but I'm not sure that any of this would also qualify him as an expert on politics and determining the likelihood of a nuclear war. Those would seem like two very different and distinct fields.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 6:03 PM on December 18, 2013


to tell me that my children will curse my name.

Well, let's face it, that's a better than even bet at the best of times.
posted by yoink at 6:04 PM on December 18, 2013 [6 favorites]


If scientists were predicting a giant asteroid was on a within-our-lifetimes collision course with the earth and world governments were doing nothing, would the responses here really range from "it won't kill *literally everyone* now will it?" to a comparison to apocalyptic religious cults?

That rather depends on which scientists were making the prediction, doesn't it? I mean, you can find "scientists" who tell you that global warming is bunk, can't you? So the best we can do as non-specialists is ask what the prevailing consensus is in the relevant scientific community. It's not, as it happens, "we'll all be extinct in a decade or so."
posted by yoink at 6:07 PM on December 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


As documented in this thread, the IPCC consensus model is inherently politically influenced and conservative in its conclusions, and has consistently underestimated the actual rate of change.

"As documented in this thread" really doesn't seem to be a strong standard of evidence. The report I cited was the 2013 report that was just released by the leading body on climate change. I know that some scientists disagree with them, and they could be right, but so could the scientists who think that climate change is overstated. My whole point was that the thread - full of "kill your children now" panic - was not based on the prevailing best understood views about climate change.

Of course climate change is dangerous, of course it is a threat to global security, of course more study is needed on the Arctic permafrost (as the NASA article concludes), etc. But even scary reports developed by organizations like DARA don't predict mass famine or other issues through the report's end at 2030. There will still be a hundred thousand more famine victims by that time, and modest rises in some diseases, so these are serious effects, but not the millions/billions of deaths that everyone considers a baseline here.

Of course, the doomsday scenarios might be right, but the seeming assumption that obviously the worst case is true (especially when there is no action to take if it was) seems baffling among rational people - it is much more likely that the consensus of experts is correct, not the outliers.
posted by blahblahblah at 6:37 PM on December 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


Climate Change Is the Biggest Threat in the Pacific, Says Top U.S. Admiral

To be fair, he's just the highest ranking guy they couldn't pin a sexual misconduct charge on.

Anyhow, my general plan is to eat half of you and feed the next 45% of you to the remaining 5% of you who will row my pleasure barge along the new coasts.
posted by codswallop at 7:20 PM on December 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


I take it from some of the comments that some of you aren't that familiar with Guy McPherson and the crowd on Nature Bats Last, they pretty much accept the inevitability of Near Term Extinction and they are not trying to call anyone to arms, because in their view there is nothing that can be done.

See The irreconcilable acceptance of near-term extinction.
"I am of the opinion that all dialog post-acceptance of NTE is manifestly commiserative."

In their view it's all well and good if you want to change your personal habits, or try to lobby politicians, or turn into a survivalist, as long as it makes you feel better, because that's all it will achieve.
posted by Joe Chip at 7:23 PM on December 18, 2013 [1 favorite]



BJRubble: I was too young during the Cold War to give this much thought at the time, but was a nuclear war seriously (I mean by experts, not popular culture) considered to be an extinction event? I can see lingering radiation to be a real potential long-term killer, but it seems unlikely that even a fairly large nuclear exchange would manage to wipe out everyone down to the most isolated tribe on the planet.


Google Nuclear Winter.

See also:

"Nuclear Winter: Global Consequences of Multiple Nuclear Explosions", Science 23 December 1983: Turco, Toon, Ackerman, Pollack, Sagan.

The Cold and the Dark: The World after Nuclear War, 1984: Paul R. Ehrlich, Carl Sagan, Donald Kennedy.
 
posted by Herodios at 7:25 PM on December 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


I felt like this piece, was, hmmm, not exactly irresponsible exactly, but very myopic. It only focused on what group of (outsider) scientists are saying, but lacking in broader social, political, economical focus.

It is not hopeless; things are already changing; your only options aren't to lay down and die or buy a prius - your lobbying efforts will have far more impact than either of those two things.

As global citizens we face tremendous challenges, but they are, slowly, fitfully, already being addressed, and we can - we should - help address them.

CFCs could have wreaked this damage, but the world shit its pants, signed the Montreal Protocols, and the hole in the ozone layer started to repair itself. Climate change is a bigger challenge, with bigger risks, and more change required, but it can - and will - be tackled.

Further, successful mitigation of climate change does not require a metaphorical hair shirt. It can be done (I don't think it will, but it can be done) swiftly, and affordably. I am definitely not a techno-utopian, but the idea that addressing climate change means we have to live like medieval monks is both untrue, and - not surprisingly - a talking point frequently used by denialists. To put it into perspective, think about the costs of the Manhattan Project - .4% of GDP. If the US was prepared to spend that, we could probably address climate change in a decade, maybe less. Obviously, the US govt is not prepared to spend that - yet. But we can help them get there - and that kind of spending - insanely large as it is - is not going to require a communist overhaul of our society.

Here is an antidote to this article, highlighting some of the technological breakthroughs we've achieved this year. They are meaningful - note that solar reached price parity with coal for new installations this year. Momentous.

I can't find one, but you could write an equally optimistic piece about political, social, and structural breakthroughs in 2013 as well. I follow this very keenly: progress is being made, people.

