It's like having an extra U.S. on the planet
December 3, 2016 4:31 PM   Subscribe

Earth warming to climate tipping point, warns study. Writing in the journal Nature, they project that an increase of 1C (1.8F) will release an additional 55 billion tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere by 2050...previous assessments have not taken carbon released by soil into account. This could trigger a "positive feedback" and push the planet's climate system past the point of no-return. posted by whistle pig (75 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
 
*shrug* we had a good run.1

---
1. We did not actually have a good run.
posted by entropicamericana at 4:39 PM on December 3, 2016 [37 favorites]


We had a run. Same as dinosaurs, same as simple multi-cellular organisms. If it's the end, whatever comes next will abide and perhaps even flourish. I'm betting it's ants.

Again, if. Even doom can be subject to change.
posted by Philipschall at 4:49 PM on December 3, 2016 [8 favorites]


We had a run. Same as dinosaurs, same as simple multi-cellular organisms. If it's the end, whatever comes next will abide and perhaps even flourish. I'm betting it's ants.

"If all of humanity were to disappear, the remainder of life would spring back and flourish. The mass extinctions now under way would cease, the damaged ecosystems heal and expand outward. If all the ants somehow disappeared, the effect would be exactly the opposite, and catastrophic. Species extinction would increase even more over the present rate, and the land ecosystems would shrivel more rapidly as the considerable services provided by these insects were pulled away."

- E.O. Wilson & Bert Hölldobler in Journey To The Ants (the introductory version of their Pulitzer Prize winning masterpiece: The Ants)
posted by fairmettle at 5:02 PM on December 3, 2016 [24 favorites]


The more we learn about the climate, the more impetus we have to do something to save ourselves. Science like this gives us tools to use to make change.

Giving up is for chumps, I for one plan to fight till the world is a better place.

Giving up is easy. Being sarcastic on the internet is easy. Making real change is hard. Living in the united states under a president that plans on doing everything he can to ruin the world is hard.

But you know what, we have potential, we have science, have each other.

I am sick and tired of this view of an apocalypse where everyone turns on each other, and tears each other apart in a nihilist orgy or destruction. The entire culture seems to have a fetishistic desire for self destruction.

With all due respect, Screw...That... Yes there is going to be a very very hard times ahead, yes its going to be hard. But the only thing that will get us through it is if we come together.

Make it your hobby to talk with your conservative family, do everything you can to let them know how important it is to take action against climate change. Donate to groups working for change, get to know your neighbors. Build systems of interconnected resilience with friends and neighbors. Vote against representatives that don't fight climate change, help get money out of politics, call your representatives, ride your god damn bicycle.

If the end times do show up, maybe it will be the perfect time to build an even better world than before.

There are hundreds if not thousands of things you can do to fight this. Giving up on humanity is the worst sort of cynicism, cynicism has become far too popular. Its time to care more! For gods sake, do you want a star trek future, or a mad max one?

Fight, love, FIGHT!
posted by stilgar at 5:06 PM on December 3, 2016 [132 favorites]


Despite the existential dread, I still find it super cool that biochar stoves could in principle make carbon-negative wood heating. If the charcoal can be kept from being metabolized by bacteria in the soil, it can accumulate. Carbon capture and storage, low-tech. And good for your garden (and farm) too.

The chemistry is solved, the barriers are logistical and engineered ease-of-use... today's biochar stoves are finicky and quenching glowing coals is tricky.
posted by anthill at 5:16 PM on December 3, 2016 [8 favorites]


Yep, this just means we need to completely decarbonize our societies AND invent and deploy carbon capture tech globally within half a century. Nearly impossible. But possible. Maybe. Maybe possible.
posted by gwint at 5:21 PM on December 3, 2016 [2 favorites]


Oblig.
posted by Joe Chip at 5:25 PM on December 3, 2016 [1 favorite]


Stilgar, thanks, I've been spiraling in the other direction, dreaming about The Mourning when we all realise we've Venused it and even the persistence of microbes sound like a triumph. (I mean I value your corrective, I needed it.)
posted by aesop at 5:32 PM on December 3, 2016 [2 favorites]


Cutting emissions is easy, young man. Recovery's harder.
posted by rokusan at 5:48 PM on December 3, 2016 [11 favorites]


Just remember that, if the world we know ends and you wake up in a cabin, feed the guy taking care of you delicious fish so that he'll survive.

Also try not to fight Chupon.
posted by delfin at 5:51 PM on December 3, 2016 [8 favorites]


Oblig.

