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Comment: Re: It's getting hotter still! (Score 1) 635

by Chuck Messenger (#47980069) Attached to: Extent of Antarctic Sea Ice Reaches Record Levels

How do you know that nobody knows if extinction rates are higher now? Have you researched it?

You read the literature. A good paper to look at is doi:10.1038/nature09678 [nature.com]

OK, I guess I'm starting to get it. This is all an elaborate prank! I'm in on the joke now, so you can stop.

The paper is behind a paywall, but what little I can see makes it pretty clear we're at the beginning of what can only be described as a mass extinction event. We're already part-way there, and we've only just started getting going!

There are many environmental impacts of our industrial activities. ... Before about 50-100 years ago, the bulk of habitat destruction occurred in temperate zones. Now, it is occurring in tropical zones, which have far higher biodiversity.

These are reasonable beliefs, but not actually facts.

Come - who are you? You must be someone I know. Pulling my chain! I admit it - you got me.

Well played!

Comment: Re: It's getting hotter still! (Score 1) 635

by Chuck Messenger (#47978993) Attached to: Extent of Antarctic Sea Ice Reaches Record Levels

Nobody knows whether extinction rates were higher 10000 years ago than today. I personally think they are probably lower today than they used to be, but whatever they are, they are not high enough today to pose a threat or to place us in the middle of a "mass extinction"

How do you know that nobody knows if extinction rates are higher now? Have you researched it? Why do you consider this particular question to be subjective? Surely, any specific question can best be addressed scientifically.

In any case, those increased extinction rates are mostly caused by habitat destruction; whatever they may be doing, carbon emissions just aren't a significant factor in current extinction rates.

There are many environmental impacts of our industrial activities. One factor is acidification - a direct result of fossil fuel burning. This applies to both oceans and lakes. Of course, habitat destruction is no doubt a major cause of extinctions. Before about 50-100 years ago, the bulk of habitat destruction occurred in temperate zones. Now, it is occurring in tropical zones, which have far higher biodiversity. Global warming is only just getting going. It can be expected to do very major damage, especially to the "most-beloved" species - the large land animals. In part this is because these animals will be trapped in the wrong place. It's yet another stressor.

What makes AGW especially pernicious is that we've yet to really feel the effects of what we've already done. The warming will continue to increase over the coming decades, no matter what we do now. We have no idea what demons we may unleash. Already, the tundra is leaking major amounts of methane as they thaw. Same story the clathrate deposits along the continental shelves. Methane is 20x more powerful as a greenhouse gas than CO2. True, it doesn't persist nearly as long in the atmosphere. Only the future will tell how much of this "positive feedback loop" we will get. It could be quite terrible.

To be sure that all of this _won't_ affect our ecosystems is simply misguided - sticking your head in the sand.

But for carbon, there is simply no clear answer.

<jaw drops>

A carbon tax doesn't incentivize the development of renewable energies because as better renewables are developed, it would simply get reduced or eliminated, leaving the inventors of new renewable technologies no better off than without the carbon tax.

This is a total non-sequitur. How do you figure...? You're saying that incentives won't work because as people cash in on the incentive to create green energy technology, the success of that technology will make the incentive less important?! That is illogical.

Surely, harvesting all the free energy raining down on us, right where we want it, makes much more economic sense - in the long term - than digging stuff out from deep under the earth and shipping it around. The problem is, we need the technology. If everyone was as reckless as you are, we would (might) not get there until we had exhausted every ounce of available fossil fuel. Why? Because we've already sunk the costs for the fossil fuel infrastructure, and nobody has to pay for the damage it causes.

personally, I think higher CO2 levels are actually good, up to a point

Well, I hope they never put you in charge.

Comment: Re: It's getting hotter still! (Score 1) 635

by Chuck Messenger (#47970023) Attached to: Extent of Antarctic Sea Ice Reaches Record Levels

I see. So you've rationalized to yourself that these extinctions are just the continuation of a trend which started 10,000 years ago (the megafauna?), and have nothing to do with us.

Which part of "There is no doubt that extinction rates have been elevated for about the past 10000 years, and that has been clearly due to human activity." did you not understand?

It shows that you don't get that it's the Industrial Revolution which is the culprit - not pre-industrial people who probably killed off some megafauna.

