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Discussion: Uninhabitable Earth

in: Orienteering; Off-Course

Jul 20, 2017 6:07 PM # 
We've had some lengthy discussions about Global Warming on a/p. But not for a while.

So I'd like to call your attention to a long, very interesting article that appeared last week in New York Magazine that refuses to put a Happy Face on our immediate climate future....the face in the accompanying graphic, altho grinning, seems to be anything but happy.

...Famine, economic collapse, a sun that cooks us: What climate change could wreak — sooner than you think. If your anxiety about global warming is dominated by fears of sea-level rise, you are barely scratching the surface of what terrors are possible. Rising oceans are bad, in fact very bad; but fleeing the coastline will not be enough....

For example:
....we have, trapped in Arctic permafrost, twice as much carbon as is currently wrecking the atmosphere, all of it scheduled to be released at a date that keeps getting moved up, partially in the form of a gas [methane] that multiplies its warming power 86 times over....

The chapter headings of this long article give some idea of the tragic future we, and our children, have before us.

I - Doomsday: Peering beyond scientific reticence
II - Heat Death: the Bahraining of New York
III - The End of Food: Praying for cornfields in the Tundra
IV - Climate Plagues: What happens when the Bubonic ice melts?
V - Unbreathable Air: Rolling death smog that suffocates millions
VI - Perpetual War: Violence baked into Heat
VII - Permanent Economic Collapse: Dismal capitalism in a half-poorer world
VIII - Poisoned Ocean: Sulfide burps off the skeleton coast
IX - Why can't we see it?

David Wallace-Wells, the author, suggests that mankind will be completely unable to control its use of carbon. Indeed, with President Trump leading the US away from recognizing this threat, and forcing us to turn our back on scientific thought and evidence, Mr Wallace-Wells' assessments may be closer to our future, than the 'reticent' warnings of so many milquetoast scientists that we've heard up until now.

My apologies to those who don't like such topics on a/p. But in a larger sense, as we 'navigate' through our lives, it is always nice to have a 'catching feature' that allows us to 'relocate' our erroneous thinking. Perhaps some will find this article to be such a catching feature to guide them in the future.
Jul 20, 2017 7:44 PM # 
I was exposed to the issue in university, and have followed it since. (In Planetary Astronomy class in the eighties, the (physics) professor took one class and had us calculate the effect of greenhouse gases on planetary temperature from first principles, and ended the class informing us of the data from Hawaii of rising CO2 levels over a few decades (at that time). He suggested that (since we were nearly all physics or astronomy majors (much the same thing)), we follow the issue during our careers. Since my career placed me amongst geologists and geophysicists, I had additional exposure.). It's become obvious enough that there's anthropogenic warming, based on various research such as isotopic analysis. However, the Earth has been much, much warmer than even the high predictions for this century, such as fifty million years ago, and the planet was lush not barren. So, I'm not yet so taken by the alarmist position. It's worth discussing in a peer reviewed way, but it's not at all clear that the consequences are as serious as the alarmists suggest. Also, despite Trump's withdrawal from the Paris accord, various changes to behaviour are happening many places worldwide, such as increased photovoltaic use in China and elsewhere. There's also the dropping price of photovoltaics, which are now competitive with other electricity generation except for energy storage costs, which are also dropping, making it appear as though it'll be an economical alternative relatively soon. (It can already be cheaper in some circumstances, with one supplier offering solar installation leases at below market rates for electricity.) Major auto makers are announcing a switch entirely to electric cars in a decade or so. Changing behaviour at the individual level may have more effect than programs by governments.

Just thought I'd offer a different perspective, not necessarily the definitive one. Fwiw, most of my miles are driven on electricity in an efficient vehicle, and my home is well insulated, verified by IR camera. But, I take a mellower view than some, based on the info that I've followed.
Jul 20, 2017 8:37 PM # 
But Jim isn't your electricity produced by burning coal?
Jul 20, 2017 9:19 PM # 
In Colorado, where Jim lives, less than half of the electricity is from coal at this point (though it's still the #1 source) and renewables are up to more than 3/4 of what they get from coal. (source) As opposed to where I live, which is nearly all natural gas.
Jul 20, 2017 10:15 PM # 
The earth will be perfectly habitable... just not by humans.
Jul 20, 2017 11:29 PM # 
Here in CT, we can choose our electricity supplier, and there are a few the provide 100% renewable. Its a bit more per kwH than the cheap rate, but not outrageously so. We've been purchasing renewable electricity for close to 20 years now...
Jul 21, 2017 12:49 AM # 
The fraction of electricity produced by coal in America has plummeted in the last few decades, from about eighty percent (iirc) decades ago to about 30% now (versus 34% for natural gas).

The efficiency of an electric car is also a significant factor (by recovering energy when braking, a big difference in hilly terrain I find, and in stop and go), tending to make electrics cause less CO2 emission than a than a similar petrol car even if power were mostly from coal, as I understand.

But a single electric car isn't as relevant as what the bulk of people do. Luckily those numbers are trending well. And this is anyway a distraction from chitown's OP, which was raising the matter of how serious are the consequences...negligible like some imply, apocalyptic like some others say, or somewhere in between. And how will it affect navigation sports.
Jul 21, 2017 1:11 AM # 
That website shows Vermont at 100% renewable for electricity!
Jul 21, 2017 1:06 PM # 
While I'm more inclined to believe the doomsday sayings of the New York Magazine, I think it's also worth asking how useful it is to write something so terrifying. I worry that it leads to a certain level of nihilism, "we're f**ked, so let's not even try." And if there's one thing we cannot afford, it's nihilism. I know this has been a discussion in climate science circles for years, and that some think they've given out the "soft" less threatening version for way too long, which has led to people ignoring it. The press seems to have reacted to the Trump administration by swinging the other way and being all over the worst case scenarios now. I've already swung back to the "maybe we shouldn't have kids after all" side of the argument after reading about some of the more recent changes to adjust models.