I had assumed it would have been this.
posted by porpoise at 5:52 PM on December 3, 2016


Now I feel like quitting smoking was a waste of time.
posted by Sphinx at 6:08 PM on December 3, 2016 [11 favorites]


I am sick and tired of this view of an apocalypse where everyone turns on each other,

Me too, but given the amount of self-interestedness and on-each-other-turning happening right now when lifespans and material conditions are better than they have ever been in the history of ever, I expect everyone to turn on each other in an actual apocalypse at about the time the supply of potato chips runs out, let alone potable water and medical supplies.

But who knows. Maybe the species'll pull it together in times of genuine, species-threatening crisis, eventually.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 6:10 PM on December 3, 2016 [10 favorites]


Yep, this just means we need to completely decarbonize our societies AND invent and deploy carbon capture tech globally within half a century. Nearly impossible. But possible. Maybe. Maybe possible.

Pretty easily done if everyone gets behind it honestly.
posted by fshgrl at 6:10 PM on December 3, 2016 [3 favorites]


that "if" is a real killer, though.
posted by indubitable at 6:14 PM on December 3, 2016 [9 favorites]


Pretty easily done if everyone gets behind it honestly.

So nearly impossible. Since an awful lot of people and corporations benefit immensely financially from things staying precisely the way they are.
posted by delfin at 6:15 PM on December 3, 2016 [2 favorites]


*shrug* we had a good run.1

I know this is a depressing subject, and it's easy to feel helpless, anxious angry etc, but man alive am I getting tired of one line brain turds getting dropped every time there's a climate change thread posted here. If you don't have anything substantive to add, feel free to move on.

To me, this story once again highlights the enormous risks and unknowns that tinkering with the biosphere carries. From a risk perspective, is extraordinary how badly the risks have been taken into account. The carbon emissions industries are powerful, no doubt, but they pale compared to what's going to happen.

There's something about the diffuse responsibility that renders inaction particularly sticky I think.
posted by smoke at 6:16 PM on December 3, 2016 [29 favorites]


There are hundreds if not thousands of things you can do to fight this.

Are there though? I'll concede that there are lots of things you can do that will make you feel like you're doing something. But I really can't think of anything the average 1st-world citizen can do that will have a measurable impact.

I don't think it's cynical, so much as realistic.
posted by paulcole at 6:19 PM on December 3, 2016 [15 favorites]


It's realistic to have an impact on one other person, or maybe three other people.

It's realistic to tell others who feel as you do that they can have an impact on one other person.

It's realistic to share the information that you and your friends are working to have an impact on one or two other people, so that people you barely know are encouraged enough to figure out how _they_ can have an impact on one or two other people.
posted by amtho at 6:30 PM on December 3, 2016 [1 favorite]


material conditions are better than they have ever been in the history of ever

Air quality and water quality, in aggregate, are the worst they've ever been. There are less species on the planet than at any point in human history.
posted by Strange_Robinson at 6:34 PM on December 3, 2016 [4 favorites]


[A couple deleted. There's a difference between gallows humor and just being a derailing jerk; it's fine if you want to air some hopelessness, but try to actually add something to the conversation rather than just derailing it or snarking on people trying to be more substantive.]
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:52 PM on December 3, 2016 [6 favorites]


California leads the way in a lot of environmental areas but when you see even here that a few rainstorms are enough for people to stop conserving water in the middle of a massive drought that still hasn't ended, it's hard to see even geoengineering working unless a breakthrough is devised which somehow renders human cooperation unnecessary.
posted by feloniousmonk at 6:56 PM on December 3, 2016 [7 favorites]


I get that global climate change will probably result in Billions of deaths, but we're not talking about turning the planet into another Venus, are we?
posted by MikeWarot at 7:04 PM on December 3, 2016


Considering we are the pro-science side of this discussion, the apparent belief that above 3 C warming or something humans go extinct is a bit discouraging.
posted by mark k at 7:17 PM on December 3, 2016 [4 favorites]


I get that global climate change will probably result in Billions of deaths, but we're not talking about turning the planet into another Venus, are we?

Or as it used to be known, Old Earth.
posted by maxwelton at 7:18 PM on December 3, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'm sort of weirded out by all the fatalism on display here, as if America is the only country capable of solving any problem, but now it's too late so we're all dead. Much of the rest of the world is now taking concrete steps to lower emissions, and from a global perspective the world is belatedly, but now quite noticeably, doing something. What purpose does it serve to talk yourself into catatonia if you care about the planet?
posted by StrikeTheViol at 7:19 PM on December 3, 2016 [12 favorites]


O[h] why should the spirit of mortal be proud!
Like a swift, fleeting meteor—a fast-flying cloud—
A flash of the lightning—a break of the wave—
He passeth from life to his rest in the grave.

