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Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math

Bill McKibben calls this the ‘most important thing he’s written’ in years
Environment • Views: 28,606

Read the whole thing to see why. Excerpts below:

If the pictures of those towering wildfires in Colorado haven’t convinced you, or the size of your AC bill this summer, here are some hard numbers about climate change: June broke or tied 3,215 high-temperature records across the United States. That followed the warmest May on record for the Northern Hemisphere – the 327th consecutive month in which the temperature of the entire globe exceeded the 20th-century average, the odds of which occurring by simple chance were 3.7 x 10-99, a number considerably larger than the number of stars in the universe.

But the real numbers we have to worry about are:

The First Number: 2° Celsius

Copenhagen failed spectacularly…The accord did contain one important number, however. In Paragraph 1, it formally recognized “the scientific view that the increase in global temperature should be below two degrees Celsius.”

Some context: So far, we’ve raised the average temperature of the planet just under 0.8 degrees Celsius, and that has caused far more damage than most scientists expected. (A third of summer sea ice in the Arctic is gone, the oceans are 30 percent more acidic, and since warm air holds more water vapor than cold, the atmosphere over the oceans is a shocking five percent wetter, loading the dice for devastating floods.) Given those impacts, in fact, many scientists have come to think that two degrees is far too lenient a target.

And here’s why even that teetering-on-the-edge-of-safe two degrees is all too likely to be surpassed:

The Second Number: 565 Gigatons

Scientists estimate that humans can pour roughly 565 more gigatons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere by midcentury and still have some reasonable hope of staying below two degrees. (“Reasonable,” in this case, means four chances in five, or somewhat worse odds than playing Russian roulette with a six-shooter.)

In fact, study after study predicts that carbon emissions will keep growing by roughly three percent a year – and at that rate, we’ll blow through our 565-gigaton allowance in 16 years, around the time today’s preschoolers will be graduating from high school. “The new data provide further evidence that the door to a two-degree trajectory is about to close,” said Fatih Birol, the IEA’s chief economist. In fact, he continued, “When I look at this data, the trend is perfectly in line with a temperature increase of about six degrees.” That’s almost 11 degrees Fahrenheit, which would create a planet straight out of science fiction.

It gets worse:

The Third Number: 2,795 Gigatons

This number is the scariest of all – one that, for the first time, meshes the political and scientific dimensions of our dilemma. It was highlighted last summer by the Carbon Tracker Initiative, a team of London financial analysts and environmentalists who published a report in an effort to educate investors about the possible risks that climate change poses to their stock portfolios. The number describes the amount of carbon already contained in the proven coal and oil and gas reserves of the fossil-fuel companies, and the countries (think Venezuela or Kuwait) that act like fossil-fuel companies. In short, it’s the fossil fuel we’re currently planning to burn. And the key point is that this new number – 2,795 – is higher than 565. Five times higher.

If you told Exxon or Lukoil that, in order to avoid wrecking the climate, they couldn’t pump out their reserves, the value of their companies would plummet. John Fullerton, a former managing director at JP Morgan who now runs the Capital Institute, calculates that at today’s market value, those 2,795 gigatons of carbon emissions are worth about $27 trillion. Which is to say, if you paid attention to the scientists and kept 80 percent of it underground, you’d be writing off $20 trillion in assets. The numbers aren’t exact, of course, but that carbon bubble makes the housing bubble look small by comparison. It won’t necessarily burst – we might well burn all that carbon, in which case investors will do fine. But if we do, the planet will crater. You can have a healthy fossil-fuel balance sheet, or a relatively healthy planet – but now that we know the numbers, it looks like you can’t have both. Do the math: 2,795 is five times 565. That’s how the story ends.

This is why the GOP’s fossil-fuels-über-alles trajectory is so horrifically short-sighted and evil. What good will those “trillions” in fossil fuel reserves do when heat and drought make growing enough vital food crops impossible? Even before that happens, you have to consider how drilling for and burning fossil fuels sucks up trillions of gallons of water, thus competing with our agricultural needs right this minute.

Bill McKibben is right. Either the fossil fuel profits go, or a world that supports human life. The right choice won’t be painless by any means, but neither is amputation of a gangrenous extremity to save your body - and yourself - from certain death.

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156 comments

1 Aye Pod  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 8:18:59am

I hope this gets front paged so that as many people as possible can see it.

2 Daniel Ballard  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 9:45:15am

re: #1 Aye Pod

I put in a "recommendation" hopefully it will at least get featured (a pretty safe bet methinks)

3 jamesfirecat  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 10:05:44am

The scariest number of all is how few people believe that we're headed towards wrecking the planet for human civilization.

4 Kragar  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 10:06:19am
Either the fossil fuel profits go, or a world that supports human life.

Conservatives need a few more decades to think it over.

5 Mocking Jay  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 10:07:23am

re: #3 jamesfirecat

The scariest number of all is how few people believe that we're headed towards wrecking the planet for human civilization.

All that matters is that the "haves" get to keep being "haves" as opposed to "have nots" "soon-to-haves." That's what's really important.

6 Gus  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 10:10:44am

I am offended by the views of climate scientists.

-- GOP

Right. That's like being offended by the "views" of your oncologist.

7 garhighway  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 10:11:45am

It has been interesting to read the comments on various environmental websites over the last few days after the Muller and Watts "papers" were posted. It is clear that the science is NOT winning. The anti-AGW crowd believes even more fervently that the entire scientific community is in on the conspiracy to decieve us into thinking global warming is real. They have circled the wagons in a big way.

8 Gus  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 10:12:17am

Doctor: I'm afraid that if you don't quit smoking you will get cancer.

Patient: How dare you offend me in such a manner!

9 Kragar  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 10:12:36am

Meanwhile, the nitwits think they know what the real problem is:

WND Columnist Warns Gay Rights Advocates will Bring About the Next Holocaust

WorldNetDaily columnist and regular Fox News guest Erik Rush warns that the protests against Chick-fil-A by gay rights advocates represent a reappearance of the Nazi Party's tactics against Germany's Jewish population. He said the left wants to use the issue of gay rights to distract from economic problems, turning Christians into scapegoats that are targeted for extermination: “the goal here is absolute power, the primary objective to supplant God with government. To achieve this, religious doctrine must be eradicated, and the chief impediment to that is Christianity.”

10 Kragar  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 10:13:08am

re: #8 Gus

Doctor: I'm afraid that if you don't quit smoking you will get cancer.

Patient: How dare you offend me in such a manner!

You got my wife's medical records?

11 Targetpractice  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 10:14:13am

re: #5 Mocking Jay

All that matters is that the "haves" get to keep being "haves" as opposed to "have nots" "soon-to-haves." That's what's really important.

Pretty much. The "haves" see concerns about the environment as pointless because they believe they have the money to help them weather the storm.

Higher temperatures? "I have AC!"
More natural disasters? "I can just move to someplace 'safe'!"
Drought? "I drink only imported water!"
High food costs? "Of course it's high, I only buy the finest!"
Increased war and strife? "That's what guards/mercenaries are for!"

12 Interesting Times  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 10:14:16am

Thanks for front-paging this, Charles. It's the easy-to-read, all-on-one-page print version of McKibben's article I linked to, so please read the whole thing if you can - he talks about solutions toward the end, namely a simple, straightforward carbon tax to reflect the real cost of fossil fuel.

As for the oh-noes-that-kill-jobs disingenuous derps, let them take this number:

US coal jobs: 80,000
US solar jobs: 100,000 (and sure to grow, if only we could kill fossil fuel tax breaks and subsidies)

So there.

13 Gus  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 10:14:29am

re: #9 Kragar

Meanwhile, the nitwits think they know what the real problem is:

WND Columnist Warns Gay Rights Advocates will Bring About the Next Holocaust

Yep. Forget climate change. Man, the real issue here is preventing gay marriage and freedumb of speech baby!

14 wrenchwench  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 10:15:12am

"Interesting Times" indeed.

Three simple numbers and the most complicated political problem ever. Actually, it's not the most complicated, but perhaps the most difficult, because it involves a whole lot of money, and the most important, because we have no other planet to go to.

