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Impermafrost
April 18, 2008 4:02 PM   Subscribe

"We badly underestimated the degree of damages and the risks of climate change," said Lord Stern in a speech in London yesterday. "All of the links in the chain are on average worse than we thought (pdf) a couple of years ago."

NOAA data has revealed that this past march is the 2nd warmest on record, and the warmest on record for both land and the Northern Hemisphere. The most severe and alarming temperature anomaly is in Russia, China and Central Asia, especially East Siberia and the Amur region. Last summer, the East Siberian Sea was the epicenter of the unprecedented Arctic sea ice melt. This year may be little different. Also of significant concern are positive feedbacks from methane released by melting permafrost and possibly clathrate release from the seabed in the same region. The recent fires in Amur Oblast, which was almost 5C warmer than the the 1961-1990 average this March, may also be related to this, and is another example of the kind of positive feedbacks many climate scientists (and Lord Stern) are concerned about.
posted by [expletive deleted] (56 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
In other news: Duh.
posted by stenseng at 4:17 PM on April 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


Why does this 'Lord Stern' fellow hate America? I see that he was also conspicuously failing to wear a flag lapel pin.
posted by mullingitover at 4:19 PM on April 18, 2008 [3 favorites]


Aren't you supposed to pretend that there's two equally valid sides to the story and include something from the AEI?
posted by Pope Guilty at 4:29 PM on April 18, 2008 [3 favorites]


You know, I have to jump in here and say, first, that this merely confirms what many of us have suspected for a while. Things are going rather badly for us in the grand scheme, and yet life has not become significantly different in the "first world." It's disappointing that the vast majority of people remain as docile and apathetic as ever—but hardly surprising, I suppose.

Second, Lord Stern has the greatest name ever. He should go into comics.
posted by sonic meat machine at 4:30 PM on April 18, 2008


Lord Stern

Bababooie, m'lord.
posted by davejay at 4:35 PM on April 18, 2008 [3 favorites]


Compare and contrast these positions:

a) look there is a tons of evidence we are inserting gases in the atmosphere, burning up stuff and transforming tons of energy in heat. That some human activity is hamrful to other humans and nature, there's plenty of evidence as well.

We ask you to focus on non-existing evidence that it will not do you harm.

b) as above.

We ask you to focus on existing evidence suggesting we are better off learning how to do more or the same with less or less polluting.

Note: it may sound like another "Premeptive strike" approach to reality, a la Bush 'we can't wait for the smoking gun consisting of a nuclear/biological attack' and it's indeed the very same preventive approach. Yet the evidence for WoMD remains zero, whereas evidence of pollution is hardly disputed : what is disputed is the effect and the timing.
posted by elpapacito at 4:42 PM on April 18, 2008 [3 favorites]


Ops forgot to mention: Lord Boff :)
posted by elpapacito at 4:43 PM on April 18, 2008


Those IPCC reports have always tended to be conservative in the estimates presented to policymakers and the general public. A lot of people involved in these studies think we're already past the tipping point, unfortunately.

Meanwhile the greenhouse gas limits the U.S. is willing to discuss are too low and too far away. There was an article on that this week but I'm not finding it at the moment.
posted by Tehanu at 4:50 PM on April 18, 2008


It's disappointing that the vast majority of people remain as docile and apathetic as ever—but hardly surprising, I suppose.

Speak for yourself. And I mean that. It is counterproductive to complain about what the "mainstream" is doing or not doing; it's essentially a straw man argument that provides a great opportunity to complain for the sake of complaining.

I don't know about other people, but I do know about how I can help solve this problem. I drive a fuel-efficient car (a Fit). We only have one car. We spend very little to heat our apartment (our total electric and heating bill is about $40 every two months). We live in the only jurisdiction in North America with a carbon tax, which means it will be easier to lobby government to enact more eco-friendly energy policies. We try to avoid packaged foods. I ride a bike to work. There is a long way to go - we have to start eating more locally.

I suspect that for many people it's the same thing. People try to modify their behaviour. Their intentions are good. But the amount of things that have to be changed is overwhelming.

If we are going to win this battle we must remember the plight of people in parts of the world hardest hit by climate change, but we must also be compassionate - and remain positive, versus slipping into negativity - with ourselves.

And we should focus on how we ourselves can change our daily habits, before complaining about the typical SUV-driving piggy American bugbears. It's just a reason to hate (and that has always been the Left's problem).
posted by KokuRyu at 4:50 PM on April 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


Err too high and far away. Too little difference from what we currently emit, too high of a number for the limit itself.
posted by Tehanu at 4:51 PM on April 18, 2008


I don't know about other people, but I do know about how I can help solve this problem. I drive a fuel-efficient car (a Fit). We only have one car. We spend very little to heat our apartment (our total electric and heating bill is about $40 every two months). We live in the only jurisdiction in North America with a carbon tax, which means it will be easier to lobby government to enact more eco-friendly energy policies. We try to avoid packaged foods. I ride a bike to work. There is a long way to go - we have to start eating more locally.

