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The 4th degree
August 10, 2008 5:38 PM   Subscribe

80 percent of Americans say global warming is real and poses a threat to humanity. Which is good because if the global temperature raises by 4 degrees we're all dead. However only 44 percent would be willing to face any financial hardship in the name of a solution.
posted by Artw (89 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
So this is it? We're all going to die?
posted by pompomtom at 5:48 PM on August 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


Chances are 100% you'll die. Sorry.
posted by Artw at 5:51 PM on August 10, 2008 [7 favorites]


From a journalist with a book to sell opining 4 degrees could mean "perhaps the beginning of our extinction" to "by 4 degrees we're all dead"? I'm 100% in favor of mitigating global warming but insisting on the most catastrophic interpretation (from the least rigorous sources) is not helping.
posted by nanojath at 5:53 PM on August 10, 2008 [3 favorites]


From the article:
But only 44 percent indicated addressing global warming should necessarily cause them personal financial hardship.

This seems to say that 44% don't think sacrifice is necessary, and not that they would be unwilling to sacrifice as you suggest. So, depending upon your views, they are ignorant rather than selfish.
posted by Pyry at 5:54 PM on August 10, 2008


Guess I'll head down to the pub for some muscle relaxant and hope for a wayward Vogon ship.
posted by tinkertown at 5:56 PM on August 10, 2008 [9 favorites]


Also, "44 percent indicated addressing global warming should necessarily cause them personal financial hardship" does not mean the same thing as "44 percent would be willing to face any financial hardship in the name of a solution."
posted by nanojath at 5:57 PM on August 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


The only times that article uses the word extinct are in the title and in the non-sentence, "Or perhaps the beginning of our extinction." I guess meaningless, unsupported phrases that sound scary sell magazine articles (and MeFi posts...)

Global warming sucks, though, and I'll gladly pay my part for a solution.
posted by Huck500 at 5:59 PM on August 10, 2008


Somebody please help me out here.

I've been hearing a lot recently that the general scientific opinion on global warming is that it's real, and is happening, but that human behavior isn't really doing that much to affect it, but that it's still a good idea for us to stop those behaviors which we've seen as causes for global warming because they all hurt us and the Earth in other ways (such as by poisoning our oceans and so forth.)

Does anyone know if there's any truth to this, or have I just been hearing uninformed right-wing rhetoric trickling down?
posted by Navelgazer at 6:00 PM on August 10, 2008


But I don't want to die! Somebody do something!
posted by turgid dahlia at 6:04 PM on August 10, 2008


Look at this graph and you tell me!
posted by Citizen Premier at 6:04 PM on August 10, 2008


Meanwhile, the US Climate Change Science Program was created in late 2002 by a skeptical Bush administration to review the validity of climate-change science before making policy decisions. At the time, environmentalists accused the administration of using the program to "drag its feet".

Now 6 years later, as the Bush admin has entered it's final months, the US Climate Change Science Program has finally issued a report, concluding that computer models do effectively simulate climate. It also accepts that the models show human activity was responsible for the rapid warming of the 20th century.

"The evidence is pretty convincing that the models give a good simulation of climate," lead author David Bader of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California told reporters last week.

(*sound of feet dragging*)
posted by stbalbach at 6:05 PM on August 10, 2008 [5 favorites]


Does anyone know if there's any truth to this, or have I just been hearing uninformed right-wing rhetoric trickling down?

I don't know Navelgazer, but I read an article in Philosophy Now magazine a few months back that actually puts Pascal's wager to good use in the context of global warming. Either global warming is happening as a result of human impact, in which case we should reduce emissions etc., or it isn't happening as a result of human impact, in which case, there's still no real harm in reducing emissions etc.
posted by turgid dahlia at 6:06 PM on August 10, 2008


Guess I'll head down to the pub for some muscle relaxant and hope for a wayward Vogon ship.

And here's me laying down in the mud in front of this bloody bulldozer!
posted by turgid dahlia at 6:07 PM on August 10, 2008


Poke around here. There are a lot of charts and graphs and less-than-transparent data visualizations out there, but the one that both was clear as a bell and gave me the most heartburn was this one.

[I happen to have met a number of the scientists at NSIDC, and they're all first-class minds. I was impressed.]
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 6:11 PM on August 10, 2008


Don't worry, in November the CO2 levels will mysteriously start to go down.
posted by matty at 6:20 PM on August 10, 2008 [4 favorites]


How do Human Activities Contribute to Climate Change
and How do They Compare with Natural Influences?
(From the IPCC's FAQ.) Also, I highly recommend real climate. (I am not a climatologist. However, for what it's worth, I am a relatively evil economist.)
posted by ~ at 6:20 PM on August 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


"the end of living and the beginning of survival"

Say global warming really does start to stir the pot, and we all start having to change how we live completely... it's far from an attractive scenario, and nobody wants to go that route, but there could be some really positive outcomes.

