A Timeline of Earth's Average Temperature Since the Last Ice Age
September 12, 2016 2:42 PM   Subscribe

When people say "the climate has changed before," these are the kinds of changes they're talking about. A handy (and terrifying) infographic by Randall Munroe.
posted by Shmuel510 (164 comments total) 91 users marked this as a favorite
 
Graphic is really really amazing.
Info is really really really really really really really really really really terrifying.
posted by little onion at 2:46 PM on September 12, 2016 [50 favorites]


Obligatory XKC....oh, wait.
posted by briank at 2:50 PM on September 12, 2016 [4 favorites]


Quite a twist ending, there.
posted by Going To Maine at 2:55 PM on September 12, 2016 [9 favorites]


Perfect application of the wereallscrewed tag.
posted by Bringer Tom at 2:55 PM on September 12, 2016 [6 favorites]


Gore graphed first.
posted by mattdidthat at 2:56 PM on September 12, 2016 [4 favorites]


Al Gore is so boring his Secret Service codename is "Al Gore."
-Al Gore
posted by little onion at 3:00 PM on September 12, 2016 [13 favorites]


Just because it's a drawing doesn't make it true! There are no direct observations supporting most of the data appoints on that chart! Think about it!
posted by blakewest at 3:00 PM on September 12, 2016


There are no direct observations supporting most of the data appoints on that chart! Think about it!

Actually, there are. Glacial ice records both the temperature and CO2 levels at the time it froze with great fidelity. We have an accurate, fine-grained multi-sourced record of these environmental variables going back over half a million years.
posted by Bringer Tom at 3:05 PM on September 12, 2016 [57 favorites]


Okay, then it's the Pokémon joke that undermines the seriousness of it all.
posted by chavenet at 3:07 PM on September 12, 2016 [3 favorites]


(Obviously the temperature at which the glacial ice froze was 0oC, but the climatic average also affects the trapped air in other measurable ways.)
posted by Bringer Tom at 3:07 PM on September 12, 2016


How the heck does Randall Munroe keep this up? Jim Davis has had thirty years and has only come up with about 15 new jokes. XKCD just synthesized years of research into an original and entertaining comic, again.
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 3:09 PM on September 12, 2016 [48 favorites]


I don't understand why the 1961-1990 average is used as the 0 point. Wouldn't the graph be much more dramatic if you used the 20000 BCE average? Or less dramatic to use the 2016 numbers? Is that range just for symmetry (i.e. both extremes are equidistant from the center point)? Just curious why a 40 year span in the 1900s is used as a measuring stick?
posted by paulcole at 3:10 PM on September 12, 2016


This is a subject about which I spend an inordinate amount of time reading about, and the speed of change I never truly appreciated until now. The temperature change from the medieval warm period to the depths of the little ice age, which for the paleoclimate record was pretty fast at only 1000 years, is about as much as the temperature has changed since the Supreme Court declared Al Gore the loser of the 2000 election.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 3:11 PM on September 12, 2016 [14 favorites]


Modern agricultural species and techniques were developed in the 1960's, and the shorelines of that period are what we tend to consider a "normal" map of the world.
posted by Bringer Tom at 3:14 PM on September 12, 2016 [15 favorites]


This is a re-depiction of (a particular evaluation of) the rightmost era on the geological history temperature graph.

The scary thing isn't that life on earth will end. It clearly won't, it did quite well at much larger temperatures. But, such a rapid shift back to temperatures that haven't been seen in 5-10 million years or longer is clearly causing a historical scale extinction event, and that is from a macro scale that doesn't even consider human cost.
posted by meinvt at 3:14 PM on September 12, 2016 [15 favorites]


One of the largest upticks on meinvt's version of the graph represents the Permian-Triassic extinction, at which point life did in fact go on but nearly every previously existing form of it did not.
posted by Bringer Tom at 3:20 PM on September 12, 2016 [12 favorites]


I don't understand why the 1961-1990 average is used as the 0 point. Wouldn't the graph be much more dramatic if you used the 20000 BCE average? Or less dramatic to use the 2016 numbers?

You could make either of these graphs by just adding or subtracting the same number from each of the temperatures on the scale. It wouldn't change the shape of the graph at all.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 3:21 PM on September 12, 2016 [6 favorites]


I don't understand why the 1961-1990 average is used as the 0 point.

Presumably because that is in the living memory of many people alive in the way that the median temperature in, say, 3500 BCE is not. Readers will grasp that as a starting point.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 3:31 PM on September 12, 2016 [12 favorites]


I would think the most appropriate 0 point would be something like 1700-1750, before the industrial revolution and we went nuts with the fossil fuels. The shape would be the same, but I think the 0 point matter symbolically.

I remember reading an article (maybe here) about how we tend to downplay the changes we make the the environment because our comparison point is always a generation or two back. One of the examples given was fish stocks, where we think of how they've decreased in the last 50 years, but it's not like we just started fishing beyond sustainability 50 years ago: When Cabot found the Grand Banks he said you could step out of the boat and walk on the ocean on the backs of fish, they were so dense. A couple of generations later they were crazy-plentiful, but not walk-on-water plentiful. Gee, the fish stocks aren't as plentiful as they were.... Fast forward a few hundred years and fishers in the 90s knew the stocks were down, but often argued it wasn't that bad, because they were comparing to a few decades previous rather than the walk-on-water scenario.

Similarly, yeah, it's really something that when I was a kid I had to wear a snowsuit under my halloween costume to go trick-or-treating and there was often snow on the ground all winter long and it's not nearly as cold anymore, but really I should be thinking not about that change, but about the change relative to before we started this mess: Were there kids in Toronto trick-or-treating in snowshoes in 1700? (ok, there probably weren't, but you get the idea).
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 3:35 PM on September 12, 2016 [11 favorites]


Presumably because that is in the living memory of many people alive in the way that the median temperature in, say, 3500 BCE is not. Readers will grasp that as a starting point.

If we keep moving the baseline to a generation or two back, we'll never see the magnitude of what we're doing.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 3:36 PM on September 12, 2016 [5 favorites]


Ouch! Best viewed with PgUp/PgDn.
posted by comealongpole at 3:37 PM on September 12, 2016


It's only 4 degrees.
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 3:38 PM on September 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


Is the drawing intended to be alarming? If so how alarmed should I be? If the idea is to present the range of prehistoric temperature he is doing a pretty poor job. This for instance is the last 5 million years of temperature records:
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Five_Myr_Climate_Change.png
Note that at the time that humans and apes had a common ancestor ( in Africa ... you know the hot place? ) the global temperature was ( I'm eye balling this ) about eight degrees warmer than now. Probably more important is the huge swings in temperature over the last million years or so. These are much larger than the trend he is showing on his drawing.
posted by metasluggo at 3:54 PM on September 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


Presumably because that is in the living memory of many people alive in the way that the median temperature in, say, 3500 BCE is not. Readers will grasp that as a starting point.

If we keep moving the baseline to a generation or two back, we'll never see the magnitude of what we're doing.

This would seem to be an argument for why using temperature as a proxy for climate change is actually rather unhelpful, and is in some ways the weakest part of this visualization. Not because it isn’t something that happens, but because it’s something that on the face seems meaningless. If you tell me that this year is warmer than other years, well - so what? More going to the beach, less going skiing. Tell me that the world was X degrees colder some number of years ago - well, again, so what?

The beginning of the chart captures this well, because it references things like the land bridge to Asia, or the size of the ice sheet. The end of the chart sort of falls down, however, because all of the events are essentially human-scale and have nothing to do with climate itself. There's an implication that we’ll be seeing changes akin to the withdrawal of the ice sheets, but it’s kind of lost due to the length of the scroll and the lack of mention of other climate events. (I realize that mentioning one-off things like large hurricanes is something of a trap here, but a graph of some kind of outside trend would be quite handy.)
posted by Going To Maine at 3:57 PM on September 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


If you tell me that this year is warmer than other years, well - so what? More going to the beach, less going skiing.

Actually if the temperature increases more than a couple of degrees you will never go to the beach again, because all the beaches will be underwater.

Rapid temperature change also means destabilization of ocean currents and jet streams upon which we depend, like the circumpolar vortex (pretty much toast at this point) and the Gulf Stream (pray it keeps flowing). It means stronger and more frequent storms in places that have never seen them before. (Wave at the folks in Baton Rouge, willya?) It means much of our most fertile farmland and industrial infrastructure, all located in coastal regions, going underwater never to be recovered. It means the extinction of ecosystems which will then stop performing their role in stabilizing the climate, making things even worse. It means literally billions of humans becoming refugees, possibly in a span of only a few years if Greenland or West Antarctica undergoes a sudden collapse. It means many of the world's great cities being permanently and unfixably inundated.

So TL;DR the answer to "how afraid should I be" is you should be afraid. Be very afraid. We are about to go over a waterfall in a barrel, and we have no idea how high the fall is or whether there are rocks at the bottom.
posted by Bringer Tom at 4:09 PM on September 12, 2016 [61 favorites]


Note that at the time that humans and apes had a common ancestor ( in Africa ... you know the hot place? ) the global temperature was ( I'm eye balling this ) about eight degrees warmer than now. Probably more important is the huge swings in temperature over the last million years or so. These are much larger than the trend he is showing on his drawing.

No, what's important is that there is a huge swing in temperature happening in the last 100 years not in the last 1,000,000, that it's happening thanks to our being way dumber than we like to think, and that if we don't do anything about it (or maybe even if we do), we're all fucked.
posted by Celsius1414 at 4:10 PM on September 12, 2016 [16 favorites]




So TL;DR the answer to "how afraid should I be" is you should be afraid. Be very afraid. We are about to go over a waterfall in a barrel, and we have no idea how high the fall is or whether there are rocks at the bottom.