I'd actually be interested to hear about what active steps other MeFites are taking along these lines, for global issues and local ones. I've moved within four miles of my job (from fourteen), turned off my lawn sprinklers last fall and we've kicked off a move to drought-friendly landscaping (water shortage is a big local problem in LA), made HVAC changes for efficiency, and we're looking into a tankless water heater.

not to be all chatfilter, though
posted by davejay at 4:56 PM on April 18, 2008


I blog about green measures often, and we have solar heating for our house and pool, but I should be doing a lot more than I am doing. We still have plastic bags in the grocery stores here, which I recycle when I remember, but I always forget to bring my canvas bag. We recycle paper, plastic and aluminum. We use efficient energy light bulbs when we remember to buy them (though they don't seem to last as long as they claim they will). But we are still far too wasteful.
posted by misha at 5:15 PM on April 18, 2008


davejay writes "'d actually be interested to hear about what active steps other MeFites are taking along these lines"

Drive slower when possibile, here's the background from wikipedia
The power to overcome air resistance increases roughly with the cube of the speed, and thus the energy required per unit distance is roughly proportional to the square of speed. Because air resistance increases so rapidly with speed, above about 30 mph (48 km/h), it becomes a dominant limiting factor. Driving at 45 rather than 65 mph (72 rather than 105 km/h), results in about one-third the power to overcome wind resistance, or about one half the energy per unit distance, and much greater fuel economy can be achieved. Increasing speed to 90 mph (145 km/h) from 65 mph (105 km/h) increases the power requirement by 2.6 times, the energy by 1.9 times, and drastically decreases fuel economy. In practice, rather than doubling or halving the fuel economy, the difference is actually closer to 40-50%, because engine efficiency varies greatly with the torque/speed operating point. Rolling resistance, which is broadly proportional to speed, is also a factor particularly at lower speeds.
In other words, if you can arrange your schedule to drive somehow more slowly than usual you will both

a) safe fuel
b) be somehow a little more safe (even if speed by itself doesn't kill , lower speed impacts are probably better then higher ones)
c) help the environment by using less energy and emitting less pollutants.

It's most effective when it becomes an habit ; occasional runs because you are in a hurry wouldn't spoil a good week of slower driving. Even going faster during the morning to reach work and slower when returning is fine.

Or take public transport, if avaiable.
posted by elpapacito at 5:16 PM on April 18, 2008


In other words, if you can arrange your schedule to drive somehow more slowly than usual...

Now I'm glad I only take surface streets to work!
posted by davejay at 5:28 PM on April 18, 2008


Well, here in Canada we have an energy rebate program that is giving money to homeowners and landlord to increase the energy efficiency of their homes.

This summer I am completely re-insulating my home, upgrading my furnace and water heater, and changing some doors and windows among a few other things.

I should get around $8000 dollars for about $10000 in upgrades.

I figure I'll be able to cut my heating bills in half - the upgrades should pay for themselves in well under ten years.

A few no-brainers we've also done - turning off our computers when we're not using them. I had gotten so used to having the desktop PC idling 24/7, but it finally occurred to me that it was being used maybe two hours out of the day, tops.

It's a start, but we still have a ways to go.
posted by davey_darling at 5:38 PM on April 18, 2008


what active steps other MeFites are taking along these lines

I've begun replacing our light bulbs with those long-lasting energy-efficient ones, plus we rarely have more than one or two lights on in the apartment at a time. We turn computers off when not in use. We have a very fuel-efficient car (Honda Civic), and I take the bus to work roughly 3 days a week (even though my coworkers laugh at me for taking the bus). We carpool with my mother-in-law for grocery shopping, and I only ever drive around town (so no high speeds). Being a homebody is good for the planet ;-)
posted by Koko at 5:47 PM on April 18, 2008


The thing about these kinds of statistics ("second warmest March ever according to NOAA") is that they can be used to mislead.

The Climate Progress article that was linked to mentions that the January-March period that just just ended was the "warmest in eleven years". That sounds pretty bad, until you realise that almost all of the yet-warmer years have been in the last decade; it would be equally correct, and equally misleading, to say that the the January-March period was colder than the average for the last ten years.

Then there's the way these numbers are calculated in the first place. There are four major global temperature series; they are all scientifically respectable and generally not supposed to be biased politically. But only one of the four showed March to be notably warm. The other three have it basically at (or below) the long-term average.

Meanwhile the World Metereological Organisation has stated that 2008 is likely to be cooler than most of the previous years, much to the cherry-picking delight of the die-hard skeptics.

