• Bitter Crank
    8.8k
    There are 4 reasons why I think we will fail to avoid the worst consequences of global warming:

    Fossil fuels are the source of climate warming CO2 and considerable amounts of methane, but there is no substitute for the convenience, energy intensity, and immense utility of these materials as chemical feed stock for the industrial culture on which we depend to live. When we have used up all the fossil fuels that can be had at a bearable cost, there will nothing to replace it.

    In the meantime, it appears that the fossil fuel companies intend to extract every last drop of fossil fuel.

    The present industrial base to produce. maintain, and replace worn out wind and solar power equipment requires a fossil-fuel-driven heavy industrial establishment. Replacing the billion automobiles now in service around the world with mass transit systems again requires exactly the kind of industry that has produced a significant portion of the CO2 causing global warming,

    There are too many sunk costs that can not be recovered: The CO2, methane, nitrous oxide, and the halocarbons or CFCs (gases containing fluorine, chlorine and bromine) that have been produced by industrial production since 1900 can not be retrieved, and the added heat in the oceans and atmosphere can not be quickly dissipated. These climate warming gases will take a long time to be removed from the atmosphere by natural processes.

    Time is against us: Even IF we could produce all the power we needed from wind and solar (which is questionable), it will take a long time to fully implement the transition. Using a rule of thumb, it will take us at least 50 years to build-out the necessary extensive system of solar and wind facilities, not just in the US and Europe, but everywhere. If we began an all-out effort today (it's not happening) it would be 2070 before we finished. 2070 is too late to avoid population-reducing consequences around the globe.

    There is simply NO MAGIC that will get us out of the bind we are in.

    Will this prediction of doom affect the way you go about your life?
  • Judaka
    688

    I prioritise good quality air conditioning when choosing an apartment to live in, in the future, I think this will continue to be a priority.
  • Bitter Crank
    8.8k
    A sensible plan. How long do you think that will last? (I'm counting on the same thing -- heating and AC for at least the next 10 years. Beyond that... given my age, probably the grave.)
  • Punshhh
    2k
    Unfortunately I feel powerless, even if I were to shout it from the roof tops, or glue myself to the Houses of Parliament, no one would listen, because of the intense media overload we endure every day.

    I do what I can personally, I don't fly, I heat my house mostly with wood I have grown myself and am researching an appropriate ground source heat pump to install. My vehicle is a problem, I expect it will be a number of years before I can have an electric vehicle. As for products with a carbon footprint, apart from food, I mainly recycle, or use secondhand products. I can't remember the last time I bought an item of new clothing, well within reason.
  • Judaka
    688

    I don't know. Provided whatever my area is doesn't get burned down or flooded, I should be alright. If not, may have to move for that reason down the road.
  • frank
    5.1k
    One day we'll have fusion power. The US gave up on researching it because it was politically unpopular. I'm guessing the Chinese will do it eventually.
  • NOS4A2
    3.6k


    Will this prediction of doom affect the way you go about your life?

    I’m a rare optimist regarding climate change, so I remain unaffected. Perhaps some good will come of it. If it doesn’t prolong the Holocene, staving off the inevitable ice age, we will at least learn a valuable lesson.
  • Bitter Crank
    8.8k
    One day we'll have fusion power. The US gave up on researching it because it was politically unpopular. I'm guessing the Chinese will do it eventually.frank

    As I recollect, it wasn't so politically unpopular as technically unsuccessful. It isn't dangerous, but it is extraordinarily difficult to achieve sustained fusion inside a 'force field'. If all the powerful physical forces are not perfectly arranged, then nothing much happens.

    Fusion is a great disappointment; I really wish we had been successful by now.

    But energy isn't the only issue. Suppose we figure out how to make fusion power work. It will still take a good long time to build out the necessary units. Time is an issue here, an asset we are running out of. By the time fusion provides all this power too cheap to meter (dream on) we will be late in this century when the fecal matter has hit the fan.

    Energy and time are not the only issues. There is also the issue of raw material processing. Making steel from ore without the chemical and physical properties of coke and limestone is an unknown technology. There will still be no substitute for the hydrocarbon molecules that are at the center of so much of our technology. 9 or 10 billion people, or 13 billion--whatever it turns out to be by the end of the century--will still exceed the sustainable fecundity of the oceans and soils. (We are already doing that, actually.).