The leaves of the oak and the willow shall fade,
Be scattered around, and together be laid;
And the young and the old, and the low and the high
Shall molder to dust and together shall lie.
posted by robbyrobs at 7:22 PM on December 3, 2016 [4 favorites]


As long as we don't push things into a Venus scenario, there is hope. My understanding is that we don't have enough carbon to do this, no matter how stupid we get. I hope that is correct.
posted by MikeWarot at 7:53 PM on December 3, 2016


it's hard to see even geoengineering working unless a breakthrough is devised which somehow renders human cooperation unnecessary.

Those are called laws.
posted by benzenedream at 8:00 PM on December 3, 2016 [6 favorites]


Fear is not going to move the needle on this issue. I think another way to frame the discussion is by pointing out that whatever costly program is necessary to fix the problem will be paid for by the taxpayer and not the special interest who blocked attempts to reduce air pollution. That it's going to be too big to fail over over again, and that we need to raise enough stink to convince our elected officials to address the problem, before it becomes an expensive ecological bailout.

Yes, I know. None of this is entirely true, because it implies money can save us, but I do believe a lot of people just automatically tune out fear, as a coping mechanism, and approaching the discussion from a different standpoint might get their attention.
posted by Beholder at 8:08 PM on December 3, 2016 [3 favorites]


We cannot turn Earth into Venus.

Global warming is a hard problem, but it is by no means an impossible one. This is one of the really tricky things in climate science communication--conveying the scope of the problem without pushing people right over into fatalism. It seems frustratingly difficult to hit that window between 'it's nothing to worry about, so why do anything' and 'it's so bad there's no hope, so why do anything.'

The glaciologist Richard Alley likes to compare switching to a carbon-neutral economy to switching from chamber pots to indoor plumbing. Just think about the infrastructure costs of putting running water and flush toilets in every single home! But we did that, and we can do this.
posted by fermion at 8:12 PM on December 3, 2016 [29 favorites]


Considering we are the pro-science side of this discussion, the apparent belief that above 3 C warming or something humans go extinct is a bit discouraging.

The world seems to be full of people who think that humanity could thrive on Mars, no problem, if we just build big enough rockets; and also people who think that there's no way we can survive on a planet like Earth, the climate there is just too unstable. It isn't exactly a lack of science, but it's a startling lack of any realistic historical or planetary perspective. It appears to be the same tendency that has shown up in electoral politics more strongly than usual recently, where one's preferred candidate is the saviour of all mankind, and the other ones will surely spell our complete annihilation one way or another. As it begins to look like we're past at least a local peak in the strength of human civilization and there is the slightest hint of decline, people conclude it's already over and complete extinction is an immediate concern. It's like the attitude of a young person particularly attached to youthfulness, perhaps having taken too seriously the sarcastic remarks of others on the subject of aging, on their 30th birthday deciding that life is effectively over. Even if the decline is steep, we've got centuries to go and a lot can happen in that time. Not that more positive feedback than expected isn't bad news.

Speaking of putting things in perspective, if anyone else was wondering how 55 petagrams compares to the total amount of carbon stored in the soil, "2400 petagrams soil organic carbon in the top 2 meters" is one estimate.
posted by sfenders at 8:21 PM on December 3, 2016 [14 favorites]


We cannot turn Earth into Venus.

I think the most worrisome recent report had to do with the oceans heating enough -- which is not that great a change -- to kill the aquatic plants that produce a huge amount (not sure of the exact percentage, but an estimate was in the report) of the oxygen in the world.

I would _love_ to hear that addressed directly.
posted by amtho at 8:38 PM on December 3, 2016



The glaciologist Richard Alley likes to compare switching to a carbon-neutral economy to switching from chamber pots to indoor plumbing. Just think about the infrastructure costs of putting running water and flush toilets in every single home! But we did that, and we can do this.


Except we didn't. 60% of the world doesn't have indoor plumbing/toilets. That's over 3 billion! In the USA alone 1.9 million people poop in a hole.

And even if we solve the indoor plumbing issue 90% of the poop still ends up in rivers and lakes.

So we're far from solving even the simplest sanitation problems. Trying to tackle more complex issues...?

Anyway, according to one observer; there's nothing wrong with the planet!
posted by Zedcaster at 8:45 PM on December 3, 2016 [10 favorites]


I keep on panicking every time I'm reminded of global warming. What can I do? What can we do?
posted by LSK at 9:16 PM on December 3, 2016 [1 favorite]


We cannot turn Earth into Venus.

The linked article says nearly the opposite of that: it's an open question. It says that the previous reason 20th century scientists believed it was impossible is that they thought at a certain point water vapor suspended in the atmosphere would make the planet reflect more heat than it absorbed.