This is the problem with the climate debate; it is dominated by extremists who have no qualms about exagerating and cherry-picking to mislead the public, as long as they mislead the public in what they consider the "right" way.

There is a degree of dishonesty in some of these links. If you select the worst-possible interpretation of the most outlying dataset, you can work people into a panic. Maybe they'll be inspired to do the right thing by it, but it's still dishonest.

I don't propose to counter that dishonesty by engaging in dishonesty of my own; instead I ask you to ponder this thought.

Given the absolute lack of any actual impacts on the day-to-day lives of human beings from global warming so far, how long do you think this issue will retain people's attention? If the global economy turns south as it may do, do you think people will give a rat's arse about carbon offsetting if they're struggling to feed their families?
posted by standbythree at 6:00 PM on April 18, 2008 [4 favorites]


I'd actually be interested to hear about what active steps other MeFites are taking along these lines, for global issues and local ones.

Well, my girlfriend and I don't drive. Neither of us even has a license. We take the bus in the winter, and bike whenever we can. We use Craiglist rideshare when we can. We try to eat locally, but in Whistler, that's pretty difficult. We buy things second hand whenever possible. We've been trying to be more responsible with meat consumption as well. Lately, I have been cooking with local duck and lamb, which is both more environmentally friendly and humane than the industrial alternative. I save grease and used cooking oil for recycling.

While I'm leaving Whistler in less than two months, I've volunteered to help get a composting initiative off the ground. Because Whistler has lots of bears, we can't all have compost heaps in our yards; in response, the municipality is promising a centralized facility with a collection system, but the details are all up in the air. This is a particular pet peeve of mine because most of what I send to the landfill, maybe 90% is organic waste.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 6:02 PM on April 18, 2008


But this 15-year-old girl read a bunch of stuff on line, and you know what she found out? All the so-called "scientists" are wrong!
posted by nax at 6:13 PM on April 18, 2008


I'd actually be interested to hear about what active steps other MeFites are taking along these lines

I'm unashamed to say that I have taken no steps whatsoever. I honestly believe that all of the composting, recycling, biking, food-miles-counting and tofu-eating in the world won't help us if global warming theory is correct; and if it's not, obviously, then it doesn't matter anyway.

I really don't mind that so many people want to live their lives in as miserable a way as possible; want to deny their children simple pleasures that they enjoyed growing up; prefer to sort their garbage into a dozen streams rather than simply sending it to a landfill where it belongs; disapprove of the genuine miracle of human achievment that is mass jet transport; generally consider that people are bad, and that having less people is therefore a good idea; and dream of nothing more than enjoying a quality of life similar to a medieval peasant, forgetting that the average peasant lived an environmentally sustainable and low-footprint life right up until their painful death from rickets at the age of 19.

That's all fine.

But despite how it might appear in the virtual echo-chamber of metafilter; you are not the majority, and I for one do not think you are right.
posted by standbythree at 6:21 PM on April 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


I really don't mind that so many people want to live their lives in as miserable a way as possible; want to deny their children simple pleasures that they enjoyed growing up

Hey welcome aboard user 73099, joined yesterday and cranking out rote snark about the "virtual echo chamber of Metafilter." It's good to see you and your stereotyped strawmen! The obvious rejoinder would be something like: "the rest of us don't mind if you want to gorge yourself now and condemn your children and grandchildren to wretchedness..." and frankly there'd be a good deal more truth in it, except, y'know, for the bit about us not minding. But that wouldn't be constructive, would it; not that your trite talk-radio scripted cartoon caricature was intended to be constructive anyway, so who cares, right? Anyway, enjoy your stay, and many happy potshots at your cherished received stereotypes, mmmkay?
posted by George_Spiggott at 6:38 PM on April 18, 2008 [6 favorites]


Hey welcome aboard user 73099, joined yesterday and cranking out rote snark about the "virtual echo chamber of Metafilter."

Thanks! It's nice to be received with such a complete lack of ad-hominem.
posted by standbythree at 6:42 PM on April 18, 2008


But only one of the four showed March to be notably warm. The other three have it basically at (or below) the long-term average.

Cite?
posted by [expletive deleted] at 6:56 PM on April 18, 2008


It was really nice today. Go global warming!
posted by smackfu at 6:58 PM on April 18, 2008


To try and turn a negative (standbythree's comments) into a positive, I don't see how having more efficient cars or slowing down carbon emission rates is going to solve global climate change. To me, it seems like there are a lot more things that are emitting a lot more carbon -- having even 20% of the population switch to fuel efficient cars isn't going to make a dent when China is building a coal burning power plant at a rate of 1 per week, or the huge tons of carbon dioxide modern air travel uses. Many time I feel like what I do (walk to and from work, eat local produce, ect.) is a drop in a huge, huge, oceanic-large bucket. That's not to say that I'm not going to continue to do these things, or stop encouraging others to do such. But, honestly, humans are going to have to radically, fundamentally change the way everyone lives to stop this, or even to deal with global climate change. We need something massive -- non-polluting power plants that solely convert CO2 into oil that we store (not use), to pull it from the atmosphere.