    We are pinning hope on what James Howard Kunstler called (in the title of the book) "Too Much Magic: Wishful Thinking, Technology, and the Fate of the Nation".

    Where does this all leave us? I expect that there will be a large die off of the human population along with many other species, and down the road a few centuries, that our species will survive in a diminished world.

    We still have an emergency brake available (the abrupt abandonment of the fossil-fuel-based economy, world wide). The brake will not be engaged because the immediate consequence would be horrendous economic, social, agricultural, cultural, industrial, and demographic decomposition. While probably saving the climate and many species, it would paradoxically produce much of the disaster we'd like to avoid.
  • Bitter Crank
    8.8k
    I do what I can personally, I don't fly, I heat my house mostly with wood I have grown myself and am researching an appropriate ground source heat pump to install...Punshhh

    All good. Please continue.

    Unfortunately (and it really is a misfortune) the problem can not be solved by virtuous individual efforts. That doesn't mean your efforts are wasted, however. You are following the course we all could follow, and if we all did, the world would be much better off. Anyone who shows that reduced consumption is not only possible but perfectly satisfactory is doing good work.

    The petrochemical/metal/auto/consumer industrial establishment is the problem, and all that is under the ownership and control of a fairly small group of very wealthy, very powerful people--maybe 10 to 15 million stockholders who make up the planet's economic elite. They are calling the shots, and they do not intend to abandon their extremely remunerative oil, coal, and manufacturing assets. They will extract the last dollar's worth of value, and the devil can take the hindmost.
  • frank
    5.1k
    The US government stopped funding it during the Reagan era. GE did it with lasers, but most of the energy it was making was being used to contain it.

    China is working on it. I think we'll let them perfect it and then steal their scientists. I don't see the Chinese government ever realizing that putting your scientists in jail for unpopular research is a bad idea.
  • Punshhh
    2k

    I agree about fusion, there is a lab in the UK which has achieved it, but on a tiny scale. To scale up and catch the energy in a reliable way is as yet inconceivable from what I've heard.
    I agree with your overall assessment, I think optimists are thinking in terms of the best of humanity acting in the best interests of the population etc. I fear this is naivety, sure there will be many good people working on solutions for our best interests, but in a unstable geopolitical atmosphere with failing economies, moral decline, rising nationalism and populism, capitalism exposed for the inhuman force it is, a darker route is looking more likely. With human frailty, our Achilles heal.
  • Pfhorrest
    2.8k
    I don't remember what it was now, because my retention is shot this year thanks to anxiety, but there was some news story about something, a carbon sequestration method I think, that could solve climate change, at what is objectively a reasonable cost (I recall the number starting with a 3, though of course order of magnitude is more important and I can't remember that), but is currently politically unlikely. Knowing that that technology exists gave me much hope, because there will eventually become a point when shit gets bad enough that even the rich and powerful have to deal with the consequences, at which point paying to fix the problem will become in their best interests and therefore will happen.
  • Bitter Crank
    8.8k
    there are two routes to carbon sequestration: The first is pumping it deep into the ground and filling the tap pipe with concrete. The second is combining CO2 with calcium, for instance, to make calcium carbonate. Both of these methods work, as far as we can tell, but both take energy to achieve and neither is designed to work with diluted atmospheric CO2. These are "carbon capture in the chimney and then sequestration"programs.

    Both of these are technically feasible (as far as I know) but again, they haven't been scaled up, so we don't know whether they will work on a very large and permanent basis. Planting a trillion trees (and more) would be another way to capture CO2, and produce a lot of O in the process. A sprouted tree may take 20 years to get big enough to make a difference, but that's a workable time scale. A trillion trees, though, means less land for agriculture. In 50 to 80 years we would have a lot of mature trees to cut down to make room or more, NOT burn them, and replant.

    retention is shot this year thanks to anxietyPfhorrest

    I appreciate that. I've had some bad years of anxiety and depression and between the disease and the medication I couldn't absorb much, let alone remember it. Fortunately, that proved transitory. Once I retired I had a return of mental clarity. It wasn't instant but it was pretty fast. Now I feel like I'm function (mentally) like a young man, instead of the old guy I am.