The question is, are you going to be an enemy of progress, or an ally? You can choose: you are not powerless, don't believe the propaganda.
posted by smoke at 7:27 PM on December 18, 2013 [19 favorites]


but was a nuclear war seriously (I mean by experts, not popular culture) considered to be an extinction event?

Fuck yeah.

Even a limited nuclear exchange between India and Pakistan now would have devastating consequences for our global civilization.

As well, I still remember nightmares I had when I was a kid about nuclear war. I doubt my own kids have experienced the same sort of terror regarding climate change.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:14 PM on December 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


I would also say that popular culture may have underestimated the effects of a nuclear exchange. The television movie The Day After (which prompted Reagan to eliminate medium-range nuclear missiles) wildly underplayed the destruction that might be caused by a potential nuclear war.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:21 PM on December 18, 2013


Even a limited nuclear exchange between India and Pakistan now would have devastating consequences for our global civilization.

Maybe a mild nuclear winter is just the thing we need to fight global warming. Think outside the box!
posted by Justinian at 11:16 PM on December 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


Justinian, I laughed, which is what I needed after reading this thread.
posted by suburbanbeatnik at 12:19 AM on December 19, 2013


but in general there is low confidence and little consensus on the likelihood of such events over the 21st century"

Yeah, but that 'little consensus' thing says to me that there's a whole lot of unknown unknowns out there along with the known unknowns.

In conclusion. Fund research into basic science, and the applied arts and sciences w.r.t. Solar Power Satellites/Beamed Microwave Infrastructure JUST IN CASE we need to go with the 'blot out the sun' plan...
posted by mikelieman at 2:05 AM on December 19, 2013


Hope this helps.

Not really. It's ridiculous to compare a local event like Chernobyl to global climate change, whatever you heard on TV at the time. Thyroid cancer rates apparently did skyrocket, there is a large contaminated area, and for Pripyat at least the apocalypse really did come.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 7:33 AM on December 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


(Vis-a-vis Chernobyl, too, remember that the response to Chernobyl was everything that a huge authoritarian industrial empire could muster - they had guys in radiation suits doing thirty-second shifts shoveling radioactive debris, they had absolutely everything they could throw at the problem. (And prior to the end of the Cold War, the men who worked on cleaning up Chernobyl at least had access to health care for the horrible problems so many developed.) Chernobyl went about as fucking well as it could have, given the initial explosion, and it is still an epic disaster which laid waste to large stretches of land. We in the US don't know too much about it because it happened far away during the Cold War, but there's lots online.)
posted by Frowner at 8:13 AM on December 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


if YA fiction is any guide, the youth are having some extremely unpleasant ideas about what the future holds. Of course, with nuclear war you get the gross out effects. I remember learning with horror as a kid that at Hiroshima, people's skin, um, fell off? I don't remember technically what happened. But anyway, think of that, for a kid, and then the adults are all, if there was a real war the survivors would be the unlucky ones, and guess what kids, eight years of Reagan, then, yeah, you're gonna have that whole generation be plagued by Terminator-style nightmares.

But what the article made me think of was this disturbing number discussed on NPR about the number of Earth-like planets there are in our galaxy. Apparently there are lots -- so where are the civilizations? According to Sagan, I guess, most of those civilizations kill themselves off with technology.

I mean, if you look at the events of the Cuban Missile Crisis and then think about different streams of time, how many different streams branching out from that point are of a nuked-out Earth?

Anyway, I'm glad I don't have kids, 'cause shit.
posted by angrycat at 8:46 AM on December 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


My biggest problem with the timeline this thing puts forth is that we're supposed to have an AI driven Robot uprising around the same time, aren't we? Also, come to think of it, we're supposed to have sustainable fusion around then too.

It's like, how the hell does all of this come together? The nuclear fusion powered autonomous AI robots are going to be left, with the cockroaches, in some methane saturated hot-house?

This has been a pretty shitty disaster-porn month. I mean, it's fucking December, that's not hard enough? Hell, I never thought we'd survive the nuclear-war doomed 80's. To say I am cautiously optimistic.
posted by From Bklyn at 9:19 AM on December 19, 2013


He's a nuclear-fusion-powered autonomous AI robot. She's a cockroach evolved to feed on methane. They fight crime!

(This season on FOX)
posted by delfin at 9:23 AM on December 19, 2013 [5 favorites]


I'm not sure this is entirely true. Where do these predictions come from? It seems that humans have a propensity to produce false apocalyptic predictions.

It's important not to draw false equivalencies between things as unrelated as the nuclear arms race, climate change, ozone hole, plagues, and any other doomsday-type predictions. We are talking about a specific scenario (climate change) where the science is very good, massively vetted, and increasingly borne out by real-world observations. It doesn't really matter what people have said or predicted in other situations, especially ones that are not science-based in the same way.

Nuclear war for example is something that's pretty binary (happens or doesn't); there's no way to observe it happening over decades. Not only that, but in *both* the nukes and ozone examples they were *very real* threats that were avoided by deliberate and concerted action (arms treaties, CFC ban, etc.).

Also I'll plug a friend's book, The Last Myth, which has some interesting thoughts about why Americans specifically seem to have a fascination with "end times", and argues that we foolishly lump in climate change as "just another doomsday scenario" when it's a very real and frankly, pretty obvious threat at this point.
posted by freecellwizard at 9:50 AM on December 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


We are talking about a specific scenario (climate change) where the science is very good, massively vetted, and increasingly borne out by real-world observations.