My point is less to debate the justification of fear-mongering about how much damage global warming will do than to point out what I see as a shortcoming in a (quite compelling visual) - that it fails to bring home these kinds of impacts by instead focusing on how much of human history has occurred within a very small range of temperatures.
posted by Going To Maine at 4:22 PM on September 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


Gore graphed first.

Ad on this was for "ultimate motor sports series takes to the sky."

We're hosed.
posted by wildblueyonder at 4:26 PM on September 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


You could be right. I come from a leftist tradition. The basic idea is that the world has plenty of natural resources. We are surrounded by a wealth of land, minerals, fresh air and water but that these things are being sequestered by capital. We are subject to artificial shortages and that is the source of the power of capital. It continues to exist and grow because we cooperate in an unjust distribution scheme.

This all dovetails neatly with a crisis atmosphere that encourages us to make sacrifices for the greater good. In reality these will be sacrifices that working people will make and that the rich will not. The idea of a global warming crisis also encourages nationalism and isolationism. The sierra club has been particularly blunt, at one point adopting an expressly anti-immigration position.


I recently saw a video on climate change that changed my mind:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gh-DNNIUjKU

If climate change of the kind we are describing is a real threat than we should be working to solve the problem toot sweet. If it isn't then maybe we are being taken for a ride. Who benefits from that?
posted by metasluggo at 4:28 PM on September 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


The 1961–1990 average is also interesting because the average has been within 1°C of that value for over 10,000 years, since about the time of the Neolithic Revolution. So it happens to be around the midpoint of what “modern” (post-stone-age) civilization has experienced on this planet.
posted by mbrubeck at 4:28 PM on September 12, 2016 [8 favorites]


Actually if the temperature increases more than a couple of degrees you will never go to the beach again, because all the beaches will be underwater.

Won't the rising sea level just push the beaches up with it?
posted by Flashman at 4:30 PM on September 12, 2016 [2 favorites]


Won't the rising sea level just push the beaches up with it?

Sure, if you feel like waiting a few tens of thousands of years for erosion to create new ones.
posted by Bringer Tom at 4:34 PM on September 12, 2016 [33 favorites]



Sure, if you feel like waiting a few tens of thousands of years for erosion to create new ones.

Have you seen the line at the DMV?
posted by lalochezia at 4:37 PM on September 12, 2016 [5 favorites]


Note the bit at the bottom marking "Northwest Passage Opens", referring to the long-sought sea route running north of Canada... well at this very moment, as homunculus's link mentions, for the first time in history there is a cruise ship that left Alaska last month traversing the Passage, due to arrive in NYC on Friday. Roland Amundsen successfully passed through in 1905 in a trip that took three years, and for most of the 20th century only military and scientific expeditions made it through.

Now, rich guys sail through in their yachts, probably picking out sites to build a multi-generational mansion on what will shortly be balmy coasts. Cui bono, indeed.
posted by XMLicious at 4:37 PM on September 12, 2016 [5 favorites]


it fails to bring home these kinds of impacts by instead focusing on how much of human history has occurred within a very small range of temperatures.

Well one could justifiably criticize speculation on the impacts because we've never seen those, and Earth itself has never seen a temperature shift of this magnitude in such a short time, so one can say truthfully that we have no idea what's going to happen. But it is also true that all of civilization has existed in a narrow range of temperatures which have tended to keep the shorelines and weather within reasonable parameters. While we don't know exactly what the impact will be of sticking our planet in a microwave oven, we can be pretty sure it's something bad and we're not really going to want to deal with it.
posted by Bringer Tom at 4:38 PM on September 12, 2016 [2 favorites]


Have you seen the line at the DMV?

Dude, the last time I spent ten thousand years waiting to get my driver's license renewed, the clerk was an Archosaur.
posted by Bringer Tom at 4:39 PM on September 12, 2016 [5 favorites]


I recently saw a video on climate change that changed my mind:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gh-DNNIUjKU


Tony Heller? Really? He's the climate crank even the cranks say is a crank.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 4:44 PM on September 12, 2016 [15 favorites]


I looked that page over. It has this quote:
" Goddard's claims were also criticized by fellow climate skeptic Anthony Watts, who argued that his assertions of data fabrication were "wrong", and criticized him for using absolute temperatures rather than anomalies in his analysis.[12]"

I'm going to go with "Mr. Goddard" on this one. If you cannot make your point using the actual temperature data then you are lying.
posted by metasluggo at 4:52 PM on September 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


Sure, if you feel like waiting a few tens of thousands of years for erosion to create new ones.

I've worked on 11-14,000 year old beaches which are now up to 150 metres underwater, and there are very rich paleo-intertidal deposits at all depths (e.g., shellfish beds). This was during a time when sea level was rising 10 metres per century, about 3 to 10 times as fast as current projections for the next century.

So anyway, yeah, it's extremely disruptive to infrastructure but beaches will probably track rising sea level fairly closely.
posted by Rumple at 4:53 PM on September 12, 2016 [11 favorites]


metasluggo, a computer QA engineer trying to impeach "The Integrity Of Official Climate Records" and delivering "bad news for the climate guys" really is completely irrelevant when the Northwest Passage has opened up, hundred-year floods are happening yearly, previously fresh water sources in low-lying coastal areas are becoming saline and undrinkable in places all over the world, and villages built in 1980 are regularly flooded by high tides.

At this point you need a conspiracy theory that extends well beyond all recorders and evaluators of historical climate data. We're verging on the point that you have to claim that we're all living in The Matrix to assert that it's all fake.
posted by XMLicious at 4:54 PM on September 12, 2016 [39 favorites]


Excellent graphic.

It is missing one or two significant data.

There is not much evidence that goes into making the (uncertain) story that graphic is telling. There is a whole lot of interpolating going on.
posted by bukvich at 4:55 PM on September 12, 2016


Someone correct me if I'm wrong, but that zero point was probably used because it's what the government (USGS I think?) uses as its "normal" value. They calculate a fifty year rolling average on a regular basis and that's probably the last one that was used with any frequency. There were news reports when it was recalculated a few years ago and the number went up (the "new normal").
posted by backseatpilot at 4:55 PM on September 12, 2016 [3 favorites]


Cui bono?
posted by uosuaq at 4:56 PM on September 12, 2016 [4 favorites]


This was during a time when sea level was rising 10 metres per century

If either Greenland or West Antartica collapses, two things which are almost certain to happen if we go beyond +4 degrees, the sea level will rise 20 meters or so in less than a decade. What happens to the beaches then?
posted by Bringer Tom at 5:00 PM on September 12, 2016 [2 favorites]


There is not much evidence that goes into making the (uncertain) story that graphic is telling. There is a whole lot of interpolating going on.

Bukvich, could you elaborate? Is there a link or citation I'm missing?
posted by Nutri-Matic Drinks Synthesizer at 5:01 PM on September 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


There is not much evidence that goes into making the (uncertain) story that graphic is telling. There is a whole lot of interpolating going on.

This is not true. Glacial ice gives us fairly accurate temperature and CO2 records going back over 650,000 years. Multiple cores confirm each others' results. We have accurate data for every. single. year. back to before the human race even existed.
posted by Bringer Tom at 5:02 PM on September 12, 2016 [18 favorites]


If you're in a plane that started out at 0 mph and is now going 600 mph, what's the problem with jumping out of it without a parachute? You'll hit the ground going 120 mph and then be at 0 mph again, and you've clearly experienced velocity swings much greater than that before.
posted by 0xFCAF at 5:10 PM on September 12, 2016 [27 favorites]


If you cannot make your point using the actual temperature data then you are lying.

Okay, but you understand that "Mr. Goddard" is the one whose point contradicts the actual temperature data (and thus the one who is lying), right? Like, you actually read the articles in the footnotes instead of skimming a Wikipedia article for any sentence that can sort of look like it's agreeing with you out of context?

If climate change of the kind we are describing is a real threat than we should be working to solve the problem toot sweet. If it isn't then maybe we are being taken for a ride. Who benefits from that?

Well, fortunately we have basic observational abilities and a tremendous amount of data coming from many different completely unaffiliated sources, so we know that it is definitely not the case that "we are being taken for a ride". But there's a small community of people who are very invested in insisting that an insane and literally impossible conspiracy is at work. Who benefits from that?
posted by IAmUnaware at 5:11 PM on September 12, 2016 [29 favorites]


Earth itself has never seen a temperature shift of this magnitude in such a short time, so one can say truthfully that we have no idea what's going to happen.

Oh, let's not exaggerate. There's been other instances of rapid environmental change.
posted by happyroach at 5:14 PM on September 12, 2016 [10 favorites]


Thanks for enlightening me professor Unaware. I am reading over the article linked in the footnote now. It is very instructive. This is the link here:
https://reason.com/blog/2014/06/23/did-nasanoaa-dramatically-alter-us-tempe
Interestingly it is from reason.com. What do you know about that publication?

It's late and I need to sleep, but this is food for thought.
posted by metasluggo at 5:28 PM on September 12, 2016


The fact that you've gotten to citing Reason for your idea (from my understanding of your first post) that climate change is somehow a capitalist conspiracy is... I don't know. Certainly something.
posted by sagc at 5:31 PM on September 12, 2016 [16 favorites]


"The end of the chart sort of falls down, however, because all of the events are essentially human-scale and have nothing to do with climate itself."

