• MonfortS26
    256
    Is there any definitive evidence proving that global warming is caused by rising CO2 levels?
    1. Is climate change man-made? (17 votes)
        Yes
        88%
        No
        12%
  • Bitter Crank
    11.1k
    I am not a climate scientist, but the reports that lay out the scientific case as readily available and some are accessibly written for lay audiences. In legal terms, the evidence for global warming is between "a preponderance of evidence" (the low end) and "beyond a reasonable doubt" (the high end).

    All of the CO2 we are releasing through the use of fossil fuels was in the air before -- back in the Carboniferous period, 300 million years ago. It was very warm back then, and algae and higher plants grew like crazy for millions of years. The plants died, accumulated, were buried, and eventually were folded under geologic formations where they were pressure cooked into oil and coal.

    Since the late 19th Century, we have burned roughy 1 trillion barrels worth of oil. We have, and are burning trillions of tons of coal, thus releasing into the atmosphere CO2 that has been out of circulation for many millions of years.

    That's the basic story.

    Lots of variables go into climate, some human produced, some not. CO2 is one (big) factor in global warming, but it is one among several. There are other gases (methane, H2O, Nitrous oxide (N. 2O)Ozone, Chlorofluorocarbons, mainly) that contribute, some more potently than CO2. When gases trapped in ice (from deep cores) are analyzed, abnormally large amounts of these gases are not found. These gases (particularly CO2) begin to show up in the last 200 years--the period corresponding to the industrial revolution and huge increases in fossil fuel burning.

    We can't ignore global warming because the effects are profound and pervasive, to which we are already witnesses. Bigger changes are in progress now. It may be the case that there is little we can do about it. More likely, we can have at least a moderating effect on climate change, and since this is the only place we have, we would do well to get on with whatever we can do.
  • aletheist
    1.5k
    In legal terms, the evidence for global warming is between "a preponderance of evidence" (the low end) and "beyond a reasonable doubt" (the high end).Bitter Crank

    I think one reason for the shift in terminology from "global warming" to "climate change" is that the latter is less controversial; of course the climate changes over time. The question then becomes the degree to which human activity is the cause of its detrimental aspects.

    Lots of variables go into climate, some human produced, some not.Bitter Crank

    I agree - my view is that the proposition that human activity has had and is having some negative effect on climate is "beyond a reasonable doubt," but so far there is not "a preponderance of evidence" that human activity is the sole or even dominant reason for allof the worrisome climate changes that we are observing.

    It may be the case that there is little we can do about it. More likely, we can have at least a moderating effect on climate change, and since this is the only place we have, we would do well to get on with whatever we can do.Bitter Crank

    I am on board with this, but it will require reaching widespread consensus on both the problem and the solutions. For better and for worse, politics will be involved because people will be involved.
  • SophistiCat
    2k
    I think one reason for the shift in terminology from "global warming" to "climate change" is that the latter is less controversial; of course the climate changes over time. The question then becomes the degree to which human activity is the cause of its detrimental aspects.aletheist

    Your last sentence is a non sequitur. The question of human contribution has no relation to whether the whole issue is nicknamed "global warming" or "climate change." Anyway, whatever the political expediency of one term or the other, "climate change" is a more accurate term, because the process is much more complex and diverse than just the rise of average global temperature (which does take place, of course).

    I agree - my view is that the proposition that human activity has had and is having some negative effect on climate is "beyond a reasonable doubt," but so far there is not "a preponderance of evidence" that human activity is the sole or even dominant reason for allof the worrisome climate changes that we are observing.aletheist

    And you are basing this conclusion on your own extensive but unpublished research in climate science? Because published research paints quite a different picture.
  • Wayfarer
    16.3k
    but so far there is not "a preponderance of evidence" that human activity is the sole or even dominant reason for all of the worrisome climate changes that we are observing.aletheist

    Says who?

    Without even having to quote specifics, it is general knowledge that human consumption of fossil fuels has injected hundreds of billions of tons of gases into the atmosphere since the advent of industrial civilization.

    Is there any good reason to believe that this would not have an effect on the composition of the atmosphere?

    'Inconvenient Truth' showed ten years ago that the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere has been clearly measurable since the 1970's when observations started being made in Hawaii.