But the good, massively vetted science is not the science that people are arguing about (for the most part) in this thread. It's the fringe, "most scientists disagree, but I found this one guy with a Ph.D. and a lab who says" stuff that the linked article is about and that is causing all this controversy.

There is a weird kind of rhetorical trick being pulled in this thread that goes something like this: "you believe in the science behind Global Warming, don't you? And you accept that these Doomsday prophets also believe that Global Warming is a real threat, don't you? Well then, if you disagree with them you're clearly a denialist--and you don't want to be a denialist, do you?"
posted by yoink at 10:17 AM on December 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


A lop-sided distribution of resources leading to a few very monied nations engaging in boundless consumption of more resources is the problem, with repercussions for everyone.

I'm trying to wrap my head around this statement.

So, earth has a finite amount of [biosphere/complex life supporting] resources, correct? And all those resources & systems are connected. The more humans depleting the resources, the more ripples cascade through the systems, which have to adjust or die out.

If there is equalification of resource consumption across the population, does it not also follow that there is then increased detrimental effects on earth's systems? And if so, it's still humans overtaxing resources. So less humans, less impact.

Even if warming and or imbalanced resource consumption wasn't an issue, there's still the problem of how to feed 9 billion.

Other thoughts:
Thanks, smoke, for the ray of sunshine.

There's no waste in nature. Native Americans had that down. I wish we could get better at respecting & mimicking that.
posted by yoga at 10:58 AM on December 19, 2013


The good, massively vetted science isn't exactly looking all that rosy either.

Imagine a graph, where the X-axis measures time:

|--Tuesday--------2023-------2033-------2043--------2053----->

and the Y-axis measures How Fucked We Are By Climate Change:

|--Beach erosion----Wild storms----food/water shortages----SHUT THE DOOR TO BLOCK THE WALL OF COLD----half the planet dead---->

What makes you a Doomsday Prophet or a Well-Thought-Of Scientist or a Denialist depends on how steep you draw your curve on this graph. But outside of people who tend to believe Jesus is coming Any Day Now to whisk us all away anyway so who cares, I haven't heard from anyone in a long time who doesn't agree on two things:

1) The curve points upwards.
2) It doesn't level off.

I'm not a tsunami-in-my-living-room-on-Friday sign-carrier, but I do believe we as a species are screwed. The degree of screwed depends on lots of factors, but I view "third-world nations are in deep shit, modern first-world lifestyles will take a significant hit, lots of things we take for granted will disappear, we're leading more pleasant lives than our grandkids will" is the GOOD ending to hope for. It's not "will it," but "when."

A lot of people are whistling in the dark that "when" will be at least 50-60 years from now. Me, since I'm 40+, I'm kinda hoping for that. But I'm not putting money down on it.
posted by delfin at 11:05 AM on December 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


There's no waste in nature. Native Americans had that down. I wish we could get better at respecting & mimicking that.

You, ah, know the whole "noble savages in touch with nature" thing isn't really true. The Native Americans did quite a number on the environment in a bunch of places.
posted by Justinian at 12:07 PM on December 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


Native culture recognizes that each life-form has its own way of thinking, ie. spirit. This position is not part of contemporary biology.
posted by No Robots at 12:15 PM on December 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


There's no waste in nature. Native Americans had that down.

This is kind of a trivial oversimplification and it'd be nice if people didn't constantly use Native Americans as some sort of foil to industrial culture. There were native groups in North America who overfarmed the soil and caused localized ecological problems. Other, older native groups may have hunted various species of megafauna to extinction and had to change their entire lifestyles as a result (probably for the poorer, although it's hard to say). Some may have practiced land management with forest fires, which isn't exactly Disney-approved.

The savages-living-in-harmony-with-nature thing comes mostly as a result of the population crash that preceded the European colonization of North America; had that not happened, the European view of native north Americans might be very different, because there would have been a lot more of them, higher-density settlements, and all the attendant infrastructure that they require.
posted by Kadin2048 at 12:44 PM on December 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


There is substantial evidence that the native cultures extinctified themselves on places like Easter Island.

One of the reasons this "noble savage" stuff keeps getting trotted out is that people conveniently forget that the population per square mile was a whole lot lower back prior to European immigration, which permitted the indigenous populations to, if they so wanted, fuck things up on a huge scale and then just move on until the area recovered.

Our ancestors were not particularly more smart than we are, nor were they, relative to their surroundings, less technically advanced. The big difference is that they lived in concentrations small enough to forgive their mistakes, so they could get away with fucking up.

Contemporary society, on the other hand, is so dense and so interconnected that when we fuck up, we tend to fuck up fast, huge, and have no way to escape the consequences of our actions.
posted by scrump at 1:12 PM on December 19, 2013


While it is worthwhile and necessary to strive for increased sustainability and balance I do agree with everybody on the "noble savage" nonsense.

There is plenty of evidence that native American populations were very much involved in the shaping of the North American Prairies as we know them today. While dense forests in the area died off much earlier as a consequence of the "rain shadow" cast by the formation of the Rockies there were still a lot more trees growing in that landscape than you would have found following the arrival of humans. The reason is that Native American's often used fire as a tool in their arsenal of hunting techniques. The fires would permanently kill off trees but not the tall Prairie grasses (which have up to 75% of biomass underground where it can easily survive fires). That amounts to an (admittedly mostly accidental) landscaping project of massive proportions.