15 Targetpractice  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 10:16:12am

re: #8 Gus

Doctor: I'm afraid that if you don't quit smoking you will get cancer.

Patient: How dare you offend me in such a manner!

Nah, it's

Doctor: You've got lung cancer and continuing to smoke will only shorten the time you have left.

Patient: I'm gonna die anyway, so might as well enjoy it while it lasts.

16 Kragar  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 10:16:56am

GOP hit with sarcasm, don't realize it

Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) delivered his opening statement in Spanish at a hearing on Thursday about an English-only bill proposed by House Republicans.

Republicans at the panel said Conyers’ speech actually supported their point.

“I would ask the gentleman in the interest of fairness here… would you repeat that in Yiddish and Vietnamese and French, please,” Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) said after Conyers’ speech. “Nothing would make the point better than if we conducted all of our debates in different languages and I suppose that makes the case for this bill better than anything else.”

Rep. Steve King (R-IA) also said Conyer’s Spanish speech showed the needs for his bill.

“I was gonna start out with a Tower of Bable discussion, but I think I’ll pass on that. Mr. Conyers has perhaps made my point for me,” King said.

17 Kragar  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 10:17:32am

re: #15 Targetpractice

Nah, it's

Doctor: You've got lung cancer and continuing to smoke will only shorten the time you have left.

Patient: I'm gonna die anyway, so might as well enjoy it while it lasts.

*cough cough*...Smoooth... *HACK*

18 researchok  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 10:18:06am

We have to find a safe way to go nuclear.

It us the only viable way.

19 jaunte  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 10:19:29am
"...at today’s market value, those 2,795 gigatons of carbon emissions are worth about $27 trillion. Which is to say, if you paid attention to the scientists and kept 80 percent of it underground, you’d be writing off $20 trillion in assets."

Your money or your life.

20 Gus  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 10:19:51am

re: #15 Targetpractice

Nah, it's

Doctor: You've got lung cancer and continuing to smoke will only shorten the time you have left.

Patient: I'm gonna die anyway, so might as well enjoy it while it lasts.

Hey, we survived The Great Flood. We surely can survive natural climate change with God's guidance and miracles.

//

21 AK-47%  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 10:20:40am

Al Gore!

(we are still allowed to mention him before comment no. 30 , right?)

22 The Ghost of a Flea  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 10:21:45am

re: #20 Gus

Hey, we survived The Great Flood. We surely can survive natural climate change with God's guidance and miracles.

//

Also, by stealing food, shelter and water from filthy undeserving nonbelievers.

23 sagehen  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 10:22:42am

re: #18 researchok

We have to find a safe way to go nuclear.

It us the only viable way.

It's *not* the only viable way.

Solar. Wind. Geothermal.

All viable. The technology exists TODAY. RIGHT NOW. But the construction costs are more expensive than another year of not doing it, so people whose cost-benefit analyses only go as far as this fiscal year (or maybe, sometimes, one election cycle) think it's too expensive.

24 Targetpractice  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 10:23:18am

re: #20 Gus

Hey, we survived The Great Flood. We surely can survive natural climate change with God's guidance and miracles.

//

"God will provide! (More specifically, he provided me this shotgun to take your supplies with!)"

/

25 Brother Holy Cruise Missile of Mild Acceptance  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 10:23:55am

All I can think of is the song by frontline assembly, Future Fail:

26 wrenchwench  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 10:26:53am

re: #19 jaunte

Your money or your life.

And the lives of your children, grandchildren, and so on. The selfishness of those who don't pay heed because they personally will be dead in a few years anyway is infuriating.

27 AK-47%  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 10:27:45am

re: #18 researchok

We have to find a safe way to go nuclear.

It us the only viable way.

If you mean fusion, then I could get behind that. Fission is too dirty and is just dumping the costs of production onto generations to come thousands of years down the line...

I can deal with retaining some modern existing fission plants as a temporary stopgap, but nothing more.

28 Kragar  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 10:28:12am
29 Interesting Times  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 10:29:25am

re: #18 researchok

We have to find a safe way to go nuclear.

It us the only viable way.

Not in drought conditions, it's not:

It takes the same amount of water required by a city of 5 million to fuel a typical U.S. nuclear power plant for one hour: 30 million gallons, Fast Company reports.

We need energy sources that are as water-free as possible. The only "nuclear" option that comes close to fitting that bill is Thorium, which might be viable if only it could get the $72 billion in subsidies sucked up by oil.

30 wrenchwench  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 10:30:24am

re: #23 sagehen

It's *not* the only viable way.

Solar. Wind. Geothermal.

All viable. The technology exists TODAY. RIGHT NOW. But the construction costs are more expensive than another year of not doing it, so people whose cost-benefit analyses only go as far as this fiscal year (or maybe, sometimes, one election cycle) think it's too expensive.

The problems are money and politics, more than technology. Capitalism will have to take a back seat to survival. But if you say that to a capitalist, they assume you just want their money and their power.

31 Sheila Broflovski  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 10:31:29am

re: #12 Interesting Times

Thanks for front-paging this, Charles. It's the easy-to-read, all-on-one-page print version of McKibben's article I linked to, so please read the whole thing if you can - he talks about solutions toward the end, namely a simple, straightforward carbon tax to reflect the real cost of fossil fuel.

As for the oh-noes-that-kill-jobs disingenuous derps, let them take this number:

US coal jobs: 80,000
US solar jobs: 100,000 (and sure to grow, if only we could kill fossil fuel tax breaks and subsidies)

So there.

Wingnut one-size-fits-all response:

SOLYNDRA! SOLYNDRA!1!TY!

32 Targetpractice  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 10:31:56am

re: #30 wrenchwench

The problems are money and politics, more than technology. Capitalism will have to take a back seat to survival. But if you say that to a capitalist, they assume you just want their money and their power.

Pretty much. Not to mention the methods of building the alternative energy sources are not themselves 100% environmentally friendly. The methods are getting cleaner, but we're still talking about the problem of dealing with toxic sludge and other by-products for years to come.

33 AK-47%  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 10:33:01am

Nuclear plants are also indirectly subsidized by liability caps: in the USA, it is limited to $500 million, in Europe around 1.5 billion.

A drop in the bucket, when you consider that Chernobyl cost as estimated $20 billion in damages.

In other words, without these liability caps, no insurer would underwrite a nuclear plant, or at such exorbitant rates that it would be cheaper to hire nuclear engineers to power treadmills...

34 Eventual Carrion  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 10:33:43am

re: #20 Gus

Hey, we survived The Great Flood. We surely can survive natural climate change with God's guidance and miracles.

//

I'll take Noah's role and build a BIG refrigerator.

// How big is a cubit again?

35 Kragar  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 10:34:58am

re: #34 RayFerd

I'll take Noah's role and build a BIG refrigerator.

// How big is a cubit again?

As long as your average forearm, usually about 20 inches.

36 AK-47%  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 10:35:10am

re: #34 RayFerd

// How big is a cubit again?

How long can you tread water?

37 dragonath  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 10:37:27am

When I looked at the Pat Buchanan 1992 convention video last night, the ending jumped out at me. "America isn't about the enviroment... it's about freeeeeeeedom". And how they cheered.

That's at least 20 years of people actitively trying to make things worse.

38 researchok  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 10:37:46am

re: #23 sagehen

Cannot come close to supporting our power needs and will be infinately more expensive than nuclear to both build and maintain.

39 Eventual Carrion  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 10:37:55am

re: #36 Expand Your Ground

How long can you tread water?

No worries, I'll use up most of the planets water building my BIG ASS refrigerator.

40 Someone Please Beam Me Up!  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 10:38:00am

re: #7 garhighway

It has been interesting to read the comments on various environmental websites over the last few days after the Muller and Watts "papers" were posted. It is clear that the science is NOT winning. The anti-AGW crowd believes even more fervently that the entire scientific community is in on the conspiracy to decieve us into thinking global warming is real. They have circled the wagons in a big way.

"He was never really a skeptic." It would be funny if this weren't all so serious.