You surprise me every time. That's what keeps me coming back for more, I think! So, you accept that humans have caused global warming, and are responsible for our current "elevated" rate of extinctions. You just don't think the rates are especially higher now than 10,000 years ago. In particular, you don't blame industrialization for any noticeable (or, I should say, problematic) increase in extinction rate. Is that an accurate assessment?

As long as humans exist, the rest of the planet will always only be a managed zoo.

Agreed 100%. Unless, in some unlikely scenario, we somehow survive a great cataclysm in the margins, bereft of our technological civilization.

What should we do? [ ... things I wholeheartedly agree with ... ]

Agreed.

But you know which countries are best at all of that? Wealthy industrialized nations.

Agreed.

And the best thing we can do for the environment is to help Russian, China, South America, and Africa develop rapidly so that they are wealthy enough to protect the environment themselves.

You could be right. In fact, you're probably right. But the critical thing we need to figure out is: how do we make people wealthy without further destroying the environment? And going forward, we need to figure out how to _reduce_ our environmental footprint.

Imposing global carbon emission limits is counterproductive and doesn't accomplish anything useful right now.

Here I disagree completely. It's absolutely critical that we figure out, poste haste, how to get energy some other way than from fossil fuel. We have massive amounts of energy raining down on us. We're just too technolgically undeveloped to know how to make use of it. Why? Because companies don't have to pay anything for the damage they do to the environment.

What a carbon tax does is to say, "Look, you can put CO2 into the atmosphere. But when you do, you take something away from everyone else who lives on the planet. Therefore, you must pay for the mess you make." It's very straightforward, sensible, fair, etc. It's outrageous that we don't do that now.

If we were to do that, the market would start finding the solutions to our problems.

Comment: Re: It's getting hotter still! (Score 1) 635

by Chuck Messenger (#47963131) Attached to: Extent of Antarctic Sea Ice Reaches Record Levels

You're being very blasé about the whole extinction thing. You seem uncertain that it is even happening

No, you are simply being sloppy in your terminology. There is no doubt that extinction rates have been elevated for about the past 10000 years...

I see. So you've rationalized to yourself that these extinctions are just the continuation of a trend which started 10,000 years ago (the megafauna?), and have nothing to do with us.

I would start by pointing out that humans quite possibly hunted the megafauna to extinction. But beyond that - seriously! The opinions you have developed are rooted in ignorance. There is a very strong correlation between human industrial development and species extinction. The extinction rate far surpasses anything that could be considered "normal".

I don't see what you think that has to do with a discussion on climate change. There have been many periods of rapid and large climate change that had much lower extinction rates that we have now.

"Rapid", in geological terms, is a much longer process than what we're doing to the Earth right now. An exception would be something like the K-T boundary, where the Earth was probably plunged into something like a "nuclear winter" for perhaps 10 years. The result was the extinction of almost all the dinos.

AGW is only part of the damage we're doing. Acidification goes along with it - including ocean acidification. But habitat destruction is no doubt the largest component. In the past, land animals could migrate to more suitable areas as the climate changed. That's becoming increasingly impossible.

In short, AGW will deliver a hammer blow to the scattered remnants of the natural world we have devastated. At least, to the complex land animals.

It is an uncomfortable fact that human industrial development is doing major damage to Earth's ecosystems. What is needed is A) for people to learn what the real situation is, rather than being fed lies by industrial interests, and B) to begin the process of undoing the damage we've caused.

How exactly do we accomplish this? That, I don't know. But at least I don't pretend it doesn't need to be done.

Comment: Re: It's getting hotter still! (Score 1) 635

by Chuck Messenger (#47961767) Attached to: Extent of Antarctic Sea Ice Reaches Record Levels

You have never responded to the 6th Great Extinction issue.

What is there to respond to? We may or may not be experiencing the "6th Great Extinction", but if we are, we are at the very beginning of it, we don't know what to do about it, and there is no urgency to act either.

You're being very blasé about the whole extinction thing. You seem uncertain that it is even happening. Let's look at our own order - the primates. According to http://www.usatoday.com/story/... (first google hit), 25 are on the brink of extinction. It goes on to say "More than half of the world's 633 types of primates are in danger of becoming extinct" (where "type" must be referring to sub-species). How about amphibians - again, first google hit for "amphibian extinction, at http://www.nzfrogs.org/Amphibi...: "... 32% of all amphibians are threatened with extinction.". Google "cat extinction" and we find this article: http://www.facekitty.com/2008/..., about 12 wild cat species that will be extinct by 2020 (out of, apparently, 36 wild cat species total). Sure, it's not a scientific journal. But I mean - please! This information is not hard to come by. It goes on and on. Pick a random complex animal genus, and see how its species are doing.