Remember the hole in the ozone layer? The ozone cycle is on a 50-100 year cycle, meaning that when countries completely stopped emitting ozone-depleting chemicals, it took 16 years to notice an impact.

Carbon dioxide cycle are on a longer cycle (I can't find the number of years), meaning if we completely stopped emitting carbon dioxide (as in no automobiles, no power plants, no fires for cooking), carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere will continue to increase for 50+ years. If we have raised 1-2 degrees centigrade in 10 years, imagine life 5-10 degrees warmer in 50 years if we stop all power plants tomorrow.

This is the magnitude of the problem. All the Kyoto protocols and hybrid vehicles are not going to save us, although obviously they do help a tiny bit, and they force people to talk about the issue. I've talked to a few climate scientists about this, and all of them have said that there is no way that our grandkids are going to forgive us what what we are doing.

Happy Friday! Sorry for the depressing news. This is what I get to hear every month or so as a biologist at a large university, along with plenty of charts and graphs about this stuff. Work on technology that will massively shift where carbon is located on Earth.
posted by Peter Petridish at 7:01 PM on April 18, 2008 [3 favorites]


Cite?

First let me correct a minor error; of the four series, two show statistically insignificant warming relative to the baseline, one shows moderate warming (within the range of recent years), and one, GISS, shows signifcant warming. None were below the long term average (though they were for the previous month.)

All the data series are publicly available, but the March data is summarised on this page.
posted by standbythree at 7:05 PM on April 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm unashamed to say that I have taken no steps whatsoever.

I am unashamed to say that you are a worthless and morally bankrupt person. You have every bit as much respect for your fellow inhabitants of the Earth as you do for metafilter. I can only assume that you speed blindly through crosswalks in school zones while complain about the "echo chamber" of people who have enough respect for their neighbors to not kill their children.

You have the maturity of a ten-year-old marching through the hallways at school swinging his fists and claiming it's not his fault if someone gets hit. Grow the fuck up and stop pretending that the rest of us have a responsibility to clean up your mess.
posted by stet at 7:08 PM on April 18, 2008 [4 favorites]


I honestly believe that all of the composting, recycling, biking, food-miles-counting and tofu-eating in the world won't help us if global warming theory is correct; and if it's not, obviously, then it doesn't matter anyway.

One nice thing about making an effort to reduce global warming is that there are lots of other benefits that go along with it. Mainly less pollution, but also reduced dependence on foreign oil, more wildlife, tastier food, more robust transportation options, more comfortable homes and offices, and lower utility bills. That doesn't sound very medieval to me, but go ahead and rip out your insulation if you think ideas like green home technology have no merit.
posted by hydrophonic at 7:10 PM on April 18, 2008 [4 favorites]


One nice thing about making an effort to reduce global warming is that there are lots of other benefits that go along with it.

No argument with that. And no, I won't be ripping out any insulation, because I definitely like lower utility bills. Some of the ideas that are proposed to deal with global warming are good ideas in their own right. I applaud them.

But "more robust transportation options"? What does that mean?
posted by standbythree at 7:20 PM on April 18, 2008


But "more robust transportation options"? What does that mean?

Well funded, smartly integrated public transportation systems. Rapid rail transit. More bike lanes. Urban planning that allows you to walk to a store.
posted by hydrophonic at 7:37 PM on April 18, 2008


A lot of people involved in these studies think we're already past the tipping point, unfortunately.

That was my uninformed guess. From previous history graphs of Earth's climate (and lots of SimEarth time logged) these radical changes can happen so quick, like flicking a lightswitch.

Only science will save us now.
posted by Meatbomb at 7:41 PM on April 18, 2008


prefer to sort their garbage into a dozen streams rather than simply sending it to a landfill where it belongs --standbythree

Is that in the bible somewhere?
posted by sourwookie at 7:50 PM on April 18, 2008


Well funded, smartly integrated public transportation systems. Rapid rail transit. More bike lanes. Urban planning that allows you to walk to a store.

Well, for what it's worth, I'm all for that too. I grew up in a traditional village in Scotland where walking to get your groceries was the normal practice. It was very little effort, and had great reward in terms of meeting people on the street and feeling part of society. I really hate the trend against identifiable centers in modern urban planning.