But it presents a recent study whose primary author says,
Our new calculations show that a water vapor–rich atmosphere absorbs more sunlight and lets out less heat than previously thought, enough to put the Earth into a runaway from which there would be no return.
The "second opinion" guy, one of the scientists who looked into the topic in the 20th century and disagrees with the new study's conclusion, at the time of the 2013 article putting the finishing touches on another study concurring with his previous research, still says things like
Unprotected humans and other warm-blooded mammals can overheat and die in humid conditions hotter than about 35 degrees C, because their metabolisms produce more heat than can be easily dissipated into the surrounding air. The latest results from Kasting’s group, which are still under review, suggest that such conditions could prevail across much of the planet if human civilization burns enough fossil fuel to quadruple atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide.
and
As nightmarish as a runaway greenhouse seems, whether or not modern Earth is susceptible to it should perhaps be seen as essentially an academic point. Microbes could endure and even flourish on a planet at the brink of runaway, but people would still be steam-cooked whether or not such a hothouse world tipped over into a more Venusian climate. Leaving aside other effects of global warming like rising seas, stronger storms, longer droughts and plummeting biodiversity, Kasting says, “the problem of heat stress alone could become lethal to humans well before any runaway happens, and that danger may be much closer than previously realized. This is serious enough to warrant our full attention.”
They both seem to think we're unlikely to reach a globally-lethal temperature from burning fossil fuels alone, but I'm not clear whether they're trying to take potential feedback effects into account or sources of heating other than CO2.

I'd agree that it's probably not useful to talk about runaway scenarios, but 2016 makes it seem like relying on consensus impossibilities is not a great bet and kinda feels like tempting fate.

Despite that, my personal non-expert belief is that at the very least self-preservation on the part of elites will provide a strong enough imperative to keep a large chunk of the human population alive, via the same kind of mechanisms that made rapacious acquisition and control of energy sources an imperative. This seems to have already happened in China and elsewhere.

I would think that an important thing to do, to minimize the damage, is to push for discussion and visibility of the concrete and verifiable effects of climate change that are now constantly appearing: coastal flooding everywhere, a cruise ship traversing the NorthWest Passage above Canada for the first time in history, Russian preparations for its own Northern Sea Route opening up, and the third of the Great Barrier Reef closest to the equator dying.
posted by XMLicious at 9:32 PM on December 3, 2016 [6 favorites]


XMlicious, thank you for pointing out that the article is a lot less clear than I thought. I'm too close to the subject to explain it well, I think (my graduate work involved runaway climate systems, albeit a very different sort, and I've met both the researchers quoted in the article.) My takeaway from the first part of the article was this part:

“We’ve estimated how much carbon dioxide would be required to get this steamy atmosphere, and the answer is about 30,000 ppm of atmospheric carbon dioxide, which is actually good news in terms of anthropogenic climate change,” Goldblatt says. Thirty thousand ppm is about 10 times more carbon dioxide than most experts estimate could be released from burning all available fossil fuels"

So maybe I should say that we cannot turn Earth into Venus unless we somehow decided we wanted to and bent all our efforts in that direction. Kasting (the second opinion guy) disagrees in that he thinks we can't turn Earth into Venus even if we did try really hard. And they were definitely taking feedback effects and so on into account; the models aren't perfect but they try hard to include all the important stuff. There are a LOT of feedback systems in climate.

Also, I guess I should have clarified that, while I am confident we cannot turn Earth into a Venusian hellscape, there are a lot of pretty unpleasant possibilities in between here and there that are more plausible. I just wanted to reassure people who seemed to be worried about it that it would be very difficult for us to kill off all life on the planet.
posted by fermion at 11:09 PM on December 3, 2016 [8 favorites]


One thing I find astonishing is that according to polls, 70% of Americans believe in climate change, and 64% are worried about it. So how exactly did Trump win given that he is an open climate change denier? Trump got 46% of the vote (i.e. 54% voted against him), so that means at a minimum 10% of Americans claim to be worried about climate change but voted for an explicit climate change denier who pledged to undo all efforts to address it (64 - (100 - 46)). If there are some climate change skeptics who voted for Clinton then the numbers are even higher. I can actually understand people who think it's a hoax voting for him, that's at least rational (even though I disagree with the premises) but to believe in it and vote for him anyway.....? What is going on in these people's minds? What is the pressing issue that overrules the future of a viable biosphere in importance?
posted by L.P. Hatecraft at 1:14 AM on December 4, 2016 [3 favorites]


Just because people are worried about it doesn't mean they understand how serious it is, and definitely doesn't mean it's their top priority. Also, given the number of people who voted directly against their self-interest, I can't say I'm surprised.
posted by Slinga at 1:37 AM on December 4, 2016 [6 favorites]