Also, while indiscriminate killing of bison (often for nothing but sport) by White/European Americans obviously did massive and irreversible damage to the populations it isn't true that Native Americans only hunted what they needed for food. One of their hunting techniques involved driving large groups of bison over cliffs where they would die in large numbers.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 1:22 PM on December 19, 2013


Possibly a bad idea for bison sustainability.
posted by Justinian at 1:28 PM on December 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


As yet I know of no species that was exterminated until the coming of the white man … The white man considered animal life just as he did the natural man life upon this continent as "pests." There is no word in the Lakota vocabulary with the English meaning of this word … Forests were mown down, the buffalo exterminated, the beaver driven to extinction and his wonderfully constructed dams dynamited … and the very birds of the air silenced … The white man has come to be the symbol of extinction for all things natural in this continent. Between him and the animal there is no rapport and they have learned to flee from his approach, for they cannot live on the same ground.--Chief Luther Standing Bear
posted by No Robots at 1:37 PM on December 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


Oh, I agree that it's a bit much to presume that humans are going to be extinct within some short amount of time. It's way more likely that things will get ugly for a very large number of people and that a smaller population will muddle on in a very changed world. I mean unless the atmosphere gets unbreathable or something ... people are pretty resilient and have survived some pretty crazy scenarios both individually as a group.

And of course believing in climate change doesn't mean you have to agree with every statement that mentions the phrase - but it's a big enough deal that we should be very, very focused on it and prepare as best we can for the worst scenarios.
posted by freecellwizard at 1:50 PM on December 19, 2013


I never know how to react to articles like this, and avoid them as a result. Not because I disbelieve climate change - it's absolutely a thing - but I'm not sure exactly what these kinds of articles are encouraging me to do, because they sound like there is no hope whatsoever.

We have to change the way we live. I think we need to start from the premise, though, that humans will seek warmth, comfort, and satiety first because that's just the way we are. A certain small percentage of the population is inclined to asceticism, but we absolutely cannot expect to impose an ascetic way of life on the majority of people and expect it to succeed.

The problem is huge, and complicated, and there is a lot that can be done. But it's hard to articulate simply! I think we all must start imagining ways that everyone can live with less fossil fuel use -- how can we heat our homes without fossil fuel? There are ways. How can we all have hot water? How can we produce food more sustainably?

I don't know enough about any one of these issues to provide a concise answer. There are no concise answers -- just lots of diffuse ones. But we need to start telling new stories, and those stories have to provide some hope. We need to start using our imaginations to build a reality that is both plausibly achieved and more environmentally-friendly than the reality we're living today, and we need to start acting according to the pictures our imaginations can paint. The more we do this, the more we'll inspire others.

It can be done, and it is hard, but not impossible.
posted by spacewaitress at 1:52 PM on December 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


As yet I know of no species that was exterminated until the coming of the white man …

There's a reason he didn't "know of them"--see if you can guess what it is.
posted by yoink at 1:52 PM on December 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


Read the rest of the passage, yoink.
posted by No Robots at 1:56 PM on December 19, 2013


Read the rest of the passage, yoink.

I did. Your point? He's simply factually incorrect in implying that the native Americans did not drive any animals to extinction. The reason he does not "know of any" is because once they drove them to extinction they fell out of the realm of "known" things.

The irony of all this is that his very image of Native American culture is heavily influenced by European Rousseauist idealization--he was, after all, a product of a "European" education.
posted by yoink at 2:09 PM on December 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


The point is that native culture is vastly superior in its understanding of nature in that it recognizes other life-forms as thinking entities. The disregard of this point by the biology of the West is directly responsible for most of our ecological problems.
posted by No Robots at 2:16 PM on December 19, 2013


Surely you realise that there was and is more than one "native culture".
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:25 PM on December 19, 2013


^Point out one native culture that does not hold that all life-forms think.
posted by No Robots at 2:27 PM on December 19, 2013


Even viruses and bacteria "think?" What do you mean by "think?"
posted by Golden Eternity at 2:33 PM on December 19, 2013


[E]verything in nature, including man, is known to us in its outward state or its corporeality while we possess only ourselves in the inward state. However, in view of the continuity and unity of nature we are obliged to ascribe to every existing thing a corresponding inwardness.--The Unity Of Body And Mind / Lothar Bickel
posted by No Robots at 2:48 PM on December 19, 2013


Chief Luther Standing Bear via No Robots' comment: "As yet I know of no species that was exterminated until the coming of the white man"

There is some evidence that the extinction of parts of the pre-human Megafauna in the Americas not only coincides with but may have been at least partly driven by the technological advancements of the Clovis culture such as spear points etc.

There is strong evidence that humans hunted horses and camels to extinction in North America between 13,000 and 7,500 years ago. Both species actually appear to have originated in North America but their only surviving cousins today are the descendants of those animals that crossed the Bering Strait at some point or other. Climatic changes likely did put additional pressure on various species at the time but it's clear that they were aggressively hunted by humans until they were gone.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 2:48 PM on December 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


I am detecting a distinct aroma of woo-woo in the native stuff.
posted by Justinian at 2:51 PM on December 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


I do not deny that natives may have caused important ecological harm. What I'm saying is that they did not conceive of all other life-forms as devoid of thought. To deny thought to other life-forms is to close the door to any prospect of improving their well-being.