The war in Iraq would be over!

Headline: Global Warming forces troop withdrawals in the Middle East.
posted by pwally at 6:24 PM on August 10, 2008


(Sigh. Sorry about broken line-breakage.)
posted by ~ at 6:32 PM on August 10, 2008


Don't worry... that four-degree business is in Celsius -- temperatures have to raise 7.2 degrees Fahrenheit before we're in any trouble.
posted by redbat at 6:36 PM on August 10, 2008 [4 favorites]


Oh. Well, that's OK then.

Besides, my house is at 81 meters above sealevel, so this doesn't affect me.
posted by AsYouKnow Bob at 6:46 PM on August 10, 2008 [2 favorites]


temperatures have to raise 7.2 degrees Fahrenheit before we're in any trouble.

Pah! That bullshit isn't SI! Get a real scale!
posted by Artw at 6:47 PM on August 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


80 percent of Americans say global warming is real

Funny, I think the same percentage are also retarded. Coincidence?
posted by a3matrix at 6:50 PM on August 10, 2008


I've been hearing a lot recently that the general scientific opinion on global warming is that it's real, and is happening, but that human behavior isn't really doing that much to affect it

Hearing a lot from where? I've been following this scientific debate for 12 years now and my perspective is that the overwhelming and consistently growing scientific consensus is that the origin of global warming is CO2 emissions resulting from human activities, with a discrete and fairly consistent group of dissenting scientists. I'd like to see any
posted by nanojath at 6:56 PM on August 10, 2008


OMG THEY GOT NANOJATH!
posted by cashman at 7:01 PM on August 10, 2008 [24 favorites]


The inverse is very revealing as well:

2 in 10 Americans are asshats.
posted by wfrgms at 7:47 PM on August 10, 2008


I don't know, I think the financial hardship question is sort of loaded. It implies joining the people right now who take on financial hardship to fight global warming, buying a Prius, or not driving, or one of several other things that seem both significantly inconvenient and completely futile.

I mean, by even posting on here, no matter what we say, we are tacitly part of the group unwilling to undergo hardship. I'm not going to stop using my computer or the internet. How about we put a counter at the top of the page estimating how much coal we all have burned by maintaining this website?

I'm willing to undergo financial hardship, but only to support a solution that stands up against the same rigorous scientific standards that prove that global warming is happening. What I've seen, (feel free to correct me if I'm wrong, but this is what I've seen), is that the human population of the earth can't be supported at its current levels and growth rate, and it seems like there are three things that can really reduce it, war, famine and disease. (I guess you could combine disease and famine and make two).

I don't LIKE being nihilistic, but really, it seems like there is no solution that stands up. Even if we could get all people, (and industries too) in one country to completely stop using oil and coal based fuels, is there any reason to think that the others won't pick up the slack? Is there any reason to think that anything will happen except that people will burn every last drop of oil they can dig up?

I mean really, if you fiddle while the world burns, at least you get to enjoy some nice fiddle music.
posted by SomeOneElse at 7:58 PM on August 10, 2008 [2 favorites]


2 in 10 Americans are asshats.

I dunno wfrgms, maybe they're smarter than the rest of us. After all, if you don't believe in something, it's not going to affect you! This is how I am able to snort depleted uranium (you think binaural beats give you a high?) without a care in the world.

And the beautiful thing about when the sea level rises and drowns San Francisco? "God was punishing the homos."
posted by turgid dahlia at 8:10 PM on August 10, 2008


How about we put a counter at the top of the page estimating how much coal we all have burned by maintaining this website?

I gave up BoingBoing for Lent. Just doing my part baby.

If only there were a way to stop Cory Doctorow from doing Technorati searches for himself, we'd be making some real progress.

/pointless irrelevant snark
posted by turgid dahlia at 8:15 PM on August 10, 2008 [2 favorites]


... although now that we're past Peak Doctorow, we're doing our own part to reduce emissions.
posted by lukemeister at 8:30 PM on August 10, 2008


I propose a new category on metafilter: TOCfilter. *.
This is TOCfilter.
posted by lalochezia at 8:31 PM on August 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


Dingo’s kidneys! Must be some way of getting off this planet other than gettin’ high.
posted by Greg_Ace at 8:51 PM on August 10, 2008


FTA: "The world's geography would be transformed much as it was at the end of the last ice age ...."

Er, that didn't exactly result in "we're all dead," did it?

I'm all for reducing The Filth because I don't want to breathe that shit and see it in the sky, and I'm all for green power and self sufficiency and am working to get Off The Grid myself, but if some coastal cities are slowly lost to rising sea levels, that's not the end of *my* world, and it's hardly a death sentence for most people living in coastal cities.