41 Sheila Broflovski  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 10:39:19am
42 AK-47%  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 10:39:35am

re: #37 Fred Galt

When I looked at the Pat Buchanan 1992 convention video last night, the ending jumped out at me. "America isn't about the enviroment... it's about freeeeeeeedom". And how they cheered.

That's at least 20 years of people actitively trying to make things worse.

There was an argument back then about "what do you prefer, pristine nature or economic progress?"

A lot of us have still not come to understand that it affects us, just not in a manner that is reflected in a balance sheet.

43 researchok  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 10:39:37am

re: #29 Interesting Times

It all depends where you build them.

44 AK-47%  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 10:41:16am

re: #43 researchok

It all depends where you build them.

Germany of all places has a lot of wind and solar generation, but its grid is set up for large power plants feeding at fewer points, and not a lot of small feed-ins throughout the system.

Rewiring it will cost billions and take years.

45 researchok  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 10:43:43am

re: #44 Expand Your Ground

Other good option are ocean powered water turbines and ocean wind generators.

Too much NIMBY, though.

46 erik_t  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 10:43:59am

re: #44 Expand Your Ground

Germany of all places has a lot of wind and solar generation, but its grid is set up for large power plants feeding at fewer points, and not a lot of small feed-ins throughout the system.

Rewiring it will cost billions and take years.

On the plus side, we have to rebuild the damned thing anyway.

47 sagehen  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 10:44:18am

re: #38 researchok

Cannot come close to supporting our power needs and will be infinately more expensive than nuclear to both build and maintain.

The expense is frontloaded, construction of the generating facilities and transmission lines.

Maintenance is very very low.

48 dragonath  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 10:44:59am

I don't feel much better about humanity ...when people show solidarity to anti-gay causes by eating processed chicken sandwiches. Because they're good Christians.

If you presented a problem like ocean acidification to person like that, they'd shrug it off and ignore it in favor of the next Cowboys game.

49 jaunte  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 10:46:26am

re: #48 Fred Galt

If you presented a problem like ocean acidification to person like that

'Well, we went to the beach a few summers ago, but we really prefer vacationing in the mountains."

50 lawhawk  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 10:47:52am

Proof of Higgs boson more definite, thanks to nearly six sigma results. New report indicates a 5.9 sigma level of certainty that the Higgs exists, which is equal to a one-in-550 million chance that the results are incorrect reflections of statistical errors.

51 Gus  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 10:47:59am

re: #48 Fred Galt

I don't feel much better about humanity ...when people show solidarity to anti-gay causes by eating processed chicken sandwiches. Because they're good Christians.

If you presented a problem like ocean acidification to person like that, they'd shrug it off and ignore it in favor of the next Cowboys game.

...

Lisen here librul! This is because homosexulity is a greatur threat to humeanity then any of that fake climat change propganduh. Sez so in the Bibul.

52 Kragar  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 10:48:47am

re: #50 lawhawk

Proof of Higgs boson more definite, thanks to nearly six sigma results. New report indicates a 5.9 sigma level of certainty that the Higgs exists, which is equal to a one-in-550 million chance that the results are incorrect reflections of statistical errors.

So you're saying there is still a change they're wrong?

I KNEW IT!
///

53 jaunte  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 10:53:15am

Wednesday was the hottest day in Oklahoma since August 1936, said wunderground's weather historian, Christopher C. Burt, with more than half of the state recording temperatures of 110° or higher.

54 HypnoToad  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 10:54:05am

The average person will only begin to notice when the temp outside is eight or ten degrees above what they are used to and the power stops coming out of the wall (or water out of the faucet). What happened in India earlier this week is only the beginning. The regional resource disasters will start happening more frequently and be harder to ignore (particularly the ones like the drought that happen here ). Good luck praying it away.

55 dragonath  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 10:54:08am

Let's get really depressing. Let's say, worst case scenario; the rapid climate change triggers a Permian-Triassic extinction and wipes out all higher life forms.

Would there be enough time for another intelligent species to evolve or will the sun fry the planet to a crisp by then?

56 Kragar  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 10:55:10am

re: #55 Fred Galt

Let's get really depressing. Let's say, worst case scenario; the rapid climate change triggers a Permian-Triassic extinction and wipes out all higher life forms.

Would there be enough time for another intelligent species to evolve or will the sun fry the planet to a crisp by then?

What do you mean "another"?
/

57 dragonath  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 10:56:48am

Hey, don't diss the gorillas

/

58 Daniel Ballard  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 10:57:04am

re: #55 Fred Galt

I think there would be time to go through that cycle many times. Evolution=millions of years, remaining life of our sun & earth at about this distance=billions of years. We are the rookie squad of intelligent beings. Of course if we kill ourselves we should lose the intelligent title.

59 HypnoToad  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 10:58:03am

re: #55 Fred Galt

Let's get really depressing. Let's say, worst case scenario; the rapid climate change triggers a Permian-Triassic extinction and wipes out all higher life forms.

Would there be enough time for another intelligent species to evolve or will the sun fry the planet to a crisp by then?

We have about 800 million years before the increase in solar luminosity pushes the inner edge of the habitability zone out past us. That far in the past, multicellular life was just beginning to diversify.

60 erik_t  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 10:58:40am

re: #58 Daniel Ballard

I think there would be time to go through that cycle many times. Evolution=millions of years, remaining life of our sun & earth at about this distance=billions of years. We are the rookie squad of intelligent beings. Of course if we kill ourselves we should lose the intelligent title.

There's no reason to assume it would happen again. It all depends on what niches different organisms find themselves in, and how they can better adapt to that niche. Intelligence is the adaptation, not the niche.

61 sagehen  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 11:00:25am

re: #55 Fred Galt

Let's get really depressing. Let's say, worst case scenario; the rapid climate change triggers a Permian-Triassic extinction and wipes out all higher life forms.

Would there be enough time for another intelligent species to evolve or will the sun fry the planet to a crisp by then?

Even the worst-worst-worst case scenarios don't posit an end to all human life on Earth. If 95% of us die that would certainly be the end of civilization as we know it, but even then it wouldn't take more than 8 or 10 generations to rebuild to something not entirely unpleasant.

62 Kragar  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 11:01:05am

One-Fifth Of U.S. Experiencing ‘Extreme’ Drought

But under no circumstances should we actually consider effective legislation or develop actual infrastructure to deal with this as it would be against God's plan. This must surely be punishment for contemplating allowing gay marriage or letting women out of the house without a male relative.

63 b_sharp  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 11:01:36am

re: #4 Kragar

Conservatives need a few more decades to think it over.

They want to be absolutely sure their pockets are full before any action is taken.

That way they can afford to buy Baffin island and open up resorts.

64 AK-47%  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 11:02:04am

re: #62 Kragar

One-Fifth Of U.S. Experiencing ‘Extreme’ Drought

The Free Market will take care of it...

65 Kragar  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 11:03:11am

re: #61 sagehen

Even the worst-worst-worst case scenarios don't posit an end to all human life on Earth. If 95% of us die that would certainly be the end of civilization as we know it, but even then it wouldn't take more than 8 or 10 generations to rebuild to something not entirely unpleasant.

Just so long as entertainment doesn't consist of a rave in a cavern near the Earth's core.

66 dragonath  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 11:04:11am

This would be a good time to buy land in New York. Clean, protected water sources in the Catskills, nice forests, uh, PCBs in the Hudson...

67 AK-47%  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 11:05:06am

re: #61 sagehen

Even the worst-worst-worst case scenarios don't posit an end to all human life on Earth. If 95% of us die that would certainly be the end of civilization as we know it, but even then it wouldn't take more than 8 or 10 generations to rebuild to something not entirely unpleasant.

There is genetic evidence to indicate that a volcanic catastophe reduced the Earth's human population to around 30,000 individuals: basically everyone on Earth is descended from one of the 5,000 breeding-age females who survived.

68 researchok  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 11:05:27am

re: #47 sagehen

True- I stand corrected on the maintenance issue.

TY

69 Kragar  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 11:05:59am
70 b_sharp  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 11:06:58am

re: #18 researchok

We have to find a safe way to go nuclear.

It us the only viable way.

"I say we take off and nuke the entire site from orbit. It's the only way to be sure."