What about the edge cases though? Buses are only sensible for journeys that lots of people want to make at approximately the same time. There are many journeys for which a car is the least polluting means of transport - for example, if I want to visit my friend in a town eighteen kilometers from here, at 7am on a Sunday, my car certainly emits less CO2 and far less particulates on a per-person basis than the otherwise-empty bus that I could hypothetically use instead.

This is where we begin to address quality of life issues. Should I take my car? Should I lobby for a useless and always-empty bus to run on this route, thereby simultaneously earning green brownie points AND increasing CO2 emissions? Or should I just not go?

For what it's worth, I don't drive to work - I walk. In my last job I got the bus because it made economic sense - there are already major economic disincentives to driving. But it was a fairly miserable experience, and the unique ability of public transport systems to turn a 20-minute drive into a two-hour wait-for-bus-then-wait-on-bus slog seems to be the same in Canada as it was in Scotland.
posted by standbythree at 7:53 PM on April 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


A month of temperature data is useless to tell us anything about a climate forcing. So is a year, actually. this post over at Realclimate.org has a very good analysis of this. Take the last fifty years of data, and fit a few dozen eight year trend lines to it. Some will go down, many will go up. The overall trend is clearly up, and -- on average -- most of the 8 year trend lines are up. However, there are annual to decadal fluctuations about the longer term trend and some eight year periods will show cooling. This is such simple stuff that it bothers me to no end when either a) someone mentions a colder year than last as evidence somehow that the overwhelming scientific consensus is now therefore wrong; or b) when a particularly hot summer or year generates media stories about global warming.

(How long is enough to identify a robust trend? Well, probably 15 year trend lines are. See this recent letter to Nature Geoscience (pdf)).

As far as the four main temperature series are concerned, there is month to month variation between the series, but when they are all normalized to the same base period, there is very little variation between them. For example, this figure.
posted by bumpkin at 8:11 PM on April 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


$40 every two months for heat!

I paid $700/mo through the winter.

It's probably not possible to live a low impact life up here. Which is strange, given the number of environmentalist types that live here.
posted by ODiV at 8:22 PM on April 18, 2008


prefer to sort their garbage into a dozen streams rather than simply sending it to a landfill where it belongs --standbythree

That's from Penn & Teller's mis-informed "documentary" (polemic) against recycling that recently aired on cable TV. Of course, the show is complete bullshit. standbythree, recycling is a very complex topic that is resistant to generalizations, in particular to the logical fallacies in that show. Do you always get your science facts from 2nd rate magicians? I can think of more reliable sources.
posted by stbalbach at 8:36 PM on April 18, 2008


funny title, [expletive deleted], I hadn't heard that before.
posted by salvia at 9:03 PM on April 18, 2008


To me, it seems like there are a lot more things that are emitting a lot more carbon -- having even 20% of the population switch to fuel efficient cars isn't going to make a dent when China is building a coal burning power plant at a rate of 1 per week

India and China combined still use less than half the energy that the US does.*

*I read it in the new National Geographic while waiting in line at Safeway
posted by KokuRyu at 9:37 PM on April 18, 2008


Thanks Salvia, it was just the first thing that popped into my head when composing this post.

Standbythree, thanks for the link. While I don't exactly find the blog you linked to very credible, your point stands. NASA GISS does indeed seem to be an outlier here. This is only tangential to the main thrust of my post, however. What I am particularly concerned about is the temperature anomaly in Asia, specifically East Siberia. If this proves to be a trend, this will be the second year of shockingly fast warming in that part of the world, and I am particularly concerned about the positive feedbacks that this entails, particularly the loss of permanent sea ice, forests burning, and the very, very troubling possibility of methane release from melting permafrost and clathrate release.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 10:22 PM on April 18, 2008


Well I thought standbythree's first comment (at 9:00PM) made -- some nitpicking aside -- a relatively good point: the ends don't justify misleading means, regardless of who's doing the talking. That's a fair point and one that bears repeating, although I don't think there is nearly as much intentionally misleading, misrepresented information on the side of global-warming consensus as there is from the AEI / petroleum lobby / "skeptic" front.

But yeah, after that, you didn't so much go downhill as fall off a sheer precipice. You created a straw man with the "medieval peasant" stuff, and then (10:53PM) you presented a sort of argument from marginal cases in favor of automobile transport. Which is valid, except that I don't really hear anyone saying that you shouldn't use automobiles when they are truly the most efficient means of transportation. It's just that they very rarely are. Unfortunately, we have created a market where the up-front cost of various forms of transportation is almost completely disconnected with the true costs involved, including long-term environmental and public-health damage.