As horrible as Katrina was, nobody has claimed more than a tenth of a percent of New Orleans residents died.
posted by kenlayne at 9:22 PM on August 10, 2008


Studies show that people lie to pollsters.
posted by longsleeves at 9:25 PM on August 10, 2008


kenlayne - you might want to read Collapse, particularly in regard to chains of supply.
posted by Artw at 9:27 PM on August 10, 2008 [2 favorites]


Seconding the point above that 44% saying that addressing global warming should necessarily cause them personal financial hardship is not equivalent to 44% being willing to face financial hardship if need be.

But I think more importantly, the general approach that's brought to the public should be changed if we really want to get public support for remediation of the threats.

Semi-empirical predictions of doom won't help convince anyone anymore than religious zealots predicting the apocalypse help convince the non-faithful. Alarmists 25 years ago were predicting we'd be doomed by now, and I haven't seen the horsemen yet. Al Gore might have succeeded in his own way, but he's going to hurt us in the long run with his approach.

I (and of course this isn't my original thought) think the argument needs to be posed as following: we're pretty darned sure that the majority of warming since the 50's or so is anthropogenic in origin, and we're pretty darned sure that climate fluctuations in the past have been correlated with reorganizations of the biosphere. So we need to make a economic choice to manage the risk. If you're hesitant to absorb a financial hardship now, do you think the financial hardship of the likely alternative will be better or worse?
posted by switchsonic at 9:33 PM on August 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


Artw writes "Chances are 100% you'll die. Sorry."

Easy there, Artw, I didn't know you was a playa hater.
posted by mullingitover at 9:34 PM on August 10, 2008


Artw -- I read Collapse several years ago, and enjoyed it.

But nothing in the Apocalypse of Jared Diamond or James Kunstler or Mike Davis or other modern prophets of doom suggest "we're all dead" because chains of supply break or it becomes warmer near the poles. (I read all those guys, and am chronicling a lot of Doom myself.) They just project that modern globalized cheap-energy inequitable trade will crumble. Fine.

I don't really give a shit about Global Chains of Supply. Should they be severed, then we'll have to focus on the most important stuff: medicines, garden seed, etc. Maybe a lot of us will die. Oh well. But we're certainly not "all dead."
posted by kenlayne at 9:43 PM on August 10, 2008


You probably are. Unless you're some kind of mountain man.
posted by Artw at 9:46 PM on August 10, 2008


.

(for humanity)
posted by ZachsMind at 9:49 PM on August 10, 2008


longsleeves: Studies show that people lie to pollsters.

Interesting survey, that.
posted by Greg_Ace at 9:51 PM on August 10, 2008


ArtW -- Well, you go ahead and dream of your fellow Metafilter people being dead. Hope that works out for you.

Meanwhile, nothing in that article you posted suggests "we're all dead" because of a 4-degree celcius global temperature change. To quote from the article you posted, again, ""he world's geography would be transformed much as it was at the end of the last ice age ...."

If that killed everybody, then who exactly is typing nonsense on the Internet all over the world, tonight?
posted by kenlayne at 9:54 PM on August 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


This guy seems to think the IPCC is practicing bad science, and I have to agree. What do I mean by bad science? There are lots of examples in history, but rather than get into flat earth theories, bloodletting, and other discredited scientific ideas, I submit as an example the Voynich manuscript, a mysterious text which was long thought to be a book on astronomy or biology, maybe both, in some indecipherable language. Cryptologists had sought passionately to translate the text for years. But in 2003, computer scientist Gordon Rugg published a theory that the book was actually a hoax: gibberish created by a "cardan grille", a low-tech encoder. I encourage you to read the Wired article on this, it illustrates nicely the deficiencies in traditional science as applied to most disciplines. Here's an excerpt from the article:
[Rugg's] approach is built on the observation, noted as far back as the 1970s, that experts tend to cut to the chase. In their zeal to get to an answer, they make many little mistakes. (A recent study of work published in Nature and British Medical Journal, for example, found that 11 percent of papers had serious statistical errors.) Experts unknowingly fudge logic to square data with their hypotheses. Or they develop blind spots after years of working in isolation. They lose their ability to take a broader view. If all this is true, he says, think of how much big science is based on flawed intuition.
Could there be flawed intuition in climate science as practiced by the IPCC and adopted by the world's governments? I think so. Citizen Premier, that chart surely demonstrates a relationship between climate and atmospheric CO2, but correlation does not imply causation. The more reasonable way to explain that graph, IMO, is that temperature changes caused changes in CO2, not the other way around.