71 Daniel Ballard  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 11:07:13am

re: #60 erik_t

I don't make that assumption, I was just answering the time question as posed. the likelihood is impossible to discern, given we have such a miniscule sampling of the possibilities.

Heck, it's quite possible the reason we see so few intelligent beings is we are toolmaker biased. A little semi kidding-Some big brained mammal could be a species of mathematicians, but we could not tell because they don't publish.

I have had this idea for a sci fi epic-We have FTL craft that gives us free reign of our arm of the galaxy, and we are the only species out there smarter than a dog. This despite millions of life bearing globes.

72 Kragar  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 11:08:02am

re: #67 Expand Your Ground

There is genetic evidence to indicate that a volcanic catastophe reduced the Earth's human population to around 30,000 individuals: basically everyone on Earth is descended from one of the 5,000 breeding-age females who survived.

I propose building a series of vaults...

73 HypnoToad  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 11:09:25am

re: #71 Daniel Ballard

I have had this idea for a sci fi epic-We have FTL craft that gives us free reign of our arm of the galaxy, and we are the only species out there smarter than a dog. This despite millions of life bearing globes.

What, no battles between starship fleets? No green skinned space babes? Boring...

/

74 theheat  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 11:09:28am

So far the answer seems to be "drill baby, drill," laugh at science, and make lots more babies because that makes Jesus the happiest.

75 Mocking Jay  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 11:09:31am

re: #70 b_sharp

"I say we take off and nuke the entire site from orbit. It's the only way to be sure."

"Game over, man. Game over..."

76 Kragar  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 11:10:23am

re: #74 theheat

So far the answer seems to be "drill baby, drill," laugh at science, and make lots more babies because that makes Jesus the happiest.

I will build an ark made out of babies...

77 lawhawk  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 11:11:43am

re: #74 theheat

That sums up Idiocracy. /

78 Gus  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 11:11:51am

re: #76 Kragar

I will build an ark made out of babies...

...

You mean like a fetus boat!?

79 dragonath  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 11:12:05am

re: #72 Kragar

I propose building a series of vaults...

President Merkin Muffley: You mean people could actually stay down there for a hundred years?
Dr. Strangelove: It would not be difficult, Mein Führer. Nuclear reactors could - heh, I'm sorry, Mr. President - nuclear reactors could provide power almost indefinitely.

80 lawhawk  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 11:12:07am

re: #76 Kragar

The Brits had that covered at the Opening Ceremonies.

81 Kragar  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 11:13:26am

Reed: If Christians Beg God's Forgiveness, then He'll 'Have Mercy on our Land' this November

Speaking at the "Under God: Indivisible" rally organized by James Robison to coincide with Glenn Beck's "Restoring Love" event, Ralph Reed declared that the upcoming election to be the most important one since right before the Civil War.

Reed called upon Christians to "get down on our faces and on our knees before Almighty God" and beg Him to forgive them "for what we have allowed to happen to this country." If they do, Reed said, then "in November, God is going to have mercy on our land":

"Dear God, I'm sorry so many people take asshole like dickface here seriously. Please rapture these fucktards out of the way so the rest of us can fix the mess they've left us with. Amen."

82 b_sharp  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 11:13:52am

re: #30 wrenchwench

The problems are money and politics, more than technology. Capitalism will have to take a back seat to survival. But if you say that to a capitalist, they assume you just want their money and their power.

Not necessarily. Capitalism can push the technology forward while making money, and will as soon as the cost of fossil fuels is higher than the cost of alternative energy sources. The costs of oil production goes up because most of the easily accessible oil has already been tapped and what is left is harder to pull out of the ground and/or refine.

Once a few people start making billions off of alternative energy, the lemmings will rush to jump on the band wagon.

83 Obdicut  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 11:14:14am

I have an idea for a science fiction story: Mankind turns all its efforts into making a sustainable economy and ecology, and we survive as a technological species.

84 The Ghost of a Flea  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 11:14:32am

re: #78 Gus

...

It will be submersible. Das Fetusboot.

85 Kragar  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 11:15:06am

re: #83 Obdicut

I have an idea for a science fiction story: Mankind turns all its efforts into making a sustainable economy and ecology, and we survive as a technological species.

No one would believe that.

86 iossarian  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 11:15:15am

re: #83 Obdicut

I have an idea for a science fiction story: Mankind turns all its efforts into making a sustainable economy and ecology, and we survive as a technological species.

I think Thomas More wants to have a word with you about plagiarism.

87 dragonath  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 11:16:19am

Wait, Star Trek IV wasn't a documentary?

88 wrenchwench  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 11:16:27am

re: #67 Expand Your Ground

There is genetic evidence to indicate that a volcanic catastophe reduced the Earth's human population to around 30,000 individuals: basically everyone on Earth is descended from one of the 5,000 breeding-age females who survived.

And there's evidence that Cro Magnons killed off the Neandertals. Maybe next time there will be an intelligent species that is composed of fewer dominating assholes and more gentle, tolerant types.

89 A Mom Anon  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 11:17:00am

"Only when the last tree has been cut down,only when the last river is poisoned,only when the last fish has been caught,only then will you realize that money can't be eaten."

That quote has been attributed to several American Indians,from Cree to Sioux,so I have no clue where it originated,but it fits here.

Yep Mr Rich Guy,enjoy that bowl of 100 dollar bills with some ranch dressing.

This whole culture is mentally ill. I'm just a little old high school educated suburban mom and even I figured out that alot of what we do is incredibly stupid and short sighted. We can't keep living at the level we are now. I don't hold out tons of hope that my grandkids are going to have much left to work with.The sad thing is that we could be perfectly comfortable with alot less and most people are just too spoiled to even comprehend that. AND,even if every one of us did sacrifice,there's still the matter of damage being done by industry,pretty much unchecked.

90 jaunte  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 11:17:18am

From my email: Fox News promoting "today's top headlines", heavy on the chicken.
Image: Screen-shot-2012-08-02-at-1.10.jpg

91 Almost Killed by Space Hookers  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 11:17:23am

Congratulations on a very well written front page article Interesting Times. You did good.

92 b_sharp  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 11:17:37am

re: #44 Expand Your Ground

Germany of all places has a lot of wind and solar generation, but its grid is set up for large power plants feeding at fewer points, and not a lot of small feed-ins throughout the system.

Rewiring it will cost billions and take years.

The advantage of wind and solar is they they can be localized to individual homes and buildings, as well as to large wind/solar farms.

93 dragonath  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 11:18:38am

re: #90 jaunte

Cool, Killgore is repeating Herman Cain talking points.

94 Kragar  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 11:18:42am

Beck: The Religious Right Will Make World Leaders 'Pee Their Pants'

In conjunction with Glenn Beck's "Restoring Love" event in Dallas last weekend, James Robison organized a "Christian Leadership Conference" featuring a variety of Religious Right activists and preachers called "Under God: Indivisible."

Video of the conference has now been posted on Robison's website and we have begun working our way through it, starting with evening gathering where Beck took to the stage and hailed the gathered speakers as "the greatest collection of men that I know," praising them for being willing to stand up and "wield the sword of righteousness" because doing so will make "the leaders of the world ... pee their pants."

Beck went on to explain that he knows history "the way David Barton knows history" and proclaim that the speakers at this event were just like the men who led the American Revolution who were the first to be rounded up and killed because tyrants know that "any population that follows God wins":

Wait a sec? Wouldn't that mean the British weren't following God then, because they didn't win the Revolution? So they were godless pagans or heretics or something?

PS: Knowing history the way Barton knows it is nothing to brag about.

95 wrenchwench  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 11:19:16am

re: #82 b_sharp

Not necessarily. Capitalism can push the technology forward while making money, and will as soon as the cost of fossil fuels is higher than the cost of alternative energy sources. The costs of oil production goes up because most of the easily accessible oil has already been tapped and what is left is harder to pull out of the ground and/or refine.

Once a few people start making billions off of alternative energy, the lemmings will rush to jump on the band wagon.

We don't have time to reach "peak oil". Extraction technology improves as extraction becomes more difficult. Sure, it can be done capitalistically, but there would have to be some huge losses involved, and the political will to make them happen.