I think the point of all the human scale stuff is to illustrate that virtually all of human innovation from agriculture to writing to the internet has occurred within a very narrow band of stable temperatures. We have no idea what it will mean to be humans outside that narrow band. Maybe we will be extinct. Maybe we will be humans without significant technology or culture, reduced to plain biological survival. But our entire history and infrastructure from "oooh hey I can grow grain on purpose!" up to today exists in that very narrow temperature range. Climate has changed, sure, but we certainly have no idea how our youthful, stable-temperature-based civilization will cope with it.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:33 PM on September 12, 2016 [28 favorites]


Oh, I agree entirely that that’s the point - this is where we have existed, over there is where we’re on track to start existing. It’s just that to me that point is less threatening. Why, in this thread Bringer Tom has highlighted a bunch of potentially scary things that might happen, causing mass devastation. A few of them, such as the sudden navigability of the northwest passage, even make the chart. I’d just prefer to see more of that stuff - how we've been interacting with climate, how it continues to affect us today, on there.
posted by Going To Maine at 5:56 PM on September 12, 2016


Interestingly it is from reason.com. What do you know about that publication?

I know that David Koch is on their board of directors and that they're a reliable source of corporate toadying bullshit. Is there something else that I need to know about them?
posted by octothorpe at 6:05 PM on September 12, 2016 [28 favorites]




Someone correct me if I'm wrong, but that zero point was probably used because it's what the government (USGS I think?) uses as its "normal" value.

You're almost correct, backseatpilot! Temperature anomalies are used because they help normalize the data. That is, using anomalies lets you compare one area to another or one time period to another. The particular reference period isn't very important as changing the reference period just shifts the zero point (left or right in the XKCD graph). NOAA and the Department of Agriculture use 30-year periods to calculate growing zones. Those values are recomputed every ten years to account for shifts in those growing zones. This also complies with the World Meteorological Organization policy, which says to use the latest decade for a 30-year average (i.e. 1981-2010). See https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/monitoring-references/faq/anomalies.php for a longer description.

For a long time NASA used 1951-1980 as their reference period simply because they started their global average temperature calculations in the 1980s and that would have been the most recent reference period of the time.
posted by plastic_animals at 6:17 PM on September 12, 2016 [3 favorites]


Why oh why do people fall into the conspiracy theory idiocy on climate change?

It has been very closely scrutinized and is among science's well-accepted mainstream theories, with 97% of climate scientists agreeing. If you want to say that the vast majority of climatologists are lying or being deceptive, you need to have a VERY good explanation why that would be so. It's not like this is a few people in one institute - it is literally damn near every climatologist in the world, all working for different organizations in different countries with completely unconnected source data, all telling the same story.

You can look at ice cores, you can look at the mauna loa CO2 charts, you can look at ocean acidification (PDF), hell, even mundane things like USDA gardening zone charts are showing the warming of the US.

Every reputable scientific institution in the world agrees that climate change is happening, and is caused by human activities.
posted by zug at 6:39 PM on September 12, 2016 [38 favorites]


What do you know about that publication?

That it's not peer reviewed.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 6:49 PM on September 12, 2016 [21 favorites]


Why oh why do people fall into the conspiracy theory idiocy on climate change?

Because it is easier than facing the terrifying truth.

Thinking about climate change is one of the reasons why I decided not to have children.
posted by dinty_moore at 6:55 PM on September 12, 2016 [30 favorites]


If climate change of the kind we are describing is a real threat than we should be working to solve the problem toot sweet. If it isn't then maybe we are being taken for a ride. Who benefits from that?

We get taken for a ride daily by defense contractors and the militaristic politicians who funnel money their way. We get taken for a ride every time an infrastructure contract comes up and leaders funnel the money to contractors. We get taken for a ride when Silicon Valley execs stick their noses into public education and try to privatize our schools to line their pockets. If the worst outcome is that climate change scientists are parasites in the way that arms dealers, militaristic politicians, tech execs and contractors often are, then I could live with that outcome if it meant normal summers and winters again.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 6:57 PM on September 12, 2016 [18 favorites]


It's fascinating that metasluggo is using a corporate shill of a website to support his claim that climate change is a lie fed to us by corporations.
posted by dazed_one at 6:57 PM on September 12, 2016 [24 favorites]


Actually if the temperature increases more than a couple of degrees you will never go to the beach again, because all the beaches will be underwater.

aka with global warming, the beach comes to you!

The maximal water rise would be slightly higher than the Golden Gate bridge road surface. California would probably build a dam across the Golden Gate, but if they didn't the ocean would be a 6 mile bikeride from where I am instead of a 3hr drive . . .
posted by Heywood Mogroot III at 7:16 PM on September 12, 2016


Interestingly it is from reason.com. What do you know about that publication?

They chose that name because Wank was already taken.
posted by Heywood Mogroot III at 7:20 PM on September 12, 2016 [9 favorites]


If you tell me that this year is warmer than other years, well - so what? More going to the beach, less going skiing.


"Dale, you giblet-head- we live in Texas. It's already a hundred and ten in the summer, and if it gets one degree hotter, I'm gonna kick your ass!"
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 7:22 PM on September 12, 2016 [12 favorites]


Our lack of desire for children was one of the things that attracted me to my true love. But the thought that all the other living things we admire in the natural world will go extinct horrifies us.
posted by Bringer Tom at 7:32 PM on September 12, 2016 [8 favorites]


Can you imagine the amount of money that would flow from oil companies to a really top-notch scientist who could make a strong case that global warming either isn't happening or isn't a problem? Or the fame someone would amass for proving the concensus wrong? The incentives to disprove global warming are enormous. And yet, no one has done it. You have 97% of experts who are sure, a tiny group still thinking about it, and some non-expert YouTube cranks. That's it.

As I often tell my students, NASA is good at their work. They know how to measure temperatures. Thermometers are established technology.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 7:39 PM on September 12, 2016 [31 favorites]


When people say "the climate has changed before," these are the kinds of changes they're talking about

... unless they're a U.S. Senator, in which case they're probably saying "that's nothing compared to how cold it got last January in my state", "look, it's a snowball!", "carbon dioxide isn't a pollutant, because plants need it to grow", and "it was way hotter 250 million years ago, and things were fine then."
posted by sfenders at 7:45 PM on September 12, 2016 [4 favorites]


Is the drawing intended to be alarming? If so how alarmed should I be?

The gist of the drawing is that human civilization, however you define it (electricity? the horse collar? Any move away from hunter gatherer? Doesn't matter) has never dealt with something like this, and so there is no good reason to think we could deal with it well.

(And plenty of reasons to think we will suffer major hardships from it.)
posted by ocschwar at 7:47 PM on September 12, 2016 [4 favorites]


Actually, there are. Glacial ice records both the temperature and CO2 levels at the time it froze with great fidelity. We have an accurate, fine-grained multi-sourced record of these environmental variables going back over half a million years.

Actually, the "accuacy" of those core is based on science. Not direct observation. No one has a time machine. Unless future man has gone back in time with a thermometer.
posted by blakewest at 7:48 PM on September 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


If you are live in the upper Midwest and are looking for a tangible effect of climate change, some of my colleagues put together a nice visualization showing that there is going to be a lot less walleye in the future as lakes continue to warm up. The link to the paper is at the end of the page.
posted by rockindata at 7:58 PM on September 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


If you want to say that the vast majority of climatologists are lying or being deceptive, you need to have a VERY good explanation why that would be so. It's not like this is a few people in one institute - it is literally damn near every climatologist in the world, all working for different organizations in different countries with completely unconnected source data, all telling the same story.

I have witnessed in person, and read in various places online, people seriously arguing that scientists are lying about global warming to drum up grant money and bilk the public/donors in other ways. These people say everyone agreeing is just proof that they're all in on it and backing each other up.

I've read a lot of right-leaning conspiracies about how global warming is a leftist plot, but I have to say this thread is the first time I've seen a left-learning conspiracy that global warming is a rightist plot.
posted by Sangermaine at 7:59 PM on September 12, 2016 [2 favorites]


If climate change of the kind we are describing is a real threat than we should be working to solve the problem toot sweet. If it isn't then maybe we are being taken for a ride. Who benefits from that?

Oh lordy lord lord. Who's benefitting from continued climate change denialism? Exxon, for one.

I have witnessed in person, and read in various places online, people seriously arguing that scientists are lying about global warming to drum up grant money and bilk the public/donors in other ways. These people say everyone agreeing is just proof that they're all in on it and backing each other up.

Seems reasonable to presume that none of those people have ever met a scientist or academic, then. If you could actually prove that this whole global warming thing was incorrect, grant money would rain down like manna from heaven, more prestigious institutions than your own would have a bidding war for your services, your twitter followers would eclipse those of Neil deGrasse Tyson.

climate change is one of the reasons why I decided not to have children.

One of the reasons I did decide to have children is that we need a strong next generation to continue working to right the wrongs of the past. Their lives won't be easy, as ours are not. But young voters and activists helped push through the social changes we see today, and young scientists, artists, and activists are needed tomorrow, for this and other challenges facing the species.
posted by Existential Dread at 8:07 PM on September 12, 2016 [11 favorites]



metasluggo, a computer QA engineer trying to impeach "The Integrity Of Official Climate Records"


Actually, you can refute this computer QA engineer with just those words alone.

Because there is no such thing as an "official climate record."

There are official weather records, of measurements taken by umpteen official entities around the world, ranging back over 100 years now.

There are official records of raw data taken from things like the Greenland ice cores.

And then there are estimates of the climate record, derived by taking official records such as the above, and processing them with statistical software apps, and then published in scientific journals.

If you think climate scientists misrepresented the output of their analyses, rerun them. The raw data is all public. The papers they publish have all the equations they used. Going from those equations to computer code is an evening's amusement for any qualified programmer. And you can do this in your preferred number cruncher (numpy ? R ? Matlab? Mathematica? SAS? Octave?) or theirs. (Climate scientists are into R and numpy. ) If they fudged their outputs, it would not take you long to prove it.

No, really, it won't. This comic is just a re-done presentation of Michael Mann's "hockey stick." Mann published it in 1998. That's so many iterations of Moore's Law ago, that you could re-check his work on an iPhone today.