    It's a clear causal chain. But there's also a lot of disinformation circulating in the form fear, uncertainty and doubt being propogated by merchants of doubt on behalf of vested interests in the energy industry.
  • aletheist
    1.5k
    Is there any good reason to believe that this would not have an effect on the composition of the atmosphere?Wayfarer

    Of course not, but it is another matter to claim that this is the only or primary reason why we are seeing detrimental changes to the global climate. Even if I grant that there is "a preponderance of evidence" for this, it does not rise to the level of being "beyond a reasonable doubt."
  • Pierre-Normand
    1.7k
    Even if I grant that there is "a preponderance of evidence" for this, it does not rise to the level of being "beyond a reasonable doubt."aletheist

    This is a standard of evidence that is required before a jury delivers a verdict of criminal culpability, such that the convicted individual is liable to be jailed. If the way in which you are cooking you chicken is liable to burn the house down, then "proof beyond a reasonable doubt" isn't required to justify finding a safer way to cook your chicken.
  • aletheist
    1.5k
    As I said before, I am on board with doing what we can, but it will require reaching widespread consensus on both the problem and the solutions.
  • Pierre-Normand
    1.7k
    'Inconvenient Truth' showed ten years ago that the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere has been clearly measurable since the 1970's when observations started being made in Hawaii.Wayfarer

    Just picking a nit: The continuous Mauna Loa CO2 record reaches back to 1958. There are earlier spot observations when Charles Keeling was refining his pioneering measurement methods.
  • Pierre-Normand
    1.7k
    As I said before, I am on board with doing what we can, but it will require reaching widespread consensus on both the problem and the solutions.aletheist

    The main obstacle to reaching consensus on the existence of the problem (and the anthropogenic cause of global warming) is the politically motivated resistance of Republicans in the American Congress.
  • Benkei
    5.9k
    https://xkcd.com/1732/

    Yeah it changed just not so drastically.

    I think one reason for the shift in terminology from "global warming" to "climate change" is that the latter is less controversial; of course the climate changes over time. The question then becomes the degree to which human activity is the cause of its detrimental aspects.aletheist

    Average world temperatures will go up, which the earlier research focused on and is still true. Midway the 80s this was common knowledge even with the big oil companies who often pioneered the research back then. 1985 is the year Shell wrote its internal memo on the greenhouse effect.

    1991 Shell published a movie Climate of Concern. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/feb/28/shell-knew-oil-giants-1991-film-warned-climate-change-danger

    ExxonMobil knew in 1981 (well, just Exxon back then).

    1988 the IPCC is established and Hansen, a climatologist, states there's a 99% confidence level that recent temperature rise of 1/2 degree is caused by human activity. That it will be paired with more extreme weather also becomes clear, which is why it's a panel on climate change (IPCC duh). So there wasn't a shift in terminology. At least not in the past 30 years.

    1989 Shell adjusts designs of oil platforms to withstand bigger waves due to expected changes in weather. That's the same year the Global Climate Coalition is set up by US oil companies with the express purpose to emphasise uncertainty in the research and sow disinformation, because of the bottom line.

    Climate change skepticism is unwarranted.
  • Wayfarer
    16.3k
    I am on board with doing what we can, but it will require reaching widespread consensus on both the problem and the solutions.aletheist

    The problem is, such comments represent the very kind of attitude which makes reaching consensus impossible. If, as pointed out, you demand the kind of evidence required to reach a verdict in a criminal trial, then how would it be possible to reach a consensus with a 'jury' of billions of people, hundreds of nations, thousands of interested parties?

    Already, it is very late, maybe too late. From today's NY Times:

    Next week, Mr. Trump plans to sign an executive order directing Mr. Pruitt to start the lengthy legal process of unwinding Mr. Obama’s E.P.A. regulations for cutting greenhouse pollution from coal-fired power plants. Those regulations are the linchpin of the last administration’s program to meet the nation’s obligations to reduce climate emissions under the Paris agreement.

    Source

    Just picking a nit...Pierre-Normand

    I stand gladly corrected. ;-)
  • Bitter Crank
    11.1k
    For better and for worse, politics will be involved because people will be involvedaletheist

    If the future of the earth's habitability isn't THE political issue par excellence, I don't know what would be.
  • Bitter Crank
    11.1k
    I am on board with doing what we can, but it will require reaching widespread consensus on both the problem and the solutions.aletheist

    Who, exactly, has to reach consensus? About 97% of climate scientists have reached a consensus. Everyone doesn't have to join the consensus. There are, though, a few thousand top echelon decision makers that need to join the consensus.