The West's manly-man dismissal as woo-woo of other life-forms' inner experience is the biggest threat to the establishment of sound ecological practices.
posted by No Robots at 2:55 PM on December 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't think anybody here has dismissed anything of that sort yet. It's pretty clear from past and current scientific research that human type conscious self-awareness and human capability for abstraction and planning are neither unique to humans nor a binary thing that's either there or not and somehow got turned on by passing some sort of brain complexity threshold. I think few people would disagree that these properties and abilities are innate to all life forms that sport some sort of nervous system and that it appears to be an emergent set of properties and functionalities best measured in terms of a continuum ranging from essentially zero awareness and thought at all all the way up to the type of stuff human brains are capable of.

I think what everybody dismisses is the weird idealization and projection commonly referred to with the term "noble savage" in reference to Rousseau.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 3:11 PM on December 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


No Robots: Hairy Lobster has it. The problem with your premise is that "the West" as you call it does not conceive of other life forms as devoid of thought.
posted by Justinian at 3:14 PM on December 19, 2013


Native Americans at least made somewhat efficient use of most of a creature they killed. Like Bison.

The point was that in nature, predators don't kill more than they need/can use in the near term. & Whatever's left gets used by smaller life forms down the food chain. Whereas we waste food in ridiculous amounts, and don't even let it contribute to the lower food chain.

No humans are without impact to the planet, Natives included. Again, the point is that modern humans don't respect the systems of the planet, and don't include themselves within them.
posted by yoga at 3:24 PM on December 19, 2013


But that link says exactly the opposite. As soon as the natives saw an opportunity for profit they started butchering the bison with abandon and leaving most of it to rot.
posted by Justinian at 3:50 PM on December 19, 2013


The problem with your premise is that "the West" as you call it does not conceive of other life forms as devoid of thought.
Typically, mainstream science and mainstream philosophy distort and ridicule panpsychism (see especially pp. 235-236), but the fact is, not only cannot neuroscience (and cognate natural sciences) explain mind (i.e., awareness, presence, consciousness) "at present," but no one even has offered any conception of how the quantitative sciences could explain "scientifically," ever, the qualitative transition that occurs when physical energy (including electro-chemical neurological activity in the body) is finally transformed into subjective experience (in the brain?). Apparently no one has the faintest idea about how such an explanation might look. (But that hasn't prevented a near-universal acceptance of the emergentist, mechanistic dogma.)--Review - Panpsychism in the West
posted by No Robots at 6:32 PM on December 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


This seems like a pretty weird derail to me.
posted by smoke at 7:18 PM on December 19, 2013


^Don't worry about it. It's the Apocalypse.
posted by No Robots at 7:45 PM on December 19, 2013


Yeah, we only have like forty or thirty or ten or five years to figure out what the fuck consciousness is before we are all extinct, so we'd better get to work on it. Unfortunately, "the West" seems to have mostly derailed into emergentism and computationalism, or whatever.

the fact is, not only cannot neuroscience (and cognate natural sciences) explain mind (i.e., awareness, presence, consciousness) "at present," but no one even has offered any conception of how the quantitative sciences could explain "scientifically," ever

Yeah, but this is still a giant non-sequitur:

[E]verything in nature, including man, is known to us in its outward state or its corporeality while we possess only ourselves in the inward state. However, in view of the continuity and unity of nature we are obliged to ascribe to every existing thing a corresponding inwardness.--The Unity Of Body And Mind / Lothar Bickel


The "inward states" that we are aware of all seem to be directly correlated to parts of our nervous system. Somewhere I came across some neuroscientist saying that only a fraction of what goes on in the brain is conscious. I guess Bickel's idea would be that every cell in my body, and I suppose every protein inside every cell, and every molecule in every protein, and so on, is conscious and has its own internal state, or is part of some other internal state that "I" don't have access to, or whatever, even as I have access to all of these other internal states that other neurons seem to have a lot to do with. It doesn't seem that there is any good reason to believe that every living thing and every existing thing is conscious, despite his pablum about "continuity and unity" in nature, or whatever.

it appears to be an emergent set of properties and functionalities best measured in terms of a continuum ranging from essentially zero awareness and thought all the way up to the type of stuff human brains are capable of.


To say that consciousness is itself a property or functionality of some otherwise unconscious thing or things seems like it must be an ontological error or something. Most things we call properties probably only exist to a "mind" as an"inward state" and can't in themselves do much to explain the existence of inward states.

...the idea that consciousness is identical to (or emerged from) unconscious physical events is, I would argue, impossible to properly conceive—which is to say that we can think we are thinking it, but we are mistaken. We can say the right words, of course—“consciousness emerges from unconscious information processing.” We can also say “Some squares are as round as circles” and “2 plus 2 equals 7.” But are we really thinking these things all the way through? I don’t think so. - Sam Harris
posted by Golden Eternity at 8:44 PM on December 19, 2013


The point was that in nature, predators don't kill more than they need/can use in the near term.

Tell that to the cat who lives outside, who keeps dropping gifts of uneaten dead voles at our porch (maybe as a present for our cats?).

Every animal has the tendency to overrun its environment, changing that environment in the process. We're just doing it on a bigger scale, is all.

To say that consciousness is itself a property or functionality of some otherwise unconscious thing or things seems like it must be an ontological error or something.

Why? We say that a chair is made up of pieces of wood and nails, none of which resembles, or has the function of, a chair. It isn't an error to consider how the chair's pieces differ in properties from the chair itself. The nail--which is not a microcosm of the chair--was also not invented to hold chairs together, it was just swept up in the history of furniture evolution; nailing wood together was a good trick that also, fortunately, applied to chair-making.

(However, I still don't see how viewing things as having 'inward states' or not has anything to do with the cause of global warming.)
posted by mittens at 4:02 AM on December 20, 2013


We can also say “Some squares are as round as circles” ...