Jim, it would be fine to be a bit more chilled out about all this if we were some kind of zen master race and not the total mess of life we are as humans today. Even if the worst case scenarios are not true, there are things that almost all scientists agree we will almost certainly have to do in the next century that will result in widespread war and famine if we don't face them head on, with some compassion for the human race as a whole. Let's help people migrate from Bangladesh before they're swallowed by the ocean. We have enough money and resources to feed the people in Africa currently experiencing huge climate induced famine, but we're fighting about the politics instead of solving the problem. And by we I don't mean American, I mean the whole world.

Even the mildest estimations of climate change lead to scenarios where millions starve and millions are left homeless if we don't start to act. And instead we're entrenching all of the wealth in the pockets (and offshore accounts) of dinosaurs like Donald Trump and Rupert Murdoch, arguing over reproductive rights, trying to take healthcare away from people who desperately need it, and fighting over which imaginary friend in the sky is the best one.

We need education, we need wealth redistribution (on a planetary scale, not a federal one), we need massive innovation in technology and global politics, and a bit of hope. Thanks to that article and other recent news, I don't even know where to start with hope. It's paralysing.

Well that escalated quickly. Can you tell I read a lot of dystopian novels as a teenager?
Jul 21, 2017 2:32 PM # 
Becks: that's why I think that a somewhat chilled approach has value. Any changes are going to happen over a longer time scale...and have been, like the advance of photovoltaics (massive change in feasibility over decades, easy to miss over shorter timescales), energy storage, companies offering solar electricity for less than just utility power in some cases, efficient and increasingly practical electric cars. There are some like Trump who head the other way, but more than balanced by the large number of countries, states, cities, companies and individuals who are trying to make changes. I think that optimism and determination serve better, and recognition that one's not alone. And that a second nuclear war was averted (after WWII), as was the predicted outpacing of food production by population. Major challenges all, all amidst contentious politics and myriad economic interests. Even some major diseases have succumbed.

This is an orienteering forum, so I'm going to drop out of this thread, as much as there is one could say, given that I've said a bit already. Cheers.
Jul 21, 2017 4:21 PM # 
Well thanks Becks and Jim for your efforts to explain your rational for taking the 'somewhat chilled' approach to Global Warming. But I disagree; I want to see people getting so scared that they make major alterations in their lives: sell those 'carbon pumps' otherwise known as cars; stop producing so many young Americans (each adding 9000 tons of carbon to the envionment during their life) and honor those of us who have remained childless, as Bill Maher suggests; and really face the facts about the American standard of living, and adopt a less consumerist lifestyle.

For instance, for many decades we've known about the threat of Global Warming, but have really done nothing about it. I remember seeing a popular movie in the 1950's entitled The Sea describing the effect of carbon build-up in the atmosphere creating rising sea levels even then. The movie memorably ended with the words " this The End?"

So we've had our heads in the sand for at least 60 years. Meanwhile nothing has happened to slow down the accelerating rate of carbon build-up. Don't you think it is time to become a bit more alarmed?

For instance, let's admit the truth about so-called 'renewable energy.' Yes the COST of renewable power has come down. But because cheap fossil fuels are used in China to make the solar panels, we here in the west are lulled into a massive misconception about solar energy. It seems to make economic sense. But by analyzing the Energy equation, that is Energy Recovered Over Energy Input to make them(ERoEI), recent studies show that:

.....estimates of the ERoEI of solar photovoltaic (PV) systems to be 0.83....i.e. less than 1.0. If correct, that means more energy is used to make the PV panels than will ever be recovered from them during their 25 year lifetime. A PV panel will produce more CO2 than if coal were simply used directly to make electricity.

Worse than that, all the CO2 from PV production is injected into the atmosphere today, while if the coal were burned to make electricity, the emissions would be spread over the 25 year period. In other words, industrial wastelands have been created in China so that the West can make believe they are reducing CO2 emissions....
Jul 21, 2017 4:31 PM # 
Mr Wonderful:
Just the other day, I lamented on a climate change forum about how we hadn't talked about orienteering in a while.
Jul 21, 2017 5:05 PM # 
Did you read my comment Clark? Whilst I did discuss a bit the benefits of staying chilled, I am personally not in any way chilled!
Jul 22, 2017 11:46 AM # 
Yes Becks. And I was going to complement you on its thoughtfulness, since you mentioned your own doubts about the wisdom of having children. But when you concluded with the Left's standard thinking:

...we need wealth redistribution (on a planetary scale, not a federal one), we need massive innovation in technology and global politics, and a bit of hope....

...I just couldn't agree. Wealth redistribution? Half a billion Chinese have entered the Middle Class and bought cars in the past 20 years. And they've used American dollars to do so. Has that 'wealth redistribution' been a benefit to the environment?

And hoping technology will get us out of this mess? Hasn't it been technology that has produced the mess, beginning with the Industrial Revolution? As my paragraph above about the Myth of Solar Power illustrates, I don't think technology can help us dodge the consequences of our modern lifestyle. I know, not hopeful words for an engineer to contemplate. Sorry. :-)
Jul 22, 2017 2:22 PM # 
Lawful Good, folks. You know the stadard recommendation. (My bad, too.)
Jul 23, 2017 1:18 PM # 
Terje Mathisen:
@chitownclark: Please don't spread bogus information about the real energy efficiency of solar panels!

About 5-10 years ago PVs were indeed just a fancy form of battery, i.e. a way to get power to an off-grid location, but since then both the manufacturing energy usage and the efficiency of standard panels have improved, to the point where the total energy cost of production, transport and installation will be recouped in months instead of years (or never).