Is this a case of willful ignorance on your part? Or are you willing to admit that we "are" in a major extinction event, rather than "may be"? You have seemed ready to go along with the scientific consensus so far....

Comment: Re: It's getting hotter still! (Score 1) 635

by Chuck Messenger (#47961289) Attached to: Extent of Antarctic Sea Ice Reaches Record Levels

You have never responded to the 6th Great Extinction issue.

It _does_ matter if we wreck our environment. Most people - Americans the same as everyone else - get that. The hangup for too many of _them_ is that they don't accept that A) global warming is happening, and/or B) that it being caused by humans. You, on the other hand, readily accept what the scientific community has so resoundingly concluded vis a vis AGW. Your whole position is based on the idea that wrecking our environment doesn't matter!

I have to admit - that's a new one for me. How can you sustain that idea in your head? Do you not understand how utterly dependent we are on the Earth? How tenuous is our position? I'm not talking about our lifetimes. Start thinking like a member of a species, rather than a single selfish individual.

Comment: Re: It's getting hotter still! (Score 1) 635

by Chuck Messenger (#47960735) Attached to: Extent of Antarctic Sea Ice Reaches Record Levels

If all Americans understood that A) global warming is occurring, and B) we are causing it, then I think you'd find much stronger support for action. Why? Because most people are not like you. Most people are, I think, willing to take some pain now for the benefit of coming generations. Your ideas about climate are reckless, to say the least. Most people aren't so reckless.

I'm willing to take some pain for the benefit of coming generations. But all you and climate change activists have to offer is a massive con job: take a lot of money, hand it over to greedy corporations, and not affect the climate one bit. And all of that for something that doesn't even look like it's going to be a problem for centuries to come, if ever.

How can you say it's not going to be a problem for centuries to come, when it's already a huge problem, and we've already got decades more pain loaded into the pipeline? What does it take for something to rise to the level of "a problem" for you? When your ocean-front property is under the waves? I'll grant you, that might not occur for centuries to come (depending on the elevation of your property and rates of Greenland/Antarctic ice melting). Is it only "a problem" if you're uncomfortably hot? Does the ecosystem matter at all? Does the unprecedented (since the dinos) rate of species extinction come into play in your thinking? Or are those going-extinct species just another greedy vested interest?

It's clear what the industrialists have to gain in trying to discredit climate scientists (and science generally, as fallout).

Really? Like what do they have to gain? What difference does it make to "industrialists" whether they sell you fossil fuel-related crap or green energy related crap?

Money is what they have to gain. Energy companies (and the stock market) treat fossil fuel reserves as money. If it cannot ultimately be burned, that means the energy companies don't have that money after all - so they lost money directly. How much money? According to http://qz.com/139907/climate-c... (my first Google hit), about $6 trillion. Now _that_ is money! And it doesn't end with energy companies.

Ultimately, the issue is that we all depend for our delicate existence on the health of our Earth. And yet, companies pay no costs when they damage our Earth. Therefore, they have and will continue to do what any good profit-maximizing enterprise would do in such circumstances: not care about damaging the the Earth!

What "agenda" do you imagine the environmentalist lobby has, anyway?

There is no "environmentalist lobby". There are politicians, non-profits, journalists, bloggers, and scientists, and they all behave in the same way, whether they are conservatives or progressives. All of them get rewarded big for saving society from destruction; that's why both progressives and conservatives love to constantly invent threats.

You can't seriously believe this. You're going to equate the $6 trillion which energy companies have at stake, with, essentially, book sales. That's what I anticipated you would do earlier in the discussion. I was hoping you'd come up with more than that.

Comment: Re: It's getting hotter still! (Score 1) 635

by Chuck Messenger (#47956039) Attached to: Extent of Antarctic Sea Ice Reaches Record Levels

There is no "discrepancy".

I'll spell out the discrepancy. From the Yale report:

... 40% of Americans still believe there is a lot of disagreement among scientists over whether global warming is occurring.

And yet, as I think you and I agree, there is in fact an overwhelming consensus among climate scientists that global warming is occurring. And I think it's fair to say that it's a given that it is ultimately caused by what is termed "economic growth".