I think the best solution isn't to try to ban cars outright, but to ensure that the cost of operating one takes into full account all the associated externalities. (Also, a restriction either on mass or on momentum [mass*max speed] so that we can stop engaging in an arms race of who's-car-is-bigger in the name of safety wouldn't be overstepping even my idea of the very limited role of proper government.) I would be just as quick to call someone a fool for calling for a total ban on automobiles, because as you point out, there are always edge cases where a self-propelled, rubber-tyred, enclosed passenger vehicle really is the best choice, and I think people ought to have the ability to make that choice, but if and only if all the costs are being taken into account at the time the decision is made. But I know a lot of environmentalists and I can't think of a single one that would tell you that all cars are bad, 100% of the time, in every case. The argument isn't about marginal cases.

Regarding recycling, I think P&T are being glib and not particularly insightful (which is too bad, because on some other topics I think they're pretty close to right on). There's a good argument for sorting trash at the time of disposal: it doesn't take much effort or energy to toss cans into one bin and banana peels into another, but performing that sorting later on in the waste stream is tricky and expensive. Well-sorted trash is a valuable commodity, and even if we can't recycle it all now, we may be able to in the future; co-mingled trash is ... well, just trash.

It makes sense to encourage people to not destroy that significant value for a few seconds of laziness. Ideally I'd like to see this sort of thing encouraged via incentives rather than requirements and penalties (e.g. if you consistently sort recyclables, you get one rate for garbage pickup; co-mingle and you get a higher one, since your trash isn't as valuable), but it's silly to just dismiss it out of hand.
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:36 PM on April 18, 2008 [2 favorites]


want to deny their children simple pleasures that they enjoyed growing up;

Really? Because a main reason I strive for conservation and sustainabililty i so I don't deny children the simple pleasures I enjoyed.

Of course we may be of a different generation ourselves, perhaps your simple pleasures were being driven around in you moms SUV, eating McDonalds and playing on Land fills (when you weren't stuck indoors on your playstation).

The simple pleasures I enjoyed as a kid really were simple. And most involved the outdoors. I'd like to try and save a bit of nature for the future.

Climate Change could be right, could be wrong. It's really hard to ignore the real changes you can see with your own eyes though. That's what drives me, not the media hype around climate change. We are all going to die eventually and Im not religious. I'm selfish. I want to preserve what is here for me and mine, no other higher reason.

But it is all down to perspective. What you saw as simple pleasures are obviously the complete opposite to mine. So you keep living your life reliant on others, I'll live my way. Good luck when the shit hits the fan.
posted by twistedonion at 1:45 AM on April 19, 2008


Shit, I just checked out your profile standbythree and we are the same age. What were the simple pleasures of your youth that would be denied by sustainable living?

You come from poverty so you say you aren't a privileged white male and also that you consider yourself intelligent. Yet a statement such as:

Given the absolute lack of any actual impacts on the day-to-day lives of human beings from global warming so far

Would suggest to me you are both privileged and either lack intelligence or are blind to hardships encountered by people in many countries directly affected by climate change. Just because your life hasn't changed doesn't mean others aren't suffering right now thanks to rising food costs and rising sea levels.
posted by twistedonion at 2:56 AM on April 19, 2008


It wouldn't be bad if we had some projections into what to do when the shit DOES hit the fan.
posted by acrobat at 3:21 AM on April 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


Penn and Teller

Sorry, but I don't actually know anything about Penn and Teller and I've never seen this show. Please see my profile re: American lenses. I can assure you that my opinion on recycling is not based on a TV series, or even on the degree of environmental benefit, but rather on simple cost/benefit analysis.

India and China use less than half the energy the US does

China is now the world's largest emitter of CO2.

A month of temperature data is useless to tell us anything about a climate forcing.

Completely agree. My main point here is that it's equally useless for both "sides" in this debate.
posted by standbythree at 3:44 AM on April 19, 2008


doesn't mean others aren't suffering right now thanks to rising food costs and rising sea levels

The only relationship between the current rising food prices and global warming is the distortion of the market thanks to biofuels. There has been no measurable decline in food production due to global warming so far. Some experts (including IPCC contributors) believe that food production will initially rise due to global warming, before it declines.

So far, the mean rate of sea level rise is the same as it has been for the last thousand years, which is to say, very small. Given that there has been little overall loss of ice mass - so far - in Greenland and the Antarctic, this is as expected. Climate cycles like El Nino have a much greater impact on local sea levels than global warming - so far.

None of this, by the way, is in the least bit controversial.

I think you're falling into the trap of imagining that things the IPCC has predicted, based on models, as being likely to occur in the next century are happening now. This really isn't the case.
posted by standbythree at 4:00 AM on April 19, 2008


What were the simple pleasures of your youth that would be denied by sustainable living?

Being driven to the beach on a sunny day. Eating tangerines. Getting cool toys - imported from China - for Christmas.
posted by standbythree at 4:13 AM on April 19, 2008


I pray to the great and awesome spagetti monster periodically that some scientisty people get a clue and a spine, and release a plague. It's called pruning the vine so the root can live.