Just because people are worried about it doesn't mean they understand how serious it is, and definitely doesn't mean it's their top priority.
Yeah, but...how? If you think it's not serious enough that it's okay to not do anything about it, then in what sense to you actually believe in it? The idea that it climate change a threat to society is part and parcel of the theory isn't it, especially if you say you are "worried" about it? I can also understand climate change not being someone's top priority, in that they might prefer someone doing a little about it as opposed to a lot, but to support some who pledges not to do anything? There is something wrong here.
posted by L.P. Hatecraft at 1:55 AM on December 4, 2016 [2 favorites]


@fermion Since you have more specific knowledge, you might know the answer to something that bugged me about that article. It only mentions CO2 and water vapour. Methane is an... um... interesting addition to the problem, and it seems like it would be a rather important thing to take account of. Is it present in these models? The uncertainty over just how much methane is present and available to be released would seem to make prediction around it somewhat finicky.
posted by regularfry at 4:49 AM on December 4, 2016 [2 favorites]


L. P. Hatecraft, bear in mind that only half or so of eligible Americans vote, so only something like a quarter of Americans voted for Trump. I imagine most of Trump's supporters come from the 36% or so of Americans who are not worried about climate change. Many of the people who are worried most likely didn't vote at all: neither candidate had a strong climate change policy, policies weren't at the forefront of this election cycle, young people tend to be worried about climate change, and young people tend not to vote.

Back to the topic at hand, it seems that every few months, scientists publish yet-another-positive-feedback-system paper. Is anyone aware of a study that takes all of these various feedback systems into account to plot a reasonable expected temperature trajectory based on what we know as of this year? All of the studies I've seen either omit feedback systems or else are ten years out of date.
posted by ragtag at 5:27 AM on December 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


Saying the Earth won't turn into Venus is like asking your doctor about the side effects to a medication and having him reply with, "Well, you probably won't burst into flames."

I mean, that's nice, but there are a whole range of possibilities between here and there that are possible, and we should probably talk about those. It's reduction ad absurdum, and useless to the discussion.

There's plenty of room for us to make the planet uninhabitable for humans without going nearly as far as making it Venus.
posted by MrVisible at 5:46 AM on December 4, 2016 [3 favorites]


Is anyone aware of a study that takes all of these various feedback systems into account to plot a reasonable expected temperature trajectory based on what we know as of this year? All of the studies I've seen either omit feedback systems or else are ten years out of date.

The only place I've seen anyone comprehensively collect all the feedback mechanisms we're seeing is Guy McPherson's site, but he's widely considered a lunatic for projecting the end of human civilization by 2030.
posted by MrVisible at 5:51 AM on December 4, 2016 [2 favorites]


The world seems to be full of people who think that humanity could thrive on Mars, no problem

No, any thoughtful person would say, perhaps by solving many many problems a Mars colony may be possible in the near future, there is no hard known reason that it is impossible. But hard, very hard. Now in the context of this post, what is the impact to the Earth's carbon footprint of a few thousand rocket ships? I don't have numbers but I'd suggest insignificant. Certainly trivial compared to the growth in understanding from solving problems in a new ecosystem. Knowledge that would certainly be transferable to some issues back here. Certainly current satellites used for planetary observation is vital to contemporary Earth science.
posted by sammyo at 6:36 AM on December 4, 2016


L.P. Hatecraft: "Yeah, but...how? If you think it's not serious enough that it's okay to not do anything about it, then in what sense to you actually believe in it?"

If you are a single issue voter and that isn't your issue then you don't let it influence your vote regardless of what you believe.
posted by Mitheral at 6:59 AM on December 4, 2016


MrVisible it's difficult to read that list and not come to the same conclusion.
posted by regularfry at 7:45 AM on December 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


So how exactly did Trump win given that he is an open climate change denier?

Environmental issues were a non-factor.

The left's solutions have been tepid at best. There has been some success at the state level, but at the federal, the last real legislation was the Clean Water and Clean Air Acts. Everything else since has been the usual incrementalism. The CAFE, car emission standards, is a great case in point. The early version gave birth to the SUV via poorly written loopholes. The more recent versions continue to cater to automobile industry needs.

Note the lack of 'political will' for mass transit solutions. By contrast, there has been great success for the energy companies for large, transnational projects. They even get to beat up the natives without repercussion.

It's really easy for the lay-person to look at what's been done, and come to the conclusion that the environment is just a bargaining tool, or if they are convinced this is an issue, to think no one in the leadership class is serious about it.
posted by Strange_Robinson at 8:11 AM on December 4, 2016 [2 favorites]


On occasion, I see the recent Paris agreement touted as a success. It's not. It's completely non-binding, and looks like nothing more than business as usual. They threw a little PR at the rubes. That is all.
posted by Strange_Robinson at 8:20 AM on December 4, 2016


The CAFE, car emission standards, is a great case in point. The early version gave birth to the SUV via poorly written loopholes. The more recent versions continue to cater to automobile industry needs.