And we would be right. ;)
posted by Jonathan Livengood at 8:02 AM on December 20, 2013


And them good old boys were drinking whiskey and rye,
Singing "This'll be the day that I die."
posted by No Robots at 8:29 AM on December 20, 2013


One of their hunting techniques involved driving large groups of bison over cliffs where they would die in large numbers.

I think they were only able to do this once the Europeans brought them horses, but they certainly took to European technology (horses, guns, metal axes) with a will.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 9:46 AM on December 20, 2013


Steely-eyed Missile Man: "I think they were only able to do this once the Europeans brought them horses"

According to Wikipedia this was "a communal event which occurred as early as 12,000 years ago and lasted until at least 1500 CE, around the time of the introduction of horses."
posted by Hairy Lobster at 10:59 AM on December 20, 2013


Huh, crazy! I guess paintings I have seen are stone cold lies.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 11:34 AM on December 20, 2013


Yeah, they made the bison stampede by running at them on foot. It was probably fairly difficult and dangerous to kill one on foot, but relatively easy (and safer) to do so by horse, thus there wasn't any need for the buffalo jumps once they got horses.
posted by desjardins at 1:40 PM on December 20, 2013


This right here is the painting I was thinking of when I made my comment.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 3:42 PM on December 20, 2013




The Near Extermination of the American Bison
At times, Indians used everything. But on occasions they did not, and the observers remarked upon "putrified carcasses," animals left untouched, or Indians who took only "the best parts of the meat." Sometimes Indians were said to kill "whole herds" only for the fat-filled tongues.

Why did Indians sometimes behave in ways antithetical to today's conservation (which at heart means to prevent waste and to manage a resource to prevent depletion)? Among possible reasons are

- the likelihood that in any given year there were tens (or hundreds) of thousands of buffaloes within sight
- the need to ensure an adequate supply of an animal on which they were thoroughly dependent
- the difficulty of halting midway a drive over a jump
- the enormous quantities and weights that awaited butchering and processing after some hunts
- the preference for cows for their palatable meat and more easily worked hides
- the preference for delicacies like the hump, tongue, marrow, and fetus.
Here's another interesting essay that talks about how the introduction of horses changed everything and made mass kills unnecessary (pdf).
posted by desjardins at 4:20 PM on December 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's amazing to think that there were between 50 and 75 million bison roaming central North America only a few hundred years ago and that was reduced to well under a thousand by the end of the 19th century. Which is very terrible but still better than the fate of the European bison which were completely exterminated in the wild and all currently alive are descendants of a small number of bison which were kept alive in captivity.

There are several hundred thousand American bison now!
posted by Justinian at 5:17 PM on December 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


The only tay to stop climate change now may be Rrevolution

Pentagon bracing for public dissent over climate and energy shocks
posted by eviemath at 5:20 PM on December 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


There are several hundred thousand American bison now!

Quick, get the horses!
posted by mittens at 5:27 PM on December 20, 2013


When last I watched Dr. Strangelove, I found myself wondering if any government has a running underground facility, not a retreat for congress or other VIPs, but some uber-secret (it would, of course, be a primary target) deep underground facility, as self-sufficient as possible, something that is never visited, that receives new members only after long vetting for compatability with the project, lack of ties to the surface, and medical/psychological screening. No contact with the rest of the world except maybe some one-way inputs to keep tabs on the surface. Deep enough that even a massive meteor impact or full scale nuclear war wouldn't reach them. Air and water recycled, refreshed as necessary via heavily filtered facilities. Geothermal or nuclear powered, with enough fuel to last as long as possible. Breeding stock and seed banks of the most useful plants and animals kept going for eventual return to the surface. (Yeah, I've played Fallout) Seriously, though, it seems like the best way to have a backup for the human race at this time, since we've never made it off the planet in any sustainable fashion, none of the local planets or moons seem suitable for an off-site backup, and it seems inevitable that *something* is going cause a massive die off, possibly extinction, for the human race eventually.
posted by Blackanvil at 7:43 PM on December 20, 2013


The Whelk: I am going to be the smuggest " I told you so" in the refugee camp let me tell you.
It's going to be a slave camp. Ain't gonna be no refuge.

And, no, you're not. I've got smug you ain't even dreamed of.

(Course, I also have a bad back, so after I fall by the side and am buried by the feet that march over me, you can have the title.)

(Is Bakshi Orc music or Conan human-powered wheel workout music more appropriate?)
posted by IAmBroom at 7:55 PM on December 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


OK, less funny: I don't fear the rising waters; I live on top of a hill. I don't fear the loss of fresh water; I live on top of a 10,000-years-left aquifer. I don't fear the loss of petroleum; I believe we can change our lifestyles enough to live on wind, solar, and possibly develop thorium reactors in time. I don't even fear the massive extinctions that are coming, although I will weep for them.

I fear what happens when all of humanity faces shortages and need.

First the powerless will die, albeit with some humanitarian attempts. ALL of some islands will become unworkable as homelands. Weather oddities will cause massive starvations where drought or flooding pick off low-tech agricultural regions - Africa is the obvious victim-to-be.

Then, coastal areas the world over - currently enjoying high prices as desirable locations for wealthy homes and shipping industries - will become unlivable. Those wealthy can afford to move elsewhere, and they will, but they won't settle for "what's left over". They will take the new best-available land.