Either that, or somebody better figure out to make Tesla's polyphase 4 not fry everything in sight. Wait, that won't help the ecosystems we're destroying. Do both, please.

Also, if you want to know how to deal effectively with rightwingers, Dr. Altmeyer's book The Authoritarians is a must read. He studied them exclusively for about forty years at the University of Manitoba, and gave this ebook out free right before his retirement.

Please read this book if you are interested in engaging them. What works on liberals does not work on right-wingers, and he explains it all in a very easy-to-read style. They really do respond in predictable ways to certain stimili and it's wise to know how to approach them.


http://home.cc.umanitoba.ca/~altemey/
posted by bravelittletoaster at 8:53 AM on April 19, 2008


It is fascinating to me that right-wingers are willing to destroy civil liberties because of one lousy building falling down and unrealistic fear of more, but at the same time they are willing to protect unrestrained capitalism in spite of a thousand peer-reviewd studies on climate change. It isn't about logic at all, or an incapacity to accurately prioritize risk management, but that little lizard part of their brain which says they are kings who will force everyone and everything to bow down before them -- even the earth itself.

They are idiots with little genuine concern for outsiders and who justify any excuse in order to insure their own immediate gratification; the sooner we learn to identify and neutralize them, the better off the rest of us will be. If you read Dr. Altermyer's book, it makes the point they do not respond to logic; they're actually responding to the superficial repetition. They subsist at a purely emotional level.
posted by bravelittletoaster at 9:38 AM on April 19, 2008


The only relationship between the current rising food prices and global warming is the distortion of the market thanks to biofuels. There has been no measurable decline in food production due to global warming so far. Some experts (including IPCC contributors) believe that food production will initially rise due to global warming, before it declines.

I would mostly agree with this, perhaps with the possible exception of Australia, which may be quickly becoming too dry to continue to export grain at current levels.

I have a question though, if we shouldn't be enduring even modest sacrifice, and if it's right and proper to continue with the profligate waste to which Canadians have been accustomed, what should we be doing to prevent these worst case scenarios?

The purpose of my post wasn't to say that the end is nigh; I wanted to illustrate with some links and recent context Lord Stern's comments. I do think that by most metrics things are happening even faster than was assumed by his report.

While I talk about methane release from arctic melting, I'm not stating that I know for a fact it will happen, although there is limited evidence that it might already be happening. Still, even if I accept that the chance an abrupt 12 fold increase in atmospheric methane is slim, such an event would be so catastrophic that I don't see how it could be remotely prudent to dismiss.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 10:35 AM on April 19, 2008


Der Spiegel has a story on a paper, the abstract of which I linked to in the FPP, regarding methane release from clathrates in the East Siberian Sea.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 11:32 AM on April 19, 2008


bumpkin thank you for this spot on comment. Indeed all three datasets are computing anomalies with respect to different base periods. Moreover, they do not include the entire globe, as GISS does. Most of the warming is taking place in high latitudes, so excluding them leads to lower values. Note also that values from satellites are always smoothed out because satellite "footprint" is a region of several kilometers wide whereas point measurements are very local.

So far, the mean rate of sea level rise is the same as it has been for the last thousand years, which is to say, very small. Given that there has been little overall loss of ice mass - so far - in Greenland and the Antarctic, this is as expected. Climate cycles like El Nino have a much greater impact on local sea levels than global warming - so far.

Not really. The sea level is rising, the overall ice mass loss is large and natural variability (el nino, la nina and even the tides) is not an issue because natural variability has always existed and it is taken into account when people say "rise above mean sea level". The mean sea level that's exceeded includes the tides and all the babies.

I think you're falling into the trap of imagining that things the IPCC has predicted, based on models, as being likely to occur in the next century are happening now. This really isn't the case.

Not really, again. Models underestimated loss of Arctic Sea Ice: "Because of this disparity, the shrinking of summertime ice is about thirty years ahead of the climate model projections" IPCC-AR4 is quite a conservative estimate of future climate indices, most scientists who participated will now agree. [monthly review link: not for the faint of heart]
posted by carmina at 4:08 PM on April 19, 2008


Great. Standbythree wants to accelerate the collapse of civilization so kids can get "cool toys-imported from China--for Christmas"

You forgot baseball and apple pie.
posted by sourwookie at 10:48 PM on April 19, 2008


Indeed all three datasets are computing anomalies with respect to different base periods.

Wrong. There are four datasets, not three, and three of the four use the same base period.

Moreover, they do not include the entire globe, as GISS does

Wrong. Satellite measurements do include the entire globe; surface measurements by definition cannot. Please note that although GISS is the "Goddard Insitutite for Space Studies" the GISS data is a surface data series.

Most of the warming is taking place in high latitudes, so excluding them leads to lower values.

This is wrong. Unfortunately there are almost no climate monitoring stations in high latitudes, so GISS attempts to project what the values might be if there were. In other words, its "whole globe" coverage is partly based on made-up numbers.

The other surface data series, from Hadley in the UK, deliberately excludes the poles from the model because it cannot be sampled accurately.

Note also that values from satellites are always smoothed out because satellite "footprint" is a region of several kilometers wide whereas point measurements are very local.

This is unfortunately quite severely wrong. The kind of error you are talking about is much less severe in satellite measurements than in surface measurements. Even if satellites could only sample the world in ten kilometer-wide chunks, which is not the case, that would still give several hundred times more samples, globally, than the number of surface climate stations. And of course, those surface stations are concentrated in areas where people actually live.

Both the surface station series have to apply statistical models to try to take the relatively small number of samples they have, from a geographically rather unrepresentative set of places, and make it represent the global climate. This cannot be done with mathematical certainty, and different models have different assumptions built in. The different models are the main reason that GISS and HadCRUT, which both basically use the same surface measurements from the same stations, usually disagree about month-to-month changes.

The sea level is rising.

The article you linked to discusses future threats from sea level rise. It notes that current sea-level rise is 3mm per year. This is well within the range observed since the last glacial maximum, of up to around 6mm per year.

the overall ice loss is large

But *not* large enough, yet, to produce sea level rises that are higher than natural variability, and that is my point. It is irrelevent that natural variability is excluded from the means; I agree that is true but it really doesn't matter. The point is that if the sea level rise so far is within the range of natural variability, then it can not be said to have caused any specific impacts.

To the rest of your points I'll just say that if I chose to, I can also cherry-pick some websites to link to that will "prove" the antarctic is cooling and its ice mass increasing and that ice mass is also increasing in Greenland. Meanwhile glaciers are growing around the world.

I can even point to a True Believer site that when discussing "how to talk to a global warming skeptic" has to concede that "Overall, it is true that sea ice in the Antarctic is increasing". Now then explain (fairly convincingly) why that isn't a problem for AGW theory, but Antarctic ice melting clearly can't be responsible for rising sea levels if the ice mass is growing! And anyway, why would the ice be melting when the oceans aren't warming after all? "there has been a very slight cooling" since 2003.

Overall, I admit that I have no idea what's happening with the ice caps right now. Every week brings new and contradictory data points. Obviously there's a lot of seasonality to sea ice, and I think that every winter brings the skeptics out to say "look! the ice is increasing! there's no global warming" but also, every summer brings out the True Believers to say "look! the ice is melting! we're all going to DROWN!". It's very hard for a non-expert to pick out the signal from the political noise.

But I do keep up with sea levels; I am a Geology graduate and was always interested in this. Nothing spectacular has happened with sea levels so far. I'm open minded (no, really) about whether something will happen in the future.
posted by standbythree at 5:01 AM on April 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


Ah, a geology major, that explains it - well, the rocks aren't going to suffer that much from global warming (limestone excepted). Life will go on. We may not. So, environmental nihilism isn't an unreasonable stance, if you're used to thinking in geologic time.
posted by anthill at 7:31 AM on April 20, 2008


I am not wrong. But I will not go through all your links either. Some don't even say what you state. Ocean heat content is unknown at this point. Nobody knows it. There are no measurements. Period. Anything said on the subject is speculation, maybe right maybe wrong. Models show ocean heat content increasing. Glaciers in Pakistan growing or melting will not affect sea level change. Too small, too far from the ocean.

GISStemp vs. HADCRU: Yale says they use different base periods.

Each satellite measures a third of the globe. (NOAA link) Obviously several of them together, and combinations of polar and geosynchronous orbiters, gives better coverage.
Our best source of sea surface temps right now comes from JPL AVHRR measurements at 200km wide resolution, as this link says. To be clear, satellites are integral part of our knowledge of the Earth system, but not alone. Especially, I forgot to mention that yesterday, because they cover a short record. Satellites are operational roughly since the 70's. You cannot talk about climate trends from 30 year data.

Surface measurements exist in the poles, they are from stations, from buoys and from research cruises. Like this one. And, there are, um, people living north of the arctic circle, you know. Each summer in Antarctica there are about 4000 scientists from 27 countries, I'll say the weather stations there add up to hundreds.

East Antarctica: no ice mass loss to melting. Western Antarctica big loss.
It's the western antarctica ice sheet collapse that worries people.
posted by carmina at 8:46 AM on April 20, 2008


Ocean heat content is unknown at this point.

That would come as a suprise to the NOAA who have just spend billions of dollars measuring it over five years.

Models show ocean heat content increasing

Indeed. But actual measurements show a slight cooling.
posted by standbythree at 12:16 PM on April 20, 2008


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