Now if you think the raw data itself was fiddled with, well, official weather records start as paper records, and exist as such, in paper form, in hundreds of archives and libraries around the world. Fudging those would be a tad difficult. The same applies to the ice core data. If you fudged the core YOU drilled, well, the rival team drilling in Greenland 3km away would ask very uncomfortable questions at a conference soon after.

So: the code is easy to check. The raw data are not easy to fiddle with. What if there's a problem with the methodology used to go from raw data to climate estimate? What if climatology relies on the wrong equations to get the paleo-climate record? Well, then, you can propose your own change to the methodology. And then run it and show us what you get. It won't take long. Paleo-climate records are not something that takes supercomputers to deal with. This is a task for any MacBook pro.

I notice not ONE climate "skeptic" has done that in public. I suspect in the think tank archipelago around Washington DC, many climate "skeptics" have done it in private. It's too simple a task, and there are too many qualified statisticians in the right wing think tank community to think that none of them have done this. If they had any better evidence against AGW, they would not be signing their names to the pathetic shit we see here.

TLDR: "the official climate record" is a straw man that does not in fact exist. Nobody with anything useful to say would utter those words.

(And, I sysadminned Beowulf clusters for a living long enough to know the above.)
posted by ocschwar at 8:17 PM on September 12, 2016 [62 favorites]


This made me break out in a sweat.
posted by SLC Mom at 8:20 PM on September 12, 2016


Look all you climate change sheeple... All of this can't be true otherwise we're all fucked. QED.
posted by odinsdream at 8:33 PM on September 12, 2016 [14 favorites]


instead focusing on how much of human history has occurred within a very small range of temperatures

To expand a bit on Bringer Tom's response to this: the whole point is that human history has occurred inside that very small range of temperatures, and in the past, when temperatures changed, they did so gradually. What we're looking at now is a very (geologically speaking) sudden, dramatic shift in temperatures that are well outside the very small range of temperatures that human history has experienced.

In layman's terms, we're fucked.
posted by Ghidorah at 8:42 PM on September 12, 2016 [8 favorites]


If you want to say that the vast majority of climatologists are lying or being deceptive, you need to have a VERY good explanation why that would be so.

The funny thing about the people who say this sort of thing, who claim some grand communist Agenda 21 conspiracy of nasty climate scientists getting fat on money shoveled to them by Jews, or whatever the climate change deniers believe this week, is that they act like you can't actually check this stuff.

My field of research overlaps, on multiple fronts, with climate change research. I work with the people who develop and run the models. I work with the data they produce. I have experience running global climate models myself. I've got books on my shelf describing the physical principles of every equation in them. I can tell you now, those scary climate scientists aren't living in gated mansions on the hill with swimming pools and a cabinet full of expensive brandy, smoking cigars and laughing at the plebs they've fooled. They're fighting for grant funding as much as anyone else out there, and doing the best work they can so they can continue. They're teaching students. They're collaborating with people in other fields. They're constantly challenging each other to improve and extend their field of knowledge.

No secretive UN group has ever handed me a cheque to get me to say that anthropogenic global climate change is real, I can fucking guarantee you that, the beaten up 2005 Ford Focus I drive is a testament.
posted by Jimbob at 8:50 PM on September 12, 2016 [42 favorites]


Thinking about climate change is one of the reasons why I decided not to have children.

Yep. I have been having this discussion with some of my friends. This is not even about decreasing the population. It's about whether it's ethical to do so given the world you know you're bringing them into. It's hard to rationalize making a new kid when you know they're basically going to spend their adulthood in The Road.
posted by schroedinger at 10:23 PM on September 12, 2016 [14 favorites]


It’s hard to rationalize making a new kid when you know they're basically going to spend their adulthood in The Road.

I hear this argument, but my pocket theory about it is that every single generation has people who don’t want to have kids because the end is imminent, whether it’s the apocalypse or climate change causing insane weather patterns or that humanity now has the A-Bomb or feminism goodness-knows-what. I totally buy that fear of environmental collapse is motivating people to not have kids, but I’m suspicious that this particular rationalization has any kind of broad -or, say, statistically over-large- impact on population growth.
posted by Going To Maine at 10:34 PM on September 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


Probably more important is the huge swings in temperature over the last million years or so. These are much larger than the trend he is showing on his drawing.

Yes. Randall is better than this. The entire chart is presented as a response to the strawman that people talking about the climate having changed dramatically before are talking about the small period humans have been around.

I guess it's nice that he's using his place of prominence for a good cause, but he's definitely fallen in my estimation with this.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 11:08 PM on September 12, 2016


I guess it’s nice that he's using his place of prominence for a good cause

It’s a good strip, but is a cartoon in XKCD going to change minds? (Well, to answer myself: no, but it might well spur the informed-but-dispassionate into throwing five bucks at <number>.org
posted by Going To Maine at 11:15 PM on September 12, 2016 [2 favorites]


Jimbob - No secretive UN group has ever handed me a cheque to get me to say that anthropogenic global climate change is real, I can fucking guarantee you that, the beaten up 2005 Ford Focus I drive is a testament.

of course you would say that. perhaps that beaten up 2005 Ford Focus is just a diversion?
posted by russm at 11:42 PM on September 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


No secretive UN group has ever handed me a cheque to get me to say that anthropogenic global climate change is real, I can fucking guarantee you that, the beaten up 2005 Ford Focus I drive is a testament.

Well, that's of course what they'd want someone like you to tell us. /hamburger
posted by Hairy Lobster at 11:42 PM on September 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


dammit russm

*jinx*
posted by Hairy Lobster at 11:43 PM on September 12, 2016


I totally buy that fear of environmental collapse is motivating people to not have kids, but I’m suspicious that this particular rationalization has any kind of broad -or, say, statistically over-large- impact on population growth.

That's not the point. The point is that a lot of people find this to be a perfectly rational decision and that is the scary part. I mean, I still have hope that we'll get it figured out before the end and turn things around even if we have to do something really drastic. Humans can come together and do amazing things.

But this isn't like countries having nuclear weapons. This is some solid science based on a lot of data. We know with a high degree of accuracy how bad it's going to get and a pretty good idea of when it's going to get there. It's entirely possible that we've already passed beyond "if" climate change ends humanity and we're well into "when" territory but bias on the part of climate scientists keeps them from saying so, even to themselves. Are they supposed to give a presentation where they say, "The data is conclusive, we're totally fucked."

"What can we do?"

"Start drinking, heavily."

Even if we are totally fucked, once everyone is good an convinced of the problem, we'll try to do something. What else are we going to do, lay down and die?

Historically that's not, what we as a species, typically do. But on an individual level someone deciding that the odds of the "if" really being "when" are high enough that they don't think it's ethical to have children? I totally get and I'm not sure I disagree. It's not like you're personally going to be responsible for the decline of humanity if you're wrong and if you think your kid is going to grow up on the real-life performance of The Road, I'm not going to pretend that I can know what a person would feel in that situation but it's not good.
posted by VTX at 11:59 PM on September 12, 2016 [6 favorites]


Yes. Randall is better than this. The entire chart is presented as a response to the strawman that people talking about the climate having changed dramatically before are talking about the small period humans have been around.
There are a few variations of "the climate's changed before" argument, not addressing every possible version doesn't make it a strawman.

It answers: "the climate's changed before, so how do we know this isn't just natural variation?" because such a sudden change inside of a century after tens of thousands of years of gradual change, right when we start releasing large amounts of CO2 is unlikely to be a coincidence. It also answers "the climate's changed before, we'll just adapt" because it's unprecedented in human timescales. Our whole history of practicing agriculture has taken place within a narrow temperature band, for example. There's no need to go back millions of years to answer these arguments.

It obliquely answers the "it was hotter than this millions of years ago, so what?" by insisting that human timescales are the ones that matter - for us humans. It's amazing to me that people find this argument compelling, perhaps it's because it's impossible to really comprehend million-year timescales? If the last time the Earth was as hot as it's projected to be was when the continents were in different places, coastlines were unrecognizable and the Earth was populated with vastly different species, that's not exactly reassuring!
posted by L.P. Hatecraft at 12:08 AM on September 13, 2016 [21 favorites]


The entire chart is presented as a response to the strawman that people talking about the climate having changed dramatically before are talking about the small period humans have been around.

Not to be too pedantic, but humans have been around a lot longer then the last glacial maximum.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 1:46 AM on September 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


The idea of a global warming crisis also encourages nationalism and isolationism.

This is a very sweeping statement and untrue. The EU has agreed targets for addressing climate change and encouraging renewables, energy efficiency and CHP that cover 28 nations and have strengthened its union. It has encouraged international trade in low carbon technologies both within its borders and with third party nations.
posted by biffa at 1:51 AM on September 13, 2016 [3 favorites]


The fact that you've gotten to citing Reason for your idea (from my understanding of your first post) that climate change is somehow a capitalist conspiracy is... I don't know. Certainly something.
posted by sagc at 2:31 on September 13 [6 favorites +] [!]
It might be that I was a bit too opaque there. let me be more clear:
Reason.com is not just A capitalist publication, it is THE primary mouth piece of the western plutocratic class. They support and promote the climate change meme. The entire idea is a capitalist conspiracy. Reputable scientists go along with it because if they deviate even a little bit from the orthodoxy they get their funding cut.

The linked article attacks Heller for doing precisely what I described. He averages temperatures from weather stations. They are upset at him for not "gridding", that is applying a fudge factor to the data to account for the changing composition of weather stations.

There is a huge "sell" job going on to convince the public that climate change and associated societal changes are somehow "left" . Boy are you in for a nasty shock.