    Best wishes for your mental health in the coming New Year, which I also hope will be happy. But let's not hold our breath. There's that election, for instance.
  • Pfhorrest
    2.8k
    Planting a trillion trees (and more) would be another way to capture CO2, and produce a lot of O in the process. A sprouted tree may take 20 years to get big enough to make a difference, but that's a workable time scale. A trillion trees, though, means less land for agriculture. In 50 to 80 years we would have a lot of mature trees to cut down to make room or more, NOT burn them, and replant.Bitter Crank

    My vague memory is something more in this vein. May have also (or instead) involved using algae, and possibly turning the biochemical product of that process into feedstock for industrial purposes that currently rely on petroleum-sourced chemistry. (Something about vast shallow pools in cheap desert land with plentiful sunlight for power comes to mind, but I might be mixing up different things here.)

    Best wishes for your mental health in the coming New Year, which I also hope will be happy.Bitter Crank

    Thanks! You too.
  • TheMadFool
    6.5k
    While I'm appalled at the destruction of our environment, especially green plants that I feel are essential to maintaining the CO2-O2 levels in our air, I have my suspicions about people, including scientists, who are zealously pushing the climate change agenda: principally because climate science has nowhere the proven status of other scientific theories like the theory of relativity. There's enough disagreement on whether climate change is a fact that it warrants a suspension of belief until such a time as when we see real science being done instead of, what I interpret as, wild speculation.

    I'm not against reduce, reuse and recycle of course. It makes sense to preserve nature and prevent irreversible damage to the ecosystem. However, to say the world is on the verge of a climatic disaster is probably an exaggeration that is best left to Hollywood.
  • Bitter Crank
    8.8k
    Well, TMF, relativity has been worked on for a century, and it doesn't have to be proved against the behavior of the oceans, atmosphere, plants, animals, land masses, ice flows, industrially produced gases, and so on. Astronomical observations providing a major proof of relativity, but we didn't have to arrange that event. The problem with climate science is two-fold: First, it is difficult to collect densely distributed data points from the planet surface and secondly, it is difficult to process the masses of data that go into climate models. It takes a lot of big brute force computers, which have not been available since the first signs of climate change were discovered.

    Climate science is solid science, like most areas of science. Climate science is not the equivalent of chiropractic medicine and astrology. It is NOT controversial because it hasn't been done well; it is controversial because the consequences of events revealed by the science are so catastrophic. Standard Oil scientists were the first to reveal the connection between fossil fuels, CO2, and climate change. Once the implications of their findings became clear to the company, the PR department took over and buried their results. That would make a good movie -- something like the one about Karen Silkwood. Bearers of bad tidings often end up without honor, if they survive.
  • Solipsist
    1
    @frank Regarding fusion, for interested parties, there is a big international project, funded by the USA, China and the EU, among others, called ITER. It is a project which will, hopefully, prove the viability of industrial fusion, being scheduled for operation in 2025.
  • noAxioms
    877
    Will this prediction of doom affect the way you go about your life?Bitter Crank
    Probably not. I already know about it, so the prediction changes nothing.

    Suppose the problem went away. Suppose some trivial solution existed and the climate would remain reasonably unchanged despite what we're doing. Would that change the outlook for humanity in say the next century? If not, perhaps there are bigger fish to fry.
  • Brett
    2.3k


    That’s a very interesting point. I’m hoping that people are going to look at climate change a little differently than we have been.
  • Bitter Crank
    8.8k
    Regarding fusion, for interested parties, there is a big international project, funded by the USA, China and the EU, among others, called ITER. It is a project which will, hopefully, prove the viability of industrial fusion, being scheduled for operation in 2025.Solipsist

    And it would really be wonderful if it works even moderately well. I would be ecstatic if ITER works really well. Pollution free energy would be a huge help. Just remember, though, even if ITER works as intended, it won't be a "production reactor". The routine production reactors will follow, and will take 40 to 50 years (possibly a low ball guess) to be installed around the world. Meantime, CO2 will continue to be dumped into the atmosphere.

    Also, Tokamak reactors (and associated equipment) are heavy duty industrial equipment which will require a lot of energy and matériel to build.
  • TheMadFool
    6.5k
    I admit that my knowledge of climate science is limited to few half-read articles on the internet and a whole lot of high profile scientists, thespians, and even the odd politician; so it's very comforting that you're critical of my views on the matter.