And what happens at the local level, with coastal millionaires buying up high ground and clearing away the poor to build their mansions, will happen at the national levels. The Netherlands is both wealthy, and sub-sealevel. Also, they have the advantage of having the highest proportion of atheists in their population; they're not a bunch of superstitious do-nothings who will wait and pray for some magical genie to save them.

The oil will get even harder to obtain, as the food becomes scarcer due to weather anomalies fucking up agricultural plans. That will be the deadly pressure +combination that will drive the US, Russia, China, Japan, and so on to find flimsy excuses to go to war... and take what they need at gunpoint.

The overpopulation problem is the least of our worries, really. After need comes knocking at the door, humanunkind will quickly find a way to solve the overpopulation problem.

I don't fear the coming shortages. I fear what humans do when they face shortages.
posted by IAmBroom at 8:15 PM on December 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


If you'd like to shit your pants, have a gander at the Global RTOFS Gulf Stream Location page. (Hint: It's nearly as bad as it was this past summer.)


Also, I was recently reminded of this article from June:

"Back to No Future", Alyssa Battistoni, Jacobin, Issue 10
Where we used to speculate in terms of centuries and future generations, we now speak of decades and the fate of those already living. We’re treading on treacherous ground, marked by thresholds we may have already crossed and negative feedback loops whose trigger points we don’t understand. A certain amount of warming is already assured, though we’re not sure how much; the window to prevent the certainty of more is rapidly closing. Environmentalism has long been the bearer of bad news and the trumpeter of end times, but this time the wolf really seems to be at the door: if not quite end-of-civilization territory, it’s frighteningly close. After years of putting on a brave face so as not to scare the public into fatalism, even scientists are starting to freak out.
posted by ob1quixote at 3:03 AM on December 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


I found myself wondering if any government has a running underground facility

The REAL way to solve this issue is to put the underground facility on Mars. Once we're out of The Cradle, the end of life on earth isn't the extinction of the Homo Sapiens
posted by mikelieman at 5:16 AM on December 21, 2013


The articles 'eviemath' linked to sum up perfectly what is so nuts about this: the military see's this as inevitable (or at least as the most probable outcome) and the insurance companies as well. I would have thought these two groups would serve as proof enough (if you can't find your way clear of believing 'scientists') that this is something people who are directly invested in its potential outcomes are planing and preparing for as though it were a given.

It's pure follow-the-money: you want to know who's really ahead in any election race? Ask your bookie. Come to think of it,
posted by From Bklyn at 5:24 AM on December 21, 2013


One choice is to assume the worst, and then you can be guaranteed that it'll happen. The other is to assume that there's some hope for change, in which case it's possible that you can help to effect change. So you've got two choices, one guarantees the worst will happen, the other leaves open the possibility that things might get better. Given those choices, a decent person doesn't hesitate.--Understanding power / Noam Chomsky, p. 352.
posted by No Robots at 1:22 PM on December 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


the military see's this as inevitable

I'm not sure what "this" is anymore, but there is nothing in that article that indicates to me that the military or any major institutions of power see global famine as imminently inevitable. It seems more like they were tasked with preparing for disaster scenarios that may occur even if unlikely, and based on this priceless quote from Snowden's employer seems to indicate it is to the military-industrial-blah-blah's advantage to exaggerate these scenarios in justifying their existence:
"An increased focus on domestic activities might be a way of justifying whatever Army force structure the country can still afford."
It's pure follow-the-money

The money doesn't seem to be indicating global famine including industrialized countries by 2020 or soon afterwards, assuming this would mean a massive increase in the price of corn. It's hard to find long-dated corn derivatives but the price up to 2020 is steady. Corn Futures. Jul 2020 Corn Puts(CBOT)

one guarantees the worst will happen, the other leaves open the possibility that things might get better. Given those choices, a decent person doesn't hesitate.


And at a minimum, a "decent person" doesn't use the situation as an excuse to engage in schadenfreude at the abject suffering and starvation of people s/he doesn't like - as we see in this thread. I'm becoming convinced that if there is a terrorist attack that succeeds in killing millions of people via some sort of biological or nuclear weapon or something, it will not be a jihidist but an environmentalist revolutionary acting in an earnest attempt to save the planet from humanity.

In any event, if the objective is a massive reduction in carbon and food consumption through rationing, organized massive immigrations to the north out of uninhabitable areas, and possibly significant planned reduction in global population, the least worse solution would not be literal "revolution" but some sort of global martial law accomplished through a global military agreement to postpone the resolution of relatively minor disagreements between global powers in order to allow 'scientists' to become authoritarians and take the helm of spaceship earth for the next few centuries until a way through the climate change storm is found and humanity is saved from imminent extinction. But right now the onus is really on the scientific community to form a consensus and convince the powers that be, along with popular uprising perhaps, that the situation is as dire as "this."

Why? We say that a chair is made up of pieces of wood and nails, none of which resembles, or has the function of, a chair. It isn't an error to consider how the chair's pieces differ in properties from the chair itself.


What makes something a chair, ultimately, is a human (or a "mind") naming it a chair. If we could instead derive a set of physical characteristics that qualify something as a chair, then properties of nails and wood (their physical position relative to each other, shape, etc.) would be sufficient to explain whether or not they form a chair, without needing to invoke "emergence" or whatever (although perhaps there is a case to be made for epistemological emergentism in science). A similar explanation is possible for whether individual H2O molecules form water or ice. It is not possible to explain a conscious experience, like the color green, this way using the physical properties of the brain because we don't know how to define conscious experiences in physical terms (position, momentum, etc). There is an unbreachable ontological divide - "mind body problem." I suppose we could try to equate the formation of the experience of the color green with a particular pattern of neurons firing in the visual cortex, while a particular pattern of photons is absorbed by the retina, but I don't think this works as any sort of explanation.
posted by Golden Eternity at 2:56 PM on December 21, 2013


It's hard to find long-dated corn derivatives but the price up to 2020 is steady.