I just watched the Heller video again. He actually goes into the data adjustment process in some detail.
posted by metasluggo at 2:11 AM on September 13, 2016


[One deleted. Let's maybe halt this increasing shift towards "how can people even rationalize having kids?" and stick more with the timeline topic.]
posted by taz (staff) at 3:22 AM on September 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


There is a huge "sell" job going on to convince the public that climate change and associated societal changes are somehow "left"
You probably think that because most people in your social circle are left. There's actually a strong (but as yet unfortunately inadequate) effort to convince right leaning people that climate science is neither left or right but just that, objective science. Which it is.
posted by L.P. Hatecraft at 3:30 AM on September 13, 2016 [6 favorites]


Reputable scientists go along with it because if they deviate even a little bit from the orthodoxy they get their funding cut.

You know how I knew you're not a scientist?
posted by Etrigan at 3:55 AM on September 13, 2016 [42 favorites]


Reputable scientists go along with it because if they deviate even a little bit from the orthodoxy they get their funding cut.

lol WAKE UP SHEEPLE!

If someone came along and said "HEY all your climate models are wrong, in fact, hey the entire understanding of electromagnetic radiation since like 1860 is wrong and everything it has ever done for us is bullshit because I think the absorption spectrum of CO2 happens to be different than thousands of experiments have shown it to be!" of course you're not going to get fucking funded, except by the Koch brothers or something.

Your comments about temperature adjustment prove you're way out of your depth here.
posted by Jimbob at 3:56 AM on September 13, 2016 [10 favorites]


They are upset at him for not "gridding", that is applying a fudge factor to the data to account for the changing composition of weather stations.

Sorry, for emphasis; Do you have any idea what you've proposed? Let me spell out what your comment is saying... "The weather station composition is changing but scientists SHOULDN'T account for that known shifting bias in the data."

Just wrap your head around what you're proposing.
posted by Jimbob at 4:00 AM on September 13, 2016 [6 favorites]


Anyone who thinks that we as a society are capable or even close to willing to take "immediate massive action to limit emissions" is far more optimistic than I am.
posted by The Card Cheat at 4:01 AM on September 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


It was in 1979 that the first World Climate Conference in Geneva expressed concern about a link between greenhouse gases and climate change.
If you are under 30 and just now understanding the enormity of what we face as a planet, you should be angry.

If you have been wilfully ignoring all the information that the hippies and greenies and Sanders' supporters are saying, you should be angry.

If you have been denying that climate change was a real thing because this study said that, you should be angry.

If you are an admirer of our abilities to invent things when we are up against the wall, you should be really angry.

If you have been nestling and cuddling with the thought and belief that "it's OK, I'm [1st world nationality]" you should be so fucking angry you can't see clearly.

Let's call it what it is: climate instability. It's not 'change' like seasons change. It's climate WTF?. It's our worst biblical nightmares retold in real time. Insect infestations (or demises, far worse); floods, droughts, wars, innumerable refugees, some of them us. All of them us if you take a global view.

And it was preventable. Is still modifiable.

You should be angry because you have been lied to. You have been lied to by omission, by polite consensus, and by overt deception. You have been deceived for the most gross selfish reasons. You have seen the misnomer ‘survival of the fittest’ in its worst incarnation. Or not quite worst, that is it to come. It’s been fashioned into a game of survival of the richest. And it banks on our [read: not rich] willingness to do anything we can, at almost any price, to survive this catastrophe for the sake of things that matter most to us: love, family, community. They who expect to surf this global tsunami of change and exit on a sunny beach, smiling, find no value in not lying to you.

We could have solved this issue over the last 30-15 years. We could be living in a world of renewable energy NOW. We could be saying “Phew, glad we learned from fixing the ozone layer and fixed our climate impact too. Close call!”

Climate change, climate instability, call it what you will, is not a bug but a feature. It’s a feature for the pinnacles of wealth. Serfdom again. Voluntary slavery for survival. You may think I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.
posted by Thella at 4:11 AM on September 13, 2016 [29 favorites]


Yeah, I watched the entire Youtube video too. Notice how when he talks about the Arctic ice melt, he shows a satellite photo but says nothing about the Northwest Passage opening or any other effects like that? It's been evident and progressing since 2000 and earlier. Trying to come up with a climate change conspiracy by only analyzing numbers is an extinct profession, one that belongs in the last century; you need to explain the actual, real-world effects now.

Read the IPCC AR5 report, or just browse it; it's basically a customized textbook for understanding every aspect of climate change. Many of the effects it describes are ones you can travel and see with your own eyes, if you're so inclined.
posted by XMLicious at 4:12 AM on September 13, 2016 [5 favorites]


Of course, these are global averages. It may well be that dramatic local climate change, on the scale of a few degrees C, has indeed occurred. However, my impression is that those have not typically been happy episodes for the cultures affected. I suppose at least they possibly had somewhere to flee to.
posted by Segundus at 5:17 AM on September 13, 2016


Remember when the world came together and drastically reduced the use of chlorofluorocarbons as a propellant when it was shown that they were having an incredibly adverse affect on the ozone layer? That should have been just the start but greed is a powerful enemy when it comes to making important changes, it seems.
posted by h00py at 5:48 AM on September 13, 2016 [6 favorites]


Probably more important is the huge swings in temperature over the last million years or so. These are much larger than the trend he is showing on his drawing.

Those only look more dramatic if you squish them all into a chart that fits on one page. Some of them are a degree or two larger, but this one is pretty much typical in size. If you zoom in on any one of the huge swings, it will look somewhat like the one xkcd chose, except for that strange part at the very end.
posted by sfenders at 6:11 AM on September 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


It's one thing to put a different chemical in hairspray and air-conditioners and quite another to switch the fuel in nearly every vehicle and power plant.

Realistically, the only quick solutions would involve great expense and discomfort for naked capitalist corporations and the most comfortable people on earth.

And the coal and oil industries aren't eager to go away, and have tons of lobbyists and blue collar workers to feature in campaign ads.
posted by mccarty.tim at 6:21 AM on September 13, 2016


The entire idea is a capitalist conspiracy.

This is honestly the first time I have ever heard this notion that climate change is a conspiracy of the right, of the brokers of wealth. It's a fascinating little glimpse into conspiracy theory -- that if you have a predetermined enemy, anything can be fit to be a result of the machinations of that enemy. Is this a common idea? Or just one person?
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 6:46 AM on September 13, 2016 [11 favorites]


Like, as the Solomon Islands are literally eroding away into nothing, you have the gall to sit there and tell those who are watching their nations vanish "well actually, you people are simply buying into a shared delusion concocted by the super rich!" Gross.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 6:48 AM on September 13, 2016 [21 favorites]


Probably more important is the huge swings in temperature over the last million years or so. These are much larger than the trend he is showing on his drawing.

If the human population now was the same that it was a million years ago, it's true that a climate change of the magnitude we're facing wouldn't be a huge issue. People would just migrate over time to new villages and settlements. The reason why it's an issue now is because we now have 7.5 billion people who are cross-dependent on a precarious web of agriculture and economy. The scale of floods, droughts, crop failures and overall economic disruption is set to be calamitous, at the very least gravely affecting hundreds of millions of people. But sure, if we totally disregard the human misery factor, AGW is just a minor blip in the history of the Earth. I mean, 4.5 billion years ago the average temperature was around a nice balmy 176F. Basically full time Finnish sauna temperatures; sign me up!
posted by xigxag at 6:49 AM on September 13, 2016 [10 favorites]


The great wealth and comfort we consider normal are not actually normal. We have collectively run up a credit card debt in leisure, technology, and individual longevity (unevenly distributed though they have been). The currency on those transactions has been cheap concentrated energy delivered through an infrastructure designed to encourage spending.

The bill is due, and outside of fossil fuels we never had the capital to pay for those things. We have mistaken the currency for the capital.

The climate change conspiracy arguments are just buying time so the more agile players can write off their slice of the debt, leaving it to others.
posted by maniabug at 6:54 AM on September 13, 2016 [5 favorites]


Just a small reminder: agriculture =/= humanity. Not only did the majority of human existence happen before the invention of agriculture, for even most of history after that, most people were hunter-gatherers, agriculturalists being the weird - albeit ever-expanding - exception. Right up to the present day, there are groups of people who don't practice it. And all the archaeological and anthropological research we have indicates that, except when they're being colonized and murdered by agriculturalists, hunter-gatherers, by and large, live rich, long, healthy lives.

The worst-case scenario is that the earth will return to temperatures reached during the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum. Hunter-gatherers currently live, and have lived, in climates that hot.

We are unquestionably causing a mass extinction event. And the sheer rapidity of the climate change is definitely going to make it far worse. But I don't think we should just throw up our hands and say, "Well, multicellular life on Earth is finished, then!" We'll probably have a thousand years or so with dramatically reduced ecological diversity. But that situation - combined with higher temperatures and humidity - frequently leads to rapid evolution of new species.

Not that that justifies what we're doing, or what we have done. I'm just saying, there's no reason to assume we have no future at all just because the future doesn't look like the world you live in now.

And please, please stop talking about life outside of agriculture like it's this unimaginable hellhole. The San have enough to deal with, what with Botswana trying to force them to "modernize" and DeBeers trying to drive them off their land in order to mine the diamonds underneath it, without a bunch of first-world people casually referring to their cherished traditional way of life as "The Road" or "mere survival."
posted by Anyamatopoeia at 7:00 AM on September 13, 2016 [7 favorites]


I mean, 4.5 billion years ago the average temperature was around a nice balmy 176F. Basically full time Finnish sauna temperatures; sign me up!

Not to mention …bolide impacts which were nearly continuous for the first 800 million years… You could carpet bomb nukes over the entire surface of the Earth, vaporizing the oceans, and toss out the same "the Earth has seen these climate conditions before!" sophistry that's used to attempt to dismiss the actual effects of climate change.
posted by XMLicious at 7:04 AM on September 13, 2016 [6 favorites]


And please, please stop talking about life outside of agriculture like it's this unimaginable hellhole.