    However, you do know, since much has been said of it, that a theory to count as scientific there must be a way to disprove it. I don't hear climatologists making strong enough claims that can be tested against observation in a way that permits of refutation. All the evidence for global warming is based on temperature trends over the past few or so decades and even if there is an upward trend we can always ask if it could be cherry-picking the data and don't even ask how cherries are doing so well in a warming world.

    Global warming could well be a fact and the failure of climatologists in making the case for it may be chalked up to poor organizational skills; they probably imbibed some of the chaos inherent in climate. If they're serious about the issue they better get their act together and fast because all this bickering between them and climate change deniers makes them less and less credible with each passing season.
  • Bitter Crank
    8.8k
    All the evidence for global warming is based on temperature trends over the past few or so decades and even if there is an upward trend we can always ask if it could be cherry-pickingTheMadFool

    As it happens, the evidence for global warming is not based just on a few decades of temperature trends. Geologists, 'ice'ologists, oceanographers, and various other specialties have been studying the past few million years for evidence of the relationship between CO2 in the atmosphere and climate. Take ice cores: What they find in very old ice are tiny bubbles of the then existing atmosphere. When the climate at the time is compared to the levels of CO2 in the ice, the correlation is strongly in favor of more CO2 = warmer climate. The same relationship is found in ocean floor mud, tree rings, cores of soils which go back thousands of years in time. Conversely, when CO2 levels are lower than average, the climate is cold. It isn't a correlation between CO2 and temperature: It's a causative relationship. CO2 absorbs and radiates solar energy more than other normal gases in the atmosphere. The more CO2, the hotter the climate.

    In itself, global warming is neither a good nor a bad thing. At one time both ice caps had melted, and millions of years later, here we all are. The difference between past gyrations in climate (and there have been a few) is that they were slow. Plants and animals were able to adjust because they had many years in which to adapt to new conditions: Thousands of years, not 50 to 100 years.

    That the climate should warm fast enough to melt the Arctic ice cap during a human lifetime, is unprecedented. That the average temperature should rise 2 or 3 degrees F in a human lifetime is unprecedented. That the 70% of the earth that is ocean has warmed up and become more acidic as a result of human activity in a one or two human lifetimes is astounding.
  • Bitter Crank
    8.8k
    However, you do know, since much has been said of it, that a theory to count as scientific there must be a way to disprove it. I don't hear climatologists making strong enough claims that can be tested against observation in a way that permits of refutation.TheMadFool

    How often do you hear any scientist announce at a press conference that his theory is falsifiable? Isn't falsifiability an entry level condition for a good scientific theory, rather than something that rates a major announcement?
  • Wayfarer
    9.9k
    Here in Australia we’re getting a real clobbering from bushfires and drought this summer. Just today many homes lost and more deaths (at least three). Thousands of people evacuated to beaches with ‘darkness at noon’ due to the smoke. Of course you can’t correlate particular events with long-term trends, but predictions that Australia would become hotter and drier and with a longer bushfire season were made back in 2006-7, and it surely seems to be happening.

    I think one of the problems is that when you hear that the earth’s temperature might warm by 2.5 degrees, a lot of people say ‘so what? Temperatures change by more than that every hour.’ They don’t realise the fundamental importance of what used to be called ‘the balance of nature’.
  • Brett
    2.3k


    To be fair the level of drought and fires is the result of lack of rain. I think the balance of nature in Australia is exactly what’s happening now and always has been.
  • Bitter Crank
    8.8k
    To be fair the level of drought and fires is the result of lack of rain. I think the balance of nature in Australia is exactly what’s happening now and always has been.Brett

    Silly we, thinking that drought might be caused by something other than a lack of rain!

    Somewhere in the United States there is almost always a drought (lack of rain) in progress. These droughts usually begin and end within 6 to 9 months and affect relatively small areas. During the last decade the world has seen remarkably more severe and widespread droughts than would normally be expected. The dry periods have lasted for several years, and as a result there have been severe forest fires -- in Russia, on the west coast of the US, and in Australia.

    The reverse, extremely heavy rainfall producing floods of unprecedented severity, have also become more common. The mammoth rainfall on Houston from Hurricane Harvey, was up to 60 inches--more than Houston normally would receive over a year's time. This was the heaviest rainfall in American history -- unprecedented -- and cost 125 billion dollars.

    What produced all this rain in Houston, and in other hurricanes recently, is that the atmospheric conveyor belt that normally moves storms along at a brisk clip has slowed down -- a prediction from global warming scientists.
  • Punshhh
    2k

    Yes, there is an important circulation in the North Atlantic called the Gulf Stream, or North Atlantic Drift. It's quite possible that this could stop circulating with quite drastic consequences for the climate of the whole area. When this is considered alongside the rapid warming of the Arctic, we are in for a rollercoaster ride over in Europe. Such developments are on the cards all around the globe and we could see a shutting down of circulation which delivers warmth to areas further away from the equator. Resulting in more extreme and fixed temperature zones, with a band around the equatorial regions which is uninhabitable for humans. The consequences can not be predicted at the moment, we are just along for the ride, who knows where we will end up.

    Also such developments could affect the temperature conditions of the earths crust resulting in seismic and volcanic activity.
  • Brett
    2.3k


    Silly we, thinking that drought might be caused by something other than a lack of rain!Bitter Crank

    Well I said that because there’s the suggestion that climate change temperatures cause the fires. I can’t speak for other regions in the world but for Australia it’s this;

    Four factors contribute to the dryness of the Australian landmass:
    Cold ocean currents off the west coast
    Low elevation of landforms
    Dominance of high-pressure systems
    Shape of the landmass
    (Wikipedia)
  • Brett
    2.3k
    I was talking to someone this morning about religion, whether we would ever have a world free of religion, one that functioned without unquestioned belief and actions in the name of God, where our institutions were not influenced by these beliefs.

    I’d suggested that there were probably more atheists in the world than there’d ever been, that in itself was a change and some progress. But it wasn’t really a successful successor to religion because it claimed there was nothing, when in fact there had to be something. So I didn’t see how atheism could offer anything to replace religion and form the basis for a better world.

    Nor did the alternative spirituality of new wave religions offer any long term or obvious benefits.

    I did suggest though that climate change may be that replacement. It offers a relationship with something bigger than ourselves, which is the planet, life and the universe. Climate change is a quasi religion that promises a better world, a closer, more meaningful relationship with the environment. It’s message and quest are beyond question; who would not think it imperative to save the world, who would not want to embrace such a beautiful existence?The future, once we overcome climate damage, is golden, Edenic, perfect in its balance between needs and resources, everyone happy, everyone taking only what they need, everyone giving and sharing. An end to capitalism, an end to greed, an end to poverty.

    The battle with climate change is about reaching this place. The fight is merely the road to get there, the good and righteous fight of all pilgrims. All will be rewarded with a better world, but you have to give up everything you have, everything you’ve ever thought or believed to get there so that you can pass through the eye of the needle.
  • Bitter Crank
    8.8k
    A very interesting piece of climatological/theological prestidigitation.

    There are, indeed, more atheists than every before -- maybe as many as 1 in 7, but that's just an off the cuff guess. That still leaves 6 billion plus believers in various sorts of supreme beans.

    Are you familiar with secular humanism?

    Secular humanism posits that human beings are capable of being ethical and moral without religion or belief in a deity. ... Many secular humanists derive their moral codes from a philosophy of utilitarianism, ethical naturalism, or evolutionary ethics, and some advocate a science of morality.***

    Crises, any big crisis, pick one -- that one over there, for instance -- stir up the human heart. Unfortunately, some people are brought together, and others are driven apart. The hot mess of planetary warming is going to stir things up big time -- it already has started.

    You seem to have a bright streak of mystical romantic idealism. That's just a guess, and not meant to be critical of you. Am I way off?

    Also such developments could affect the temperature conditions of the earths crust resulting in seismic and volcanic activity.Punshhh

    Where did you hear this? I don't know whether that's possible or not, and if so, how severe the seismic activity would be. But then, pumping water out of aquifers or pumping fracking crap into rocks has caused seismic activity -- not terrible yet, but still... I don't quite see a connection between ocean currents and volcanic activity. How would that work?

    *** This is not a recommendation. I don't find secular humanism all that attractive. We are crazy naked apes and are not altogether trustworthy or reliable. Religion has the function of providing we lunatic spasmodic primates with an additional control system. We need all the help we can get.
  • Brett
    2.3k


    You seem to have a bright streak of mystical romantic idealism. That's just a guess, and not meant to be critical of you. Am I way off?Bitter Crank

    I never thought of myself in specific terms. But I’d be interested to hear more.
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