I don't think this means anything. I remember looking at oil futures a few years ago and seeing they were completely flat for as far out as they were available. That is when I realized that past maybe a year futures don't have any predictive power. The market is not a crystal ball.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 3:16 PM on December 21, 2013


If it is common knowledge to the scientific community that global food shortage is imminent, then it means they have failed at communicating this to the financial community, but more likely it means that the consensus among scientists involved in agriculture is not yet as catastrophic as the FPP suggests.

I'm not saying that prediction market prices are accurate, I'm saying they should tend to reflect the expert consensus because Big Money will hire the experts to help them make their predictions. It so happens that when it comes to macroeconomic predictions the consensus (even among experts) is often wrong.
posted by Golden Eternity at 3:36 PM on December 21, 2013


I found myself wondering if any government has a running underground facility

Everything in life is better when you experience it in a vault.
posted by The Whelk at 5:19 PM on December 21, 2013


We can be happy underground!
posted by ob1quixote at 5:32 AM on December 22, 2013


You know, one thing that is interesting in terms of what the future holds is how the the suffering of developing world is going to impact life in the first world.
In thinking of this thread, I keep thinking of the life in England as depicted in Children of Men; not the apocalypse a la Sheffield in Threads but a non-stop ride of stomping on the face of those who could be othered, namely immigrants, I guess.

I mean, that guy did have that mansion with Guernica hanging in his dining room and there were giant pig air balloons, but otherwise it was hella shitty.
posted by angrycat at 6:21 AM on December 22, 2013


speculation that supports the idea that the surveillance state established in the last decade could get really scary in the future, whoever said it upthread
posted by angrycat at 6:22 AM on December 22, 2013


mikelieman: The REAL way to solve this issue is to put the underground facility on Mars. Once we're out of The Cradle, the end of life on earth isn't the extinction of the Homo Sapiens

We'll power that facility on unicorn poop. It's as likely as humanity relocating to Mars in this century.
posted by IAmBroom at 6:30 PM on December 23, 2013


AGRICULTURE: Ending the World as We Know It
Paleontologist Niles Eldredge writes, “Agriculture represents the single most profound ecological change in the entire 3.5 billion-year history of life.... Indeed, to develop agricul­ture is essentially to declare war on ecosystems.” [12]
Author Lierre Kieth says, “The truth is that agriculture is the most destructive thing humans have done to the planet... [It] requires the wholesale destruction of entire eco­systems .” [13]
Once the cycle of agriculture and population growth was underway, of course, there seemed little choice. We did what we could to keep feeding our growing numbers. We’ve trapped ourselves. As Keith puts it, “Except for the last 46 tribes of hunter-gatherers, the human race is now dependent on an activity that is killing the planet.”
Planting crops on any large scale means seriously damaging ecosystems. Agriculture cannot be sustained.

posted by Golden Eternity at 9:23 AM on January 2


We’re a species which evolved to live in the millions, yet here we sit, well into the billions. It’s basic to ecology that when a population overshoots carrying capacity it must inevitably return to a lower number, often via a crash.
...
Ideally we could begin systematically scaling back agriculture and gradually disman­tling civilization. We could turn instead to small scale, localized horticulture and then to tribal, non-industrial and non-agricultural ways of living. The transition could include a concerted worldwide effort to support humane, voluntary measures enabling our num­bers to decline gradually and dramatically. Perhaps most importantly, we could work to spread a different view of our place in nature, acknowledging that we are of the earth, just one of millions of species, as much subject to ecological laws as any other. At some point, the few surviving hunter-gatherer groups on Earth might serve as mentors rather than objects of academic study.
posted by Golden Eternity at 9:35 AM on January 2


Solution to cloud riddle reveals hotter future

"Global average temperatures will rise at least 4°C by 2100 and potentially more than 8°C by 2200 if carbon dioxide emissions are not reduced, according to new research published in Nature that shows our climate is more sensitive to carbon dioxide than most previous estimates."

from UNSW (University of New South Wales, Australia), also posted today on Science Daily.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 12:45 PM on January 3


We can be happy underground!

As God is my witness I though that was going to be a clip of the whole subterranean rave disco scene from The Matrix Reloaded.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:26 PM on January 3 [2 favorites]


Stewart Rips Fox on Global Warming: ‘Your F*cking Opinion’ Is Not as Valid as Scientific Fact!
posted by homunculus at 10:51 PM on January 6


A small but much needed dose of optimism:

Organic Mega Flow Battery Promises Breakthrough for Renewable Energy
posted by Hairy Lobster at 11:33 AM on January 9


A small but much needed dose of optimism:

Organic Mega Flow Battery Promises Breakthrough for Renewable Energy


Ooh, that does sound promising. I await the inevitable, "it's all ridiculously overhyped" letdown.
posted by yoink at 12:23 PM on January 9


Harassment of climate scientists needs to stop: Climate change denialists are suing scientists, seeking access to their private emails. They will stifle inquiry and scientific progress
posted by homunculus at 2:06 PM on January 17 [2 favorites]


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