Tell that to the billions of people who will have to starve in order to get human population low enough to return to your hunter-gatherer paradise.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 7:06 AM on September 13, 2016 [37 favorites]


Tell that to the billions of people who will have to starve in order to get human population low enough to return to your hunter-gatherer paradise.

Only after you explain to the millions of hunter-gatherers who were annihilated so we could have all of our modern amenities why we deserve to live and they deserved to die. I think Anyamatopoeia's point is that you make your bed and then you sleep in it. Pre industrial society and humans will live on long after the capitalist societies of the world have broken down and been swept away. It's not a value judgement it's just a very possible future.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 7:38 AM on September 13, 2016 [8 favorites]


historical temperature "data" is nice but it's still not direct experience.

one thing that is direct experience is current pollution levels. polluted waterways in any industrialized city. polluted air, etc.

if we shifted out focus from things we can't observe(the temperature 20,000 or 20 million years ago) to things we can observe(effluent from industry, cars, etc) then maybe it would be easier to act???

just focusing on carbon and energy consumption leads to really crazy behavior like taking a materially benign thing like an incandescent and replacing with a much more materially toxic replacement. batteries in electric cars is another amazing new toxicity in the name of reduced carbon... historically we've been horrible about managing these toxic materials in consumer products once we created them. plastic to-go cups are a perfect example... and the car batteries will be no different, well different in how you really don't want them to drain in to your garden...

and one last thing. a panic is rarely helpful.
posted by danjo at 7:40 AM on September 13, 2016


And yes capital manipulating public opinion or no, we (meaning mostly developed nations) have all contributed to and are continuing to contribute to the coming crisis. Show of hands: how many in this thread drive a car? Fly regularly? Live a consumerist driven capitalistic lifestyle. I'm guessing the majority, me included. Don't shoot the messenger. Change is coming and it has yet to be seen if our society is able to change and adapt as well as our hunter-gatherer brothers and sisters.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 7:42 AM on September 13, 2016 [4 favorites]


Anyamatopoeia, you are saying "don't worry, because at the upper limit it won't be as bad as the actual Apocalypse; only 99.99% of humanity will die at most." That's a rather odd thing to characterize as equivalent to "mere survival".

The specific scenario you're describing would also leave behind a precariously small population, that might be wiped out by a single plague. From, say, billions of dead bodies all over the place. The same thing happened to quite a few human species during prehistory... to all of them except one in fact, as far as we know. So what you describe isn't even necessarily survival at the species level.

There have been other MeFi threads where people have said things tantamount to the current state of climate change being worth committing suicide over, which certainly makes no sense. And, on the geologic time-scale of the world it's open to debate whether the extinction of the entire human race is intrinsically a bad thing, as it's inevitable anyways with the heat-death of the universe; maybe we'd do better as a sandpainting, and an end by our own hand completes the picture.

But talking like agriculture is unimportant and continuity of a global civilization that can maintain agriculture is immaterial and something only first-worlders would care about makes less than no sense while valuing the ongoing existence of any humans at all, it's contradictory to reality. Most of the largest cities in the world, consequently the most food-ravenous, are in developing countries.

First-world nations are the ones that have as much air conditioning as they want; they're the ones with the resources to move towns or build structures that prevent or mitigate coastal inundation where most necessary as has been done during the past century and before in The Netherlands (notably, the base of a global colonial empire.) Meanwhile in Mauritania they may not be able to save their capital city and Bangladesh will have lost 70% of its land area once we hit a one-meter sea-level rise above 20th century levels, in a tiny nation that has nearly the same population as Russia, the largest country in the world. (Or one of the largest, depending on whether you count land area or time zones.)

At any given point in the future, there will have been much more death and misery outside of the developed world resulting from climate change, than within it.
posted by XMLicious at 7:59 AM on September 13, 2016 [5 favorites]


Pre industrial society and humans will live on long after the capitalist societies of the world have broken down and been swept away.

Not necessarily. The effects of a fullscale demographic collapse would leave the world in a much worse state (from a human perspective) than it was back in this supposed prehistoric paradise. The combination of widespread hunger and pervasive firearms would quickly lead to the extinction of all large game animals, probably farm animals as well. Probably Rapa Nui style deforestation as deindustrializing and increasingly isolated societies turned to burning wood to maintain their power sources. Water and fisheries poisoned by heavy metals leaking from unmaintained industrial projects worldwide. In other words, a return to paradisaical hunter-gatherer conditions except this go-round, no large animals, barren landscapes, massive overpopulation and machine gun wielding warlords. What could possibly go wrong? Oh yeah, endemic untreated AIDS.

As XMLicious says above, no matter what the scope of the cataclysm we face, it's really the wealthy well-armed, well-medicated classes who would be best situated to ride it out -- not the poor and unprotected -- romantic notions of poetic justice notwithstanding.
posted by xigxag at 8:12 AM on September 13, 2016 [8 favorites]


Not necessarily.

I agree, which is why I added the "it's just a very possible future" part at the end.

An interesting note though, is that low human population has been the dominant mode of our species for most of it's existence. In fact, human populations have experienced genetic bottle necks several times. We're talking like below 20,000 individuals if you buy this paper's conclusions:

Inference of human population history from individual whole-genome sequences (Li and Durbin, 2011)
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 8:37 AM on September 13, 2016 [4 favorites]


Anyone who thinks that we as a society are capable or even close to willing to take "immediate massive action to limit emissions" is far more optimistic than I am.

Going back to this point: I'm not convinced that there's a point at which society flips a switch and says, "holy shit, let's take action!" and rips open it's collective shirt to reveal the S underneath. On the other hand, I can envision a gradually speeding up to a tipping point at which we suddenly realize we are making great progress at converting to renewables and low carbon energy sources, which becomes a positive economic feedback loop. We still have a long way to go, but US solar installations are growing 43% year on year.

There are an awful lot of people working very hard on solutions to the emissions problem from a lot of different angles. We need to work harder and faster than ever before, but hopelessness is not the only path to take here.
posted by Existential Dread at 8:48 AM on September 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


1. I'm on the anthropogenic fuck-up bandwagon.

2. The periodic hysteria it generates is counterproductive - it reminds me of the deeply nihilistic vibe of, say, 1986 when Reagan had his hand hovering over the nuke-button.

3. In ten, twenty years it could very well be that things are going to get crappy for a large swath of people, like at the beginning of the century.

4. As solar and other alternatives become cheaper, living 'off the grid' and (hopefully) the ecological weight of humans on the earth will lessen enough to keep things from going totally The Road.

5. There's still options vis-a-vis carbon scrubbers (tax relief/ requirements to off-set high-carbon activities) could still be a possible solution. Then with all that 'carbon you make a biiiiiiiiiig diamond...
posted by From Bklyn at 8:54 AM on September 13, 2016


I have witnessed in person, and read in various places online,

My personal blog, All Extinct Animals, has thousands of these type of comments. I've collected them, but it still shocks me.
posted by agregoli at 9:12 AM on September 13, 2016 [3 favorites]


2. The periodic hysteria it generates is counterproductive - it reminds me of the deeply nihilistic vibe of, say, 1986 when Reagan had his hand hovering over the nuke-button.


Can't imagine why the world potentially ending at any moment could cause a nihilistic "vibe".
posted by Celsius1414 at 9:26 AM on September 13, 2016 [5 favorites]


Edward Tufte approves.
posted by Etrigan at 9:38 AM on September 13, 2016 [6 favorites]


Won't the rising sea level just push the beaches up with it?

Sure, if you feel like waiting a few tens of thousands of years for erosion to create new ones.


Maybe I was being a bit disingenuous by phrasing my comment as a question, but no, this isn't how coastal geomorphology works, and it's not the correct answer.
posted by Flashman at 9:41 AM on September 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


Well, we can truck in sand.
posted by thelonius at 9:46 AM on September 13, 2016


If only I had a penguin...: "I remember reading an article (maybe here) about how we tend to downplay the changes we make the the environment because our comparison point is always a generation or two back. "

This is called the Shifting Baseline (syndrome) and has been a problem for quite some time.
posted by andycyca at 9:54 AM on September 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


I guess I need to go back to teaching non-majors classes again. I haven't done it in awhile because I grew weary of trying to teach people who had no interest in learning. However, the vast display of scientific ignorance here by people who are presumably not biologists, earth scientists, or environmental scientists (or at least I really hope not) really brings home the fact that educating good scientists is not enough. We've known this stuff since Arrhenius, y'all, and scientists have been jumping up and down yelling about it since the late 1970s. I'm sorry you weren't paying attention, but now it's really serious. And this hot take you came up with in the shower this morning or this YouTube video you saw once really don't refute decades of work by thousands of the best trained scientists we have.
posted by hydropsyche at 9:54 AM on September 13, 2016 [23 favorites]


And please, please stop talking about life outside of agriculture like it's this unimaginable hellhole.

You go first. Remember to leave your Internet connection behind.

Pre industrial society and humans will live on long after the capitalist societies of the world have broken down and been swept away.

No seriously, you first. If it's not so bad, you should be all up on that. Don't forget to leave some of the trappings of modern society, like vaccinations and antibiotics behind.
posted by happyroach at 9:56 AM on September 13, 2016 [4 favorites]


But this isn't like countries having nuclear weapons. This is some solid science based on a lot of data.

Even with nuclear weapons we're still unable to get a test ban treaty in place. I honestly think we're past the hail-mary fix-everything point with respect to climate. Our species is pathologically damaged. This stuff falls into too many cognitive biases for action to be taken.
posted by odinsdream at 9:59 AM on September 13, 2016 [3 favorites]


2. The periodic hysteria it generates is counterproductive

Sure, but the constant pressure from the status quo and fossil fuel-funded propaganda organizations to ignore the problem because we can't be 100% sure of anything in the life can we? and don't worry it's just a blip and poor people need energy too you know, all of which is dutifully repeated in the MSM and compared with actual fucking science because we all know they're exactly THE SAME.

The longer we ignore what science is telling us and continue pushing the hard policy decisions onto our children, the greater the likelihood that we're not only going to have to deal with full-on panic, but resource wars and the kind of degenerating political situation we see in Syria (exacerbated by decade-long droughts caused by climate change). What's happening in Syria (and Iraq & Afghanistan) has had huge consequences in Europe, which we're also not prepared to deal with.

Agreed, hysteria is not productive, but when any and all arguments are used to stall policy action by governments, I see our future options getting narrower and narrower, and I start to worry.
posted by sneebler at 10:17 AM on September 13, 2016 [3 favorites]


Right but it still counts on someone going off the rails. Even if Trump gets elected president, the odds that he would start the nuclear apocalypse is still pretty low and we don't really know how likely it is. It's playing Russian roulette but some of the chambers are still empty and there is still chance that he'll let us put the gun down without pulling the trigger (which a test ban treaty would help with).

With climate change/climate WTF-ening, there is a bullet in every chamber, we have a pretty good idea of when we're going to have to pull the trigger, and it's soon.

It'd be like the missiles are already in the air up in orbit. We know they're going to come down and detonate and we have a pretty good idea of when it's going to happen. Maybe one or two have already dropped down but were small payloads and hit sparsely populated areas.
posted by VTX at 10:18 AM on September 13, 2016


That's not so much mixed metaphors as pureed.
posted by Celsius1414 at 10:27 AM on September 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


"Just because it's a drawing doesn't make it true! There are no direct observations supporting most of the data appoints on that chart! Think about it!"

Heh. Nice parody of someone who—

"Actually, the 'accuacy' of those core is based on science. Not direct observation. No one has a time machine. Unless future man has gone back in time with a thermometer."

—wait, what? I mean, sure, there's no "direct observation", whatever the hell that means, but so?

It really sounds like you are in earnest and think you're making a salient point, which is weird.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 10:30 AM on September 13, 2016 [5 favorites]


I agree, climate change is a hoax for scientists to get rich! MBAs, Wall Street quants, and corporate execs ... quick, abandon those low-paying jobs and rush to grad school for 10 years or so and you're nearly to where the big bucks lie! C'mon, organic chem isn't that hard! Wait, you flunked organic chem? Guess you can't be on the gravy train after all.
posted by freecellwizard at 10:36 AM on September 13, 2016 [7 favorites]


It really sounds like you are in earnest and think you're making a salient point, which is weird.

Yep, reminds me of the climate deniers (a certain politician from a racist Australian political party comes to mind) who drone on and on about "empirical evidence". They need to see "empirical evidence" to accept climate change is real. Except, because they're fucking stupid, to them "empirical evidence" means "a time machine" - they are setting a standard of proof which is conveniently impossible to achieve. But also unnecessary.

If you accept that science is useful, if you accept that it works and that the universe obeys unchanging, understandable laws, then you have to accept that we have ways to determine past temperature from the composition of ice cores or the spacing of tree rings. If you don't think this is possible, if you think this isn't "empirical evidence" then you have no business attempting to participate in this conversation.
posted by Jimbob at 10:36 AM on September 13, 2016 [9 favorites]


... when any and all arguments are used to stall policy action by governments, I see our future options getting narrower and narrower, and I start to worry.



True, it's so painfully insane (from where I'm sitting) to pretend it isn't happening and for why? To protect... the oil and coal industries? Really? There's a great metaphor to flop in there about losing sight of the long term goals because of short term goals.

Economically, once wind/solar start generating below the (financial) cost of fossil fuels (and I will add in storage solutions to even out the supply/demand inequities) I hope that the political might of the Exxon/mobil/BP/Shells evaporates enough to let the urgent business of intelligently moderating our global resources gets a chance to take precedence.

Also as all this change means financial opportunity, I am surprised it hasn't happened - or started happening sooner. I think (and now I'm going to go into a beers at the end of the dock level of discourse) that Tesla/Musk is going to by to the 21st century what Ford was to the 20th.
posted by From Bklyn at 10:57 AM on September 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


No seriously, you first. If it's not so bad, you should be all up on that. Don't forget to leave some of the trappings of modern society, like vaccinations and antibiotics behind.

Hey, sorry that you misunderstood my point. I guess it wasn't made clearly enough. I am not looking forward to that possible future given that I am a father and generally think humans are pretty cool...well some of them anyways. I am hopeful that we can find our way out of this mess.

But, the point still stands that hunter-gatherer societies have existed since before the emergence of modern Homo sapiens, and have done quite well for themselves showing great resilience in the face of the genocidal tendencies of "more civilized" societies. I see no reason why in the remote corners of the globe small scale highly variable societies couldn't flourish like they have over the last 2.6 million years of human evolution. That's my only point, not that I have a hard on for Armageddon.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 11:22 AM on September 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


They wouldn't flourish for long when most animal and plant life we know is dead, disease has a new foothold, and storms and weather are stronger than ever. Yeah, it will take a while for all human life to extinguish. But still a VERY short while, geologically speaking.
posted by agregoli at 11:33 AM on September 13, 2016


Probably more important is the huge swings in temperature over the last million years or so. These are much larger than the trend he is showing on his drawing.

Yes. Randall is better than this. The entire chart is presented as a response to the strawman that people talking about the climate having changed dramatically before are talking about the small period humans have been around.


Yes, Earth has been much warmer in the distant past, but those cycles happened slowly, on the order of tens or hundreds of thousands of years. The xkcd chart, only going back to the last ice age, illustrates that fact perfectly. Natural temperature changes even on that short scale have never occurred at a rate of more that 1 degree per 500 years or so. The change at the bottom (i.e. now) is happening at a rate of 1 degree per 50 years! Ten times as fast as any natural cyclical change we know of.

It's not the absolute temperature that's alarming, it's the unprecedented rate of temperature increase, and the fact that it conforms perfectly to the models of the anthropogenic greenhouse gas effect.
posted by rocket88 at 11:33 AM on September 13, 2016 [5 favorites]


millions of first-world urban/suburban dwellers have absolutely NO IDEA how to live by traditional subsistence or hunter-gatherer practices. the San might be fine but I certainly won't. I can't survive an hour without lip balm.
posted by supermedusa at 11:34 AM on September 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


It's more about the "end of the human race" aspect of it. There might not be civilization around 200 or 1,000 years from now but we probably won't go totally extinct. There might not be humans living then but they'll still be surviving. Humans or human like ancestors have done so in more extreme climates before.

That fact doesn't do a lot to assuage my fears, nor do I believe it's intended to.
posted by VTX at 12:01 PM on September 13, 2016


Also as all this change means financial opportunity, I am surprised it hasn't happened - or started happening sooner.

I think part of the problem is that even if there is financial opportunity and competitiveness you're still up against trillions of dollars worth of infrastructure and hardware that's paid off and written off and just hums along generating money (and can probably do so even without much investment in new gear just through maintenance). When you try to drive the fossil fuel industry out of business you're up against a humongous amount of inertia.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 12:13 PM on September 13, 2016


They wouldn't flourish for long when most animal and plant life we know is dead

I disagree that this is a certainty. Please cite the relevant literature proposing that "most plant and animal life" will die off and the timescales involved. From what I've read we don't have a good enough understanding of how climate change interacts with adaptation and phenotypic plasticity to make any accurate judgments regarding extinction or possible turnover pulse scenarios.

For example, see this special issue of Evolutionary Applications
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 12:19 PM on September 13, 2016


Also as all this change means financial opportunity, I am surprised it hasn't happened - or started happening sooner.

There are a lot of parallels between this and the decline of rail travel. Accept the train lobbyists have managed to convince everyone that cars and planes are part of some conspiracy and don't really exist and are not better than trains anyhow.

You're not a coal or oil company, you're an energy company. Just like train companies needed to stop thinking of themselves as train companies and start thinking of themselves as transportation companies.

An energy company can adapt and change how it produces energy, a coal company can only change what they do with the coal.
posted by VTX at 12:28 PM on September 13, 2016


Bringer Tom: "This was during a time when sea level was rising 10 metres per century

If either Greenland or West Antarctica collapses, two things which are almost certain to happen if we go beyond +4 degrees, the sea level will rise 20 meters or so in less than a decade. What happens to the beaches then?
"

West Antarctic ice sheep collapse could cause three metres of sea level rise over several centuries (source)
"What they found was that local destabilization of the Amundsen Sea region of West Antarctica ultimately causes the entire ice sheet to fall into the ocean over several centuries to several thousands of years, gradually adding 3 meters to global sea levels, they report online today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences."
I don't know of a model that predicts rapid collapse of the Greenlandic ice sheet. Total, 100%, melting of Greenland ice would raise sea level by about 6 metres (catastrophic!) but would most likely unfold over centuries.

Anyway, I don't want my inner pedant to minimize the seriousness of the issue, but my reading of the literature is that ice sheet melting is not likely to result in very rapid surges of flooding at a year-to-year scale so much as a relentless incoming tide at the decadal and century scale. Of course, the models may well mis-estimate feedback loops and other dynamics of the complex earth systems involved and even the low ends of the range are catastrophic for hundreds of millions of people.
posted by Rumple at 1:08 PM on September 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


The cockroach milk that was the topic of a recent thread, with the idea of bioengineering yeast or algae or something to produce such a high-energy-density multi-potent food, seems like just the thing that would be properly worked out by the final generation of substantial human science and civilization, with an existence revolving around its constant production and consumption serving as the just desserts (ha) of the last vestiges of the developed-world elite.

Perhaps Homo cockroachmilkerati will be heavy-limbed cyborgs shambling around the polar regions of a moonscape-like planet inhabited by only them and extremophile microorganisms, briefly pausing to recline and bask in the post-dawn and pre-dusk sunlight as they fan their thermal shielding open to expose their internal algae-filled bioreactors for photosynthesis before temperatures become lethal. You know, sort of like Dick Cheney as he is now.

(But more seriously, while I'd think biodiversity will continue decreasing for a long time, a prediction of changes that would make even a subsistence hunter-gatherer group unable to survive anywhere on Earth isn't anything I've come across in casual reading.)
posted by XMLicious at 1:12 PM on September 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


Having grown up with the threat of nuclear war, I'm more optimistic that we'll be able to deal with climate change.

William Nordhaus explains how to deal with the free-rider problem. Joseph Heath explains how carbon pricing works. As an emergency backstop, there's always geo-engineering.
posted by russilwvong at 1:42 PM on September 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


West Antarctic ice sheep collapse

That does sound bad, but better ice sheep than deathclaws I guess.
posted by sfenders at 2:13 PM on September 13, 2016 [4 favorites]


Why does the chart start at 20,000 BC? Do those 22,000 years represent the norm for an earth billions of years old?
posted by republican at 4:54 PM on September 13, 2016


If you read the thread, a variety of different perspectives on that have been discussed.
posted by XMLicious at 5:12 PM on September 13, 2016 [9 favorites]


Why does the chart start at 20,000 BC? Do those 22,000 years represent the norm for an earth billions of years old?

In short, because the basis (i.e. agriculture) of complex human societies has it's roots in the fairly stable environmental conditions (i.e. the "Holocene Optimum") that emerged at the end of the Last Glacial Maximum around 20-19 ka.

I don't know if anyone has posted this yet, but here is a figure that should give some perspective on where we are headed if the models of the IPCC are accurate:

All palaeotemps.png

Details on datasets used and what is depicted in the figure (scroll down)

As one can plainly see by 2100 temperatures may reach levels not seen since the onset of the Early Pliocene around 5 million years ago. Also plainly depicted (the red line on the far right) is the "holocene optimum," which again if the IPCC models pan out is about to quickly end.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 7:44 PM on September 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


Also plainly depicted (the red line on the far right) is the "holocene optimum," which again if the IPCC models pan out is about to quickly end.

Which is to say that anyone who depends on agriculture for foodstuffs should be, at the very least, moderately concerned about our future prospects.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 7:47 PM on September 13, 2016 [4 favorites]


If either Greenland or West Antartica collapses, two things which are almost certain to happen if we go beyond +4 degrees, the sea level will rise 20 meters or so in less than a decade. What happens to the beaches then?

We dredge up the sand and rebuild them.
posted by cosmic.osmo at 7:50 PM on September 13, 2016


Why does the chart start at 20,000 BC? Do those 22,000 years represent the norm for an earth billions of years old?

The norm for Earth is an world without muticellular life.

Earth as a planet has survived cataclysmic events like asteroid impacts an supervolcanoes before, but if we saw one of those coming, I certainly hope we’d do our best to stop it.
posted by Fongotskilernie at 12:13 AM on September 14, 2016


Let's send Bruce Willis into space.
posted by biffa at 2:57 AM on September 14, 2016


The chart points out that the last time temperatures varied 4.5 degrees from what we consider the norm, BOSTON WAS BURIED UNDER A MILE OF ICE.

I think it makes its point just fine.
posted by kyrademon at 3:41 AM on September 14, 2016 [3 favorites]


None of the previous IPCC models have ever been accurate. There's no reason to believe that the current models are accurate either. There are too many variables involved to think that climate is something that can be modeled.
posted by republican at 3:58 AM on September 14, 2016


::citation needed::
posted by hydropsyche at 4:33 AM on September 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


None of the previous IPCC models have ever been accurate. There's no reason to believe that the current models are accurate either. There are too many variables involved to think that climate is something that can be modeled.
posted by republican 22 minutes ago [+] [!]


I can't tell if you're kidding.
If you are kidding, given your username, *tips hat*
If you're not kidding, well, good luck with that. What's the resistance to the concept of anthropogenic (man-made) climate change?
I know I always thought - "humans are tiny, the earth is huuuuuge, there's no way anything we do could have a lasting effect..." and then I sailed across the ocean once and not a day went by that we didn't see garbage (plastic, mostly). It was sobering to say the least.
In the 80's I was all "nuclear weapons are bad! They'll kill us all!" and though I hoped they wouldn't, I knew there was a chance they would and - most importantly - highlighting the dangers in the interest of shifting the discourse so that nuclear war no longer became a viable kind of war, was the main goal. Same here. Thanks for all the energy, fossil fuels, but now we have a big mess on our hands and we have to change how we've been doing things. And even if sea levels don't rise ten meters in the next six months/50 years, the greater issue is that we can produce energy more efficiently and cleanly and not doing so is dumb and damaging to the environment.
posted by From Bklyn at 4:37 AM on September 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


The chart points out that the last time temperatures varied 4.5 degrees from what we consider the norm, BOSTON WAS BURIED UNDER A MILE OF ICE.

You're not selling me on trying to prevent climate change here.
posted by Etrigan at 6:02 AM on September 14, 2016


None of the previous IPCC models have ever been accurate. There's no reason to believe that the current models are accurate either. There are too many variables involved to think that climate is something that can be modeled.
posted by republican at 3:58 AM on September 14 [+] [!]


Assuming you are being sincere this is uninformed nonsense.

First, and trivially, the IPCC is an assessment group, they do not have models of their own but rely on the models developed by various governments and research groups around the world. The output of those models are cataloged and archived by the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP), which has been around for a couple of decades. The point is the science is an open process, everyone involved in climate modeling can see what everyone else is doing, and there are no big surprises.

More importantly, while the climate system is complex it is not unknowable, and after spending lots of money on research over the past half-century we know quite a bit about how the climate system works. Climate models simulate the climates of the past quite well. This Bloomberg article shows quite clearly how increasing greenhouse gases are the primary cause of recent (since 1880) warming. Again the point is there are no surprises, we have a good handle on the science of climate change. There is no reason to suspect that there are heretofore unknown processes that will become apparent in the next couple of centuries to counteract the heating caused by increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
posted by plastic_animals at 7:15 AM on September 14, 2016 [3 favorites]


None of the previous IPCC models have ever been accurate.

I think you have been misinformed.

Contrary to Contrarian Claims, IPCC Temperature Projections Have Been Exceptionally Accurate
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 7:18 AM on September 14, 2016 [7 favorites]


None of the previous IPCC models have ever been accurate. There's no reason to believe that the current models are accurate either. There are too many variables involved to think that climate is something that can be modeled.

Again, it simply doesn't even matter. It's too late to base your scamming-people-over-climate-change career on sneering fiddly claims about NASA not knowing how to read a thermometer or "What is knowledge, really? How could a model ever tell us anything about the real world?"

Whether or not the ice that has blocked the Northwest Passage during recorded history, for as along as people have been trying to get from Europe to China, has suddenly melted "inaccurately" or the coastal cities and towns and villages all over the world are being flooded by high tides "inaccurately", you and everyone else who wants to stick their heads in the sand because they really hate their kids and nieces and nephews and grandkids now need snorkles to do so, not just sophistry.
posted by XMLicious at 7:21 AM on September 14, 2016 [10 favorites]


There are too many variables involved to think that climate is something that can be modeled.

Let's just say that you are right and that anthropogenic global warming isn't a thing. Ok, well do you accept the fact that the climate on this planet is not static and that it changes in response to Milankovitch Cycles among other things? If so you must also realize, again going back to the paleotemps graph I posted previously, that the climatic conditions we have enjoyed during the "Holocene Optimum" will be radically altered at some point in the future.

Given this knowledge is it not irresponsible to radically change the atmospheric chemistry of a system that you seem to readily acknowledge is far more complex than we could ever hope to understand...or at the least is beyond our current level of understanding? Shouldn't we be more prudent in how we interact with our biosphere? Furthermore, climate change is coming, human induced or no, and as a species we need to begin to implement structural reforms to our complex societies that will make our institutions and modes of subsistence more resilient to varying climatic conditions.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 7:50 AM on September 14, 2016


None of the previous IPCC models have ever been accurate. There's no reason to believe that the current models are accurate either. There are too many variables involved to think that climate is something that can be modeled.

No models are accurate, that's what makes them models. The most accurate you can get is to understand every variable but that would take an understanding of the most fundamental basics of physics as well as the position, direction, and velocity of every particle in the universe. It's variables all the way down to the most basic elements of the universe.

The only way to be completely accurate is to be omnipotent (God, if that's your thing!).

As mere humans with an incomplete understanding of a great many things, we have to eliminate the variables that we don't understand or aren't material to the decision (they matter, just not enough to change the decision). The entirety of human understanding is a model. Heck, the bible is basically just a model for understanding God.

As we say it in finance, the only way your model hits the real numbers is if you cook the books.

In short, all models are wrong, some models are useful.
posted by VTX at 9:30 AM on September 14, 2016 [6 favorites]


The scary thing is that, if it turns out the choice is between 90% of humanity dying, and 100%...

Well, we either have the technology, or we have the technology.
posted by effugas at 9:01 PM on September 14, 2016


AElfwine Evenstar: If so you must also realize, again going back to the paleotemps graph I posted previously, that the climatic conditions we have enjoyed during the "Holocene Optimum" will be radically altered at some point in the future.

What kills me is that we have people saying with a straight face, "Oh, but climate has changed in the past", when this knowledge is the result of efforts by thousands of scientists over the last couple of centuries. That's how we know Earth's climate has changed in the past. But when those same scientists tell us that civilization-altering climate change is on the way, "All the models are wrong." and "Those scientists are promoting a scam to get grant money."
posted by sneebler at 7:56 AM on September 16, 2016 [16 favorites]


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