The case in point about the CAFE standards, indeed about basically any industry standards when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions, is that choices aren't being made at the most base level to mitigate emissions unless being forced to do so by law. Making the moral choice in regard to the future of humans on the planet doesn't even factor into it. Who gives a fuck about climate change while there is still a profit to be made?

This is exactly why I don't really have any hope for the future. I've been hearing warnings about CO2-based planetary warming for 40 years or more now. 40 years. That would have been plenty of time for companies like car manufacturers to come up with solutions or at the very least reductions in harm. But instead the car companies go for maximized profits at minimal cost, and fuck the consequences.

Multiply that attitude across all industry, and we end up here in 2016 looking at the situation we have now. Why bother making the morally correct choice when there are more digits to be added into a bank account someplace?

We've had so many opportunities for industries of various sorts to become leaders in changing the path we are on. But they won't do it until they are forced because the fucking Dollar is more important than the Future Of Humanity. Even if all emissions worldwide were somehow reduced to zero tomorrow we'll still have decades of increased climate change due to our commitment to warming. And I don't see anyone doing actual work to eliminate emissions. I only see really modest reductions in emissions being suggested or implemented. Every day that we pour carbon into the atmosphere, we lengthen the commitment to warming we will have to live with.

Until we solve the problem of capitalistic selfishness on a global scale, we won't solve the climate problem. But I think we won't be here for too many more generations anyway, so I guess the problems solve themselves.
posted by hippybear at 8:29 AM on December 4, 2016 [5 favorites]


Is anyone aware of a study that takes all of these various feedback systems into account to plot a reasonable expected temperature trajectory based on what we know as of this year?

This year? No. It takes longer than a year to incorporate into such a forecast all the latest developments that have been newly validated and accepted scientifically, let alone every other new theory or piece of data that comes out. For a non-crackpot version of basically what you're looking for though, the closest thing around is probably what's included in the IPCC reports: AR5, Climate Change 2013. A temperature rise prediction is on page 21 (or 19) of the summary, reality will almost certainly come in somewhere between those two lines since they represent the somewhat implausible extremes of emissions scenarios.
posted by sfenders at 9:05 AM on December 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'd caution against despair like others in the thread have mentioned. Humanity will survive this. What we call civilization probably won't.

I console myself with the reported aftermath of the Black Plague. For the survivors, quality of life went up considerably.
posted by Strange_Robinson at 9:15 AM on December 4, 2016 [2 favorites]


What evidence does anyone have for this hope? You say humanity will survive, but that requires a big citation needed. The point is that we don't know what will happen.
posted by TypographicalError at 9:51 AM on December 4, 2016 [2 favorites]




Who needs hope if there is evidence? Of course there's no evidence.
posted by Strange_Robinson at 10:11 AM on December 4, 2016


@TypograhpicalError: There is no generally accepted scientific estimate that gets close to human extinction level, or even civilization destroying level. It's certainly possible that we trigger a series of chain reactions and they're all worse than we think but it's basically speculation.

You don't need to go way above the IPCC estimates to make things look bad. I don't get the focus on "uninhabitable" here--it's like people can't be bothered to get out of bed for massive ecological destruction and billions of humans subjected to unnecessary waves of misery and hardship over the next century.
posted by mark k at 10:13 AM on December 4, 2016 [2 favorites]


Me and mine are probably consigned to extinction, but I don't think it matters much wether my families genes survive or not. Go back far enough and we are all family.
posted by Strange_Robinson at 10:19 AM on December 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


Go back far enough and we are all family.

"Where you from, boy?" "Nairobi, ma'am.. Isn't everybody?" -Firesign Theatre
posted by hippybear at 10:21 AM on December 4, 2016 [3 favorites]


The disproportionate impact that this will have on the developing world is another facet of colonialism. It's more abstract than a coltan mine, but it's another way that we've plundered the resources of the world in order to enrich ourselves. We enriched ourselves with the benefits of industrialization, and subsistence farmers in the Sahel will have to eat dust because the rains didn't come.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 12:20 PM on December 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


in the context of this post, what is the impact to the Earth's carbon footprint of a few thousand rocket ships? I don't have numbers but I'd suggest insignificant.