If all Americans understood that A) global warming is occurring, and B) we are causing it, then I think you'd find much stronger support for action. Why? Because most people are not like you. Most people are, I think, willing to take some pain now for the benefit of coming generations. Your ideas about climate are reckless, to say the least. Most people aren't so reckless.

What "agenda" do you imagine the environmentalist lobby has, anyway? It's clear what the industrialists have to gain in trying to discredit climate scientists (and science generally, as fallout). But what ulterior motive (other than just trying to preserve the environment for future generations) do you imagine environmentalists have? Please don't tell me it's all about selling books!

Comment: Re: It's getting hotter still! (Score 1) 635

by Chuck Messenger (#47953113) Attached to: Extent of Antarctic Sea Ice Reaches Record Levels

I refer you to this analysis of American attitudes toward global warming issues: http://environment.research.ya... (produced in 2007).

Short blurb from the beginning:

Overall, a large majority of the American public is personally convinced that global warming is happening (71%). Surprisingly, however, only 48 percent believe that there is a consensus among the scientific community, while 40% of Americans still believe there is a lot of disagreement among scientists over whether global warming is occurring.

What is striking is that there is ovewhelming consensus among climate scientists that global warming is occurring, and that it is being caused by humans - in effect, by "economic growth".

How do we explain the discrepancy? In part, I think, because people have a vested interest in believing that there is no problem with their lifestyle. But in a more sinister vein, the problem is that in their efforts to counter the solid scientific consensus, vested industrial interests have been marketing anti-scientific ideas to the general public. These efforts have had some success. Unfortunately, loss of scientific literacy among the general public has been part of the collateral damage.

Comment: Re: It's getting hotter still! (Score 1) 635

by Chuck Messenger (#47949933) Attached to: Extent of Antarctic Sea Ice Reaches Record Levels

Ooops - missed a close quote! Here goes again...

The maximum we can actually recover and release is about [4,000 gtc]

Which I guess you're comfortable with. In any case, what makes you so certain about this limit? Estimates for the amount of recoverable fossil fuel keep going up over time. In part, this is due to new discoveries. In part, it is due to improved extraction technologies. And then there's the combination: when we come up with a new technology which lets us exploit a whole new category of fossil fuel (e.g. clathrates).

Who's to say what will be recoverable in the future?

Is there any level of atmospheric CO2 which would cause you to worry? And if so, what would you propose doing about it?

Primates have survived hundreds of glaciation cycles, with swings in global mean temperatures as large as 15F and much of the northern hemisphere covered by ice.

I'm not sure what point you're trying to make about the primates. You seem to be suggesting that primates - or at least humans - are highly adaptable, so no worries about climate change. In fact, primates are rapidly going extinct. The most complex primates - great apes - are the most at risk. Excluding us, of course.

What's happening right now, as we speak, is the 6th Great Extinction event, evidently caused by the exponential economic growth of humans. This is partly due to habitat destruction, and partly due to the global warming (and other environmental change, like ocean acidification) already carried out by us. And there's much more to come which is already "in the bank", regardless of what we do right now.

You see, in times past, when global conditions changed, creatures were able to roam to new areas, increasing their chances for survival. We have shut that process down in a major way.

Comment: Re: It's getting hotter still! (Score 1) 635

by Chuck Messenger (#47949917) Attached to: Extent of Antarctic Sea Ice Reaches Record Levels

The maximum we can actually recover and release is about [4,000 gtc]

Which I guess you're comfortable with. In any case, what makes you so certain about this limit? Estimates for the amount of recoverable fossil fuel keep going up over time. In part, this is due to new discoveries. In part, it is due to improved extraction technologies. And then there's the combination: when we come up with a new technology which lets us exploit a whole new category of fossil fuel (e.g. clathrates).

Who's to say what will be recoverable in the future?

Is there any level of atmospheric CO2 which would cause you to worry? And if so, what would you propose doing about it?

Primates have survived hundreds of glaciation cycles, with swings in global mean temperatures as large as 15F and much of the northern hemisphere covered by ice.

I'm not sure what point you're trying to make about the primates. You seem to be suggesting that primates - or at least humans - are highly adaptable, so no worries about climate change. In fact, primates are rapidly going extinct. The most complex primates - great apes - are the most at risk. Excluding us, of course.