    The main obstacle to reaching consensus on the existence of the problem (and the anthropogenic cause of global warming) is the politically motivated resistance of Republicans in the American Congress.Pierre-Normand

    Exactly. And their corporate pay masters.

    James Howard Kunstler [World Made By Hand series of novels and several non-fiction books on oil, particularly The Long Emergency] §§§ - next post - has written convincingly of what life without oil will be like. In a nutshell, life without oil means much, much more animal and human powered work, fewer people, and the loss of everything that cheap abundant oil made possible--which is a good share of the world wide culture.

    I think some people are paralyzed by the awfulness of what the absence of cheap abundant oil, coal, electricity, transportation, etc. mean. It means an end to life as we know it. Some of those people are in positions of national power. If they aren't paralyzed, they may be too shocked to deal with it. I found the details in Kunstler's books pretty unappetizing.

    THE END OF OIL won't happen abruptly, and it won't happen tomorrow (literally, March 3, 2017). But we are running out, and in the meantime the climate is warming up and changing unpredictably. We have time to make other plans, other arrangements. We have time to adjust our sensibilities -- but we should now be in route to those ends, instead of dickering about whether it is a real problem.
  • Bitter Crank
    11.1k
    §§§ Kunstler's fiction depicts the worst possible case for resource depletion. It's great post-apocalyptic stuff. But... The Long Emergency's main point is that cheap abundant oil is simply not replaceable by any technology that we know of.

    Not solar, not wind, not tidal energy, not hydro, not geothermal, not biomass, not conversion of garbage to crude petroleum, nothing. All of the proposed solutions offer a small percentage of the power and benefit we get from cheap oil and coal, and all those small percentages add up to maybe a quarter of the power we need to operate the world in the manner to which we are accustomed.

    The main drawback of oil (in the context of life as we know it) is that its supply is not infinite. We've used up half, and much of the remaining half will be much harder and more expensive to obtain. The end of oil (coming sometime around mid-century or soon after to an exhausted oil field near you) doesn't mean the end of civilization, but it does mean an end to our accustomed and preferred way of living.
  • jorndoe
    2.1k
    I incidentally came across this recent conversation where politics and science met:

    Bill Nye And Bernie Sanders Discuss Climate Change (Full) (youtube, 33m:4s)

    Nye sure pleas for everyone to take the science serious.

    Ignoring scientific findings is kind of like burying the head in the sand. Incredulity?
    Can we afford simply claiming that climate changes aren't due to human activities (going against consensus among subject matter experts), or that we can't do anything anyway (not particularly substantiated, anti-proactive)?
    It seems the potential stakes are too high, for future generations in particular (not just humans), to simply dismiss.
    Besides, what bad might come of limiting everyone using the ecosphere as their own sewer?

    If the politics doesn't follow up on the science, then it's kind of useless in this case.
  • Rich
    3.2k
    Changes in climate are due to many, many factors. One of the major factors is probably the enormous amount of crap that we release in the air (after all everyone needs to make a trip to the Amazon in order to save it) and pour into the ground. The overall impact of such pollution is hard to say but it is reasonable to suspect that this amount of junk isn't healthy for life.
  • jorndoe
    2.1k
    The overall impact of such pollution is hard to say [...]Rich

    Yep. Given the potential stakes, it's probably a good idea to not just dismiss it then.
  • Wayfarer
    16.3k
    Current headline story in Washington Post

    The iconic blossoming cherry trees that ring the Tidal Basin [in Washington] have symbolized the arrival of spring for nearly a century. This year, they will be one more sign of wacky and warming weather.

    The National Park Service, which maintains the trees, said on Wednesday that the pink and white blossoms could reach their peak as soon as March 14, a full three weeks earlier than normal. If the flowers indeed pop on that date, it will be the earliest bloom on record.

    And you can bet your boots that there will be members of Congress who say, it's the Good Lord's doing, what height of [liberal atheist] folly to believe that humans have anything to do with it.
  • Benkei
    5.9k
    The good thing about End of Oil is that that will (belatedly) solve global warming as well. There's a limit to how much stuff we can burn after all.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    10.4k
    It is my opinion that the effects which human activity have had, and continue to have, on atmospheric ozone, has a far greater influence on climate change than does CO2 emissions.