In spite of the huge resources required to build and launch one space shuttle, the fuel is mostly aluminum (solid rocket boosters) and oxygen + hydrogen (main engine), so probably not a big contributor to atmospheric carbon. Especially considering that human carbon emissions are on the order of 9.7 Gigatons annually.
posted by sneebler at 2:07 PM on December 4, 2016


...we have science...I am sick and tired of this view of an apocalypse where everyone turns on each other, and tears each other apart in a nihilist orgy or destruction. The entire culture seems to have a fetishistic desire for self destruction.

Science, meet my good friends, History, Sociology, Economics and Psychology.

You want the locker head slam before or after the wedgie?
posted by obiwanwasabi at 2:24 PM on December 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


The left's solutions have been tepid at best.

Which is the primary message of international networks of business organizations and think-tanks who get funding and media attention to make sure their views of climate change (Nothing to see here!) and free-market utopias (Love 'em!) are the basis for our energy and climate-related public policies. Coincidentally, one of their arguments has been, "the Left's solutions won't work". Which is true in a news-cycle sense, because there's nothing sexy about paying for extra insulation in your house, driving a smaller car, riding the bus etc. etc. There's nothing sexy about consuming less, or paying a carbon tax. All of which makes it easy to sell the message that growth is the solution to economic and political problems, and any kind of cooperative public effort to change the system is basically Communism.
posted by sneebler at 2:28 PM on December 4, 2016 [3 favorites]


So how exactly did Trump win given that he is an open climate change denier?

By being an open climate change denier.
posted by juiceCake at 5:31 PM on December 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


regularfry, sorry for not getting back to your question earlier--I don't think those models were detailed enough to consider the effects of methane clathrates. They were more concerned with theoretical planets (alternate Earth histories, terrestrial planets around other stars) than the specifics of what is happening right now on Earth. I don't think you'll find any papers looking at how modern Earth could potentially turn into a runaway greenhouse, because a runaway greenhouse is way outside of the realm of likely outcomes, even taking methane clathrates into account.

Working with climate-related science has given me a weird outlook. The implications of some of the things me and my colleagues are working on are potentially pretty scary, but you can't stay anxious 24/7, so I end up compartmentalizing and having calm academic discussions about the possibility that the West Antarctic ice shelf could collapse, and thinking that 'relax, guys, we might decimate vertebrate life forms but we probably can't turn the planet into a completely lifeless hellscape' is reassuring. It's really hard to figure out the right balance of science and activism, especially since they require totally different skillsets and emotional frameworks: good science requires doubt and detachment, good activism requires passionate conviction.
posted by fermion at 6:10 PM on December 4, 2016 [6 favorites]


Fusion powered carbon extractors that turn CO2 into diamond windows, graphene space-elevators, and Wonder Woman transparent airplanes. Simple.
posted by pashdown at 8:10 PM on December 4, 2016 [3 favorites]


I'm kind of wondering about the possibility of some nation or other actor panicking and starting to dabble in a stratospheric sulfate aerosol solution without regard for the risks when the alternative is so terrible. It seems like a supremely easy thing for an actor with a decent amount of cash on hand to recklessly try.
posted by jason_steakums at 8:29 PM on December 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'm kind of wondering about the possibility of some nation or other actor panicking and starting to dabble in a stratospheric sulfate aerosol solution without regard for the risks when the alternative is so terrible. It seems like a supremely easy thing for an actor with a decent amount of cash on hand to recklessly try.

The issue isn't the money but (as usual) the infrastructure necessary. I've seen estimates as low as <$10 billion dollars a year to start and maintain sulfate aerosol and that's good for around 1 degree cooling. My recollection is that the reality of that <$10bn/year translates to the equivalent of every US airborne tanker being converted to do the job and running three missions per day, every day for the whole year. That cost is taking into account fuel, airframe cost, crew, repair and replacement for what is essentially an insane OPTEMPO. So financially, even a small nation could do it, but again, from my memory, the problem stems from the need to have a lot of aircraft flying a lot, constantly.

I'm more of a fan of the low-level seawater cloud generation from km wide ship networks pissing a thin layer of seawater up into the air but in all honesty, from what I'm reading you're going to need *both* of these methods, at least another one or two and carbon sequestration as well and then we're still looking at around 2-3 degrees increase by 2100.

I'd very much appreciate someone with a better handle on the science to put my mind at ease because as it stands right now, I'll probably be dead when the SHTF properly but if that's going to be the case I'd very much like to start to prep the ground, training my kids like Sarah Connor did.
posted by longbaugh at 4:25 AM on December 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


In the grand scheme of things this doesn't count for much, but it makes me sad: Ancient shellfish used for purple dye vanishes from eastern Med
posted by Joe in Australia at 12:53 PM on December 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


That's the thing with extinction. It only looks unimportant till it's not.