96 Kragar  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 11:19:45am

re: #93 Fred Galt

Cool, Killgore is repeating Herman Cain talking points.

999!

97 Eventual Carrion  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 11:20:57am

re: #78 Gus

You mean like a fetus boat!?

Zygboat.

98 wrenchwench  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 11:21:32am

re: #90 jaunte

From my email: Fox News promoting "today's top headlines", heavy on the chicken.
Image: Screen-shot-2012-08-02-at-1.10.jpg

The fox is in the hen house.

99 Kragar  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 11:21:53am

Romney: As Prez, I Will Make North America Energy Independent

Romney has a secret plan to convert the US power grid to run completely off of unicorn farts.

100 Kragar  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 11:26:18am

Chaz The Intolerant Chick-fil-A Chicken Returns Again

101 erik_t  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 11:29:07am

re: #99 Kragar

Romney: As Prez, I Will Make North America Energy Independent

Romney has a secret plan to convert the US power grid to run completely off of unicorn farts.

Well I'll do it for free! Actually, it'll pay you! Also, free beer for everyone! And I'll eliminate the deficit!

Now, elect me!

102 dragonath  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 11:30:03am

Romney is going to make Steven Harper his vice president and annex Canada. Yeah!

103 Eventual Carrion  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 11:30:16am

re: #101 erik_t

Well I'll do it for free! Actually, it'll pay you! Also, free beer for everyone! And I'll eliminate the deficit!

Now, elect me!

You got my vote. But I'm not much of a beer drinker, can we talk whiskey?

104 b_sharp  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 11:31:35am

re: #76 Kragar

I will build an ark made out of babies...

Don't forget the rubber chickens.

105 Almost Killed by Space Hookers  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 11:32:35am

I also hate that once again I most post and run.

But,

I have to chime in.

Dangerous warming is two degrees. We are not even there yet, but it has meant calamitous droughts across the United States, wild-fires, and storms that have put millions without power in America.

Take statements like "each storm can not be guaranteed to be caused directly by climate" with a massive grain of salt.

This is the proper context:

If a smoker dies of lung cancer, it would take time and effort to show the smoking caused it. He indeed might have gotten the cancer from something else.

On the other hand,

If thousands of smokers die from lung cancer, tobacco smoke is known to be full of known carcinogens, and many of the mechanisms involved are understood to the extent that the medical community has been screaming to stop smoking for decades, and if you see many smokers die of lung cancer, you can be certain that for most of them, it was the smoking that did them in.

That dry forests and scrub areas would have more fires, should be obvious. Dry, hot wood burns more easily. Dry hot grass is called kindling. That Colorado has been progressively drying from climate change is well understood, and such things were predicted long ago.

That more energy in a hotter and wetter warm front should lead to more violent storms, when that air hits a cold front, should be obvious. More violent storms caused by climate are well understood and were predicted long ago.

That crops should fail in extreme heat and dryness should be obvious. Ever worsening droughts are caused by climate and were predicted long ago.

That our infrastructure is not up to the task of dealing with such storms and droughts in the long run should be obvious. Scientists, economists and industry observers have been warning of this for decades.

Understand from the numbers in this article that we are like people who have crested the top of a roller coaster. We are not even close to really entering the plunge and it is already very bad.

The bottom line is we change course or our civilization collapses and billions die.

Two degrees was called dangerous warming.

The scientific community calls four degrees catastrophic.

Catastrophic means billions dead.

We either change course and merely suffer terribly for our past inaction, or we lose it all.

106 b_sharp  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 11:33:56am

re: #83 Obdicut

I have an idea for a science fiction story: Mankind turns all its efforts into making a sustainable economy and ecology, and we survive as a technological species.

Can I be the mad scientist who invents wearable solar panels?

107 b_sharp  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 11:39:00am

re: #102 Fred Galt

Romney is going to make Steven Harper his vice president and annex Canada. Yeah!

Romney is likely to be Harper's puppet in that scenario.

108 Kragar  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 11:39:01am

re: #106 b_sharp

Can I be the mad scientist who invents wearable solar panels?

Too late.

Wearable Solar Panels To Revolutionize Mobility for Armies

109 Hercules Grytpype-Thynne  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 11:41:35am

re: #86 iossarian

I think Thomas More wants to have a word with you about plagiarism.

Or Roddenberry.

110 lostlakehiker  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 11:42:11am

There's some good news in this sobering litany of facts: if the fossil fuel reserves are worth "only" $27 trillion$, then we can avoid the really sci-fi-disaster worst of it by forgoing a mere $20 trillion worth of fossil fuel.

World GDP is on the order of $50 trillion a year (the exact number hardly matters here.) For the price of just half a year, out of the next 20 years economy, i.e. for 2 or 3 percent of our income, we can forgo that fossil fuel.

This means building a lot of wind and solar and nuclear capacity. Abstaining from the fossil fuel costs far more if doing without means, not, having to manage on wind, say, but having to throw away food that spoiled for lack of electricity.

It means putting up with unsightly wind towers off Nantucket. It means that the Sierra Club has to pipe down about the horrors of routing power lines across pristine desert. And it means putting up with talking to RWingers, Chinese coal interests, and on and on. These guys can be brought around, because in the final analysis, they too have to eat. The current crop failure unfolding across much of this nation should be instructive. Some corporations have seen further than others. It means investing in them, and dumping stock in companies that face catch-up costs when, inevitably, fossil fuel restrictions kick in.

For the RW, and for other powers (mainly Europe and China, which now consumes more coal than does the U.S.) it means facing up to the awful and agonizing reality that past errors and short-sighted greed have condemned millions to death. Even if we get everything right from now on, the lost chances of the last 10 or 20 years are going to cost us many lives.

If we get everything wrong from now forward, that'll cost us billions of lives. The world cannot subsist in the face of back to back 50-percent crop failures across, say, N. America and China. If 1 degree is as bad as we're now seeing, what else can we expect in a 10-degree-hotter world?

111 Kragar  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 11:42:34am

re: #109 Hercules Grytpype-Thynne

Or Roddenberry.

Eh, 40k seems the more likely scenario.

112 Tiny Alien Kitties are Watching You  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 11:43:08am

I just made a post elsewhere on this before coming here which I suppose is why YouTube (Google) is suddenly giving me ads from the coal industry claiming that we have more than sufficient reserves right here in the United States to more than handle our energy requirements for the next 200 years! "Dig Baby Dig" anyone?

Oh yeah?, did someone decide that we are going back to coal burning cars powered by steam boilers and no one told me about it? How does coal intend to replace the roughly 360 million gallons of gasoline America consumes everyday? I mean sure, coal burning boiler powered cars would be cool in a retro/steampunk kind of way, but wouldn't they also be rather inefficient, underpowered, exude tonnes of greenhouse and toxic gases (see the English Great Smog), AND CAUSE THE DEATH OF THE AMERICAN MUSCLE CAR!!!

I thought that many of the people campaigning against the "false" science of "global warming" were doing so to combat carbon emission standards that might endanger their ability to someday buy a 500-600 horsepower, overpriced, gas guzzling, Quasi race track worthy car. It is exactly like buying a $60,000 surgical penile extension, only that everyone can see your car without you being arrested, booked, and stripped searched for lewd Behavior.

That this overpriced, overpowered, environmental disaster on wheels would then only be used for the daily commute to work and back means nothing! Simply owning one makes you a more manly man and also by extension a more patriotic one! The great American tradition of dealing with your mid-life crisis by buying a gasoline fueled phallic substitute has been ingrained in American society for at least seven decades now!

Besides, it has been "scientifically proven" by multiple internet polls that if you drive a muscle car then chicks will perceive your dick to be bigger than it actually is!

///

113 dragonath  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 11:44:19am

I found this interesting piece of information regarding peat. The source is wikipedia, so the usual caveats apply.

Peat deposits in Southeast Asia could be destroyed by 2040.[31][32]

It is estimated, that in 1997, peat and forest fires in Indonesia released between 0.81 and 2.57 Gt of carbon; equivalent to 13–40 percent of the amount released by global fossil fuel burning, and greater than the carbon uptake of the world's biosphere. These fires may be responsible for the acceleration in the increase in carbon dioxide levels since 1998.[33][34] More than 100 peat fires in Kalimantan and East Sumatra have continued to burn since 1997. Each year, the peat fires in Kalimantan and East Sumatra ignite new forest fires above the ground.

114 Hercules Grytpype-Thynne  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 11:44:46am

re: #94 Kragar

Beck: The Religious Right Will Make World Leaders 'Pee Their Pants'

Wait a sec? Wouldn't that mean the British weren't following God then, because they didn't win the Revolution? So they were godless pagans or heretics or something?

PS: Knowing history the way Barton knows it is nothing to brag about.

I was going to comment that knowing history the way Barton knows history is like knowing brain surgery like I know brain surgery, but I realized that's not right: I don't lie and make shit up when discussing brain surgery.

115 b_sharp  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 11:44:57am
116 wrenchwench  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 11:47:46am

re: #112 Tiny Alien Kitties are Watching You

Oh yeah?, did someone decide that we are going back to coal burning cars powered by steam boilers and no one told me about it?

If you have an electric car, and you charge it with electricity generated in a coal-burning plant, you have a coal-powered car.

I plan to freak out some electric bike owners by referring to them as "coal-powered".

117 Kragar  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 11:47:57am
118 Destro  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 11:48:06am

Science is for commies. Are you a commie?

119 abolitionist  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 11:48:27am

re: #19 jaunte

Your money or your life.

...
...
...
"I'm thinking about it!" --Jack Benny

120 Almost Killed by Space Hookers  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 11:48:55am

I propose the following new definition:

Republican: a greedy, semi-retarded, douche who lives in constant fear of losing his place in a cruel hierarchy he hopes to ingratiate himself to and who will rationalize any cruelty, injustice or prejudice in the name of his perceived piece of the hierarchy, while thinking he does Jesus' work.

121 Almost Killed by Space Hookers  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 11:51:20am

re: #116 wrenchwench

If you have an electric car, and you charge it with electricity generated in a coal-burning plant, you have a coal-powered car.

I plan to freak out some electric bike owners by referring to them as "coal-powered".

Please don't do that.

You are correct that their bike or car is ultimately coal powered, but even in the case of coal powered, the electric car still has a smaller carbon footprint than a gasoline motor. Just as important, the electric grid need not be coal powered forever and the electric car will still work.

122 Killgore Trout  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 11:51:50am

John Stewart: You, Harry Reid, Are Terrible

123 wrenchwench  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 11:52:39am

re: #121 LudwigVanQuixote

Please don't do that.

You are correct that their bike or car is ultimately coal powered, but even in the case of coal powered, the electric car still has a smaller carbon footprint than a gasoline motor. Just as important, the electric grid need not be coal powered forever and the electric car will still work.

OK, now compare a human powered bicycle to an electric one.

That's my point.

124 Killgore Trout  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 11:55:32am

re: #122 Killgore Trout

John Stewart: You, Harry Reid, Are Terrible

[Embedded content]

Yes, Stewart does make comparisons to Birthers and Fox News.

125 Almost Killed by Space Hookers  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 12:00:57pm

re: #110 lostlakehiker

If we get everything wrong from now forward, that'll cost us billions of lives. The world cannot subsist in the face of back to back 50-percent crop failures across, say, N. America and China. If 1 degree is as bad as we're now seeing, what else can we expect in a 10-degree-hotter world?

Excellent comment overall.

In answer to your question:

A 10 degree (I assume you mean F rather than C) would likely mean crossing an SO2 tipping point. That would mean a lethal percentage of our atmosphere would become SO2. This is what killed the trilobites after several thousand years of intense volcanic activity (which released CO2 at a much lower rate than were are doing right now). It would mean the death of all mammals on the Earth including us.

126 b_sharp  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 12:01:58pm

re: #123 wrenchwench

OK, now compare a human powered bicycle to an electric one.

That's my point.

A human is solar powered.

127 Kragar  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 12:02:10pm

re: #125 LudwigVanQuixote

Excellent comment overall.

In answer to your question:

A 10 degree (I assume you mean F rather than C) would like mean crossing an SO2 tipping point. That would mean a lethal percentage of our atmosphere would become SO2. This is what killed the trilobites after several thousand years of volcanic activity (which released CO2 at a much lower rate than were are doing right now). It would mean the death of all mammals on the Earth including us.

I think I'll go out on a limb and call that a bad thing.

128 Almost Killed by Space Hookers  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 12:02:27pm

re: #123 wrenchwench

OK, now compare a human powered bicycle to an electric one.

That's my point.

And that is a fine point. However, you just might convince someone to stick with their car, scooter or motor-cycle.

Then we lose worse.

129 aagcobb  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 12:03:34pm

re: #83 Obdicut

I have an idea for a science fiction story: Mankind turns all its efforts into making a sustainable economy and ecology, and we survive as a technological species.

That is way to improbable to be plausible.

at today’s market value, those 2,795 gigatons of carbon emissions are worth about $27 trillion.

This is why we are fucked. In 1860, a vast proportion of the nation's wealth was locked up in slaves. The slaveholders were willing to burn the South to the ground before they'd give up their assets, and we suffered about a million casualties in a nation of 30 million people. There is nothing Big Energy will not do in order to protect its wealth. Nothing.

130 Almost Killed by Space Hookers  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 12:05:44pm

re: #127 Kragar

I think I'll go out on a limb and call that a bad thing.

I wrote once about the way that scientists use the word "bad."

"Putting your hand in front of the megawatt laser would be bad."

"The event at Chernobyl was bad."

"Crossing the event horizon would be bad."

At the moment, we are using words like "catastrophic" and "extinction level events."

131 wrenchwench  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 12:07:02pm

re: #128 LudwigVanQuixote

And that is a fine point. However, you just might convince someone to stick with their car, scooter or motor-cycle.

Then we lose worse.

I'm all about getting people to use their bikes more. Since 1987.

132 Almost Killed by Space Hookers  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 12:11:10pm

re: #131 wrenchwench

I'm all about getting people to use their bikes more. Since 1987.

That is a fine goal.

I am all for that too.

I am even more for saving the lives of my children, preventing the collapse of my nation and continuing human civilization.

And no, that does not mean that one asshole driving a gasoline car, when he could have walked or biked, is the straw that broke the camels back. However, a billion of those assholes helps very much to do the job.

Anything to make people more aware is part of the solution. Anything that keeps them doing what they are doing is part of the problem.

133 Daniel Ballard  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 12:17:33pm

re: #73 HypnoToad

I have had this idea for a sci fi epic-We have FTL craft that gives us free reign of our arm of the galaxy, and we are the only species out there smarter than a dog. This despite millions of life bearing globes.

What, no battles between starship fleets? No green skinned space babes? Boring...

/

Heh. We make our own drama just like on earth.

134 funky chicken  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 12:19:55pm

re: #110 lostlakehiker

This means building a lot of wind and solar and nuclear capacity. Abstaining from the fossil fuel costs far more if doing without means, not, having to manage on wind, say, but having to throw away food that spoiled for lack of electricity.

It means putting up with unsightly wind towers off Nantucket. It means that the Sierra Club has to pipe down about the horrors of routing power lines across pristine desert. And it means putting up with talking to RWingers, Chinese coal interests, and on and on. These guys can be brought around, because in the final analysis, they too have to eat. The current crop failure unfolding across much of this nation should be instructive. Some corporations have seen further than others. It means investing in them, and dumping stock in companies that face catch-up costs when, inevitably, fossil fuel restrictions kick in.

Yep. And utilities need to be forced to use emissions cleaners on all coal plants across the US. I was shocked to read that many states still don't require that, and the technology has been around since at least the early 1980s. Some ranchers in Texas made the news last year because they were having serious tree loss from acid rain because Texas coal plants don't have to remove sulfur and nitrogen oxides from their emissions.

And I'd hit "big oil" with HUGE taxes on those record profits they're paying their shareholders and CEOs and use the money to build natural gas infrastructure across most of the US. Fracking ain't great, but it can be better regulated, and the nat gas is cleaner than oil and diesel for running big rigs, etc.

135 Tiny Alien Kitties are Watching You  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 12:25:26pm

re: #116 wrenchwench

If you have an electric car, and you charge it with electricity generated in a coal-burning plant, you have a coal-powered car.

I plan to freak out some electric bike owners by referring to them as "coal-powered".

But that electricity can also come from Solar, Wind, Tidal, Natural Gas, Nuclear, Hydroelectric, Thermal, and other far less polluting sources. Even if the persons electric vehicle is powered by a coal fired plant economy of scale comes into play.

Using electricity from a coal fired large generation plant (at least in this country with the inadequate but better than nothing pollution restrictions prompted by acid rain) is most likely going to have a smaller personal carbon output/"footprint" than using a strictly fossil fueled vehicle.

Why mock them for their efforts and added expense not being a perfect solution to the problem when no true solution even exists to date? Every little bit helps us just a little, at least IMO.

136 bubba zanetti  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 12:30:46pm

re: #123 wrenchwench

OK, now compare a human powered bicycle to an electric one.

Most people who have electric bikes use them to extend range or speed, often in conjunction with hauling cargo. They are seen as alternatives to cars, not bikes.

137 wrenchwench  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 12:31:13pm

re: #135 Tiny Alien Kitties are Watching You

But that electricity can also come from Solar, Wind, Tidal, Natural Gas, Nuclear, Hydroelectric, Thermal, and other far less polluting sources. Even if the persons electric vehicle is powered by a coal fired plant economy of scale comes into play.

Using electricity from a coal fired large generation plant (at least in this country with the inadequate but better than nothing pollution restrictions prompted by acid rain) is most likely going to have a smaller personal carbon output/"footprint" than using a strictly fossil fueled vehicle.

Why mock them for their efforts and added expense not being a perfect solution to the problem when no true solution even exists to date? Every little bit helps us just a little, at least IMO.

I have nothing against electric cars. My irrational grudge is against electric bicycles. They are certainly better than using any kind of car, but they are just as certainly worse than an acoustic bicycle. Once you put a motor on it, you have to use the motor, because it becomes too heavy to pedal up any significant hill. If it's replacing a car, fine. But if a person thinks they are now a bicyclist, they've been duped.

138 Almost Killed by Space Hookers  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 12:33:20pm

re: #134 funky chicken

Yep. And utilities need to be forced to use emissions cleaners on all coal plants across the US. I was shocked to read that many states still don't require that, and the technology has been around since at least the early 1980s. Some ranchers in Texas made the news last year because they were having serious tree loss from acid rain because Texas coal plants don't have to remove sulfur and nitrogen oxides from their emissions.

And I'd hit "big oil" with HUGE taxes on those record profits they're paying their shareholders and CEOs and use the money to build natural gas infrastructure across most of the US. Fracking ain't great, but it can be better regulated, and the nat gas is cleaner than oil and diesel for running big rigs, etc.

That is what a responsible government would have done 20 years ago.

That is what an intelligent government would have done 10 years ago.

That is what a sane government would have done 4 years ago.

But we have Republicans who are not responsible, intelligent or sane.

We have spineless Democrats who ignored the problem for all that time as well, and even today, would check their polls before trying to act.

But mostly, it is the GOP to blame when they decided to damn us all to the hell of a post warming world by denying the science and doing everything in their power to prevent any action whatsoever.

If we are very lucky, we will change course before catastrophic warming becomes a certainty, and in the following centuries of living in a world that was only dangerously warmed, the GOP, the greedy corporations and the horrible nations that all chose the short term mega-wealth of their elites, over the life, health and well being of the rest of humanity, will be considered (and rightfully so) some of the worst our species has to offer.

Get this really clear... the numbers mean billions dead.

The GOP is pushing for that. Whether they accept the science or not, they are pushing for it.

That will make them bigger killers than Stalin, Mao and the Nazis combined.

139 wrenchwench  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 12:39:14pm

re: #136 bubba zanetti

Most people who have electric bikes use them to extend range or speed, often in conjunction with hauling cargo. They are seen as alternatives to cars, not bikes.

In that case, they are good.

140 funky chicken  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 12:45:58pm

re: #138 LudwigVanQuixote

You're right, of course. But unfortunately there are voices on the left who insist on putting the perfect in front of the good. Should we eliminate coal as a source of electricity? Not gonna happen, at least for a long time, but we could focus on cleaning up the emissions.

Wrenchwench, instead of being angry with people for using electric vehicles, why not educate them about efforts to clean up coal emissions? You could post info about that in your shop or something.

And yes, we need more solar in the Mojave desert. There's plenty of habitat for the desert tortoise and the impact could be managed...but environmentalist groups are doing everything they can to block the solar projects instead of working to get them going.

I think if the environmental movement became positive and solution-oriented people would listen. Just criticizing and obstructing isn't getting us anywhere.

141 Almost Killed by Space Hookers  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 12:47:27pm

re: #140 funky chicken

You're right, of course. But unfortunately there are voices on the left who insist on putting the perfect in front of the good. Should we eliminate coal as a source of electricity? Not gonna happen, at least for a long time, but we could focus on cleaning up the emissions.

Wrenchwench, instead of being angry with people for using electric vehicles, why not educate them about efforts to clean up coal emissions? You could post info about that in your shop or something.

And yes, we need more solar in the Mojave desert. There's plenty of habitat for the desert tortoise and the impact could be managed...but environmentalist groups are doing everything they can to block the solar projects instead of working to get them going.

I think if the environmental movement became positive and solution-oriented people would listen. Just criticizing and obstructing isn't getting us anywhere.

It's actually even worse than that.

The whole Sierra Club push/whine about electric wind farms killing birds was funded by... wait for it... the Kochs.

You can't even have an honest hippie today.

142 Tiny Alien Kitties are Watching You  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 12:51:18pm

re: #137 wrenchwench

I have nothing against electric cars. My irrational grudge is against electric bicycles. They are certainly better than using any kind of car, but they are just as certainly worse than an acoustic bicycle. Once you put a motor on it, you have to use the motor, because it becomes too heavy to pedal up any significant hill. If it's replacing a car, fine. But if a person thinks they are now a bicyclist, they've been duped.

Well they have to be cleaner than all the two-cycle gas powered ones being used here recently...

Funny, they banned mopeds/scooters of less than 35 BHP from being used on public roads but since "bicycles" are exempted you now see (and hear) bicycles retroactively equipped with what is basically a chain saw motor to power them.

I fully understand and agree with your not so "irrational" grudge against the electric bikes, and by extension the gas/oil powered ones, especially when I see them being used by kids who would benefit from the exercise of peddling...

143 MittDoesNotCompute  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 12:55:42pm

re: #35 Kragar

As long as your average forearm, usually about 20 inches.

The Bill Cosby references sailed right over your head, didn't they?

///

144 S'latch  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 1:06:19pm

Basically, the energy companies are sitting on a big climate change bomb that we are going to buy and detonate.

145 funky chicken  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 1:12:27pm

re: #141 LudwigVanQuixote

It's actually even worse than that.

The whole Sierra Club push/whine about electric wind farms killing birds was funded by... wait for it... the Kochs.

You can't even have an honest hippie today.

I wonder if big coal is funding the folks who want to block the solar expansion in the desert? It wouldn't surprise me.

146 S'latch  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 1:22:17pm

But don't worry because . . . "You have my word that we will keep drilling everywhere we can... That's a commitment that I make." President Barack Obama, March, 2012.

147 funky chicken  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 1:25:01pm

re: #146 Lawrence Schmerel

But don't worry because . . . "You have my word that we will keep drilling everywhere we can... That's a commitment that I make." President Barack Obama, March, 2012.

I'd rather have them get it here than ship it across oceans in those supertankers. And tax them to put the money into coal plant scrubbers and grid improvements.

148 Almost Killed by Space Hookers  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 1:28:52pm

re: #145 funky chicken

I wonder if big coal is funding the folks who want to block the solar expansion in the desert? It wouldn't surprise me.

I have a gift for you.