Climate modeling is based on assumptions which have not and cannot be tested. I am not convinced that the effects anthropogenic CO2 will have a significant effect on our climate, let alone a 4 degree Celsius temperature rise, and I am certainly not convinced that mitigation will be worth the costs (trillions of dollars of lost economic activity). If that makes me ignorant, selfish, or an asshat, then call me an asshat.
posted by MarkO at 9:57 PM on August 10, 2008 [4 favorites]


Is there any reason to think that anything will happen except that people will burn every last drop of oil they can dig up?

I see no reason to believe otherwise. I'd really, really like to believe something else, but even in my most drunken, giddy, in-love-with-the-world moments, I can't see how this would plausibly happen.

This is not a problem that's going to be solved from the bottom up; the basic problem is industrialized energy- and resource-intensive civilization. Good luck trying to get people to give that up (or stop yearning for it) — not that we even could; there's no way to support our current population without industrial activity which is in itself unsustainable. I suppose maybe there's a theoretical possibility of a solution in getting people to voluntarily forgo having children, thus bringing the population down to a sustainable level before we discover some hard limit on our ecosystem without a lot of needless death, but that seems unlikely — it flies in the face of a lot of biological and social programming to expand, expand, expand.

Likewise, I have a hard time imagining top-down controls working, either; there's no authority in a position to enforce them, and there are too many people and governments that would work against the creation of one (since it would be contrary to their own short-term interests). Plus, the range of problems is great (climate-changing emissions are only one part) and the solutions far from clear-cut. Even if there was a World Control-esque agency capable of enforcing an international agenda on the world, staffed by the brightest minds humanity could produce, there's no guarantee that they'd do the right things to prevent disaster.

The scenario that seems most likely to occur is that we'll keep right on cruising along, pretty much doing what we've been doing, until we run smack dab into something Really Bad. Maybe it'll be emissions-induced climate change; maybe it'll be energy shortages; maybe it'll be a dearth of potable water; maybe it'll just be war as more people grasp for fewer extractable resources. (Or, it would seem that a combination of several would be likely, rather than one clear-cut issue.) By the time we achieve enough of a consensus that a problem exists to take decisive action, it will already be far too late to avert the worst of it.

I don't necessarily have reason to believe that this will happen in my lifetime; it's possible (maybe even likely) that our civilization will keep ticking along, finding new stuff to burn and dealing with the day-to-day consequences, for a long time before something unmanageable arises. But when it does eventually arise, the results will almost certainly be catastrophic.

On preview: Nobody (at least that I'm aware of) is saying that the human species will be totally wiped out, made extinct, by a breakdown of modern civilization. I personally doubt that even the very worst nuclear war scenarios would do that — people are an adaptable bunch, and can survive in impressively hostile conditions. The survival of the human species is really in much question. However, the lives of billions and the development (technological, scientific, social; everything) that's been painstakingly achieved since the Industrial Revolution potentially is.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:09 PM on August 10, 2008 [2 favorites]


Oops ... typo correction:

The survival of the human species is not really in much question.

posted by Kadin2048 at 10:10 PM on August 10, 2008


@Artw
> Chances are 100% you'll die. Sorry.
How come? Your mind is not schooled in logic. What if there are some immortal among us?
You would have to wait, until the last person has died to prove your theory.
posted by yoyo_nyc at 10:14 PM on August 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


That would be the Problem of Induction.
posted by Artw at 10:19 PM on August 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


Four degrees celcius, that's like twenty degrees fahrenheit at the current exchange rates.
posted by cgomez at 10:34 PM on August 10, 2008


This guy seems to think the IPCC is practicing bad science, and I have to agree -- MarkO

"This guy" is Roger A. Pielke and surely you also agree with him when he says:
the evidence of a human fingerprint on the global and regional climate is incontrovertible as clearly illustrated in the National Research Council report and in our research papers [1]
Or maybe you agree with his son, Roger A. Pielke Jr (also a meteorologist) who says:
The IPCC has concluded that greenhouse gas emissions resulting from human activity are an important driver of changes in climate. And on this basis alone I am personally convinced that it makes sense to take action to limit greenhouse gas emissions.
It's pretty bad when son says Dad is wrong. In any case, it sort of puts the whole thing in perspective - they are just people with opinions, not very credible. More credible would be peer reviewed papers. More credible still would be professional organizations representing the consensus of thousands of scientists, which is what the IPCC basically is - they don't "do" science, they just aggregate it.
posted by stbalbach at 10:35 PM on August 10, 2008


longsleeves: Studies show that people lie to pollsters.

Interesting survey, that.


Greg Ace, the article actually describes a comparison of results from the same survey conducted by two different methods.
posted by longsleeves at 10:41 PM on August 10, 2008


...the article actually describes a comparison of results from the same survey conducted by two different methods.

...using two completely different sets of people.

Seriously, that doesn't strike me as a terribly rigorous methodology. Maybe the actual study was more stringent; maybe there's a way to somehow compare the two data sets in a useful way; maybe each sample was large enough to be statistically significant; maybe the results are reproducible and trustworthy...but you'd never know it based simply on that article.