Back when I got my MSEE in electro-optics from NTH in Trondheim in 1981 things were very different from today, personally I drive an EV (as the only car in our family) knowing that 100% of the electricity used to charge it here in Norway comes from hydro power, but I still expect that it will make both ecological and financial sense to put PV panels on our south-facing roofs in the next decade.
Jul 23, 2017 4:58 PM # 
So my entire generation has to move off the grid and die alone? Or can we think about mediating the damage?
Jul 26, 2017 11:51 AM # 
Sorry Terje, I cannot let you get in the last word, trying to inject some hope into this thread. Regarding your two points about PV and hydro power:

1. PV power. The energy calculation for photo-voltaic technology (PV) is hotly disputed and is too optimistic. Unlike conventional fossil fuels, which deliver ERoEIs of 40 times input energy, PVs are limited to a very small fraction. No one seems to agree that we'll EVER get as much energy out of a PV system, as it took to manufacture, assemble, transport, maintain and store the energy from the system. And the energy cost of all those operations is hard to quantify, and are most certainly UNDERestimated in most PV analyses. Despite your almost Messianic belief in PV, my long linked article about the myth of PV power ends with:

...The belief that we can maintain our current electric grid system practically indefinitely, using only wind + solar + hydroelectric + biomass, is almost certainly a pipe dream....

2. Hydroelectric power. Sediment eventually fills up all dams and makes them inoperative...and dangerous. For instance, our Glen Canyon Dam on the Colorado River is filling with 30 000 dump truck loads of sediment every single day! And as California found out last winter, with its vast system of aging hydroelectric dams, when a dam fills with sediment, and a sudden deluge occurs, water can crest over the top of the dam very quickly, and become very threatening; we're currently removing over 60 dams each year!

So as the New York Magazine article contends, there really ain't no hope for our future, despite Norway's 'perfect' society! :-)
Jul 26, 2017 3:12 PM # 
Bringing the popcorn to this one!
Jul 26, 2017 7:51 PM # 
Terje Mathisen:
OK, as I stated my background is an MSEE in electro-optics, my brother's wife has her master in electro-chemical engineering, she has spent her professional career optimizing the energy usage for both Si and Al manufacture using hydro-electric power at market prices as the main cost driver.

Re your point 1: That article is almost totally bereft of any hard calculations, using handwaving arguments instead.

The only thing close to true there is that the current prices of PVs are probably somewhat lower than they should be (to reflect the total energy cost of making and transporting them), due to Chinese predatory pricing, but this factor is in the low percentage point range and definitely less than 2X.

When a company like Musk's Solar City and many others in other parts of the world can lease you a PV array knowing that it will pay itself back over the next 30 years, there is absolutely no way it can cost more to manufacture than the value of the energy produced. Please also note that the energy payback ratios quoted were in the 10 to 100 range!

A final point here is that allowing coal and other fossil fuels to have good numbers is what really disturbed me: Extracting and burning coal is of course energy negative since you are taking a finite resource and burning it.

Re. 2: Silt buildup is hugely determined by the the local geology and topography.

Here in Norway we have replaced most of our major dams but that was because we as a society didn't think concrete+rebar would last long enough: Currently almost all of them are dead simple "gravity dams", i.e. a flattened triangular cross section consisting of a very carefully controlled mix of boulders, rocks and gravel so that the total combination is waterproof and have no catastrophic failure modes unless the dam is already full and we get a year's worth of precipitation in a few weeks, in which case we'd have plenty time to evacuate anyone downstream.

To your final point: If you are dumb enough to use a New York Magazine as sufficient reason to simply give up, then I hope you don't have any children since it should be criminal to bring new humans into the world if you believe in such a scenario.
Jul 27, 2017 2:05 PM # 
I could bring out a really big bag of popcorn and ask "why not nuclear?"
Jul 27, 2017 4:13 PM # 
Nuclear is always an option ☺
Jul 27, 2017 7:44 PM # 
Terje Mathisen:
I honestly believed nuclear to be the only real option, you just need about 10% of your reactors to be breeders, capable of burning the waste from the other 90%.

This is exactly how France is doing it btw, in most other countries the nuclear scaremongering have caused huge collections of extremely long-lived waste products that will have to be secured for many millenia.

Thorium might be an alternative, it has one huge advantage which is 1000x more known reserves and just two disadvantages:

1) It needs continuous waste separation, otherwise the reaction will suffocate itself. The only real pair of test reactors that ran many decades ago were only operational for a year or two, so they skipped that problem.

2) Even worse according to some people is the fact that you need a few A-bombs worth of U235 or Plutonium to start the Thorium cycle, but as soon as it becomes operational it would be impossible to extract the bomb material, so this should not be a real problem from the non-proliferation viewpoint.

BTW, Telemark county in Norway contains one of the largest known Thorium deposits, with energy enough to run the planet for decades or even centuries.

Anyway, when I realized that a tiny corner of the Sahara (or similar sunny, cloud-free areas) gets enough sunlight that a 100x100 km panel of current standard PVs would generate more power than the world is currently using, it just seemed obvious that solar power is by far the easiest way to handle our current and future energy needs.

Even if we can run out of both hydro and nuclear power, we will not run out of raw SiO2 (ie. quartz sand).

Finally, I have to apologize to chitownclark: I have never before written anything as negative as what I did above, and I should have abstained here as well. If this was a trolling effort I consider myself fully hooked. :-(
Jul 27, 2017 8:05 PM # 
Terje--don't let facts get in the way of a good argument.
Jul 27, 2017 10:03 PM # 
I wasn't trolling. I am a (retired) nuclear physicist.
Jul 27, 2017 10:28 PM # 
Terje Mathisen:
@Jim: I never considered _you_ to be trolling! Please correct any obvious blunders in my nuclear pro/con post. Most of what I know about modern nuclear reactors have been from reading plus (more or less annual) talks with another (retired) reactor designer.
Jul 28, 2017 12:08 AM # 
@Terje I didn't think so.
About forty years ago I gave an informal lecture about the relative safety of various forms of energy production. Of course the arguments at that time didn't include the dangers resulting from global climate change. But despite that lack, it seemed obvious to me that the world should be increasing its use of nuclear fission power and we should be weaned off of carbon fuels.
My impression was that my audience wasn't convinced. Too bad. The world should have started the change long ago.
BTW the lecture was at Universitetet i Bergen.
Jul 28, 2017 9:56 PM # 
Terje Mathisen:
From a safety perspective nuclear is still the clear winner, we could have a Chernobyl or Fukushima every year without changing this, but solar power has the potential to take over.

