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Comment Don't just think "change"; think "rate of change". (Score 1) 142

I have known or at least met many environmental luminaries in the course of my career, and as one of them put it: I = P*S/T -- that is to say environmental impact is proportional to population and standard of living, but is inversely proportional to technology.

So the key to avoiding a dystopian future is to keep the rate of technological improvement greater than the rate of population growth. The way to do that is to invest in people. Societies who have lower infant mortality rates have lower birth rates; societies with better education are more innovative.

Will the future way we do things look radically different from today? Yes! Just as the way we do things today look radically different from the past. Change happens in both the environment and human society; it's inevitable. The question is whether it happens at a rate organisms and people can adapt to, and in particular whether we make a conscious decision to direct that change or have it forced upon us.

Comment Re: Not just Southern Spain (Score 3, Insightful) 142

Look at what happened to the Aral Sea under the Soviets. The sea doesn't really exist anymore! (except as two small pocket remnants)

Sure, we can also look at the horrible pollution in China, or environmental disasters right here at home (thankfully rarer these days). I'm not saying that there aren't real issues. But I think some caution must be employed with proclaiming potential worst-case doomsday scenarios as an expected result. The more often scientists or experts predict the end of the world and it doesn't come to pass, the more people will stop trusting science in the first place, and that seems like a very bad thing to me.

In fact, I think we're already starting to witness this phenomenon, as many, many people believe global warming is a complete hoax. It's a little hard to dissuade them when they can see for themselves that dire predictions made just a decade or two ago have been laughably overstated. Why believe the current predictions then? If earlier predictions had been even slightly more accurate, they'd have no justification in doubting the current science. Trust is earned, and climatologists have done a terrible job at earning that trust with effective predictions so far.

Comment Re:Not just Southern Spain (Score 3, Insightful) 142

It's a non-issue inasmuch as we're easily able to feed all the people on this planet, which was the expected result of a global population explosion. Hunger is primarily caused by politics and corruption these days, not a lack of food - it's essentially a distribution issue. Poverty is a different issue that needs addressing, but isn't intrinsically related to or caused by dense populations.

In other words, it doesn't make you a humanitarian to wring your hands and berate others about issues that have no real consequence. It just makes you an ignorant, self-righteous fool.

Comment Re:Easy win so load show up with friends (Score 2) 96

I just read the linked Wikipedia article. Apparently, they've already decided that the protagonist is a "female minority". So... that was one of the writer/producers' overriding concern about the new series, I guess? Making a social statement instead of just finding a great actor to carry the series? Well, Star Trek has always been an ensemble affair, and has been reasonably progressive in matters of casting without being too distracting about it (mostly), so hopefully it won't matter too much.

I never really liked the decision split the Trek universes' timeline - which always seemed a bit ham-handed to me to begin with. But now, having made the decision, now they're just sticking to the old timeline? WTF? Guys, pick a timeline and go with it. I'm getting tired of "universe reboots".

I'm trying to keep my expectations reasonable-to-low, but part of me can't help but look forward to a new Trek series anyhow.

Comment Re:Not just Southern Spain (Score 1) 142

So, you agree it's a "worst case" projection, at least in the context of the study, right? Not sure where the disagreement is then. Is my contention that "worst-case" projections are typically not the most likely?

RCP8.5 is, I believe, a somewhat improbable model used to generate these scenarios. For instance, it assumes population growth at the very high end of current projections, rather than the more current and reasonable productions of 8.7 billion peak at the middle of this century. It assumes massive growth in coal-fired power generation, when we're now seeing trends away from that. It assumes a few other negative trends skirting the edge of reasonable probability in order to arrive at that scenario. You need to look a bit deeper than a simple trend line to determine the probability of that trend continuing on its current arc - just as what happened with population curves (which look very alarming several decades ago). The labeling of RCP8.5 of "business as usual" seems a bit off to me, as "business as usual" would have to mean literally reversing trends of pursuing cleaner energy and our clearly slowing population growth.

That's why I call it a "worst-case", because while it's well within what is possible, I don't believe it to be probable. Thus, my contention with the headlines promoting what I feel to be an unlikely future, given current trends and policies. It think it's very valuable to have these sort of reasonably realistic outer edge probability markers, but I think it's a mistake to misrepresent them as often happens in headlines.

Comment Re:Not just Southern Spain (Score 3, Insightful) 142

It's important to note that this is a worst-case scenario
No. The worst case scenario they considered is "Business as usual".

  which typically means its somewhat improbable

Unfortunately not. It's the most likely scenario. The only positive note is that there doesn't appear to be a concerted effort to increase emissions so it's reasonably to reject scenarios with CO2e increasing faster than BaU (unless you think positive feedbacks for CO2 and CH4 emissions are starting to significantly kick in now)

Comment Re:Not just Southern Spain (Score 1) 142

In The Guardian link:

The study, published in the journal Science, modelled what would happen to vegetation in the Mediterranean basin under four different paths of future carbon emissions, from a business-as-usual scenario at the worst end to keeping temperature rises below the Paris climate deal target of 1.5C at the other.

Temperatures would rise nearly 5C globally under the worst case scenario by 2100, causing deserts to expand northwards across southern Spain and Sicily, and Mediterranean vegetation to replace deciduous forests.

They ran four different projections, with the worst-case of these projections representing the 5C temperature increase and southern Spain ending up a desert. Unfortunately, the paper is paywalled, so we just have to rely on the summaries.

Comment Re:Not just Southern Spain (Score 3, Interesting) 142

I'd imagine many of those same people also still believe the world overpopulation doomsday predictions of the 70's, even though population is demonstrably trending toward peaking at around a very manageable 8.7 billion by 2055, according to recent analysis and predictions. I still encounter people (some here on slashdot) who are seriously worried about the world's population "problem", and pointing them at current trends and predictions seems to do nothing to dissuade them that it's really a non-issue.

Comment Re:Not just Southern Spain (Score 5, Informative) 142

It's important to note that this is a worst-case scenario, which typically means its somewhat improbable. Of course, the worst-case scenario also just so happens to make the best headlines.

I'm not arguing that the climate isn't changing, or that's it's not worthwhile to curb pollutants and emissions. But I fear this constant fear-mongering is damaging climate science credibility as much as it's helping to push forward good environmental policies. This is highly reminiscent of the now laughable doomsday predictions around the time of our first Earth Day in 1970. Among these:

* Civilization Will End Within 15 Or 30 Years
* 100-200 Million People Per Year Will Be Starving To Death During The Next Ten Years
* Population Will Inevitably And Completely Outstrip Whatever Small Increases In Food Supplies We Make
* Demographers Agree Almost Unanimously Thirty Years From Now, The Entire World Will Be In Famine
* In A Decade, Urban Dwellers Will Have To Wear Gas Masks To Survive Air Pollution
* Childbearing [Will Be] A Punishable Crime Against Society, Unless The Parents Hold A Government License
* By The Year 2000 There Won’t Be Any More Crude Oil

There's an interesting article on why most of these dire predictions didn't come to pass, noting some positive outcomes of the increased environmental awareness, like the Clean Water, Clean Air, Endangered Species acts, and other environmental protection laws.

When the experts have been consistently wrong with these constant doomsday predictions for 45 years, is it any wonder that people start to become skeptical of ALL climate and environmental sciences? That's not a good thing.

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