What's happening right now, as we speak, is the 6th Great Extinction event, evidently caused by the exponential economic growth of humans. This is partly due to habitat destruction, and partly due to the global warming (and other environmental change, like ocean acidification) already carried out by us. And there's much more to come which is already "in the bank", regardless of what we do right now.

You see, in times past, when global conditions changed, creatures were able to roam to new areas, increasing their chances for survival. We have shut that process down in a major way.

Comment: Re: It's getting hotter still! (Score 1) 635

by Chuck Messenger (#47942081) Attached to: Extent of Antarctic Sea Ice Reaches Record Levels

And no matter how much we try, we can't actually burn all the fossil fuel deposited during the Carboniferous era because much of it has become inaccessible. There was no runaway greenhouse effect and complex, multicellular life was doing just fine during the Carboniferous era.

So what you're saying is, as long as we don't get to a runaway greenhouse effect, we're good! I agree with you part-way: if we do get a runaway greenhouse effect, we're done for.

Atmospheric carbon dioxide reached 2000 ppm again during the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods. Again, there was no runaway greenhouse effect and complex land animals were doing just fine. And that period was recent enough that there were no significant differences in solar radiation.

Let's revisit the numbers.

                                800 gtc in atmosphere
                                1,500 gtc in surface biomass (ocean + land)
                                2,300 gtc in soil
                                6,000 gtc in deep-ocean "reactive sediments" (clathrates, I assume)
                                10,000 gtc in fossil fuel
                                27,000 gtc in deep-ocean sediments

The bolded ones are potentially available to be dumped back into the atmosphere, once we figure out how to get to them.

800 gtc puts us at the present 0.04% CO2. If we dump all 16,000 gtc of potential fossil fuel in the atmosphere, that would put our levels up by a factor of 20. In ppm terms, we'd be in the vicinity of 8000 ppm. You're quite confident that at 2000 ppm, we would not have a runaway greenhouse effect which would surely kill us all (and perhaps all other complex life). Are you as confident at 8000 ppm?

The problem dinosaurs had was that they had adapted to a stable climate and therefore couldn't deal with climate change; that's why they died out when the climate finally did change.

The proto-dinos were the ones who survived the most devastating extinction event - the Permian - which was a long-term environmental-change situation. While the dinos were enjoying an adaptive radiation, the remaining proto-mammals lived in the margins thru the Dinosaur Age - perhaps detritus-eaters living underground. The K-T boundary appears to have been an asteroid which probably incinerated all plant life, causing the most complex creatures - the tops of the food chain, i.e. the dinos - to die off.

Mammals and humans succeeded precisely because we are capable of adapting to rapidly changing conditions. That's why we have well regulated body temperatures, strong immune systems, and big brains.

Mammals are delicate. There are lots of ways for us to go down. Complex is not good, in terms of being a hardy survivor.

Comment: Re: It's getting hotter still! (Score 1) 635

by Chuck Messenger (#47940607) Attached to: Extent of Antarctic Sea Ice Reaches Record Levels

I responded to this comment of yours:

"... even if we burned all of it, we'd still be on a livable planet (where do you think fossil fuel came from?)"

As I have demonstrated, it is fallacious to assert that because the fossil fuel was once non-fossil, and living things got along just fine, that it would be OK if the carbon were once again in the biosphere - what's the big deal?

What we have to do is to consider our actual circumstances now. It matters not to us whether some other creatures in some other time could survive the environmental conditions we are propelling ourselves into.

Concerning the Cretaceous, there is a critical factor you have not considered. The so-called fossil fuels (i.e. carbon laid down by land plants eons ago) was deposited in the Carboniferous, i.e. around 300 million years ago - i.e. before the dinosaurs. The term "dinosaur juice", referring to oil, is misleading. During the dinosaur period, the vast fossil fuel deposits were already - deposited. If the dinos ever figured out how to burn the fossil fuel, they'd be in the same trouble we are today.

If only they'd had another few million years of evolution before getting slammed by that hunk of space rock, they just might have gotten there, too! In which case they would possibly have wiped both themselves and us proto-mammals out along with them. So it's a good thing they got wiped out first. Now we have the honors of wiping ourselves out, possibly along with the last remaining dinos - the birds.

As the trials of life continue to take their toll, remember that there is always a future in Computer Maintenance. -- National Lampoon, "Deteriorata"

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