BTW, in 1977 when I started in Trondheim all Norwegian universities were dominated politically by far left-wing radicals, the engineers at NTH finally took over there by outlasting a left-wing filibuster.
Jul 29, 2017 6:11 PM # 
I don't blame the audience.
It was 1979. Norway was beginning its oil adventures in the North Sea. At coffee time I had been discussing the relative benefits of energy sources, suggesting that nuclear would be far safer than North Sea oil and maybe safer than hydroelectricity.
I went to a conference in the Netherlands in late March. The Three Mile Island Accident happened on March 28th. When I returned to Bergen, there was a sign on the door of the coffee room that I would be giving the colloquium the following week. It was a joke (I think) but I did it anyways.
(I wasn't in Norway in March 1980).
I still don't understand how the nuclear accidents led to a virtual shutdown of the building of new reactors when other forms of energy production continued despite serious accidents..
Jul 30, 2017 10:22 PM # 
And there we move into the psychological study of human risk assessment, misperception of probability and even Kahneman's Prospect Theory. Or perhaps I shouldn't. What I learnt from the discussion above is that in an orienteering forum there is always a good chance you are exchanging views with someone who turns out to know much more about a subject than one's self. I suspect the risk is higher than in almost any other sport.
Jul 31, 2017 8:03 AM # 
Terje Mathisen:

You are absolutely right, orienteering has to have the (on average) most highly educated group of athletes.

Here in Norway I believe that even if you limit yourself to only the national team (arguably the second best in the world after Sweden?) from the 1960'ies to now, the average must be a MS, with the few BSs balanced against PhDs.

I.e. my clubmate Anne Margrethe Hausken Nordberg who has found time to have children and get her PhD while medaling in all O disciplines.

Sometimes I feel a little inferior since I didn't finish my second Master and then later on never found a suitable PhD project. (My brother Knut who ran on the national team did get his doctorate optimizing Yara's total energy cycle for producing fertilizer and my sister Eli is getting close on hers, working on treatment for substance-abusing pregnant women.)
Jul 31, 2017 3:06 PM # 
quite right.
Aug 1, 2017 2:15 AM # 
I helped recruit one family into our local orienteering club partly by explaining that the peer-group his children would be competing against would be a community of educational high achievers who would be a "good influence".
Aug 1, 2017 9:30 PM # 
Terje Mathisen:
@TheLog: Where I grew up, in Porsgrunn in the sixties and seventies, all our friends were other families where the father was a "Siv.Ing" (Engineering MSc) like my dad, working for Hydro, and the entire family ran orienteering.

My father drew the first two large new maps in the area, spending months on a ruby lith table in his study, my mother organized recreational orienteering in the form of "Tur-O". Together with the siblings I mentioned above (Knut & Eli) we did once win 5 different classes on a national event.

I think I never even realized that our group of families weren't typical of the entire country until many years later. :-)
Aug 2, 2017 3:43 AM # 
Speaking of Orienteering, the global warming is an exciting thing,
lots of interesting terrain will open, like Labrador, Putoran Plateau.
America will get more maps with exciting sand hills terrain in Manitoba.
The whole huge Siberia will be habitable. Refugees will be sailing there from America across the Arctic Ocean (or just swim across Bering strait)
Aug 11, 2017 7:29 PM # 
Recent events may make our discussions irrelevant; Kim Jong-un and President Trump may take care of our future sooner than we may know.

But while we're reading more and more about warming every day, some people are taking action. Here's a likable guy from San Diego in a TED talk that seems intent to tell the world his environmental message, that he backs up with his own action and sacrifice.
Mar 8, 2019 2:54 PM # 
For those who read the New York Magazine article which was linked in the original post on this thread, the author has now expanded the article into a just-published book:

....The Uninhabitable Earth is the most terrifying book I have ever read. Its subject is climate change, and its method is scientific, but its mode is Old Testament. The book is a meticulously documented, white-knuckled tour through the cascading catastrophes that will soon engulf our warming planet. . . . Wallace-Wells’s imagine-the-worst approach has become prescient. —Farhad Manjoo, The New York Times

“'The Uninhabitable Earth' is unabashedly pornographic. It is also riveting. . . . Some readers will find Mr. Wallace-Wells’s outline of possible futures alarmist. He is indeed alarmed. You should be, too.” —The Economist

Most of us know the gist, if not the details, of the climate change crisis. And yet it is almost impossible to sustain strong feelings about it. David Wallace-Wells has now provided the details, and with writing that is not only clear and forceful, but often imaginative and even funny, he has found a way to make the information deeply felt. —Jonathan Safran Foer, author of Everything is Illuminated

David Wallace-Wells argues that the impacts of climate change will be much graver than most people realize, and he's right. The Uninhabitable Earth is a timely and provocative work." —Elizabeth Kolbert, author of The Sixth Extinction

An excellent book. . . . Not since Bill McKibben’s The End of Nature thirty years ago have we been told what climate change will mean in such vivid terms.—Fred Pearce, The Washington Post
Mar 8, 2019 6:05 PM # 
Since this is filed under orienteering- will the forests be less runnable and sprint in city will be the only discipline?
Mar 8, 2019 10:38 PM # 
The globe is warming. There can be no dispute about that. It has been warming for perhaps about 20,000 years, perhaps more.
The common assertion is that man's excessive consumption of carbon fuels is the main reason for global warming. That may be true for the last 300 years but what about the 19,700 years before that?
It seems that the globe has warmed at the same rate that the polar ice cap (that in North America once stretched south to about the current location of New York City or further,) has retreated. Could it be that the main cause of global warming is global warming? As the ice cap retreats the globe is losing its natural refrigeration.
Is mankind doomed to extinction on earth? Pretty certain we are. There is no strong reason to believe that our species can avoid the same fate of dinosaurs, wooly mammoths and others. It will either be by an overheated globe or a relatively sudden and catastrophic destruction such as impact from an extraterrestrial body or thermal explosion from within. Or it could be something as small as a virus. Mars here we come!
In the meantime of many generations I hope our descendants get to enjoy the many new terrains created as the prime climate areas move north (and south).
Mar 9, 2019 2:18 AM # 
This is a bad news for gulf coast and Florida. People will start packing very soon, moving to North Dakota and further north. Last summer in Mobile was totally unbearable.
Mar 9, 2019 1:13 PM # 
I don’t know wtf you’re talking about Gordhun but I’m just going to leave this here:
Mar 9, 2019 4:32 PM # 
WOw! that is such a great "cartoon" . You could say the earth has been warming for 20,000 years, but you cannot say it has been warming at the same RATE.
My thoughts always were, you can't take something (carbon) which has been buried in the earth for thousands of years, and dump it into the air over the course of a century or so, and not expect something drastic to happen.
As for nuclear power, I think the main deterrent is initial cost, especially to build one which does not produce dangerous levels of radioactive waste....(which I was surprised to learn recently is what keeps earth from having become an ice ball eons ago.) (radioactive elements, I mean, not the waste).
Mar 10, 2019 9:59 AM # 
the entry for Stonehenge is my favourite. It's such a great cartoon!
Mar 11, 2019 9:49 PM # 

Global Warming A "Hoax And Scam" Pushed By Greedy Government Scientists: Greenpeace Co-Founder
Mar 11, 2019 10:07 PM # 
Yurets is always good for a laugh.
Mar 11, 2019 11:52 PM # 
Ah - that Greenpeace founder be the Canadian Patrick Moore, not the deceased monocle-wearing English astronomer.

The same Canadian Patrick Moore that said that you could safely drink a quart of glyphosphate but refused to drink a glass of it. He stupid.
Mar 12, 2019 2:50 AM # 
Well, having accidentally tasted glyphosate, I can understand his refusal. I put it in a similar category to Vegemite, coffee and durian.
Mar 12, 2019 3:50 AM # 
I thought durian was supposed to be delicious.
Mar 12, 2019 6:57 AM # 
Durian smells something Awful. I had the misfortune of booking some cheap accommodation for a trip to Singapore, only to find a Durian Market right next door (and under my balcony).
Mar 12, 2019 3:04 PM # 
lol where is this money that is supposedly going to all these scam scientists and why is none of it in my bank account?
Mar 12, 2019 3:14 PM # 
Smells bad, yes. Notoriously bad. But it's said to taste delicious. The description I've heard is "like eating vanilla custard in a latrine".
Mar 12, 2019 3:50 PM # 
When walking through Singapore markets in prime durian season, to me it always smelled like a really bad gas leak, at least like the mercaptans added to natural gas. I never ate durian, only tried durian ice cream.... was not horrible, but would not eat it again.
Mar 12, 2019 4:16 PM # 
Terje Mathisen:
To me the most amazing thing about the entire "Climate Change" discussion is that some people find it possible to see evidence like xkcd's "Hockey Stick" temperature graph and still think that the situation is OK.
Mar 12, 2019 4:43 PM # 
I think the problem is that people see those temperature graphs, realize that the Earth has been warmer, and think that that means everything will be ok. After all, we're here now! Those high temperatures didn't destroy the Earth! It's a complete lack of considering how the global human society functions.
Mar 15, 2019 7:12 PM # 
Before this thread returns to the "Older Threads" archives, just thought I'd make a pitch for Nancy Clark's article in the current (Winter 2019) issue of O/NA. Where did the kind and polite Nancy go? She's suddenly turned scary...á la Uninhabitable Earth!

1. By 2050 the world's population will have increased from 7.6 to 10 billion people, mostly because people will live a lot longer. If birth rates don't level off, the population could be even higher. To feed this mob, we'll need 60% more food, from increasingly devastated farm fields. So food (and water) shortages will begin to develop long before 2050.

2. It will become oppressively hot for much of the year...which will make it more difficult to grow food. And anyway, outdoor sports such a running, biking and O will be difficult to pursue in the extreme heat.

3. Frequent harsh weather events will interfere with travel, so athletes and sports teams will not be able to reliably maintain a competition schedule, or compete as often.

4. Soccer and football fields will be ruined by frequent flooding and downpours. Golf courses and home gardens will be killed by drought.

Some of Nancy's suggestions for slowing Global Warming include:

A. Change your diet to eat more vegetables, less animal protein. And don't believe that 'grass-fed' beef is more environmental; cows fed grass instead of corn take longer to mature, and emit much more damaging greenhouse gases (methane) than if they ate corn!

B. Consume less; waste less...and don't believe the 'best used by' date. Most food is perfectly edible long after those arbitrary dates. When shopping, take a hand-basket instead of a shopping cart.

C. Start developing a taste for insects...the protein of the future!

In conclusion, Nancy observes we need global leadership in these matters NOW. But lacking that, she makes a plea for us to act locally, as individuals. Because the coming generations are depending on us, and will thank us!
May 18, 2019 1:33 PM # 
David Wallace-Wells, the author discussed in this thread, last week published an update on the advancing conditions he contends that will make the Earth uninhabitable. In planning your western O this summer, as you run your course, you may wish to remember:

....You can’t outrun a wildfire burning at full speed; some grow an acre a second, some three times faster still. You can’t outdrive flames carried by winds traveling 60 miles per hour straddling highways that had looked, moments before, like escape routes....
May 31, 2019 3:38 AM # 
Australian Scout Jamboree 2019, Murraylands South Australia - during an extraordinarily extensive heat wave we had temperatures of 44 to 46 in the shade - similar and greater temperatures travelling from NSW To South Australia - temperatures reported and recorded in the 47c, 48c and 49c rangers with some reports of plus 50c. That is a step change. There is a significant difference between trying to work, play and socialise at 40c to plus 47c - the rarity of high forties was just blown away. You walk into a tent that is 49.5 with a outside in shade temperature of 46.5c and both are tough temperatures to operate in. Yet the concrete shoe brigade, the concrete pill lot, the Harden The F Up crew tried to claim it was normal. Nothing normal about it. I had worked in around boiler house and other similar environments for ten plus years and you can acclimatise however there are limits and you need relief from it. I noticed I was no longer acclimatised to that about two summers after ceasing that work. You could not possibly sustain a life in those temperatures even in the short term without getting ill. And yet there are those who assert otherwise!
May 31, 2019 3:39 AM # 
now what is that about vegemite - salt , more salt and more salt - insert silly smiley face - yum.
May 31, 2019 11:53 AM # 
Thanks for your personal experience southerncross. Sounds miserable. And South Australia is one of my favorite places on Earth...used to work in Adelaide. Sorry to learn about the heat wave this summer...wonder what that did to the wonderful SA wine industry.

For Americans, used to Fahrenheit temps, the temperature in that tent was 121 degrees F! A handy converter is here.
May 31, 2019 8:03 PM # 
They have a record setting heat wave and here we are just finishing the coldest wettest month of May on record.
Neither are indicative of long range trends.
May 31, 2019 9:19 PM # 
Gord, or they are indicative of a long range trend towards more and more records being broken...
Jun 1, 2019 10:37 AM # 
Records are made to be broken. Point is that we cannot depend on an example of a heat wave to say 'look it's proof there is global warming", nor can we look at a single example of colder than normal temperatures and say "look it's proof the globe is not warming" . In the case of North America we can say today, "WTF! That jet stream gave us strange weather last month!"
Jun 1, 2019 11:23 AM # 
Science has advanced so much in the last decade or two that individual extreme weather events (cold, heat, drought, fire, rainfall, etc) CAN be attributed to human modified climate. It is called probabilistic extreme event attribution and has been an important goal of the scientific community for more than a decade.

The reason that jet stream is in WTF! mode so often now (and giving us strange weather) is a direct consequence (and was predicted) of human modified climate.

Blocking highs lasting for weeks resulting in heat waves, fire and drought in some areas while causing floods and cool weather elsewhere is increasingly becoming of major concern.

One good example of this was 2010 blocking high sitting over Asia. Pakistan had disastrous floods while Russia had a terrible heat wave and associated wildfires that killed over 10,000 people!

The current fires in Alberta are due to a similar event (albeit weaker) and isn’t it ironic that the press conference that the Alberta conservative government had planned to announce they had repealed the previous governments climate change plan was cancelled due to dangerous air quality from Alberta wildfires.

Conservative governments in Canada are doing a good job sending talking points to their base denying human modified climate change is an issue. The reality is that they are lying and we can expect more drought, heat waves, fires, floods and yes periods of cold temps too because the jet stream is WTF’d.
Jun 2, 2019 12:10 AM # 
I thought the conservatives in Canada weren't all that conservative -- at least compared to USA's Republicans.
Jun 2, 2019 12:38 AM # 
I respect science very much and respect the scientists who do the research but it bothers me with their and your conclusion that " individual extreme weather events CAN be attributed to human modified climate". Your capitalization there suggests you mean the conditions can only be attributed to human actions. Human industrial activity has been happening in tandem with the natural retreat of the polar ice caps for the last 300 or so years yet scientists generally see only one of those as a reason for climate change without even trying to dismiss the possibility of the other as a cause. It is science with blinders on. It is like the scientist who trained a grasshopper to jump on the command word "JUMP". Then he removed the grasshopper's legs. When the grasshopper no longer jumped on command he concluded a grasshopper with no legs was deaf.
There are reasons far beyond the possibility of climate change to limit mankind's racing to consume hydrocarbons, a resource that eventually will be depleted without conservation. However it is high time that our science community and governments pay more attention to the likelihood that the globe will continue to warm with or without hydro carbon emissions and we damn well better do something about that.
Jun 2, 2019 3:09 AM # 
You can’t get past climate 101 without spending a lot of time looking at exactly the issue you claim climate scientists ignore. It’s so frustrating to hear this argument, especially considering how careful and conservative the scientific community has been about attributing the bulk of the observed warming to human activity. Here’s a link.
Jun 2, 2019 3:56 AM # 
Assessing the extent (if any) to which anthropogenic climate change has contributed to the risk of individual extreme events is actually a very active area of research - one of the numerous places where this is reported is

As it happens, I'm currently working on a conference paper which (among other things) summarises known published event attribution studies. This finds that virtually all attribution studies for extreme temperature events published in the last five years find that their risk has been significantly shifted by climate change (upwards for warm events, downward for cold events) - the single exception out of 80-odd studies being a 2016 frost in southern Western Australia where drier air/lower soil moisture and increased southerly winds were sufficient to counteract the background warming trend.

For non-temperature extreme events (e.g. flood and drought), the evidence is patchier, although many areas in middle to higher latitudes show a noticeable increase in extreme rainfall, and there's little evidence of any signal in small-scale events such as severe thunderstorms. Certainly it's an over-simplification to say that extreme events of all types are increasing.