    Atmospheric ozone O3, has come about due to the presence of free oxygen O2. O2 is not native to earth's atmosphere, it was put there by the activities of living creatures and it's an important catalyst for the evolution of higher life forms. In its interaction with sunlight, some O2 becomes O3, and O3 is very effective at absorbing certain wavelengths of UV radiation into the stratosphere. This energy is intercepted and prevented from heating the earth's surface, and is later radiated to space. Fluctuations in solar UV radiation are considerable, so O3 plays an important role in stabilizing the earth's surface temperature, and therefore the climate in general.

    Overall, the intensity fluctuations of solar radiation are small. In long-term average they amount to only the fraction of a percent of the total irradiance. The ultraviolet radiation, however, shows greater fluctuations and is also regarded as particularly climate-effective. Since the Earth's atmosphere absorbs this radiation to a large extent, it influences critical chemical reactions in the upper layers of the atmosphere. Indirectly, these processes can also affect the temperature at the Earth's surface.

    http://www.mps.mpg.de/4017144/PM_2015_07_09_UV-Schwankungen_der_Sonne_unterschaetzt
  • SophistiCat
    2k
    I think some people are paralyzed by the awfulness of what the absence of cheap abundant oil, coal, electricity, transportation, etc. mean. It means an end to life as we know it. Some of those people are in positions of national power. If they aren't paralyzed, they may be too shocked to deal with it.Bitter Crank

    I think that the unwillingness to recognize and act upon the issues raised by climate change and natural resource exhaustion is more commonly caused by indifference than by shock and paralysis.

    Contrary to common denialist conspiracies, governments hate to do anything that doesn't serve some immediate, tangible purpose, preferably with a turnaround within one or two election cycles. The only thing that would motivate them to expend limited resources and manpower on an issue that will be someone else's problem some time in an indefinite future is a strong public demand for action. (And that's democratic governments - undemocratic ones don't much care about anything other than staying in power, stuffing their pockets, and perhaps stroking their egos with grandiose projects; public welfare has little correlation with those goals.)

    As for the common folk, especially of the conservative-libertarian temperament, their primary motivation tends to be self-interest. The fate of future generations is too abstract a concern. What have future generations ever done for me? Nothing, so fuck them. They want to take all they can for themselves, and they want it now. They will only sacrifice their wealth and comfort under compulsion, and future generations are not around to compel anyone.

    Of course, put starkly like this, these are not very PC positions, and in any case, most people don't reason them out. Instead, these implicit positions motivate their reasoning about ostensibly scientific, factual matters. So we get a lot of hedging about how science is uncertain and evidence is insufficient.
  • VagabondSpectre
    1.9k
    Climate change is definitely occurring...

    Climate change (a warming trend) is definitely being accelerated by human emissions and land use (see: "greenhouse effect")...

    For some reason though it doesn't worry me a whole lot. During my quintessential 90's childhood I was constantly told my Michio Kaku et al that unless I turn all my lights out that I'm going to wind up destroying the planet. When I was 15 or so, having failed my quest, was then informed that it was too late, and that the earth is irrevocably fucked, and that the noble polar bear will soon die out, and that the seas will rise, and that mankind will need to emigrate to underground cave networks in the future dystopian spaghetti western that we all get to enjoy while the last remaining spiritually pure humans escape to space in search of a new and unblemished home-world.

    It sounded kinda cool I must admit... They probably should have focused on something cuter than polar bears as a means of guilting my younger self... (penguins?...)...

    So here I am today, in basically the precise year which twenty years ago was hailed as the beginning of the end, and instead of worry or anxiety, the main emotions I feel toward climate change are curiosity and a kind of urgency or excitement. I look at climate change and instead of focusing only on the ways in which it can be or is bad for life, I am much more interested to know about the ways in which we can take advantage of and exploit it.

    For example(s), the crops that are lost in the equatorial regions through drought and bad weather resulting from global warming might be a fraction of what we could gain by exploiting longer and better growing seasons farther and farther north and south. As the oceans warm, what long term effects will this have on sea life? While some plankton and fish species decline, which species of plankton and fish might thrive in the warmer waters? Could they possibly become more abundant? Which mammals stand to benefit? As glaciers recede, what possible use can we make of the land it reveals and what fuels and minerals might it contain? As higher CO2 levels basically means more fuel for plants (along with warmer temperatures), what will the overall effect of globally increased vegetation growth be? What will actually become of global weather patterns? Will the future be predominantly a desert or something else?