[Link: www.desmogblog.com...]

You can track a a great deal of the funding, shell groups, fake grass roots organizations etc... in terms of climate denial and anti-clean energy action.

149 Almost Killed by Space Hookers  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 1:38:44pm

re: #148 LudwigVanQuixote

I have a gift for you.

[Link: www.desmogblog.com...]

You can track a a great deal of the funding, shell groups, fake grass roots organizations etc... in terms of climate denial and anti-clean energy action.

Dr. Mashey, who compiled the information, is easy-to-Google.

He is semi-retired from Bell Labs (1973-1983) and a Silicon Valley (1983-) computer scientist, corporate executive and a nonprofit Trustee.

He was profiled in Sciencefor his efforts against climate anti-science:
www.desmogblog.com/science-article-recognizes-john-mashey
He is a member of AAAS, AGU, APS, ACM, and IEEE CS.
JohnMashey (at) yahoo DOT com

150 funky chicken  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 3:52:22pm

OK, Heartland Institute is all in on the "solar projects kill desert tortoises" crap.

[Link: news.heartland.org...]

Thanks Ludwig.

151 Almost Killed by Space Hookers  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 4:05:20pm

re: #150 funky chicken

OK, Heartland Institute is all in on the "solar projects kill desert tortoises" crap.

[Link: news.heartland.org...]

Thanks Ludwig.

I am not surprised.

Given Heartland's history of slimy lies and false "science," the story is almost certainly a complete fabrication.

152 lostlakehiker  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 5:59:27pm

Another instructive point: [Link: www.tecca.com...]

Kiribati is, right now, in negotiations with Fiji to evacuate itself to Fiji. It's tough being a country when most of your "land" is only land at low tide. The roughly 3 foot sea level rise now predicted for this century would put almost everything into that category.

As to desert tortoises, what of it if solar projects do kill them? It is this palsied unwillingness to accept even a little cost, to bear even a little burden, that has got us into this fix. If we don't act now, and fix the problem when it will cost us a metaphorical fingernail pulled off, we shall later on have to saw off our own hand to get out of the trap. We will---anything, any cost is better than even a brush with extinction. But it will hurt like crazy.

153 lostlakehiker  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 6:32:07pm

As to extinction, Peter David Ward has a book, Flooded Earth, in which he discusses the risk from sulfur blooms. Here goes with an extended quote. Ward thinks our own species will scrape by. But it's not pretty. The premise is that the world reaches 1200 ppm and stays there for well over a thousand years. It's not an impossible premise.

No one called it Seattle anymore. The place did not deserve a name. Sea level had risen 240 feet before it stopped. Gradually, the human race, considerably reduced in numbers, had gotten used to this new level. And then, gradually, the poison started breathing out of the sea, a fetid bad breath left over from the 4 billion-to 2 billion-year-old Archean era of the early earth. The poison had been newly resurrected by the warming of the planet to the degree that the thermohaline circulation currents stopped; all major ocean currents went still. It took only about 2000 years for the oceans to lose oxygen at their bottom, because once the currents were shut down, so too were the mechanisms that kept the deep ocean oxygenated. After that, it took just 500 more years for this oxygen-free water mass, filled with hydrogen sulfide-producing bacteria, to reach the photic zone-the depths above which plants can photosynthesize in the sea. Once that happened, a new wave of bacterial bloom occurred: green and purple sulfur bacteria. Once the surface of the global ocean was bereft of oxygen but replete with hydrogen sulfide and nitrate nutrients, and all the oxygen-dependent creatures small to large had died in the transition, the surface seas had filled with the green and the much-more-visible purple sulfur microbes. The color of the ocean changed. To humans, purple became the color associated with death. No longer did widows wear black. Any strong gust of wind from the nearby sea brought the rotten-egg stench to this onetime city. [snip] Human population worldwide had subsided to less than a billion people, living largely on yams, taro, tapioca, potatoes, and corn. Cows, pigs, and sheep were now all extinct. The rising hydrogen sulfide content in the atmosphere had killed them off. It was often considered a happy miracle that humans could withstand higher concentrations of hydrogen sulfide than could livestock. In fact, the who's who of survivors among mammals had little rhyme or reason. All the reptiles and amphibians thrived. Anything with cold blood thrived. But the warm bloods were hit hard.
[New paragraph]
Hardest hit of all were the birds. Their exquisite, double-pump lung system, with its intricate set of air sacs placed cleverly into the hollows of their very bones, served them well at higher altitudes and in their strenuous exercise of flying. But their very efficiency at extracting oxygen molecules also brought in far more hydrogen sulfide than what any other kind of animal internalized. While the sky was still filled with flyers, all were insects of one kind or another. All birds were now extinct.

Ward, of course, is the optimist. Ludwig concludes that we just flat wouldn't make it. Or is that a guess, without having run the numbers carefully and looked up poison tolerances?

154 Almost Killed by Space Hookers  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 7:37:40pm

re: #153 lostlakehiker

Ward misses a basic observation. The extinction event in question killed the trilobites and 95% of all other species on Earth.

Why would you think we would fare better?

155 funky chicken  Thu, Aug 2, 2012 9:35:40pm

re: #152 lostlakehiker

Another instructive point: [Link: www.tecca.com...]

Kiribati is, right now, in negotiations with Fiji to evacuate itself to Fiji. It's tough being a country when most of your "land" is only land at low tide. The roughly 3 foot sea level rise now predicted for this century would put almost everything into that category.

As to desert tortoises, what of it if solar projects do kill them? It is this palsied unwillingness to accept even a little cost, to bear even a little burden, that has got us into this fix. If we don't act now, and fix the problem when it will cost us a metaphorical fingernail pulled off, we shall later on have to saw off our own hand to get out of the trap. We will---anything, any cost is better than even a brush with extinction. But it will hurt like crazy.

I actually love tortoises, and don't want to damage them or their habitat. It's just that I've driven through the Mojave, and there's plenty of room for them. If a few have to be moved, so be it...and then monitor their progress and help them if needed. I don't think it would take much.

156 lostlakehiker  Fri, Aug 3, 2012 11:29:59am

re: #154 LudwigVanQuixote

Ward misses a basic observation. The extinction event in question killed the trilobites and 95% of all other species on Earth.

Why would you think we would fare better?

We don't live in the water. We, unlike most large mammals, can tolerate altitudes of 15000 feet. We are a sturdy and adaptable species. If 5 percent of earth species survived the last time around, and a higher fraction of land-dwelling I'm sure, why not us? Add to that the argument from authority... I trust that Ward did his homework and talked to the biologists.

I don't see this as a reason to embrace coal.

Hey, it's not so bad---a few of us might well survive, eking out potato crops in the Himalaya.

When things are dire, I think careful, conservative warnings are best. If, at every turn, skeptics find that you've not reached or stretched, but instead have if anything lowballed your warnings, you have a better chance of convincing fence sitters.

There's a tipping point out there. Little by little, the evidence gets stronger. It's long since been strong enough to convince scientists and others who have cultivated the art of accurate and dispassionate reasoning. But this is a vanishingly small fraction of humanity. Most people, even most smart people, don't think that way. Even those of us who have some training in it have trouble bringing the skill into play when arguing with a spouse, say.

So we have to hone our skills in persuasion. One of those skills is to avoid saying things that may prompt the listener to conclude that he/she has caught us in a small lie or exaggeration, and (since they were already looking for an excuse to dismiss us) conclude that we're lying about everything.

Another, perhaps, is to grant the other side every feasible accommodation when it comes to policy: you want a tax on coal rather than a ban? Fine, so long as usage is sharply reduced. You want extended unemployment benefits for coal miners? etc. Even when the bad guys are the bad guys, we'll get the policy turned around quicker if we try to see their side of it and help them escape utter ruin.

The art of persuasion, by means other than advancing pure logic, is our weak suit. Even without it, we'll eventually win the argument, because the evidence just keeps piling up. But it would be better to win sooner than later. Winning by the brutal logic of forest fires and drought and flood and famine is winning ugly, late, and painful.


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I'm not going to be Bill Clinton and say I never inhaled. I did inhale. I liked tobacco a lot better.