And, as has been the case in most recent years, 90-95% of the world is running warmer than the long-term average for the year so far. That means that 5-10% isn't, and a large proportion of that 5-10% this year is in the central and northern United States and adjacent areas of Canada.
Jun 2, 2019 8:46 AM # 
Katydids and crickets actually do have ears on their knees.
Jun 2, 2019 10:55 AM # 
Stating that one has a respect for scientists and then a sentence or too later stating that climate scientists have blinders on doesn’t sound very respectful to me.
Jun 2, 2019 1:00 PM # 
Jan Erik Naess:
Gord your opinion isn't an uncommon one and you seem relatively open to discussion. It doesn't seem like facts of figures are going to change your point of view too much because of the extensive influence of public figures that downplay how straight forward climate change is and try and make research seem as if it must be interpreted as unreliable when in reality it is in fact quite reliable.

For future reference what sort of details might change someone's perspective who relates largely to you?

I think this is the real topic for discussion, not over how fact should be interpreted as opinions, a perspective that is being pushed by some not so great people.. And is in *fact* an incorrect point of view
Jun 2, 2019 1:33 PM # 
Let me be very clear to you Jan Erik and others. I do not dispute there is a role by human activity in the apparent climate change/ climate evolution. Do what we can where we can to remove that role. Let's have at it.

However I firmly believe that the continuing and accelerating rate of retreat of the polar ice caps, going on for the last 15,000+ years likely also has a role in warming the earth. It is just like ice in an icebox. Its rate of shrinking is slow at first and it remains effective in cooling the other contents for quite some time. However the smaller and smaller it gets the rate of shrinkage increases and its ability to cool the other contents decreases at an increasing rate. We are experiencing the icebox effect on a global scale.

Perhaps human activity is what is causing the ice cap retreats. Perhaps but that certainly was not the cause of their retreats the previous, at least, three times.
Jun 3, 2019 2:05 PM # 
Jan Erik Naess:
I think then everyone can see that we're all on the same page with the direction things are going as per climate change. I can always be debated what factors are most significant :)

Jun 3, 2019 3:14 PM # 
I'm curious whether Gord actually thinks that climate scientists do not consider all the natural cycles and feedback loops of Earth's climate system when they talk about the influence of humans and what actions we need to take. As if these scientists are sitting around, wondering how the climate changed so much in the past, and then just shrugging their shoulders and moving on with their lives.

The whole reason we know so much about the natural variability of the climate is due to the work of the same scientists you are accusing of ignoring that information.
Jun 3, 2019 7:52 PM # 
Getting back to gordhun's comment on breaking records not necessarily being indicative of long term trends and that records are meant to be broken, gordhun's cold wet May example looks like a good demonstration of that. One thing related to climate that I look at is Lake Huron water levels. Wet means an increased amount of water and cold means a decreased rate of evaporation. Both raise the level of the lake and that is what has been happening this spring. However, the water level of Lake Huron just hit a record low at the beginning of 2013, with a major Stop the Drop campaign seeking significant government funding to reduce the amount of water being lost to Lake St. Clair (the lake between Huron and Erie). The water level is back to the upper end of the range over the past century, and the current water level is almost exactly where it was 100 years ago. This chart shows constant annual fluctuations in the Lake Huron water level, but within more or less the same range. Finally, even if there were no climate change, given that some of this recordkeeping does not go back very long, breaking monthly records like we had the past May would not be uncommon just in terms of the laws of probability.

[This message comes from a climate migrant (having moved just over one degree of latitude further from the equator).]
Jun 3, 2019 9:10 PM # 
it snowed in Ontario’s Algonquin park today. Time for Ontario Premier Doug Ford (aka Trump Lite) to go cherry picking and call anthropogenic climate change a hoax.
Jun 4, 2019 4:15 AM # 
It is the personal, as those without resources and or with less resources will die directly or die prematurely.

Interestingly chittownclark it was mitigated by morning breezes that I think had some influence from the gulf to the west, even when the breeze got up it raised more dust than heat it was when there was not breeze. If the breeze had been from the north!!!

We got by and were reasonably resourced to do so as did the kids however it was a lesson in exposure. There is not much you can do in that heat and if exposed to the direct sun. ie when waiting for the buses at the end it was a reminder of how rapidly sick you can get in that sort of heat.

I am not debating the cause here. I am reading what far more qualified people in this thread have to say. I think that along the way our perspective upon living in those sorts of temperatures needs to be understood, at least reflected upon.

I will observe that I am glad we were on limestone country with cracks down to hell so the joe blakes had better and smaller creatures to chase!
Jun 4, 2019 4:35 AM # 
For non-Australians. Joe-blakes is rhyming slang for snakes. I presume in that part of SA its the Eastern-Brown, a highly-venomous, aggressive snake with which to be particularly careful.
Jun 4, 2019 4:53 AM # 
Christina I do not know why there is such a herd mentality among the science communities towards mankind's effects on global climate change. Perhaps it is not all scientists but instead that is all that the press will report or perhaps it is all scientists because that is where the grant money is.
We have been subjected to these scientific approaches before. Remember in the 1970s when we were told that there would be no conventional oil left by the 1980s. Remember how the ozone layer in the atmosphere was going to disappear.
I accept the world's climate is changing. After all it has been since forever. However I think our science community and politicians are putting all the blame on human behavior for that change and that is a disservice to us all. Change our behavior and we will stop climate change is the war cry. We can and should change our behavior but the world will continue to evolve to be a warmer place. That is until the next big freeze comes along.
Our countries and out populations would be far better served if a lot more attention were paid to how to adapt to the change.
Jun 4, 2019 5:05 AM # 
There is a herd mentality with regard to Einstein's theories as well. Its such a pity.
Jun 4, 2019 7:51 AM # 
Gord, Google the Montreal protocol and learn why you don’t hear as much about the ozone hole anymore. The herd of scientists rightfully blamed humans (CFC production) and warned what was happening and the increase in skin cancer related consequences. Politicians and industry listened and acted with the signing of the Montreal protocol. The ozone hole is slowly recovering. Yeah science.