And regardless, I'm not one to pass up an opportunity to be a smartass (especially since humor doesn't have to be, like, actually true or anything).
posted by Greg_Ace at 11:54 PM on August 10, 2008


markO, rational scepticism is good. Unfortunately the modelling is very robust, and can certainly handle testing of assumptions. Have a read.

As to your statement about cost of mitigation versus adaptation, far better minds than yours or mine have taken a very close look at this matter (assuming for the sake of economic modelling that the IPCC scenarios are robust (many now think they're too conservative)). Try Stern (2006), or Garnaut (draft 2008).

Seriously, not to get off calling you an asshat, the answers truly are out there, and they're solid, well-reasoned, and so far pretty much impervious to criticism. Unless you think all of scientific endeavour is a giant massive conspiracy, the scientific method is working well when it comes to climate change. All the professionals are debating it heavily, and no one is coming up with a first or second order flaw. Sure there are plenty of loose ends to tie up, but every which way this theory has been attacked, it has been able to shrug off. There is NO growing body of evidence against it, there are merely a bunch of different efforts, typically funded by all the wrong sorts of people, to discredit it, unsuccessfully.

Which, it hardly needs saying, is a pity, because nobody rational actually wants climate change. But f you think it's all made up, there are a mighty large number of experts strongly disagreeing with you.
posted by wilful at 12:10 AM on August 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


So now your saying biofuels are the answer because more poor people starve sooner rather than latter?
posted by jeffburdges at 12:34 AM on August 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


kenlayne: nothing in that article you posted suggests "we're all dead" because of a 4-degree celsius global temperature change.

Mark Lynas provides a more detailed description of the impact as global temperature rises by one to six degrees (Celsius).

Kadin2048: Likewise, I have a hard time imagining top-down controls working, either--

Carbon taxes seem like the most promising approach. It's not difficult for governments to administer a sales tax. There's past experience with harmonizing taxes and tariffs through organizations like the WTO.

SomeOneElse: I mean, by even posting on here, no matter what we say, we are tacitly part of the group unwilling to undergo hardship.

I'm not following your logic here. I'm happy to pay the local carbon tax. (When consumers and businesses buy fossil fuels, we pay $10/tonne of CO2; it'll rise $5/tonne each year over the next four years. Of course in the long run it'll need to be much higher, but this is a good start.)
posted by russilwvong at 12:59 AM on August 11, 2008


Maybe the actual study was more stringent

Um, Greg-Ace, those are the results of an actual study.....

maybe there's a way to somehow compare the two data sets in a useful way; maybe each sample was large enough to be statistically significant; maybe the results are reproducible and trustworthy

I think the people at the Harris Poll organization, who conducted the research, probably have those issues covered.
posted by longsleeves at 1:13 AM on August 11, 2008


It's all quite simple. People believe in global warming and its dire consequences and want urgent effective action to tackle it. But they also insist on low fuel prices, lots of cheap plastic goods, more bigger dinners now, and an economy growing as fast as possible for ever.

See? We just need the politicians to deliver.
posted by Phanx at 1:14 AM on August 11, 2008 [2 favorites]


we're all dead

Depending on your means to find a solution.

It boils down to a question of economic inequality. If you're rich you should survive, if you're poor you're probably fucked.
posted by verisimilitude at 2:25 AM on August 11, 2008


I think the Danes already showed us how to fix this problem... we're just too cowardly (stubborn? weak? spoilt?) to follow their lead.
posted by chuckdarwin at 2:49 AM on August 11, 2008




We (Mrs. notreally & I) did our part. We chose to adopt.
posted by notreally at 3:40 AM on August 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


No Worries... The Asteroid will get here first.

I for one can't wait for that Sweet Cosmic Pebble to mete out swift justice to the lot of us!!!
posted by vurnt22 at 4:16 AM on August 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


I also have some reticence about the anthropogenic causes of global warming. The planet's been having a regular old cycle of ice ages and interglacials for millions of years, and we're trying to pick a trend by looking at <100 years of data?

That being said, I'm totally behind any effort to change our ways. Like someone mentioned above, regardless of global warming, reducing our consumption habit is a good thing. I'd be surprised if catastrophic global warming was purely due to human activity, and even more surprised if it could then be stopped in its tracks by human activity, but I'm still keen to see people change their ways.

I think the whole debate about whether or not we had a part to play is misguided. Either way, the world's getting warmer. Either way, reducing emissions will reduce warming. A far more productive question would be how we can change industries that are so entrenched in their ways, not the causes of the problem.
posted by twirlypen at 4:57 AM on August 11, 2008


A key principle, reinforced in legislation, is that all the revenue generated by the carbon tax will be recycled through tax reductions. None of the carbon tax revenue will be used to increase spending.