    It is cliché, but the Chinese word for "crisis" also means "opportunity", and I think it applies in this case. Out of a natural desire to be safe humans tend to air on the side of caution when it comes to protecting the things we come to value, which is why we disproportionately focus on the ways in which things can go wrong and where appropriate air on the side of alarm-ism. Climate change does pose definite challenges and risks that we would all rather not have to ever face, but if we can adapt to these changes successfully enough then there might actually be some rewards on the other side, which is especially important given the additional resources we constantly require to satisfy our growing population.

    Worry about climate change is useful to motivate masses undoubtedly, and I'm not suggesting that we should not limit our GHG emissions, because the slower climate change occurs the more easily and successfully we can adapt to it, and adapt we must. Population growth alone ensures our future emissions, and so no matter what we do GHG driven warming and the resulting climate change is inevitable (see deforestation and agriculture). The war on climate change was probably lost before it had ever begun but still it rages with the same ultra-doom's day attitude that had swayed me in my youth. The result of this attitude was that I had to spend quite a bit of time trying to actually learn about what was real and what wasn't when it came to the short and long term effects of global warming along with a sensible picture of it's human causes. Now that I finally understand why and how no amount of emission reducing accords and hippie-style earth-ship communes is going to stop the climate from eventually changing, my predominant focus has shifted from convincing people to halt or reverse climate change through major sacrifice because the the sky will fall, to instead accept it as an inevitability. The future is scary, and in order to get there we must be intrepid. It's time for the Chicken Littles and Foghorn Leghorns of the world to stop rocking the boat in opposite directions (We're doomed vs man-made climate change isn't real) so that the Eggberts of the world can actually figure out where to steer it, lest we crash...

      The boat sped on down the river. The river was getting narrower. There was some kind of a dark tunnel ahead - a great round tunnel that looked like an enormous pipe - and the river was running right into the tunnel. And so was the boat! "Row on!' shouted Mr Wonka, jumping and waving his stick in the air. 'Full speed ahead!' And with the Oompa-Loompas rowing faster than ever, the boat shot into the pitch-dark tunnel, and all the passengers screamed with excitement.
      'How can they see where they're going?' shrieked Violet Beauregarde in the darkness.
      'There's no way of knowing where they're going!' cried Mr Wonka, hooting with laughter.
      'There's no earthly way of knowing
      Which direction they are going!
      There's no knowing where they're rowing,
      Or which way the river's flowing!
      Not a speck of light is showing,
      So the danger must be growing,
      For the rowers keep on rowing,
      And they're certainly not showing
      Any signs that they are slowing...'

    (Roald Dahl)
  • andrewk
    2.1k
    Climate change skepticism is unwarranted.Benkei
    It's not skepticism. To be skeptical is to withhold belief when there is little or no evidence to support that belief, and is the approach of all good scientists (and, one might argue, all good philosophers).

    What the climate change deniers are doing is almost the opposite of skepticism. They are refusing to accept the mountain of evidence that is before them. Sometimes they even start saying nonsense like 'where's the proof?', showing that they don't even understand the difference between science and algebra.

    David Hume would be turning in his grave at the attempt of the FUD-merchants to appropriate the honourable term 'skeptic' (except that, being an acute student of human nature, he'd be more likely to just observe that it is no surprise that greed, extremist ideology and self-delusion led to a failure to act on an unfolding catastrophe). Let's not do their work for them by yielding the term skeptic.
  • Bitter Crank
    11.1k
    So here I am today, in basically the precise year which twenty years ago was hailed as the beginning of the end, and instead of worry or anxiety, the main emotions I feel toward climate change are curiosity and a kind of urgency or excitement. I look at climate change and instead of focusing only on the ways in which it can be or is bad for life, I am much more interested to know about the ways in which we can take advantage of and exploit it.VagabondSpectre

    In my quintessential middle age, I was also reading science and hearing about global warming. Warming was something of a relief because 20 years earlier, scientists were worried about nuclear winter: 40,000+ nuclear weapons aimed at the USSR and the US: What would happen to the climate if the cold war turned hot? The dust-saturated atmosphere would reflect too much solar energy and we would all freeze -- those who weren't killed by blasts or radiation -- not sure how few that would be.

    It's not too late: most of the atomic and hydrogen bombs are still around.

    But here we are, and global warming is delivering on-time changes. The arctic will be ice free all year round pretty quick, and the polar bears will not have ice flows to hunt from. They will probably starve. Or they will begin eating humans whom they can catch and eat on the thawing tundra. There will be enough humans to go around as we all flee the heat further south. My only request of the bears is that they totally kill us before they begin the banquet.

    I see it as my job here to run the lawnmower of bad news over the garden hose of optimism.

    While it will warm up, for sure, it will warm up too fast for environments to adapt. We can't just move banana and pineapple production up to Kansas, and wheat up to Hudson's Bay. The weather over North America is already becoming a bit less stable than it has been, and more violent storm systems could well make it difficult to successfully grow a lot of anything.

    The population will shrink. It won't be nice, but as food production falls, billions that the earth can no longer feed will die. That will bring consumption closer to production at a much lower level.

    Warmer oceans will suit some sea animals--probably not the ones we like a lot. Maybe we'll get more lethal stinging jelly fish, poisonous sea snakes, killer sharks, and deadly algae blooms. The ocean will be more acidic.

    Remember, Nature bats last.
  • VagabondSpectre
    1.9k
    The poor bears... We really should get some pelts for posterity while supplies last!

    The population will shrink. It won't be nice, but as food production falls, billions that the earth can no longer feed will die. That will bring consumption closer to production at a much lower level. — BitterCrank

    I don't exactly see it as a sure thing that the population is going to actually shrink anytime soon, even in the face of drastic climate change. Local famines may cause population declines in certain regions, but unless the global economy is completely compromised there would still be growth overall. We might not be able to rapidly expand north and southward with kiwis and coconuts in tow, but we can take cow shit and vegetables pretty much everywhere. If Monsanto is to be believed we'll have fast growing low-light -cold-resistant pumpkin-spice leeks before you Americans even cross the 49th parallel! Massive new and high-density agriculture simply must be contrived through technology or sheer man-power lest we actually get to the point where widespread human hunger tests the limits of our food production. I think it would take a global catastrophe, or a long and resisted period of global depression, to actually put population growth into the negative.

    Nature might take 100 years to adapt and bounce back through over fancy and highly praised "natural selection" (bleh! Who needs it! We burned that bridge with an industrial blow-torch anyhow!), but when humans feel threatened in large enough numbers it sometimes leads to drastic change. As the cost of living rises and global population growth continues to slow, out of greed and foresight markets will eventually divest toward more basic needs and infrastructure will slowly be adapted. The earth's population has grown by over two billion humans since my birth, and around 6 billion in the last 100 years. This kind of insane growth has got to come to an end at some point, and global population growth has been slowing since the 60's, but I have a hard time guessing when our ability to improve, expand, and innovate will finally succumb to the realities of a harsh and indifferent world that dictates we've lived beyond our means (If nature is our mother we're her teenage daughter who won't take no for an answer). The major problems facing our species currently - energy, fuel/fuel technology, climate - are and will be the center of focus of what are set to become the most lucrative industries and markets in human history. Perhaps burning fossil fuels such as we have is a one-hit wonder; our one trick that we will never surpass, but I say nay to that. The stakes, and the payoffs, have never been higher. I say let it ride.
  • Bitter Crank
    11.1k
    I don't exactly see it as a sure thing that the population is going to actually shrink anytime soon, even in the face of drastic climate change.VagabondSpectre

    It won't shrink much at all in the next couple of decades, unless there is a plague, or something.

    MonsantoVagabondSpectre

    All the works of Monsanto, Syngenta, Land 'O Lakes, DuPont, Groupe Limagrain, Bayer, et al assume plentiful, cheap petroleum (for fertilizer, transportation, farm operation, irrigation, etc.)

    Massive new and high-density agriculture simply must be contrived through technologyVagabondSpectre

    The Green Revolution (Norman Borlaug) depended on, and "massive new high-density agriculture contrived through technology" assumes plentiful, cheap petroleum (for fertilizer, transportation, farm operation, irrigation, etc.)

    This is where the lawn mower chews up some more of your optimistic garden hose.

    In roughy 30 more years of all out pumping, petroleum will no longer be plentiful or cheap. Remember, we passed peak oil. INDUSTRIAL SOCIETY WAS BUILT ON CHEAP FOSSIL FUEL. Less cheap fossil fuel, less industrial society, more hand labor. More hand labor, less world food production. Less world food production, more death from starvation. Plus, heat, rising oceans, new insect vectors and tropical diseases to boot.

    I think it would take a global catastrophe, or a long insufferable period of global depression, to actually put population growth into the negative.VagabondSpectre

    And just what do you think the combination of global warming (aka climate change) and the steady decline of cheap, plentiful oil (and all the industrial, technical prowess that it brings) is if not "a global catastrophe"?

    Listen, the agriculture/medical/pharmaceutical industries all depend on cheap, plentiful petroleum for power, but also many products and chemical feedstock.
  • Bitter Crank
    11.1k
    The poor bears... We really should get some pelts for posterity while supplies last!VagabondSpectre

    The bears will do fine once they switch from seal to primate meat. There are so many of us, there may be a glut of white bear fur on the market. Too bad pandas can't switch from bamboo to a robust primate flesh diet. Eating Chinese would give them more gumption so they could get it on and breed more successfully. They are so very, very cute but so clumsy and possibly so stupid from their vegan diet. The same goes for elephants, lions, tigers, leopards, white rhinos, scarce birds, wolves... Eat the people.

    BTW, I don't desire any of this bad stuff to happen. I dread what seems to be coming. The problem is that there doesn't seem to be an escape hatch from the problem.
  • Benkei
    5.9k
    fair enough but I maintain I'm not the one you need to argue with on this subject. :D
  • VagabondSpectre
    1.9k
    The Green Revolution (Norman Borlaug) depended on, and "massive new high-density agriculture contrived through technology" assumes plentiful, cheap petroleum (for fertilizer, transportation, farm operation, irrigation, etc.).Bitter Crank

    Fertilization boosts efficiency but it's not necessary. Through additional land use and crop diversification we could still manage soil health and maintain current production levels. Operating a farm depends on how the farm is set up, but industrial scale electric harvesting vehicles are very foreseeable to me. New and cheaper forms of irrigation are constantly being invested in, and assuming we can satisfy the electricity requirements, all the horse power that currently gets our farming done for us can come from electric and renewable sources. Transportation of goods will always be an on-going cost, but as our infrastructural networks expand we get more bang for our buck. Tesla also seems to actually be getting somewhere in their electric car, which gives me hope that the horse and buggy won't be making any comebacks.

    It is possible to do industrial scale farming strictly with electricity, but right now electricity is too expensive and the technology we would use to do so is still too new and inefficient. Electric tractors will inevitably become widespread though, and it's just one example of the many innovative switches that we will attempt in the necessary upcoming scramble to maintain what we have already built.

    And just what do you think the combination of global warming (aka climate change) and the steady decline of cheap, plentiful oil (and all the industrial, technical prowess that it brings) is if not "a global catastrophe"?Bitter Crank

    Well the seas won't rise at any severely threatening rates so far as I know. The polar bears are fucked, that's true, along with many other animal populations that thrive in the current climate, but the threats to humans and human agriculture is hard to accurately predict. How wide-spread and prevalent droughts and turbulent weather will become, and how fast, might not sufficiently dent our ability to expand agricultural infrastructure. Whether or not we will be able to be as successful as we have without cheap oil, or at least have an equitable fraction of that success, depends on the limits of our ability find replacement energy sources and efficient ways to package and deploy it. We won't stop global warming, but we might just surpass oil and the combustion engine mainly via solar, battery, and electric motor technology.

    Listen, the agriculture/medical/pharmaceutical industries all depend on cheap, plentiful petroleum for power, but also many products and chemical feedstock.Bitter Crank

    The medical and pharmaceutical industries depend on cheap oil currently, but mainly for transportation, energy, and packaging purposes. Petrochemical derivatives used for actual medicine isn't a huge gas guzzler so far as I know, although we might have to endure a century of being charged an arm and a leg for the rubber gloves our physicians burn through so quickly. Most aspects of our medical infrastructure such as transportation and energy needs can possibly be met with alternative technology. Replacements for rubber and plastic might be far out, and so we will stomach the extra cost until viable replacements can be found. The self-driving Teslambulance™ has a comically high change of actually existing one day.

    This all hinges largely on drastic improvements in the cost/output of renewable energy sources and at least steady improvement in our ability to store, transport, and deploy it, which will essentially be the bare bones of electric machine driven industry. I'm not saying I think we will definitely stick the landing, but I do think we have a real shot at doing so, and we really do have serious incentive to try.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    10.4k
    I think it would take a global catastrophe, or a long and resisted period of global depression, to actually put population growth into the negative.VagabondSpectre

    Isn't that what we're talking about here, global catastrophe?

    Fertilization boosts efficiency but it's not necessary.VagabondSpectre

    Have you ever tried harvesting garden crops off a piece of land for decades with out putting anything back?
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