Why do you think the Montreal protocol with countries acting on ozone hole legislation was a success while comparatively the Kyoto protocol was a failure with countries not acting on carbon emissions reduction legislation to curb global warming?
Jun 4, 2019 8:01 AM # 
This pessimistic observer gives us ten years to extinction - at what point should I not bother to assign organisers for Australia's major orienteering championships?
Jun 4, 2019 9:59 AM # 
Just make sure its in Tassie Greg.
Jun 4, 2019 12:27 PM # 
I have no idea how many times I've written a snarky comment on this thread before deleting it, but herd mentality has broken me.

Gordhun, in a much less gigglesome extension to TheInvisibleLog's comment - please explain to me the difference between scientific consensus and herd mentality?
Jun 4, 2019 12:36 PM # 
I should add that the Keynote to my Mass Spec conference this week ( was about converting all power sources worldwide to renewable electricity as a means to combat emissions and air pollution, and I've never seen that presented so purely before. Huge claims that simply by converting to these sources we'd reduce energy consumption worldwide by almost half. I'm not equipped with the knowledge to judge his math!

He added that renewables are now mostly comparable in monetary cost to fossil fuels and that there are a large number of conservative leaning local governments right here in the USA who are pledging to hit large percentages of renewables by 2050 because of energy security - believing it's better to generate your power in your back yard than rely on wars in far off countries. Good angle.

Obvious environmental costs incurred for rare metals like lithium for battery storage. Need to improve our recycling for these things.

Not a solutions expert but it sure was nice to feel some hope for the first time in a good long while about this stuff.
Jun 4, 2019 1:44 PM # 
Hammer, I'd suggest there was general compliance with the Montreal protocol because the cost of complying was very low so that it made complete sense to comply once there was awareness of the problem. Compliance with the Kyoto protocol was not realistic because the cost of complying is much greater and the free riding problem is enormous. Regardless of how favourable the cost/benefit of complying for the world as a whole may be, the cost/benefit of complying for any individual country doing so on its own is likely negative, and it's only at the national level that there can be any effective enforcement. Then there's the problem of poorer countries that are still in the process of industrializing, which represent a large portion of the world's population. While in concept richer countries would provide poorer countries with funding, they were never going to reach agreement to provide sufficient funds. How many countries have actually complied with Kyoto through their own efforts to do so? I don't include Germany in that because much of its reduced carbon use would have been from the shut down of non-competitive East German industry. I'd suggest compliance with Kyoto or any successor will only happen if the cost of compliance becomes sufficiently low (such as through technological developments) to have a real impact the free riding problem.

When Canada ratified Kyoto under the Liberals, the Canadian government did nothing to implement it while the Liberals were in power with a majority. When the Liberals under Dion unsuccessfully ran in part on a Kyoto platform some years after the Liberals could have started implementation, didn't it include an exemption for gasoline? I expect the new Canadian carbon tax will have a negligible impact on carbon consumption at most. And even where governments overall succeed in reducing the use of oil and gas, it's negated in part because markets will act in the opposite direction, with reduced consumption reducing the market price.
Jun 4, 2019 4:27 PM # 
the difference between scientific consensus and herd mentality?
Not sure exactly what he meant, but there is a phenomenon beyond "scientific consensus" straying into "anti-heresy". Climate change is definitely straying into the second. The models are complex, chaotic and produce a spread of results. If you look at the predictions from, say. 10 years ago there was a strong consensus around warming. The spread of predictions was bigger than the signal, but error on the mean gives a confident prediction of warming: that's scientific consensus.
So far. so good, but unless the models were fiddled there should (statistically) have been far more studies showing cooling than there actually were. In fact, anything which appeared to contradict the "warming" consensus was actively suppressed (it happened to me, I think I you told the story before...). That would be "herd mentality". If you're interested, you might look at Fisher's reexamination of Mendel's experiments: there's little doubt that Mendel fudged his data. Nevertheless, the scientific consensus is that Mendel's hypothesis was right.
Jun 4, 2019 9:11 PM # 
Becks - in most countries, even without a carbon price, it's already the case that renewables are cheaper than new fossil fuel generation, but often not cheaper than existing fossil fuel generators which are already partly or fully depreciated. A lot of the political pressure around support from fossil fuels is coming from businesses who are trying desperately to get another 5 or 10 or 20 years out of assets likely to be ultimately worthless.

Of course, there are challenges around a wholesale switch to renewables, the biggest one being storage. It's also a challenge to the way electricity markets are structured in many countries, since you're mixing sources with high capital costs but little running cost (including wind and solar - but also nuclear, whose very high capital costs make it difficult to compete), with sources with more modest capital costs but much higher running costs because they have to pay for fuel.
Jun 4, 2019 9:21 PM # 
re: Great Lakes water levels
Jun 5, 2019 12:54 AM # 
So, Gord, were you in Ottawa or Florida or somewhere else on May 31?
Jun 5, 2019 1:09 AM # 
After I couldn't resist my tongue in cheek comment about relativity theory, a more modest contribution is to suggest a re-read or initial read of Kuhn's Theory of Scientific Revolutions is worthwhile. Its dated now, but the integration of Popper's simpler view of science with an examination of "herd mentality" is probably still relevant.
Jun 11, 2019 3:27 AM # 
Best reading for treating herd mentality of radicalized green socialists
Jun 11, 2019 11:39 AM # 
Some North Americans could be forgiven for wondering where warming is - illustrated nicely by a map of the Northern Hemisphere and how many months this year (out of a possible 5) have had above-average temperatures. There's a lot more red (5) than white (0) on the map, but a slice extending from most of Ontario and Quebec west into the Upper Midwest has been below average every month this year (as well as the last three months of 2018 in parts of Quebec).
Jun 11, 2019 10:06 PM # 
I wonder what can be done to get orienteering into the olympics...

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