Doesn't that make it not financial hardship? So you are paying a portion of your income tax every time you fill your car or pay your power bill. At the end of the year you pay exactly the same amount. Unless you change your lifestyle to actually reduce your own emissions, and your taxes, isn't this a failed effort? Even if you, say, turn off your lights when you aren't in, and drive only when necessary, you are still emitting greenhouse gases. I was under the impression that a serious cessation of the use of these fuels was necessary, not just a slight tightening of the belt.

I'm sorry, I'd be willing to, say, double my power bill if the extra money would go toward the building of nuclear, hydroelectric, solar, and wind power plants, and the destruction of coal power plants, but a unfortunate fact in my mind is that there will have to be an excess cost, beyond what I already am paying. And while I'm in a comfortable enough economic position to be able to make that claim, I recognize that a lot of people are not.

I'm under the impression that there will have to be serious sacrifices. Not just electricity for recreational computing and internet access, but even use for non-essential climate control will have to be severely reduced. I still think my point about this being a kind of frivolous use of fossil fuels stands, regardless of however many of us are paying a carbon tax.

If I'm wrong, tell me. I would like to be wrong. But I really don't know if we can afford it's-a-start style changes. I want to know what kind of effect the carbon tax you mentioned is having on national and international emissions. What I've seen is that if you make anything even slightly uncomfortable for industry, even just asking them politely to pay their employees a living wage, they'll pick up everything they can and move their operations somewhere in which they can pour carcinogens directly into water supplies and acquire labor in a fashion that in any other age would have been directly recognized as slavery. I just don't see how this will work.
posted by SomeOneElse at 5:58 AM on August 11, 2008


Best advice: trust in the free market to do what is best for all of us.
posted by Postroad at 6:06 AM on August 11, 2008


trust in the free market to do what is best for the wealthy.
posted by chuckdarwin at 6:43 AM on August 11, 2008


[re-post of above]

I also have some reticence about the anthropogenic causes of global warming .. we're trying to pick a trend by looking at - twirlypen

Uh..no the data is millions of years based on ice cores, tree rings, sediment cores, bogs, etc.. there are many many ways to get the information. It is not "common sense" to the average person, which is why climate science really should be left to experts. Sort of like how relativity and quantum mechanics is not "common sense" and we rely on physicists to tell us how things work. Yet for some reason everyone thinks they are a climate expert because they know how to read a thermometer.
posted by stbalbach at 7:37 AM on August 11, 2008 [3 favorites]


How about we put a counter at the top of the page estimating how much coal we all have burned by maintaining this website?

No coal. matt, jess and cortex take turns running on a little wheel.
posted by jonmc at 7:39 AM on August 11, 2008


Not too sure if this has been posted previously but here is a site: http://www.stopglobalwarming.org/

It has a bunch of stuff that people can do to help. Just small stupid stuff mostly that anyone could do if they put their minds to it. The hardest part is everyone would have to take a proactive approach right now to address this problem. And for most people telling them that they "should be" doing this to stop a problem later is just too much work for some people.

Something simple everyone could do right now would be; next time you are getting a sandwich or a gallon of milk, tell the cashier that you do not need a plastic bag, or turn off lights, computers, and set the thermostat to not run when you are not at home. Lastly this is a big one and I might get a cyber rock thrown at my head..... shop locally! Don't go to wal-mart, k-mart, S-mart, wherever. It might cost an extra buck but think about the mass production that goes on to make a cheaper product. Normally this happens in third world nations where they don't care about pollution. Or think about all the shipping waste that happens. Less travel equals less waste. Also buying locally supports your local economy. If everyone was willing to throw in an extra 5%, that would make a difference.
posted by Mastercheddaar at 8:36 AM on August 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


Forgive me if this was posted previously and I've overlooked it - Climate Debate Daily. I doubt there's a better resource for opinions on both sides.
posted by davebush at 8:52 AM on August 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


I don't know about you all, but I'm busy building body fat so that I can outlast and consume all the skinny folks. Plus...I float!
posted by The Light Fantastic at 9:14 AM on August 11, 2008


A change in temperature of 4C? Meaning 400°?
posted by Eideteker at 9:22 AM on August 11, 2008


turgid dahlia: I read an article in Philosophy Now magazine a few months back that actually puts Pascal's wager to good use in the context of global warming. Either global warming is happening as a result of human impact, in which case we should reduce emissions etc., or it isn't happening as a result of human impact, in which case, there's still no real harm in reducing emissions etc.

Pascal's Wager makes no more sense in this context than it does in the context of religion. It ignores the negative consequences of the action advised. There is "real harm in reducing emissions," unless one thinks that we are belching all that C02 just for giggles. Any reduction in emissions significant enough to have a meaningful impact on climate change is significant enough to have a harmful effect on quality of life.
posted by mw at 11:34 AM on August 11, 2008


Leaving aside entirely the question of whether or not global warming is anthropogenic, there is an anthropogenic rise in ocean acidification due to CO2 emissions that has the potential devastate the marine ecosystem. Unlike global warming which could conceivably be 'solved' with a geoengineering approach, there is no real economically viable solution to ocean acidification other than CO2 reduction.

I read an article in Philosophy Now magazine a few months back that actually puts Pascal's wager to good use in the context of global warming. Either global warming is happening as a result of human impact, in which case we should reduce emissions etc., or it isn't happening as a result of human impact, in which case, there's still no real harm in reducing emissions etc.

As a perverse exercise in Devil's advocacy, I'm going to say that the real harm in a given country reducing their emissions is the economic hit they will take relative to other countries who don't reduce emissions ( tragedy of the commons indeed ). While that seems to be an entirely selfish motivation on first glance, I'm assuming there are wargame scenarios in the pentagon that predicate successful emission reduction on military action, and domestic political support for such military action will be depend on economic strength. I realize that's a pretty bleak read of the likelihood of successful International cooperation on emission reductions, but my hopes and my much more cynical expectations are in disagreement on this.
posted by BrotherCaine at 11:45 AM on August 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


Or what mw said.
posted by BrotherCaine at 11:46 AM on August 11, 2008


Think of the children!

And then don't have any.
posted by you just lost the game at 11:51 AM on August 11, 2008 [2 favorites]


I don't know Navelgazer, but I read an article in Philosophy Now magazine a few months back that actually puts Pascal's wager to good use in the context of global warming. Either global warming is happening as a result of human impact, in which case we should reduce emissions etc., or it isn't happening as a result of human impact, in which case, there's still no real harm in reducing emissions etc.

But this is the problem. There is real harm in carbon panic and the expenditure of huge sums of money to achieve little which could be better spent on other environmental, poverty, health and welfare endeavours
posted by A189Nut at 12:28 PM on August 11, 2008 [2 favorites]


The hardest part is everyone would have to take a proactive approach right now to address this problem.

Isn't this like suggesting that the solution to gun violence is for everyone to just stop shooting each other?
posted by Pyry at 1:39 PM on August 11, 2008


Pollute more!
posted by wobh at 1:40 PM on August 11, 2008


80 % of Americans are retarded. Man made global warming is a lie.
posted by godseyeview at 1:42 PM on August 11, 2008


80 % of Americans are retarded. Man made global warming is a lie.

Who can argue with such eloquent rhetoric?
posted by nanojath at 2:01 PM on August 11, 2008


Care to cite godseyeview?
posted by BrotherCaine at 2:01 PM on August 11, 2008


Man made global warming is a lie.
posted by godseyeview at 1:42 PM on August 11


- -

A lie (also called prevarication) is a type of deception in the form of an untruthful statement with the intention to deceive, often with the further intention to maintain a secret or reputation, protect someone's feelings or to avoid a punishment.*

I'm curious, godseyeview, what purpose does lying about such a thing serve? Who benefits?
posted by lekvar at 2:19 PM on August 11, 2008


Brothercaine: I don't think trolls often cite.
posted by pompomtom at 3:12 PM on August 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


Pompomtom, thanks, I didn't realize I was hanging with the tinfoil hat set.
posted by BrotherCaine at 3:44 PM on August 11, 2008


Whoops, I fell right into that one...
posted by lekvar at 3:49 PM on August 11, 2008


But this is the problem. There is real harm in carbon panic and the expenditure of huge sums of money to achieve little which could be better spent on other environmental, poverty, health and welfare endeavours.

That's Bjorn Lomberg’s view. It’s the most plausible and least offensive version of denialism going around, and it’s worth addressing directly. However, the answer is pretty damn clear. Climate change adaptation is far more costly than mitigation. Stern is the primary reference here.

Spending money on mitigation ‘versus’ spending it on all the other worthy humanitarian tasks is a distraction, a dead end argument. We should already spend more money on those things rather than on defence, consumer electronics, etc etc. but we don’t. That hardly invalidates the expected costs of adapting to climate change.
posted by wilful at 4:35 PM on August 11, 2008


Climate Debate Daily. I doubt there's a better resource for opinions on both sides.

hardly. It is a partisan site. They given equal attention to "calls to action" (a loaded phrase) as to "dissenting voices". It would be like having a site called "Gravity Debate Daily" where there is equal attention given to people who don't believe in the theory of gravity.
posted by stbalbach at 5:18 PM on August 11, 2008 [2 favorites]


stbalbach: Uh..no the data is millions of years based on ice cores, tree rings, sediment cores, bogs, etc..

Yes, I know, my question was about anthropogenic global warming, for which we can only have a little over a century of data. I have absolutely no problem with the millions of years of climate record, the thing I'm curious about is how so short a time frame (100 years) can be used to predict a trend in a process that occurs over such a long time (tens of thousands of years).

I'm not trying to be snarky, and I'm certainly not trying to say I know better than the climatologists who've done the research. I'm genuinely interested to know the reasoning behind it.
posted by twirlypen at 5:32 PM on August 11, 2008


twirlypen, fossil fuel carbon dioxide has a particular isotope signature, it is qualitatively different to pre-existing CO2. We can with great certainty state that a good proportion of the excess CO2 in the atmosphere (now at 387 ppm) is from burning of fossil fuels. We also know, jsut through common sense, taht there are a lot less forests than there were 200 years ago, and the carbon has gone into the atmosphere. CO2 has over the past 600 000 years oscillated between 180 and 280 ppm. There is a very obvious spike in concentration starting in the last hundred year. Occams razor - we know we're emitting much more, we know there's more than usual up there, what other conclusion could reasonably be drawn?

We have excellent temperature records for the past thousand years through a variety of proxies. They get worse the further you go back, but they're still robust enough, and the best we have. We can see a spike in temperature that's occurring now, that's unprecedented, well above background noise.

If you do really want to know the reasoning behind it, there are a number of accessible climate science books around, written by climatologists. Don't trust me, I'm just some dude on the internet. I'd recommend this book, except it appears the first ed. is out of print. Still, check that link for references.

As for climate denialists, don't waste your time with them - if there ever is a genuine, scientifically credible alternative theory as to why the world is warming (it hasn't turned up yet), there will be plenty of media coverage of it.
posted by wilful at 6:34 PM on August 11, 2008 [3 favorites]


Climate Debate Daily. I doubt there's a better resource for opinions on both sides.

RealClimate has the considerable advantage of not being opinion at all - or at least not predicated on a "debate" between opinions - because we are after all talking about a physical process that thousands of scientists, who make up the vast majority of RealClimate's contributors, study in depth over the course of years.

Climate Debate Daily is, on its best day, the Hannity & Colmes of the climate change discourse. If it seems balanced to you, then you honestly don't have the first clue where the discussion actually stands among scientists and policymakers beyond America's borders.
posted by gompa at 8:56 PM on August 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


Sorry for the delayed response:

SomeOneElse: Doesn't that make it not financial hardship? So you are paying a portion of your income tax every time you fill your car or pay your power bill. At the end of the year you pay exactly the same amount. Unless you change your lifestyle to actually reduce your own emissions, and your taxes, isn't this a failed effort?

Of course this policy assumes that if you put a price on CO2 emissions, and this price increases over time, demand for fossil fuels will decrease. Based on past experience, this appears to be true. Paul Krugman:
In the long run, the best estimate of the price elasticity of demand for auto fuel seems to be minus 0.7. That is, a 10 percent rise in prices will reduce gas consumption by 7 percent. Of this, 4 points come from shifting to cars with better mileage, 3 points from driving less.
I'm under the impression that there will have to be serious sacrifices. Not just electricity for recreational computing and internet access, but even use for non-essential climate control will have to be severely reduced. I still think my point about this being a kind of frivolous use of fossil fuels stands--

I see. I think I'm starting from different assumptions: we need to cut worldwide carbon emissions by roughly 80%, not electricity usage per se. Generating electricity on a large scale without emitting carbon can be done in three different ways:

(1) nuclear (France generates 80% of its electricity this way);
(2) renewables, like wind and solar; and
(3) equipping coal-fired power plants with carbon capture and storage (still under development, but looks very promising).

A fourth "source" would be conservation, i.e. reducing unnecessary use of electricity to free it up for more productive uses.

Here in BC, almost all of our electricity is generated using hydroelectric dams. So I'm not actually emitting any carbon by posting to MetaFilter.

Of course you can't run a car on electricity--yet. But given ongoing improvements in battery technology, it looks pretty close. Hybrid vehicles are widespread in Vancouver; nearly all taxis here are Priuses. Toyota is planning to introduce a plug-in hybrid in a couple of years.

I want to know what kind of effect the carbon tax you mentioned is having on national and international emissions. What I've seen is that if you make anything even slightly uncomfortable for industry, even just asking them politely to pay their employees a living wage, they'll pick up everything they can and move their operations--

Business reaction to the carbon tax here was surprisingly muted, because of the use of offsetting cuts in income taxes. They're pushing for modifications to it to protect particular industries, but they're not overwhelmingly negative. An example from a BC business lobby group.

For a detailed discussion of long-term energy policy, taking into account the need to reduce carbon emissions, see Mark Jaccard's Sustainable Fossil Fuels.
posted by russilwvong at 11:09 AM on August 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


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