There was a thread discussing the Zika virus where folks were considering a concerted effort to eradicate mosquitoes. It was so horryifying to me I couldn't even respond. The mosquito is a base food for so many other organisms that the ripple effect of damage would be downright catastrophic.
posted by Strange_Robinson at 4:04 PM on December 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


@longbaugh: A degree of cooling counteracts over a decade's worth of warming, and no sensible sulfate plan would start by going "all in" like that--you'd want to counteract a fraction of warming over a few decades two and look for unexpected problems. And still be working to drastically reduce emissions while you did so.

@Strange_Robinson: Zika mosquitoes are one of 3000 mosquito species and are an invasive species almost everywhere they are found. They don't actually seem critical other species. Deliberately rendering a multi-cellular organism would be a big thing and make me uncomfortable, but that doesn't mean there would be a ripple effect. After all, if we don't do that we're trying to control shrink the population and distribution other ways which has the same net effect on predators in local areas.
posted by mark k at 7:50 AM on December 6, 2016


Maybe I missed something, but I didn't see any actual ecologists consulted for that article. I am somewhat comforted by the fact that no one means all mosquitoes, and the article reinforces my point that mosquito eradication would be catastrophic.

If it doesn’t work, nobody has to worry: if they can’t breed, the GM is selected out. If it works, in theory you have total extinction. And if people are concerned about that, you can keep some in the laboratory and reintroduce them.

And again, I'm concerned. It goes beyond his supposition here - if there are animals for whom this mosquito is the primary food, then every creature vulnerable up the chain would need to be preserved as well.

I realize I'm on the losing side of this one one way or the other. Seven billion and growing is the real reason non-human species are dying off at such an increadible rate. I'll still mourn the loss.

We're destroying the well from which we sustain ourselves. Even dogs know not to shit where they eat. Humanity is not nearly as smart as them.
posted by Strange_Robinson at 3:50 PM on December 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


Well, we could feed the excess humans to the rest of that food chain. Problems solved!

...I mean, there'd be a lottery or something. I'm not HEARTLESS.
posted by delfin at 5:03 PM on December 6, 2016


Please don't take my whole view here completely out of context. I'm advocating for real solutions to these issues - refusal, straight up - to continue cavalierly this way.

What would it take to at least get a chance that we don't cavalierly wipe out a half dozen species for marginal gains? How many human lives? Are we sure Zika is confined to the one kind of mosquito? Are we sure it's not two or three? What's the real impact here, and really look. Have we surgically striked a species before? Has it ever gotten out of hand? Will it be better than DDT?

And the article just blithely assumes humankind must be the only consideration. It's rediculous. It's the same assumptions that made the Gulf of Mexico a toilet a few years ago. These things happen without thought all over the globe, all the time.
posted by Strange_Robinson at 7:43 PM on December 6, 2016


It perhaps wasn't the best article to cover the thing. From my perspective--because I've been half-following the discussion--the people weren't blithely assuming there's no impact, it's more the consensus is there isn't much impact and hence not even worth discussing as a "why not?" question.

Here's an NPR one that's more on point. Basically, if you read across the board you will find other estimates with more potential impact, but by discussing the loss of literally all mosquitoes and not just Aedis aegypti or other key vectors of disease.

We have rendered plenty of species extinct and there is not automatically a catastrophic ripple effect when we do. This was my point; predicting catastrophe IMHO is more driven by assuming something bad will have bad consequences rather than the best current science. And I'm sympathetic to the fact that it is unpleasantly reminiscent of pre-1950's hubris. Pesonally I am not actually 100% behind extinction myself. At the same time I'd disagree pretty strongly that the attitude you see in this scientific discussion is the same as indifference or simply not thinking about it, or cavalier, or for marginal gains.

What would you think of wiping out A. aegypti outside east Africa, where it's invasive?

The best policy is to avoid environmental changes. The environment is complex and not changing it avoids unintended consequences. But at the same time we're clearly not shutting down all human activity, so we are in this odd spot where the changes that are happening are basically unintended. And we actually do a lot of environmental "engineering," like reforestation or introduction of old species or ripping up invasive plants, where we hope we understand the consequences enough to manage it.

I think we're getting to a point with climate change where we're going to have to more consciously consider more engineering--perhaps not with global geoengineering then with what active measures we'll take on local scales. Such as maintaining a habitable areas for some species, or whether to try and stop invading species that are filling in niches we're opening up.
posted by mark k at 8:44 PM on December 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


Yeah, as long as folks are at least trying to do the homework. My own exposure to the science rendered great respect in me. I fear I stepped into this without doing my own homework. I'll have to reflect on that.
posted by Strange_Robinson at 9:13 PM on December 6, 2016


« Older Now That's What I Call Alt Right!   |   Gerudo Valley Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments